Anyway, I think I find public access fascinating because I don’t recall that we ever had it back when I was growing up in Bangor, Maine. Sure, there was that one channel that the cable company used to display notices of local happenings and video of the occasional city council meeting, but there was never anything you could actually call a show. Except for the way buff religious guy who stood in front of a brick wall reading the Bible. We had that guy, but that was about it. Here in Rhode Island, on the other hand, we have at least 4 or 5 channels devoted to public access, at least one of which is devoted solely to Spanish language programs, and another specifically for religious stuff. And every single one of them has something worth watching at some time or another.
Here are some of my favorite RI public access programs. I don’t know the titles of most of them, so I’ll just make up my own.
El cabrito espantosamente intenso del predicador (“The Frighteningly Intense Preacher Kid;” Thanks to Babel Fish for the translation there.) – This is a Spanish language religious show starring a small child – no older than 8 or 9 years old – spreading the Gospel through sermon and song at a vocal speed of approximately 38 million words a minute. This kid is a human dynamo, running back and forth across the stage, preaching and singing his little heart out. And intense! I have no idea what this kid is saying, but it’s pretty darn clear he believes it wholeheartedly. And you better, too, or else he’ll probably come to your house and subject you to his “Herve Villechaize, but religious and on crystal meth” act in person. And I don’t think you’ve got the stones to withstand that, Jefe.
“Caught” in Providence – This is the only one that I know the actual title of, if only because it’s sort of a Rhode Island institution. Essentially, it’s like a locally produced version of The People’s Court, except that it involves real cases and is taped in an actual courtroom. The defendants are all filed through one at a time while the judge hears their case. Most of the time, it’s just people with parking tickets who often plead “Guilty with an explanation” and try and get the judge to lower or completely toss out their fine (which he often does, especially if it’s a poor mom with her kids in tow or a cute female college student). Every now and again, though, you’ll get an actual hardened criminal with a severe attitude problem that’s there for some sort of pre-trial happening. And then the next person will be another person with a parking fine, only they’ll look really frightened. I shouldn’t laugh, but I always do.
Rhode Island Skank Dance Party – This is a show consisting of nothing but video footage shot at Providence-area dance clubs. It’s like a low-rent version of that old Emtpy-V show, The Grind, but without the host, lip-synced “live” performances or attractive people. Just a bunch of people dressed like they desperately want to get laid, bumping and grinding to endless, techno-ized versions of songs that were popular a year or two ago (which is when this was filmed, for all I know). The best part is watching people mug for the video camera. You get to see some really terrible dance moves, all manner of obscene gestures, and every now and then, drunk girls making out. Except that the drunk girls get mosaic-ed out of the picture; the gestures, everything from the finger to the wagging tongue between the “v” of fingers that is the universal symbol for cunnilingus, remain. The end result is perhaps the most entrancing show in television history. If you sit down to watch, you will not stop until the show ends. Somehow, it is impossible to tear yourself away. An entire channel of this would seriously impede my ability to lead my everyday life.
The Star Trek Show – A couple of people sitting in front of a wall with Star Trek posters on it, talking about all things Trek. You could make a lot of jokes about these people, and admittedly I have, but I also have to admire them in a way. They’re really into what is widely acknowledged as the geekiest of geek disciplines, they’ve probably dressed as a Borg for an occasion other than Halloween, and they may have even paid money to go to Klingon language camp. But they’re comfortable and secure enough with themselves that they don’t care who knows it, and are even willing to go on TV and proclaim their geekiness for all (or at least just the folks watching public access late Sunday nights) to see. That takes some cojones. Live long and prosper, guys.
The High School Video Project Show – Every now and again, they’ll randomly show a bunch of clips that local high school students made for some sort of class assignment. Like today, for instance, they showed a bunch of commercial parodies filmed by students at North Kingstown High School. As is to be expected, these things tend to range in quality from “surprisingly clever” to “so terrible they deserve to be studied,” but laid out end to end, they’re all surprisingly transfixing. Almost as big a threat to getting things done as Rhode Island Skank Dance Party, but with a bit less skank – though only a bit, as I was surprised by what they actually let teenage girls to wear to school now. I would’ve paid good money for girls to be allowed to wear impossibly tiny skirts to school back in the day! Yeesh.
The Priest Who Does Surprisingly Good Entertainment Interviews – This isn’t locally produced, but it airs on one of the religious public access channels, so I say it counts. I’ve only ever seen this once or twice, but I think it’s just a show where this youngish priest interviews famous people who just happen to be Catholic. On one episode I saw, he interviewed Bruce Campbell (which is what made me stop to watch). And truthfully, it was one of the best interviews with Campbell that I’ve seen. His entire career was covered in amazing detail, like he was on Inside the Catholic Studio or something, and you could tell that Father Whatshisname was a really big fan, or that he at least really did his homework. And I don’t think they ever talked about religion once. If this guy ever has a crisis of faith, he should totally get a job on E! and show those sniveling little celebrity sycophants how a real entertainment interview is done.
So there you go. We’re not talking about really high quality programming here, but it is pretty fun in it’s own, bizarre little way. The only way I could really think of to improve it would be to smush it all into one big supershow, starring a tiny Latino preacher boy in a Star Trek uniform shaking his booty out on the dance floor in order to pick up chicks and get an A in his video production class, while at the same time interviewing Bruce Campbell, who is trying to contest a parking ticket.
It’s so crazy, it just might work.
The Onion's response, as summed up by editor-in-chief Scott Dikkers: "I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama (bin Laden) ... rather than comedians. I don't think we pose much of a threat."
Heh. The Onion rules. Now if only Scott Dikkers would revive "Jim's Journal," the world would be a happier place indeed.
If you have ever wanted to see a word defined using scenes constructed from Lego bricks, then you should check out The Bricktionary. My personal favorite is "asphyxiate," but they're all pretty excellent.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: God bless the internet.
My kid is cute. You want proof? Check out my wife Erin's blog entries detailing Liam's first adventures with solid food and playing in his exersaucer.
#6 - The Colorado Kid by Stephen King - When I first found this book, I was pretty excited. First of all, the idea of King writing a pulp novel-type mystery story was pretty appealing. I like his writing best when he works in genres other than "Stephen King" (Eyes of the Dragon, for instance, was a dandy little fantasy novel). Second, the sales blurb on the back compared this story rather favorably to the works of Dashiell Hammett and Graham Greene. Great people to emulate with this sort of thing, so I'm still with you there. Finally, and perhaps most amazingly, it's short. 178 pages to be exact. Short Stephen King novels are like short Grateful Dead songs; you've heard rumors that such things exist, but you never thought you'd actually encounter one. So with all this in its favor, I figured I'd give the book a shot.
Please learn from my mistake. Don't give this a shot. You want to know why you shouldn't? Glad you asked. It's not really the murder mystery story the sales blurb makes it out to be, not in the conventional sense anyway. It's about two grizzled, elderly newspaper veterans telling their intern the story of a local unsolved "mysterious death" case. And that's it. A story about a story. Hold on, let me add some emphasis to that. IT'S A STORY ABOUT A STORY! You know who writes stuff like that? Lazy high school creative writing students who put off writing their final project until the night before it's due (I speak from personal experience here). And you know what else? Even after the retelling, the story never even gets resolved! And then we get an afterword from King trying to excuse his lack of satisfying-ending-writing skills by basically saying "Well, life's like that sometimes. Tough titty. Don't question me on this. I've outsold the Bible. What the hell have you done with your life?"
Honestly, I don't even think the man has an editor anymore. Avoid this, please.
Last week, I had $24 in unused trade-in credit burning a hole in my pocket and an undeniable hankerin’ for some pixilated carnage, so I hopped in the car and drove myself down to the local EB Games location. I hadn’t been in the store for more than five seconds when the barrage of questions from Annoyingly Chipper & Overcaffeinated Salesguy began:
You know, typical video game store employee chatter.
I browsed the store’s selection of both new and used games, all the while trying to drown out Annoyingly Chipper & Overcaffeinated Salesguy’s yammering by imagining myself in a variety of more preferable situations – buying new floor tiles, renewing my driver’s license, getting a colonoscopy… anything, so long as it was quieter. It sounds weird, but I really need to concentrate when I’m looking at games. See, I’m not a hardcore gamer by any means, I don’t generally have a lot of money to spend on video games, I certainly don’t have the time to play a lot, and I’m not into a lot of the popular genres (RPGs, real time strategy, anything with the word “Madden” in it, etc.), so finding a game that I will enjoy playing takes a lot of consideration and effort. I probably make it a more torturous process than it needs to be, but I do that with most aspects of my life (just ask
Finally, after much consternation and hemming and hawing and a very unwanted salespitch from Annoyingly Chipper & Overcaffeinated Salesguy about pre-ordering an X-Box 360 (Which reminds me... wouldn’t “pre-ordering” something mean that you order it before you order it? How in the blue hell is that possible?), I was able to come to a decision: Star Wars Battlefront (now a PS2 Greatest Hit title). Now, typically, I hate shooting games. I find them repetitive, I can never adjust the camera angles quickly enough, and first person perspective games tend to make me nauseous (I’ve never been able to play Doom for more than 5 minutes without getting a little motion sick). Plus, I tend to suck at them in a big way. Battlefront has a few advantages, though. For one, you can switch from first person perspective to a refreshingly Dramamine-less third person. Second, it’s set in the Star Wars universe, so that’s usually good for some fun. Third, you can gun down Gungans by the truckload (Ewoks, too, but I’ve historically had less of a beef against them). As an avowed Jar Jar hater, that sort of thing appeals to me. And last, but certainly not least, it was $20. Greatest Hits titles and their accompanying cheaper price tags rule. So despite Annoyingly Chipper & Overcaffeinated Salesguy’s insistence that I’d be much better off waiting a week or two and spending an additional $30 to buy Star Wars: Battlefront 2 – Electric Boogaloo (because it’s newer and more expensive and therefore a better game, apparently), I paid the man, kicked him square in nuts (at least in my head), got my game and drove on home.
And let me tell you folks, it was indeed a happy purchase, because this is one crazy fun game. I’m really terrible at it – even on the easy setting, with “friendly fire” turned off and automatic targeting on, I still die with rapid and frightening regularity, quite often by my own accidental hand – but it’s fun. Well worth your video game dollar if you’re a fan of Star Wars or shooting games, even if it does mean you may have to contend with the likes of Annoyingly Chipper & Overcaffeinated Salesguy.
And the wholesale slaughter of Jar Jar and his pals? Cheapest geek catharsis money can buy.
So last night, at the University where I work, there was a guest speaker: Marc Summers. Yup, Mr. Double Dare and Unwrapped himself. A bit of an odd choice for a business school, but his talk was very well-attended, so I think it was pretty successful. Even though the event was about 30 feet away from where I was working (the "Grand Hall" is in the same building as the library), I didn't get a chance to pop my head in or anything, so I don't know if anyone asked him how he was able to cope with his near-crippling OCD while working on a show like Double Dare. I know I'd sure like to know.
This Thursday, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former president of Brazil, is speaking.
Rather huge change in gear, don't you think?
Now, my question is, do you feel psyched for Marc Summers, seeing as he essentially got to be the warm-up act for such a VIP; or do you feel bad for President Cardoso, who is stuck following a guy who used to encourage kids to reach up a giant, plastic, green slime-filled nose in order to find a flag and win a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine?
Yes, I do lie awake at night asking myself these questions. Why do you ask?
#4. Superman: The Last Son of Krypton by Elliot S! Maggin – For my money, Elliot S! Maggin is the best Superman writer of all time, and certainly the most imaginative. Even if one of his comic book stories wasn’t particularly good, it usually contained some endearingly mad genius idea or two to at least make it memorable; in short, he was the Grant Morrison of his day (or more appropriately, Morrison is the Maggin of today). So naturally, I was pretty excited at the prospect of reading a Superman prose novel by the man. Well, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but there were enough of those mad genius ideas to keep things interesting. The basic plot is pretty pedestrian – Superman is forced to team-up with Lex Luthor in order to fight a common foe – but said foe is an interstellar real-estate mogul who has stolen the lost documents of Albert Einstein in order to fulfill an eons-old prophecy of universal conquest. So it has that going for it, which is nice. Maggin also takes the opportunity to really crawl into all of these characters’ heads and see what really makes them tick, especially Luthor. In Maggin’s hands, Lex transforms from a one-note mad scientist into a really complex character, someone who views himself as the Man of Steel’s karmic opposite, the equal and opposite reaction to Superman’s every action. Superman may be named in the title, but Lex may ultimately be the main character.
You know what, forget what I said about this not living up to expectations. It was really good, and I look forward to eventually reading the sequel, Miracle Monday. Best of all, you can read both books (and another short story) for free here.
#5. Radio On: A Listener’s Diary by Sarah Vowell – For her first book, Vowell decided to listen to the radio for the whole of 1995 and keep a journal detailing what she heard and how it impacted her life. Guess what? Most radio really sucked in 1995 (if you were there, I’m sure you remember), it made Vowell kind of miserable, and she passed the misery onto us. I can only assume she knew her later books would actually be good, and there’d be people like me who’d read them in reverse order, so that by the time we got to this one, we’d already be fans and therefore wouldn’t give up on this slow crawl into ennui halfway through. She details – oh, does she ever detail – program after program, soundbite after soundbite, pausing often to complain about the mid-decade conservative talk radio boom (which, yeah, was pretty bad) and the majority of NPR programming (which is funny, considering how much of her later career is centered on NPR). And, since this is 1995 she’s talking about, she devotes much page space to the canonization of Kurt Cobain. Ugh. Sorry Sarah, I don’t care how talented he may have been, anyone who does so many drugs that he can no longer eat, kills himself and leaves behind a wife and child – even if that wife is Courtney Love – is a fucking loser. Hey man, nice shot.
Sorry, train of thought derailed. I have no patience for Cobain worship (The guy from Sublime who OD’ed? Also loathsome. Shannon Hoon from Blind Mellon, too.). Anyway, there is one affecting section dealing with her reactions to the Oklahoma City bombing (she was born in that neck of the woods, so it literally hit her close to home), but for the most part, there’s not much here worth your time. Read Take the Cannoli, The Partly Cloudy Patriot or Assassination Vacation instead. They’re excellent books by a true literary talent. This is just an art school student’s dull-as-dishwater side project.
JLA: Earth 2 – I’ve enjoyed most of Grant Morrison’s JLA stories, but I don’t think this one worked very well at all. It borrowed a little too heavily from the Star Trek mirror universe stories (the Crime Syndicate is like the JLA, but they’re into sex, drugs and thrill killing… see, they’re all eeeevil!) and that one Doctor Who episode, “The Five Doctors” (the whole idea that if the heroes want to win, they have to lose). But most of all, it just felt rushed; I don’t think 96 pages was enough space to tell this story. A full-length 5 or 6 issue storyarc to develop the concepts more fully would have been a better choice this time around. As for the art, well, I’ve never been a big Frank Quitely fan – what with all the excessively blocky characters and their permanently pursed lips – and here he was at his Quiteliest. Green Lantern is about 5 people wide, and Wonder Woman looks like a dude. Just ugly stuff. I wanted to like this book, and I liked the basic premise involved, but the parts didn’t add up to a whole that I could enjoy.
The Groo Houndbook – A lot of people really dig Sergio Aragones’s “Groo the Wanderer,” so I figured I’d finally check it out. This book, reprinting Groo’s first encounter with his dog, Rufferto, was the earliest story I could find. Um, I guess if you like this sort of thing, than this is the sort of thing you’d like; apparently, I don’t like this sort of thing. I guess I see how people find this title funny, and I was mildly amused by just how much everyone else in the book except Rufferto seems to hate Groo (a man who rescues the hapless barbarian from quicksand is forced to apologize), but I never laughed once. In the end, I guess it’s just not my thing. But if anyone out there can recommend a Groo story that they think I will find funny, I’m open to suggestions.
So congrats to the White Sox. They earned it. But now, in my eyes, they're committed. If they're going to oust my beloved Red Sox, they owe it to me to go on and win the whole damned thing. That's the only thing that'll make it worthwhile.* So good luck in breaking your own imaginary curse, Chicago!
*It's the only thing that'll get me to keep watching, too. Fox has the World Series again, which means more painful coverage by the worst announce team in baseball history, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. If I don't care about any of the teams involved, I won't watch, and I'll be blissfully spared from their inane chatter. So maybe I should actually be hoping that Chicago loses...
It occurs to me that I’ve been blogging about comics (among other unimportant topics) for just over a year now, and I’ve never once outlined my ideas to Save the Comic Book Industry.
Well, I don’t have any. I don’t think it even needs saving, truthfully. It’ll evolve or it’ll die, and as the past few years have shown, it seems to have chosen the former option (however begrudgingly). However, I do believe that the landscape of comic fandom could be a lot more palatable, so I submit the following contribution to the ongoing dialogue. These are what I consider to be the 5 steps that we all could do to make being a comic book fan a more enjoyable experience. They should all be common sense by now, but sadly, that’s not always the case.
1. Enjoy what you read, read what you enjoy. If you don’t like a particular title, drop it like a bad habit. Don’t keep reading out of inertia, or the need to be a completist, or even because “it might get good again.” And most especially, don’t buy a book specifically to bash it online! It’s plain and simple: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Vote with your wallet. The comics industry may not be a democracy, but it is a business, and no one’s going to publish a book that nobody reads. And look, down the road, if it does indeed get good again, feel free to return. But don’t suffer through the bad times for the occasional high points; life’s too short for shitty comics.
2. Make your own decisions. Don’t buy a book because it’s hip, or ironic, or because your friends, the people at your comic book store, The Comics Journal, Wizard, CBG, or your favorite website or blog tell you to. All of these resources can point you in the direction of something you just may enjoy – yes, even Wizard – but in the end, like what you want to like simply because you like it (see also Rule 1).
3. Allow people to read and enjoy whatever they want, even if you think it’s the biggest pile of crap in the history of history itself. For example, I will never understand the appeal of tentacle porn manga, even if I live to be 1,000 years old, but there are people out there that enjoy it a whole hell of a lot. None of them are forcing me to read it, or telling me that I’m waste of oxygen for not enjoying it, so I figure I owe them the same courtesy.
4. No one likes a know-it-all. You know a lot about your particular genre, title or character of choice? That’s fantastic, honestly. Just don’t think it makes you inherently superior to anyone else. It’s just comic books. It doesn’t matter, no one really cares, and even though you’re the Grand Poobah (or, to use a phrase coined by Lene Taylor, the Alpha Monkey) of your particular geek clique, there will always be someone who knows more than you do. And if you’re an especially arrogant prick, said person will be more than happy to knock you on your ass, figuratively and literally.
5. This is probably just a reiteration of numbers 1 through 4, but stop the negativity already! Seriously, just stop it. Stop bashing books online just for the sake of bashing books online. Stop telling people that the books they like are crap, and by extension, that they are crap, too. Grow the hell up. You want mainstream acceptance for comic books and the people who love them? Stop acting like a bratty manchild (or womanchild, as the case may be). There are reasons why stereotypes like the Comic Book Guy character on The Simpsons exist, folks. Whether we like superheroes, art comix or, yes, tentacle porn manga, we still all like comics. We have to learn to play nice within our own little group before we’ll ever be allowed to play in the other kids’ sandbox.
5a. Truthfully, the other kids’ sandbox is overrated, so even if we never do get to go play with them, it’s really not that big a deal. That shouldn’t deter us from making nice amongst ourselves, though.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to comic books. These suggestions are equally applicable to Star Trek, sports, rock music, or anything else with a WAY too intense fan base; all you have to do is change the terminology.
It’s just common courtesy, folks. Think about it, won’t you?
My friend Dan (he of the Wizard World Boston excursion) can be found at The Jimmy Gatz Conspiracy, while my friend Annie (who knows all the words to the theme song from 227) has set up her corner of the bloggyverse at senselessness.
And, as I have mentioned before, you can also visit my wife Erin's newish blog, Sic Transit Gloria.
Go. Read. Enjoy.
* Hey, hey, hey!
** If you have as little to do as I do, anyway.
Now, I’m not the sort of person who’s really cut out to do any sort of full-fledged con report. As I said earlier in the week, I don’t really go for the big time announcements, the panels, the gaming or the social aspects. I go to comic shows to buy cool stuff for cheap. The two states where I’ve lived through the years, Maine and Rhode Island, aren’t exactly hotbeds of the comic retail universe, so these events provide opportunities I don’t get very often. So I’m in no way capable of giving any sort of blow-by-blow account of the day’s events, but here are some brief observations.
- We met Alex Robinson (of Box Office Poison fame) and his wife (whose name I forget now, sadly) at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund table, and let me tell you, they are two of the friendliest comic book people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We ended up stopping by the table twice and had long conversations with them both times. I picked up Alex’s new book, Tricked, which he signed and sketched in for me, and Dan and I both received some really beautiful superhero sketches he drew (I got Supergirl, Dan got Zatanna) in return for becoming CBLDF members. I’ll have to post a scan of the Supergirl sketch sometime. It’s really excellent. So anyway, buy lots of Alex Robinson comic books, because he’s good people.
Alex Robinson, more than happy to sell me stuff.
- Eliza Dushku’s security detail whisked her past us while we were at the CBLDF table the second time around. Good lord, is that woman tiny! Like “feed her a cheeseburger, STAT!” tiny. Give her a strong breeze and an aerodynamic hat, and she could do a spot-on Sister Bertrille imitation. On the other end of the spectrum, pro wrestling legend Mick Foley looks even more husky than he used to now that he’s no longer regular in-ring talent. If these two were to trade lunches, they’d both benefit.
- Lou Ferrigno is more buff than any man his age has a right to be. I’ve heard numerous times that he’s kind of a dick in person, but I doubt anybody would be brave enough to say it to his face.
- Palisades Toys must be the greatest company to work for in the world. I’ve seen their booth at two shows now (this one and WW Philly last year), and both times everyone was incredibly friendly, and they all looked like they were having fun. And I’m talking legitimately friendly and fun, not that fake “I’m trying to sell you something so I’ll put on a big, shit-eating grin and laugh a little more often than is necessary” friendly and fun. Nice folks. Plus, I was able to snag the last Super Grover figure they had (at least for Saturday… not sure if they had a set limit to sell for each day, like how WizKids limits sales on the Heroclix convention premiums, or if I got the For Real Last One of the Show), so that was pretty cool.
- Comics Retail Inflation: the Dollar Box is the new Quarter Bin. But then again, most of the dollar boxes we saw were filled with some really excellent stuff (I picked up the entire Great Darkness Saga for about a third of what it would cost to buy the TPB), so it’s not like I minded the rate hike so much. There were some quarter bins to be found, though, but they were filled mostly with really worn 80s books and the usual 90s detritus.
- Of course, there were stormtroopers:
“I think we’ll be the judge as to whether or not these are the droids we’re looking for, pal.”
- A lot of booths were well-stocked with half-priced TPBs for sale, but it seemed like all these places had the exact same stuff! You could have built a rather large house out of the all the copies of “How to Draw Manga” or Marvel Encyclopedia volumes we saw. And so much of the stock was in rough shape, too. I noticed a lot of books had the telltale magic marker “remainder” line across the tops, so I think I’ve discovered what happens to bookstores’ unsold graphic novels. There was some good stuff to be found, but you really had to hunt. And recent collections I had put off buying because I figured I’d find them here (like the Superman Showcase, the Avengers Serpent Crown book or the Sgt. Rock digest), were completely absent.
- One of the bargain TPB booth proprietors had herself a little salespitch. She’d yell, “All books 50% off, ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL books 50%!” Repeatedly. All. Day. Long. With no less than a 30 second break in-between. I heard that woman’s rant in my dreams last night. They weren’t good dreams. I snuggled in a little closer to Erin for protection.
- Artificial heat index: Someone had the Blue Beetle issue of Secret Origins for $15. Um, no, I don’t think so, not even with the excellent Gil Kane artwork found inside, thanks. Someone else had the John Byrne issue of Superman that introduced the Matrix Supergirl for, again, $15, with a sign reading “1st New Supergirl – HOT!” Wrong series, wrong Supergirl, bad retailer (go lay down!). I just shook my head and walked away. I realize now I should have kicked him in the sack.
- The sort of ATM line you’re only going to see at a con:
Screw the goodies. Red Riding Hood’s granny needs cash!
On a similar “only here” note, I also saw Batman headed in to use the can. No pics of that, thankfully, but the image will stay burned in my brain for years.
- Last but not least, the official Warriors of Plasm count was a mere two copies of the collected edition. By my index, that means Wizard World Boston was a good show.
R2 says: "Wizard World Boston is TPS approved!"