I only wish I were making this up.

The following is a transcript of an actual phone conversation I had at work tonight:

Me: Hello, Library. May I help you?

Guy: Yeah, is the baseball sign-up list there?

Me: Um, the what now?

Guy: The sign-up list. For baseball.

Me: Um, no.

Guy: Oh.

Me: You called the library, you know.

Guy: Yeah, I know. Do you have the baseball sign-up list?

Me: Nope. Not that I can see.

Guy: Nothing related to baseball at all?

Me: Um, books, maybe. But that’s about it.

Guy: Huh. Okay, thanks.

Me: Er, yeah. No problem.

I'm not sure what perplexes me more: the possibility that a baseball sign-up sheet would be left at a library in the first place, or the dude's legitimate confusion about it not being here.

"Oil and water" doesn't seem like a powerful enough metaphor for this.

I Tivoed Leno last night because I wanted to see Jay's tribute to Johnny Carson (it was decent, by the way; respectful and celebratory, kinda like a televised wake). When I go to watch it this morning, I notice that the Tivo listing reflected the show's originally scheduled line-up, which was obviously scrapped Sunday or Monday morning in order to make way for the tribute show.

And who were the originally scheduled guests for Monday night? Glad you asked. They were Paris Hilton and Ani Difranco.

Yeah, let that one sink in for a moment.

Maybe it's just me, but that seems like the pop cultural equivalent of matter and anti-matter colliding. I'm thinking that this is either an odd happenstance of scheduling, or else the talent booker for The Tonight Show has a wicked sense of humor.

The sort of thing that only matters right before you go to sleep.

Because absolutely no one requested it, here are All Time Top 5 Desert Island Albums Ever Of All Time, or some such nonsense:

  1. The Juliana Hatfield Three - Become What You Are (This is my "I'm 18 years old and I listen to this CD constantly because it's the first record I've ever heard that makes me say 'Yes, this is it exactly, somebody FINALLY gets it'" album.)
  2. The Beatles - Rubber Soul (This spot used to be firmly occupied by Sgt. Pepper, and while I still love that album for its artisanship, I now appreciate Rubber Soul for its absolute glee in being an unpretentious nugget of pure pop goodness from start to finish.)
  3. Weezer - Pinkerton (Just a pure outpouring of emotion, as rambly and self-contradictory as the human heart and psyche. One of the most purely human records ever.)
  4. They Might Be Giants - Flood (What I enjoy about the Johns is that they are the cleverest guys in the room, know it, and aren't afraid to flaunt it. That and you know they got their asses kicked from one side of their middle schools to the other. I can relate. Can't we all?)
  5. Piebald - We Are The Only Friends That We Have (First, they're my wife's favorite band, and therefore remind me of her. Second, this album shows real emotional growth from their past work, leaving the typical overwroughtness and misplaced urgency of emo and making the transition to becoming a really tight rock band. Plus, they write a love song to their dearly departed tour bus, and I think that's really cool.)

Honorable mentions abound: The Beatles - Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road, Ben Folds Five - Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies - Gordon, Shonen Knife - Brand New Knife, Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News, Weird Al Yankovic - UHF Soundtrack and Other Stuff, and oh, how the list goes on.

Keep in mind that I'm not necessarily saying these are the best albums ever, just my favorites. As of right now, anyway. This could all change by morning.


From the "tip of the cap" department...

Very special thanks to Fred Hembeck for name dropping me today on his blog, Fred Sez, as well as adding me to his list of comics blog links (a few spots ahead of one Mr. Warren Ellis, I might add! Sure the listing is alphabetical, but still, that's pretty lofty, doncha think?). Fred has been one of my favorite cartoonists since I first discovered his work in an issue of Marvel Age back around 1985 or so, and I enjoy checking out his work whenever possible (in fact, I just picked up three issues of his Eclipse/Fantaco magazine, appropriately titled "Hembeck," off of eBay about a week back). So click on the linkage above or over on the sidebar and get thee to Fred's site right away for blogging, Beatles info, the real story behind Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe and many many examples of his work, including Dateline: @#$%! strips (IMHO, the original comics blog), Petey (the adventures of Peter Parker LONG before he was Spider-Man), The Dog, classic cover redos and a whole lot more.

Oh yes, today I am a happy geek.

The Inevitable: DC April Solicits

Here's what piqued my interest. Slim pickings this time around, though. Anyway, comics are here, assorted other merch is here.

Superman titles - DC's big Captain Marvel push for 2005 begins with a three parter by Judd Winick crossing over the various Super books. I dig the Marvel Family in a big way, but most writers try to write the Captain and Co. as straight-out superheroes, which doesn't really work for them (a lot like Plastic Man, really). Their world is an unusual place that doesn't always mesh well with the rest of the DCU, and I'm afraid Winick, like so many before, may lose sight of that here. I'll give it a shot, though. Hey, it's Captain Marvel. If I were DC, though, I would've held back from showing the covers, because from this one here, it's pretty clear that the mysterious "great evil" that Superman and The Big Red Cheese are fighting is Eclipso.

Superman/Batman 20 - I'm glad that McGuinness is coming back, but come on, "The Maximums?" Please tell me that this isn't yet another Authority/Ultimates pastiche.

Superman Vs. The Flash TPB - This sounds pretty fun, actually, but that Alex Ross cover just looks goofy.

Adam Strange 8 - Sadly, the last issue. Maybe I can pull a H.E.A.T. on this, though, and get everyone to buy 2364320876340 copies each, which will make DC realize this book needs to go ongoing.

Nah, I have a life. It's been a great read, though.

Identity Crisis Final Printings - Threat or promise?

Legion of Super-Heroes 5 - If 2-4 are as good as #1, I'm in.

The OMAC Project 1 - This might be pretty good, but I just wish they had come up with an original concept rather than strip mining the most charmingly oddball Kirby book of all (and that's really saying something). Could we at least get a nice, high quality collection of the original series somewhere down the line to go with this?

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna & Klarion - Both look great, but it's Grant Morrison doing mainstream DC, so unless he really pisses off The Powers That Be, this'll be collected down the line, and I think Morrison reads better in chunks, anyway.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Action Figures - I might be persuaded to buy the Superman one if it goes on discount at some point (DC Direct is spendy), but that's all for me, thanks. I already have good Batman and Captain Marvel figs (the Hasbro "Zip Line Batman" or whatever and DC Direct's own 1st Appearance Captain Marvel), I have no interest in Captain Atom, and I hate hate hate Metallo. And would it have killed 'em to make the Super Powers-y Battle Armor Lex? C'mon, DC Direct, I'd actually want to buy that!

But here's a scary thought: is every S/B storyline gonna get its own action figure line? Because I don't think anyone needs a Michael Turner-esque Supergirl with Official Unrealistic Spine Elongating Action. Ugh.

Stuff and then some more stuff

Just when you think they've pushed Star Wars merch about as far as it could possibly go, here comes Darth Tater. Of course, the worst part is that I totally want one of these things.

Ian Brill laments the current continuity heavy, navel gazing tendency of recent Big Two superhero comics in an intelligent, thoughtful way that manages to avoid all of the pitfalls that would make him sound like another whiny, aging fanboy (you know, like me for instance).

Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer posted a picture of their new Action Baby, Emily Jane Dyer, and it's too cute not to share.

Speaking of pregnancy-related issues, if you ever want to discover delicious new treats, hang out with a pregnant woman for awhile. The other night, my wife discovered that an Oreo cookie (or Hydrox or local supermarket equivalent) topped with butterscotch pudding is just about the tastiest combination ever. It's a dessert innovation that even the Pennsylvania Dutch would be proud of. Bravo, Erin. It's an honor to watch you work.

Last, but my no means least, here's a page that hopes to blow the lid off of the whole Pop/Soda/Coke controversy once and for all, providing charts and figures detailing what people from different areas of the nation call their soft drinks (though they're a little too "Pop" leaning for my tastes, seeing as I come from definite "Soda" country).

RIP Welch Everman, 1946-2004

I'm bummed because I just found out that one of my favorite English professors from the University of Maine, Welch Everman, died of lung cancer.

I'm also feeling like a bit of a jackass, since this happened back in September and I just found out today. If you're like me, you always mean to stay in touch with the teachers that had an effect on you, but it just doesn't always work out that way.

Anyway, Welch was a great teacher, as well as one of the coolest guys I've ever met. He had a great enthusiasm for both his subject and his students; you could tell he always had a ball at the front of the classroom, and that helped make any class you had with him a lot of fun. He had great interest in jazz, the Beat era, the 3 Stooges, horror, sci-fi and comic books, and often taught "Topics in Literature" courses on these very subjects (his occassional Stephen King class was one of the hottest tickets on campus, almost as popular as Human Sexuality).

I had the privilege of taking two of Welch's classes, one on Jack Kerouac and another on comics, and both rank among the best (and most entertaining) classes of my entire scholastic career. I think that's especially telling in the case of the comics class, which for some reason was held on Friday nights. It was a great experience, though, with a surprisingly large group of people that all really enjoyed talking comics with one another (it also helped that there was a long enough break in the middle of the class to run next door to the student union and split a pitcher of whatever beer was on tap for cheap that night at The Bear's Den).

Welch also served as Associate Dean of the English department for awhile, which not only gave him the clout to teach classes on stuff like horror movies, but also allowed him to help students whenever possible, which he really seemed to enjoy. He really saved my bacon toward the end of college, waiving a requirement or two for me that would've meant having to stay for an extra semester that I just would not have been able to afford. He just shrugged it off, saying "Hey, when you're a Dean, you can do fun stuff like this."

He had several books published, and if you're interested, I recommend the his movie guides, Cult Horror Films and Cult Science Fiction Films, and if you can find it, his short story collection entitled The Harry and Sylvia Stories. They're all decent reads.

So I feel like a jerk for not saying it sooner, but goodbye, Welch. You'll definitely be missed.

Lancelot Link(s), Secret Chimp

Just when you think you're finally out of "link" puns, you get pulled right back in.

Juliana Hatfield fans (and you all should be Juliana Hatfield fans, because she's so completely beyond wonderful that it defies explanation) will want to check out this page ASAP. Juliana is offering up new tunes for download using the "farmstand honor system." Basically, you download the songs and then, if you're a good person, you click on the Paypal link and send some money her way (the iTunes standard of $1 per song is recommended, but you can donate whatever you feel like, really). Or, if you're like me and have a near-Luddite fear of Paypal (and yet I use other online retailers with little worry; I'm odd like that), they provide an address where you can send cash (or check or money order, I suppose) to Juliana in care of Fort Apache Records (51 Village Square Bellows Falls, VT 05101). So yeah, check that out today, because, as I said, she's really really great.

Elsewhere, the folks at Howling Curmudgeons have concocted a great new game, Six Degrees of Snapper Carr. They submit that the JLA's annoying ex-mascot is the Kevin Bacon of the comics world and can link to just about any character on Earth-Comics in 6 steps or less. Then they take it even further, bringing in TV, movies and everything else, so Snapper Carr might even be more Kevin Bacon than Kevin Bacon his own self. The rules get a little fuzzy and out of hand (which I admit I say because they disqualify my link of Barnaby & Mr. O'Malley to Snapper, yet they allow someone to link Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes; hey, I'm bitter about that), but it's still a fun game just the same.

Of course, in my mind, the real question is this: is Snapper better connected than Rick Jones? The world may never know.

A unique fixer-upper opportunity.

Anyone looking to buy 3+ acres of various simulated ecosystems? Because I know where you can probably pick one up cheap.

The reviews are new, the comics are not.

I skipped New Comics Day last week and enjoyed a few Old Comics Days instead, thanks to stuff found at a show in South Attleboro, MA, the weekend before and a book I picked up at Wizard World Philly last May that I just finally got around to reading (I get a little behind sometimes). As usual, I found OCD far preferable to NCD (that doesn't look right at all, but I'm too lazy to go back and fix it, and you get what I mean anyway).

Strange Adventures 182 – There’s a fun Star Hawkins story by Dave Wood and Gil Kane here that’s a play on the old Noir chestnut of the no-good blonde bombshell who’s stringing along the smitten gumshoe, except with Martian revolutionaries and Ilda, the robot secretary, of course. Ilda really steals the show here, going to Lucille Ball-esque lengths to do most of the actual detective work while Star just makes goo-goo eyes the whole time. Some really fantastic artwork by Gil Kane on that one. Not as stylized as his later work, but definitely headed there (and much better than his Green Lantern work, IMHO). Gil could draw dames with the best of ‘em back in the day. The main attraction, though, is the cover, featuring a monster whose glare can turn men to diamond, which DC kindly censored so that we, the readers, wouldn’t get transmogrified as well. You didn’t see much of that kind of editorial protectiveness past the Silver Age. This just may be one of my favorite comic covers ever; too bad the story accompanying story isn’t all that good (and yes, we’re similarly shielded from Tarku’s peepers on the inside, too; just another public service from the folks at DC Editorial!).

New Adventures of Superboy 51 – I think this book is probably looked at as one of the red-headed stepchildren of early 80s DC, but I always dug its Weisinger-era throwback style, which of course would soon come to a screeching halt thanks to Crisis. Anyway, this expands upon the old story of Superboy’s last day in Smallville and details his decision to move to Metropolis. In the retro-Silver Age fashion the book was famous for, his decision is based on a completely ridiculous set of circumstances which I’m not going to spoil here; the fun in stuff this cheesy is reading it yourself. But in the meantime, we get to meet Clark’s college roommates (one of whom jokingly suggests Superboy should set up shop at the North Pole so he can watch over the entire world, causing Clark to kind of wink at the “camera”), as well as a 30ish Perry White, who plans to win his second Pulitzer by proving the Boy of Steel has set up shop in the city (Superboy’s decision to leave Smallville was big news, apparently, and every major city in the DCU America wanted to claim him as their own). The story by Bob Rozakis was in no danger of winning a Pulitzer itself, but it’s fun (as the Answer Man’s work always was), and on top of everything else (literally), you get a great Frank Miller cover which itself is worth the price of admission.

Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 3) 1 – Now here’s how you handle a title relaunch. We get a reference to past events (Mon-El, Shadow Lass and others helping rebuild Daxam after the events of the Great Darkness Saga), some character bits (Star Boy and Dream Girl on vacation at a casino world; Lightning Lass, or maybe it’s Light Lass at this point, easing into post-Legion life on a commune), action sequences (a prison break at Takron-Galtos led by a Darkseid crazed Daxamite teen, a robbery attempt at the aforementioned casino) and portents of evil to come (the reformation of the Legion of Super-Villains, it’s sinister recruitment drive, the kidnapping of Lightning/Light Lass, and Lightning Lord’s pledge to murder his bro or die trying). Paul Levitz gets the ball rolling on a new storyline (and a new book, on the fancy Baxter paper and everything) and while managing to make things actually happen at the same time. Set-up AND forward progression in the space of a single issue? Why, that’s unheard of today! It’s literary anarchy, I tell you. Sigh… once upon a time, we used to get actual content in our comic books. Don’t you miss that?

Paul, come back to writing comics! We beg you! All pulpings will be forgiven!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Cosmetic changes abound, because boredom will do that to you.

Today's dose of unintentional comedy

From an IMDB article talking about George Lucas, on Star Wars Episode VI: Revenge of the Sith and an upcoming Vanity Fair photo spread featuring the stars of all six films:

"Lucas admits the final part of the opening trilogy marks the end of an era in his career - and he now plans to stop making successful films. He says, "I'm going to make movies nobody wants to see. I've earned the right to fail."

I think I'll just leave that one alone, thanks.

It's like a borgasmord!

There's a good chance I'm the first blogger to quote Mason Reese in 2005. Is there a prize for that? Or perhaps, more appropriately, a beating?

So Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandburg are headed to the Hall of Fame, making 2005 the year of the Dependable, Unflashy Infielder. Meanwhile, Jim Rice chokes back the tears, shuffles back to his house and mutters under his breath that one day, oh yes, they'll pay. They'll all pay. And speaking of deserving, oft-overlooked Cooperstown candidates, Jimmy Kimmel stumps for Steve Garvey over on ESPN's Page 2. I'm inclined to agree with him, too. The man has the numbers, and compared to the peccadilloes of other sports "heroes" both past and present, those paternity suits he was slapped with in the 80s aren't really all that damning, are they? No drugs, no steroids, no gambling, no rape, no murder - let's forgive and forget now, shall we? Rice and Garvey in '06!

On another baseball note which I somehow missed earlier, Red Sox centerfielder / Messiah figure Johnny Damon got married just before the New Year. Boy, do I know a lot of women who'll be sad about that, not to mention all the people who sell those pink "Mrs. Damon" babydoll t-shirts outside of Fenway Park on game days. Another bootleg industry bites the dust.

Over on Earth-Comics, DC has been making huge strides in trying to regain all the goodwill frittered away by Identity Crisis. First they announce Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on All-Star Superman, then this week they officially announce Frank Miller and Jim Lee on All-Star Batman & Robin. Then, as if that weren't enough to make the fanboys out there need to change their undies (there's an image that'll haunt me for the rest of my days), they also announce that Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin are reuniting for a Batman mini-series. The trio's initial work in the 70s is considered by many to be the definitive Batman run, even though it only lasted about 8 issues or so.

I hope this means that DC plans on releasing a TPB of those issues as part of the support for this project. I've only read the few issues reprinted in the old Greatest Batman and Greatest Joker Stories books, and the only time the run has ever been completely reprinted, IIRC, was in that old Shadow of the Batman direct market, Baxter paper mini-series in the early/mid 80s, and how often do you ever find copies of those books kicking around these days? This is the sort of thing that needs to be in print, I think. And as for this new thing, I think that it's nearly impossible to capture creative lightning in a bottle twice (for example, can you imagine what a Claremont/Byrne X-Men would be like today? *shudder*), I'm kinda psyched this is happening and will definitely give it a shot. In fact, I'm probably more likely to pick these up off the rack than I am the All-Star books because, come on, look at the names on those? Do you honestly think DC won't collect those at some point?

And lastly, if you haven't checked it out yet, give The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson a try. It's not as clever as Conan, sure, but Ferguson is a funny guy and charming host, and you can tell he's really digging this opportunity. That sort of enthusiasm goes a long way in my book. Plus, the theme song is infectiously catchy, and people from the U.K. are just inherently cooler than we will ever be. Search your feelings, you know this to be true.

BLOOOGGGGERRRRR!!!!!!!!

(For the full effect of the title, shout it out loud like William Shatner yelling "Khhhhaaaaannnn!" in Star Trek 2)

So Blogger was acting up while I was tweaking my blog template and ended up erasing a bunch of links and stuff. Oh, how fun. Anyway, I tried to recreate everything as best I could having to go so far as to reset the template and rebuilding from there, so some comments were lost and I'm not sure if I re-linked to everyone. If I left you out, let me know.

Stupid, stupid Blogger.

Meanwhile, on Earth-Comics...

RIP Will Eisner.

Legion of Super-Heroes 1 – Yeah, the logo is boring, but let's all get over that, shall we? Anyway, this issue is mostly (and inevitably) set-up for the new Legion status quo. It's a bit early to form any concrete opinions, I think, but I think this is off to a good start (I suppose it helps that I'm a relatively recent convert to Legion fandom and don't have that devotion to decades of prior continuity weighing me down). A lot of people are saying that the "generation gap" theme is a decade or three behind the times, but I think that's precisely what Waid is going for here. The story, the themes, the look of the characters - it's pretty clear that he's trying to re-imagine (or at least recapture) the Legion of the 1970s, a period many fans consider the strip's zenith (Great Darkness Saga not withstanding). I think it makes for an interesting new take on the “retro-futuristic” approach, myself – instead of the Shiny Chrome Gee Whiz 50s vision of the future (which we already got from Waid the first time around), we get a Late 60s / Early 70s approach; the optimism has been exchanged for the desire to change the system (given the current political climate and the resentment felt by young America today, this idea isn’t as outmoded as some people think). If the first reboot was the Archie Legion, this is the Wild In The Streets Legion, though "Eat it, Grandpa" is a poor stand-in for "14 or fight!" I think there’s a lot of potential, and I'm very curious to see where this is heading. I'd also like to know if the new Sun Boy's resemblance to Prez Rickard is purely coincidental.

Adam Strange 4 – What can I say about this that I haven’t already said about the first three issues. Of the comics I am currently buying on a regular basis, this is far and away my favorite right now. If DC could pull a Reverse Marvel and retroactively declare this book an ongoing series, I’d be quite happy.

JLA: Classified 2 – Since this is a Grant Morrison book, it seems like everyone on the Intermanet is dissecting every single word and drawing in the hunt for deeper meaning and, yes, Mad Ideas. I, on the other hand, think that people are spending way too much time deconstructing this. Sometimes superheroes and robots fighting evil, man-eating, superintelligent gorillas are just superheroes and robots fighting evil, man-eating, superintelligent gorillas, folks. I could be wrong, but I think that this time, having come off of stuff like Seaguy and The Filth and We3 and whatever else, Morrison just wanted to bring the fun. Kind of like how David Lynch went and made The Straight Story after years of headscratchers like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway, you know? Even Mad Ideas get a little old sometimes. Anyway, this story continues to be good, Ed McGuinness’s art is as fun as always (if there was a guy born to draw superheroes and robots fighting evil, man-eating, superintelligent gorillas, it’s him), and I’m really digging the character of Beryl and would really like to see Morrison do something else with her in the future.

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted – I have one big gripe here. Marvel promoted the hell out of Joss Whedon’s involvement on this book, hoping that the reputation he earned with Buffy, Angel and Firefly would translate into new readers. The problem, though, is the same as it ever was: a heavy reliance on pre-existing continuity. Whedon knows his X-History, and that’s great. But he makes little or no effort to explain that history when he draws upon it, so as usual, any new readers lacking degrees in Marvelology are most likely going to be quickly discouraged, and then they won’t buy the book. Same as it ever was. All that being said, though, I am a geek well-versed in Marvelology, so I did actually like the story quite a bit. Whedon writes the group dynamic about as well as, if not better than, anyone in film, TV or comics today, and there are plenty of great character moments that would’ve fit in well in any of his TV shows (and yet didn’t seem like they were lifted directly from those shows, either). And though John Cassaday has never met a deadline that he could… well, actually meet, his draws him some right purty pitchers, don’t he? So in short: recommended if you’re already an X-Fan, but not so much if you aren’t (unless you know someone kind and patient enough to explain the old-school continuity bits to you).