And now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy!

You know, I was happy to see the Red Sox win just one World Series in my lifetime. But two in four years? Well, I feel like Jonathan Papelbon here:

People call it the Riverdance, but I see bits of Thriller in there.

And he's set to do the World Series version (theoretically with Josh Beckett) at the victory parade in Boston Tuesday. I read somewhere he'll be sharing a flatbed truck with the Dropkick Murphys for just this purpose, in fact. Awesome.

Anyway, well-earned congratulations to the 2007 Red Sox, and condolences to the 2007 Rockies... although honestly, Rockies, your fan base could use a little pick-me-up. Maybe it's because I'm used to a Fenway crowd, but I've never seen a more sedate crowd, even in times of excitement, than the Colorado faithful at Coors Stadium in Games 3 and 4. Wake up, people, it's the World Series! It's exciting! As annoying as those Dane Cook ads were, the man was right about at least that much.

Here's hoping for a great 2008 season in Boston. And that they re-sign Mike Lowell. And most especially that they tell that obnoxious prima donna A-Rod to stick it when he inevitably comes sniffing around for a job.

UPDATE - And oh, look... Major League Baseball is mad at A-Rod and his agent for timing their announcement to specifically divert attention away from the Red Sox and the World Series itself. Heh. I doubt they can do it in this case, but I hope they fine the jerk for unsportsmanlike conduct. Heavily.

Well played, Death Note. Well played.

Okay, so after reading the first volume of Death Note, I sort of understand the near-universal praise it gets. I'm not usually a big fan of horror comics, no matter the nationality, but they've hooked me well and good with this one. I don't think they got me for the same reasons they latched onto the imaginations of most other folks who've read it, though.

For the uninitiated - and in as simple terms as I can describe it - it's the story of a brilliant teenager, Light Yagami (he's the dude above who doesn't look like Hot Topic's #1 customer), who finds a Death Note, which is the notebook of a type of death god called a shinigami. If you write someone's name in the book, they die. Light sees this as his chance to improve the world, so he starts writing criminals' names in the book. This doesn't go unnoticed by police worldwide, who start attributing the deaths to a killer they dub "Kira" and do everything in their power to track him down. Light enters into a cat and mouse game with the law, particularly mysterious master sleuth "L," as he becomes increasingly corrupted by the power of the Death Note.

It's a compelling plot, to be sure, and a hell of a page turner, but that's not what ultimately grabbed me.

Look at it this way...

Light's the smartest kid in his school, perhaps even all of Japan. He wants to be a great detective when he grows up. He's even been known to help his father, commissioner of one of Japan's highest law enforcement agencies, solve crimes at the dinner table.


Tell me that isn't brilliant.

The sort of thing you talk about in the dugout when your team is up by ten runs or more.

More lazy YouTubing, but it's funny.

Royce Clayton and Coco Crisp from the Boston Red Sox, talkin' about tacos.

PS - 13 to 1? Holy crap. I like to see the Sox thrash the competition as much as the next guy, but maybe save a few of those runs for the upcoming games? I mean, Dice-K pitches Saturday night. You guys'll need all the support you can get then.

Plinko, salutation, and some good songs.

Saw my first episode of the newly Drew Carey-ed The Price is Right today, and as luck would have it, I tuned in just as they were beginning Plinko. And yes, my friends, a chip got stuck on the board, so Drew had to break out this blog's very namesake to knock it free. He said it was the first time he ever had to use it, too, so he seemed excited. Except he called it his Plinko Wand. See, that just sounds dumb. He corrected himself the second time he had to use it, though (And yeah, the contestant got stuck twice. She didn't seem the sharpest sort to ever traipse across that stage.), and it was back to being a Plinko Stick. Thank goodness. I didn't want to have to change this blog's name for freakin' Drew Carey. Wand. Pfeh!

Incidentally, still not sure how I feel about Drew as the host. The rushed, mumbled game descriptions, the constant giggling... it's kind of annoying. But I appreciated how he kept laughing at how silly some of the prize descriptions were, sort of like he couldn't believe what he'd gotten himself into. When they talked about an MP3 player speaker thing shaped like a car, he just about lost it. Unprofessional, sure, but entertaining TV.

And even at his worst, he's still a better host than Rosie would've been. Last thing we need is a game show with production numbers.

Happy Fifth(!) Bloggyversary - and (sniff...) goodbye - to Johnny Bacardi! Don't be a stranger, JB.

Guided By Voices singing "Teenage FBI" live on the TeeVee:

And here's the video for "Signal in the Sky" by the Apples in Stereo:

We have no alternative!

I remember when I saw that on TV for the first time... my jaw dropped, and for two crucial reasons: 1.) it was a TV ad for a comic book, which was a pretty mind-blowing concept; and 2.) it was an ad for a really cool looking comic book.

It was also a source of great frustration for me... since that first issue was $1.50, my parents wouldn't buy it for me. Baxter paper or no, $1.50 was super-expensive for a comic book in 1982. I later got the oversized Marvel Treasury Edition reprint in my Christmas stocking (which also cost $1.50, IIRC, but was much larger, therefore more worthy of the spendage, I guess they thought), but it wasn't quite the same (though seeing the art all biggy-sized was something I did appreciate). I finally got around to getting a copy of the real deal a few years back... not that I was a big Joe collector anymore, but just to finally have it on principle. I was not disappointed. Sometimes, having a thing really is as pleasing as wanting it. Suck on that, Spock!

I know there's no real way of gauging it, but I would love to know just how many kids got started reading comics because of that one commercial (or any of the ones that followed... they made sporadic ads for issues at least as late as the introduction of Serpentor in #49). What a gateway drug that book was!

The Five and Ten (Doctors)

Tenth Doctor David Tennant is going to meet the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, in a special segment of BBC's Children in Need event in November.

Not the first time the Doctor has ever run into himself ("When you travel around as much as I have," he once said, "it's bound to happen sometime."), but it will mark the first time it has ever occurred within the continuity of the new series. So while it sounds fun (I always enjoyed multiple Doctor stories, even if they do end up being rather silly), it'll be really weird, potentially even a bit uncomfortable to watch. I mean, the costuming alone shows how much the show has changed in its new incarnation. So I'm thinking they're wise to do this as a one-off thing for a charity event rather than making it part of a regular episode. That way, the folks who don't like it can just erase it from their personal continuity.

But still, I'll admit I'm pretty psyched to see this. 5 looks like he needs to lay off the jelly babies a bit, though. (And I can't wait to see the theories that fandom concocts to explain why he looks older here... it'll make that Season 6b stuff seem like child's play, I bet.)

The Dig List: 10/21/07 - The Older Stuff

As I said in the last Dig List, I've picked up a bunch of back issues on the cheap lately, so here are some quick thoughts about those.

Remember, folks - Trusty Plinko Stick is the blog that has never heard of timeliness.

Super-Villain Classics - Galactus: the Origin #1 - It's hard to beat a good, old-fashioned Marvel origin yarn from the likes of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, even if it's kinda dumb. And this is, but it's a fun dumb. Kirbytech and, yes, Krackle out the wazoo make everything better, though.

Master of Kung-Fu #75 - I may have mentioned this here before, but whenever I find a run of MoKF issues in a cheap bin, I always have to buy at least one, usually based on whichever cover is the most fun (since, and let's be honest here, just about every issue of MoKF is just about the same). This had Shang-Chi fighting a robot sea monster, to which I can only say: "Here, Mr. Comic Merchant, sir. Take my 50 cents." Mike Zeck artwork on the inside... always nice, even if his style was still just coming together at that point.

Ms. Marvel (current series) #10 - Second part of a two-parter in which Ms. M fights an alternate universe counterpart, and Rogue and Beast appear. Story is meh, but the real attraction here was the Mike Wieringo art, which was really excellent, and elevated the whole affair up a few notches. It still just kills me that we'll never see anything new from the man.

Marvel Premiere #31 - Woodgod! The cover blurb calls Woodgod "the most bizarre super-hero of all," and for once, that's not just the standard Marvel hype. Unless you think that there's a more outre character concept out there than "genetically engineered satyr created by two nerve gas-creating scientists to fill the childless void in their life;" if so, your mileage may vary.

You know, there's enough madness here for an entire post all its own, so I'll save that for some other day, and just say for now that while it might not have been good in the classic sense of the word, it was compelling and sort of fun all the same.

Robin #159 - Tim and the latest love interest (um, before Wonder Girl, I guess?) go on their first date. Typical Gotham shenanigans threaten to derail it, but don't, and our boy gets an all-too-rare-for-him-these-days happy ending (no, not that kind, pervy). I've enjoyed all of the Robin issues I've read from Adam Beechen and Freddie Williams II (yes, even "Batgirl gone bad," since I always hated the gimp-masked Batgirl, anyway), so I'm left wondering why I haven't been reading all along. I'll have to catch up sometime.

Marvel Two-in-One #21 - The Thing meets Doc Savage back when Marvel still had the rights to Doc. And IIRC, this is the one time he ever crossed over with the Marvel Universe proper (his Giant Size Spider-Man appearance doesn't count, since it just reprinted an existing story that the Spider-Man story in that issue built off of). It's not great, but dopey fun in that typical MTiO way, though it's weird that Bashful Benjy didn't recognize Doc immediately, since the man looks so distinctive and Ben claims to be his biggest fan!

Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #135 - Spider-Man meets Kitty Pryde, and helps her rescue two bratty kids she's babysitting from some non-mutant Morlocks. Better than it sounds. Slightly. But Spidey and Kitty do their own Fastball Special, which is worth seeing once in your life, if you're the sort who would like such a thing.

And there's other stuff, but that's enough wordliness for now. It's not like I'm trying to kill you all with small white text. Not that you'll ever prove, anyway.


Knowing too much about the behind-the-scenes of comics is like knowing too much backstage info about wrestling... most days, the real life knowledge taints a lot of what you see, but there are those other times when it all just leaves you feeling very, very uncomfortable.

This was today's For Better of For Worse strip:

Okay, so it's always been accepted that Lynn Johnston based Elly and John Patterson on herself and her husband (who was even a dentist, just like John). And I remember reading recently that Johnston changed her initial retirement plans - she was going to be re-running old strips with occasional new framing sequences; however, it has ended up more like new strips with occasional flashbacks - after her real-life husband recently left her for another woman.

So I put the question about this strip to you: poor timing, or parting shot?

Either way, sometimes you really are better off paying no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Maybe I really have been living in a cave?

It's 2007. I'm 31 years old. How am I just now discovering Guided by Voices and Neutral Milk Hotel? You people are supposed to keep me informed!

Pretty Sketchy - Fred Hembeck and the power of Shazam!

In honor of the announcement of this:

900 pages squiggle-kneed goodness from the pen of Fred Hembeck for just $24.99, due out in February, today's Pretty Sketchy is a piece from the man himself.

The original Captain Marvel, drawn by Fred, and commissioned for me by my wife Erin for our second wedding anniversary back in 2005.

The moral of the story is twofold: 1.) Fred Hembeck is awesome, and you should buy his book; and 2.) my wife is awesome for commissioning a piece from one of my favorite cartoonists ever for an anniversary present. Life is good sometimes.

The Dig List - 10/14/07

Haven't done one of these in awhile, and between DCBS and a semi-regular local comics & collectibles show, I've had a nice stack of fun comics to read lately. So here are some (hopefully) brief thoughts on some of those, possibly spoilery.

New(ish) stuff first:

Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Morality TPB - Mmm... metatexty. Could very easily have been one long "But comics were better when we were younger!" rant, but thankfully went the "there's still life in these characters, and interesting stories can still be told with them, even if they don't technically fit the newest world order" route instead. Fun story by Brian Azzarello, astoundingly gorgeous art by Cliff Chiang. In a year of excellent - if under the radar - comics stories, this stands out as one of the best.

(Interesting that one of the Architects was supposed to be Grant Morrison, since this was precisely the kind of story he was telling in Animal Man. Did Azzarello use him merely because he was part of the 52/IC/FC team, or was it a subtle, tongue-in-cheek way of saying we often eventually turn into that which we once railed against?)

First in Space - The story of Ham, the first chimp shot into space by the U.S. as a test for the Mercury program. Cute, if slight, telling of the story. Could be fun to read with the kids, provided your ready to explain to them what happened to those chimps in the unsuccessful ground-testing exercises. A good read on an interesting subject. Makes me really want to read Laika from First Second now.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century 6 - Seriously, couldn't they just call this LSH Adventures? Anyway, the animated Legion (all of it, for once) meets (and fights) the 31st Century Green Lantern Corps, including future co-Lantern of Sector 2814 (and dual legacy member), Jordana Gardner. She must take after Guy's side of the family more than Hal's, since she's a really cool character. I hope we get to see more of her (and her Superman fanboy co-Lantern) in future issues. And they resist the typical Johnny DC book urge to end the story with everyone learning A Valuable Lesson, so bonus points for that. I know the books are aimed at younger kids, but even they know when they're being talked down to, DC.

All New Atom 15 - In which our man Ryan Choi is plucked - blissfully and literally - from the Search for Ray Palmer snoozefest and returned to more interesting things. Is Gail getting all metatexty on us, too? Long story short, still great, and at its best when allowed to be its own entity, not just another crossover vehicle.

Spirit 10 - The fourth-wall-breaking framing sequence was fun, and something Eisner himself would've been proud of, I'm sure (again with the meta!), but the main story, while a fun idea, was a little too heavy handed with its message, and entirely too of-the-moment to have much shelflife. Nothing ages worse than topicality. Go back and read old Bloom County strips if you don't believe me. Still, even a misstep on this book is better than most everything else, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Johnny Hiro 2 - I was a little less interested in homicidal sushi chefs than I was in the giant monster from the first issue, but still... homicidal sushi chefs is a pretty great idea. Mix with a fun main character, one of the sweetest love interests in any comic today, a plot centered around keeping food writer and Iron Chef judge extraordinaire Jeffrey Steingarten happy, and a couple of Alton Brown cameos, and you've definitely got Fun Comics.

Blue Beetle 18 & 19 - Loved the first two trades, promised I'd keep reading in that format, picked these up on a whim because I wanted to see if the quality kept up... and I'm completely hooked. Enough that I may just cave and follow the monthly, because honestly, this book has everything I'm looking for in regular superhero comics, and I don't see the point in denying myself that. Also, it seems like one of those perpetually "on the cancellation bubble" titles that could probably use my help. I'm thinking of a larger post on just why I love this book so much that I'll write up in the not-too-distant future, but for now, just accept that it's fantastic and well worth your time. As someone said over in Devon's comments a while back, it's "Spider-Man done correctly."

Okay, that's enough eyestrain for you people tonight. I'll cover the older stuff from the comic show later.

It just seems inevitable.

Pushing Daisies is far and away my favorite new show of the season.

It's doomed, isn't it?

I think I preferred it when they lied.

So this morning during the Today show, I saw an ad for some new nasal allergy spray called Veramyst. The usual warnings ran in the small print across the bottom of the screen - use as directed, consult your doctor, discontinue if blah blah blah. However, there was one that stood out:

"We are not exactly certain how Veramyst works."

Now this is either the greatest drug commercial on-screen warning ever or the scariest. I haven't decided yet. I guess I should appreciate the honesty behind the statement, and the laws that required it, but it's far more unsettling than reassuring. It sounds more like the starting point for an SNL commercial parody than a real ad... didn't "Happy Fun Ball" start more or less the same way?

In the end, I know that this sort of approach in advertising is trying to protect me, but honestly, I'd rather they just made shit up, even if it was something completely outlandish. If they can ask me to believe elves make cookies in trees, then maybe they can also tell me that gnomes make nasal spray in a sylvan glen.

Freebies and the Beans! And Fashion, I guess?

My favorite bit out of Tom Spurgeon's great interview with Larry Marder:

"I’m going to concentrate on Beanworld for the immediate future. The old trade paperbacks are mostly out of print. So one of my most immediate tasks is to get all the previously published material back in print in a viable format for today’s marketplace. Plus, the material that would have made up the fifth collection was never published at all. And there are various other Beanworld odds and ends floating around that are probably worth being collected too."
More Beanworld is a good thing, but bringing the previous material back into print, especially the stuff that didn't get collected the first time around (and that I have still yet to find in single issues)? That makes me very happy indeed. Hoo-hoo-ha and a hoka-hoka-hey!

Good comics that have been printed in the past but you can now enjoy for free on the inter-ma-net:

New Alex Ross design for Captain America's costume:

Old Alex Ross design for movie Spider-Man's costume (unused):

Let's see... colored bits on the head, shoulder, torso, and fists, with everything else just black. There's a recycling joke dying to be made, but I'm just not that snarky today. Feel free to come up with your own.

Not that I even dislike that Cap uniform all that much, per se. I just think it's a little too obviously derivative of both his own work and Archie Comics' the Shield. And way too shiny. And the gun's dumb. And I definitely like the old one better. And the black Captain/U.S. Agent costume. And the Ultimate costume. In fact, I think I like the Ultimate costume best of all, which is weird because I hate the Ultimates. Go figure.

But for a non-Steve Rogers Captain America, I think it's alright. Not great, but alright. Passable, anyway. The shininess has got to go, though. As someone over on the Comic Geek Speak boards said, the glare makes it looks like a luge outfit.

Pretty Sketchy - Snorkling with Tom and Lily

Colored pencil sketch full-blown work of art by Tom Beland on the title page of the first True Story Swear To God collection, "Chances Are." See, when Erin and I got married, I wanted to give copies of this book as gifts to our wedding party, and I thought it'd be cool to see if I could get 'em signed. I contacted Beland directly, he agreed and also offered to draw a little sketch in 'em, too.

I get an email a few days later saying "I kicked things up a notch. Hope you like the results." Well, first of all, I think this counts as several notches, and second, damn, who wouldn't like results like this? This is the copy of the book he threw in as a gift to us; I don't have scans of the drawings from the other books, but trust me, they're equally amazing.

That Beland fella? Class act.

My Essential Juliana Hatfield Discography

Building off of my post from the other day, here's what I consider to be essential listening for those of you out there wanting to explore the music of the excellent Ms. Hatfield for yourselves. This is by no means complete - and won't be particularly enriching if you're looking for anything in the way of decent rock criticism - but I like this, and hope you will, too. And if you do, there's plenty of other material out there worth checking out on your own.

Become What You Are (recorded under the name The Juliana Hatfield Three) - As I said earlier, the album that started it all for me, the one that shook my 17 year old life to its core (in a good way). Hook-laden alterna-pop that's alternately quiet and powerful, and occasionally both at the same time. The one CD in my collection I'd immediately go out and re-buy if it were broken/lost/stolen. Out of print, I think, but still pretty easy to find

Hey, Babe - Her solo debut. Musically, probably a better, tighter album than BWYA, but I discovered this later, so I lack that initial connection with it. Unsurprisingly, it still feels very much like a Blake Babies records, but the blueprint for her future releases is pretty much laid out here.

Universal Heartbeat - Came out just as the Alternative wave of the early 90s was starting die down, so it wasn't nearly as well-received as it probably should have been. The first third of the album is very strong, I'd even say almost flawless, but then songs alternate between very good and decent-but-not-memorable. The highlights outshine the lesser bits, though.

Bed - Lots of fuzz, feedback, and rawr on this. After her anticipated album God's Foot failed to materialize and an EP called Do Not Disturb came and went on a tiny label, I suspect she had a lot of anger to get out, and she did so here. Very late 80s/early 90s Boston alternative scene sound on this, and it suits her very well.

In Exile Deo - Sort of like Hey Babe or Become What You Are, but 10-15 years later. Killer power-pop hooks, melodies that nest in your brain, and clever lyrics, but benefiting from the experience and maturity those years brought with them. A return to form, but in a good way.

With Other Folks:
Blake Babies: Innocence and Experience and Sunburn - If you're unfamiliar with the Blake Babies and want an idea of who they were from start to finish, go with Innocence and Experience, a best-of compilations that also includes some demos, covers, and a live track or two. If you want the band at their best, or just want to hear one of the greatest under-appreciated alt-rock albums ever, Sunburn is the way to go. It's the perfect power-pop confection.

The Lemonheads: It's a Shame About Ray - Juliana plays bass and sings back-up here, and her presence is felt strongly throughout the album in terms of both sound and the general, I don't know, feel of the songs themselves. Also, IMHO, the best album from the Lemonheads' entire catalogue (which is pretty great in and of itself)... coincidence? Nope.

Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits - An album of cartoon theme song covers recorded by a variety of well-chosen bands and artists: Liz Phair & Material Issue did "The Banana Splits" theme, Matthew Sweet recorded "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?," and so forth. Juliana teamed up with Tanya Donnelly on the "Josie and the Pussycats" theme song, and it's about as awesome as you'd imagine.

Some Girls: Feel It - A side project with fellow Blake Baby Freda Love and Heidi Gluck from The Pieces. More power-poppy goodness. If you like the rest of the stuff above, you'll like this. 'Nuff said.

Juliana Hatfield & Frank Smith: Sittin' in a Tree EP - Juliana has a voice and guitar style well-suited for Alt.Country, so it's unsurprising that this team-up with Alt.Country band Frank Smith is quite good. Captures the sound, but leaves the twang at home. Always a good thing.

Other stuff worth checking out:

As I said, God's Foot, the follow-up to Universal Heartbeat, was never released. Most (if not all) leaked out onto the internet a few years later, and though the quality of the recordings that made it out weren't great, they certainly support the theory that it would have been among her very best albums. "Can't Kill Myself," a love song about how she could no longer even consider suicide because she doesn't trust anyone to look after her dog, is particularly good.

Her spoken word recording of Jack Kerouac's "Silly Goofball Pomes" from the Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness CD is freakin' adorable.

There's a live cover of the Jayhawks' "Blue" that's absolutely worth taking the time to find. I'm telling you, she's really good at the Alt.Country thing.

"Number One," a non-album track she released through her website a year or two ago, is one of the better record company kiss-off songs I've ever heard. I'd suspect it has its roots in the God's Foot debacle, but I'm not 100% sure.


Okay, so I pretty much dismissed 30 Rock after the second episode last year. Now, though, after being convinced I should give it another shot, I've been working my way through the Season 1 DVDs and have watched last night's season premiere, and I have come to the conclusion that the me of last year was either stupid, insane, high on crack, or possibly some combination of all three, because I was clearly wrong. This show is, in fact, the best comedy on television. I love it so much I want to take it out behind a middle school and get it pregnant.*

* Okay, so that last bit was a little desperate on my part. See, I read somewhere that Tina Fey occasionally Googles lines from the show to see if people are using them online, and I think it would be cool if she saw that and left a comment. It'd be even cooler if she came over to my house and gave me big hugs, but given the realities of our schedules, geographic locations, and family situations, I'll settle for a blog comment. But all pandering aside, it's a good show. Watch it. Don't be dumb like I was. It's good for your mind grapes.**

** And there I go again.

Tell me something I really wanna know. Take me somewhere I really wanna go.

We all have that one musician or band we love above all others. We read all the articles, we go to the shows when time, money, and opportunity allow, and we acquire every track we can, right down to the most throwaway of B-sides. For me - and this will come as no shock to you regulars out there - that musician is Juliana Hatfield.

I type about her a lot on this blog, and the reason is pretty simple - I like her a whole damn lot. Not in any sort of creepy, stalkery, building a shrine in my basement sort of way, but there's definitely a lot of love in my heart for this woman and her music.

And it all started as a fluke, really.

In early 1994, Juliana was touring in support of the Juliana Hatfield Three record "Become What You Are," and said tour was making a stop at the University of Maine in Orono. I was a senior at Bangor High School at the time, and plans were made with friends to go to the show. It didn't matter that I didn't know much about the woman and had maybe heard one of her songs on the radio all of one time... it was a chance to see a half-decent concert in the Greater Bangor area. That sort of thing happened, um, never. It never happened in the Bangor area, or at least infrequently enough to seem like never. So I was happy to go along; even if I ended up not liking the music that much, it was a night out with friends, and one that would most likely end up at the local truck stop after the show. Music, companionship, and late night curly fries... life doesn't get much better then that when you're 17. Sounds pretty fab at 31, for that matter. But I digress.

So we go to the show, and the opening band was called Cold Water Flat. All I remember is that they weren't very good and that the head of one of their guitars had a vaguely Buckwheat-like look because the dude didn't cut the excess string. A bad opener can set the mood for an entire show, so I was worried when Juliana and her band took the stage. But that trepidation disappeared quickly, and she pretty much had me from note one. Not just because she was cute - though it certainly didn't hurt that she was... the whole "just got out of bed and threw my hair up in a ponytail" looks he was working looked quite good on her - but because these songs that I had never heard before just grabbed hold of me and instantly worked their way into my head, almost as if they were saying, "We're your favorites now. Get used to it."

So obviously, as soon as I had some money again, buying "Become What You Are" became Priority A1. And honestly, I don't think it came out of my CD player for weeks thereafter. The melodies had these hooks that I couldn't get out of my mind, not that I'd have been inclined to even try. And some of the themes of the lyrics - desperation to escape small town ennui, the desire for acceptance from a would-be role model who just isn't interested, loving an artist's work so much you wish you could swallow it whole and make it a part of you - well, I was 17. These words spoke to the daily melodrama of that age. I could relate. This record made me say, "Yes, that's it exactly. This woman gets it."

And that's really the root of all this, isn't it? There's that album you hear as a teenager that lets you know you're not going through it all alone, that your problems are ultimately universal, so hang in there and we'll try and understand it together. Most of the people of my generation (at least the ones I knew, anyway) discovered this a few years earlier with Nirvana's "Nevermind," and to a lesser degree, Pearl Jam's "Ten," I suppose. But I always was a little bit behind the curve. And I tend to prefer a catchy melody and an elfin voice to feedback and growls most days. I did get there, though, and that's the important thing.

And so, I did what everyone else does whenever they finally find the voice that Gets It: I became a fan for life. It's not like we ever have any choice in the matter; I never felt like I did, anyway. It just sort of felt like a foregone conclusion.

And though the experience has never really been repeated - as good as some previous or later albums may be, they've never had quite the same power over me as "Become What You Are" - it has always been rewarding. The few concerts of hers that I've been able to see have all been pretty terrific (my absolute favorite moment from any of them being a solo acoustic version of "Spin the Bottle" that she began her encore with at a show in Providence). And I even got to meet her once at a short Newbury Comics in-store show. Part of me just wanted to give her a big bearhug and thank her profusely for all that her music has meant to me, but I was able to reign it in (thankfully, as she looked overly modest and clearly uncomfortable in dealing with fans), talk to her briefly, get an autograph and the picture at the top of this post (her dog Betty, by the way, was honestly one of the 5 coolest dogs I've ever encountered; Juliana may be uncomfortable with notoriety, but Betty is 100% rock star).

It was a brief, quiet moment, but it was better that way. A lot of times it's enough to know that someone contributed something important to your life, rather than try to tell the person in question precisely how they did so. Explanations aren't even necessary in these cases: remember, they Get It.

Free Rom! Again!

So just a day after joining Chris Sims's "Free Rom" crusade, I read Uncanny X-Men #187 in my copy of Essential X-Men Vol. 5. For the unfamiliar, the issue depicts Storm and Forge (and eventually, Colossus and Rogue) fighting Rom's alien witch enemies, the Dire Wraiths. These panels appear near the end of the story (sorry for the crap scanning):

(Click to biggie size.)

So wait... Marvel can't reprint an issue of Power Man & Iron Fist guest-starring Rom, or presumably his actual series for that matter, but he and his gal Starshine can appear (and get namechecked) in this X-Men book? How does that work? Is it because this is just a cameo appearance? Is it because they end up being holograms created by Forge to fool the Dire Wraiths? (Oh, um, spoiler, I guess?) Were the folks at Hasbro willing to let a just a panel or two slide? Does X-Men money adequately cover the rights fees needed for this one appearance? And what about Scarecrow's brain?

Whatever the reason(s), I'm thinking that if they can do it once, they can do it again on a much grander scale. Come on, Marvel! Stop spending all your time and energy fretting over superhero marriages and give us what we really want: Disintegrator Gun-Wielding Toaster Men From Outer Space. If nothing else, you should be proud of the fact that your employees were able to wrangle a fun comic book out of a toy so obviously terrible as this one:

The Magic Box started serving up new brain junk food. Yay!

There were new shows on last week. I watched some of them. Here's what I thought, in brief:

(New shows)

Chuck - Interesting premise and a likable cast, but for some reason, this didn't really grab me. I'm still not sure why. Maybe it's just a victim of its own hype? This was the debut I was looking forward to the most, and it kinda came off like Alias meets The 40 Year Old Virgin, two things that were alright, I guess, but never really grabbed me. Disappointing, but I'm willing to give it a few more episodes. Especially if they keep Julia Ling in the supporting cast as the one female member of the Nerd Herd. She's really cute, and was one of the few bright spots on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip last year (as the cello prodigy obsessed with Nate Cordry's character).

Reaper - Conversely, this was the show I had the least expectations for, and I think I liked this the best of any of the brand new shows I watched last week. Slacker has his soul sold to the devil and he's forced to hunt down Hell's fugitives? And it's on the CW? Sounded like a pass to me, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. The cast has great chemistry, the writing was snappy, and the effects were surprisingly decent. And Ray Wise is just a show-stealer, isn't he? A little wary about how this will handle without Kevin Smith's direct guidance, but it's off to a great start.

Bionic Woman - Honestly? I lost interest pretty quickly. Before she even got her bionics, even. I didn't care about this woman even before she got her cyborg on... surprisingly, I decided that even robot parts couldn't improve my opinions, and not even the promise of more Katee Sackhoff could keep me going (throw in some Grace Park and Nicky Clyne, and maybe you'd have a deal. Maybe.).

The Big Bang Theory - Didn't even make it to the opening credits for this. Poor Johnny Galecki. Did he need the work that badly?

Torchwood - Well, it's new to me, especially since I'm a few weeks behind. But so far, so good. Maybe it tries a little too hard at times to show how edgy and adult it is with all the swearing and sex, but I like that it's attempting to carve out its own niche while still playing with the concepts of the Doctor Who universe. And it stands alone quite well, so that you could pick up on this pretty easily if you haven't watched Who before. And building the show around Captain Jack Harkness, easily one of the most likable Who companions ever, and the very relatable audience-indentification character Gwen, was a very good idea indeed. Looking forward to seeing where this goes... and I hope we eventually meet the cranky old guy at Torchwood 3!

(Even shorter thoughts on returning shows)

How I Met Your Mother - Glad to see they picked up mid-sentence from last season's finale. Still one of the best comedies on TV, and probably only second to 30 Rock as one of the most unappreciated. And Mandy Moore made a surprisingly hot punk girl.

Heroes - Started a little slowly, and Claire's new probable love interest was pretty creepy, but off to a good start. I hope Sulu is okay!

Bones - After his recurring role last season, I was hoping Stephen Fry would be a series regular. Oh, well. Even without him, this was still fun, and laid the groundwork for an entertainingly creepy storyline for the season.

House - I know the man is supposed to need his team, but honestly, I didn't miss them. At all. And I thought it was pretty funny that even without them, he still couldn't get away without someone thinking the patient might have lupus. Still not something I'll watch regularly, but I'll enjoy it when I do see it.

CSI - Can we please stop with the "cast member in peril" season cliffhangers now? Or if they're gonna do it, at least have the stones to actually kill off a regular. I'm really losing interest in this show as time goes on.

Finally, a cause I can support wholeheartedly.

Seriously, Marvel. Pay the nice people at (presumably) Hasbro the probable pittance for the Rom rights and move everyone's favorite Toaster Man with a Disintegrator from Comics Limbo and into Reprint Heaven where he belongs!

And while we're at it, I want some Essential Master of Kung Fu, so throw some money at the Sax Rohmer people. And whoever owns Micronauts these days, too.