Monday, April 20, 2009

Do I look like Buster Poindexter to you?

Today, we came within shouting distance of a new record temperature for this date.

The mercury climbed to 93 degrees (that's Fahrenheit, for the benefit of those in other localities not tethered to our arcane system of weights and measures) at its peak, just two degrees shy of a mark set in 1931.

It was hot all over the region. Even in perpetually cool San Francisco, they were looking at 92.

Ironically, exactly one year ago, we set a record for low temperatures on April 20, bottoming out at a chilly 32. The high that day was a still-brisk 58.

A lot can change in a single orbit around the sun.

The average high for this date is 70. We usually don't see weather this toasty until at least mid-May.

Stupid global warming.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fallen Angel

It's a gray and gloomy day for baseball here in the Golden State.

Appropriate, given the tragic news about the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, killed last night in a hit-and-run accident caused by a suspected drunken driver.

Less than 24 hours ago, 22-year-old Adenhart had the world on a string. In his fourth major league start, he pitched six innings of shutout ball against the Oakland Athletics.

Today, he's gone.

I'll say here what I've said numerous times before: There is no punishment severe enough for drunk driving.

I believe that driving under the influence should receive mandatory prison time. No probation. No suspended license. No enforced rehab. No 36 hours in the county slammer. A minimum of one year hard time in the state penitentiary. No plea bargains, no questions asked.

Second-time offenders should be sentenced to a minimum of five years. Third-timers get twenty.

Drunk drivers who kill? Automatic life sentence.

And if someone wanted to argue for making the latter a capital crime, they'd get no protest from me.

Andrew Gallo, the knucklehead who snuffed out the lives of Nick Adenhart and his two friends, Henry Pearson and Courtney Stewart — and who was himself uninjured in the crash — was driving under a suspended license due to a prior drunk driving conviction. If Gallo had been in San Quentin where he belonged — in my opinion, if not the State of California's — three young people with bright futures would be alive today.

My sincere condolences, as well as my deepest empathy as a father, go out to the families of the deceased.

I bear-hugged my daughter when she came home from her college classes today. She thought I was crazy. Perhaps I am.

But life is fragile.

Even when you're 22 years old, and have a million-dollar arm.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

What's Up With That? #74: Why do you think they call it "dope"?

You could get more idiotic than this, but not much.

At the same time that this story is being reported:
Farrah Fawcett hospitalized; family gathers at bedside
This story is only one headline away:
Son of Ryan O'Neal arrested in LA on drug charge
In case you don't immediately tumble to the connection, Ryan O'Neal's son Redmond is also the son of Farrah Fawcett.

According to the Associated Press, the younger O'Neal — who just last week was kicked out of a rehab facility after failing a drug test — was visiting an incarcerated friend at a county jail in Castaic (northern Los Angeles County) when he admitted during a routine search that he was carrying methamphetamine. Redmond is currently being held on $25,000 bail.

Dude... your mom is in the hospital dying of cancer, and you're busted smuggling dope into a jail?

I believe Mr. T. said it best... I pity the fool.

And I hope that Ms. Fawcett, who's been battling the Big C for several years, survives this latest setback — at the very least, long enough for her son the moron to get out of the hoosegow to say goodbye.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movies is movies, books is books

I've been reading with bemusement numerous online threads about the new Watchmen film released last week.

I haven't yet seen the movie, but I think it's funny how many diehard fans of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's graphic novel are up in arms about changes that director Zach Snyder introduced into the film version. It's identical to the furor that arose among Tolkienistas when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy debuted, or among Marvel Comics aficionados over the first Spider-Man and X-Men movies.

From my perspective, these arguments are ridiculous.

Last night, I finished reading Rex Pickett's novel Sideways, upon which Alexander Payne based his Academy Award-winning motion picture. Sideways the film is one of my favorite movies of the last decade. It is, however, markedly different in many key respects from Pickett's novel. Some of the adjustments are minor; others fundamentally alter the nature of both the major characters and the storyline.

And that's okay.

You know why that's okay? Because a novel is a novel, and a film is a film. They are different media, with different requirements and different approaches.

Peter Jackson understood that when he adapted Tolkien's work. As much as he loved the original novels, Jackson realized that certain aspects simply wouldn't work as well on screen as they did on the page. So he changed things. Not out of disrespect or hubris, but because changes needed to be made to effectively translate the overall story into cinema.

Sam Raimi faced similar challenges with Spider-Man, so Peter Parker got organic webshooters instead of mechanical ones. Bryan Singer faced them with X-Men, so Wolverine became a strapping six-footer in black leather instead of a burly five-footer in yellow spandex.

Whatever tinkering Zach Snyder found necessary in bringing Watchmen to the screen, I'm sure that the issues were of like kind.

In case you suppose that my indifference to cinematic alteration is directly connected to my feelings toward the source material — my lack of enthusiasm for Alan Moore's oeuvre, and Watchmen in particular, is well documented — I assure you that it is not.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who loves Spider-Man more than I have over the past four decades, but I was perfectly fine with the built-in spinnerets and the armor-clad Green Goblin. Those changes made sense in a film context. In the same way, although I considered myself an ardent Tolkien admirer in my younger days, none of Jackson's twists and tweaks troubled me in the least. I didn't even miss Tom Bombadil.

I understand the passion that fans of a published work have for their favorite stories and characters. Those fans, in turn, need to understand that telling a story in moving pictures and sound is not the same as telling that story in written words (or in static words and pictures) on a printed page. Different media, different ballgame.

In other words, get over it.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sign of the twin-tailed mermaid apocalypse

This is wrong in so many way that it's impossible to calculate:

Starbucks is now selling instant coffee.

Everyone into the bomb shelter. The end is near.

As the late Fred Sanford might have said...

"Hold on, Elizabeth! I'm comin' to join you, honey! With a venti nonfat decaf instant mocha latte in my hand!"

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's Up With That? #71: London calling

There's this telemarketer who calls my business line roughly three or four times a week.

Every time he calls, he leaves a voice mail message that's simply his name — which I presume is a company pseudonym — and (long-distance) telephone number, and requests that I call him back.

I don't know what he's selling (I suspect that it's credit card payment processing services, which I neither use nor need), or what company he represents.

Dude, if you're out there, here's your challenge.

First, I have Caller ID, and never answer the phone if the number is blocked or unknown to me. No matter how many times you call, you're never going to get me on the line.

Second, I never return calls (especially not long-distance calls) from people I don't know, or who don't provide me a detailed rationale for my doing so. You can leave messages from now until the next ice age, and I'm not calling you back.

Stop wasting your employer's time and money.

Find other fish to fry.

As I was going up the stair
I saw a man who wasn't there;
He wasn’t there again today --
Oh, how I wish he'd go away!

-- from "Antigonish" by William Hughes Mearns

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's Up With That? #70: Doctor Wu and the Royal Scam

Until I was in my early 40s, I never took maintenance medication of any kind.

Now, I swallow enough junk every day to cover my pharmacist's greens fees.

I think it's a racket.

I take two different medications to control my blood glucose level — one every morning, the other twice every day with meals.

Here's the weird thing about that. Every time I have blood work done, my A1c — I forget what the abbreviation stands for, but it's a measure of long-term glucose levels — is well into the normal range.

My nurse practitioner says that means the medication is doing its job.

But how does she know that it doesn't mean that I don't actually have a blood glucose problem, and therefore don't need the medication?

I smell a scam.

I now take three different medications to regulate my blood pressure. My doctor added another one after my most recent checkup.

My wife has metastatic breast cancer. My only child is leaving for university this fall. I'm trying to start a new career direction at age 47. I'm a self-employed small businessperson in a lousy economy.

Maybe there's a reason why I have high blood pressure.

Another scam.

In addition to the prescription drugs, I take a multivitamin, an aspirin, and — this was another recommendation from the last exam — a fish oil capsule. That last is supposed to keep my Omega-3 up.

I didn't even know I had an Omega-3. I don't wear a watch.

Scam number three.

And we wonder why health care is so doggoned expensive.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

So long, Stacey's

Sad, but not shocking, news in today's Chronicle: Stacey's Bookstore, a landmark on downtown San Francisco's Market Street for 85 years, is closing its doors.

When I was an undergrad at San Francisco State a quarter-century (egads!) ago, my schedule often included large gaps between morning and late afternoon or evening classes, or between classes and my work shift at the campus convenience store. I would frequently hop the Muni Metro M-Line into downtown to pass the time. Stacey's was among my favorite hangouts. It's kind of depressing to see it go.

That leads me to another thought, however...

I don't understand how bookstores survive at all, these days.

Now, I say that as a person who's been a voracious reader for well over 40 years, and who loves books and the retailers who sell them. I've been known to while away hundreds of blissful hours merely browsing the stacks in bookstores.

But seriously, with the advent of Amazon and eBay, I rarely buy books in a brick-and-mortar bookstore anymore. Why would I, when I can get anything I can find in a local store — along with a limitless number of titles that I'd never find in a store — online, almost invariably at a price considerably less than I'd pay if I drove to the store to buy? Most of the time, I can combine a couple of purchases to get free shipping, and within a few days the books get delivered right to my door.

Does that suck for bookstores and the people who work in them? Yes, it does.

Is it my personal responsibility to keep bookstores in business? No, it isn't.

I know how that sounds, but it's economic reality. I have only so much money. Where I can save a buck or three, I have a fiscal responsibility to my family to do so. That's why I fill up at Costco instead of at a locally owned gas station that's a few blocks closer to my house, but that consistently charges about ten cents per gallon more than Costco does. Those dimes add up.

Someone may argue that there's a greater good in supporting local small businesses beyond shopping for price. That's as may be. If I had unlimited financial resources, I might be willing to shoulder that greater good. But I have a family to feed, and bills to pay, and my own small business to run. That's the only greater good about which I can afford to be concerned.

I mourn for brick-and-mortar bookstores. In any business, however — my own included — if you can't compete, you die.

If you're going to charge more for a product, you need a seductive reason — it's a talent-based product, say, and your talent is superior to (or merely better suited to the job than) someone else's. For example, a restaurant may get away with charging higher prices if its food is qualitatively better than the food at the joint down the street.

For a static commodity, the quality of which is irrelevant to the source — a book, to get back to our original point — the competition points are convenience and price. If Amazon will send it to my house, thus saving me time and fossil fuel, and simultaneously save me 20%, it's not even a question. Unless I absolutely have to read the book today, and I can't remember the last time that need arose.

It isn't pretty. But then, life rarely is.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

I can't drive 35

Our back yard is separated by a fence, some shrubbery, and a sidewalk from Rohnert Park Expressway, our fair city's primary east-west traffic artery.

Since the dawn of time — or at least, since I first moved here in 1977 — the speed limit on Expressway has been 35 miles per hour. This has been a source of undying frustration for many of us who live here, because (a) practically no one drives 35 on Expressway, and (b) there's no sound reason to do so — it's a four-lane divided thoroughfare with no direct residential frontage.

Wonder of wonders: Sometime in the last week, the speed limit changed to 40.

From what I've been able to determine through research, the city finally succumbed to a federal statute that prohibits municipalities from setting unreasonably low speed limits in order to create speed traps. That has definitely been the case on Expressway, where a driveway into the main police station is a frequent hideout for officers armed with radar scopes.

A survey indicated that more than 85% of the traffic on Expressway traveled in excess of the posted 35 — which, under the aforementioned law, demonstrates that the speed limit is lower than necessary. In order not to lose federal transportation funds, the City of Rohnert Park was obligated to revisit the speed limit on Expressway, and revise it upward.

So, up to 40 it went.

Personally, I think a limit of 45 might have made even better sense. But I'll gratefully accept the extra five miles per hour.

Of course, the city found a way to make up at least some portion of the difference. The eastern end of Expressway, which travels out of the residential area into undeveloped space behind Sonoma State University, has always been unsigned, meaning that the legal limit was a default 55.

It's now posted at 45.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's Up With That? #69: No cake for Hitler

What kind of whack job does one have to be to name one's children "Adolf Hitler" and "Aryan Nation"?

If this (cross-)burning question has been plaguing you, friend reader, you now have a resource. Direct your inquiries to Heath and Deborah Campbell of Holland Township, Pennsylvania.

The Campbells made news this week when a ShopRite supermarket refused to inscribe "Happy Birthday, Adolf Hitler" on a cake intended for the Campbells' three-year-old son, Adolf Hitler Campbell. The same store previously refused to personalize a cake for the couple's two-year-old daughter, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell.

Go figure.

Fortunately for the Campbells, a Wal-Mart in nearby Lower Nazareth Township happily complied with their request. (Wal-Mart. Owned by Republicans from Arkansas. Draw your own conclusions.)

The Campbells, who display swastikas in each room of their home — which, before you ask, is not a double-wide on cinder blocks, at least not according to the Easton Express-Times — "say they aren't racists but believe races shouldn't mix."

Perhaps a dictionary is in order.

Although, looking at this photo of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, I'm guessing that reading is not a family priority. Maybe not even a family capability.

I wonder whether Deborah Campbell knows that her own first name is the Hebrew word for "bee."


You know... Jewish.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hot Rod in hot water

Before he was arrested this morning, I only knew three facts about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich:
  1. He and I matriculated at the same institution of higher learning.
  2. He's the only sitting governor with a surname even more difficult to spell than "Schwarzenegger."
  3. Every time he made news that reached as far as California, it had something to do with allegations of corruption.
It doesn't appear as though that last fact is going to change anytime soon.

If Blagojevich is guilty of even a handful of the charges contained in the 78-page criminal complaint against him, he'll be enjoying the hospitality of the taxpaying public for many years to come... although not in the setting he had hoped.

Among the U.S. attorney's more startling accusations, Blagojevich:
  • Considered appointing himself to President-elect Obama's now-vacant U.S. Senate seat. Apparently, the much-maligned, much-investigated governor believed that a few years in the Senate would set him up for a White House run in 2016. (Dream on, Rod.)

  • Discussed attempting to bargain with Obama for either a Cabinet post (specifically, Health and Human Services Secretary) or an ambassadorship in exchange for choosing someone else (namely, Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team) for the Senate seat. When his staff suggested that Blagojevich appoint Jarrett without expecting a quid pro quo from the President-elect, the governor was recorded as saying, "[Expletive deleted] him."

  • Reportedly had conversations with his advisers in which he suggested that at least two possible candidates for the Senate vacancy might be willing to "pay to play"; that is, contribute millions to Blagojevich and/or his pet causes in exchange for a ticket to Washington.
Don't these people ever learn? In this electronic age, anything indictable that a politician says is being captured in an audio file somewhere. Blagojevich, especially, should have been more circumspect — the FBI has been dogging his every step almost from the moment he took office. He practically dared federal prosecutors to uncover some dirt about him, much as Colorado Senator Gary Hart challenged reporters during the 1984 Presidential campaign. That challenge, you'll recall, resulted in that infamous photograph of Hart wearing his "Monkey Business" T-shirt as he dandled his mistress Donna Rice on his knee.

Blagojevich didn't even get the T-shirt.

Ironically, Blagojevich's predecessor in the Illinois state house, George Ryan, is currently serving a six-year term in federal prison following a corruption conviction.

At least Blagojevich will have someone to talk with.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What's Up With That? #68: Unkempt afterwards

This struck me as a rather peculiar news item.

Sean Avery, a player with the National Hockey Association's Dallas Stars, made the following statement to a group of reporters covering the Stars' game earlier this week against the Calgary Flames:
I am really happy to be back in Calgary. I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight.
As the sporting press dutifully acknowledged, Avery's ex-girlfriend, actress (and as an ardent fan of 24, I'm using that word with extreme accommodation) Elisha Cuthbert, is dating a Flames defenseman named Dion Phaneuf.

Apparently, Avery disapproves.

But perhaps not as much as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman disapproves of Avery's choice of metaphor. Bettman suspended Avery indefinitely for "inappropriate public comments."

Now, this seems weird to me on several levels. Allow me to elucidate.

When I first heard about Avery's indiscretion, the news account simply stated the charge, without publishing Avery's exact words. I presumed that he had used one of the two four-letter Anglo-Saxonisms for the female reproductive anatomy (let's call them the "C" word and the "T" word) in reference to Ms. Cuthbert. I was taken aback somewhat when I learned what term he'd actually used.

Is "sloppy seconds" profane? Crude, yes. Uncomplimentary, without question — though I think I may have used stronger terminology to critique Ms. Cuthbert's acting talents (or utter lack of same) on at least one or two occasions. (All right, you've got me — every week for the first three seasons of 24.)

But a chargeable offense? Seems extreme to me.

Unlike the "C" and "T" words, however, I'm fairly certain that you could use the expression "sloppy seconds" on primetime network television. (Not that you should. I'm just saying.) It was the title of a Dr. Hook album way back in 1972, for crying out loud. If you could put it on the cover of a pop album (not to mention the cover of the Rolling Stone) 36 years ago, I'm sure you could probably get away with it on Two and a Half Men today. (If anyone would know about "sloppy seconds," it would have to be Charlie Sheen.)

I was also puzzled by the fact that Avery tossed this remark off (no pun intended) in an interview with journalists in a locker room. (Do they call it a locker room in hockey, or is it a clubhouse? Not sure. Not caring. Moving on...) Was this really the first thing Sean could think of to say when confronted with a battery of microphones? Whatever happened to, "We've gotta play 'em one game at a time... the guys are really pulling together... that's the way the puck slides sometimes... sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes the Zamboni breaks down"? Did this man never see Bull Durham? Crash Davis to the Stars' locker room, please.

For that matter, why are there reporters in a hockey locker room, interviewing players? Does anyone care what hockey players have to say? I mean, the Sharks might be the best team in the NHL right now, and you don't hear Joe Thornton or Jonathan Cheechoo babbling inanities about their ex-girlfriends — or anything else — on the local sports talk station. We know how to keep our Canadians under control here in the Bay Area.

And one other odd thing...

There's an ice hockey team in Dallas?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

What's Up With That? #67: That's why it's called the Big House

Because it's essential that Sonoma County continue to solidify its reputation as the pedophilia capital of North America...

A teacher at one of the local high schools was arrested this weekend, charged with allegedly engineering an illicit rendezvous with a teenage girl.

Scott Dietlin, a 34-year-old history and economics teacher at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, was arraigned today in San Mateo County on three felony counts.

According to Burlingame police, Dietlin made a connection with two underage female residents of that community via their MySpace page. When the girls reported Dietlin's untoward e-mails to local authorities, a police detective continued the conversations until Saturday's scheduled meeting.

I'm guessing that Mr. Dietlin was a tad surprised when his online dream date turned up wearing a badge and Police Special.

Ironically, Casa Grande High's nickname among local kids is "the Big House," a pun on its Spanish name. As my daughter KM said of Dietlin's misadventure...

"He'll be going from the Big House to the Big House."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another year, another injustice

Once again, People Magazine has stubbornly refused to acknowledge my animal magnetism by naming me the Sexiest Man Alive.

Apparently, animal magnetism counts, though, because this year's honoree is Wolverine.

Excuse me while I go sharpen my claws, and work on my Australian accent.

If the folks from Sexiest Middle-Aged Fat Guy Alive call while I'm out, take a message.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Thirty years ago today, a madman named Jim Jones led 909 of his disciples — known collectively as the Peoples Temple — to mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Nearly 300 of the dead were children.

The method of self-destruction chosen by the brainwashed masses (though not Jones himself, who put himself out of the world's misery with a bullet to the brain) lent an enduring new metaphor to the American vernacular: "Drinking the Kool-Aid."

Ironically, it wasn't Kool-Aid, but instead a similar powdered drink called Flavor-Aid, that delivered the fatal cyanide.

History makes mistakes like that sometimes.

The day before the mass suicide, Jones's personal security force, the self-styled Red Brigade, murdered U.S. Congressman Leo J. Ryan, two NBC News staff members, a photographer from the San Francisco Examiner, and a Peoples Temple member on the airstrip at Port Kaituma, Guyana. Ryan, representing California's 11th District, had led a delegation of journalists to Jonestown to investigate allegations of abuse within the Peoples Temple, whose followers had relocated from the Bay Area to Guyana in the summer of 1977. As Ryan and his party attempted to flee with 15 Peoples Temple defectors, the Red Brigade opened fire.

Ryan's assistant, 28-year-old Jackie Speier, survived the attack, along with about a dozen other members of the delegation. Speier suffered five gunshot wounds, including shattered bones in her right arm and leg. Today, Speier represents California's 12th District in Congress.

Jonestown was the biggest news story in the Bay Area since the 1906 earthquake — until ten days later, when Dan White, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in their offices at San Francisco City Hall.

I remember the events of what came to be known as the Jonestown massacre vividly. Because my family was both black and religious (the largest proportion of Peoples Temple members were African-American), relatives from all over the country called our house on the day the news broke, fearing that somehow we had been involved in the tragedy. Clearly, we were not.

909 other people — plus Leo Ryan and the four who died alongside him — were.

Until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the deaths at Jonestown represented the largest single-event loss of American lives resulting from human causes.

Three decades later, the massacre remains burned with laser-like intensity into the memories of those of us who lived in the Bay Area at the time. Jonestown stands as a permanent reminder of the seductive nature of power, as well as the dangers of blind faith.

At least the Kool-Aid company recovered.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

I vote for free coffee!

In our litigious world, no honorably intentioned deed goes unpunished.

Just ask the people at Starbucks.

Last week, Starbucks announced a promotion that would provide a free cup of coffee on Election Day to every customer who told the barista that he or she had voted. The company pitched the deal aggressively via viral marketing, as well as through a spot that aired on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Then came the call from the government.

Federal law forbids offering people any form of incentive to vote. Apparently, "incentive" can be broadly construed to include a tall cup of Pike Place Roast.

Rather than incur the wrath of The Powers That Be, Starbucks has decided to make the offer of free coffee open to everyone, including nonvoters.

The good news is that now all Americans — including convicted felons on parole, and anyone too lazy, conflicted, or forgetful to have registered to vote — will be able to drop by the Sign of the Naked Fish-Tailed Lady tomorrow and slug down a tasty snootful of gratis Joe.

Make mine Biden.

Not the plumber.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

If called by this Panther, don't anther

I've become convinced that at some point in my past, I have unknowingly offended Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada to the point that he has made it his life's work to ruin everything I have ever loved about Marvel Comics.

Under Joe Q.'s watch — and therefore, presumably, at his direction — Marvel has:
  • Retconned the 20-year marriage of Peter (Spider-Man) Parker and his precious Mary Jane out of existence, by having Spidey make a deal with the devil (or at least Marvel's version of the devil, namely Mephisto) to save the life of Peter's doddering, older-than-McCain Aunt May, who's already died a couple of times previously.

  • Murdered Captain America, the symbol of all that's good in these here United States.

  • Transformed Iron Man, formerly one of my favorite superheroes, into the world's most colossal jerk.

  • Killed off Dr. Bill Foster, a.k.a. Goliath, and dumped his body in a hole without even the dignity of a coffin.

  • Turned the mighty Thor into a murderous clone.

  • Devolved my beloved Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, the conscience of the Avengers, into a universe-altering whack job.
And that's just in the last couple of years.

The latest evidence that Joe Q. hates me? He and writer Reginald Hudlin are dumping T'Challa, the Black Panther — the first, greatest, and most prominent superhero of African heritage in mainstream comics — so they can replace him with a female Panther.

Now, I loves me some superheroines, as anyone who drops around these environs every Friday can attest. Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Storm, the Scarlet Witch, Mary Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Vixen, the Valkyrie, Isis... I'm all about the superheroines.

That said... the Black Panther does not need to be recast as a superheroine.

Why must you keep urinating on my boyhood companions, Joe Quesada? What atrocity did I ever commit to warrant such malice?

This is the Black Panther.

So is this.

And this.

Certainly this, too.

I don't know what this is...

...but it's not the Black Panther. Quesada and Hudlin are crazier than I already think they are if they believe that I'm paying a dime to read about it.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I know Damone

You've seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, right?

Remember the scene when Mark Ratner finds out that his best friend Mike Damone has "done the deed" with Stacy Hamilton, on whom Rat has a serious crush?

There's that classic moment when Rat confronts Damone in the locker room:
I always stick up for you. Whenever people say, "That Damone, he's a loudmouth" — and they say that a lot — I always say, "Hey, you just don't know Damone."

When they call you an idiot, I say, "Damone's not an idiot. You just don't know him."

Well, you know something, man? Maybe they do know you pretty good. Maybe I'm just finding out now.
I think I just had that conversation with someone.

Only without the deed-doing part.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ain't that a Mother's?

Tragic news today.

Mother's Cookies, the 94-year-old baking concern famed for its pink-and-white-frosted Circus Animal cookies, has ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy protection.

You'll have to excuse me...

I need a moment.

For all but the final two years of its existence, Mother's Cookies was based right here in the Bay Area — in Oakland, to be specific. In 2005, the company was sold to an East Coast investment firm, which the following year closed the Oakland facility that Mother's had occupied since 1949. The cookie-baking functions moved to Ohio, while the business office relocated to Battle Creek, Michigan. Some 230 local employees lost their jobs in the process.

In the corporate world, and especially in the current dicey economy, news like that of the Mother's Cookies bankruptcy doesn't come as a total shock. I lived through two company shutdowns myself, back when I was working for The Man every night and day. It's still sad, though, for the families who lost a paycheck. And it's sad for American culture, losing an icon that so many of us grew up with.

I sure am going to miss those Circus Animals.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Smoke gets in your eyes

With all due respect to my many friends in the Los Angeles basin, air should not be visible.

But it certainly is here, these past few days.

Thanks to a raging wildfire next door in Napa County, we're experiencing a reversal of the opening lyrics to "California Dreamin'":
All the leaves are gray (with soot and ash)
And the sky is brown...
You can smell the smoke the instant you step outdoors or open a window. The particulate matter in the air is denser than discarded fliers on the Vegas strip.

Even though the fire has been contained as of this morning, it won't be thoroughly extinguished for some time. That means we won't be returning to our customary fresh air and crystal-blue skies in the immediate future.

I feel for my asthmatic neighbors.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Sometimes I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford

Just a warning to the world...

Uncle Swan is cranky today.

The kicker is that I have absolutely no reason for being cranky. I had a spectacular weekend.

On Friday, KJ and I dined at my favorite lunch joint, then caught the premiere of Iron Man at our local cineplex. If you didn't already contribute to this Marvel-ous film's $100 million gross domestic earnings, get off your rusty rump and go see it. Even if you're not into the whole comic book superhero thing, go see it. KJ loved it, and I don't know anyone less enthused about comic books than she is. Robert Downey Jr. might be that rare actor who picks up nominations for major film awards from a role in an action blockbuster. Best of all, Iron Man restores to its title character all of the charm and joie de vivre that Marvel Comics has leached out of Tony Stark during the past decade.

I can't be cranky about that.

On Friday evening, and all day Saturday, I was with my chorus at our annual intensive workshop. In addition to the guidance of our nonpareil musical staff, led by one of the most respected choral conductors on the planet, we were whipped into championship froth by our legendary choreographer and presentation coach. I sweated off enough salinity to replenish the Salton Sea, and I'm a better man for it. If we continue to build on everything we developed this weekend, we'll be a force to be reckoned with in Nashville on the first Friday in July.

I'm definitely not cranky about that.

Yesterday's sermons both went about as well as I'm capable of presenting them. I struck the chords I wanted to strike, with both cogent argument and appropriately engaging delivery.

No crankiness there.

This morning's coffee was excellent. The bagels were awfully good, too. We have delicious tamales and guacamole awaiting consumption for Cinco de Mayo dinner.

Nothing to be cranky about about there, either.

In today's mail, I got a stunningly attractive new T-shirt from Woot. Also, on Saturday, I received a long-awaited artwork I'd commissioned months ago, and was beginning to think the artist had forgotten about. (He hadn't, and it's gorgeous.) So I can't even be cranky at the United States Postal Service. And if you can't be cranky at the USPS, you can't be cranky, period.

I have no idea what I'm cranky about.

But it doesn't change the fact that I'm cranky.

So watch yourself, buster.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's Up With That? #61: Worst Effen branding concept ever

Most people who know me at all well know that I don't drink alcohol.

Therefore, the following statement should not come as a surprise to anyone:

I do not want any Effen Vodka.

If you were thinking of giving me any Effen Vodka — say, as a token of esteem for a blog post well done — please keep your Effen Vodka to yourself.

And, while I respect your right to drink all the Effen Vodka you want (assuming that you're of legal drinking age in your jurisdiction), please don't drive after you've had your Effen Vodka. I don't want to see you injure anyone — including yourself — while under the influence of Effen Vodka.

I trust that I have made my position on this Effen Vodka as clear as... well... Effen Vodka.

Thank you.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I watched the news today, oh boy

Television news continues to spiral down the toilet.

Yesterday, CBS initiated a cost-cutting move by firing news reporters, producers, and editors at its owned-and-operated stations nationwide. At KPIX-5 in San Francisco, the cuts involved some of the Bay Area's most honored and most respected broadcast journalists: Emmy-winning reporters Bill Schechner, Manuel Ramos, John Lobertini, and Tony Russomanno, and veteran anchor Barbara Rodgers.

All five of these newspeople built impressive careers. Schechner has worked at several Bay Area stations since arriving here in 1972; he also enjoyed national prominence for several years in the 1980s as Linda Ellerbee's coanchor on NBC News Overnight, and as a correspondent and feature reporter for NBC Nightly News. Ramos and Rodgers have each been reporting local stories at KPIX for 28 years.

Within the broadcast industry, the complaint often raised today is that people — particularly tech-savvy younger people — no longer turn to TV for news, thus making news staffs expendable. What the bean-counters fail to comprehend is that TV news, especially in local markets, has become so fluff-filled and tabloid-oriented that it's ceased to be a credible source for journalism. A couple of years ago, our in-town station, Santa Rosa's KFTY, turned its news operation entirely over to amateurs from the community. The experiment devolved into a national joke.

KPIX used to respresent a bastion of solid, dependable journalism against the piffle floated by the Bay Area's NBC and ABC affiliates. I'm sad to see that philosophy dying an agonizing death at the hands of accountants and media consultants.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

What's Up With That? #60: What part of a non-chicken is a Chicken-Free Nugget?

I spotted this product in a supermarket yesterday...

Chicken-Free Nuggets.

Now, that's just wrong.

Plain old chicken nuggets (we'll leave the "Mc" out of the discussion, lest we cloud our minds with anticorporate prejudice) are terrifying enough. Who knows what the devil they're putting in those things? It's my suspicion that they're made of ground-up chicken heads, held together with the gelatinous renderings of boiled chicken feet. (I couldn't prove it in a court of law. I'm just telling you what I think.)

But chicken-FREE nuggets?

I don't even care to contemplate what might be in these.

Perhaps one of my militant vegetarian readers can explain this to me. Why does this product even exist? If you're of a mind that it's wrong to slaughter innocent animals for human consumption, why would you wish to pretend to be engaged in that very activity? After all, no one goes to the frozen foods section hunting for: "Faux Human Nuggets: Like cannibalism, only without the life sentence."

And just look at the list of supposed ingredients:
Hydrated textured soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate. Contains less than 2% of: rice starch, salt, toasted onion powder, flavorings, spices, maltodextrin, dehydrated celery, sea salt, garlic powder, carrageenan, natural spice oils, spice extracts.
Can anyone honestly believe that unnatural amalgamation is somehow healthier for you to eat than good old poultry, fried fresh on the drumstick?

Me, I'll stick to my local megamart's boneless, skinless chicken breasts. At least I know those were sliced from the carcass of a real, once-live gallus domesticus.

I mean...

I think they were.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For what it's worth

Five years.

3,990 American lives.

29,314 Americans wounded.

Over $512 billion (with a B) spent.

No end in sight.

"It's worth it." — George W. Bush

You be the judge.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

No time for losers, 'cause we are the Champions

Marvel Comics hates me.

First, Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada tried to ruin Spider-Man. Now, he's canceled Marvel's best new mainstream comic book in years, The Order.

It's as though Doctor Doom has seized control of the House of Ideas.

The Order, which debuted last summer, was probably the only positive development to come out of Marvel's Civil War mega-event — you know, that silly business in which Spider-Man unmasked on national television, Iron Man turned into George W. Bush, and Captain America got back-shot like Tupac?

Written by the supremely talented Matt Fraction (co-author of another of my current-favorite Marvel reads, The Immortal Iron Fist, which will probably be canceled now that I've owned up to buying it) and engagingly drawn by Barry Kitson (with whose work I fell in love during his recent stint on DC's Legion of Super-Heroes), The Order chronicles the adventures on a group of rookie superheroes, charged by the United States government as the official protectors of California. With a couple of minor exceptions, all of the heroes in the series were created especially for The Order, and Fraction and Kitson have done masterful work in making each member of the team interesting, individual, and compelling.

Heaven forfend that anything both fresh and unique should be given time to build an audience.

In truth, The Order began life with a strike against it (aside from its focus on unfamiliar characters, that is). When first announced, the series and its eponymous supergroup were supposed to be known as The Champions, a shout-out to a short-lived but fondly remembered Marvel series of the 1970s.

Beginning with The Defenders in 1971, Marvel went through a phase of cobbling together superhero teams from the most unlikely assemblages of candidates. The original Defenders lineup, for example, included Doctor Strange, the Sub-Mariner, and the Hulk — the Silver Surfer joined them in the second issue — bringing together Marvel's least cooperation-friendly characters into a single unit.

The Champions' roster was even more bizarre — the Greek demigod Hercules; the Black Widow, a former Soviet spy turned superheroine; the demonic Ghost Rider; and a couple of original X-Men, Angel and Iceman. (I always wondered whether writer Tony Isabella and editor Len Wein simply stuck pictures of every Marvel character on Len's office wall, donned blindfolds, and threw darts at random to make up the Champions.)

What made the Champions unique to Marvel, aside from their patchwork lineup, was the fact that they were based in Los Angeles — a break from the New York centrality of the rest of the company's series. (The Black Widow and Daredevil had moved to San Francisco together in the early '70s, forming Marvel's first West Coast superteam.) The 21st-century Champions, also L.A.-based, were initially named as an homage to the originals.

Unfortunately for Marvel, a company called Heroic Publishing (home of Flare and Liberty Girl) had snapped up the trademark on the comic book title Champions, Marvel having abandoned it when The Champions was canceled in 1978. When Heroic refused to relinquish the trademark in exchange for monetary considerations, Marvel retitled its new Fraction-Kitson series The Order.

Now, you can just call it defunct.

Thinking back on those disco-era Champions, though...

I always liked the Black Widow as a character. She and Daredevil, with their similar fighting styles and abilities, made a solid partnership, and the Widow's strategic leadership was one of the best features of The Champions. Plus, her simple, elegant costume design — essentially just a black bodysuit, accessorized with a gold-ring belt with a black widow's red "hourglass" on the buckle, and wrist-mounted "stingers" — is a dynamite look.

As you can judge for yourself, from this slick, retro-cool pinup by the inimitable Phil Noto.

Having dropped away from regular comics reading in the late '80s, I was until recently unaware that Marvel's modern-day Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Natalia Romanova (there was a previous, unrelated character codenamed Black Widow in the 1940s), had been temporarily supplanted for a few years by a newer, younger model named Yelena Belova. The second Widow was blonde, of all things. After four decades of the Black Widow as a redhead, that strikes me as just plain wrong... then again, Marvel doesn't care what I like anyway.

Just to show that I can be open to new ideas, however, this attractive drawing by Matt Haley shows Natasha and her youthful counterpart together.

Okay, yeah. That works for me. (Is it now a rule that young superheroines have to wear bare-midriff costumes? And if so, can we reevaluate that rule?)

Natasha has also graced our Common Elements series with her always-welcome appearance. Artist Ty Romsa pairs the Widow with mercenary-at-large Silver Sable in this commissioned drawing.

Today, the Black Widow is a mainstay of the Avengers. That's the "Mighty" Avengers, as opposed to the "New" Avengers, for those of you who have difficulty keeping the teams straight... as do I.

I'm still ticked about The Order, though.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Amazing Spider-Man: No more!

One of the most heart-rending events in my 40-plus years as a comic book reader occurred this week...

I dropped my once-favorite comic, The Amazing Spider-Man, from my standing order at my local comic book shop.

If you're at all interested in comics, you've probably heard about One More Day, the just-concluded storyline in which Peter Parker, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, makes a deal with the demonic Mephisto to save the life of Peter's elderly Aunt May. The price of Aunt May's survival: The erasure from existence of Peter's marriage to his beloved Mary Jane.

What galled me about this development was not so much the idea that Peter and Mary Jane would no longer be married. I was reading Spider-Man comics for 20 years before Pete and MJ tied the knot in a 1987 special issue. Although their marriage has influenced Marvel Comics' mainstream continuity for two decades, Pete and MJ have never been married in every Spider-Man series that Marvel publishes. Spidey is young and single in the alternate-universe Ultimate Spider-Man, in the kid-friendly Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, and in the romance comic Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. And of course, Pete and MJ aren't married in the blockbuster Spider-Man motion picture series.

So it's not as though being a married twenty-something is necessarily essential to the character.

What is essential, however, is Spider-Man's credo: "With great power comes great responsibility." Peter Parker became Spider-Man because his failure to stop a robbery cost his Uncle Ben his life. The core of the character has always been about making tough choices, and accepting the consequences.

In short: Spider-Man does not solve his problems by making deals with the devil. At least, the Spider-Man whose adventures I've followed since 1966 does not.

So I'm no longer buying The Amazing Spider-Man. I'll get my Spidey fix in other ways. I own the DVD archive of the series from its inception through mid-2006, so I have hundreds of ASM issues to read and reread. And I'll continue to enjoy The Amazing Spider-Girl, a wonderfully old-school series — written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema — in which Peter and MJ's teenage daughter May has taken up the superhero mantle of her now-retired father.

But I won't give Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada another dime for the series he destroyed.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

What's Up With That? #57: Chester the Molester

Meet Beth Ann Chester, a physical education teacher at Moon Area High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Actually, Beth Ann is now a former physical education teacher, since her arrest on a slew of charges relating to her sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old male student.

Beth Ann got busted sending inappropriate text messages and nude photos of herself to her underage paramour's cell phone, thus ending what I'm certain was a promising career in adolescent development.

According to at least one report, Ms. Chester — who is 26 years of age, and married — confessed to engaging in sexual congress with the boy in her car in the school parking lot. I suppose the local Motel 6 was full.

Perhaps Beth Ann was merely confused as to the academic boundaries of "physical education."

That, or she missed that whole Mary Kay Letourneau business.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Funky phantoms

Before we delve into this week's Comic Art Friday, I have to get one thing off my chest...

Take this, Joe Quesada.

I don't feel entirely better now, but that helped.

Moving on...

Although he's probably more familiar to comics readers from his work on The Flash and Legion of Super-Heroes, Greg LaRocque is one of the many artists who've been called upon to illustrate the adventures of Spider-Man during the Wall-Crawler's 45-year career. Greg was the inaugural penciler of the '80s-'90s series Web of Spider-Man, and also drew a year's worth of Marvel Team-Up, in which Spidey partnered with a different Marvel superhero each month.

When I heard that Greg was actively seeking commission projects, I knew I had to have him add a new page to my Common Elements gallery. (For the benefit of any first-timers present: Common Elements is my ongoing series of commissioned artworks, in which each drawing features two or more otherwise unrelated superheroes who share some characteristic in common.) Here's Greg's take on two classic characters: Phantom Lady and the Phantom Stranger.

Interestingly enough, when I approached him, Greg came up with several Common Elements-style pairings of his own, one of which included Phantom Lady. That makes perfect sense — as you can see, his style fits her like a glove. (I know, I know: She doesn't wear gloves. Don't interrupt me when I'm on a roll.) And I like Greg's visual device of making the mysterious Phantom Stranger appear out of Phantom Lady's "black light" beam.

As for Phantom Lady herself, she holds an intriguing place in comics history. She was one of the earliest female superheroes, making her debut in the August 1941 issue of Police Comics. Her adventures were published by Everett "Busy" Arnold's Quality Comics, which outsourced most of its early content from the art studio of Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) and S.M. "Jerry" Iger. The Eisner & Iger studio produced numerous successful series for Quality, including Blackhawk, The Ray, and most memorably, Plastic Man.

By the late '40s, the vast majority of superhero comics had gone the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon. This included most of the Quality lineup. The Iger studio (Eisner and The Spirit had departed by then) shifted Phantom Lady over to another publisher, Fox Features. The Fox version of the character was drawn by the supremely talented Matt Baker, a leading pioneer of what came to be known as "good girl" art (or "headlights comics").

Baker's cover drawing from Phantom Lady #17, depicting the impressively endowed heroine bound to a pole with rope, became the star exhibit in Dr. Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, a scathing indictment of comics' supposed deleterious effects on the psychological health of American youth. Wertham's book triggered Senator Estes Kefauver's infamous inquiry into the comics industry, which in turn led to widespread (albeit industry-sanctioned) censorship in the form of the Comics Code Authority.

As for the Phantom Stranger, he was the focal point of one of mainstream comics' first furtive forays into the realm of the supernatural under the Comics Code. Introduced in 1952 but essentially abandoned after a brief six-issue run, DC Comics resurrected the Stranger (no pun intended) in 1969, just as DC and Marvel were beginning to flirt with the reintroduction of the horror themes that had twisted Wertham's and Kefauver's underpants more than a decade earlier. The Stranger's second series, which ran until 1976, helped pave the way for the onrush of supernatural titles in the '70s, everything from Marvel's Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf by Night to DC's Weird War Tales and Weird Western Tales.

The Phantom Stranger remains unique among comics heroes in that his true identity has never been revealed, and his origin and powers (which are rivaled in the DC Universe only by those of the Spectre, who is supposed to be an agent of the Almighty Himself) have never been clearly defined. It's been speculated that the Stranger might be a fallen angel, the last survivor of a prior universe... even the legendary Wandering Jew.

Or, like the Sphinx in the film Mystery Men, he might just be very, very mysterious.

Not so mysterious, however, is the appeal of Greg LaRocque's art. That's evident from his lovely portrait of the Scarlet Witch, as embellished by inker Bob Almond.

As mentioned earlier, Mr. LaRocque is available (and highly recommended) for commissions. You can tell him your Uncle Swan sent you.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

We got your human rights right here

How ironic that, on Human Rights Day — the date on which the United Nations issued the first global declaration on human rights — the White House orders Presidential press secretary Dana Perino not to comment on the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing terror suspects being tortured.

Because torture doesn't really have anything to do with human rights.

So, happy Human Rights Day...

Unless you're a prisoner — or an employee — of the Bush administration.

In which case, you don't have any.

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Friday, December 07, 2007


Before we delve into today's Comic Art Friday, please indulge a brief rant I've entitled "Why Uncle Swan Hates Comics This Week."

The following three items have me feeling uncharacteristically grumpy about my beloved long-underwear fantasies lately:
  • One More Day, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada's misbegotten attempt to rewrite the past 20 years of Spider-Man's history by retconning Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane Watson out of existence.

    Memo to Joe Q: If you have unresolved commitment issues, or problems on the home front, get counseling. Don't indulge your personal emotional baggage in the comic books I purchase. Even the writer you dragooned into scripting this travesty thinks you're an idiot. (Though I'd have respected JMS more if he'd told you to take this assignment and shove it.)

  • Hypersexualizing of female characters in general, and teenage female characters in particular. DC Comics has been especially guilty of late. Whoever decided to dress 16-year-old Supergirl in a stripper's belly shirt and micro-miniskirt, or to subject Mary Marvel to the "Seduction of the Innocent" storyline that's currently playing out in Countdown to Final Crisis, ought to be slapped around by the Hulk.

    Kudos to current Wonder Woman artists Terry and Rachel Dodson for their insistence on drawing Diana with dignity (i.e., with minimal exposed cleavage, and with briefs that actually cover her glutes). I wish that more artists would be allowed/encouraged by their editors to follow the Dodsons' lead.

  • Marvel's allowing popular Ms. Marvel artist Aaron Lopresti to escape to an exclusive contract with DC. Lopresti's stellar penciling has been the best thing to happen to Ms. Marvel in years, aside from getting her own monthly title back after a decades-long absence.

    Aaron was the first regular artist who really seemed to "get" Carol since Jim Mooney was drawing her early adventures back in the '70s. I hope that whatever project DC has in mind for Mr. Lopresti is worthy of his talents. (Could we get him on Supergirl, pretty please?)
Okay, rant over. On with the art.

Speaking of artists who "get" a particular character, pinup specialist Michael McDaniel clearly "gets" Taarna, the heroine of the pivotal sequence in the claasic animated film Heavy Metal.

Michael, who shares my affection for the film and its star attraction, perfectly captures Taarna both in image and in attitude. The idea of theming this drawing after the Tarakian defender's code as cited in the film was entirely Michael's, and he executed the concept with aplomb.

Most of my theme galleries feature characters who either debuted or enjoyed their greatest popularity in the 1970s, the decade at the heart of my comics-reading experience. Here Mitch Foust, a stylish penciler with a deft eye for heroines, presents the Valkyrie, the mysterious Viking warrior at the core of the '70s superteam known as the Defenders.

I love the expression Mitch gives Val here — simultaneously cold and battle-weary, with her hair slightly shadowing one eye in characteristic fashion. (I've often referred to the Valkyrie as the Veronica Lake of comic book heroines.) Mitch also does a fine job drawing Val's costume and her prized sword, Dragonfang — his detail work here is exquisite.

There's nothing like beautifully executed art to remind me of what I love about comics. I feel much better now.

And that's your Comic Art (and Comic Rant) Friday.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Curse you, Matt Damon

Well, it's happened yet again.

I've been passed over by People Magazine for the annual Sexiest Man Alive honors. This year, Matt Damon got the nod.

I'm so much sexier than Matt Damon, it's not even funny. Matt Damon looks like the dweeby kid brother of your best friend from high school. He's Good Will Hunting, for pity's sake.

That's the problem with America: No one knows real masculine pulchritude when they see it.

Anyway, here are the rest of the girly-men People thought were sexier than I was this year:

2. Patrick Dempsey (McBoring)
3. Ryan Reynolds (sounds like a Marvel Comics secret identity)
4. Brad Pitt (he's so two years ago)
5. James McAvoy (the wimpy doctor from The Last King of Scotland? really?)
6. Johnny Depp (is weird sexy?)
7. Dave Annable (I'll confess — I had to Google him; I'd never heard of the guy)
8. Will Smith (he got Jada's vote)
9. Javier Bardem (not fair; he's got that Latin Lothario thing going)
10. Shemar Moore (okay, yeah — he could play me in the SwanShadow biopic)

Ah, well. There's always next year.

Unless Clooney resurfaces.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Bad news

Cementing Sonoma County's reputation as the pedophile capital of the free world, here we go again.

A local radio news anchor and reporter has been arrested on charges that he engaged in "substantial sexual conduct" with a minor, beginning three years ago when the girl in question was only 12 years old.

Ron Kirk Kuhlmeyer, who broadcast for Santa Rosa's top-rated station KZST and sixth-ranked KJZY under the name Ron Kirk, resigned his position following his arrest.

Apparently, the police were notified of the alleged crimes by what's known in California legalese as a "mandated reporter" — a person, usually a health care provider or school teacher, who is required by law to report evidence of child sexual abuse.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There must be something in our water supply that brings this garbage out in people.

I think I'll stick to the bottled kind.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

What's Up With That? #55: Moon over my county

As if things weren't weird enough around these parts, a local youth league soccer coach mooned his team's opponents over the weekend.

Perhaps the man's a plumber in everyday life.

Two teams of 14- and 15-year-old girls — one from Petaluma, to the south of us, and one from Windsor, the town to our north, where KJ works — played a rather acrimonious game in Saturday's Windsor Cup soccer tourney. After the game concluded, the adult male coach of the Petaluma team... how about if I let Sgt. Steve Brown of the Windsor P.D. tell the tale?
After the game [the coach] goes to the center of the field and drops his pants and hangs a B.A. to the Windsor team and crowd.
Nothing like showing the young ladies an example of class, character, and sportsmanship, coach. That, and your pair of pasty glutes.

(I'm struggling to recall the last time I saw the phrase "hangs a B.A." in the local newspaper. Or anywhere else, for that matter. So far, I'm coming up empty.)

Mooning (or "hanging a B.A.," if you prefer) is a time-honored method of expressing contempt for one's enemies. Way back in 1346, during the Battle of Crécy in northern France, a battalion of soldiers from Normandy bared their buttocks to the onrushing English forces. Unfortunately for the Normans, the English archers found those rosy French rumps prime targets for their arrows.

Meanwhile back in the 21st century, the Petaluma soccer coach (whose name is not being reported, since he hasn't yet been arrested or charged with a crime) may take comfort in the knowledge that a circuit court judge in Montgomery County, Maryland recently determined that mooning is a Constitutionally protected form of free expression, even in the presence of minors. In his decision, Judge John W. Debelius III wrote: "If exposure of half of the buttock constituted indecent exposure, any woman wearing a thong at the beach at Ocean City would be guilty."

So, let the moon shine, America. Just watch out for those English longbows.

In related news, a representative from our city's Pee-Wee Baseball league called this morning to see whether I might be interested in sponsoring a team.

I didn't say this to the woman on the phone, but I'm not sure that anything involving children should be using the name "Pee-Wee." You might see coaches dropping trou every game in that league.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What's Up With That? #54: Care to handle my wand, Mr. Potter?

Before we get started: The first one to crack a "headmaster" joke has to sit in the corner until this post is over.

My reaction to the big "Dumbledore was gay!" revelation by J.K. Rowling takes the form of an classic Chicago song (back when they were good, before Peter Cetera turned them into yawn-inducing elevator music for baby boomers):

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Seriously — the sexual orientation of a fictional character in a series of fantasy novels? Who's getting worked up over this?

He doesn't exist, people. Simmer down.

I'm not even sure what Rowling's purpose was in outing the ancient wizard, who was played on film by Michael Gambon and the late Richard Harris. The Harry Potter series is done; Rowling has repeatedly declared that herself. She's not going to write any more Potter books. So it's not as though Dumbledore's practice of the Love That Dares Not Speak At Hogwarts is going to impact future events in the Potter storyline, because there aren't going to be any.

If Rowling wanted to make a statement, and include a gay character in her books, why didn't she, you know, include a gay character in her books? I'm not a Potterite myself, but I understand that old Albus's sexuality never raises its head — so to speak — in the stories themselves. If it wasn't important enough for Rowling to characterize Dumbledore as gay when she was actually writing the books, what possible difference could it make now? How does it add anything to what she's written if it isn't on the page?

This whole business reminds me of the final episode of Law & Order in which Serena Southerlyn, the assistant district attorney played by Elisabeth Röhm, appeared. In her exit scene, Serena asks her soon-to-be-former boss Arthur Branch (in the guise of future GOP Presidential contender Fred Dalton Thompson) if he's firing her because she's a lesbian. (Arthur says, "No, of course not," because no Republican would ever fire anyone because he or she was homosexual. Ahem.)

In the four seasons Serena had appeared on the show, there had been not one whit of implication that she was gay; if anything, the several mentions of her previous relationships with men would have suggested that she was straight. It was as though the writers, as they wrote Serena's last line of dialogue, suddenly decided, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if she were a lesbian?"

The French have an expression: esprit d'escalier, "the spirit of the staircase." The Germans have one like it: treppenwitz, "staircase wisdom." Both refer to that flash of genius we all experience when it's too late for it to matter; the brilliant riposte we only think to throw back at an opponent after we've already walking down the steps toward the door.

I suspect Rowling's notion about Dumbledore's preference for the fellows is, like that of the Law & Order scripters, a classic case of staircase wisdom.

Sorry, girlfriend, but Albus has already left the building.

If not the closet.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #53: George 1, Kids 0

Just when I think the current resident of the Oval Office can't ascend to greater heights of lunacy than he's already reached, he vetoes health insurance for lower-income children.

Ye gods.

The bill President Bush vetoed would add $35 billion to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) over the next five years, enabling an additional four million kids to participate in the program. (About seven million children are presently enrolled, mostly from families earning more than the Medicaid maximum, but who can't afford private health insurance.) The additional money would come via a 40-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax.

Because wealthy tobacco company executives and lobbyists are more valuable to the current administration than poor kids in need of health coverage — many of whom, if allowed to grow up healthy, would probably vote Democratic anyway — George put the kibosh on the legislation.

Bush can spend countless billions sending America's dedicated servicemen and servicewomen to their deaths in his pointless family vendetta in Iraq, but he can't stand to see a few bucks going to keep American children healthy.

The mind boggles.

The Prez's argument against the SCHIP upgrade is that it's a step in the direction of government-run health care. Again, government-paid death and destruction, good; government-paid health care for lower-income kids, bad. In a word: Huh?

Here's hoping that enough Congressional Republicans realize that poor people vote — especially when the interests of their children are at stake — and get off their partisan dime to overturn this indefensible veto.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No surprises

It really should come as no surprise that, six years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we still haven't managed to capture Osama bin Laden.

After all, no one's found Jimmy Hoffa in 32 years, and Hoffa is presumably (a) somewhere on the North American continent, and (b) not actively eluding detection. Heck, they can't even find Steve Fossett, whom I presume would want to be found.

It's more surprising that 3,800 of America's servicemen and servicewomen have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, even though we're reasonably certain that Osama isn't hiding there.

Even more surprising is the fact that, six years later, most Americans still believe that the 9-11 attacks were an assault on our freedom. We have yet to figure out that most Islamic extremists couldn't care less about your freedom or mine. They don't care that we eat at McDonald's, or drive SUVs, or wear blue jeans and belly shirts, or vacation at Disneyland. They care about their own economics, and our government's foreign policy, and the inextricable relationship between the two. Everything else is window dressing.

Until the people running the show in Washington figure that out — or we replace them with people who already have — all you and I can do is wait for the inevitable next shoe to drop.

Which makes the tragedies of September 11, 2001 all the more tragic.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

They tried to make me use a condom; I said, "No, no, no"

Easily the worst idea I've heard this month:

English pop star Amy Winehouse and her junkie husband are desperately trying to conceive a baby.

Call Parenting Magazine. I think I've found the cover girl for their Mother's Day issue next year.

In case your copy of Billboard got detoured in the mail, Winehouse (a namephreak of the first order — RIP, Herb Caen) is the drugged-out, booze-addled Goth songstress best known in this country for her chart-topping hit "Rehab," the lyrics of which begin:
They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, "No, no, no."
The British tabloid News of the World last week published photos of Winehouse and her partner in addiction, hubby Blake Fielder-Civil, lounging on a beach in the Caribbean sporting fresh heroin needle tracks, as well as bruises from a recent, much-publicized domestic brawl, prior to which Amy was admittedly "cutting herself and about to do drugs with a call girl."

Aren't there enough children being born into corrosive home environments without these two losers contributing to the epidemic? I'm not in favor of involuntary sterilization, generally speaking, but Amy and Blake make a pretty fair argument for the practice.

A friend of the couple — presumably one who was sober and straight at the time of the interview — told the tabloid, "[Amy] really wants a baby and thinks it will help get her life back on track."

That must be a typo. I'm sure she said "on crack."

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

And the world said, "Duh!"

Quoth La Lohan: "It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs."

I believe we have a new front-runner in the Most Obvious Statement of the Millennium sweepstakes.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What's Up With That? #50: That chicken's a Rhode Island White

As if we needed one, here's another example of how racism makes people stupid.

Ralph Papitto, chair of the governing board of Roger Williams University and namesake of Rhode Island's only law school, has resigned after using the N-pejorative during a board discussion about recruiting minorities and women.

Papitto says that the offending word "kind of slipped out." In his own defense, the 80-year-old former executive says, "I apologized for that. What else can I do? Kill myself?"

Hey, Ralph: Don't let me stop you.

But here's the truly stupid part of the whole affair. Papitto claims that he had never used the N-word before. He also says, "The first time I heard it was on television, and then rap music or something."

Come on, Ralph. Just because you're a moron doesn't mean everyone else you encounter is similarly challenged.

Let's examine this realistically. A man who's lived in the United States for eight decades had to learn the N-word from a TV program and a rap record? Where's he been for the past 80 years, hermetically sealed in a soundproof room?

Actually, no.

In addition to having led a prestigious university and getting a law school named after him, Papitto founded a Fortune 500 company — Nortek, Incorporated, which manufactures air conditioning units, security systems, and other building products. Does that ring true to you? The man started and ran a huge business in the rough-and-tumble construction industry, and he never heard the N-word? Puh-leeze.

Words that don't comprise a portion of one's daily vocabulary don't "kind of slip out." I can't recall the last time random quantum physics terminology just tripped off my tongue willy-nilly. I doubt you can, either, unless you're either a quantum physicist or a sci-fi geek.

Besides which, how many 80-year-old men — white, black, or maroon — do you know who listen to rap music, much less pick up and toss around lingo from that genre?

I guess that venerable saying still holds water: There's no fool like an old fool.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Everything new is old again

This week, Comic Art Friday celebrates the return of Nexus, the nuclear-powered dispenser of cosmic justice cocreated by writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude. After a decade of dormancy, Nexus reappeared in comic shops everywhere this past Wednesday, with the first issue of a brand-new, four-part adventure entitled "Space Opera."

If you like your superhero comics old school, they don't come much better than Nexus. I highly recommend that you check it out.

Steve Rude has long been an advocate for superheroes in the classic style, a return to Silver Age basics from the dark, hyperviolent, angst-ridden fare that has pervaded the genre since the late 1980s. While certainly modern in sensibility — Nexus is no exercise in nostalgia, as even the most cursory reading would reveal — Rude and Baron's creation delivers the kind of energetic fun I came to expect from comics when I first began reading them in the 1960s. Rude's clean, muscular art, heavily influenced by such industry giants as Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, is always a joy to behold, and Baron's quirky scripts remain among the most entertaining in the business.

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to find my way onto Steve Rude's commission list. My efforts were rewarded with this action-packed pinup featuring one of my favorite heroines, Mary Marvel.

Notice that Rude's rendition of Mary shows her exactly as she ought to be depicted — as a strong, vivacious teenager, not as a glorified Hooters girl in a superhero costume. The insistence of the current DC Comics editorial department (I'm looking at you, Dan DiDio) upon portraying Mary in an increasingly grim and hypersexualized fashion, especially in the new Countdown series, burns my biscuits to no end. There are plenty of overdeveloped hotties in the DC Universe. Mary Marvel doesn't need to be one of them.

I know that some may suppose that I'm an immovable old curmudgeon who doesn't think comics ever ought to "grow up." Nothing could be further from the truth. My only contention with the "grim 'n' gritty" direction of the superhero genre over the past two decades is that grimness and grit has marginalized every other stylistic approach to superhero fantasy. I'm all for people who enjoy darker fare having books that suit their tastes.

But not every superhero book ought to be "dark." Spider-Man and Superman shouldn't be dark. The Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Teen Titans shouldn't be dark. Nor should Supergirl, or Wonder Woman, or any member of the Marvel Family, Mary Marvel included. These characters weren't conceived with a grim, gritty sensibility, and imposing such on them ruins the appeal of the characters, transmogrifying them into something they were never intended to be.

I've never forgiven Frank Miller for destroying one of my childhood heroes, Daredevil, back in the early 1980s. Miller took a character who had always been something of a more adult Spider-Man and turned him mean-spirited and ugly. More than 20 years later, DD is still being written that way by Miller's successors. It makes me sad to pass up the monthly Daredevil comic every time I visit my local comics retailer. But the character Marvel Comics calls "Daredevil" now is not the noble hero I once knew.

For creators who want to explore the dark side, there's ample room to manufacture new creations that suit their vision. Alan Moore did it with Watchmen. Keith Giffen did it with Lobo. Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson are doing it today with The Boys. Even the dreaded Miller did it with his popular Sin City. None of these works appeal to me, but I appreciate their service to their particular target market. I'm glad they exist for the people who enjoy them.

But I'd sure like to have my old Daredevil back.

Fortunately, there are the Steve Rudes of the world, artists who are determined to see to it that comic book superheroes I can love and admire do not vanish from the earth. Even among the new school of talents are those who still appreciate and value the classic characters as they ought to be, as in this charming pinup of Mary Marvel by Sean Chen.

Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I like what I like.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

What's Up With That? #49: Welcome to whine country

I don't know whether they've ever met, but here are two people who deserve each other: Paris Hilton and Billy Donovan.

Both of them have whining their way out of their mistakes down to a science.

As you've doubtless heard by now, Paris squeaked out of her 23-day jail sentence 20 days early by lapsing into crying fits at every opportunity. The Los Angeles County authorities released her to 40 days of house arrest, supposedly because they "feared for her health."

I'll give you the prescription Paris needs: Repeated swift kicks to her bony little butt.

Meanwhile, University of Florida basketball coach Donovan weaseled out of a freshly signed contract to helm the NBA's Orlando Magic before the ink even had time to dry. Quoth Billy Two-Face:
I realized in less than 24 hours after signing a contract with the Magic that I had made a mistake that had nothing to do with the Magic. Instead, I realized that, in my heart, I belonged in college basketball.
Translated: "I finally figured out how to leverage a whopping pay raise and cushy perks out of the university administration."

Donovan can get in line for the gauntlet, right behind Paris.

Let the butt-kicking commence.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sometimes I feel like a bullet in the gun of Cho Seung-hui

A few random thoughts about the incident that will forever be known as the Virginia Tech massacre:
  • A neighbor described the 23-year-old gunman, Cho Seung-hui, as "very quiet, always by himself." As KJ and I listened to the earliest news reports on the shootings — hours before the perpetrator was identified — I said to her, "Just wait: When they figure out who did this, someone will describe the guy as 'a quiet man... good neighbor... kept to himself.'" It's scary when I'm right.

  • Given that Cho was a card-carrying legal immigrant, I can hardly wait for the first salvos from the anti-immigration whack-jobs, saying, "This is why we gotta keep them [racist characterization deleted] outa our country."

  • That salvo will be followed shortly by another from the gun lobby whack-jobs, saying, "If every student at Va. Tech had been packing a TEC-9, this guy wouldn't have killed so many people."

  • Already, every would-be pop psychologist is breaking down the myriad reasons why Cho got up yesterday morning and murdered 32 people. What's wrong with the obvious answer: "The dude was a whack-job"?

  • Note to future suicidal mass murderers: Given that you're going to end the deal by killing yourself anyway, couldn't you just start there? I'm not advocating ritual seppuku as a valid means of resolving one's personal issues. I'm just thinking we might be able to get you the death you want anyway, without a bunch of other people losing their lives, who had absolutely nothing to do with your inner demons.

  • Right decent of El Presidente to pop over to Va. Tech for a platitude-laden photo op. Maybe the 33 deaths for which Cho was responsible will deflect at least a modicum of attention from the 3,300 American deaths for which Bush is responsible.

  • You just know that the delay in action on the part of the university administration and security personnel between the first and second shooting incidents is going to make a passel of lawyers extremely wealthy.

  • Small consolation, but the Va. Tech massacre outstripped the previous U.S. mass shooting deaths record-holder, Charles Whitman, by a factor of more than 100%. If you're going to go off, go off big, I suppose.

  • Probably a trivial query in the midst of this maelstrom, but you know how my twisted mind works: What's a Hokie, anyway?

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

They oughta shoot somebody's eye out

Benjamin "Bob" Clark, the movie director who gave the world the holiday classic A Christmas Story — as well as the infamous romp about libidinous teenagers invading a Florida brothel known as Porky's — died early morning in an automobile crash in southern California. Clark's 22-year-old son Ariel, a budding jazz composer who studied music at Santa Monica College, also lost his life in the incident.

The drunk driver who killed both Clarks, 24-year-old Hector Velazquez-Nava, escaped with minor injuries.

That's the kind of news that burns my biscuits.

I consider myself a forgiving individual, but I hold no empathy for intoxicated drivers who kill or injure innocent people. In my view, vehicular manslaughter resulting from alcohol or drugs should be prosecuted and penalized to the same level as first-degree murder. If you're enough of a heartless barbarian that you would rather risk the lives of other human beings than call a taxi, society is better off with you permanently behind bars.

The reason drunk drivers are not so prosecuted and penalized can be directly attributed to the power of the liquor lobby. That, and many leading politicians — including a certain presently serving Commander-in-Chief — are among the folks most likely to grab the steering wheel while under the influence. Big money and runaway egotism make for dangerous bedfellows.

It would be unkind to use this moment as an opportunity to point out that, with the exception of the aforementioned A Christmas Story, Bob Clark directed a raft of heinously bad movies, including the aforementioned Porky's (and Rhinestone, and Turk 182, and From the Hip, and Loose Cannons, and Baby Geniuses). So I'll refrain.

Instead, I'll mention the one movie in the Bob Clark oeuvre that I really did enjoy: Murder by Decree, which pitted Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson (played here by two veteran scenery-chewers, Christopher Plummer and James Mason) against Jack the Ripper. If you like mysteries, or Holmes, or both, you owe it to yourself to scrounge up the DVD of this film, and check it out. It's a genuine classic, featuring supporting appearances by such talents as Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, and Anthony Quayle. (Fascinating background trivia: Clark originally cast Peter O'Toole and Laurence Olivier as Holmes and Watson respectively, but the two actors hated one another with such a passion that the director ended up having to replace them both just to get the movie made.)

We here at SSTOL extend our condolences to the Clark family upon their devastating double loss.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #47: Sympathy for the nasal

If this isn't the nastiest thing you read about today, I definitely don't want to follow you to the library.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones — a legendary connoisseur of all items pharmacological — admitted in an interview with the British magazine NME that he once intentionally aspirated the ashes of his deceased father, mixed in with his minimum daily requirement of cocaine.

That's right: Keith Richards snorted his dad.

If you need to go hurl, I'll wait.

Feel better? Okay — onward we go.

Here's what the Keefer had to say about this peculiar — and frankly revolting — excursion into the dark side:
He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive.
That's sick and wrong in more ways than I can count.

Richards will soon be appearing alongside Johnny Depp in the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Richards plays the father of Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow — a character based, as Depp has stated numerous times, upon Richards himself. If Jack follows the example of his real-life model, the advertising tagline "Got a little Captain in you?" could take on a whole new meaning.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What's Up With That? #46: No Tiggers allowed

Over the hill in Napa, a lawsuit is brewing against the local school district because an eighth-grader got busted for wearing Tigger socks.

Considering some of the trouble Tigger's gotten his striped self into recently, perhaps this makes a peculiar kind of sense.

Toni Kay Scott, a 14-year-old honor student, has been cited more than a dozen times for wearing apparel in violation of the Napa school district's dress code, which forbids denim (the only fabrics permitted are cotton twill, chino, and corduroy) as well as clothing bearing words or images of any kind — including Pooh's lovable spring-tailed tiger friend. Napa's school-going youth are also prohibited from wearing any items outside a narrow color palette that includes blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown, and black. (They're not exactly embracing sartorial diversity over in Napa.)

As a parent, I understand the school district's concern about gang colors, potentially offensive T-shirts, immodest clothing, and such like. But seriously, people — Tigger socks?

I'd hope the folks in charge of spending my tax dollars to educate my child and the other offspring of our community would have more important tasks on which to focus than punting a kid out of class for wearing Disney-print hosiery.

The last time I checked, the Crips and the Norteños weren't using Pooh and Piglet as insignia.

But wouldn't it be a happier world if they did?

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reason to Despise Modern Comics #25

Captain America, dead?

Yeah, right. They said that about Supergirl, too — 22 years ago.

Needless to say, when I made my weekly pilgrimage to my local comic shop, I did not waste four bucks on Captain America #25.

In my opinion, the Captain America who surrendered like a whipped puppy at the conclusion of Marvel's recent Civil War miniseries, and then was gunned down like a rabid dog in the just-released comic mentioned above, was not really Captain America anyway. I'd have shot that loser myself. The real Cap always went down fighting.

Instead, I prefer to imagine Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada dressed in a Red Skull costume, thus:

There will always be a Captain America.

There may not, however, always be a comic book industry, if they keep pulling stupid publicity stunts like this.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

What's Up With That? #44: Tim Hate-Away

When he was a backcourt star for my beloved, perpetually frustrating Golden State Warriors, Tim Hardaway's signature move was the "killer crossover," a rapid-fire maneuver in which Tim dribbled the basketball between his legs from one hand to the other.

Now, Hardaway's going to be even more famous for his killer voiceover.

The Timinator, who now works in the NBA's front office, was being interviewed on Dan Le Batard's sports radio show in Miami when he offered his opinion about former NBA center John Amaechi's recent acknowledgment that he is gay. Quoth Hardaway:
You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.
So tell us how you really feel, Tim.

Today, Hardaway issued a public apology, which didn't prevent the NBA from banning him from this weekend's All-Star festivities:"
As an African-American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause. I regret and apologize for the statements that I made that have certainly caused the same kinds of feelings and reactions. I especially apologize to my fans, friends and family in Miami and Chicago. I am committed to examining my feelings and will recognize, appreciate and respect the differences among people in our society.
Hardaway's comments started me thinking about something that has always puzzled me. Why is it necessary for people to hate others who do things of which they themselves disapprove? Let's say homosexuality is contrary to your belief system. I can relate to that. But do you have to hate gay people, because you believe homosexuality is wrong? Does your disapproval of what gay people do — or what you might imagine they do — require that you hate them?

I can name many things people do that I think they should not. For example, I can't abide cigarette smoking. I can't comprehend why someone would want to roll dead leaves in paper, set the product on fire, and suck on it. I detest the smell of tobacco, I despise seeing cigarette butts scattered about the landscape, and I certainly don't want to share the carcinogenic air of those who smoke. But I don't hate smokers. I don't even dislike smokers — at least, not just because they're smokers. My antipathy for smoking doesn't cause me any animus toward the people who do it, as long as they aren't befouling my personal atmosphere. I certainly don't hate them.

Why does Tim Hardaway hate gay people? Again, my question is not why he believes what he believes about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. Let's grant him his views so far as that goes. But even allowing for the fact that Tim may hate homosexuality, does that necessitate his hating gay people? What does other people's gayness (gayitude? gayosity?) have to do with him?

So Hardaway's afraid a gay teammate might scope out his twig and berries in the locker room. There are practical ways of dealing with that issue. I'm guessing that millions of females are ogled daily by males (and perhaps even by some females, 'cause that's how they roll) by whom they would prefer not to be ogled. As long as no one is harassed or harmed, it's a fact of life. If harassment or harm occurs, that's entirely another matter. But I don't think the overwhelming majority of those women getting ogled hate all men in general, just because some ogle.

Again, the question: Do you have to hate an entire group of people, just because you don't like something they (or even just some of them) do?

This carries over into numerous areas of conversation — religion, to choose one. If you disagree with the practices of someone's faith, should you have to hate them personally? If you're a Protestant, should you hate Catholic people because you dislike Catholicism? If you're a Christian, should you hate Jews because they don't embrace Christ? If you're a Muslim, should you hate Christians because they don't pray to Allah?

Take it another step. If someone engages in illegal or immoral activity that doesn't directly impact you, should you hate them? Even if a person is committing the most heinous, unspeakable act imaginable — pick one that offends you — but they're not hurting you or yours in any way, should you hate them? Does condemning the person's actions mean you have to hate the person?

I'm not saying my answer would be right. But I think the question's worth asking.

Just don't hate me if we disagree.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mom! Beast is takin' my picture!

What's gotten into those lovable Disney characters lately?

Just last month, we noted that an actor playing Tigger at Walt Disney World smacked a teenage park visitor with a roundhouse punch upside the head, as the kid's parents caught the incident on video.

Now, the guy who portrays the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) at the same park has been busted by the Orange County Sheriff's Sex Crimes Unit for collecting child pornography. Deputies raiding Disney cast member Matthew Wendland's apartment confiscated more than 1,000 images of children — some no older than toddler age — engaged in sexual poses and activities.

According to the detective managing the case, Wendland — who, in between stints as Beast, also suits up as Goofy — told them that he didn't see anything wrong in ogling pictures showing naked children barely out of diapers. "He doesn't see the difference between a naked 8-year-old and an 18-year-old woman. They're just a body to him," said Sgt. Rich Mankewich.

Mankewich also stated, "We have no evidence he committed any crimes while he was in costume. He just leans over and hugs kids." And with Wendland's proclivities, you don't suppose that might be a problem?

The truly sad fact is that Wendland has a teenaged girlfriend, with whom he's already produced a 16-month-old child.

I suppose they're both just bodies to him, too.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thinking Thursday

It's a nippy January Thursday, and as is often the case, I stand appalled by the activities of my fellow humans...
  • The Ford Motor Company reported today that they lost $12.7 billion — that's billion with a "b" — last year. How does that happen? How do you lose $12.7 billion? There are entire countries that don't have access to that level of cash flow.

    Ford says that about $9.9 billion of the loss can be attributed to its newly established company-wide cost-cutting program. Guys, I'm no Milton Friedman here, but I don't think that program is working.

  • Responding to questions about the White House's insistence on pursuing its intended troop increase in Iraq in the face of a Senate resolution against the idea, Vice President Dick Cheney said:
    The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We're going to do it.
    What's the weather like on your planet, Dick?

  • Scandal is brewing Down Under, where the city council of Melbourne hired private investigators to gather evidence against illegal brothels by having sexual relations with the masseuses at government expense. Said one detective:
    The girl is naked. The investigator is naked. You receive an oil massage and, at the end of it, you receive hand relief and that's it.
    Sounds like they take the term "private investigator" literally down in Kangaroo Country.

  • Caucasian students at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas displayed the redness of their collective necks by throwing an MLK Day party featuring fried chicken and malt liquor, Afro wigs, and costumes imitating black rappers and Aunt Jemima. (You can check out the photo array over at The Smoking Gun.)

    Perhaps someone thought MLK meant Mindless Losers for the Klan instead of Martin Luther King.

  • At the Oakland Raiders' press conference introducing new head coach Lane Kiffin, owner Al Davis took offense when a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News referred to the Raiders as "a black hole for coaches." Darth Davis raged:
    This isn't a black hole for coaches. It's a great opportunity for coaches. We know how to win here.
    Hey, Al: Your team was 2-14 in the NFL season just concluded. If the Raiders know how to win, you're keeping that knowledge more secret than the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

  • Ellen DeGeneres's ex-squeeze Anne Heche is dumping her husband of five years in favor of her Men in Trees costar, James Tupper. I guess Anne's decided to give the old hetero thing one more whirl.

    In apparently unrelated developments, Heather Graham and Bridget Moynihan will play lesbian lovers in the upcoming film Gray Matters, while former Friends costars Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston get in a little girl-on-girl action in the March 27 episode of Cox's new series, Dirt. So maybe the old hetero thing just isn't for everyone.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What's Up With That? #42: Baby, it's cold outside

It's a brisk 28 degrees Fahrenheit today in our little burg. Still air, therefore no wind chill factor, but chilly nonetheless.

This morning, after I dropped my daughter at school, I saw a young woman walking onto campus wearing a paper-thin cotton shirt with three-quarter-length sleeves, and flip-flops on otherwise bare feet. Up the block, along came a girl in a sleeveless tank top with nothing covering it. Also joining the morning trudge to high school were several boys and girls whose only upper body garment was a T-shirt.

Now, this isn't a particularly affluent community, but neither do we have many residents living in extreme poverty. Even the poorest of kids owns at least one hoodie.

So why would these kids choose to freeze? Is a sweatshirt or jacket that uncool?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

My homework was never quite like this

This week, our coveted Mary Kay Letourneau Award goes to 30-year-old Colorado social studies teacher Carrie McCandless, who's mulling over a plea bargain after getting caught drinking and canoodling with a 17-year-old male student.

According to the Denver Post, McCandless was chaperoning an overnight field trip to a YMCA camp ("You can do whatever you feel") last October, when she and the unnamed student exchanged various and sundry carnal pleasures in her cabin. (Apparently Carrie confused the words "chaperone" and "courtesan." A common error.)

The student later told police that he and McCandless also "made out" once in the parking lot of a local Sam's Club. This young man has already learned an important romantic secret: For many women, nothing is a greater turn-on than discount merchandise.

In a note to her student-slash-paramour, McCandless told the young Lothario that steaming up the cabin windows with him was "totally fun." Obviously, McCandless perfected her educational philosophy at Ridgemont High.

Somewhere in America, David Lee Roth is grinning from ear to ear.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ahmadinejad kind of mood

Far be it from me — a man who embraces peace, love, and universal harmony — to advocate the extermination of human life.

I was thinking, however...

If someone were of a mind to smuggle a few tons of plastic explosive into the site of the "Holocaust Never Happened" conference currently under way in Tehran at the invitation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — an international conference that collects in one location 67 virulently racist and anti-Semitic whack-jobs like former Ku Klux Klan kingpin David Duke and French pseudo-historian Georges Thiel... the wake of the detonation of said explosive, the world would not be absent anyone who really ought to be missed.

I'm not saying someone ought to do that. Certainly not. Because that would be wrong.

But if someone did...

...maybe we could all agree to deny that it ever really happened.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I see London, I see France

To absolutely no one's surprise, the hottest Google search at this moment in history is for those infamous photographs of Britney Spears's unclad nether regions, shot surreptitiously during the Britster's recent night on the town with Paris Hilton, another party girl who's also been known to leave her drawers in the drawer, if you catch my drift.

Now, persons of genuine taste and discernment don't want to get snapshot in public with their erogenous zones flapping in the breeze. Let's be honest, though: Hollywood is a notoriously trend-intensive town. As soon as the rest of the Show Biz Kids catch wind (snicker!) of the attention Brit and Paris are attracting with their knickers-free shenanigans, everyone will be hanging their stuff out there for the paparazzi to capture.

To capitalize on this phenomenon, the online sports betting service has posted odds as to the next celebrity whose private parts will be circulating on the 'Net. In case you're interested in getting a little action down, here are a few of the current overs on the lack of unders (reported, of course, for entertainment purposes only), straight from the tote board:
  • Tara Reid or Janet, Miss Jackson If You're Nasty: 2 to 1.
  • Nicole Richie: 3 to 1.
  • One of the Bush twins (no pun intended): 4 to 1.
  • Jessica Simpson or Lindsay Lohan: 5 to 1.
  • Pink (again, no pun intended): 10 to 1.
  • Madonna or Eva Longoria: 20 to 1.
  • Halle Berry or Angelina Jolie: 50 to 1.
  • Chelsea Clinton (yikes!): also 50 to 1.
What's truly frightening about this egregious fad is that any number of B-, C-, and D-list celebs might resort to a bit of flash and dash in an attempt to drum up support for their flagging careers — including many whom no one (and we do mean no one) would want to see trying this stunt at home, or anywhere else for that matter.

As a public service, SSTOL's crack staff (hee!) has compiled a list of women who absolutely, positively, ought never to get caught going commando:
  • First Lady Laura Bush.
  • Oprah Winfrey.
  • Katie Couric.
  • Roseanne.
  • Either Laverne or Shirley.
  • The two ambiguously gay women from the Yoplait yogurt commercials.
  • Joan Rivers.
  • Melissa Rivers.
  • Pretty much anyone named Rivers.
  • Martha Stewart.
  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
  • Senator Hillary Clinton. Or any other member of the U.S. Senate.
  • Sue Johanson, the Talk Sex lady.
  • Bea Arthur.
  • Courtney Love (oops, too late).

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Monday, December 04, 2006

What's Up With That? #40: Garrison's Prison Break experience may come in handy

No one seems to be asking the essential question about last weekend's accident involving Prison Break star Lane Garrison, in which one of Garrison's passengers — a 17-year-old boy — lost his life, and two other passengers — both 15-year-old girls — were seriously injured.

So let me be the first.

The question isn't: Was Garrison intoxicated at the time of the crash?

The question is: What was a 26-year-old actor doing on a Saturday night with three teenaged minors — two of them 15-year-old girls — in his car?

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Are you who you think you are?

In the latest bizarre twist in the Michael Richards story, the embattled comedian — who recently spewed racial invective at a couple of African-Americans who heckled him at L.A.'s Laugh Factory comedy club — apparently made similarly insensitive and bigoted comments about Jews during a performance in April.

"But that was okay," Richards assures us, "because I'm Jewish."

Except... he isn't.

According to Richards's publicist, Howard Rubenstein, Richards "really thinks of himself as Jewish." This despite the fact that neither of the comedian's parents are Jewish, and that he himself has never converted to Judaism. (Rubenstein, on the other hand, actually is Jewish, and ought to know better.)

Personally, I think this is just a big misunderstanding. I don't believe Richards meant that he thinks of himself as Jewish — that is, as a person who is a Jew. I think he meant that he thinks of himself as Jew-"ish" — that is, as sorta kinda like a Jew. You know, like when a woman says in her Yahoo! Personals ad that she's "thirty-ish," when she's actually 43.

That, or Richards figured this ploy had a better chance of success than him saying, "Of course, I used the N-word. But it's okay, because I think of myself as black."

Although I once met a man who did exactly that.

For many years here in Sonoma County, one of our most beloved local citizens has been Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Johnny Otis. Johnny, who was born and raised just east of here in Vallejo but now lives around the corner in Sebastopol, made his first impact on the national music scene in 1945, when his big band recorded the beloved jazz standard "Harlem Nocturne." In 1957, Johnny released his classic R&B hit, "Willie and the Hand Jive." Along the way, he also enjoyed success as a promoter and A&R (artists and repertory) man for various record companies — discovering such future music legends as Etta James, the Coasters, and Jackie Wilson; as a popular radio disc jockey; as a political operative (he served as chief of staff for a Congressman named Mervyn Dymally, who later became Lietenant Governor of California); as well as a popular performer.

Johnny Otis was born Ioannis Veliotes, and is of Greek heritage. But he has always thought of himself as black, as do most of the people who know him. As was the case with Bob "Wolfman Jack" Smith, the late radio personality, many people who know Johnny Otis only by his music and reputation are often surprised upon meeting him to discover that he is, in fact, Caucasian. I know I was.

It works for Johnny Otis. For Michael Richards, not so much.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

If I had blogged about O.J.'s book and TV special, this is how I'd have done it

I'm shocked — shocked, I say — that News Corp. has canceled O.J. Simpson's speculate-all book, If I Did It, and the accompanying television special due to be broadcast on FOX next week.

You'd think Rupert Murdoch woke up this morning with ethics in his cornflakes.

Although that might be expecting too much.

Setting aside the overwhelming ick factor in having a man describe in graphic detail how he murdered his wife and her paramour — hypothetically speaking, of course, I'm mostly relieved that any potential success on the part of News Corp.'s abortive O.J. project won't lead to a slew of like-minded self-exposes by other alleged celebrity malfeasants:
  • If I Knew It by President George W. Bush.

  • If We Sang It by Fab Morvan, the surviving half of Milli Vanilli.

  • If I'd Written It by Stephen Glass (who actually more or less did this number already, in his novel The Fabulist).

  • If I Did It, Then Had It Done to Me, in a Denver Motel by Pastor Ted Haggard.

  • If I Had Sexual Relations with That Woman, Whom I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With by former President Bill Clinton.

  • If I Took My Handgun to My Favorite Italian Restaurant by Robert Blake.

  • If I Made Home Movies, an anthology featuring the collected works of Rob Lowe, R. Kelly, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears.

  • If I Was Anti-Semitic by Mel Gibson.

  • If I Was a Racist by Michael Richards.

  • If I Were Gay by [insert the potential author of your choice here].

  • If I Were a Moron by [insert name of your Congressional representative here].
This whole O.J. confessional debacle is yet another entry in the ever-growing pop culture category, "Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?" — the same category that brought you Crystal Pepsi, mullets, and the Iraq War.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curses, foiled again!


I got passed over for People's Sexiest Man Alive again?

How could this happen? This is an injustice — a heinous, barefaced travesty, I say! How on earth could they rule that any other man on the planet is sexier than I am? How could...


What's that?

George Clooney?




Forget I said anything.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Getting your Phil at

I just caught the new commercial for the Internet dating service

Here's the setup: A waitress at a sidewalk café daydreams that a parade of eligible bachelors is marching down the street in front of her. When she snaps out of her reverie, she's actually pouring coffee all over her customer, who just happens to be Dr. Phil. The good doc tells Princess Head-in-Clouds that she's got every quality a man should want — looks, personality, brains. All she needs now is — you guessed it — a little guidance from

A few problems here:
  1. If you've ever seen Dr. Phil's show — you might as well admit you have — you know Dr. Phil isn't the kind of guy who would lightly blow off getting hot coffee dumped in his lap. He'd be all up in that waitress's face about her lousy relationship with her father, or something.

  2. Dr. Phil's reassurance of his would-be dating queen rings hollow. Maybe you do have looks, personality, and IQ. But you're a waitress at a café. That's one step up the economic chain from slinging fries at Mickey D's. You're working for minimum wage and tips, while you're hoping to score with a captain of industry or a neurosurgeon. Time for a reality check, sweet cheeks. Try hitting the books for that GED and a real career, then we'll talk.

  3. The punch line of Dr. Phil's pitch amounts to the most ludicrous guarantee in the history of marketing: If doesn't find your Mr. or Ms. Right in six months, you get six months of service free. Let me see if I understand this correctly. will hook you up with one loser after another for half a year, and the consolation prize is another six months of dates with the losers they send you. What kind of freakazoid restitution is that?

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

My fall-back position

My thoughts on daylight saving time, summarized in two sentences:

I hate springing forward. I love falling back.

In fact, I think it's a shame that "falling back," the procedure of reversing our clocks by one hour on the last Sunday of October, only occurs once each year. I think that I ought to be able to fall back any time I darn well please.

If I get to bed late one night, and know that I have critical work to accomplish in the morning, I should be allowed to fall back, and snag an extra hour of sleep. Likewise on nights when I've come home late from a chorus or quartet rehearsal, or stayed up into the wee hours to watch a really cool movie on HBO, or got engrossed in a real pageturner of a book that I just couldn't put down, or burned a vial or two of midnight oil catching up on an impending deadline.

But of course, the idiots in Congress who oversee the whole daylight saving time debacle care nothing for my personal needs. They listen far more to some activist corn farmer in Nebraska or a gang of energy conglomerate executives than they do to little old insignificant me.

Next year, of course, they're fiddling with the range of daylight saving time yet again. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, beginning in 2007 daylight saving time will commence on the second Sunday in March and conclude on the first Sunday in November (as opposed to the present regimen, which started on the first Sunday in April and ends tomorrow morning).

Not that anyone bothered to ask me.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

For the sports fan who has... I mean... had everything

I've heard of fans bleeding Dodger blue...

...but this may be a little extreme.

A company called Eternal Image has signed a contract with Major League Baseball to license caskets and cremation urns bearing the regalia of any of six MLB clubs: the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Detroit Tigers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago Cubs, and yes, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Each urn or casket comes emblazoned with the selected team's logo and colors, along with the inscription: "Major League Baseball officially recognizes [YOUR NAME HERE] as a lifelong fan of [FAVORITE TEAM]."

Eternal Image plans to expand its offerings to all 30 MLB teams in the near future. The company also hopes to land similar deals with the NFL, NBA, NHL, and NASCAR.

It seems especially fitting that the Cubs would be one of the first teams selected for this venture. Now, the Bleacher Bums can eagerly anticipate one day being as dead as the Cubbies' World Series dreams.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The death of glamour

Whatever happened to glamour in Hollywood?

I'm puzzling over this today because it's the shared birthday of two great female stars of yesteryear:

Jean Arthur, the comedic genius with the distinctive voice who shone in such classics as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The More the Merrier, and her best-remembered dramatic role, Shane...

...and Rita Hayworth, the sensuous screen queen who put the "B" in "bombshell" in such films as Gilda, Blood and Sand, You'll Never Get Rich, and one of my favorites, The Lady From Shanghai, directed by and costarring Hayworth's then-husband, Orson Welles.

As Madonna once sang:
They had style, they had grace
Rita Hayworth gave good face.
Where are the Jean Arthurs and Rita Hayworths of today? Where are the Marilyn Monroes? Or the Maureen O'Haras? Or, for that matter, the Veronica Lakes, the Claudette Colberts, the Betty Grables, the Lana Turners, the Jean Harlows, the Jane Russells, the Hedy Lamarrs? (All together now: "That's Hedley!")

When I think of many of the so-called sex symbols of today's Hollywood, I cringe. Jessica Simpson? Britney Spears? Brittany Murphy? Animated Barbie dolls, bereft of talent and class. Jessica Alba? Cameron Diaz? Yawn. Pamela Anderson? Puh-lease.

Who among the stars of 2006 has the true glamour of the legends of the past?
  • Angelina Jolie does, I suppose, though while I believe she's a decent actress, I find her screen persona cold and off-putting.
  • Scarlett Johannson is growing into it.
  • Halle Berry has a certain measure of it, even though to me she's more girl-next-door than icon.
  • Drew Barrymore: Ditto.
Am I missing anyone?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What's Up With That? #38: You want hash browns with that?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the $1.65 billion deal that made video site YouTube a part of the ever-growing Google empire took shape over breakfast at Denny's.

The Chron report states that YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen noshed on Grand Slam Breakfasts and chicken fingers with Google topkicks Eric Schmidt and Larry Page as they hammered out the megabuck merger.

Wait a second...

You own a company worth $1.65 billion, and you're eating at Denny's?

For the kind of dough Hurley, Chen, Schmidt, and Page are throwing around, they can come to my place for their next businessmen's outing, and I'll fix them a decent breakfast. I'll even make eggs Benedict with real hollandaise sauce, instead of that faux petrochemical Cheez Whiz crud Denny's slathers on theirs.

I will, of course, expect a sizable gratuity.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Least surprising revelation of the week

This just in from former Congressman Mark Foley's attorney, David Roth, Esq.:
Finally, Mark Foley wants you to know that he is a gay man.
Memo to Mr. Roth:

I think we figured that one out, Dave. But thanks for the clarification.

If your client decides that he also wants us to know that he is (a) an ephebophile, (b) flagrantly indiscreet, or (c) an utter moron, you can tell him we know that already, too.

You may have to explain ephebophile.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This Karr won't drive

I've suspected from the beginning that John Mark Karr's confession to JonBenet Ramsey's murder just didn't add up. The DNA evidence proves that I was right.

As details surfaced even on the day of his arrest — most notably his ex-wife's contention that on the day the murder occurred in Boulder, Colorado, Karr was in Atlanta with his family — Karr began to look more and more like a glory-seeking wannabe. After all, Karr's ex-wife dumped him like a faux Rolex as soon as she learned that he was a pedophile and collector of child pornography. She'd be the last person on earth to weasel him out of prison with a trumped-up alibi.

Now our local criminal justice officials here in Sonoma County are mulling over whether to pursue Karr's prosecution on the child porn charges he skipped out on six years ago. Even if convicted, given the time he already served, former fugitive Karr would wallow in jail for a matter of months at most, though he would be required to register as a sex offender. District Attorney Stephen Passalacqua is weighing whether the cost (both in resources and publicity) of trying Karr at this juncture would be worth the hassle.

As I noted in this space a couple of weeks ago, child sex crime seems to be part of the fabric of our community, for reasons that baffle me. Just this past weekend, NBC Dateline pulled off one of its infamous online predator stings right here in my backyard, netting 30 would-be child molesters in the process.

Which reminds me...

Today is Michael Jackson's birthday.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Surviving a race war

On the new season of Survivor that begins airing on September 14, the contestants will be divided into four "tribes," based on ethnicity. There will be a black tribe, a white tribe, an Asian tribe, and a Latino tribe.

So much for Dr. King's Survivor dream, in which four little tribes will one day be stranded on a South Pacific island where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Whose cockamamie idea was this?

When prime time television decides to exploit racially-based antagonism as a cynical ratings ploy, we've reached a new cultural low. What's next — an online poll to "vote for your favorite race"?

This just in: Mel Gibson is reportedly pleased that Survivor won't include twelve tribes... too Jewish.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

What's Up With That? #34: Living in the land of short eyes

You know, I love living in Sonoma County, but sometimes, I have to wonder.

Thirteen years ago, we had the Polly Klaas murder.

In 1998, science fiction author Isaac Asimov's son David turned out to be the local king of child pornography.

In the early part of the current decade, revelation after revelation about pedophilic priests in the local Roman Catholic diocese made daily headlines in the local newspaper.

Now, one of our former residents confesses to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

It must be something in our water.

For the sake of the county's Number One industry, I hope it's not the same water they're using in the wine.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

What's Up With That? #32: Prince Albert in the can, redux

For the second time in the year since he became ruler of the tiny European principality of Monaco, Prince Albert II of the Grimaldis has 'fessed up to fathering a child out of wedlock.

Big Al's most recently identified progeny is a 14-year-old girl living near Palm Springs in the southern California desert. The teen's mother is a former waitress with whom Albert enjoyed a brief fling in 1991, while she was vacationing in France. Last summer, the prince acknowledged another illegitimate child, a son now age three, conceived by a former flight attendant from Togo.

I still have the same two questions I was asking last year about this time:

Question one: You're the billionaire prince of Monaco, and you're hooking up with flight attendants and waitresses?

Question two: Do they not sell condoms in Monte Carlo?

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

SwanShadow breaks it all down for you

Things are poppin' in the pop culture universe. Fortunately, you have your intrepid SSTOL reporter on the scene to chop up these momentous happenings into tender bite-size morsels for your noshing enjoyment. Fasten your seat belts — it's going to be a bumpy post:
  • Future porn star Melissa McGhee became the first member of this season's American Idol Top 12 to take the Singout of Shame after she forgot the lyrics to Stevie Wonder's "Lately," not just once, but twice — in her solo coaching session with the music legend, and again onstage Tuesday night. How do you not go back and study up after suffering the embarrassment of screwing up the words to a song in the presence of the man who wrote it? Don't let the doorknob hit you, M'liss.

  • The Federal Communications Commission smacked CBS with a record-shattering $3.6 million indecency fine for a December 2004 Without a Trace episode depicting "teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy." I'm thinking the chances of that epi showing up in the rerun package just disappeared... well, you complete the punch line.

  • Will Ferrell wants the world to know that, despite rumors floating around the Internet, he isn't dead. Those rumors were likely touched off by people who saw Ferrell and Steve Carell in that deadly unfunny makeup skit at the Oscars and figured the real Will Ferrell would never have stooped to that level.

  • CBS newsman Mike Wallace announced that he is retiring from his anchor position at 60 Minutes, on his 88th birthday in May. Unlike Will Ferrell, Mike Wallace actually passed away several years ago.

  • Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford have, at long last, approved a script for the fourth Indiana Jones film. Despite the 63-year-old star's advancing age, there is apparently no truth the the persistent reports that the new Indy flick will be titled either Indiana Jones and the Enlarged Prostate or Indiana Jones and the Search for Metamucil.

  • One of my alma maters, Pepperdine University, dumped its head basketball coach Paul Westphal after an abysmal 7-20 season. Good riddance — the program has foundered under Westphal's tepid leadership for the past five years. Personal angle: When I was a communications major at Pep, I was the primary engineer for the basketball team's radio broadcasts. Over two seasons, I heard every minute of every hoops contest as I sat alone in a dark, cramped studio, twiddling knobs and punching in commercials. And they say broadcasting is a glamour profession.

  • It's a nice day for a Black wedding: Jack Black and his girlfriend Tanya Haden dashed off to Big Sur and got married recently. I care about this only because (a) Tanya's sister Petra released an entertaining CD a while back featuring a cappella covers of songs from the classic rock album The Who Sell Out (thanks for my copy, Unca Phil!), and (b) Black's longtime and now ex-main squeeze Laura Kightlinger appeared on a live comedy jam KJ and I attended many years ago, and was easily the funniest performer of the evening. That's all I've got.

  • Speaking of weddings, looks like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are tying the knot this weekend at Lake Como in Italy. Seems your Uncle Swan's invitation got lost in the mail. Not a problem — I have already have plans.

  • Kevin Federline, aka Mr. Britney Spears, says he'll become a male stripper if his rap career tanks. Hope your other assets are better developed than your musical talents, K-Fed.

  • Sad to hear about the passing of roller derby queen Ann Calvello. The longtime star of the San Francisco Bay Bombers was one of a kind. They don't make tough broads — and I use that term with sincere respect — like "Banana Nose" anymore.

  • Jessica Simpson backed out of a joint appearance with President Bush at a Republican benefit for Operation Smile, a program that pays for plastic surgery for poor kids with facial deformities. I think Jess was afraid she might actually have to be present for the surgery, and she's a little uncomfortable around sharp instruments. You know, like intellects.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Uncle Swan rips 'n' reads

Random synapse-firings from the pop culture cosmos...

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