Tuesday, August 31, 2010

comics

I was out shopping for a new refrigerator the other day, actually I had already bought one at Lowe's, but once the guy pulled out the old one to install the newer one, I saw I did indeed have a water connection in the wall, and decided to take the newer one back and get one with an ice maker model. They just delivered the new one today, and I'm much happier, it will simplify my life, which I'm all for. Kudos to Lowe's for the exchange.

However once I did the exchange at Lowe's that Sunday I went by Hastings just to see what's shaking and browse. I ran into a used copy of the Yoshihiro Tatsumi book, Abandon The Old In Tokyo on Drawn & Quarterly press. I first ran into Tatsumi's work at the Odessa Public Library. And by the way, I think more and more libraries should include graphic novels in with their other books. What better way to get kids to read? But also because I love the art form, and should be available. The Odessa Library had many of them, which surprised me a little bit, but also I respected them highly for it (they even had The Walking Dead hardback books, and some small press related comics), and another library in Texas that has a LOT of graphic novels was the Plano Library. At any rate the Odessa Library had Tatsumi's first book, The Push Man & other stories. I'd read about it online somewhere, and decided to check out the book from the library. If I were to describe Tatsumi's work in just a few words I'd say he's the Asian Will Eisner. I'm not referring to Eisner's Spirit or John Law stories, but his urban tales set in the Depression or tenant buildings of New York--both comic creators focus on characters that have the feel of nonfiction or realism. And both creators deal with psychology, the human condition, or some part of life that is drawn from real life as with Eisner, the Depression or World War II, and as with Tatsumi, war themes or stories after the war, or just life centered around urbanization. A lot of his stories are bleak in nature showing the darker sides of humanity, sometimes his stories deal with dark themes or perversity in humanity, but within those stories will also be a bit of humor.

At any rate, I'm enjoying this newer book. The stories read too quickly for me, but I guess that's a hallmark of a good tale. I wish his stories could be seen by a wider audience and I think manga might have been the best venue for them--cheap, disposable pulp paper, that everyone could "purchase" and read and enjoy. Drawn & Quarterly press have done a great job of reproducing them, but at $19.95 a pop, I doubt many people will buy the book at such a high price, and that's a shame. I guess my best advice here is to check your public library and see if they have the books to check out and read. If you live in a metro area, chances are they will, and you can check out some other books as well. You might was well look thru the public library's DVD and CD collection. Most metro to mid sized libraries have media areas these days, and you'll find many great gems waiting to be explored. Enjoy your hunt.

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A Drifting Life has been released and at 800 pages it has to be his opus in storytelling. I'm really interested in reading it, so I may have to order a copy from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kirby

So I've been feeling under the weather lately. I came down with salmonella or food poisoning last Friday August 20th. I'm not sure where I picked it up, but talk about knocking you off your feet. When I woke up Friday morning to make matters worse, I was supposed to have a new refrigerator delivered from Lowe's, but when I woke up with their phone call, I was dizzy, and the room spun around like a durn merry-go-round from Hell. I called them back several times and finally got them to postpone the delivery. I've never experienced that before, even though I've had food poisoning before, and generally can recover within a 12 to 24 hour period. However, I'm still feeling the effects, sort of a bit feverish at times, and sometimes dizzy and weak, so I guess I'll give it a bit more time, and hopefully things will be back to normal.

That Friday all I did was stay in bed, and tried to at least drink a small bit of water, but couldn't keep anything down, and when I'd open my eyes the merry-go-round would begin again, and then it was time to ride the porcelain bus. Not fun, believe me. I called my brother after a couple of days, and he asked me if I'd eaten any eggs, which I had, so I don't know if it was that or perhaps the two hamburgers I ate at Burger King--it's hard to say. But since there's the recent news all over the place about the salmonella eggs, I think it might have been that culprit. But again, who knows? The only thing I wondered over this event was: Where is the governmental agencies like the FDA or whoever that's supposed to protect the public before such outbreaks begin? It seems like we have more and more of these events. Last year they were having a similar thing over tomatoes or peppers or lettuce, and such. So what's safe anymore? I thought this stuff used to be wholesome.

Oh well, I have minded my time here and there watching some stuff on TV, and watched a neat short film called La Jetee, which is the short French film that the SF film, 12 Monkeys, came from. I enjoyed it, and it was pretty experimental, just being static photos with a voice-over track that told the futuristic tale of a time traveling psychonaut (sort of). He's a lab experiment from the bombed out future, going to different times trying to find a way to save humanity from the time he's from, which has suffered the after effects of a nuclear bombing. You might find it on Youtube, I don't know, you'll just have to see if they do if you're interested, but it's worth the effort if it is.

Kirby

I got up today, felt a little better, but still not up to full speed and leap a tall building at a single bound, and was looking around the blog-o-sphere. I ran into this one guy's cool blog about Jack Kirby among other pop topics. Check out the picture above, I found it randomly on the net, but that short fellow is The King of Comics, Mr. Kirby, and even though the photo found was not labeled, I think that is Paul and Linda McCartney with him. Too cool.

The guy's blog that I found today is: www.waffyjon.blogspot.com If you go there, you'll find a couple of neat Youtube episodes on Kirby. One is a two-part biography with Mark Evanier conducting the video short. It's not very long, maybe twenty minutes, but a neat video. The most recent Kirby video on his site is a short one of Kirby in his studio from around 1993. There's also a rather long video from a New York Con. That one is about an hour, which has Mark Evanier as host, Roy Thomas, editor and writer, Joe Sinnott (he inked some Kirby comics), and Stan Goldberg (he was a colorist,and also did the Millie the Model comic for a while). At any rate, it's a fairly long episode, but if you are into the older classic guys, and want to hear them spin a few old war tales, check it out. It's pretty neat.

Kirby

At any rate, what I thought was brought out in the longer panel episode from NY was that even though Jack Kirby was very influential, creative, and brilliant with his art, really his best years, in some aspects were working in those early years with Marvel and Stan Lee. I've always given Lee a bit of short shrift, but I do think he was instrumental in some ways. From what I could take away from the video, Kirby and Lee were like Lennon and McCartney or other great collaborators. The sum of the parts weren't as good as the whole. Unfortunately, they didn't always get along for various reasons (just like other collaborators in other art forms). It might have been just a power struggle, personality quirks, or many other factors, but the results built a comic empire. I don't think Kirby was fully financially compensated for all he did for Marvel, but that's what he signed away at the time when he hired out. At least it was enough to support his family at the time, and he got to do what he enjoyed most, draw and invent characters and stories. It's unfortunate in some ways perhaps, but that didn't stop his output, nor crush his drive. He kept on hunkering down over his drawing board until the very end.

Kirby

Monday, August 16, 2010

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I am not a geek, I am a level nine dungeon master.

The weekend went fast and furious. My brother came down from Dallas for a visit, which was nice to have some company. My birthday came and went. I'm the big 60, so that's another milestone... I guess ;) He brought me some peaches, I forget the variety, but they were delicious, along with a couple of huge Pecos cantaloupes, which again were delicious. Boy that's hard to beat, those were the only Pecos cantaloupes I've had all year. He also brought me a Jerry Lewis DVD, The Ladies Man (Hey lady...). A lot of people might view Lewis as a has-been or whatever, but I think aside from being pretty adept at sustaining his career, doing a lot of noble causes like his annual telethons for MDA, he was also a pretty ingenious inventor and patented some of the special effects for movie productions, a writer, director; plus I do think he's a pretty funny comedian. I think his The Nutty Professor is far better than Eddie Murphy's remake, and some of his other films are pretty fun to watch too.

At any rate over the weekend we just talked and visited and ate out at a cafeteria here called Traditions, and on Sunday at a Mexican restaurant called Don Juan's that makes pretty good flautas. Saturday night we watched the Kirk Douglas movie, Lonely Are The Brave, which is described as a modern western. It's one of those movies where the world is moving onward, but the main character seems out of place in the progression of the world. In this case Douglas plays a cowboy that gets himself thrown into jail to help get a friend out of prison by means of escape. The friend refuses as he's turned over a new leaf. Douglas goes ahead and escapes from jail, and is pursued by the law. It has a lot of familiar character actors, a bit of corny dialog/humor, but overall an interesting film. The special features goes on to say it's one of Kirk Douglas's favorite roles, and also includes some other notables like Spielberg, and Michael Douglas's take on the picture.

I ran into this website, which has a podcast, which also is not to be confused with a similar site with similar material called Ifanboy.com. This one is out of the Dallas/Ft Worth area. I listened to the episode about Alva Underwood's Star Trek: Reference to the Novels. Plus they also discussed the last episode of the TV series, Lost, some movies like the latest Shrek movie, Iron Man 2, McGrubber, The Russell Crowe, Robin Hood movie, among other topics. The show is hosted by Scott Hinze, and I have to admit, takes a bit to getting used to his high pitched voice. But overall a worthwhile listen if you're into fan stuff.

Here's the link to that: http://www.fanboyradio.com

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Later on that night, I read a couple of Grimjack comics from one of the collected books I'd bought. Grimjack can best be described as sort of a cross between maybe a SF Conan or a SF Dirty Harry character, but to me it has the feel of the movies, Escape From New York with Kurt Russell, or maybe the Road Warrior films, but with a different take on those films. It's a dystopian universe that it exist in, but also is a dimensional vortex for a lot of different worlds, so you can have magic there, dinosaurs-like lizard creatures, robots, pirates, witches, and whatever. There's also this sort of nightmarish/horror bent to it as well. It's pretty fun escapist reading if you enjoy that sort of thing.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

mountain men

Staying on the topic of westerns, I thought before I post a few more western movies and some comics I've enjoyed over the years, I ran across this online comic, which fits into this genre as well. It's an online comic by the comic creator, Gary Chaloner. If I'm not mistaken he's done some Spirit & John Law comics, which were characters which had their origins from Will Eisner. At any rate this online comic is from the writer R. E. Howard, which as you may know also created Conan the Barbarian, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Red Sonja, the sailor, Steve Costigan (the underappreciate character), and many other characters, including this western figure, whose name is Breckinridge Elkins.

These stories were set in the American frontier, and as you can read from the strip, have a humor about them. It's pretty different from Howard's Conan stories. In a way, they are reminiscent of another comic character that I enjoyed reading, William Messner-Loeb's Journey comic, which were about the adventures of a frontiersmen named Wolverine MacAlistaire. If you ever run across any of these comics, buy them. They are neat windows of frontier life and history.

At any rate, here's the link to the online adventures of Breckinridge Elkins:
http://www.breckinridgeelkins.com/?p=14

Staying on the topic of R.E.Howard, I also ran into some ways to read the original Breckinridge Elkins stories. I have to say, I really wasn't aware of this character until I ran into this online comic. At any rate, here's a link to Library Archive. They are a non-profit, public domain source for a way to read or hear things that are no longer in print, or the artist/musicians don't mind sharing music from their live performances ie. The Grateful Dead.

It took me a while to figure out how to get my Adobe reader on my computer to be able to read the Breckinridge Elkins story, but once I figured out I needed to download an add-on piece of software (available at the Library Archive site), I was up and running. The add-on is called Lizard Tech DjVu, and is a file or files to aid computers and these new reading devices like the Kindle and iPad to read stuff. So once you get that you should be able to read the stories.

Here's the link to the Library Archive of the R.E. Howard stuff:
http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22Robert+E.+Howard%22

If you choose to get the Elkins stuff, you'll need to scroll down to about the middle of the page, click on Breckinridge Elkins, and then in the left column, you'll see, View the Book: at the top. Scroll all the way to the bottom in that left hand column, where you see, All Files: HTTP. Click the HTTP link. That will start the download.

You'll need to click that & download the files to read all the stories. It took me about a hour to download them, but once that starts you can find something to do and come back later. Underneath that where it says: Help reading text, I believe, is where I found the add-on to Adobe to read the stories. Remember, you'll need to download that file too. You can also do a Google search on the Lizard Tech Djvu too.

More on westerns later.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

western

I watched part of The Magnificent Seven the other night after I got in from working in the yard. It's not one of my favorite westerns, but it is well enough made that I could re-watch it and enjoy it. It's also a remake of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai and allows the director, John Sturges, to use seven Hollywood actors and give each actor a western stereotype to plug into the story. You have the loner, the wild "Kid", the conflicted gunfighter and so on. These misfits come together to stop a Mexican village from being terrorized by outlaws whose leader is Eli Wallach. Probably one of his better roles along with the Mexican thug he plays in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, which is probably my favorite role he's played and also my favorite installment of those spaghetti westerns with Eastwood.

I enjoy westerns as they are morality plays. The earlier westerns were sketched more in absolutes, becoming either black or white issues, and a lot of them dealt with revenge. You had your good guys and bad guys. You expected them to live within those parameters. Generally the good guys were the stars in the movie. By the way I think my favorite bad guys actors are Bruce Dern in The Cowboys, and Richard Boone. At any rate, it wasn't until later that they started putting a bit of ambiguity into the mix. The good guys weren't all good and had flaws, perhaps there was some saving grace to the bad guys as well. Not only did that make the westerns seem fresh, and pumped new blood back into the stories, but gave the viewer a bit more to think about.

At any rate, the western genre seemed to be more popular many years ago than they do now, which is a shame in a lot of ways. I've seen quite a few, and can re-watch them again and again. I'd read somewhere that there was around 8000 westerns made so I still haven't seen everything. I'm still queuing classic westerns on my Netflix list to see, and I love it when I see one that really grabs me.

Here are a few of my favorite westerns, in no particular order. The thing about this list was where to stop. I tried to keep it short, but that was hard. And some of classic western stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood played in many good westerns, so if I picked more than one western that starred either of them, well, that's because they were just in good movies, and good actors to boot.

So anyway here's a few of my favorite westerns:

Shane--classic, mythological western masterpiece with a drifter (Shane) helping out a poor farming family. Shane is the archetypal western hero.

The Outlaw Josey Wales--Eastwood portrays a Southerner who refuses to surrender his arms after the Civil War, and takes revenge on those who destroyed his family and life.

Jeremiah Johnson--perhaps not solidly a western, and more a pioneer tale, but I've seen it around ten or more times, and still one of my favorites.

Lonesome Dove--this six hour TV series taken from the Larry McMurtry book took some western mythology injecting some factual aspects of western life and presented a epic trail drive that also entailed a love story and the loyalty of friendship.

Red River--I'd say Red River and The Searchers are the Dukes' best films, and I couldn't decide which one is the best. I'd say see them both if you haven't already. They are both real epics. No wonder that John Wayne became such a movie star, his screen presence was stellar, and he made a lot of classic westerns like The Cowboys, True Grit, The Shootist, Hondo, 3 Godfathers, Rio Bravo, among others that made him a superstar.

Unforgiven--Clint Eastwood plays a retired notorious gunfighter that has turned his life around, until hard times, and the pull of money pulls him back into a bad situation. The muddy issues of the film are as muddy as the streets of Big Whiskey.

Duel in the Sun--made by David O. Selznick who also made Gone With The Wind. In it Gregory Peck plays against his normal movie roles as the villian. He's a son of a wealthy landowner, and Jennifer Jones is a half-breed that is torn between the evil brother, Peck, and his good brother played by Joseph Cotten.

The Yearling--again probably not a western in the true sense of the genre, but I'd say a pioneering story that takes place after the Civil War wherein Gregory Peck plays a good guy. The young son adapts a deer to raise. Really a family classic.

More on the old west later.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

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I just noticed today that you can order Gene Roddenberry's Genesis II and Planet Earth over at Warner Bros. Archive. These movies are probably for the diehard Roddenberry fan as they are both sort of dated and I think they were made for TV so don't expect super high effects. Still if you enjoy the fiction and worlds Roddenberry created you might like to add them to your collection. Of the two I enjoy Genesis II best. I also noticed that Warner also has Earth II, which I don't think I've ever seen. But from the synopsis it sounded like a fairly interesting story.

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Here's the link to get the DVDs if interested:

http://www.wbshop.com/Earth-II/1000116288,default,pd.html

On a slightly different note I sent my brother an easy to make recipe I got off the Dr. Oz show. I used ground turkey for the meat, and Ragu for the tomato sauce, and it turned out pretty good. While I was looking around for a picture of it for the blog, I ran into another site called: mawhats4dinner.com The recipe she had was called pizza upside down biscuit, which sounded pretty good too, and I'll have to get a follow up and read how she made the meal. I suspect both recipes are a spinoff of the English Sheppard's Pie recipe. At any rate, here's the one I got off the Dr. Oz show.

Turkey Upside Down Biscuit Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon Canola Oil
1 cup Sliced Onion
1/2 pound Ground Beef or Other Ground Meat (such as Turkey, Chicken, Pork, or Sausage)
1 (10.5 ounce) can Tomato Puree
Worcestershire Sauce
1 (11.5 ounce) can Refrigerator Biscuits

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ F. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the meat and cook, stirring and breaking it up, until browned. Drain off excess grease. Pour in the tomato puree, add a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce, and stir well. Scrape the contents of the skillet into a 2-quart baking dish. Place the refrigerator biscuits side by side over the top of the meat mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the biscuits are browned. To serve, put a serving dish on top of the casserole and invert it, so that the biscuits are on the bottom.

Personal Notes:
Canned or thawed frozen mixed vegetables can be mixed in with the meat mixture before baking to make this a complete meal.

This recipe can be easily multiplied if you are making it for a large crowd or to have leftovers. Also, to make things more simple and have fewer dishes to wash, it can be served from the baking dish instead of turning out onto a serving platter.

Bon appetit

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

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A head's up, in case you are interested. TCM will be showing at 8am in the Central Time Zone, Tarzan's Fight For Life with Gordon Scott playing the Tarzan role. I've never seen this actor play Tarzan so I'll set my VCR to check out this adventure. I grew up watching the Johnny Weissmuller version of Tarzan, so this should be interesting.

That is followed at 9:30am, again Central Time Zone, by Tarzan's Three Challenges

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This stars Jock Mahoney in the title role as well, which I've never seen so this should be intersting as well.

Earlier the same day before these Tarzan films (at 5am & 6:30am) they'll show a couple of Bomba, The Jungle Boy movies, which star Johnny Sheffield. He played Boy in the Weissmuller versions of Tarzan. The movies they'll show will be: The Lion Hunters and African Treasures. So if interested you can set your VCRs or DVR.

I really enjoy TCM, they are a class act. It's one of the better networks. I find if I'm not over there watching something, I'm on PBS, or I like a lot of the History Channel programs like American Pickers and Pawn Stars.

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labor


I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Abraham Lincoln

Sorry to go all political on ya, but hey, it's a political world as the Bob Dylan song goes. Too bad it has polarized and segregated us to the point that we can't calmly, just being regular folks, sit and discuss the issues anymore without strangling each other. I think that would certainly help clear the air at times (to talk, not strangle), possibly enlighten, but I guess it's like religion and sex; it's just not the water cooler topic you want to get into at work, or any other place than I can think of, other than with like-minded friends or family.

I think of politics like the labor unions where I used to work. They basically had the same job, they were there to protect us, but when the crap hit the fan, one would point fingers at the other one and say, it's all their fault; where upon the other would follow suit, and since you didn't have the time, energy, money, effort, and where-with-all to look into all the allegations, and because you had to work and pull a eight to ten hour day, plus do a few odd jobs around the house, eat, and sleep, etc. well something has to get shifted to the undone file. So they created this smoke screen that was hard to penetrate, and it worked well to obscured the vision, throw blame, and would wear you down to the point that something like resignation or the don't care attitude set in pretty quickly. I don't know that I have a point to this ramble... I think it has to do with we're all in this together, so try and not get divisive.

I can also echo the lyrics to the Bob Marley song that goes, "One world, one life, let's get together and it'll be alright." Nice sentiment.

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