Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

There's a new coffee table book out now on the art of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  From the clip below you can see a preview of the inside of it.  I love stuff like that, so I'll probably pick up a copy at some point.

The other day I also heard an interview with Ray Davies.  He sang for the Kinks and along with his brother, Dave Davies sort of formed the nucleus for the British band, The Kinks.  They have a new box set of CDs out of greatest hits, and so forth.
Here's a link to the interview:

I ran across this today for anyone following stocks and such.  I can't vouch for how accurate it is, but it's another tool in the arsenal of personal finance, and stock research.  It's a web site that tracks stocks, and analysts, who pick stocks, and how accurate their predictions are.  The site is

I stuck in a few analysts that I knew, and a few ticker symbols, and seems fairly accurate, but as I said just another tool.  It's currently being built, or under construction as I think they'll add more to it over time.   There is also the Hussmann report over at MarketWatch which supposedly looks at  investment newsletters--I haven't had the time to delve into it yet.   If you have an online discount broker, I'm sure they also have such tools.  But the Tiprank site is the first one I've seen that ranks or charts analysts and their predictions. 


Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Indifference

Thanksgiving has just about come and gone.  I made a few things for a small meal and kept it pretty simple.  I cooked some turkey breast, made a couple of salads, cooked a sweet potato, and also a green bean casserole.  It all turned out pretty well too--well, it was edible, I probably won't win any awards.  I always like the above Tex Avery cartoon.  I remember watching it as a kid.  Any of the political humor was lost on me, and  the semblances of movie stars, like I know the turkey is Jimmy Durante, I'm not sure if the pilgrim is suppose to be Ed Wynn or perhaps someone else.  The schnoz reminds me of Wynn somewhat.  I always liked the craziness of the Avery cartoons though.

I've been thinking of entering an art show here, the theme for the show is Remixed.  Lately I've thought of trying my hand at paper collage just to keep things simple.  Though you can get as complex with it as much as you want.  I have trouble with the themes somewhat.  I know it's a way to get the artist to think and then apply that to their art, to jump start their creativity.  It sort of bugged me at first, but I thought might as well take it in a positive manner, and if nothing else, create something, and wrap a philosophy around it.  I guess the reason I was indifferent to it, is because although there's a theme to the shows, you'd hardly know it if you were to walk into the gallery and look around.  The last show's theme was Against All Odds.  I thought and thought about that one, and I think I was over thinking it.  I didn't enter it as for whatever reason, I got too busy, plus was under the weather.   Below is some of the art from that show.

Another thing, I hate to be a spoiled sport, but the entry fee to just enter the show is twenty bucks, which allows you to enter three pieces.  That's sort of high just for the "prestige" of entering a show.  Granted it is a place where one "might" sell their artwork, but then the gallery charges you another twenty percent if you make a sale.  I don't know, that seems like the artist are being gouged by the gallery somewhat and keeping it afloat.  I don't know how other such galleries around the country find their financing to stay open, but I'd like to look into that angle a bit more.  I think the gallery downtown gets some of their funding from the city (perhaps), but maybe they get a grant or support from somewhere else.  But it seems the artist support it a lot financially too, and it seems it should be somewhat the other way around.  Darn, I don't know very many wealthy artist, other than the famous ones, but most local ones around here are not and are mostly just part timers.  I don't know about the other artist, but I wonder if they have similar criticisms or viewpoints?

If you entered this gallery's shows very often, you'd be in the hole financial pretty quickly and to tell you truth, I doubt anything I'd whip up would sale anyway, in fact, I doubt much sells in the gallery.  And I don't know if the twenty bucks for the entrance fee is worth it.  For twenty bucks, I can eat a good meal out and take in a movie.  Maybe I'm a tightwad, but I weigh stuff like that.  In fact, I could eat a meal out, take in a movie, and then go to the gallery opening for free and be pretty satisfied.  I guess small galleries are a tough go in small cities, I don't know.  At the same time people wonder why art is so expensive.  Have you price oil paint lately, man, it's expensive.  Other art supplies are as well.  Oh well, these are just some thoughts I've had lately.

I saw the movie Sin City 2 the other night, and if you enjoyed the first movie, which was just called Sin City, you'd probably like this one too.  I did on some level.  It again contains several crime stories stitched together, with some of the same actors like Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Jessica Alba showing up for this installment too.  This sequel is a bit more linear in storytelling, but it was a decent watch.

I actually caught a preview of Lucy as well as someone illegally uploaded a copy of it onto Youtube last Sunday night.  That happens from time to time.  I'd heard the premise to the movie, which is about a young woman, played by Scarlett Johansson who ingest some drugs that raises her brainpower exponentially.  I was going to pass on this one partly due to the last movie she was in called  Under the Skin.  It was sort of an alien art house movie.  It didn't do a heck of a lot for me, and really found it pretty boring.  Also Lucy has the same premise as another film I'd seen and enjoyed called Limitless, which I thought was pretty good.  I didn't see how Lucy could add any new ground to what had already been explored, but it was put up on Youtube as one of the years best action films, and that intrigued me, as I'd heard it more or less pitched as a Sci-Fi film.  I thought it was a pretty good combination of both, depending on your taste.  For me, however, I enjoyed the ride.  I've read where it's gotten pretty mixed reviews, and it's one of those films that you don't want to over think it.  It's directed by Luc Besson, who isn't noted for that deep of films anyway, but I've enjoyed some of his films like The Professional, The Fifth Element, and La Femme Nikita.  I'd say most of his films strikes me as style over substance, and Lucy is pretty much of that genre.

I don't know if you read or saw the movie, The Watchman, but there was a guy in it, called Dr. Manhattan, who accidentally while working at a nuclear facility gets turned, more or less, into this god-like creature.  He looses his touch or tie with humanity, and eventually becomes pretty alienated and goes to Mars. Lucky sort of reminded me of that a bit.  It had some interesting action sequences too, and some pretty cool special effects on how perhaps a super being might perceive parts of our world or universe.  If you go in thinking it's an action film, rather than some heady SF film, maybe you can overlook some of its flaws, which for me, weren't many.  I enjoyed the ride pretty well.  It's probably also one of those films, where you shouldn't  read too much about it and avoid spoilers.

                                           Revenge of the Giant Turkey.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Old radio and Star Blazers

Listened to some old time radio the other day, I guess in a nostalgic mood.  It's supposed to rain or storm later on today, so if I'm going to run any errands and get out today, it better be early.  At any rate, here's a link for Tom Corbett Space Cadet:

It looks like there are 50 episodes available.  They also have some other interesting shows over there, if interested.

Just head over to

You can listen online or I assume download them as they are in the public domain. 

The other night I couldn't find anything on TV that I found interesting so I started watching the live action version of  Star Blazers also known as Space Battleship Yamato.  I first heard about Star Blazers from a friend taking about it, and since it was space opera, anime, and SF I was interested.  If these were aired on TV I missed them, and eventually ran into a VHS copy of the first program, and got hooked. 

As I said, it's basically space opera, made into three seasons.  Aliens (the Gamilons)  have attacked earth, and sent everyone underground due to the radiation from bombs.    Earth then receives unexpected help from Queen Starsha of the planet Iscandar, who offers a device called "Cosmo DNA" which will remove the radiation. However, since Iscandar is 148,000 light years away, Starsha also sends plans for the experimental Wave Motion Engine that, when constructed, will aid whoever can travel to Iscandar. On Earth, a crew is recruited, headed by Captain Avatar, and an old sunken battleship, the Yamato. The Yamato is transformed into a spaceship (the Argo), outfitted with the Wave Motion Engine, and sent to Iscandar.

I'd never seen the live action version, but had heard about it.  I think I checked with Netflix, but they didn't have it either.  I finally ran across it on Youtube, and I was expecting something a lot more cheesy, but found it pretty well done.  It has English subtitles, but there's not a lot of dialogue anyway.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Glen Larson, RIP

Glen A. Larson, creator of many TV shows, died the other day on November 14, 2014.  I was a late fan to many of the hits he created because most of them flew under my radar.  I'm surprised, however, that I let his Battlestar Galactica, or Six Million Dollar Man, or Knight Rider go by without at least watching an episode or two, but that's the way life works at time.  I can only say, I worked a lot of second shifts, meaning 4pm to midnights, primetime as it is also called in TVland.  I didn't have the ways and means or really interest to tape a lot of stuff onto VHS (actually Betamax for me) during that time either.  When you work the daily grind, you get caught up in the grind, and a lot of other stuff gets put on the back burner.  I did watch It Takes A Thief, which my brother enjoyed, and I was pretty easy to let him pick out a program to watch.  It Takes A Thief had sort of a 007 vibe to it, although he was a thief in his former life, he lived a playboyish lifestyle of sorts with babes, nice threads, cool fast cars, and lots of action.

At any rate, I did finally pick up the original Battlestar Galactica DVD set, and watch some of the other programs like Knight Rider and Six Million Dollar Man on retro TV like the Me Network  or the Cozy Channel etc.  Those channels provide a lot of nostalgia for some of us that grew up in those decades, and also introduce a new audience to some of that programming.  I wonder at times what the current young people will look back on in the same way once they get old.  Will they want to see Dancing With The Stars or old Big Brother episodes, or maybe hillbillies wrestling with alligators?  Hard to say....

There are a couple of nice write-ups and obituaries on the man and his career around the web, I suspect there will be a few more.  Here's one that I chuckled at a bit, wherein Harlan Ellison referred to him as Glen Larceny for taking hit movies, and turning them into hit TV series.  Though some, like Harlan, may view that as stealing, I guess others view that as a good idea, it seems a natural and good idea to me.  If a movie had many fans, why not capitalize off that topic or trend when you already have a fan base?  The same thing is more or less still happening today with the zombie hit series, The Walking Dead, and others that mirror popular culture and movie franchises.  Here's a nice overall obit on Larson, with the Harlan Ellison quip:

Here's an hour plus interview I found with Larson talking about some of his television career over on YouTube:

Still a bit under the weather here.  I figure one of these days, my allergies will clear up.  Boy it's taking it's time for sure, and I'm more than ready to have a clear head.   I did watch a couple of movies lately, as wtih the cold weather, and the allergies, I haven't felt much like getting out.

I caught X-Men: Days of Future Past--Although I didn't know all the mutants that were involved in the storyline, as I haven't read a majority of the comics, it was fun to see them rocking out with all their special powers, I thought the Asian gal throwing those time holes or vortexes was pretty cool, good story too that involves Wolverine having to go back in time to save the future.

Edge of Tomorrow--with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt was way better than I was expecting.  It was a SF action film that at the time of release was compared to the movie Groundhogs Day, which really doesn't do it justice or any favors (although I enjoyed Groundhogs Day--it's sort of comparing apples to oranges), but I guess the recurring time vortex thing is what they are using as the comparison. I really thought the action and battle scenes were constructed really well on this one, at times right up there with some of the action scenes on Aliens and other great SF action film.  The story was engaging and funny at times too.  Whoever thought up this story seemed to have played their share of video games, and thought up a good concept.  I actually enjoyed this one more than the X-Men movie.

Cheap Thrills-- didn't now much about this movie, but it was sort of edgy and suspenseful. It did  keep my interest pretty much all the way through, and it didn't take long to ramp up the storyline.  It's a movie that I don't recommend unless you enjoy this sort of story, however.  Hard to think of a movie that's comparable, but maybe something along the line of a Tarantino movie, or Fight Club, or Seven, something along that line.  It's one of those films that's about what people will do for money and the power of money.

American: The Bill Hicks Story--I wasn't real familiar with this Houston, Texas comedian, but after seeing one of his stand up routines on YouTube, I quickly became a fan.  He works blue, although didn't start out that way, but he's one of those comedians that gets you to laugh, but make you think at the same time.  The film starts out talking about him growing up in high school and wanting to become a comedian before there was really any venue to do that sort of thing.

Joni Mitchell: Refuge of the Roads--is a concert video with Joni performing with the 80's version of a band she put together following her Wild Things Run Fast CD and that era.  The band is top notch too.  It took me a few songs to get into the concert, not because I wasn't engages from the get-go, but I initial thought it was going to be a biography rather than a concert performance.  Once I realized it was a concert, well, I just relaxed to the performance, and it's a good one--rather powerful and fiery in fact.  The band that's performing is terrific and embellishes and punctuates her songs with all that right flourishes that are needed for each song.  I've always been a Joni Mitchell fan going back to the first album I bought by her, Ladies of the Canyon.  After that album I drifted back and picked up her earlier albums with are more folk and acoustic in nature, but still very good, and then just followed her musical path ever since.  Like many of the great artist, she was always progressing and changing her sounds, but the albums always showcased her artistic leanings.  Being both a visual artist, poet, writer, and song writer, it all melds together in her songs. 

The above painting is a self-portrait by her.  A lot of her artwork was turned into some of her album covers.  Last night I started watching an interview of her, that was fairly recent.  She is hard to follow at times as she talks rather fast, and doesn't dumb down her thoughts into bite-sized easy to digest thoughts or whatever.  She talked about many different facets of her career, some of her health problems (she had polio as a child and later it came back), how she views her art process, and just life in general.  I didn't get to finish it as it was getting to late, but I'll try and re-watch it again this week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Escapist

 Still nursing an allergy attack, sinus infection, or cold.  I don't know which, but feels like allergies.  I'm dealing with runny nose and sneezing mostly, which for the layman doesn't sound like much, but when your nose runs constantly, it'll wear you down.  So the only thing to do, is pop some meds, and sort of self medicate the best way you know how.  I assume the change in the season has something to do with it as well.   Texas isn't exactly one of the better states for allergy suffers--too much pollen and stuff to aggravate the condition.

So I stayed inside, and watched the sports movie, The Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright.  Overall it's a good movie where Cooper plays Lou Gehrig, and Wright playing his adoring wife, there are other stars like Walter Brennan, who keep the story going, but it does seem a bit overly long and also a bit overly syrupy, sentimental, but I feel like it captures the time frame well. Still it's not a bad way to spend a cold day, and has a cameo role in it too with the real Babe Ruth. Of the two more famous Cooper roles, Pride of the Yankees or Sergeant York, and I guess you could throw High Noon in there too, I tend to favor York.  If you've never seen the movie, Sergeant York, it's worth watching also, again based on a nonfictional character, but both movies have some excellent scenes.  In Pride of the Yankees the director captures the stadium and crowd scenes well, so it all appears epic and larger than life. 

Later on I made some nine bean soup.  I soaked the beans the night before, and cooked them yesterday as I made some brown rice.  There's plenty there so I can eat on them just about for the rest of the week.  I tend to enjoy meals of this nature.  I'm a stay home, hunker down, eat leftovers-type guy.

Yesterday was Veteran's Day, and although I didn't serve, my Dad did in WWII, in the Invasion of Sicily and onward into Italy.  He was drafted into the war pretty much right out of high school around the age of nineteen or so and was sent to Morocco first.  I'm sure it was an early experience he carried with him all his life.  I found some old Disney and Warner Brother cartoons centered around the WWII effort, and it seemed to fit well with the day.  These are the type cartoons I tend to remember from my youth, and the sort that I tend to enjoy now ever so often. 

Ran into this gaming site, which I was unaware of called The Escapist.  I don't play a lot of games, and have never owned a console, however, I have an interest there somewhat.  There's also pop cultural reviews there and that sort of thing. 

Also over the weekend I watch the documentary on Bill Hicks called, America: The Bill Hicks Story.  
Hicks was a young comedian out of Houston, Texas. It was pretty good, if you don't mind his working blue occasionally.   I thought it was amazing that he knew what he'd want to do with his life at such a young age growing up in the Houston suburbs.  Overall it's a pretty interesting movie. 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Play 900 Retro Game for Free

Ran across this on the web.  I haven't played one yet to test drive it.  I used to play Pac Man all the time, but wasn't a huge gamer, still some of them were pretty fun.  I'm mostly familiar with the Atari games.  If you're old enough to visit the old arcades of yesterday, or do you just love playing old games from the 70s and 90s, then you'll love the The Internet Arcade which is part of the web archive site Jason Scott and the team at JavaScript Mess spent "[m]onths of testing, refinement, improvements and efforts" to port almost a thousand games to your web browser for free.

Here's the description:

"The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s, emulated in JSMAME, part of the JSMESS software package. Containing hundreds of games ranging through many different genres and styles, the Arcade provides research, comparison, and entertainment in the realm of the Video Game Arcade.
"The game collection ranges from early 'bronze-age' videogames, with black and white screens and simple sounds, through to large-scale games containing digitized voices, images and music. Most games are playable in some form, although some are useful more for verification of behavior or programming due to the intensity and requirements of their systems.
"Many games have a 'boot-up' sequence when first turned on, where the systems run through a check and analysis, making sure all systems are go. In some cases, odd controllers make proper playing of the systems on a keyboard or joypad a pale imitation of the original experience. Please report any issues to the Internet Arcade Operator, Jason Scott."

Head to The Internet Arcade, enter your favorite game title in the "Search" bar using "Internet Arcade" and the game title (ex. "Internet Arcade: Frogger") and it's probably in there. They say you can use any browser you like, but I couldn't get Street Fighter II Turbo to run in Firefox, but it ran in Chrome. So, you have to play around with it. The Mary Sue says to play "the 5 key lets you insert a coin; the 1 key is usually the Player 1 start button. Arrows are usually used for directional stuff, with CTRL/ALT/SPACE used for the three primary buttons. Beyond that, you’ll have to mash buttons a bit to figure it out (or hit TAB to dive into the key configurations)." The controls are kind of frustrating so I'm hoping they'll have it standardized soon.

Here are the ten most popular games and I've only played the first two before.
  1. Defender - "Defender is an arcade video game developed and released by Williams Electronics in February 1981. A shooting game featuring two-dimensional (2D) graphics, the game is set on a fictional planet where the player must defeat waves of invading aliens while protecting astronauts. Development was led by Eugene Jarvis, a pinball programmer at Williams; Defender was Jarvis' first video game project and drew inspiration from Space Invaders and Asteroids..."
  2. Paperboy - "Paperboy is a 1984 arcade game by Atari Games. The players take the role of a paperboy who delivers newspapers along a suburban street on his bicycle. Paperboy was innovative for its theme and novel controls. The player controls a paperboy on a bicycle delivering newspapers along a suburban street which is displayed in a cabinet perspective (or oblique projection) view. The player attempts to deliver a week of daily newspapers to subscribing customers, attempts to vandalize non-subscribers' home..."
  3. Qix - "Qix is an arcade game, released by Taito America Corporation in 1981. The objective of Qix is to fence off, or 'claim', a supermajority of the playfield. At the start of each level, the playing field is a large, empty rectangle, containing the Qix — a sticklike entity that performs graceful but unpredictable motions within the confines of the rectangle. The player controls a small diamond-shaped marker that can move around the edges of the rectangle, with the goal to claim as much of the s...
  4. The Three Stooges In Brides Is Brides - "The Three Stooges, fully titled as The Three Stooges in Brides is Brides on the title screen, is a 1984 arcade game by Mylstar Electronics. It is based on the comedy act of the same name. Gameplay The game features digital voice samples. At the start of the game, up to three players control Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard. Players must help the Three Stooges find their fiancees, Cora, Nora and Dora, who were kidnapped by the Mad Scientist..."
  5. Alpha Mission - "Alpha Mission (ASO: Armored Scrum Object in Japan) is a vertical scrolling shooter arcade game created by SNK in 1985. It was later ported to the NES/Famicom in 1986. The game spawned a more successful sequel in 1991, Alpha Mission II for the Neo-Geo arcade and console platform. Gameplay Alpha Mission is a one-player scrolling shooter game, similar to Xevious in its segregation of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons..."
  6. Alpine Ski - "Alpine Ski is an Alpine skiing arcade game, released by Taito in 1981. Description The player controls a skier, who can move left, right, or increase forward speed. The aim is to maneuver a skier through a downhill ski course, a slalom course, and a ski jumping competition in the shortest time possible. Two players can compete against each other. On November 23, 1982, Eric Olofson holds the official World Record for this game with 500,774 points at Earth Station One Arcade in Antioch, Ca."
  7. Arkanoid - "Arkanoid (アルカノイド Arukanoido) is an arcade game developed by Taito in 1986. It expanded upon Atari's Breakout games of the 1970s by adding power-ups, different types of bricks, and a variety of level layouts. The title refers to a doomed "mothership" from which the player's ship, the Vaus, escapes. The player controls the "Vaus", a space vessel that acts as the game's "paddle" which prevents a ball from falling from the playing field, attempting to bounce it against a number of bricks..."
  8. Anteater - "Anteater ("The Anteater" in Britain; 'Ameisenbaer' in Germany) is a maze arcade game released in 1982 by Tago Electronics. Gameplay The player controls an anteater that elongates his proboscis through maze-like anthills eating ants. The player can only eat ants with the tip of the anteater's proboscis. If an ant bites your proboscis at any other location you lose a life. Pressing the second button will quickly retract the anteater's proboscis..."
  9. Arabian - "You play an adventurous Arabian prince and your goal is to rescue the princess from her palace. In your quest you will sail the seas, crawl in caves and fly magic carpets. Score points on the way for picking up the letters in "A-R-A-B-I-A-N" and get a bonus if they are collected in order. Cheats, Tricks, Bugs, and Easter Eggs BUG: Pixels are missing from the top of the 5. This is a fault common to the code of the original ROMs on all of the boards both Sun and Atari..."
  10. Astro Blaster - "Astro Blaster is a shoot 'em up arcade game released by Sega in 1981. The player controls a ship (bearing a resemblance to the Battlestar Galactica) which can fire and move left or right. The player must continuously monitor the onscreen temperature and fuel gauges; if the ship overheats, its weapon is disabled, and if it is depleted of fuel, the vessel itself explodes. The player must battle through waves of enemies, which attack with varied formations and flight patterns...
From Mr. Do! to Donkey Kong Pauline Edition you'll probably find your favorite. Check 'em out and see if you can beat the high score.


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Go to sleep America, everything is ok.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Stephen King

Ran across a couple of Stephen King interviews that I thought I would share.  He's one of my favorite writers, but I don't feel in the minority as he has many gentle readers.  The first thing I read by King was his Green Mile.  If you've been a fan of his for some time, you're probably thinking, you're late to the game, and you're right, but better late than never.  But if your a fan of his work, you'll also remember that the Green Mile first came out in little booklets, six in total (if my mind remembers correctly) that serialized the novel.  I think he did it that way as an experiment, I believe, going back to Charles Dickens or Conan Doyle, and the way some writers in the past used to publish books back in the day.  At least that's how I remember it, set of the Green Mile is packed away upstairs. 

But also during this, King was running a contest where he'd ask a question about something in the story, and whoever answered it correctly in so may words or less, would get a signed copy of the manuscript of the book.  At any rate, the book was just about the right size to sneak into my work grip bag (as we were not supposed to read while on duty, unless it was the rule book or something pertaining specifically about our job--a really dumb rule, in my opinion, but hey, I just worked there).  So during down time at work, and sometimes at home, I could read the slim volumes and it worked pretty well in that format.  At any rate, I'd also enter the contest just for grins because I thought it would be totally cool to get a signed manuscript too.  Small things in life are the best.  Well, I actually won one.  It was near the end of the series, I think around book five.  I had entered as the previous books were published, but it wasn't until later that I got a letter in the mail, saying I won.  It was one of those red letter days.

At any rate, I think I read The Girl That Love Tom Gordon next, and then, I got his non-fiction book, On Writing one Christmas.  I was pretty much a fan by then.  I started his The Dark Tower series, but haven't finished it.  A lot of people seem to think most of the movies made from his books are failures, but if you think about it, at some point in time, directors got better at making them.  I'd say, nearly half of them are done pretty well, depending on your taste. 

For me, the ones I've enjoyed have been:  Carrie, The Shining, Stand By Me, The Dead Zone, Cujo (that one gave me nightmares for some odd reason), The Green Mile,  Salem's Lot and The Stand  (TV series),  Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Clairborne, Hearts in Atlantis, 1408, and The Mist.  There are a few others not quite as good, and are a bit cheesy around the edges, but I like them depending on my mood, like: Silver Bullet, Pet Cemetery, The Running Man, Graveyard Shift, Christine, Dreamcatcher, and a few others.

At any rate, I ran across these interviews, and thought I'd share.  The first is more recent from a Rolling Stone interview.   

The second is an interview conducted by another writer I like, Neil Gaiman interviews Stephen King.

The third is a podcast, which I heard last week from Fresh Air, wherein host Terry Gross interviews King.  It was a re-broadcast, but I was instantly pulled into the interview.  She interviewed him around the time he was releasing his pulpy novel, Joyland.  It was pretty insightful.

Well, Halloween has come and gone.  I enjoy that holiday.  Over the weekend I had a full blown allergy attack, probably from working outside, cleaning gutters, and blowing leaves with the leaf blower.  It seems during the fall I have the same problems with sneezing and a runny nose.  It's very much like a cold, but it's just allergies.  I load up on Claritin or Zyrtec, and do my NeilMed Sinus Rinse thingy, or some other over the counter remedy, and make due.  And so it goes.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Steve Ditko

Today is Steve Ditko's birthday, he's 87.  So Happy Birthday to him.  He is generally known as being co-creator for Marvel character, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.  He's a pretty reclusive guy, so he stays out of the limelight, so not a lot is known about him.  As far as who was the creator of Spider-man there's a bit of contention to that story as well, which I'll talk about further down.  

For whatever reason, as a kid, I never knew much about Spider-Man growing up.  I don't remember seeing those comics at the local corner store where I'd ride my bike and buy a comic or two whenever I had the spending money.  Bear in mind, back in the stone ages, there weren't specialty and mega stores catering to comics fans.  What you found on the spinner rack, or in my case, the wired magazine racks that held a few comics and magazines were all you got.  Unless you had a friend that also collected comics to share in the experience you just remained oblivious. There were no fanzines in a small town either, and this was even before cartoons of such comic characters appeared as well.  Like I said, it was the stone age. Plus I never got an allowance or had a lot of disposable spending money, so I got what I could find, and that was fine.  Plus even though the corner store didn't have a huge amount of comics, they did have a nice selection, so you had to weigh your decision on the spending of a quarter or whatever change you had on a comic plus candy or two comics and no candy--it was a heavy decision for a kid!

Back in that day, I was drawn more to the larger-than-life iconic superheroes, like Superman, Batman, and sometimes The Flash.  At Marvel, I remember just buying the Fantastic Four, or one of their varied monster-type books, like Tales to Astonish or something like that.  So I knew about Spider-Man from the in-house ads in the back of Fantastic Four, but that was about it.  Had I had read one of the actual Spider-Man comics and his web slinging abilities, I'm sure I would have been a big fan. 

So it wasn't until years later that I even considered Spider-Man, and by that time, I was sort of outside the age range of who he might have appealed to.  Not really, but sort of.  In other words something else may have diverted my attention like Conan or X-Men, and then too, I quit collecting comics for many years.  It probably wasn't until around 1988 when Todd McFarlane started drawing Spider-Man with stories by David Michelinie, that the title sort of entered public awareness again with The Amazing Spider-Man #298.

The synopsis for the issue goes like this:  "Chance Encounter!" Part 1 of 2. Script by David Michelinie. Pencils by Todd McFarlane. Inks by Bob McLeod. Cover by Todd McFarlane. Chance is back in business and working a new job for the Life Foundation! The clandestine organization wants Chance to steal an arms shipment coming into the west side docks! That should be a piece of cake for the high-flying mercenary! However the Daily Bugle dispatches an undercover photographer to observe the delivery! And beneath the moonlit sky, fireworks explode when Chance and the Amazing Spider-Man throw down on the docks! First appearance (and cameo on the last page) by Eddie Brock (aka Venom). First appearance of Carlton Drake of the Life Foundation. Cameo appearances by Mary Jane Watson, Joy Mercado, and Joe Robertson. (Notes: Chance previously appeared in Web of Spider-Man 15. This issue begins Todd McFarlane's 2-year run as the penciler of the Amazing Spider-Man series.) 32 pages. Cover price $0.75.

The comic wasn't an overnight success, but gradually the art helped sell the new direction of the book due in part to McFarlane.  Over time he became a fan favorite, and would hide little things inside his intricate artwork.  For me, his art work is a little bit too cartoon-y, but I think it is fun to look at and he's pretty good at action sequences, and so I can see why it gained so much attention with fans at the time.

 Born in 1927, Ditko began his work in comics in 1953 and did some of his earliest professional illustration work with the Joe Simon - Jack Kirby shop. He began a long stint at Atlas Comics, later Marvel, in 1955, and by the mid-'60s was one of the most accomplished artists of his generation.

During this time, he wasn't exclusive to Marvel, also working with Charlton; in 1960, he co-created Captain Atom. He would continue to work with Charlton intermittently for decades, including a revamp of Blue Beetle that would see the character reinvented from a magic-based superhero to a street-level avenger in the vein of Batman.  For much of his work, especially once he became famous working on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Ditko's work became known as stylized and almost psychedelic. Introducing characters like Eternity -- a cosmic entity whose design was that of a black shadow filled with images of the universe -- reinforced this sense.

He worked on the first 38 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man before breaking up with Marvel, and while the conventional wisdom is that Ditko left the series over a disagreement with Stan Lee (who, by then, had given Ditko a co-plotter credit) about the identity of the Green Goblin, Ditko denies that.  For years, the belief has been that the straw that broke the camel's back and led Ditko to stop working with Lee was that Lee had decided to make Norman Osborn, the father of Spider-Man's best friend, the face behind the Green Goblin's mask. Ditko, the legend goes, thought that it felt artificial and that the story would do better to reflect the real world, where it would be more likely than not that when the pulled the mask off, the man underneath would be a random stranger
"Stan never knew what he was getting in my Spider-Man stories and covers until after [production manager] Sol Brodsky took the material from me," Ditko told Wizard magazine in 2002. "So there couldn't have been any disagreement or agreement, no exchanges ... no problems between us concerning the Green Goblin or anything else from before issue #25 to my final issues."

As far as the contention goes as to who actually created Spider-Man, well, it varies.  Stan Lee usually says it was his character, and he got the idea from reading the old pulp stories of The Spider.  Jack Kirby, on the other hand, has a different version, which I read about in a couple of different books by Ron Goulart, a comic historian. 

According to Kirby, Spider-Man was not a product of Marvel.  It was the last thing he and Joe Simon discussed at his old studio before closing and moving to Marvel.  They had talked about a strip or script called The Silver Spider.  The Silver Spider was going into a magazine called Black Magic.  The magazine folded, however, and so they were just stuck with the Silver Spider script in limbo.  Kirby goes on to state that once he hooked up with Marvel, when they were on the verge of bankruptcy, he helped getting them back on track by creating Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Captain America, and other heroes.  It was at time time that he mentioned to Stan Lee his Silver Spider storyline, and thought it could be made into Spider-Man.  He thought the character held a lot of potential. But I guess the true story lies somewhere between all four: Lee, Ditko, Kirby, and Simon.

I'm just happy that recently the Jack Kirby estate finally won their lawsuit with Marvel, which is now actually Disney, and Jack's heirs will be reaping some of the hard work that he help build while he was with Marvel.  How much his heirs won, may not be known and is speculative, but I heard it was a pretty penny.

At any rate in the late '60s, Ditko would create or co-create characters like the Creeper and Hawk and Dove, as well as Mr. A, a hero who starred primarily in brutal, one-page comics. Mr. A reflected Ditko's Objectivist leanings and took a "hard line" with criminals. Political debate and controversy would remain present in the stories of Hawk and Dove long after Ditko had left them.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, Ditko would work fairly regularly with DC and Marvel in a freelance capacity, contributing to the creation of characters like Shade the Changing Man and Speedball. He would also draw books like Micronauts and Starman. He continued to freelance, with varying degrees of work actually seeing print, until the late '90s.  He continues to write and draw to this day, although it's mostly self-published and largely political.

Here's some PDF files from an older fanzine on Ditko, called Ditkomania. 

Here are some of his monster, and weird tale-type fiction from Journey Into Mystery. 

I watched the rebooted latest version of  The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) movie last night directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, and starring other recognizable big named stars like Martin Sheen and Sally Field.  Up front I'll say I enjoyed it.  It did retell Spider-Man's origins again, which probably wasn't really needed coming so soon after the original trilogy with Tobey Maguire, but it had enough differences in it concerning Peter Parker's high school days,  the bullying scenes, and so forth, that I didn't mind re-watching another take on it.  Again the special effects are totally fun and dazzling, and if you are into a super hero or popcorn movie, this one was pretty fun overall.  I imagine it looked pretty amazing in 3-D as well when it was playing at the theater.  It also had a pretty good score by James Horner.  I'd say it kept the franchise pretty well in good shape, and afterwards, I added the newest movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to my Netflix queue.