Bernie Wrightson; Chuck Berry

When I was working at FantaCo, owner Tom Skulan had Bernie Wrightson do the covers for the FantaCon comic conventions in 1980 and 1981. (The artist was going as Berni at the time to distinguish himself from another person.) He was a guest at three shows, at least.

FantaCo also published a comic called Deja Vu in 1982, featuring a front cover by Bernie Wrightson and two 1971 stories, The Last Hunters and King of the Mountain, Man, plus works by others in the artistic pantheon, Michael Wm. Kaluta and Jeff Jones. That was edited by Mitch Cohn, so my dealing with Bernie was usually a hello before passing the phone on to Mitch, who felt as though he were in heaven.

But I’ve been even current comic professionals have expressed the same sensation. As my friend, illustrator Fred Hembeck put it:

“I found myself invited to the already annual Wrightson Halloween party in a nearby town. I’ll admit to being a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of rubbing elbows with Bernie and a passel of his highly accomplished peers–after all, I was just a guy who drew squiggles on character’s knees, and he was, well, he was Bernie Wrightson. But my nerves were soon soothed, as Bernie was such a nice guy that he made me feel totally relaxed, even as he stood holding a butcher’s knife while wearing a blood-spattered apron as we pleasantly chatted (it was a Halloween party, remember).
“Over the next decade or so, there were plenty more Wrightson shindigs, holiday-centric or not, as well as a weekly volleyball game attended by Bernie and a host of other local cartooning notables. After awhile, I almost got used to Bernie just being that nice guy I was trying to set up at the front of the net in hopes of scoring on a Wrightson spike. Almost. But I never quite shook the awe I had–and continue to have–for the work he did that so inspired me during key years when I was ramping up my own attempts to get published.”

EVERYONE I read online, including Elaine Lee and Wendy Pini, spoke about how nice Bernie Wrightson was. Some DID complain about his limited danceable music collection: “A little Blues Brothers can go a long way,” someone wrote, and made him mixed tapes.But even in my limited contact, I always knew him to be a sweet guy.

And generous, famous for encouraging younger talent, both artists and writers. Steve Bissette revealed that when “DC in its benevolence sent Bernie a bonus check out of the blue, Bernie would split that bonus check up and mail checks to Alan Moore, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, and me, and when asked what for, he laughed, saying ‘I didn’t earn this, I know this bonus was because of what you guys did on the character, but don’t tell anyone about this because you don’t want DC to have a reason not to send another check!'”

Unfortunately, the enormously talented artist Bernie Wrightson died March 19 of a brain tumor at the age of 68. Ugh, I had a friend die from that; not pleasant. Here’s the notification.

His artistry on Swamp Thing and the stuff at Warren Publications was legendary. Tom Skulan referred to him as “the greatest horror comic artist ever.” A fellow artist said, “That might be Wrightson’s greatest gift to us: no matter how terrible the image he portrayed, it was always captivatingly beautiful.” That’s why I was happy to do my part to keep Creepshow selling when its publisher had given up on it.
***

Chuck Berry was 90 when he died, and I was filled with all sorts of contradictory feelings. On one hand, he is, to my mind, THE single person who had the greatest impact on creating rock and roll. He took the blues that wasn’t, in his words, blue enough, added some country chops, and voila. He was a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The legendary duck walk, developed when he fell on stage and was getting up, was amazing. His music is literally in space.

He was an obvious influence on scores of artists, such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, with the former two as subjects of lawsuits by Berry. Here are
20 of his essential songs, and it doesn’t include his only #1 pop hit, 1972’s My Ding-a-Ling.

But he had his demons, which are touched upon in this article. There was the stuff with a 14-year-old girl back in the 1950s, though the use of the Mann Act to prosecute him, usually applied to high profile cases from boxer Jack Johnson to former governor Eliot Spitzer, was troubling. Much later, there were the bathroom cameras.

The article mentions, among other things, the 1987 concert movie about him, Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, which I saw in the cinema at the time, and I found the musician, to my surprise, rather unlikable. He seemed glib in giving honorifics to almost everyone, he botched Robert Cray’s name, he made Julian Lennon look bad, he practically drooled over Linda Ronstadt.

He was to be kind, complicated.
***
I was living in New York City during the summer of the Son of Sam killings, so of course I was reading Jimmy Breslin, from then and for probably a decade or more. But his most famous piece was much earlier: Digging JFK grave was his honor.

Movie review: I Am Not Your Negro

i am not your negroI saw I Am Not Your Negro at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany a couple weeks ago with my wife and a friend. I wrote a decent review, which I have managed to lose. So I’m cobbling together something else.

From Rotten Tomatoes:
“In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends-Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material.”

I remember watching James Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show, one of the clips used in this movie. Peck uses the choices of film segments very impressively. It’s not just video from 1965 when Baldwin debated William F. Buckley. It’s bits of old movies, and scenes from Ferguson, Missouri.

As my buddy Ken Screven wrote, “Even though Baldwin died in 1987, and much of his words contained in the movie reach back 50 years, the issues Baldwin talks about are still with us, raw and festering in the minds of many of Trump nation… This is a significant spotlight on an America we thought no longer existed.”

Interestingly, the RT critics’ score is 98% positive, but the viewers’, only 84%. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic wrote: “‘I Am Not Your Negro'” is important. And urgent. And almost certainly unlikely to be seen by the people who would benefit from it most.” Rick Bentley of the Fresno Bee: “Whether it’s Baldwin speaking or the readings done by Samuel L. Jackson, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ pulls no punches. It’s painful for a society that declares itself to be educated to be forced to look at how ignorant it has been and remains.”

The one caveat, I suppose, is that maybe America should all go out and buy it on DVD, because there were more than a few times in the watching when I thought, “I’d like to see that part again.” Here is a trailer of the Oscar-nominated documentary.

Literally sick of the topic

A local writer posted about stopping with the no-citations copy and paste stuff on Facebook. “Opinions, OK. Assertions of fact passed along without some source are rumors…Don’t play.”

I replied: “I suppose you’re right, although sometimes I think the info is SO obvious. e.g. someone was complaining about the proposed federal budget cutting EPA, et al, and someone else popped, “Citation, please.” Really? OK, here’s CBS, oh, and here’s WSJ and Common Dreams and… Are there no agreed upon facts anymore?”

Someone else chimed in: “It’s pathetic when Facebook friends have to demand higher standards for reposting than the President of the United States.”

And THAT, I suddenly realized, is one of the reasons it’s been such a tough winter. I wonder if it’s made me literally sick.

My friend Dan Van Riper has been saying for a while now what will bring a country down is “looting by the elites.” The draconian budget that will, among other things, cut medical research 20%, and the awful health plan are going to destroy our country if passed anywhere near their present forms. Why offer such an orgy of unnecessary cruelty?

Yale historian Timothy Snyder warns If We Don’t Act Now, Fascism Will Be on Our Doorstep; comments about fascism always seem to irritate people, but if the regime fits… And who IS running the show?

Most people who have been POTUS have stayed within a fairly wide swath of what one could call “American values.” Not so with this regime, measured by the fact that both GWB and BHO have, uncharacteristically, criticized him. His words before and after the election have inspired a wealth of ugly American behavior.

I won’t even get into his embarrassing behavior with Germany chancellor Angela Merkel or his idiot tweets that required a rare “sort of” apology to the UK’s Theresa May. Some are amused by his behavior, but I’m just horrified.

Last year, I was a believer in the “useful idiot theory”, that they’d dump him as soon as they wreaked the havoc to every agency and gotten their murderous health insurance allocation to the rich passed. But now he’s SO embarrassing on the world stage, and with the “health care” bill in trouble, maybe they need to dump him sooner or later, over some emoluments thing, likely.

(Serious questions that I do not know the answer to: are the tweets on the POTUS accounts buffeted somewhat from libels laws? And is Clarabelle, posting on realClarabelle, more susceptible to libel law?)

In fact, the only thing that makes sense – not “sense” in “that’s a good idea” but some sort of keep himself in power salvo is the Secretary of State’s threat to North Korea. Hey, everybody loves another war, right? Clarabelle will expect the country to rally around their “leader,” and Kim Jung Un is possibly the one head of state even more unhinged.

The “right to be forgotten” bill should be forgotten

Intellectual property lawyer/drummer Paul Rapp noted that a “right to be forgotten” bill has been introduced in the New York legislature. “These laws are based on some supposed ‘human right’ that… says you’re entitled to have embarrassing things in your past ‘forgotten’ on the internet.”

From New York Assembly Bill 5323, introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and, as Senate Bill 4561 by state Senator Tony Avella: “Requires search engines, indexers, publishers and any other persons or entities which make available, on or through the internet or other widely used computer-based network, program or service, information about an individual to remove such information, upon the request of the individual, within thirty days of such request.”

The Washington Post writes:

So, under this bill, newspapers, scholarly works, copies of books on Google Books and Amazon, online encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others) — all would have to be censored whenever a judge and jury found (or the author expected them to find) that the speech was “no longer material to current public debate or discourse” (except when it was “related to convicted felonies” or “legal matters relating to violence” in which the subject played a “central and substantial” role). And of course the bill contains no exception even for material of genuine historical interest; after all, such speech would have to be removed if it was “no longer material to current public debate.” Nor is there an exception for autobiographic material, whether in a book, on a blog or anywhere else. Nor is there an exception for political figures, prominent businesspeople and others.

But the deeper problem with the bill is simply that it aims to censor what people say, under a broad, vague test based on what the government thinks the public should or shouldn’t be discussing. It is clearly unconstitutional under current First Amendment law, and I hope First Amendment law will stay that way (no matter what rules other countries might have adopted).

The website Reason received this blistering analysis from First Amendment attorney Ken White of Brown, White & Osborn (and also of Popehat fame):

This bill is a constitutional and policy disaster that shows no sign that the drafters made any attempt whatsoever to conform to the requirements of the constitution. It purports to punish both speakers and search engines for publishing—or indexing—truthful information protected by the First Amendment. There’s no First Amendment exception for speech deemed “irrelevant” or “inadequate” or “excessive,” and the rules for punishing “inaccurate” speech are already well-established and not followed by this bill. The bill is hopelessly vague, requiring speakers to guess at what some fact-finder will decide is “irrelevant” or “no longer material to current public debate,” or how a fact-finder will balance (in defiance of the First Amendment) the harm of the speech and its relevance. The exceptions are haphazard and poorly defined, and the role of the New York Secretary of State in administering the law is unclear. This would be a bonanza for anyone who wanted to harass reporters, bloggers, search engines, and web sites to take down negative information, and would incentivize such harassment and inflict massive legal costs on anyone who wanted to stand up to a vexatious litigant.

Conversely, the Association for Accountability and Internet Democracy (AAID) supports the bill, saying that “that the Right to Be Forgotten has allowed thousands of victims throughout the European Union to reclaim their dignity and their right to live a normal life unaffected by online exclusion from society.”

I remain unconvinced that the possible value of this legislation outweighs the onerous burden of removing true but supposedly “irrelevant” speech, and as a librarian, I actively oppose this bill.

“You complete me”: Ask Roger Anything

“You complete me.” There was this segment on CBS Sunday Morning the day of the most recent Academy Awards called Why do people love to quote movies?? Reporter Faith Salie does not have that affliction, though her husband does.

I’m only so-so at remembering movie quotes, but I surely know the title quote is from Jerry Maguire, which I saw at the cinema, probably in early 1997. It is specifically from a monologue from the title character (Tom Cruise) to his estranged wife Dorothy ( Renée Zellweger).

It occurred to me that, in some metaphysical way, you all complete me, especially blogwise. This would be a very different experience if you didn’t encourage me with your comments.

And what do I do it repay your kindness? I ask for more, more, MORE! I request that you Ask Roger Anything, and I really do mean anything. Of course it’s also more work for me, but it helps with my self-discovery, so I don’t mind at all. I promise to respond, generally within a month, although the last batch of questions I stretched to less than two weeks ago.

I will answer your questions to the best of my ability, though that may be diminishing, as memories are wont to fade. Obfuscation on my part, though, comes with the territory. You know you like it.

You can leave your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter; for the latter, my name is ersie. If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine; you should e-mail me at rogerogreen (AT) gmail (DOT) com, or send me an IM on FB (make sure it’s THIS Roger Green, the one with the duck) and note that you want to remain unmentioned; otherwise, I’ll assume you want to be cited.

K is for kaleidoscopes (ABC Wednesday)

There are certain things, such as fireworks and kaleidoscopes, that are never as impressive in graphic representation than they are in real life.

If you read the definition, you get no idea just how wonderful kaleidoscopes can be: “An optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces inclined to each other in an angle, so that one or more (parts of) objects on one end of the mirrors are seen as a regular symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end, due to repeated reflection.

“The reflectors (or mirrors) are usually Continue reading

Family health report, March 2017

Anyone get the license plate of the truck than ran me over? Not literally, but…

Let’s back up.

Friday, March 10 – The Daughter was having some muscle pain, and I stayed with her, figuring she was dehydrated or something. But then she developed a fever, and felt lousy, as we tended to her with cold compresses and OTC medicine.

Saturday, March 11 – She seems better. Her fever is gone. She was helping the cleaning for my annual hearts party, which was a lovely event. But beware the two of diamonds! I theorized that she willed herself to be well, because she knew it was important to me.

Sunday, March 12- She’s feeling worse again, and her fever returned. The Wife stayed home with her, while I went to church.

Monday, March 13 – the Wife took the Daughter to the MD, who diagnosed her with strep throat AND either a cold or the flu.

Tuesday, March 14- you may have read how the snow forecast was overblown in the big cities such as Philadelphia and NYC. Well, it wasn’t overblown in much of upstate NY. My hometown of Binghamton got over 30 inches, about 3/4 of a meter, and Albany got a total of 20.5 inches, over half a meter. It was the first time in 36 years, I’m told, that the state closed down, allowing “non-essential” personnel to stay home without having to use a vacation day.

I shoveled the first six inches, no problem. But attacking the next nine was much harder than it should have been. It WAS windy and a near blizzard, but still, I should have been able to handle it. I was grateful for The Wife’s assistance to finish the job. I went to bed early, around 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 15 – I was going to drag myself to work, which, in retrospect, would have been a mistake. But since the Daughter was still recovering, I tended to her. By the afternoon, though, I asked The Wife to take me to the urgent care place. After about three hours there, which included various tests and a chest x-ray, it was determined that I had BOTH pneumonia AND influenza, despite having gotten a flu shot back in November. My wife decided to sleep in the spare room, which I thought was wise.

Thursday, March 16 – Did not sleep well. I was so congested I thought I was suffocating. My attention for anything – the computer, TV – is about 15 minutes. I can’t read a book or anything that requires focus. Oh, my spouse made orange JELL-O with chunks of pineapple! You’d be amazed how for that 10 minutes, how almost happy I was. Being sick will do that.

Friday, March 17 – Tried to write a blog post, but I kept writing the wrong word – “committed” when I mean “commented,”, e.g. I DO know the difference MOST of the time. And it’s exhausting to sit up. We have seven movies (DVDs) we got in anticipation of the snowstorm, but can’t focus enough to watch any of them, but for one we all saw back on Tuesday.

Saturday, March 18 – Lots of strange dreams about aliens, Burger King, the Berman family (my great-aunt Charlotte’s people). The one thing I remember in a dream was that the dreams you have do represent a memory of your life, but it may be an event that has not yet taken place. I think the dreams are a direct result of being dehydrated, probably from some medicine finally kicking in.

This feels like drunk blogging. I’ve started about six posts this week, and, including this one, the number completed so far: one.

Tuesday, I see my primary care physician. Until then, I’m not operating any heavy machinery.

Music Throwback Saturday: Revolver songs

beatles-revolverThe musically influential Beatles had their own sources of inspiration, both predecessors and peers. In reading Steve Turner’s “The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Write,” subtitled “the stories behind every song,” this becomes clear.

The members of the group were quite open about how a piece was transformed into their own creations. Sometimes when you know, you relisten to the Fab Four’s take, you say, “Oh, I hear that NOW,” almost never before that, which was their brilliance; they stole very well.

Sometimes they ripped off themselves. Continue reading

Is it my Irish eyes that are smilin’?

I haven’t scheduled it, but I think I need to take one of those DNA testing kits. I haven’t investigated how precise they are yet, but there are three things I’m hoping to discover:

1) Was the picture on my maternal grandmother’s wall of one of her ancestors, and therefore one of MY ancestors, English or Irish? I’ve heard both.

If the latter, I’d be one of 33.3 million “who claimed Irish ancestry in 2013. This number was more than seven times the population of Ireland itself (4.6 million).”

2) Were ancestors on my fathers side Dutch or “Pennsylvania Dutch,” which is to say, German? Here again, the lore conflicts.

3) I want to get into one of those registers to try ascertain whether I can find a match that will tell me who the biological father of my father is?

Not sure which product, MyHeritage or Family Tree DNA, or LivingDNA or 23andMe or Ancestry.com’s product or something else is the best for the price and will give me the information I want.

Have you folks used any of these products? How satisfied were you with them? What did you learn that you are willing to to share? Your feedback, if any, will probably have an impact in my decision-making.

I’m also curious about why, if you considered doing one of these tests, why you did not? Cost? You already know? Lack of curiosity?

For me, the results might inform my travel plans when/if I ever retire. This is not merely an academic query, though I would like the Daughter, who has relatives she can trace back to the 14th century on her mother’s side, to have a clearer record on her father’s.

Of course, on this St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll always be a bit Irish. They color the Chicago River with my last name, FCOL. Peace from Roger O’Green.

How to center yourself to write

centeringI had a quick question which I’d like to ask:
if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thanks!

First it helps to know what you want to write about. Continue reading