No, seriously, Merry Holiday of Your Choice.

Alright, the Wednesday post with the Pinky & the Brain special was supposed to be my "see ya after the holidays" thing, but then that To Tell The Truth clip was pointed out to me, and it was way too excellent to not share with everyone immediately. I mean, it had everything: Stan Lee looking like the lost Gibb brother, full-grown men and women seemingly unable to distinguish between the concepts of "comic strip" and "comic book," Bill Cullen and To Tell The Truth's own Miss Kitty Carlisle long before they both resembled the walking dead, and the sort of insanely catchy lite-AM-esque theme song that only late 60s/early 70s game shows had. Honestly, it was sort of perfect.

But I'm off for real this time. Enjoy the holidays, folks. And pray for my car. I would prefer a few, actually semi-affordable repairs to the alternative of expensive repairs and/or having to buy a new one. But I'm not optimistic. I doubt even the combined might of Jesus and Santa could pull off a Christmas miracle of that magnitude. I really hate cars.

But happy holidays anyway!

Another gift courtesy of YouTube

Stan Lee on To Tell The Truth!

A TPS Special Presentation (Do do do, do do doo, do do DOOO!)

I thought about posting the old Bing Crosby/David Bowie clip as my Christmas present to you all, but let's face it - we've all seen it, and the novelty value has long-since worn off. It would be much more interesting to hear Bowie do the version of White Christmas he refers to, or better still, in the spirit of reciprocity, to hear Bing sing a Bowie tune. I'm thinking Ziggy Stardust. But that ain't happening, so we'll have to muddle through.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy Christmas, or the last few days of Hannukah, or whatever holiday you happen to celebrate in your house. Liam's still too young to really understand what's going on yet, but he does enjoy the lights and the music and at least some of the TV Christmas specials (How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Olive the Other Reindeer being the biggest hits), so it's been fun for us. I legitimately hope some of that passes along to everyone else.

(Tangent: Speaking of Christmas specials, check out the Christmas episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, called "Operation N.A.U.G.H.T.Y." It recasts Santa and some of his elves as the X-Men, and features breathless narration from someone doing a decent imitation of Stan Lee, or at the very least, Roger, the Stan Lee Experience, from X-Play.)

Anyway, in the interest of originality and bringing back into the world something else which had previously been lost, here's the surprisingly sweet Pinky & the Brain Christmas Special in three parts (honestly, if the ending doesn't make you feel at least a little gooey inside, you have no soul), courtesy of whatever copyright-infringing soul decided to upload it to YouTube. Enjoy, and have a safe and happy season, y'all.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I figured the time had come for some renovations here at TPS World Headquarters. I decided to go with the "simpler is better" approach, and it doesn't get much simpler than black and white. Or I guess it's black and grey, really. Whatever. Anyway, I'm still in the process of tweaking, but I've got things generally the way I think they should go. At least until I decide it's all wrong again.

Unpopular Opinions: Nerd Edition

1. "Love and Monsters" was, in fact, a great episode of Doctor Who. It would've been the very best of the season if not for "The Girl in the Fireplace." I reserve the right to say that anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.

2. This "new look" art style for Archie Comics? Not a big deal, so stop complaining about it. Especially if you haven't read an Archie book since 1978. Also, I'd like to point out that big change in the Archieverse is not unprecedented at all. Or are you still calling him "Chick?" *



*And while we're on the subject, if we were supposed to call him Chick way back when, why did they call the strip "Archie" in the first place? No wonder it never stuck.

Peer-to-Peer Pressure

Erin and I downloaded 35 songs over the last two weeks. There was way too much pressure involved in this process, and it was significantly less fun that it should have been.

See, the man at the comic store gave me this eMusic promo card a few weeks back. For whatever reason, eMusic partnered up with Marvel and crosspromoted their legal music download service with an upcoming collection of the next segment of Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men. I’m not really certain what either side actually gets out of this, but hey, the card had X-Men on it and offered me 35 MP3 downloads for the low, low price of Free Ninety-Free. I’m not made of stone here, people.

There was a catch, of course. Obviously, you had to sign up for the actual service before they’d let you have the trial period, because they’re not that stupid. But that was actually the easy part. I did a little research, and eMusic’s praises were sung far and wide, and it was, in fact, very easy to cancel out of the service if you’re unsatisfied for any reason. And it’s not like iTunes, where you’re sort of beholden to them for life if you want to keep playing the tracks you buy. If you download from eMusic, the songs are yours to do with as you please. No limitations on when, where, or how you use, transfer, or burn them.

Nope, the catch is your trial period is about two weeks. Which doesn’t sound like much of a problem. And it probably isn’t for most people. As has been proven time and again, though, Erin and I aren’t most people. Between the two of us, we like a whole damn lot of different music. We’ve got the iPod playlists and CD collection to prove it (even after the recent mass purging of said CD collection, we still fill two large racks). But we’re not exactly the sort of folks who need to download or buy new stuff all the time. I’ve personally acquired fewer than 10 new CDs all year, and I guarantee that over half of those were gifts of some kind. The story is more or less the same for Erin, too. And last Christmas, we received two $15 iTunes gift cards, and along the way picked up something like 6 or 7 additional freebie downloads off of some offer Cheerios had in the summer. A full year later, we still have credit remaining. This is why we jumped off the Napster/Audiogalaxy/Kazaa/whatever-P2P-service-is-popular-now bandwagon a few years back; we download so little music that we don’t mind actually paying for it once in awhile.

We attacked the problem head-on, but it was slow going from day one. There’s a lot of music available through eMusic, but as they’re not the sort of powerhouse that iTunes is, or even the current version of Napster, so it can sometimes take you awhile to find a band or artist you like. And when you do, the listing isn’t necessarily comprehensive, so there may be tracks or even entire albums unavailable to you. They have a large number of exclusive live performances, though, which is admittedly pretty cool. And if you’re looking for indie bands that go unserved – possibly even unnoticed – by the likes of Apple, it definitely pays to nose around. Lots of stuff from labels like K, Victory, Kill Rock Stars, and so forth. And a healthy selection of actually-palatable kids’ stuff, too, like Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes.

But even despite all that, it still came down to the wire for us, since we still had about a dozen tracks to go the night before the trial expired. We did end up with a good chunk of songs we’re happy with, though. Erin got some Baby Gopal tracks she liked in college, a Rainer Maria song, a little Dashboard (let’s hear it for Alfonso Q. Dashboard, III!), Dressy Bessy, and a Halo Benders song we’ve been trying to remember for about 7 years now. I found some covers of They Might Be Giants songs, the track TMBG did with Mike Doughty a few years back, a couple Cub songs (and discovered I greatly prefer TMBG’s cover of their song, New York City), a New Pornographers song I didn’t already have, a live Dickies song, and a couple of Archies songs (Sugar, Sugar and Jingle Jangle, if you must know). We also found some Christmas music (finally have a copy of Snoopy’s Christmas, but it’s not the original Royal Guardsmen version, sadly; can’t find that anywhere) and a few Laurie Berkner songs for Liam (that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it). And probably some other stuff, too. Some Samiam, I think. And some song about Green Lantern which is just about as bad as you think a song about Green Lantern is going to be (but is still fun somehow).

So, yeah, we found some music we enjoyed, free and legal and everything, but honestly, I can’t imagine trying to find 30 (or more, depending on the package you sign up for) every single stinkin’ month. Way too much stress involved there for it to be any fun at all. eMusic is a great service, just not for us.

Bringing back that which was lost.

When we put up the Christmas tree last Friday, we watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Frosty Returns. They were good, as always, but it didn't feel right. Some crucial element was missing. It took me a few days to identify what it was, but thanks to the power of YouTube, I was able to put right that which had once gone wrong. I present it to you now:



There. It just doesn't feel like Christmas without that one 5 second clip, does it?

Cheer up, emo kids. And put some clothes on.

Last night, Erin and I were granted the unique anthropological opportunity to view the vast portion of the Southern New England high school/college population and interact with them in their own environment. Also, I saw boobs.

We went to see Brand New and Dashboard Confessional play at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts. I’m not much of an emo guy, myself, but Erin’s been listening to this stuff since most of the subgenre’s current fans were still watching Barney, and Brand New is one of her favorite bands of the last few years, so when she asked for tickets to this show for a wedding anniversary present, I was happy to get them for her. I mean, she puts up with all my malarkey on a daily basis (and trust me, there’s a lot of malarkey), and doesn’t even bat an eyelash when I ask her for gifts like cartoon DVD sets and Legion of Super-Heroes Archives volumes, so I figure it’s no big deal to take one for the team once and awhile, even though I don’t really like either band all that much. Or concerts in general, really.

Yeah, I know, that makes me sound like such a killjoy. I don’t like concerts. I’m that guy. But tickets are often really expensive (Thanks for giving up the Ticketmaster fight, Eddie Vedder. Way to fail!), I don’t like crowds, I hate standing for hours on end (either in line or at the show itself), and so few bands are as good live as they are on their albums. In order to get me to a concert, I need to really like the band, tickets need to be relatively cheap, and I need a place where I can sit. I hated bumping around in the crowd even when I was a teenager. I just like to sit and enjoy the music. Theoretically, someone worked hard on creating these songs, so I feel I owe it to him/her/them to actually attempt to appreciate it. No one could ever accuse me of being an unconscientious audience member. But I digress.

Anyway, the show. I have to say, it was pretty good. I wasn’t a big fan of either band going in, and I didn’t leave a convert, but I enjoyed myself at least. Brand New started off their set with the song of theirs that I actually do like, “Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades),” so that got my attention early on, which is key. I wasn’t too into the other songs, but the band performed well, which is all I was really hoping for. The lead singer – whose name is Jesse something or other, but I prefer to think it’s actually Brandon Newerson – thanked the crowd for their energy and support throughout the set, which I also appreciated. I always like to see a rock star that’s thankful for the fans. The only problem with ol’ Brandon was that he was a little too emo for me. He didn’t just look miserable; he looked like he was in serious physical pain. Cheer up, Emo Boy! You’re a freakin’ rock star – you’re being paid to do what you love, you’re the idol of millions, and at least 85% of the women in the crowd would probably sleep with you if you asked. The two behind us definitely would have, and expressed that notion loudly and often.

The guy from Dashboard – given name: Chris Carrabba; my name for him: Alfonso Q. Dashboard, III – took the opposite approach, clearly reveling in every moment he spent on stage and probably quite ecstatic of his chances of achieving Lowell coital bliss if he so chose to partake. Also, his band* had a cute female violin player, and if there’s one thing rock music needs, it’s more cute female violin players. I feel strongly about this. I digress again. Anyway, their set was pretty good, too, though we left a few songs before the end to beat traffic. Erin likes Alfonso’s music well enough, but Brand New was the night’s major attraction in Erin’s eyes, even though they opened.

So although decent, the show itself was pretty uneventful. In my eyes, the crowd was the main event for me. I’d estimate the median age of the crowd was about 17 to 19 years old. There were a bunch of kids around 12 or 13, and therefore a bunch of parents, too, but for the most part, everyone looked to be in the late high school or early college age range (Erin and I were probably the oldest people we saw with our own eyes who weren’t either working in some capacity or chaperoning kids). I work with kids in this age group, and my nieces and nephews are very firmly within it, too, so I try to keep a positive attitude about them, but a lot of them were making it difficult to remain upbeat for the future of America. I’m talking about you folks, the ones who didn’t think you’d need to wear a jacket. At night. In December. In Lowell, Mass. As you stood there, teeth chattering, bodies turning blue, wearing t-shirts or tank tops, and looking absolutely miserable, I just couldn’t work up a lot of sympathy for you. I was wearing a sweatshirt, a jacket, a scarf, a hat, and gloves, and I was still a little chilly. Maybe I didn’t look very cool, but I also wasn’t very cold, either. Remember that next time.

But questionable seasonal attire, the crowd was fun to watch. It was fun to try and figure out whose first concert is was, who was on a date, who was breaking up, who was hooking up, and so on. I may not always enjoy concerts, but I do love the people watching opportunities they provide. This one guy in line, for instance, had the best mullet I’ve seen outside of the NHL or a Full House rerun. This was very clearly a man who lived up to the “business in the front, party in the back” credo. His mullet fu was strong. In his own way, he truly does the Lord’s work.

And then there was Boob Girl. Erin was driving, and as we approached the arena, I was looking at the people who had already parked and were walking the rest of the way. This blonde girl was walking with a group of her friends, and for whatever reason, she darted out in front of them, lifted her shirt and flashed her boobs at them. And anyone else who happened to be looking at that exact moment. Me, for instance. It took a second to process, but it soon dawned on me that yes, in fact, I had just seen that girl’s breasts for no discernible reason whatsoever. It was a little strange, truth be told. And no offense to her, but it sort of confirmed my ongoing belief that a majority of the folks prone to public nudity are people whose nudity I least want to see in public. Or in private, for that matter. She wasn’t particularly unattractive or anything, but if I were to make a mental list of people that night who I wouldn’t mind accidentally getting an eyeful from, she probably wouldn’t have cracked the top 200. And since this was an emo show, there exists the distinct possibility that she wasn’t quite “of age” yet, so I was a little afraid the Dateline NBC “To Catch a Predator” guy was going to be waiting for me when I got home. Who needs that kind of grief?

When it was all said and done, a good night was had by the both of us. Even if you don’t like the music all that much, there are much worse events to attend than a performance by either Brand New or Dashboard Confessional. But between Boob Girl and Mullet Guy, there was a moment or two where we wondered if we hadn’t accidentally turned up for a Foghat show instead. It was a legitimately head-scratching series of events.

*which, like The Lemonheads, Dinosaur, Jr., and Nine Inch Nails, is usually just the one guy and whoever else happens to be along for the ride on that particular day.

Baaaaaaaaa!

Yup, I'm on ComicSpace now, too. ComicSpace, if you haven't heard, is the MySpace of comics, which reminds of Get Shorty when they kept referring to "the Cadillac of minivans." Maybe that's just me, though. Anyway, feel free to add me as an online imaginary accquaintance if you're so inclined.



Ooh, looks like Blogger finally deemed me worthy to switch over to the new version. Is it worth it, guys and gals? I do like that tagging feature and the kinda-sorta more freedom it allows in customizing templates. Opinions and/or advice appreciated.

R.I.P. Mart Nodell

As is being reported just about everywhere else in Comicsland, Mart Nodell passed away this weekend. He's best known for creating the original Green Lantern, but also had a long career in the ad game and reportedly played a role in creating several well-known advertising icons, including the Pillsbury Doughboy. I met Mart and his wife Carrie at a comic con in Maine I worked at about 12 years or so ago, and was lucky enough to share dinner and an episode of Lois & Clark with them and some of the other con staff afterward. It was a great time, and Mart and Carrie (who passed away a few years ago) were absolutely wonderful, the sort of people you wished you could adopt as honorary grandparents. Though I only knew them for one day, I can honestly say that I'll miss them both.
We did end up getting our heat back a little later in the morning, so that worked out well, thankfully. But there's no denying that our little corner of the universe got nailed by some sort of crap luck wave this morning. I spent a few hours off and on fighting with a Vonage phone adapter that wouldn't connect, and could only be told by the nice Indian people on the tech support line that "this is very bad." A colleague of Erin's from Cleveland was supposed to fly in and surprise her for the "congrats on getting a new position" dinner a few of her other co-workers were taking her out for tonight, but Cleveland was getting buried in snow and nobody could fly out. Erin's parents lost power for no discernible reason for several hours. And her dad played his vacationing co-worker's Keno numbers as a joke today and lost, but if he had played his own usual numbers, he would've won $1400.

So, clearly, none of this was life-threatening or anything, but in the space of a few hours, it was all pretty annoying, and therefore, the worst thing(s) ever. At that moment, at least.

Obviously somebody important somewhere hates us.

So we woke up this morning to discover we had no heat. Again. At least it isn't anybody's birthday this time. We suspect it's because we ran out of heating oil, and not the furnace acting up again. We hope. Of course, I think it's because the house is CURSED, I TELL YOU, CURSED, and it hates us. This is why I get maybe 6 hot showers all year. And even if it isn't technically cursed, it still sucks. I defy you to come in here with a protractor or a level or something and find either a place where the walls meet at a 90 degree angle or a floor that's level. This is why we make no inquiries into buying the place we currently rent. Would you?

So anyway, Erin had to go over to her parents' house to shower for work, and she brought Liam with her so he could eat breakfast and watch Jojo's Circus in relative comfort, while I wait here for the oil guy to come bring us some more black gold, Texas tea, dead dinosaur sludge, or whatever nomenclature you prefer.




Two things that are more pleasant, and theoretically warmer...

The X-Entertainment Advent Calendar is back for 2006! Big happenings for Kuse and the good Mare Winningham (as opposed to the many evil Mares) this year. Knacks, meanwhile, seems to have gone all emo and has set up his own MySpace page.

If only the actual Jabberjaw show as even half this good:

Some comics thoughts which were intended to be brief, but quickly became less so.

Young Avengers: Sidekicks – It Came From the Library! Actually, under the auspices of Inter-Library loan, it actually came from a library in Montana. You’d think there’d be an available copy somewhere more close by, but never look the ILL gift horse in the mouth. Anyway, yeah, I read this, and I thought it was decent and all – I’m a sucker for just about any half-decent Kang story – but I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The art was good, and the story was good enough to hold my interest, but the book isn’t really doing anything with the “misunderstood teenagers with superpowers” genre that Runaways wasn’t already doing, and better at that. But still, at least something okay came out of all that Avengers Disassembled hoohaw*, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

Green Lantern: Rebirth
– It Came From the Library, Too! Though much closer, this time. Anyway, okay, yeah, if you’re going to bring back Hal Jordan, this was probably the best way to do it, so kudos to you on that, Geoff Johns. Double kudos for making it an actually enjoyable, engaging story, rather than devolving into a bunch of continuity-heavy fan wankery. Though while we’re on that subject, the amount of hetero manlove directed at Hal over the course of this story gets pretty ridiculous after awhile. All anyone can do, it seems, is spend a whole lot of time talking about just how totally freaking awesome(!!!) Hal Jordan was in his day. Except for Batman (hip deep in his pre-Infinite Crisis “total asshat” phase), who spends so much effort denouncing Jordan at every opportunity that I can’t help but think he’s trying to overcompensate in covering some deeper feelings here. But, of course, we also get a few references to Hal’s luck with the ladies, so that should assuage the fears of any H.E.A.T. members residing in the red states. That aside, I enjoyed this story pretty well – which, considering that Hal Jordan is maybe my least favorite Green Lantern, is really saying something.

Green Lantern Corps 1-4 – I’ve been on a GL kick lately. I blame that free issue of Back Issue I got from TwoMorrows last month. Anyway, as I just said about three lines back, Hal Jordan is my least favorite Green Lantern, but I like the GL concept as a whole, so I when I saw the first issue of this book still sitting on the rack at Newbury Comics, I figured it was worth a look, and have since gone back to the well three more times, so I figure that’s a good sign. Dave Gibbons is writing a good book here (loads better than Rann/Thanagar War), and is really playing up the “GLs as space cops” angle here without it being as cheesy as, I don’t know, Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct, I guess? Soranik Natu is one of my favorite new characters to come along in awhile – I really dig how she uses her power ring as an investigative tool as much as (if not more than) a weapon – and it’s always nice to see old school regulars like Guy, Kilowog, and Salaak get some screen time (Mogo, too!). I’m not too keen on the Vath Sarn and Isamot Kol, though, as I don’t think the book really needs to play the “mismatched partner” angle (one’s an ex-Rannian soldier, the other’s a Thanagarian lizard man condemned to die… they’re Lanterns!). A solid book that only improves once Gibbons picks up penciling duties in issue 4. I can’t wait to get caught up and see where this goes. I also hope we eventually see some John Stewart in here, and maybe even Rot Lop Fan, the F-Sharp Bell (if you’re gonna bring in Mogo, why not the other brilliant Alan Moore-created GL, too?).

Robin 156 – I think the test of a good superhero comic book writer is how well he or she handles the quiet stories, not just the loud, people getting kicked in the head stories (though those are important, too, don’t get me wrong), and Adam Beechen proves his chops here with this story of Robin encountering a college student who’s threatening to take a nose dive off a Gotham rooftop. Brilliantly handled, I thought – it’s nice to see someone actually admit the very human feeling that, yes, your problems are worse than anyone else’s because they’re happening to you – and well-played against the backdrop of tragedy and loss that has been Tim Drake’s life these past few years (Hey, they actually mentioned Stephanie for a change! That’s a step in a good direction). I dropped this book after the initial Batgirl storyline; not because of any dissatisfaction with the book (especially since I hate the gimp-mask Batgirl), but because I needed to drop some books somewhere and this just didn’t make the cut. But some stuff I read has ended (or is ending soon), and this book does seem really good, so maybe I’ll just have to start catching up.


*Robert Kirkman’s brief Captain America run, while fun, doesn’t count, since it’s connection to the story essentially amounts to a single panel where someone says to Cap, “Jeez, sorry about all that unpleasantness with the Avengers.”