Monday, February 29, 2016

Born Standing Up

The other day I checked out Steve Martin's book, Born Standing Up:  A Comic's Life from our public library.  I'd been meaning to read it for a while now.  I've never really had the urge to do stand-up.  I've never been that great in front of an audience.  I've only ever tried it once in a bar at the insistence of a friend who was there playing in the bar's band at the time.
That night at the club they had the bar band for the main entertainment, and then had a stand-up Gong show-type night.  It allowed folks to do some stand-up, tell some dirty jokes or act silly, and this was totally on the fly for me.  I had no preparation or clue I was going to do this at all when I went there that night, so in about a few milliseconds I decided I'd just launch into a Woody Allen routine I'd heard on one of his nightclub records I had.   Well, I'm not that much of a performer as I stated, and was quickly booed and then gonged by the MC, so my life in show business was short lived thankfully.

I have to admit I'm still interested in comedy, although don't watch a lot of comedy movies these days.  I don't care too much for most of the raunchy comedies that come out on the big screen.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I guess I better backtrack a bit.  I do and I don't.  Some of those films, I have enjoyed.  I have liked some of the Judd Apatow movies like Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, The 40-Year-Old Virgin was pretty fun.  I've enjoyed many of the Farrelly Brothers' films like Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, Me, Myself, and Irene, and Shallow Hall.  I still enjoy Woody Allen.  Airplane, Spinal Tap, Monty Python, Silver Lining Playbook, and many others I've enjoyed.  After I just typed all those films (and I could type more), I thought, well, I'm a bigger fan of comedy than I thought I was.  

I've not watched much of Saturday Night Live lately either since, I don't know, five to seven years.  I'd tune in ever so often when Kristen Wiig was a cast member, and nothing against her, but I think they overused her.  And many of the skits that she was in were just dumb, not funny.  At least not to me.  I'm glad she could move forward and is getting better roles.  But back when I was watching Saturday Night Live I used to love it when Steve Martin was a guest.  I liked it wherever he popped up on  Letterman, Johnny Carson, etc.  So I was interested about his start in showbiz.

Evidently he got a very early start.  His folks moved from Waco, Tx to California when he was still a kid.  Once in California, they moved again, and where they landed was not very far from Disneyland.  He was one of the first generation of kids to experience that complex when it opened.  He could actually ride his bike down there and mess around.  He got his first paying job there when he was around junior high selling program books to the tourist as they entered the theme park.  That gave him free access to the park and from there and when he had free time, he would scout out the park itself.  He enjoy the magicians, who incorporated comedy into their acts.  He also acted a bit in some of their small skits and acted in plays when he got a bit older.  He grew up enjoying some of the same acts I did that he saw on TV like Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, as well as the Jack Benny show.

All that was well and good, but Steve's home life wasn't all that funny.   He states he called his mother, Mama, and his father, Glen.  That should give you an indication that he and his father didn't exactly get along well.  He would get the occasional spanking with switches and belts (pretty normal coming from at Texas).   But once his father asked him something one night while they were seated around the TV, which Steve didn't hear, and responded with a "Whut?" or something perhaps that just struck his dad the wrong way, he got a pretty good beating for it.  That pretty much sent up a red flag in his mind to watch what he said around his dad, better yet, don't say anything.  He states, "I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts, hence I'm qualified to be a comedian."

Once he started working at Disneyland, the less time at home, the better.  I can imagine how a profound effect Disneyland might have been to a kid his age, and in Martin's case not only for the escapism mentally, but also to physically get out of the house.  Heck, Disney and the theme park were huge to all kids back then.  It was for me as well, and I just watched it on TV.  I also saw many movies made from Disney at the time too.  It almost became the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for children's entertainment back then.  At any rate, Steve Martin became an employee of Disney at age ten.  Age ten, can you imagine?

He goes on to talk about some of the colorful characters that he met while at Disneyland.  He started to get into magic acts and bought some of the tricks to preform them.  The magician hooked him up with Cub Scout troops and Kiwanis Clubs to perform whenever talent was needed.  Over time he got to be a pretty good performer, and got used to being in front of people.  He bought a gag book and would include some of the jokes into his act, which was also influenced by some of the performers at Disneyland.  He got so independent with his odd jobs that he moved out of the house at age eighteen.   Pretty incredible.

Around the same time, he started to play the banjo and would include that into his act.  It seems the hardest thing starting out is to cobble together enough original material so that you can perform it for around thirty minutes.   With all that he just expanded out as much as he could.  He also started working at the Bird Cage at Knott's Berry Farm.  This was more of a vaudeville type act where he'd act with other performers.  His life was seemingly just a natural progression of stage, going to college, meeting new people, working on his own act, watching a few other performers and picking up whatever he could along the way.  One thing lead to another person, who would open a new door. 

So all of this just grew and grew.  He continued to network and hone his skills.   He was not an overnight success.  There was a quote in the book that I can't find but it goes something like this: he hone his craft for ten to fifteen years, got famous for about five to six, and then just left (meaning his stand-up).  He went on to write and act in movies, write plays, and make appearances on other television shows like Saturday Night Live and be a guest on late night shows.  I will say this, the book is a fun read.  It made me laugh out loud many times.  It was also terribly engrossing to get a bird's eye view of all of that.  It made me want to check out other books where a comedian talks about their creative years.  If you enjoy Steve Martin at all, it's a must read.

Here's a recent episode of Jerry Sienfeld with Steve Martin, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tribble Me Timbers

Star Trek is one of those franchises that just keeps chugging along.  I loved the classic series and still do.  Heck, I don't have a problems with the rebooted movies either, yes, there's a bit lens flare, but overall I consider them great fun.  Next Generation has some great episodes, they still show on BBC America on cable, and when I'm in the mood I'll watch a few of them.

Today I ran across this old Tom Synder broadcast with a few of the actors (Deforest Kelley, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig) that played as the crew members on Star Trek, along with writer Harlan Ellison.  This segment of The Tomorrow Show was evidently taped back in 1976 and evidently came off someone's VHS from back in the day, so it has problems, but for the most part it's watchable. If anything else it just a reminder of what VHS was like back then.

 Tom Synder used to be a late night host that was interesting.  His show, The Tomorrow Show came on after The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, so it was on extra late.  Unlike today's current crop of (more or less) politically correct host who all have a pat scripted program, back then things were more free style.  I remember Synder used to have rock musicians, writers, actors, and assortment of other guest.  I always remember his constant chain smoking on air too.  

Anyway I ran across this old five-part interview with Deforest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Harlan Ellison who were at a convention. 

Go over to Youtube and you can find the other links to this as well.   While on the topic of Trek, I ran across a news item where they plan on making a new Star Trek series for 2017.  If you are interested about that you can follow and read more about it here.  

Quite frankly I'm already curious and looking forward to it.

Speaking of space, Virgin Galactic have unveiled the new SpaceShip Two, Unity for space tourism. 

The other day I ran across one Youtuber's post about visiting Florida's NASA Kennedy Space Center.  I thought it was pretty cool, so I thought I'd share.  I've never been to Florida, but looked like something I'd want to check out if I'm ever there. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mecha Monday

On Youtube lately, I've been following one anime lover's videos about mecha (or robots).  I think the genre started out being about a boy and a giant robot friend, like with Gigantor and Astro Boy, but also evolved into a giant robotic vehicles that someone could man and run like an armored vehicle or plane.   The craze is still pretty popular today as other films are still being released today with that influence  like Wall-E, Big Hero 6, and another of my favorites, The Iron Giant.  No less the robotic creations in the Star Wars films.  I don't think the craze is going away anytime soon.

So the poster on YT, Part-Time Samurai, has been running  highlights of some of his favorite Mecha series.  So far I think there have been three or four of them, unless I've miss something.  They've all been nostalgic fun, and I wish he would continue the theme a bit longer or else cobble up together a new theme of anime videos.  It's just it seems like there has got to be more than four or five great mecha series.  At any rate, it would interesting to see what else he could do with a post apocalypse themed series, horror series, early anime series, or space opera series.  The newest Mecha Monday he covered was Macross or Robotech, which aside from Gigantor was one of the early ones I was introduced to.

Here's is a link to his video on Super Dimensional Fortress Macross!

Here's one to his Moblie Suit Gundam!


And Mazinger Z:

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Saw Inception, Or At Least I Dreamt I Did

Here at the El-Vox ponderosa I've been busy doing various things.  I've been in the process of cleaning up and organizing some of the comics that I've collected throughout the years.  I plan on posting some of those on eBay, which means also I need to learn how to use the site and research a bit on their value.  I've also got some regular novels and vinyl records that I'd like to try and sell as well.  So it's sort of an involved and time consuming process.  In-between all that, I continue to do what I normally do: veg (I'm great at that), watch movies, listen to music, I bought an Xbox 360 lately too, a bit of an unusual purchase for me, and just follow my muse.

The other night I watched the movie, The Martian.  It was pretty good, and I plan on watching it again, but upon my initially viewing it I felt like I enjoyed, but didn't love it.  When compared to the movie, Interstellar, I enjoy that movie more.  Like I said, I need to re-watch The Martian again, and perhaps it will impact me more on the next viewing.  I will say it did have great cinematography, and as some has said, some humor, but sometimes that humor sort of distracted me.  I know it was done to make such a film more palatable for the audience, and at times it did help.  But at times it seemed kind of obvious or there would be a scene, and then a little quip that just felt like, "Oh, we better inject a little cute joke here."  Matt Damon did a good job acting, as he normally does, being the Robinson Crusoe on the planet.   He plots everything as to how to maximize his living on such an inhospitable planet, I assume most of this is fairly plausible as the web says it's more akin to hard science fiction than the fantasy stuff.  Still it didn't totally grab me like I thought it might, but I plan on watching it a second time.  So we'll see. 

I caught the film, Boy Wonder, over the weekend.  I had added it to my queue as it intrigued me by the cover, plus I like those vigilante type movies like: Harry Brown, The Equalizer, some of the Charles Bronson films like Death Wish (at least the first and second one), and so on.  It was pretty good too.  It could have been I had my expectations set pretty low for this one, and it exceeded them. 

Set in New York City the story is told in a non-linear fashion, first told in a flashback to when the main protagonist, Sean (Caleb Steinmeyer), is a young boy.  He and his mother are abducted for some reason and his mother is shot.  I don't think I'm giving away too much of a spoiler by saying that as that's merely the set up.  From there we are brought to the present and the young boy is in high school, witnessing bullying, and all the other things associated with those years.  His dad is doing the best he can to raise his only son, even though he's a broken man trying to put his life back together as well. 

The film flashes back to the past, and switches back to the present many times throughout the film, which fills in a lot of the storyline to help unravel what happened the night his mother was murdered.  The boy, Sean, spends time down at the police station going through all sort of mug shots hoping to find the one that perpetrated this crime on his family.   In the mean time, he finds criminals from these mug shots and takes it upon himself to exact his own brand of justice.  It might sound a bit Batman-ish or like the Punisher, but it takes on a fairly more realistic approach.  While at the police station he befriends one of the female detectives, Teresa Ames (Zulay Henao),  who not only played a convincing role as the detective, but also pretty attractive to look at.  So that's the basic set up, and as I said it moves between past and present and between those storylines it begins to reveal what is happening.  

This film might be considered a low budget film, I'm not sure, but it was handled pretty well.  It had good acting and it was shot and directed well.  I enjoy these type films like Memento that keep you guessing as to what the outcome will be.  It's worth a watch if that sounds appealing to you.

 I also have continued to binge watch the Louie CK episodes.  His brand of humor probably won't appeal to a lot of people.  I'll admit, it didn't with me upon my first watching it.  His humor is blue or more accurately, raunchy.  He doesn't pull any punches with obscenity and situations.  So it's not at all a family sitcom.  I was pretty turned off with the first few episodes I caught off cable TV as he's was onstage doing his stand-up comedy act and talking about wiping his daughter's butthole, and it just came off so crude or whatever.  But the more I'd watch some of the episodes off TV, the more I'd get his style, and for sure it's still base stuff, that's the way he presents it, but at the same time it's also funny, contemporary,  comments upon a lot of different topics like dating in New York City (or anywhere else really), and just dealing with life's ups and downs.  Louie also plays a bit of a sad sack, so things don't often turn out well for him, but that's part of the humor.  All in all though I've gotten some pretty good belly laughs out of the show, and I'm not huge comedy person.

I also started adding some of The Office to my viewing diet.  Again I initially caught these off TV in a hit or miss way off late night, and enjoyed them for the most part, but I'd never sat down and watched them in any sort of linear fashion.  Amusingly you could pick up on the stereotypes and characters, the office politics, the water cooler chats, the brown nosers, the weirdos, etc.  It didn't click with me at all at once either.  I guess you might describe these as delivered in a deadpan fashion, I'm not sure. But it has a certain style, and it works pretty well in its presentation.  I have to admit I've been enjoying a few of these episodes lately.



Saturday, February 06, 2016

Cowabunga: More bad movies

I found this article on some more bad movies.  It made me laugh a bit so I thought I'd share.  I have not seen them all, and I'm not so sure I'd want to, but it's funny nonetheless.

I ran into this podcast that is covering Superman and Shazam that I thought I'd share too.   It is called the Superman and Captain Marvel Power Hour.  It could be fun, I haven't listened to it yet.  It might be interesting to see where they go with it.

Here's a link to the cartoon of The Return of Black Adam over at Veoh, if interested. 

I ran across this documentary the other day on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomena.  I'm indifferent to parts of it.  Some of the early comics I like, some of the movies are okay, some of the cartoons are okay, and some of the other parts I don't care much for.   So it all depends, but the documentary, Turtle Power,  is interesting, if you're interested check it out here on YT. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Jews & Comics

Here this week as well as last week I have been sorting through some of my comics trying to get them into some sort of workable or usable order.  This is the part of collecting that is not much fun to me.  I do enjoy looking through them to a degree, and I also get caught up in pulling out a few as well and looking over some of the stories.  I've also grabbed a few and set them aside to read later.  All that takes more time, no less re-bagging a few, or bagging a few that never got bagged in the first place.  I used to be a lot more fussy about all that as I think most comic fans are similar.  I'm not sure why that is, perhaps because it's such a disposable medium anyway or such a flimsy collectible.  But it's not like any of these things are worth much to be honest.  I think more than anything I just like my stuff or collectibles to look nice and in nice shape, whether or not anyone else ever sees it or not.  I like to take care of most of my stuff that way if possible.  After I die, well, it can go to the next person that wants to take care of it.

But like I said, it's not worth a lot of money.  I have a few issues that might be worth a little, but that's about it.  Even then I'd say under fifty bucks, which these days ain't a lot of money either.  It's like I've heard said, if you are looking for an investment, invest in real estate, stocks, bonds, gold, or art and antiques.  There are a few others maybe.  Comic books would NOT be considered that way however.  Of the above I'd say stocks, bonds, and gold are your most liquid.  In other words if you own them, and you want to sell them tomorrow you can do so and get whatever the going price the market will bring for that day.  With everything else, you have to put it on the market, say your house, and wait until you find a buyer.  You may have to fix up your house first, give it a new coat of paint, etc., and then find a buyer.  The same is true for art and collectibles.  Granted you could get someone to auction off your stuff for you too, but they'll want a cut of your profits. 

Although I don't read as many comics as I used to, and even though at times I don't know why I hang onto some of this stuff, I still enjoy the medium to some degree.  Maybe it is that I enjoy the history or nostalgia, sometimes the stories can be entertaining, and I enjoy some of the art as well.  But like a lot of things in the pop world it changes, and with that change my interest has waned some too.   At any rate, while watching some stuff on Youtube the other day I ran into a lecture by Arlen Schumer on Jewish comic creators and the comics they created.  I thought I'd share it as I thought it was pretty good, and he displays some of the artwork during his lecture too.  To tell you the truth I didn't know all these creators were Jewish.  If you enjoy it Arlen has other lectures and videos on YT as well.