Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm a Professional

It must've been 15 years ago, at this point. I had just finished a camping weekend with my friend Nick and a couple of other guys, and we retreated back to Nick's family's upstate bungalow. (Why they always called it a bungalow and never a house still eludes me.) I took it upon myself to cook breakfast for the guys because, A) I was hungry and B) I wanted edible food and I just didn't trust any of them to make a breakfast that was more than fast or broken.

So I set to work making pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Easy enough. But I'm very good at breakfast. Almost as good as I am on the grill. Anyway, Nick asked me what I was cooking. I said "Relax, buddy. I'm a professional." He then asked me, "Has anyone ever paid you to cook?" I shook my head. He told me "Then you're not a professional. You're a talented amateur. And I'll reserve the 'talented' until after I've tasted your bacon."

No, not a gay weekend at all.

But he was right. Until you've been paid to do a service, you can't claim to be a pro. And, as of yesterdays mail, which included a sparkly check from DC Comics, I'm a professional comic book writer.

That sound you hear is a very muffled victory dance.

Monday, December 25, 2006

"There Was A Time"

That's probably my favorite James Brown tune. Inasmuch as you can call rhythmic assaults like that "tunes." I haven't got much to say about James Brown that you won't read or hear someplace else. He was just one of those guys—and there aren't a ton of them for me—who I would've killed to have seen in concert in his prime. James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder pretty much are the list. Maybe add Ella Fitzgerald. And Stevie Ray Vaughan. That's it.

Another one bites the dust. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Under the Tree With Care

Yes, we're pretty much halfway through the Christmas march. Christmas Eve with In-Laws is over, the last bottles tossed into recycling, the last leftovers imprisoned in their tupperware cells. Tomorrow is my folks, shuttling out from Long Island because we are the owners of the grandchildren, and they're still young enough that they are the holiday magnets.

"You, there. Person with full control over your bladder and a driver's license. Get in your car and come to us!"

But it's all good. Holidays. Can't really complain. Except for when I do.

Hope yours was a good one, without any tears.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some Things Bear Repeating

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tequila is not your friend.

No matter how good your night is going, a shot of tequila will suddenly bring everything to the edge of madness. And last night, it was through sheer force of will that I kept myself from making the floor of the 10:41 pm NJ Transit train very, very slippery.

The only reason I abandoned my better judgment was because I was goaded by a mother of three. And when a mother of three calls you a pussy for not taking a shot, you take the shot.

Stupid tequila.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shuffle-ography

I hate celebrity playlists. Okay, hate is a very strong word. But I don’t like them because I think they’re disingenuous. You look at one of those rundowns of the 10 or 15 songs picked by whoever and you know that you’re not actually seeing a slice of that celeb’s personality…you’re seeing the slice they want you to see.

You can absolutely tell a lot about a person by the kind of music they listen to. Music, much like movies, can also function as a personality rorschach. But if you’re really trying to get a handle on someone, you need to look at their wall of CDs. (And if they don’t have a wall, that tells you something right there.) You can’t hide from your own collection. This is the stuff you held on to. And with each and every disc there’s a reason why.

But, since we live in the iPod age, there’s an easier way: the shuffle. The shuffle is merciless. The shuffle is aware. The shuffle will not let you hide. And this is how we can know a person.

So, here’s my Shuffle-ography. Ten songs, chosen at random. And what each title brings to mind.

“Mosquito Song,” Songs for the Deaf, Queens of the Stone Age
I bought this album simply because it was on EW’s top 10 list one year. And because Dave Grohl played the drums on the whole album. I dig Dave Grohl. Imagine how tough it must be to be the drummer in the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s band, knowing full well that if the boss doesn’t like what you’re playing, he could step right in and do it better. The fact that, by all accounts, Grohl’s not a dick about it is impressive. Somehow, this dude managed to extricate himself from forever being a member of Nirvana. He didn’t have to do that; he could’ve coasted for the rest of his life on that. Like Krist Novoselic. But he wanted something else, something more, and I can respect that.

“Quills,” Phrenology, The Roots
When I was in high school, I was into rap in a big way. I was a 15 year old black kid on Long Island; I was supposed to be into rap. Luckily for me, those were the halcyon days of hip-hop: Public Enemy, De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest. But as gangsta rap moved in, I moved on. That was a music that didn’t quite speak to me. (I was from Long Island, remember?) I discovered Hendrix, Zeppelin, Clapton, Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Beethoven, Oscar Brown Jr., Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane. But I swung back around in my late 20s and found musicians on the rap scene. People like Jurassic 5, Mos Def, the Beastie Boys, and, yes, The Roots.

“Come Away with Me,” Come Away With Me, Norah Jones
When my daughter was born, she slept like all babies do: in short bursts, punctuated by long stretches of crying. My wife and I would take shifts, since no one should be expected do fly solo on that front, not unless you have to. A couple of weeks in, I couldn’t listen to any of the dozen lullaby CDs we got any more. The last thing you want to hear at 4:00 am is “Hush Little Baby” for the 152nd time. So I brought in a couple of my CDs: Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Norah Jones. I spent countless hours holding my daughter and dancing her to sleep to "Come Away with Me." I still mist up a little when I hear it.

“Get Me to the Church,” Sinatra at the Sands, Frank Sinatra
This song actually depresses me a little. Not because of some time-related nuptual fiasco—one of which I actually had at my wedding—but because of how young Quincy Jones was when this was recorded. He was 33 years old, conducting Count Basie’s orchestra and arranging Frank Sinatra’s songs. He was still a young man, and he was operating at the peak of his talents, and at the top of his field. Not that 33 was a bad year for me, but I wasn’t on a movie set, directing Tom Hanks and Kate Winslet in a film written by Paddy Fucking Chayefsky either.

“You Really Got Me,” Van Halen, Van Halen
My friend Nick and I used to take these road trips. I must’ve been in my senior year in high school, maybe freshman year of college. Anyway, these trips would consist of us starting at his family’s house in upstate New York, picking a direction and driving. Sometimes we could camp out (we were both Boy Scouts at one time, at varying levels of accomplishment), a couple of times we would just pull over and crash in his car, a maroon 1983 Pontiac Grand Prix. Now, this was before his Guido the Killer Pimp phase, in which Nick listened to nothing but shitty club music and Billy Joel—and way before his current fixation on shitty country music—so we were listening to classic rock. That’s where I first heard a lot of things (the one most vivid in my head is “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” by Blue Oyster Cult, which is the closest thing to comic book radio theater I’ve ever heard), as well as “Eruption,” which floored me. Of course, it was followed by "You Really Got Me." Which is, in and of itself, not a bad song either.

“You Give Love a Bad Name,” Cross Road, Bon Jovi
Ever buy a CD for one song, and then kind of get stuck listening to the rest of it? I bought this Bon Jovi greatest hits album for “Wanted Dead or Alive,” which is, legitimately, one of the greatest arena rock songs ever written. (Also, my favorite karaoke song…if for nothing else than the Richie Sambora part.) But I get bad MTV flashbacks whenever I hear this. I should really relegate this to the “Runaway” bin so it never shuffles up on me again.

"Cellphone’s Dead," The Information, Beck
I’m just digging into this album, so I don’t really have all that much perspective on it. But I like Beck, especially his willingness to take chances. Plus, that marionette performace on SNL was awesome.

"Jewel of the Summertime," Revelations, Audioslave
I always wanted Chris Cornell’s voice. His, or Sting’s. Preferably a combination of the two, to both scare the shit out of the ladies, and then woo them back. When I was in a shitty post-high school rock band, I always wanted to belt in Cornell’s crazy-ass wail, but could never pull it off. And my bandmates told me as much, continually. I still try in the car, though. And tear my throat out every damned time.

"Pictures of Success," Take Offs and Landings, Rilo Kiley
Can’t help you much here. Just got it. Haven’t listened to the whole thing yet. But, hey, it must say something that I got it in the first place, right? I just don’t know what.

"Across 110th Street," Jackie Brown Soundtrack, Bobby Womack
I’ve only ever bought two copies of the same CD because the first one was worn out once, and that was the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Man alive, I played that one into the ground. There’s just something about the way Quentin Tarantino assembles his soundtracks that speaks to me. He just knows the perfect pop song for the perfect moment, much in the way that Scorsese does (even if he dips into the “Gimme Shelter” well a little too often). And so, the first time we meet Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown, standing on an airport moving sidewalk, being drawn inexorably to her fate, this is the song we hear. All about the hustle, and the price. (I’m also a big fan of "Strawberry Letter 23" from the Jackie Brown album, and was thrilled that I already had the song when I heard it on that Kellogg’s commercial for Special K cereal.)

So, that’s my shuffle-ography. A life is a collection of snapshots, all of a specific moment in time. These are just 10 of mine.

What does your shuffle-ography look like?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

As Much as I Love Lynda Carter...

I would, in no way, have a problem with an Indian actress playing Wonder Woman, so long as she looks like this:


She, by the way, is Priyanka Chopra, a Bollywood actress who may or may not be on Joss Whedon's list.

(Thanks to Heidi for the tip.)

EDIT: Just to be clear, I am not in favor of this Indian actress simply because she's hot. (Which she is.) But the idea of an Indian actress is intriguing. Wonder Woman is supposed to be an exotic creature, from a place far different from our normal, everyday world. And, let's face it, a white brunette no longer qualifies as exotic...even if she is Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas. And an accent isn't enough. She needs to look...other-y. And an Indian actress would get you there. Plus, many of them are hot.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Strip Teased

I visited a very specific kind of place over the weekend, a type of establishment I don't go to very often. I went to a strip club.

I've never been the type of guy who frequents nudie bars. If I think back, the last time I was at a strip club was my bachelor party, more than seven years ago. Now, I like naked women. Really, I do. They are a few of my favorite things. But the prospect of "strange titties" (as one guy in the bar was loudly looking forward to seeing) changes some men and makes them believe in fairy tales in which they're the star.

Strip clubs are like special effects movies: Everyone going in knows that what you're seeing isn't real, but we all agree, for the time we're in that darkened room, to pretend that they are. But me, I'm always aware of the artifice. And I'm unwilling to give in to that fantasy. Because I know—and have never been able to make myself forget—that it's not real.

The women who work at these places are very good at their jobs. But, oddly, their job is not really selling sex. They're selling the idea that you, the patron, are attractive, are desirable, are worth wanting. They are selling you your own manhood. And that is the thing that some men are willing to go into debt for. Every man wants to believe that they have it in them to attract women who look like these women look and who seemingly love sex as much as these women do. After all, these are women who could have their pick of any of the other schmucks who walked in that night. But she stopped to talk to you.

She will hug you, and hang on you, and let you buy her drinks, and give you a massage, and, if you really want to, she will take you someplace else. And do things to you. What, precisely, depends on how much you're willing to spend. And that is where the bargain comes in. Not "bargain" as in 30% off—in that respect, titty bars are the polar opposites of bargains: Everything is, like, three times as expensive as in the real world...including sex. (I overheard one guy, a few seats down at the bar, musing to no one in particular: "150 bucks for a blowjob?! I could buy a shitbox car for $150 bucks!")

No, when I say bargain I mean a deal, a contract. And it goes like this: She will take your money and make you feel like a golden god. You will pretend that you never gave her any money. And together, everyone gets what they want.

If you can make that sort of bargain, then a strip club can be a magical place. There were guys in there last weekend who, I'm sure, spent a shitload of money to feel like Jamie Foxx feels every night. Four, five figures worth. Once you realize that that's the deal, then its incredibly easy to understand how, in one night a couple of years back, that one guy dropped $100,000 in a Scores club.

I can't make that bargain. I've tried, in the past, and failed. And it's not because of the money. I spend money on dumber shit than my ego—I bought a laserdisc player. But I just can't make myself believe that these women believe in me. They don't. They can't. Would be bad for business. They can whisper whatever they want, but I know it isn't real.

And I'm all about the real. If it ain't real, I don't want it. I've already got real, and I like it.

But I can admire the special effects.

STILL RELEVANT: The Secret Service's Super Bowl

Or World Series, or U.S. Open. Take your pick. Whatever you wanna call it, that's what it's gonna be for the Secret Service if Barack Obama does, indeed, run for President.

Why? Because, for the first time, a black man has a legitimate (and, depending on who you talk to, likely) shot at winning the White House. (And Jesse Jackson's run, however well-intentioned it may have been, never really had a shot.) Even though it's been a scant 40-odd years since the Civil Rights movement, I'd like to think that we, as a society, are ready for that.

But there are still pockets of this country who won't stand for it, who aren't ready for a Negro in Chief. And those happen to be incredibly well-armed pockets.

So this is when we see, exactly, what the Secret Service is made of. Because those nuts are gonna come for Obama...whether the general public hears about it or not.

Put your game-face on, fellas. Show time.

=====

I originally wrote this back in 2006. And every word still applies now that he's taken the Oath of Office. Now we play for all the marbles.

Friday, December 08, 2006

MySpace, but For A Special Kind of Geek

I just joined ComicSpace, a networking site that operates much like MySpace, but look like its populated mostly by comics pros. It seems to be run by some guy named Josh who lives in Maine. Maybe out of his basement. I say this because it keeps crumpling, like someone who got punched in the yarbles and the throat at the same time. Warren Ellis killed it once, with an email.

So, stop on by, if'n you like:

comicspace.com/marcbernardin

EDIT: Yeah, it's down again. Must've been a swift blow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If I Still Was the Band-ing Type

I would name my band one of three things:

Calrissian.
Decahayek.
Pushy Galore.

That is all.

(And no, you can't have any of those names.)

Wizard Whirled

Lots of talk on the internets about the editor-in-chief vacancy over at Wizard Magazine, the slick market-leader in comics "journalism." I put that it quotes because it's not a very good magazine. Mediocre writing, poor presentation, editorial myopia, all of which add up to a sophomoric catalog for Marvel and DC.

I was reading Augie De Bleick's Pipeline column today, and he laid out some very valid points about what needs fixing over there.

For my part, I won't run down my litany of suggestions. And, no, not because I'm saving them for some job interview. I haven't been offered the gig and probably wouldn't take it if I was. (For lots of reasons, chief among them: they couldn't pay me enough to leave EW and stop suckling at the Time Warner golden teat; I don't particuarly wanna commute from Jersey to upstate New York; and going back into comics journalism would prohibit me from writing comics themselves.)

But I will say this: Wizard should aim to be the Sports Illustrated of comics. Bet you thought I was gonna say EW, right? No, our focus is too wide. SI, on the other hand, is all about sport, in every possible permutation. You get the meat-and-potatoes coverage you're expecting, of the NFL or the NBA or the or MLB or the PGA, but you still get stories about up-and-coming atheletes, veterans, sports you never thought were sports (spelunking, anyone?), and breaking news about sport (steroids, gambling, sex-offender high-school coaches, etc.). You get everything you could possibly want, as a sport fan: something about that particular sport you're interested in, something about sports you might not be, and a "deep dive" into a surprising arena you hadn't thought of.

So replace "sport" with "comics" and "athlete" with "creator."

Why isn't Wizard covering these reports of gender discrimination and sexual assault? Why aren't they doing a reported piece on the effect shipping delays have on readership? If you've gotta cover Hollywood, why not a piece on all the capeless comics that are becoming movies? Or the shift in the firmament that has occurred thanks to the old Hollywood gatekeepers—the ones who shunned comic flicks—dying and being replaced with younger ones that grew up with comics? All right alongside stories about the latest Marvel and DC books.

All I'm saying is that there's a way to make Wizard a real magazine, one that covers its industry without talking down to their readers, without pandering to the marketplace but still giving it what it wants. Yes, they will lose a few friends, maybe a few advertisers. But if what you're after is a legitimate journalistic enterprise instead of a PR outlet, then it's worth it.

Look, I did what I said I wasn't gonna do. Stupid blog.

Monday, December 04, 2006

M.A.N. Preview

Not too much, a few unlettered pages. But you can see it at All the Rage (scroll down a bit), along with a witty couple of grafs I wrote about the project. (Not that you lot haven't already hear more than a couple of grafs about MAN—and you know for yourselves if they were witty or not.)

And while we're talking about upcoming projects, I will tell you all there is to tell about the Wildstorm book Adam and I are writing. We're halfway through the script for the third issue (of five). An artist has been retained, a wickedly talented bloke named Lee Garbett, and he's busily cranking out character designs and the like. And, according to our editor, things look good for a Summer '07 launch.

So, Adam and I will be busy boys at Comic-Con next year...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Papa, Please Don't 'Preacher'

I would like nothing more than to be filled with joy at the news that Preacher—Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's seminal mid-90s comic series, about the wandering mission of a man of the cloth who is given the power of the word of God—is in development as an HBO series. Really, I would. I've always thought that HBO needed to get in the comic book property business, and Preacher, with it's language, nudity, and vampire content, couldn't be done anywhere else as a TV series...and there's plenty enough story to sustain five 13-episodes seasons, at least. (I've also thought that the only way to do The Sandman justice would be as an HBO miniseries, a la Band of Brothers.)

But Mark Steven Johnson? The guy who gathered the forces of mediocrity to ruin Daredevil? The guy who probably destroyed Ghost Rider? (I say probably, because I haven't seen it in its entirety, but the fact that I've sat through two underwhelming presentations at two separate Comic-Cons does not bode well.) He's the guy who gets to write the pilot script and executive produce? Really? And they get Howard Deutch to direct, he who has demonstrated his visual flair and character acumen with films like Grumpier Old Men, The Whole Ten Yards, and the pilot for Melrose Place?

Could they have found two people less suited for this? You want a project like this to be in the hands of someone with a relentless intelligence as well as an unbridled geek creativity, like Ron Moore, or Damon Lindelof, or John Rogers, or Gough/Millar. Not these guys. One hopes that the underlying material is strong enough to shine through whatever gloss of shite this lot coats it with. And maybe the casting will help to steady the ship.

But, right now, it looks like Preacher would probably be better served by never being a TV series at all.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dear Famous People...

Put on your fucking underwear.


How hard is that? You know you're leaving the house, you know there will be people with cameras...put on your drawers. Regardless of how ugly your grann-ties may be, or how uncomfortable a thin layer of cotton/silk may be against your nethers, it's gotta be preferable to having your cooch plastered on every website known to man, right? (Yes, including this one...because I, actually, am in favor of female nudity, just not stupidity.) There are only two jobs where having no underwear is acceptible: prostitute and two-year old.

I mean, Jesus...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Things I Know

I've got a birthday coming up in a couple of days. Turning 35. A friend of mine got herself in a bit of a tizzy when she hit that mark...apparently, that's how old Jesus was when he died. (Or was it 33? Or is that the number on Rolling Rock bottles? Amazing how often Christ and beer appear in the same sentence.) And she started tallying her life achievements—a futile endeavor, comparing one's life's work to JC's, unless a paralyzing depression is what you're after.

But there are some things that I've come to realize about myself, settling into my thirty-fifth year:

I am probably always going to be a shade of fat. Just the way I was built. Honestly. I've got shoulders the width of a subway door...and I haven't worked out once this century. I was always a heavy kid, but that was ameliorated by an abundance of physical activity. Now, the genes–and my jeans—are having their revenge. I am simply not gonna get down to my football weight of 180, not without a tapeworm, and I'm starting to come to grips with that.

I am not the writer I could be. Part of this is just because I don't do it enough. There are people out there who live, breathe, sweat writing. I'm not that person. I like it, and think I'm good at it, but it is not what sustains me, and so I'm not driven to do it every waking moment. And because I don't do it as often as I could, I'm not improving as rapidly as I could be. My writing partner, Adam, wisely pointed out that I lean too heavy on the one-liner, the too-cool-for-school characters that allow me to crack wise with a hint of satire. All my protagonists are like James Bond if he grew up with a subscription to MAD. So far, it hasn't hurt. People seem to like that. But they won't forever.

I will always be the parent of an autistic child. The hardest part about learning that your kid is handicapped, for me anyway, was the revision of expectations. In all likelihood, I'm paying into a college fund that she won't get to use. My wife and I may never experience empty-nest syndrome. Yes, it is absolutely possible that she'll make remarkable, astonishing progress and can eventually be mainstreamed back into the regular school system and go on to lead a fulfilling life. But she will always be autistic. And I will always be her dad.

I don't like roller-coasters. I just don't. If I'm gonna be going that fast, I want control, dammit. Same reason I don't like skiing: No friggin' brakes. (Plus, it's too cold.) My wife is a nut for roller-coasters (and skiing) and because of me, she's cut back severly on both. C'est l'amour.

I'm not leaving EW any time soon. Because it is, for lack of a better word, easy. I know the people. I know the system. I know the subject matter. Yes, it can be a grind, but I know how it's done. And I'm good at it. With rare exceptions, it doesn't hurt my brain to do my job. It leaves me with enough mental hard-drive space to do what little writing I do (see above). They pay pretty well and have a very generous benefits package. And I get six weeks of vacation. So why the hell would I want to leave?

I don't ever want to eat Indian food again. I had a bad experience when I was 13 years old that involved roti on the island of Trinidad. Today, the smell of curry makes me throw up in my mouth a little. My wife is a recent convert to the wonders of Indian cuisine. If you like it, too, give her a call. You can eat it with her. Not me. I'm done.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thank You, Fox...

For not letting OJ send himself to hell.

Dear Orenthal...

Now I, like many other black folks, have been willing to extend you the benefit of the doubt (even though, rationally, I know there's not a lot of doubt left). A court of law found you not guilty of killing your ex and her boyfriend.

But if you go on TV and do this thing, you're going to hell. I'm just saying.

If you're a Hall of Fame football player and you're dead-set on embarassing yourself and tarnishing your reputation, at least go on Dancing with the Stars. Emmett's not going to go to hell for that. He's just gonna look back at it and be a little sad. You...well, you're going to hell.

Love,
Marc

Friday, November 17, 2006

That 'Thing' You Do


While I'm not normally a big fan of remakes, especially horror remakes (not that I'm some kind of over-the-moon horror nut; it's just that, Zack Snyder's phenomenal Dawn of the Dead redux aside, most horror remakes forget to include what made the concepts scary to begin with, and don't replace that with anything new), I'm kind of jazzed by the news that Universal's taking another whack at John Carpenter's The Thing. And the only reason I'm jazzed is that Battlestar Galactica alcalde Ron Moore is writing the script. Because, aside from the "Black Market" episode in Season 2, he's been pretty bang-on.

See, I love The Thing. It is, hands down, Carpenter's best film. While I have a very, very soft spot in my heart for Big Trouble in Little China and do think that the first and last 20 minutes of Escape from New York are positively adrenal, neither holds a candle to The Thing, which saw Carpenter squeezing every last drop of talent from his rock of a brain. (Carpenter is a walking proof of the idea that a director should know when he's lost it and walk off into the sunset before sullying his reputation with things like Ghosts of Mars and In the Mouth of Madness and—damn his eyes—Escape from LA.)

I always thought there should've been sequels to The Thing, or maybe even a TV series (that probably would've sucked). There was so much more you could've done with that concept. Maybe, today, in a world of terrorism and suicide bombers, the idea of a homicidal alien shapshifter would actually play better. And maybe this remake is just the ignition cap for a franchise. I could swing with that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Coolest Hotel Room Ever

The "Comic" room at the Arte Luise Kunsthotel in Berlin. All of the edges of the walls, furniture, everything, were outlined with hand-drawn black lines. It's like you're living inside a comic panel.















(Found via The Engine)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Roughing the Passer

No, that title isn't an allusion to something writer-y, or even something naughty. This is gonna be a sports post, folks. Probably the only one you'll ever read here. (Of course, that statement is, like every other statement on this blog, a blatant lie. Including this one. Oh, what a tangled web I weave.)

Roughing the passer may be one of the dumbest, incongruent penalties ever. In case you're not clear on what this penalty's about, here's the textbook definition:
"Flagrantly running into or hitting the quarterback after the ball has been released. Can also be called when a defender hits the quarterback in the head."
Now, the reason I call bullshit on this penalty is because it singles out the quarterback as, essentially, the single most precious player on the field. He is to be protected at all times. Now, as a matter of course, that's correct. The purpose of the offensive line is to either create holes for the running back to shoot through, or to give the quaterback time to pass the ball. To protect him from the defense, who would like nothing more than to pulverize him. Fair enough.

But this penalty is saying that in the process of trying to flatten a QB, the defensive player cannot touch him in any real way after he's thrown the ball. They're saying that a 220-lb. guy, running flat-out, has to be able to pivot like a ballerina to avoid hitting a guy—and here's the crux of it—who is willingly playing a game where people get hit.

That bears repeating: football is a full-contact sport. Since when do quarterbacks get to pretend they're playing in a separate, partial-contact arena? If you strap on those pads and put on that helmet, you should be prepared to get hit as hard and as often as anyone else on that field. (And the I-can't-touch-his-head thing is ridiculous. I absolutely agree that the face-mask penalty is necessary to avoid, you know, snapping players' necks. But to claim that just touching his helmet is a violation is just silly.)

It would be like an accountant for the local volunteer fire company donning all the gear and going to a two-alarm blaze and then getting pissed off he got burned. Because the fire should know that he's precious.

If you talk the talk, then you gotta walk the walk.

Sports tirade over. We now return you to your irregularly scheduled broadcast, already in progress.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Fountain of Youth

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this. A little skeeved, I think. But it's also a little cool. (Only a little.)



But you'd have to think that Connery's still got Bond money coming in.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How Did We Ever...

...fall out of love with outer space? When I was a kid, going into outer space was the paragon of cool. Maybe it was because we didn't know any better, but movies like Star Wars and Flash Gordon and TV shows like Star Trek and Buck Rogers totally inflamed desires to travel in the great beyond. And, even though we were idiots, we knew that astronauts were the guys who really got to blast off. So, when we weren't dressed up as Superman or indians or inmates for Halloween, we were spacemen. (At least those of us whose parents kept a bolt of aluminum foil and an empty goldfish bowl handy did.)

But as I was out this past Halloween, trick or treating with my kids, I saw nary an astronaut. (And Anakin frakkin' Skywalker does not count.) For further proof, I went to the internets and found these lists, of the top 20 costumes for 2006 and 2005:

2006
1. Princess
2. Pirate
3. Witch
4. Spider-Man
5. Superman
6. Disney Princess
7. Power Ranger
8. Pumpkin
9. Cat
10. Vampire
11. Angel
12. Fairy
13. Ninja
14. SpongeBob SquarePants
15. Batman
16. Cheerleader
17. Football Player
18. Tinkerbell
19. Monster
20. Star Wars Character

2005
1. Princess
2. Witch
3. Spider-Man
4. Monster
5. Darth Vader
6. Superhero
7. Star Wars Character
8. Batman
9. Ninja
10. Clown
11. Pirate
12. Angel
13. Pumpkin
14. Power Rangers
15. Cinderella
16. Vampire
17. Cheerleader
18. Cat
19. Ghost/Ghoul
20. Soldier/Sailor

No astronauts. What the hell happened?

It's tempting to blame Republicans. For almost everything. But, while the manned space program was kick-started by Kennedy, it was carried out, by and large, by Republicans. (Back then, they were the good Republicans.)

I think we just got bored, as a culture, with the idea of going into space. Especially since no one ever brought anything cool back down with them.

I was watching this Discovery Channel special on the unmanned probes and it mentioned something that just completely stunned me and reminded how much I too have given up on the dream:

Voyager has, most likely, crossed into interstellar space. It's out there, where no man has gone before. It has left home.

Suddenly, I wanna be a kid again, flush with dreams of distant exploration and currently up to my pits in tin foil.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

AFGHANISTAN!

I can't stop watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Not because it's good, but because it's failing in such a miserably interesting way. It's the classiest train wreck I've ever seen on TV. Let's take last Monday's episode, "The Wrap Party":

Eli Wallach plays an Alzheimer-afflicted writer from the Addison Theater's heyday. He can't tell people why he's here, where he lives, or who he is for 40 minutes of the episode. But, when it suits the show, he's suddenly an archive of comedy history who remembers everything as well as his place in it. Because, really, debilitating diseases on TV are only as debilitating as the episode needs them to be.

Rob Corrdry is giving his folks a tour of the studio, his poor, stupid, uni-dimensional folks. Who, apparently, have never heard of Abbott and Costello or "Who's on First." Who are, apparently, angry at their eldest son because he isn't in...wait for it...Afganistan! Or because their younger son is. Unclear, since these characters don't seem to exist for any other reason than for them to go on a tour and we can learn why pop culture in general, and Studio 60 itself, are Important.

If you'll recall one of my earliest posts, I love me some casual racism. So, when Corrdry's mom mentions to D.L. Hughley that they loved the last James Bond movie and that they even found Halle Berry attractive, Hughley's character smiles and walks off, impervious to the token gesture of "A negro made It move...see, I like some of you people, the ones who sing and dance." He didn't even roll with it, give the slightest perception of the glancing blow. But I guess he was saving his indignation for...

The hiring of a black writer. Which, in and of itself, is a fine idea. But from the outset, Matt and Danny have established something of a meritocracy. If you can do the job, then that's why you're here. You get the vibe that's why Hughley's Simon Stiles is in the cast: because he's (allegedly) funny. Period. So then we go to the comedy club for the first of two performances. Which, yes, wasn't funny. And was stereotypical. But should've been funny. While not Oscar Wilde, sometimes, that kind of base humor can kill. Robin Harris used to do hysterical routines about women with huge asses and why he loves them. Sure, it might not've been Studio 60 style, but to blithely dismiss that venerable branch of humor is akin to saying country music is all about pick-ups and unfaithful spouses. (I hate country music, excepting Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, but for other reasons.)

But wait. Before we get to second comedy guy, we need Simon Stiles' backstory, in which he has to justify himself to Matt by explaining just how black he is. And, judging by the fact that he grew up in South Central and saw a guy get shot once, he's Super-Black. I'm sure he's even got a badge on his car, like a PBA sticker. Does that make me any less black, because I grew up in the burbs? Or because I've been lucky enough not to have witnessed a homicide?

Okay, second comic. Not funny, but smart. You can tell he thinks big thoughts, but isn't cut out to be a performer. Fine. And he gets hired as a staff writer by Matt on the spot. (After, of course, he passes Stiles' Super-Black Test.) Now, would they have made the same offer if he was a white kid? Doubt it. They were out to hire a black writer, dammit, and they weren't going home without one. Funny or not. (Then again, the "Studio 60" sketches aren't funny either, so maybe he'll fit right in.) Because it's the Right Thing to Do. And That's One to Grow On. And More Than a Little Patronizingly Offensive.

And I won't even get into the inanity of Programming Honcho Jordan McDeer so desperate for company she's hanging out with interns.

The only bit that rang true was the three bubble-heads who kept asking Matt "Okay, but what does a writer do?"

A whole lot better than this.

Monday, October 23, 2006

For you 'Galactica' fans...

Every week, I write an episode review for EW.com. (They call 'em TV Watches.) They usually get posted right after the episodes air on Friday nights. So, if you'd like to know what I think (and, of course you do, otherwise, why would you be here?), go here and check 'em out.

Also, worth hitting just to see how far sci-fi fandom has devolved, if the comments left by my many readers count for anything. (Yes, some are right on point but a lot of them are just...detached.)

Playing Fast and Loose

I love fast food. Anyone who sees my gut leading the way when I walk can probably surmise that for themselves. But one of the things that fascinates me is the behind-the-scenes innovation that goes on when one of these corporate behemoths puts something new on the menu. I think the fact that they are these giant megalocompanies feeds directly into the innovations, because you know that a bottom-line focussed CEO isn't really gonna allot money and/or resources to fix what ain't broken.

In my mind's eye, I picture a scene right out of Apollo 13: A dozen guys in lab coats with the entire array of McDonald's offerings there on the table. A stern white man with a buzz cut walks in and says, "We need something new on the menu. This is what's in every franchise 'restuarant' [he even puts air quotes around restaurant because he knows the truth]. We've never lost an appetite and we're not gonna start on my watch!"

And this is how we get things like McDonald's SnackWrap (chicken selects + lettuce + tortilla + cheese + ranch dressing), or Taco Bell's CrunchWrap (tortilla + ground beef + lettuce + tomato + sour cream + mexican pizza corn crunchy thing + cheese), or—my personal favorite—Pizza Hut's CinnaStix (they took the same dough as their bread sticks and just invented some buttery, cinnamony spread to slather on it instead of garlic). All made from stuff that was already being used to make other stuff.

I'm sure there's a lesson to be found somewhere in here for those of us who fancy ourselves as writers. Something about learning how to look at the same old hoary storytelling conventions with fresh eyes. Or how to tackle a rewrite by inventing something new and yummy out of what's already on the table. And there's probably a challenge in there (give me 5 cliches and I'll figure out a way to make 'em sizzle).

But I just got myself too damned hungry to concentrate.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dumbest Thing Ever of the Day

Go with me on this one.

As I understand it, the chief lure of paintball is to be able to have a socially acceptable gun battle with real live humans. To live out your storming-the-beach-at-Normandy/holding-down-the-Alamo/defending-precinct 13 fantasies without actually shooting anyone. (And for the truly sadistic, it's a corporate team building exercise.) But that's why it has survived as a recreational activity for so long.

Again, as I understand it, the chief lure of first-person-shooter videogames is to be able to storm the beach at Normandy/repel alien mutant invaders/lead an expert tactical assault team in a virtually immersive environment. While you aren't actually interacting in any way with reality, all the trappings are there, enough to get you over the theoretical hump.

I was flipping through a DC comic, I think it was Desolation Jones #7, and came across an ad for this:



















It's a videogame of an activity that people do when they want to do the thing that videogames allow them to do.

Some days, man...I just lose faith.

Funniest Thing Ever of the Day

Iggy Pop and the Stooges' tour rider (the form given to the venues explaining what they require to perform there...if you didn't know).

Explaining the need for two heavy duty fans, roadie Jos Grain (who apparently wrote the 18 page document) notes, "So that I can wear a scarf and pretend to be in a Bon Jovi video."

I'd love to see this guy's Christmas list.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I've Been Gone for Too Long

I know. A combination of being really busy and not having a whole lot to say.

Hey, look, over there: Me being interviewed by Neil Kleid over on Newsarama!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mad Varley Respect

As many have noted, the official 300 trailer is up, in all its glorious high-defness. The most interesting thing about it, to me, was buried in the credits. It says that the film is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.

That may be the first time a comics colorist has gotten a full blown story credit on a movie.

Well done.

Video Game Widows

I was in my home office playing The Godfather on my Xbox 360 last night, and as my wife came in to kiss me goodnight, it dawned on me that she’s of a rare breed. A unique breed, actually, a brand of woman never seen before and likely never to be found again.

See, she is part of the only generation of women who grew up in a world of videogames…but never played them. While us guys were the target audience for things like Pong and Galaga and Doom and Madden, those girls of a similar age bracket—born in the late '60s-early '70s—were doing the things that girls always did. And whatever those were, they weren’t playing games.*

Sure, there was a novelty to early Atari and Colecovision games that anyone who liked bright and flashy images on TV could dig, but beyond that, there was nothing besides Ms. Pac-Man for the ladies to play. And so, by and large, they didn’t. But we did. Now, decades later, we’re still playing. And they’re still not.

I’ve tried explaining to my wife why I like playing games, that it provides a vicarious escape into a world that was previously unavailable to me, and the capacity to do things I never would be able to otherwise. It’s wish fulfillment. (And, I’m good at them. Been training for 30 some-odd years. And people want to keep doing that which they’re good at.) She just didn’t get it.

My wife has it good, relatively speaking. While I’m a player, I’m not an obsessive player. I’ve learned to temper my addiction. She indulges me every once in a while, especially when I’ve laid off the controller for a bit. So she didn’t mind so much that I tallied up 5 hours of Godfather over the weekend. But I know women who just write off their husbands when they get into the World of Warcraft zone, disappearing into those massively multiplayer online role playing games for days, weeks, sometimes months. (There was even an episode of that A&E show Intervention about a guy who was so obsessive that his remaining friends and family ganged up on him to send him somewhere to de-rez.)

And the thing of it is that their mothers’ have no experience with anything like it. There have, I suppose, always been men who lived with their nose buried in books, but women understood the allure of literature. (And even if they didn’t share the love, they knew that other people did. Normal people.)

And sports have long been evening/weekend distraction for the y-chromosome set. But,I suppose there are two ways to deal with sports: either try and get into them (and I’m lucky that my wife is the daughter of a football coach, and enjoys the Giants game every Sunday) or outlast them. If you wait long enough, whatever sport your man is into will end. Unless its NASCAR, which apparently goes almost year-round. But, if you’ve married someone who loves NASCAR, then you’ve dug your own grave there, sister.

Our daughters will grow up in this world, will be playing games from toddler-hood. Maybe not Halo or Burnout Revenge, but those game companies have started making educational games…and their objective is not so much to teach ABCs, but rather PS3s. As with all things, early adoption is key, and our little girls aren’t going to think there’s a damed thing wrong with setting up shop in front of the tube, with the nextest next-gen system up and humming.

So that leaves these women, our women, as a sort of socio-evolutionary webbed foot. A blip on the flow-chart. Soon to be extinct. Be nice to them. Understand that they don’t understand.

* Yes, I know that there are plenty of women in this particular age bracket who do play, but I truly feel that they are exceptions to the rule. Or, if you like, pioneers.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Apparently, I'm a Racist

According to the anonymous comment-leaver on the last post, that script fragment for "Fireworks" was racist. And since I wrote it, I guess I must be a racist, too.

Scroll on down and see for yourself, and then check the comments to see the arguments, both for and against my alleged racism.

Somehow, I didn't expect that this would be my 100th post.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fireworks

Here's something I started...god knows how many years ago. Just found it, buried on my hard drive. I think it was the start of what was supposed to be a short film script. Hell if I know. (I am getting old, aren't I?)

Anyway, for what it's worth...

EXT. COUNTRY ROAD. MIDDAY.

It’s a road like any of the thousands that criss-cross America’s ample mid-section: a little dusty, not all that well-traveled, lined on one side with trees. It has a timeless feel to it. One can’t tell at first glance if this is the 21st or the 19th century, and the same thing could be said about the black man slowly ambling down it.

JONAH FREEMAN is ancient. Not feeble, mind you, not decrepit. He’s old like the lions in front of the New York Public Library are old: hewn from the kind of rock they just don’t quarry any more. Both he and his brown suit have been around the block, and then some, and right now he’s in no particular rush to get anywhere.

Jonah strides past a road sign announcing the presence of a town not too far ahead; a town that isn’t, shall we say, packed to the gills.

Just past the sign, on the side of the road, is an old junker of a car with the hood up. Sitting on the roof of the junker is a 10-year-old boy, ISAAC, who’s throwing small rocks at a bigger rock on the other side of the road. They regard each other carefully as Jonah gets close enough to see a pair of legs jutting out from beneath the car.

ISAAC
Hi.

JONAH
Afternoon, son.

ISAAC
You’re not my dad.

JONAH
You’re somebody’s son, right?

ISAAC
Yeah.

JONAH
Good enough.

Jonah takes off his stetson and wipes his brow.

JONAH
What’s your name?

ISAAC
Isaac.

JONAH
What day is it?

ISAAC
July third.

JONAH
Got any fireworks in this town, Isaac?

ISAAC
Nope.

JONAH
Want some?

A voice comes from underneath the car. A female voice.

ETHEL
What did I say about talking to
strangers, Isaac?


ISAAC
That I shouldn’t.

ETHEL
And why not?

ISAAC
Because I’m liable to ramble.
(to JONAH)
I have a rambling problem.

ETHEL slides out from under the car. There ain’t nothing wrong with Ethel, if’n you don’t mind your women with grease under their fingernails, forearms like knotted wood, and a face that’s squinted through 38 years worth of sunrises. Life has been hard on Ethel, and she’s been hard on it right back.

ETHEL
That he does. Of course, he’s just
filling in the conversational space
left empty by most of the idiots
in this town. Name’s Ethel MacGillicudy.
Most folks call me Mac.


JONAH
Names are a serious thing, Miss
MacGillicudy, usually better left
untrifled with. I’ve been called
many of them, but most days I
only answer to Jonah Freeman.


ETHEL
Good to meet you, Mr. Freeman.
You gonna be in town long?


JONAH
Only through the fireworks. Then
I expect I’ll be movin’ on.


ETHEL
We don’t have any fireworks.

JONAH
Now you do.

ETHEL
I suppose you’ll have to talk
to the mayor about that.


JONAH
If someone would be kind enough
to point the way. And it’d be
nice if that way led past a hotel.


ISAAC
I can show him. I’m a bit
tired of banging rocks together.


ETHEL
And I’m a bit tired of hearing
them. Go on, then, and be home
in time for dinner. You’re
welcome to join us, Mister Freeman.


JONAH
I will. Thank you, kindly.


Jonah and Isaac start walking down the road.

ISAAC
So how did you get here?

JONAH
I walked.

ISAAC
From where?

JONAH
San Francisco.

ISAAC
Why not fly?

JONAH
Listen to me, and listen good.
The one and only thing that holds
this world together are bargains.


ISAAC
Like sales?

JONAH
No, bargains. Deals. Pacts. Accords.
Agreements. One party agrees to do
one thing for another thing in
return. Most times, it’s money. Even
more times, it’s blood. Thousands
of years ago, the first sailors
sacrificed anything they could get
their hands on to the sea, to
guarantee safe passage. A bargain
was struck. That bargain is still
in effect. Even today, sailors
treat the ocean with the respect
it deserves. Not so with the sky.
No one thinks twice about puncturing,
polluting, desecrating the air
for the sake of cutting a few days
off of a trip. Someday, the sky will
take its price and I, for damned sure,
won’t be up there. What are you studying?


ISAAC
About how Lincoln fought the
Civil War to free the slaves.


JONAH
Bullshit. Lincoln freed the slaves
because we told him to. Because we
told him that we wouldn’t help him
win the war of Southern Aggression
unless he freed our brothers. He
made a bargain. He did his
part, and we did ours.


ISAAC
Who’s we?

JONAH
The wizards. America’s wizards. I
won’t say that all of us are black,
but I can say that none of us
are white.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wither 'Lestat'?


All of this recent hoo-fer-oo about Brad Pitt taking over the Mission: Impossible franchise got me thinking about the last time the Pitt and the Cruise collided: Interview With a Vampire.

Here was a movie that had everything going for it. Two stars in full bloom (and a third, Kirsten Dunst, just waiting to be done with puberty). A devoted fanbase that was both incited to bloodlust by the author (Anne Rice famously decried Tom Cruise's casting) and then mollified by same (she later recanted after seeing the film). And a major studio bankrolling it to the tune of $50 million, with Neil Jordan at the helm.

It worked. When Interview came out in 1994, it was both a critical and financial hit. It made more than $100 million stateside (and this was back when $100 million meant something), and grossed another $120 million overseas.

Now, this is a book that's a first in a series. What's more, the second book, The Vampire Lestat, is even better than the first. So, where was the sequel? Didn't they want to make some more money? When a movie does that well, and the major characters aren't dead, and you've actually subtitled the film with the phrase "The Vampire Chronicles," you all but have to do another, right?

Hell, even Amy Pascal, who greenlit the horrific Godzilla remake knows the name of this tune: "If a movie makes $400 million, you make a sequel," Pascal said to EW a while back, in reference to a rumored Godzilla 2. "It's that simple."

So, why no Lestat? Did neither Cruise not Pitt want to take part? Fine. Recast, especially today, in this world chock full of pretty white boys. I'm sure Rice had to part with the rights to the series as part of her initial deal—why leave that property lying fallow, out back with the unused gardening equipment and rusty lawn furniture?

Money, left on the table. I'm just saying...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mantastic

There are times, while writing, that I literally bang my head against the wall for want of an idea that is good enough, sharp enough, incisive enough to make it on the air as a network series. And I've finally figured out what my problem is: I was born at the wrong time. See, if I was born 20 years earlier, I could've sold a show like this:



Beautiful crap like this just doesn't have a place on modern television. And that's a damned shame.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mea Culpa

I have been away, and too long, I know. And what's more, I left you with nothing but a Kirk/Spock slash video. Unforgivable. (Unless, of course, you're into that sort of thing. Then, you're welcome.)

Things have been a little crazy. Toronto kicked my ass a bit. (I know you may think it's easy, but seeing 14 movies in 3 days is exhausting. You can play that smallest violin all you want: When you don't really control the programming and have to jockey all over town, from theater to theater, to see movies that, on the whole, aren't good, it'll take some of the punch out of you.)

Got back to the real world to face a little apocalypse at work: One of my mentors is leaving, after being with EW since the very beginning. The news of his departure left a crater-like wound in the week, and its fall-out will color the rest of my year. Then had some writing to do: The second issue of that Wildstorm mini isn't gonna write itself, no matter how much we beg.

Plus, a back-to-school night, a 3am marathon at the office, and, occasionally, seeing the wife and playing with the kids. Been a little busy. But I'm back on the stick, as they say.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Trek on the Wild Side

Thanks to Heidi at The Beat for the heads up...



In Spock's defense, Kirk did look mighty purty in them there combat capris.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And What a 'Feast' It Was

Still in Toronto. Still seeing movies. Nothing I saw today had the same boob-to-running time ratio as yesterday's offerings, in which both Kate Winslet in Little Children and the Dutch Jennifer Jason Leigh lookalike in Zwarzboek spent lots of screen time sans accountrements. But every day can't be Christmas, can it?

Monday night, though, while breast-free, was still pretty remarkable. Before I left the office, I got a call from a Weinstein Co. publicist who told me that they were thinking about screening Feast—the John Gulager-directed product of last year's Project Greenlight 3—in Toronto. And they were thinking about doing it Monday night. I said I'd do my best to catch it.

And so I did. Cabbed my way over to a strangely barren part of Toronto—not a person to be seen on the streets, most of the storefronts were shuttered and gated, like the roadshow version of The Warriors was coming to town--and had the driver stop in front of the decaying theater that had the word "FEAST" on the old-school marquee. Since I was about an hour early, I grabbed a beer at a bar a few steps from the theater. While I'm sitting there, killing time, in walks a young woman who tries to hand be a flier, saying "Wanna see a horror flick?" I reply, "Yeah, that's why I'm here." She proceeded to move on and paper the rest of the bar with Feast fliers.

Then, in walks the man himself. John Gulager. Leading a rag-tag group of rebels that look like members of the cast and crew of Feast. Into the same bar I'm in, maybe the only place in a square mile that's got lights on.

Post beer, I make my way into the theater. I figure I must be earlier than I thought, as it's pretty scarce in there. Maybe a dozen people, tops. I avoid the "reserved seats" and grab a sweet seat right in the middle. I hear a little rumbling and in walks the Gulager posse, who fill a few of the reserved seats. Michael Rooker, of all people (you know, the other driver in Days of Thunder, Rowdy Burns or something), sits in front of me. He's not in the movie, so his presence will remain a mystery.

Gulager, poor Gulager, steps up to a mic right in front of the screen and does a little schtick for the crowd. Of 12. As if he's the Conquering Hero of Sundance, regaling the gathered intelligensia with tales of filmmaking vim and vigor.

And then the film begins. And it's not embarassing. Gulager can make a movie. He knows where to put the camera and he knows how to make the nothing he had to work with look like something. The real problem lies with the script, the writers of which seem to think that just pointing out genre conventions is equal to subverting them, elevating them. And if you're not going to be as unique or polished or inventive as Evil Dead 2 or Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, your people-stuck-in-an-enclosed-space-with-monsters-from-the-pit-attacking-them movie had better be smarter. And Feast wasn't.

But it did have this one fantastic moment. The film establishes, with great humor, that the monsters that are assaulting the people trapped this middle-of-nowhere bar can reproduce in record time...like minutes. A pair of characters have to retrieve something crucial from a part of the bar that they've sealed off. They send one guy (Balthazar Getty, of all people) into the cordoned-off area. Naturally, the monsters see he's in there and attack. Getty runs to the door, beastie hot on his heels. He makes it through, and they slam the door right behind him...catching some part of the monster in the door. And then comes this immortal line, my rallying cry of the Toronto Film Festival, uttered with a frenzied grace:

"Monster cock, stuck in the door!"

Monster cock, stuck in the door. There's wisdom, there. Somewhere. Hidden in the demon pubes, maybe.

Oh, Canada...

I'm in lovely downtown Toronto for the International Film Festival (or as the French Canadiens would probably have me say, un Festival du Film). And so far, since landing yesterday afternoon, I've seen 5 movies. While I can't say any of them were truly good, except maybe Paul Verhoeven's WWII boobfest Zwartboek (Black Book), they were all interesting in different ways.

And, yes, I have seen John Gulager's Project Greenlight opus, Feast. More about that one later...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Boston Creme

I'm a native New Yorker. I'm pretty sure I've established that fact before. I was born in the Bronx, went through puberty on Long Island, started working at EW while I was living in Queens. Sure, now I live in New Jersey, but I'm a New Yorker, always will be.

So, like most New Yorkers, I've got my September 11th story. I was on the ground that day, when the Towers fell. Didn't lose anyone, but felt the loss nonetheless. But my story doesn't take place in Manhattan, or New York for that matter.

My wife has these friends, see, and they're huge Red Sox fans. So, once a year, they take a pilgrimage up to Fenway for beer, dogs, and baseball. Despite being a lifelong Yankees fan, I agreed to go because A) they're good people, B) my wife wanted to go, and C) I love a good ballpark hot dog. We made the arrangements in August 2001. We were set to head up the third weekend of September.

After 9/11, there was a lot of discussion about whether we should travel or not, whether it would be safe to go to another large city so soon after the attacks. It was eventually decided that, like so many other choices that year, if we didn't go then the terrorists have won.

So we got in the car and went to Boston. It was an uneventful trip in that nothing else blew up or fell down. But when we got to Fenway, it was something else entirely.

Now, I'm not a big baseball fan. I like the Yankees because I'm a New Yorker and that's my job. If I go to a ball game I go for lunch. The eats are good, it's a nice day in the sun, and I'm a fat bastard. I'm gone by the 7th inning, as I don't usually give a toss who wins. So I'm in Fenway, with my dog and my beer and ready to watch a team I didn't really care about beat another team I, if possible, cared even less for. The seats were decent enough, and it was a cool night. While all was, clearly, not right with the world, that evening would do.

Then came the 7th Inning Stretch. Usually, I'm gone by now, so actually sticking around was something new to me. So I stood. And stretched. And then the most amazing thing I've ever seen happened.

The announcer said that in honor of those who lost their lives at Ground Zero, they'd be playing a little song. The music began, and those famous vocals kicked in, and not a person in that ballpark was silent, every voice kicked up as high as it could. A shiver ran down my spine, a frog jumped up in my throat, and tears started splashing my cheeks.

We were singing "New York, New York."

Now I can't imagine, given the historic, legendary bad blood between the Yankees and the Red Sox, that that song had ever been sung inside Fenway Park before. Not on purpose, and not with such a palpable sense of love and respect. And remember, this was before Boston finally won a World Series, so those Sox fans were as righteously bitter as ever.

But that night...

That's the story I will tell my children when they ask me about 9/11. So that's what I tell you tonight.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New 'Monster' Hotness

This, from Nima Sorat, our new artist on Monster Attack Network. (And since Larry put it up on the AiT site, I figure it's fair game. So don't yell, Lar.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Scheherazade

A sweet little webcomic I found the other day, written by Elizabeth Genco—who I've met twice thus far, first at the inaugural New York Comic Con, and again with her husband Leland Purvis while toasting UK writer Tony Lee's stateside visit—called Scheherazade. About, fittingly enough, a woman who tells stories for a living. Literally.

Go see. (Scroll down to the bottom for the beginning.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This Kid Thinks I'm an Idiot


That's my son, Luc. A little over two. And he thinks I'm a moron.

He's just starting to wrap his mind around speech. Says a bunch of words, but he's not what you would call conversant...in English. But I'm convinced he's fluent in his own language. And is getting frustrated that I don't comprehend it.

Last night, I walk into the kitchen and he's sitting on the floor in front of the fridge, looking at pictures of family and friends. I ask him "What's up, buddy?" And he stands up, looks me dead in the eye, points into the middle distance, and says "Puw Bowwy."

I run through the 15 things I think he could be talking about. None of them seemed to be it. Then, he spoke to me the same way you speak to a foreigner: He repeated the same thing, just louder and slower, as if the reason I didn't understand was I was deaf and retarded.

"PUW. BOWWY."

Then he gave up and walked away.

He's not supposed to think I'm an idiot until much later.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fraction...

My man Matt Fraction is thinking big thoughts. In case you don't know him, what the hell's wrong with you? He's a writer of high talent and high style, one who drops comic book love in lots of flavors. You want a dusty '70s heist book? Last of the Independents. You want scientists getting all scientifical with truth and justice? Five Fists of Science. You want a twisted, wicked smart spy-fi book that's like Our Man Flint on more acid than it already was? Casanova. And he's working with Ed Frikkin' Brubaker on Iron Fist for Marvel.

Yeah, I know.

And now he's thinking about a book on Lincoln.

He's one of those guys who, if I didn't already like him, I'd have to drag him into a dark alley and go to work on him with a pair of pliers and a blow torch...simply so I didn't have to worry about the competition.

It's hard enough trying to break into comics without guys like him walking around, thinking up The Nuts.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Heart Profanity

Man, I loves me a good curse word. Really, I do. I know the old saying that profanity is the last refuge of the unintelligent (or something), but to me, the whole idea of curse words are a grand proof of the existence of a social contract.

We have all agreed, tacitly but universally, that these words have power. Why these scant handful above others is a semantic mystery. Some are, allegedly, acronyms for crimes of passion, others acronyms for immigration status (though I suppose wop—with out papers—is more of a slur than a curse). A rather significant one is tossed off as punctuation in one culture, but carries the heft of a spiked hammer in the US.

I'm of two minds: While I like the idea of words that hold power, I don't believe that, in and of themselves, they should. As someone whose job, both day and night, revolves around words and their usage, I've always felt that no word is better or worse than another. Only right or wrong, depending on the situation.

But that's not the world we live in, and I'm okay with that. It is handy to have words that, with a little help, can dive directly to the heart of the matter. It's emotional shorthand. Personally, I don't trust people who don't use profanity—it's as if they believe themselves exempt from that social contract. (Plus, they don't understand the power of a well-placed curse. When I was a kid, I sat down with my parents to watch Bill Cosby: Himself. One of the smartest, cleanest stand-up concerts you'll ever see. But when Dr. Huxstable lets slip a perfectly timed "asshole," it makes you sit up and take notice.)

It's one of the reasons why Battlestar Galactica is such an accomplished investigation of the human condition. It realizes that people reeling from the almost complete annihiliation of the human race would, most definitely, drop a few F-bombs now and again. And, as Sci-Fi Channel publicist Lana Kim reminded me after she introduced me to Grace "Boomer" Park, frak is a four-letter word.

Okay, really, this post is just a very long excuse to say that I met Grace Park last night, while attending the US Open as a guest of the USA Network. And she's funny, charming, and stunning in real life and, as she hugged me good-bye. I couldn't help but think that if she were not a spoken-for, coast-hopping, fabulous actress and were I not a happily married, not-nearly-as-fabulous magazine editor...

Yeah, she wouldn't give me the fucking time of day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Favorite Emmy Moment

Came before the Emmys even started. During the preshow, when assbag Billy Bush caught Jeremy Piven on the red carpet, and asked him if he's ever seen Jennifer Garner's baby, or Brad Pitt's baby, or maybe even perhaps Suri Cruise, because, well, he lives in California. Piven reared back and said:

"I don't go hunting for celebrity babies. I have 116 other things to do, thank you, Billy. You need another job. I mean, you have potential as a human being. This may not be right for you. Seriously, can you focus on other things?"

Honestly, I think that's why he got the Emmy.

No Shiny Glove, No Love

I was on the train this morning, letting my iPod pick my travelling music, and I heard two songs back to back and, given the fact that I've almost 3,000 songs on the wee box, the odds of them shuffling together are pretty long. "Human Nature" and "Get On the Floor." Both by Michael Jackson. From Thriller and Off the Wall, respectively.

I haven't thought about Michael Jackson, on purpose, for years. Sure, I've averted my eyes at the whole child molestation/bankrupcy/Bahrainian emigre thing. And it's easy to look at him today, the very model of a modern eccentric white woman, and feel both revulsion and pity. He should be the poster child for How Parents Can Fuck Up Their Kids, But Good.

And yet none of that can change the fact that, for a good long while there, he was an amazing musician, a startling performer. He was a rock star that sung R&B, who had an unparalled control over both his voice and his body. He was, as we used to say, The Shit. (I never had the Thriller jacket, like so many of my friends did, but it wasn't for lack of desire. Rather, a lack of funds.) And those two songs, while neither of them as tectonic as, say, "Beat It" or "Billie Jean," are still pretty amazing little snorts of pop culture.

Listening to them got me thinking about how we, as consumers and aficianados, deal with great art by people we can no longer stand. It's a quandry that critics and historians have been wrestling with for years. Is The Birth of a Nation any less of a landmark film for being a Klan puff piece? Is Triumph of the Will not a heady, incisive look at the power of propaganda—maybe the greatest movie about marketing ever—because it's about the Nazis, commissioned by Hitler?

More recently, is The Road Warrior not awesome because Mel Gibson's a drunken anti-Semite or is Tom Cruise not revelatory in Magnolia or Legend (yeah, Legend. So?) simply because he's a misguided religious zealot? Or is Speed not a terrific thriller just because Keanu Reeves is dumb as a stump? Is Hunter any less mediocriffic knowing that Fred Dryer was, reportedly, a racsist sexist bigot? (Well, okay, you got me there.)

Our relationship with art has to be divorced from the artist, otherwise neither will be able to stand, or fail, on their own.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Man of Steel, Indeed

This, found thanks to Heidi.



Yes, the type that went along with this cover has been erased, but can you really think of the words that would've made this image okay?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

'Venture' Forth

I do this because I have nothing but love for you. For all of you.

Part 1:



Part 2:



Part 3:

Rump Shakur

I was in transit when most of this John Mark Karr business broke. I don't really care all that much. Sure, he looks a little Norman Bates crazy and he's got the three names that point to your classic killer dude, but JonBenet's unsolved murder wasn't keeping me up at night.

But part of me—the part that cares just a little—couldn't help but channel my inner Chris Rock and wonder: For a little white girl murdered 10 years ago, they marshall the resources to track this guy to friggin' Thailand and bring him back, but the authorities still don't know who killed Tupac...and if they are still looking, they're not looking outside of Compton.

I'm just saying...

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Nekkid Truth

Back from Jamaica. It was that wonderful sort of vacation that felt longer than it really was—and wasn't a week with the in-laws.

But if there was a maxim this vacay reinforced, a law never to be forgotten, it was this:

With the rarest of exceptions, the people you see on a nude beach
are not the people you want to see nude.

When we took the tour that eventually wound its way to our room, the lithe Jamaican guy with the carefully trimmed goatee who looked like he was more than ready to help some 40-year-old women get their respective grooves back pointed out that our room was 50 feet from one of the resort's two pools and the more secluded of the two beaches. Of course, this was the clothing-optional beach, but, hey, no problem, mon.

After my wife asked if we could get another room and was told no, we made some dinner reservations, waited for the resort to unlose our bags (our biggest complaint with the Grand Lido Negril—that's right, fuckers, I'm name-checking you right here—was the abysmal check-in experience in which we lost an entire afternoon because they misplaced our luggage and refused to take any responsibility for that, um, misplace-al), and went to a well-deserved sleep.

The next morning, we figured, hey, we're right next to the beach, and it's a nicer one than the main beach, as well as shadier. (See, my wife, she's of Irish-Scottish-British ancestry and so the only thing that would make her, genetically, less accomodating of massive amounts of sunlight is if she was also albino.) It was also less crowded and much closer to the bar. (That ancestry also leads to a prodigous constitution.) So, we set up camp.

And, it all went pretty well. Sure, there were some naked seniory dudes frolicking in the ocean and some naked seniory ladies willing to doff their housedresses and enjoy the sun's golden kiss, but they were, relatively, far away. Their crazy old-folks nakedness was far enough away to be innocuous and, with the combined distraction of good book and frosty rum-based beverages, easily forgotten. Until I got into the pool.

Nice pool, too. Never more than 6 people in it at once the entire four days we were there. They handed drinks to you from the bar so you never had to leave the water. So, Sue and I found a teensy patch of shade in the pool, cozied up with something frosty called a Purple Rain, and chilled. Then, one of these AARP newbies jiggled over, pants nowhere in sight, and decided to get in the pool. Slowly. Awkardly. Like he was ambling sideways over a very small pony.

I have now, officially, seen more old dude sac than I've ever wanted, or needed to.

And the women weren't much better. Either way too large to be seen without a velvet track suit on, or old with strange implants that rendered them oddly disporportionate, like floor lamps with brand new bulbs.

Of course, there needed to be exceptions to the rule: the trio of twentysomething black girls in town for a friend's wedding who, clearly, went to the clothing-optional beach to see who could encourage the most coronaries. (Not that I looked; remember, I had my book.) Or the young couple who I thought was European—judging by the guy's insistence on parading around like a stubbled Adonis while his girlfriend rubbed lotion into his every crevasse—but turned out to be from DC and Jersey, respectively. (And she clearly didn't take to the nude experience, fastening her top every chance she got. I think. Again, me and my book didn't notice.)

And the weirdest thing wasn't the fact that all these people were naked: It was seeing them later, dressed, at the buffet, or at dinner. Or, as it happened, on a never-ending line at the airport—that's were we "met" the DC/Jersey couple and had weird conversations in which both Sue and I had to submerge the memories of them nekkid. And those are weird conversations to have. Because you have to pretend not to have been, in a very real sense, intimate with them. You've seen them in their birthday suits, and while the atmosphere wasn't exactly sexually charged, what with the ancient testes knocking about, you've seen them in a way that usually only lovers do.

But, despite—or perversely—because of all that, we had a great time. Meet some interesting people, some of which kept their clothes on. Snorkeled, swam, drank, ate, and laughed. What more can a brother ask from a long weekend?

(Yes, more attire for the elderly, I know.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Off the Grid, Bitches

My wife and I are taking our first, ever extended vacation from the kiddies. Off to Jamaica, in fact, to soak up the Ian Fleming vibe and, hopefully, as much Red Stripe as possible (because, for those of you playing at home, it was Bond's favorite beer).

And I feel twice as nice because Adam and I finished our first draft of the first issue of our Wildstorm mini. So, put that in your bong and smoke it.

See you cats on Monday...unless I'm hostage by all the dreadlocked voodoo rastafarai gangsters that have been sitting around waiting for Hollywood to remember how awesome they were as bad guys back in 1989.

Jah love.