Chuck and Di and Teresa

Like many people, I was up early the morning of July 29, 1981 to watch at least part of the royal wedding. I wasn’t much of a monarchist, but it was one of those world events I felt I should watch.

On a very cold Saturday, January 16, 1982, my friend Jessica, who was a performance artist, poet, and from England, herded her friends to Emmanuel Baptist Church in Albany to do a mock re-enactment. A number of frigid people played members of the royal family and the Spencers. Jessie played Di, I played the Archbishop of Canterbury. Many pictures were being taken and most of us had no real idea to what end.

A month or two later, at the 8th Step Coffee House, then located in the basement of the church I now attend, Jessie did a slide show of the royal wedding, complete with biting narration. It was amazingly funny! In fact, it was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Of course, the real royals got very weird, Chuck and Di split and, 10 years ago, Diana and two others died in Paris.

Not only did I watch the funeral, I got my wife the soundtrack to the funeral – she and Diana were very close in age, and she related to her death largely on that basis.

I’m reminded, too, that Mother Teresa, a Friend of Diana, also died 10 years ago this very week. Her death was practically lost in the headlines over the royal funeral controversy so well played out in the movie The Queen, which I enjoyed last year. Teresa made headlines recently when papers that were released revealed her doubts about her faith. Yet, she did her good works anyway.

Two women, seemingly quite disparate, both of whom had enormous impact in their own way, died a decade ago, and I feel the need to note this, surprisingly to me in the case of the younger one, who I helped to mock years earlier.
***
Richard Jewell died Wednesday, and I was IMMEDIATELY reminded about what one of the, well, accused Duke rapists said: that in HIS obituary, he will be described as “One of the accused Duke rapists”.

ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: Spider-Man 2

That’s right, the middle movie. I could hardly see the third film without having seen the second. And I saw it in a theater. Sort of.

At our vacation place in the Berkshires, there is a 40-seat theater in one of the buildings, showing some interesting-sounding films. As I mentioned, early in the week, Carol took Lydia to see Charlotte’s Web, but Lydia found the darkened theater experience too intense and so they bailed. The first Fantastic Four film was also showing that week, but it seemed that I should pick the movie I most wanted to see. I liked the first Spidey film and own it on VHS (pre-ownership of the DVD player), so on June 28, I head over to the movie theater.

In retrospect, it seemed almost predestined that I see the film on that day. The day before (June 27), it was Tobey Maguire’s 32nd birthday, and he appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly. I didn’t see that, but I did see the next day’s trivia question, which was asking for the name of Spider-Man’s alter ego. The contestant on the show muffed it, but anyone who’s worked in a comic book store, or has collected the four-color item MUST know Peter Parker. Moreover, the movie was showing on cable that week. TWICE I saw the scene when Mary Jane Watson says to Peter, “Don’t disappoint me.”

So, I get a tiny bag of free popcorn and sit in the theater with maybe a dozen people. And I’m liking the movie until six older people come into the room. It IS pitch black, except for the light from the screen, and they loudly make it known that it’s dark, all through that birthday party scene. I didn’t mind it so much when they were seeking their seats -though GETTING THERE ON TIME would have alleviated the problem – but their recapping (“Boy, it sure is dark in here – I had trouble finding my seat” AFTER they were all in place was REALLY annoying. I mean, SHUT. UP. ALREADY. I thought that, didn’t say it.

The rest of the film went down easy, with a very credible villain in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, the right amount of personal tension in Peter Parker’s life, especially vis a vis Mary Jane, great action sequences, and the continuing Harry Osborn thread. Great balance, great pacing.

Roger Ebert gave this film four stars. Entertainment Weekly gave the DVD release an A-, and put it on its list of Top 25 action films. Despite the early distraction, a very enjoyable film.

(And there was popcorn left at the end, so I took another tiny bag to go.)

ROG

Underplayed Vinyl: Michael Jackson


Michael Jackson’s 1979 album, Off the Wall, is better than Michael Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller.

OFF THE WALL
1. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
2. Rock With You
3. Workin’ Day And Night
4. Get On The Floor
5. Off The Wall
6. Girlfriend
7. She’s Out Of My Life
8. I Can’t Help It
9. It’s The Falling In Love
10. Burn This Disco Out

THRILLER
1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
2. Baby Be Mine
3. The Girl Is Mine
4. Thriller
5. Beat It
6. Billie Jean
7. Human Nature
8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
9. The Lady in My Life

Actually, they are, in some ways, similar albums. Both start with my favorite groove on the album, followed by a more midtempo sound, though I prefer Rock with You. Both have ballads that are OK, though She’s Out of My Life is more appealing to me.

Now, Thriller does have Beat It and Billie Jean, both of which appear on some Rolling Stone list of top 500 tunes. But I will contend that the popularity and import of those songs (and of the title song as well) was fueled as much by the videos as the music.

Where the older album has the great Workin’ song in the third slot, Thriller has This Girl Is Mine. One can argue about the quality of the song – I don’t think much of the dopey dialogue between Paul McCartney and Michael – but listening to it, it just has a whole different feel from what goes on before or after. (The Macca-penned Girlfriend may be the weakest track on Off the Wall.)

And the title tune Thriller is great theater, but is it a great song?

Ultimately, Off the Wall is better because it ends stronger. Instead of the sappy ballad, I’m burning that disco out. There may be better songs on Thriller, but Off the Wall is more consistently solid.

Incidentally, Off the Wall was not a piker of an album commercially, as it sold 7 million copies in the U.S. alone; Thriller was just a monster album, selling 3.5 times as many in this country.

Today is MJ’s 49th birthday.
ROG

Chronicles of the Fantastic Four Chronicles


(This conversation will be limited to the Chronicles series. FantaCo had also put out Splatter Movies and Hembeck 6, among other items, in this period.)

The X-Men Chronicles was a hit for FantaCo Enterprises in 1981. We had printed 50,000 copies and had presold at least 35.000 to the distributors. And not only did it also sell as an individual item in the store and in the mail order, we were able to trade some for Marvel, DC and other companies’ product, particularly underground comics from Last Gasp, a company our comics distributor, Seagate, wasn’t dealing with.
So what do we do as a follow-up? We decided to do two books, the Daredevil Chronicles, which Mitch Cohn would edit, and the Fantastic Four Chronicles, which would be my baby. I’m not going to talk much more about the former, except that I thought it was terribly Frank Miller-heavy. One of the Mullaney brothers from Eclipse Comics, Jan or Dean, apparently agreed; he wrote to say he read the book and threw it in the trash. (The letter, I think, appeared in the Spider-Man Chronicles, or maybe the Avengers Chronicles.)

The stuff below in italics is directly from my journal:

September 2, 1981: I call John Byrne, who agreed to write an article and do a centerspread, in addition to the front cover. And I called Jack Kirby, who agreed to fill out a questionnaire about the FF. “What a coup!” I wrote.
October 16: George Perez agrees to do the back cover for the FF book.
October 22: Receive Byrne front cover, centerspread and article.
November 5: Call Jay Zilber re: Wein/Wolfman interview. Then called Jack Kirby re: Q&A – he said he couldn’t answer questions re: FF, Marvel, only re: new projects. I panicked and got upset and angry. By that point, we probably had sent out info on the book to the comic distributors, indicating its content.Mitch calmed me down & said “Why don’t you do interview on Kirby now with a caveat. He [Kirby] agreed to that & also said I could use the rather nasty stuff re: FF 236 & his lack of prior knowledge that it would be used. Typed up new questions.
November 18: Michael Hobson of Marvel called to OK licensing on the FF and DD books, and that the company had “no problem” with the non-licensed X-Men Chronicles.
November 23: Get Kirby response.
December 17: I was going to do some editing (e.g., Joe Fludd’s lengthy piece, Jay Zilber’s just-arrived article), but instead spent most of the day looking unsuccessfully for a letter from Mike Hobson of Marvel giving us permission for licensing, which Tom needs for another bank loan.
O.K., I lied. I AM going to talk a little about Splatter Movies. This was a book written by an author named John McCarty that was really Tom’s baby; Mitch, Raoul and I were all a bit disturbed by it, although I did end up up proofreading it. And it turned out to be the most profitable thing FantaCo published in my tenure there. But at $8.95, it was initially a slow road selling to our distributors, who, after all, were comic book folks. This created a cash flow problem, for which the loan was to address.

January 3, 1982: Type the FF checklist at home while I watch football (Cincinnati beat the Bills, the 49ers beat the Giants; I doubt I was happy about that.)
January 7: I assume we found the Hobson letter eventually because Tom was able to secure $25,000 note from the bank so we’ll be able to pay $8700 printing bill for Splatter Movies.
January: Get various articles and artwork, not including Perez back cover. At some point, I call John Byrne, who allows us to use the front cover as the back cover as well, for free. Byrne was not universally loved, but I always had very good dealings with him; the FFC was not the last time. After the covers go to the printer, Perez cover FINALLY shows up, and I end up replacing content from one of the inside covers. (I’m thinking it was a Joe Fludd piece, because it seemed ironic that such a Perez devotee would be bumped by Perez himself.)
January 26: Tom called accounts (Bud Plant, NMI, Pacific). We now have fewer than 100 out of 50,000 X-Men Chronicles, and anticipate print runs of 70,000 each for FF and DD (the latter, eventually set at 80,000).
March 1: Start shipping out FFC, DDC orders, which takes a week, between the wholesale and retail orders.
March 5: Tom had made up 100 copies each of FFC and DDC in white paper stock, rather than newsprint. Gave 25 each to Mitch and me, 2 each to Rocco and Raoul. Somewhere I still have some of these.
March 15: Returning artwork, paying contributors, sending out review copies.
March 22: For Spider-Man Chronicles, got a Fred Hembeck to interview Roger Stern.
March 26: Mitch called Jim Shooter, who told Mitch in no uncertain terms (“What the f*** were you guys thinking about?”) that they at Marvel were unhappy with the Chronicles series, that there can be no licensing in the future, and that we’d “better be careful” in the future…No [more] Chronicles would be disastrous because another loan was contingent on publishing them…Tom called a patent attorney.
Oddly, a couple months later, there WAS further conversation with Mike Hobson about licensing, but nothing ever came to fruition, and the Avengers and Spider-Man Chronicles came out license-free, with no hassle from Marvel. We DID have another legal tussle, however, but that’s for another day.

In retrospect – let’s hear it for retrospect – I should have either 1) called Marvel about the content of the Kirby interview or 2) pulled the Kirby interview. The former just didn’t cross my mind. The latter did, but I was resistant because it would have meant resoliciting the FFC to the distributors and a costly delay.

I wrote this today for two reasons. One: FantaCo’s birthday was August 28, 1978; the store survived 20 years. The other is that Jack Kirby’s birthday was August 28, 1917, which means he would have been 90 today; he passed on February 6, 1994. Here’s a picture of Jack from the 1982 San Diego comic con, taken by Alan Light.

Zimmerman and MacManus

I just heard this weekend that Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello are performing together in Albany on October 6. My wife seems not only disinclined to go, but unimpressed with the teaming, even though she actually bought me Costello’s North, mostly, I think, because it was, in part, a love letter to one of her favorite singers, Diana Krall.

So, I want to go, but I don’t particularly want to go alone. If you’re in the area (or you want to travel to Albany to see them, please e-mail me.

Internet Interview

I was invited to do one of those Internet surveys to introduce my blog to a wider audience, though, at this point, I don’t know how. And so I did, typo and all. And I’m supposed to solicit you all in voting for me. I guess I’ll never be a politician, because I haven’t campaigned for myself since 11th grade.

The toughest question in the survey was picking some blogs that I read. I was supposed to list at least three, and picked 10; I could have easily picked 10 more, except that I had to rush out of the house to get to work. So, I thought they’d include my list; no, they just wanted to invite them to be interviewed as well. Gordon, you may have gotten invited that way.

That list included the usual suspects, if you’ve read this blog a while. Although I did deliberately pass on Mike’s Progressive Ruin, not only because a gazillion people are reading him already, and because many of the sites I listed also are linked to him, but also because, and this is only an allegation, that Mike Sterling Is A Big Cheater Pants. Here, Mikey, look at some cute animals.
***
Why don’t you just assume anything I’ve stolen recently came from Jaquandor unless I say otherwise?

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Kelly interviews Lefty. Even better than Lefty interviewing himself.

ROG

The Lydster, Part 41: A Pain in the Butt


A couple days before we went on our trip to the Berkshires in June, Lydia somehow got a thorn or something similar through her bathing suit into her posterior. She didn’t tell the people she was with at the time, but only complained later. Carol and I couldn’t get it out, so Carol called our pediatrician.

Carol claims, and I believe her, that she heard tones of snickering and even mild mocking in the response by the receptionist when she made the appointment on the Friday before the trip. You mean these pathetic parental units couldn’t get a little sliver out of their child? I think we took some mild emotional satisfaction, mixed with medical concern, when Lydia’s doctor couldn’t get it out, either. He recommended heat and other salves to try to draw out the foreign object. If it’s not out by the end of the weekend, he recommend that Lydia see a surgeon. A surgeon for a sliver!

Well, we left for the Berkshires on Sunday, but first thing Monday morning, Carol called the surgeon’s office, and made an appointment for the next morning. We drove back to Albany on what may have been the hottest day of the year; I remember distinctly leaving a fitted sheet over Lydia’s car seat, so that the seat and the metal wouldn’t be too hot when we return.

Carol, the nurse and Lydia were in the room when I heard Lydia screaming. I assumed this was the shot to numb the area. No, it was the numbing cream used in anticipation of the shot. The actual shot went relatively easily.

The surgeon was called away on an emergency for a time. Finally, when the actual removal took place, it involved the surgeon removing the object, and the nurse and two parents holding the child.

We had lunch and soft ice cream after that, then returned to our vacation locale.

(This will be one of those posts where, years from now, she will undoubtedly chastise me.)


These are her favorite colors.

ROG

A Couple Interrogatives

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal this week that I found quite disturbing, but true. Here’s the abstract:

Moving On: Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?
Jeffrey Zaslow. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 23, 2007. pg. D.1

When children get lost in a mall, they’re supposed to find a “low- risk adult” to help them. Guidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage them to look for “a pregnant woman,” “a mother pushing a stroller” or “a grandmother.”

People assume that all men “have the potential for violence and sexual aggressiveness,” says Peter Stearns, a George Mason University professor who studies fear and anxiety. Kids end up viewing every male stranger “as a potential evildoer,” he says, and as a byproduct, “there’s an overconfidence in female virtues.”

TV shows, including the Dateline NBC series “To Catch a Predator,” hype stories about male abusers. Now social-service agencies are also using controversial tactics to spread the word about abuse. This summer, Virginia’s Department of Health mounted an ad campaign for its sex-abuse hotline. Billboards featured photos of a man holding a child’s hand. The caption: “It doesn’t feel right when I see them together.”

So, as the article notes: The implied message: Men, even dads pushing strollers, are “high-risk.” “Very sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. What are your thoughts? Anyone wanting the whole article, please let me know.
***
On a much lighter note, Jaquandor tagged me with 7 Things, but added a twist; one of these is false. Which one?

1. I had a nosebleed so bad that I was hospitalized.

2. I enjoy sushi.

3. I’ve talked with a Supreme Court justice.

4. I was terrible as a percussionist in my junior high school orchestra.

5. One of my favorite books is “Growing Up” by Russell Baker.

6. I’m cited in two books.

7. I’ve never read, never even started, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
***

***

My Fortune Cookie told me:
You will risk becoming eternally dependent upon misguided bishops.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

***
Amazon has on sale a Mel Brooks box set. It features one of my favorite films of all time, Young Frankenstein, and one of my least favorite movies of all time, History of the World, Part 1.
***
I own only about a half dozen Lyle Lovett albums. He has a new one, which he describes here.
***
I thought there were only eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination for President. I was wrong.
***
Oh, yeah: according to my previous poll question, 13 of you have already seen the Simpsons movie, 3 will in theaters, 3 will on DVD.
***
Albanians: listen to WMHT-FM (89.7) tomorrow, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 6:00 p.m. — they are broadcasting Albany Pro Musica’s ‘s March 2007 concert, “From Holocaust to Hope.”

ROG

Of Doubles and Saves

I love baseball, so I’m always hapy to learn something new. I just discovered that what I, and every sports announcer I’ve ever heard, have always called a ground-rule double really isn’t. The batted ball hits the field then bounces over the fence is an AUTOMATIC double. But there ARE ground rule doubles, such as when the ball gets stuck in the ivy at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field or in the roof of the Minnesota Twins’ Metrodome.

The ball bouncing over the fence used to be a home run prior to 1930. This begs the question: Did Babe Ruth hit any home runs that bounced over the fence before the 1930 double rule came into effect? The answer, from every source I checked is NO. In fact, if the fair/foul rules that are in effect now were in effect then, he might have had 10% MORE homers.
***
You might have heard about that 30-3 Texas Rangers win over the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday. The 30 runs is the most by one team since 1897. There were several intriguing aspects of that game. One is the running time of the game, which was 3 hours, 21 minutes; not a short game, but the 2-1 Tampa Bay win over the Boston Red Sox that night was 3 hours, 6 minutes; 23 players were left on base. And the 11-8 Cleveland win over Detroit that day was 3:38.

The other thing I had forgotten about is the pitchers’ “save” rule. Usually, a pitcher gets a save when the game is on the line, but in that game, a Texas pitcher got a save with an 11-run lead. How so?

The save rule:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; AND
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; AND
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
(a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; OR
(b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces); OR
(c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings.

Situation 3c applied here, as the pitcher threw three shutout innings.
***
Riding the bike is relatively safe.
***
Coming next week, several long pieces I hope I finish in time.

ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: Hairspray


I loved Hairspray. I loved the antiestablishment panache that colors the film. I love the music. I love the acting energy of Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller and Divine, especially those cameos by Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek.

Oh, wait: you think I’m talking about that NEW Hairspray? Haven’t seen it yet; I will, I will. But it’s only been a couple months since I borrowed someone’s VHS tape – how 20th century – and watched the original 1988 film one Sunday afternoon.

Somehow, I had missed it when it appeared in theaters, which surprised me, because I had seen other John Waters films, such as the bizarre Pink Flamingos (1972) and the comparatively sedate Polyester (1981), complete with an Odorama card; that smell-o-vision card that the My Name Is Earl folks put in that week’s TV Guide was an homage to Polyester. In fact, I went to a Polyester party after the movie, where everyone wore non-breathable fabric and ate non-foods such as Cheese Wiz and Marshmallow Fluff.

I’m a touchy wary that the new Hairspray won’t bring me the unbridled joy of the original, based on some reviews like this one. The personality of Baltimore was so much a part of Waters’ movies; when I saw the story about Waters cited here, the interview took place in locales that I recognized from the 1988 film, especially the record shop. Will the “musical” (and the original Hairspray had a lot of music) be able to keep that flavor?

My biggest concern is John Travolta. In the previews, his eyes seem tiny, beady, disproportionate to the rest of his face and fat-suited body. My wife, in fact, HAS seen the new movie (but not the original), and points to Travolta’s faux woman’s voice as a weakness, but loved the movie lead.

In any case, go rent Hairspray. THEN see Hairspray. As my old English teacher used to say: compare and contrast, and please let me know what you think of them. (Or either of them,, if you’ve only seen one.)