Archive - May 2005
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May 31st, 2005
A little clerical work done on the site--I've just added a page listing all past episodes of The Fred Hembeck Show, and I'll continue to add each new one as they're posted over at the IGN Comics website (though worry not--my weekly plugging of the latest entry will continue its proud tradition! Look for that next shameless bit of self-promotion to appear right here tomorrow! Count the hours, people, count the hours!...)

Y'know, the last time I didn't post SOMETHING here on the site was way, way back in the middle of October, but I'm thinking there may be some days in June that are going to be problematic. So if you stop by one day looking for something new, only to not find it, well, don't fret--I'm most likely off at some comic convention, hanging out with Peter Sanderson, Jim Salicrup, Bill Alger, and/or Larry Shell, or I'm taking daughter Julie to an all-day outdoor rock festival, or I'm trying to turn our swampy pool swimmable again, or I'm attempting a long overdue cleaning of certain portions of the house, or I'm sitting at the drawing board, diligently trying to catch up on the various commissions that have come pouring (trickling?...) in in the recent weeks---

--or maybe I'm just goofing off. Hey, it happens.

See you tomorrow!

May 30th, 2005
War sucks.

Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin, and Will Elder knew that, as evidenced by the above sequence, originally found in FRONTLINE COMBAT #5 from 1952--and you and I know it as well.

Unfortunately, SOMEONE'S gotta fight those wars. This Memorial Day, I salute all those brave folks who've done so over the years. Yeah, war sucks all right, but the soldiers who find themselves fighting it, well, we can't ever take their sacrifices for granted, dig?
May 29th, 2005
"How'd you EXPECT me to know who it was? He was wearing a mask!?!..."

No, daughter Julie didn't exactly say that after going to see the newest--and last--Star Wars movie yesterday, but she might just as well have.

Y'see, the only other Star Wars flick she'd ever seen was the refurbished version of the original entry, but, being around seven years old at the time, she mostly squirmed around distractedly for the duration, making for a less than ideal theatrical viewing experience, and killing any notion of catching the subsequent pair of tinkered with re-releases.
So, when Julie went off to see "Revenge of the Sith" with her friend, Jeff, I said to Lynn, "Y'know, she's gonna be the ONLY one in the whole doggone audience who's gonna be at all surprised by the ending!" Lynn pooh-poohed the idea, sure that she MUST know, if only by cultural osmosis, the film's less than shocking outcome.

Uh uh. I asked her afterward if she knew going in who was going to revealed as the Dark Lord, and she said no, she was completely surprised when she found that under that mask, Darth Vader was actually...

But no--just in case, I'm gonna let you find out for yourselves. After all, I wouldn't want to inadvertently let the cat out of the "Revenge of the Sith" bag and pith anybody off!...
May 28th, 2005
This morning, after dropping Julie off at school, I was listening to the radio while driving home--which is actually pretty unusual, since I generally have a disc in the car CD player. Not today, though, and I'm glad I didn't. Otherwise I never would've heard a rather special commercial for the Cole Brothers Circus.

Yeah, that's right--a traveling circus. What REALLY caught my attention--besides the pitchman's voice, delivering his grandiose message with all the traditional chutzpah typical of such ads--was his promise of "The Superheroes of the Circus".

My ears perked up at this, and I soon learned exactly WHO our radio ringmaster was referring to...


How could I help NOT thinking back to 1964's 16th issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the one where our Webbed Wonder unknowingly takes center ring during a performance arranged by The Ringmaster and His Circus of Crime, only to be bailed out by the blind--and then brand-new--costumed crusader, Daredevil! Ah, Lee and Ditko--even cobbling together a tale blatantly designed to promote Marvel's latest creation in lieu of what you might call a "true" Spider-Man episode, they were tops.

Y'know, I'm almost tempted to go. Unfortunately, Cole Brothers are setting up their tents in a town over an hour away, and I don't think the family would want to drive that far and spend that much time merely to indulge my little fantasy of living out a cherished comic book I bought back when I was 11 years old. Can't say as I'd blame 'em...

But if anyone out there DOES attend this nomadic extravaganza, PLEASE drop me a line with all the details--I'm very curious to learn what old friend Spidey is up to under the Big Top these days, okay?

However, if the main guy is wearing a purple hat with with a rotating curlicue device on it, well, don't tell ME, tell the police! And double-checking for your wallets might not be a bad idea, either...
May 27th, 2005

I TOLD you that was gonna be next week's sermon! Hah!

(Okay, okay--so, unlike yesterday's totally legit photo, this one came courtesy of the Church Sign Generator site that Tony Collett tipped me off to. Thanks for contributing your two cents to the proceedings, Tony--something which is only to be expected from the proprietor of the fine "Mah Two Cents" blog, I suppose!!...)

(When you're finished here, do go have some fun making signs! Though God only knows--you should pardon the expression--how this technology will be used in the hands of Tom Peyer! Couldn't be much worse than some of the billboards my teen-age daughter and her friends came up with last evening, as they instant messaged each other rude and ruder examples back and forth, giggling evilly all the while! Ah, the joys of the Internet...)

Moving on from the touchy outer regions of religion over to the similarly sticky arena of politics--by way of baseball, no less--a few words now about the New York Mets, and one Met in particular: superstar catcher Mike Piazza.

I've always liked Mike Piazza, and not just because he's a Hall Of Fame caliber player. He always struck me as sincere, well-spoken, and having more depth than your run-of-the-mill jock (my sincere, well-spoken apologies to any run-of-the-mill jocks reading this), but yesterday, while perusing the New York Times recap of the three game sweep capper the Atlanta Braves inflicted upon the Mets, I came upon this paragraph...

Mike Piazza started this trip by getting an autograph from Rush Limbaugh, his main political influence, then compared the experience to meeting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or the pope. From that point on, Piazza went 0 for 9 with six strikeouts and hit into a double play. The Curse of the Limbaugh was in full effect Wednesday, as Piazza also bounced four throws on attempted stolen bases.

Look, while it's no secret I lean towards the left, I do my best to begrudge no one their personal political feelings, per se. I mean, if Mike had said he LIKED Limbaugh, admired him, was his fan even, okay, that I could just let run off my back. But to heap such extravagant praise on the man? Yipes. Mike Piazza--the ultimate ditto-head--who knew?

Next thing you know, someone'll tell me my favorite cartoonist, Steve Ditko, has himself some extreme political views as well!...

Speaking of funnybooks, it's time for your weekly reminder to read the latest installment of Jim Salicrup's "Addicted To Comics" column. This time around, Jim talks TO Howard Chaykin, and talks ABOUT Russ Heath. And somehow or another, the name of thirties era comedian Joe E. Brown also comes up--and in a very intriguing capacity, too!!

Lastly, reaction continues to pour in regarding my home-made CD from several more of the other Mixed Bag musical exchange participants. You can read Logan ("House of the Ded") Polk's assessment here, and Dorian ("Postmodernbarney") Wright's take here. Okay, odds are, you may not be all that interested--the truth is, I'm including theses links here as much for myself as anybody. What? A blog CAN'T be self-indulgent? Yeah, and Mike Piazza's gonna write the forward to Al Franken's next book, too...

Anyway, thanks fellows, for the kind words, and though I felt like a hard core Evangelical being confronted by an atheist upon reading Dorian's feelings regarding the four lads from Liverpool, I appreciated both of their well considered comments. I just recently managed to finally finish giving each of the discs I received a good thorough initial listen, and after a few more spins, I hope to share some of my thoughts about them here--which, by the way, I think is the toughest part of this whole process! Putting 'em together is easy, listening to them is fun, but evaluating them properly is hard! Actually, pondering the process gave me an interesting--if blatantly untenable--idea...

There was a lot of good music on these fifteen compilations, no denying it, with each disc inevitably having one or two tracks that immediately jumped out at the listener. Well, what if, for a second round of burning, we each were assigned the task of taking no more than, say, two tracks per disc, and boiling them all down into our own personal favorite mix of the many mixes? And then send them out to everybody on the list?

Yup, it'd be like the aural equivalent of an upchucking doggy re-enjoying the goodies suddenly found in front of him! Hey, I said it was an idea--I never said it was a GOOD idea!!

(I've already entered the twenty-plus selections for the actual round two into my computer, by the way, and now all I have to do is eliminate three for time concerns and then determine an ideal playing order. Inasmuch as my first mix was clearly the most mainstream of the bunch, all effort has been made this time around to accumulate eighty minutes of abject unfamiliarity, while still maintaining ear-pleasing goodness! No Bing this time around, friends, but are you ready for...Mandy Patinkin? Full annotations will be found here, mid-June...)
May 26th, 2005
So you think the publicity blitz for this latest "Star Wars" flick has been cooking on overdrive, do ya? Well, just take at look at one of the unlikely avenues the producers of the upcoming "Fantastic Four" opus have opted to utilize in hopes of pushing THEIR product...
Next week's sermon:

"God Versus The Devil--It's Clobberin' Time!!"

(Many, many thanks to Jughead's Guardian Angel, Craig Boldman, who snapped that photo whilst driving through Fairfield, Ohio, and then generously sent it off to me to share with the rest of you! Much appreciated, Craig--who knew you were the paparazzi of the pews?...)
May 25th, 2005
On the night of January 12th, 1966, American popular culture was changed forever.

You don't think so?

Well, if the ABC Television network had run just another episode of "The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet" instead of debuting a brand new program that evening, would we have been treated to a spectacle like THIS only weeks later?...
Yes, friends, that's Martha Raye as Batgirl taking on the unlikely likes of Bob "Lobsterman" Hope, all in the wacky wake of the onset of the national delusion that was Batmania...

Which just happens to be the subject of this week's 11th episode of "The Fred Hembeck Show" over at IGN Comics. Besides my reflections on that fateful night, you might want to take a look if only to get a gander at a full page ad--dated January 11th, 1966--carefully clipped out of TV GUIDE promoting not just one but four new ABC shows. Anybody think they can recall the other three before clicking that link?

My only regret is that I didn't find some way to work in a reference to my buddy Peter Sanderson in this week's installment, but allow me to take this opportunity to, as always, point you towards his latest "Comics In Context" entry, focusing this time around on "MirrorMask", a forthcoming film written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Dave McKean.

And then, remember to come back here, friends, for more fun-filled foolishness, same Bat-time, same Bat-url!
May 24th, 2005
You'd open the door to your apartment at 5:30 in the morning to this woman, wouldn't you--especially if she were your neighbor?

Big mistake.

When you're living next door to Mandy (Mia Kirshner), the bi-sexual, plane bombing, President-plague-dosing, callously professional assassin, well, odds are you ain't gonna be "living" for very long, pal, as several stunned acquaintances found out for themselves in the most brutally shocking sequence found during the first half of last night's two-hour concluding portion of "24", Day Four.
But c'mon, did anybody watching--except maybe some poor confused soul tuning in for the first time--REALLY think Mandy blew Tony and herself to smithereens in that car? Man, the producers wrung every last ounce of overwrought emotion out of THAT little set-piece, didn't they--maybe even convincing themselves along the way that some of their regular viewers were actually fooled, even for a milli-second? Not me, buddy.

Look, I've had problems with sequences like this for years--and not just on "24", but on any show in which there's fatalities on any sort of regular basis. We're supposed to choke back a tear--boo hoo--when a regular character like Tony (supposedly) buys it, but take it in stride (just like all the on-screen folks do) when any of those other doomed agents go down. Worse, how about those poor people in that apartment--or the guy I feel the worst for, the poor schlub who indignantly stormed across his lawn with righteous anger in the middle of the night, demanding to find out what all the commotion was about, only to be gunned down by the assassin hunting Chloe, mere moments before the feisty desk jockey riddled her would-be murderer with blazing bullets of her own? I mean, I know its just a TV show and all, but the always mounting body count can be disturbing at times, especially considering the number of completely innocent people who are so casually slaughtered along the way, y'know?

And that leads me indirectly to this equally disturbing conclusion: after Jack Bauer, you know who the most invaluable member of CTU is?

Edgar Stiles.

Follow me here: early in the day, Erin Driscoll was running CTU, but shortly after her emotionally disturbed daughter committed suicide on site, site director Driscoll was told it best she go home. Michelle Dessler was subsequently brought in to take over, but right after (estranged-no-longer) hubby Tony's apparent demise, she too was told to go home and curl up in a fetal position.

Edgar Stiles? Well, after his poor, beloved mother died midway though the day as a result of her local nuclear plant melting down, Ed received a few words of sympathy from his co-workers--and then the burden of a 24 hour shift!! (Along with Jack and (gal pal no more) Audrey, Edgar was the only character to appear in all 24 episodes. So THAT was our trade-off for no Kim this time around? Oy...) At CTU, bereavement benefits are only for upper management types , apparently.

And speaking of upper management, howsabout that President Logan? In little over seven hours, he went from being a cowering weasel desperately looking for some direction, to a self-deluded weasel convinced of his own innate greatness! That scene wherein--the nuclear crisis finally averted--he glad hands Palmer, deigning to gleefully share SOME of the credit for the way things worked out with his predecessor was ruefully hilarious! Good luck on your own, smart guy. And my guess is that President Keeler's injuries will never quite heal well enough to allow him to make it back to the Oval Office, as Logan looked all too comfortably ensconced in his new position by story's end.

(And his airtime, even though it didn't commence until two-thirds of the way in, far surpassed the amount allotted to Keeler. I smell the makings of a new villain here, especially given how he tacitly allowed his aides to handle the sticky Bauer situation.)

Ah yes, the finale's shocking twist. As always, the main plot has to be tied up fairly early on in the final hour so that the last episode can serve as an epilogue of sorts to all that has gone before. This time through, things wrapped up especially early, with Marwan choosing suicide and falling to his death about a quarter of the way in the last hour, with the missile safely shot out of the Los Angeles skies not long after. All very anti-climactic, sure, but I'm not going to complain. Outside of letting the bomb hit LA, that's pretty much the only way it could end. And I was happy to discover that the whole imbroglio at the Chinese consulate had a purpose beyond burning an hour off of the schedule, as it served as a clever way of setting up Jack's new life as The Man With No Name.

I WAS a little suspicious of how Jack, Tony, Michelle, and Chloe (what--no Edgar?...) cooked up their whole fake death scenario in the few minutes the show paused for a commercial, but it wouldn't be "24" if we weren't regularly complaining about the near impossibility of the way things get done so rapidly. Oh, and I also wasn't fooled regarding Jack's alleged expiration, but I was happy that he had a chance to let Palmer know he was still alive, that it was all a ruse. And it was best Audrey NOT know he'd survived, despite the piled on devastation that poor woman had already endured on what had to've been the longest day of HER life.

Kudos to keeping Mandy in play, as well. I especially loved President Palmer's pained reaction to the news that the woman they were just about to gift wrap an all encompassing "Get Out Of Jail" card for was the very same woman who had tried to kill him in the final moments of Day Two (a plot point that was never adequately followed up on during Day Three, as far as I'm concerned, maybe the most glaring oversight committed by the producers over the life of the series.). When Mandy traded info on Marwan's whereabouts in exchange for the pardon, I wonder if she knew the bomb was heading directly towards her? Probably not, or she might've talked a little bit sooner, don'tcha think? No doubt we'll see her again.

And who knew Lurch had a son who grew up to be a Secret Service Agent? (Or was he just pretending? I wasn't quite sure...)

The only dangling plot thread that I can think of was exactly what became of teen-age terrorist, Behrooz Araz, anyway? He was last seen being exchanged for Jack--and having the implanted tracking devices in the back of his neck crudely removed with a knife--back when Marwan was trying to divert attention from the imminent downing of Air Force One, leaving him unaccounted for for the last eight hours or so. Still, more a question of curiosity than necessity to the plot, because one could easily assume he was merely sleeping his nasty day off as the rest of the events unfolded.

So, how does Day Four stack up against the Days that came before? Well, it seemed to be the most highly focused--one actually gets the idea that the people in charge knew where they were going right from the outset, as everything seemed to lead directly to the end result, with no changing of bad guys midway through. For a change, there was little extraneous piffle to bog down the main plot, with the aforementioned deranged daughter diversion being the major exception. Presidential politics didn't kick in big time until the storyline's final third, at which time it clearly needed to be incorporated into the scenario, sparing us the divided attention we had to endure in previous years (I think Dennis Haysbert's David Palmer is a wonderful character, but using him when needed, and not just to kill time by debating politics with his brother and the like, made him all the more effective).

So yeah, aside from the riveting initial 13 hours of the First Day, when the shock of the new was still a consideration, this was the best "24" Day ever.

Now everybody--go get some sleep!
May 23rd, 2005
Subway series wrap-up:

Friday night, Yankees 5, Mets 2, a game the Mets could've won.
Saturday afternoon, Mets 7, Yankees 1, a game the Mets did win.
Sunday afternoon, Yankees 5, Mets 3, a game the Mets should've won.

The highlight of the whole weekend was Mr. Koo's Wild Dash, in which a 35 year old Korean middle relief pitcher, playing his rookie season in the USA, literally swings a bat for the first time during an actual game since he was in high school, and moments later, a legend was born.

There was very little I could've added to Newsday's Mark Herrmann thorough reportage, so, I'd like to share his piece with you. Even those of you who are less than enthusiastic about baseball might want to take a look at this retelling of the remarkably unlikely events that took place out on the Shea Stadium field the other day..

Subway series, part two, mid-June. Join me back here as I kill time jabbering on and on about comics and stuff until that time rolls around again!...
May 22nd, 2005
Back on May 15th, I threw the magic scanner spotlight on a detail of what I considered to be a particularly attractive female drawn by the undisputed King of Comics, and then challenged you, my loyal audience, to figure out the original source for this Kirby Kutie.

Well, nobody guessed correctly (thanks to those of you who tried), so rather than keep the rest of you in suspense, here it is--the cover of DAREDEVIL #2 from 1964. That's her, see, sorta looking up at ol' DD's thigh?

Showgirls, huh?...
Okay, that was a stretch--I'm sure she was just a very nice girl working hard to earn enough money so as to go to medical school--nothing more. No sordidness there, I'm afraid .

If it's sordid you're looking for, though, you may want to take a nervous side glance at Jim Salicrup's latest "Addicted to Comics" essay, in which our intrepid columnist makes a case for how we're all currently being set up for the first super-hero movie in which the plot may well pivot more on the mighty muscled lead taking off his shorts than putting on a cape! As usual, Jim makes a peculiar but indisputable sort of sense--go look and decide for yourself.

And you may also want to check out Pete Von Sholly's newest creation, SERGEANTSTEIN AND HIS MARAUDIN' MONSTERS--none of whom are a tenth as cute as Kirby's gawkin' showgirl, but are sure to grab your attention anyway. As always, the ever generous Von Sholly offers up a free sample at his own site here, hoping it'll whet your appetite enough so that you'll spring for the whole package when you come across its oddly ominous listing in the very next issue of the always ominous Diamond Previews!

So, below, you'll find's preview of the Vonshollwood preview that hopefully will induce you to order the book from Diamond Previews!

May 21st, 2005
These days, it's standard operating procedure to find daughter Julie spending hours at a time, perched on the edge of her bed, in front of her laptop, instant messaging all her pals and gals. The inescapable echoes of sophomoric giggling can be heard from one end of the house to another most every night, so when that tell-tale sound was suddenly and inexplicably absent for a substantial period of time the other evening, well, it was cause for some mild concern.

WHAT was she doing that was keeping the cackle quotient down to zero, I wondered--her homework?


Much to my relief, it was nothing of a sinister or dangerous nature--happily, she's been avoiding the Jolly Jailbait Chat Room, just as I had asked her too. No, the source of her quietly focused concentration was Julie using several of the photos she's been taking with our digital camera, and then experimentally manipulating them with the Photoshop program.

Like this one...
That's a totally transformed picture Julie took of a school friend (normally, I wouldn't use a photo of someone outside our family on this site, but I'm reasonably confident that there's zero chance of identifying the above Miss from that altered image). I suppose, while I appreciate it for its own obvious merits, it does sorta remind me of an old Neal Adams panel of Rama Kushna in a late sixties "Deadman" story!

"Hey look! A Julie effect!"
Mario the cat. You can count every whisker, can't you?

Nice job, Julie--now, teach ME!
May 20th, 2005

Episode 9: Revenge Of The Willie!
Yup, it's that time again--interleague play, with Obi Willie Wan's Mets facing down Darth Steinbrenner's Evil Empire storm troopin' Yankees!

And, as best I can tell, this is the first time in the nine years since this has become an annual tradition (though this May scheduling is a full month earlier than any previous meeting between the two teams) that the Mets go into the series with a better record than their more celebrated rivals, 22-19 as opposed to the Bombers 21-20. Much as I'd like to gloat about that inescapable statistical superiority, the fact is the Yankees were, a mere 11 games ago, 8 below the .500 mark, before proceeding to win 10 in a row and then finally losing their last contest prior to taking on their Queens rivals--meaning they're no longer as beleaguered as they obviously were two weeks back, but have a certain amount of momentum on their side--well, that dampened the glee factor somewhat. Of course, the Mets just swept the Cincinnati Reds in a three game series themselves, so they've gotta be feeling pretty good, too, so...

Okay, okay--I know quite a few of you could care less, and I understand that. Indulge me. It's two weekends a year. And, y'know, I just love posting those tabloid covers (a trick I picked up from Tom Peyer--thanks Tom!).

Remember--it was either this or Saddam in his bloomers! (Say, is that a WMD in your BVD's, or are you just happy to see me, big dictator?...)
May 19th, 2005
Frank Gorshin appeared on two of the most memorable television broadcasts of my youth--the very first episode of ABC's "Batman", where his unforgettable portrayal of the Riddler was likely the best thing about that show; and on the historic "Ed Sullivan Show" that introduced America to the Beatles, being known forevermore merely as one of that evening's OTHER acts...

(Watching the recently released DVD of that landmark program not long ago, I'd argue that Gorshin was easily the SECOND best thing on Sullivan's stage that night...)
You probably know by now that Frank Gorshin has just passed away at age 72, and while his body gave out on him way too early, his career never did, as he was working right up until the very end, with an appearance on an upcoming episode of one of those "CSI" shows proving to be his swan song. Before that, however, he achieved considerable success starring in a one-man stage show as George Burns, and it was late during that notable run that he was booked as a guest on the Conan O'Brien show. It proved to be a slightly odd interview--O'Brien was respectful enough, even deferential, but Gorshin seemed agitated and unpredictable, acting at times as if he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

And why not--how many performers of his generation are ever afforded a chance to sit down and spend a little time with ANY of today's talk show hosts? But, by segment's end--talking as much about his first-hand brush with Beatlemania as about his role in the slightly later Batmania--he'd not only relaxed, but had clearly won over the audience as well. It was nice to see talent trump age for once. It's just a plain shame that now we'll never get another chance to hear Frank Gorshin spin his tales sitting down next to Conan.

(Mark Evanier has some telling first-hand stories about his encounters with the man, throwing an unavoidable glare on the culprit responsible for Gorshin's demise: cigarettes. Here's the one riddle that has no satisfying answer: given all the evidence amassed in the last forty years, WHY does anyone still puff away? Not-so-holy smokes, Batman...)

Changing the mood somewhat, here's a few additional comments about this past Monday's "24"...

Y'know, I THOUGHT that the woman who took Tony hostage in the hours final moments looked familiar, thinking, could it be? Could it really be...Mandy?

But I briefly forgot all about that possibility when I sat down to type up my report, and it wasn't until later, when I went and checked Gary Sassaman's weekly review of the show (which I always do AFTER I get mine posted, so as not to be unduly influenced by anything I'd read elsewhere) that I realized my mistake, as Gary began his comments thusly...

She's been a well-hidden nemesis of Jack Bauer since the first episode of Day 1, back in 2001, crashing a plane back then, to launch a show like we've never seen before. She appeared again at the end of Day 2, poisoning President Palmer with a toxic handshake. And now, Mandy (Mia Kirshner) is back once again for her final showdown with Jack.


I should've known that! Good catch, Gary! And I call myself a fan! Lemme tell ya, it's sure tough typing this while my head is hanging in shame...

There was apparently ANOTHER bit I missed entirely, and it took my old college buddy--and Karaoke King--Karazee Charlie Johnson to bring it to my attention...

Regarding your comments on this week's 24 episode...I'm mildly surprised to notice you failed to mention my favorite moment...when the Speaker of the House is discussing Palmer's involvement, he says the president is "in good hands" obvious nod to Dennis Haysbert's ubiquitous ALLSTATE commercials! I laughed out loud!!

Double D'oh! And here I thought the comedy quotient for the season had been filled in its entirety LAST week! Thanks for the tip, Charlie--how I managed to miss THAT one, I'll never know!

Now, if a gekko had somehow been involved, THAT'S a gag I'd probably have gotten!...
May 18th, 2005
So far, you haven't heard me mention the new DC logo. Well, wouldn't you know it--that's the topic (sorta) of the tenth episode of "The Fred Hembeck Show" over at IGN Comics! Go take a look, okay?

And as always, while your there, check out Peter Sanderson's latest "Comics In Context" column, where he casts a keen eye on the first issue of the new BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE limited series.

(And don't forget to send off for YOUR signed postcard, Pete!)
For those amongst us who treasure the skewed notion of seeing the top echelon of DC's Super Heroes teaming up with funnyman Jerry Lewis, and witnessing beloved typical teen, Archie Andrews, transform himself into the gaudily costumed Pureheart the Powerful, well, THOSE twisted individuals (like moi) might do well to check out an amusing new site I just came across, "Dial B For BLOG"! Sockamagee, indeed!

And should anybody be at all curious about how that mix CD I sent out in the recent blogging music exchange has fared, here's Chris "Lefty" Brown's take, and here's Greg Burgas'. Thanks, fellas--I appreciate your good words, and found it particularly interesting that one of the songs Greg really liked was also singled out as one of the ones Lefty DIDN'T!!

Different tunes for different goons, I guess!

(No offense guys--that was just the best rhyme I could come up with on short notice, y'know? Heh...)
May 17th, 2005
"Okay, Tony, sure, I realize that there's a loose nuclear warhead in the air right now, heading towards an undetermined target, that a major American city could suffer total and utter devastation in a matter of mere minutes--I know all that. Still, I don't see why we can't take a little "us" time and talk about our relationship, y'know?"

"Quit all this Michelle, and come back to me."

"Sure. Sounds good to me."

"Swell. I'll just go on one last mission with Jack, and I'll try real, real hard not to get killed or kidnapped or anything, promise."

"Sigh--best of luck with THAT..."
No, that fanciful slice of dialog wasn't actually uttered during last night's hour of "24", but it might as well have been. In fact, these same two characters delivered some expository dialog that would've made Mort Weisinger cringe, and the ever attentive Tom Peyer was there to transcribe it. There are an awful lot of things that "24" does well, but imbuing their action-packed scenarios with first-rate naturalistic dialog clearly isn't anywhere near the top of that list!

Meanwhile, in Washington--one of the prime targets of the runaway nuke--an overly ambitious Speaker of The House is jockeying for the seat at the head of the table as he begins to suspect--and rightly so, as we viewers well know--that the recently ascended President Logan is little more than a puppet for the expert--but nonetheless ex--President Palmer. Yup, this blowhard is well aware that he could be sitting smack dab in the middle of the terrorist's likely target, and still, his first instinct is political maneuvering! Which only goes to prove that, occasionally, at least, "24" is frightfully realistic...

To throw the suspicious Speaker off the scent, our pair of Chief Execs cook up a little ruse, not unlike the sort Superman and Batman used to concoct to keep Lois Lane from figuring out the truth behind Clark Kent's glasses back in the Weisinger era--at the exact same time Brainiac was about to blow up Earth's moon! LOVE these silly little side diversions "24" seems to come up with on a weekly basis!...

Kudos to the producers for finally following up with a late day revelation based on groundwork that they'd set up way, way back at the beginning of this 24 chapter story arc, something they'd never quite managed to do in the three previous three seasons. Of course, the fact that they dragged the Secretary of Defense's son back in for questioning after finding his phone number on head baddie Marwan's cell (Marwan managed to escape--I should've seen THAT coming, but I didn't--leaving only his phone to remain in CTU's custody) resulted in the dubious revelation that the kid--previously portrayed as a liberal hippie-type blatantly at odds with his establishment dad--was set up by a couple he took home while bar-hopping one night, and while he was in bed with one, the other called the top terrorist's number, leaving a device on his phone that allowed the cell to listen in on his, um, cell.

"So while you slept with the girl, the guy used your phone?" a well rested and finally reappearing William Devane quizzed his disheveled progeny.

"No, dad", he finally replied, "I was with the guy..."

That's right gang--recreational gay sex apparently leads directly to nukes flying towards major American cities! Gee, I sure hope he at least used a condom...

Combine that little shocker with all the various muddled relationship talk (Jack trying to have a serious conversation on the phone with Audrey about their future while in a helicopter just seemed so...ill-timed) and I can't honestly say it was one of "24"s finest hours, but hopefully, by next week, folks'll put aside their petty concerns and remember the threat of imminent holocaust hovering over their heads, and end this thing in fine fashion!

Clearly, less talk, more action!
May 16th, 2005
It's been a long day.

Had a little bout of what I'd have to call writer's fatigue--I wasn't blocked, exactly, just tired--so I spent more time today working on my next IGN piece than I expected to, as I usually try to have that little task wrapped up early on the weekend. Then, I knew that before I'd have the time to peck out today's blog entry, the back lawn really, REALLY needed to be mowed--which would've been fine, save for the extra added headache sprung on us by our back-up mobile, our 1989 Honda. Y'see, to get at the mower in the garage, I needed to back it out first. Simple enough, except that it barely turned over, finally revving up on the fourth try. Once it was out of the way, I figured it best to leave it running for a bit in case the battery needed recharging. So I got out, headed back in to get the mower, and as I grabbed it by the handle and pulled it out onto the driveway, I was startled to notice some not insubstantial puffs of white smoke coming out from under the car's hood!

Well, I immediately turned off the ignition, and after mowing a portion of the jungle-like back lawn--after which our new lawnmower bought last summer stalled out, another annoyance--I went back to the now-cooled engine, and checked both the oil and the water, neither of which seemed to be the source of the problem. Being the furthest thing from mechanically inclined, I had Lynn keep an eye on the motor as I started things up once again, hood still raised, and sure enough, smoke began billowing from an area near the back of the engine. After turning it off again, we consulted with our long-time mechanic on the phone, and while he couldn't begin to guess what was wrong, he did say we could bring the car in tomorrow.

Would it be safe to drive it the five miles over to his shop, or should we have it towed, we asked? He couldn't say for sure, but if we DID choose to drive it in, he suggested we bring a fire extinguisher with us!

We're gonna have it towed...

In other news, Julie's date went well. A quick anecdote--after we told her grandmother of her plans earlier in the week, she declared that our daughter was too young to go out with a boy unchaperoned. When Julie came home from school that afternoon, using my best serious voice, I informed her of what her Grandma had said to Lynn, and told her that her comments had caused us to reconsider Julie's upcoming plans. I told her that I hoped her date had picked out a movie that I'd like, and that not to worry overmuch--I'd be more than happy to pass the popcorn back and forth between the pair as I sat between them!

The best part of springing my little scenario on my girlie are those few delicious seconds when she actually buys into what I'm shovelling at her! It never lasts--I always push it too far, as in this instance with the popcorn passing portion of my patter--but it's just so much fun to see the stunned look on her face when she's still not quite sure if I'm on the level, or not. By now, she knows me well enough to know that "or not" generally wins the day--but hey, ya gotta have fun with your kids SOMEHOW don'tcha?...

The couple went to see "The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy" Saturday afternoon, and I got to meet Jeff, who seems to be a very nice young man (phew!). Lynn, who's been dogged with the longest and nastiest cold she's had the bad fortune to fall prey to in years and years (she'd finally improving, happily) was unable to come along for the inevitable parental gawk, but as it seems this situation is bound to be repeated again in the near future, she'll get her chance soon enough. There's already been some talk of going to the "Star Wars" flick after it opens (anybody besides me spotting a trend here?...)

Speaking of which, it reminds me that my original topic for today was going to be the "Enterprise" finale, but that'll have to wait a few days. Let me mention in passing that Will Ferrell's job hosting "Saturday Night Live" had to be one of the very best jobs done in that capacity by a former cast member. The opening bit, with Ferrell encountering his former colleague's backstage, allegedly just before the air time, with his outwardly glib chatter hilariously contrasted against voice-overs revealing his (and other cast members) TRUE feelings was a classic of self-referential comedy, something that, when SNL gets it right, is out and out side-splitting! Odd thing about Ferrell--I didn't think much of the guy, one way or the other, when he first joined the cast, but by the time he left, he not only qualified in my mind as one of the funniest people ever to work on that show, he's also since proven himself to be one of the very few to graduate into movies I'd actually want to see! We're already planning to check out "Kicking And Screaming", and not just to relive my now past glory days as Julie's soccer coach--put David Spade in the very same role, and you'd have to DRAG me kicking and screaming to see that movie! And y'know, I'm actually sorta curious to see "Bewitched" as well, even though I make it a point to avoid films based on once beloved television series of my mis-begotten youth.

Although I DID go see a few "Star Trek" movies in my time, but like I said, another day for that.


Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, for the next to last time...
May 15th, 2005
Jack Kirby was well known as The King Of Comics, and rightly so.

He was rarely, however, referred to as The Sultan Of Sensuous Sweeties. and again, with good reason.

Still, given the massive amount of pages he churned out during his legendary career, every so often Jack's enchanted pencil would render an absolute angel on paper. As evidence, allow me to present the following lovely lass...
Anyone care to take a guess as to exactly where this Kirby Kutie originally appeared?

(I mean, besides in my dreams?...)

Drop us a line--answer to follow, eventually.
May 14th, 2005
We'd had a computer in our house for several years, but up until the spring of 2002, I didn't much care. That was when we were finally hooked up to a fast connection--before that, it had been years of dial-up, and aside from email and some Ebay sales, I pretty much stayed clear of the Internet, mainly because I just couldn't abide the maddening crawl of images manifesting themselves ever so slowly on my screen. You'd have to have the lifespan of a Vandal Savage to have the patience for dealing with THAT!?!...

That all soon changed. Suddenly, I couldn't get enough of the Internet! I was dazzled--mesmerized, even--and for a good solid month or two there, I virtually lived to bounce from site to site, discovering wondrous new images and information at every click of the mouse! It was exhilarating!

In the midst of my computer spawned delirium, my good buddy, Rocco, drove down for one of his always welcome but sporadic visits. Being he big comics fan that he is, we generally find ourselves pouring over piles of yellowing newsprint as our afternoon's entertainment, but not this day. If memory serves, at this point in time, Rocco himself didn't have a fast connection available for his computer, so I was anxious to share with him the fascinating world I'd only recently discovered.

There we sat, staring at the monitor, as I guided our fantastic journey from site to site, concentrating--naturally--on the visuals. Reading was fine, but slowing down wasn't on the menu that day, so it was all pictures, pictures, pictures! And when you're dealing with comic books, what better pictures are there than covers, hmm? And while there are plenty of places to find covers on the net--and Rocco and I visited many of them that day--the destination we ultimately wound up at was Scott Shaw's magnificent Oddball Comics page.

With such a breathtaking array of images to drink in--there were near a thousand covers posted at the time--we sped through the pages at a dizzying speed, stopping only occasionally to look a bit closer at a particularly odd entry. Mainly, though, we simply flew through the impressive archives, pausing only long enough to shout out things "That Ogden Whitney was way under-appreciated", "Whose idea was it to give Phil Rizzuto his own comic anyway?", and the ever popular, "Got it, got it, need it, want it, had it, got it, got it...".

This went on for close to an hour, with yours truly manning the controls. Since we'd jumped into the listings willy-nilly--starting at the current entry, working our way backwards for a bit before stopping and restarting somewhere deep in the multi-year archives, there was a concern in my mind about treading over ground already covered. With glazed-over eyes and rapid heartbeats caused by the unrelentingly keen focus we were giving the screen--combined with the ever accelerating pace of the gaudy illustrations assaulting our lines of vision--I'd come to one of Scott's Halloween selections, and not knowing whether it best to keep going forward past October 31st, or backtrack and restart elsewhere, I turned to my guest and asked Rocco which way he thought I should go.

"Forward", he said tersely. "Go to the 32nd."


After a brief mutual pause brought about by the logic of this, um, unique suggestion slowly sinking in, we looked at each other and began to laugh. The kind of laugh that springs from giddiness, a giddiness brought about by too many damn Oddball Comics flashing in your face in too short a period of time. The kind of giddiness that, even for a moment, affords the notion of an October 32nd a sort of cock-eyed legitimacy. Yeah, I immediately knew there was no such day, and it took Rocco only a split second to recognize the absurdity of his comment as well, but that didn't make it any less hilarious to me! Clearly, it was past time to back slowly away from the computer screen...

I suppose you might've had to have been there, but the reason I bring this twisted little anecdote up now is that because today, proudly continues a long-standing tradition with it's third annual "Tell A Mildly Embarrassing Story About Rocco Nigro On His Birthday" posting! Yup, May 14 was the day my (hopefully still good) pal was born, but y'know which day I've since designated as Rocco's honorary birthdate?

Uh huh. October 32nd.

Which, by the way, is the day I intend to give you your gift, buddy boy! In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Rocco!
May 13th, 2005
"Take me fishing, because my wedding will be sooner than you think."

Every time I see that cheesy commercial promoting fishing--which, around here, is with distressing frequency--I'm given to simultaneous feelings of contempt toward the tactics employed and mockery of same as the spot's sponsors utilize several adorable young children in a bald-faced attempt to emotionally guilt their elders into baiting a hook with the li'l tykes before it's too late.

UNTIL that little girl comes on last, and makes her plaintive declaration. It gets me every single time...

For the record, I only ever went fishing once in my entire life--but I DO have a no-longer-not-so-little girl. Fishing first: I was in the sixth grade, and my new best friend talked me into getting up at five AM on a Saturday morning to walk down to the local lake and cast from the shore a cheap plastic fishing pole I'd bought just for the occasion. We stayed for a few hours, I didn't catch anything, and because you're supposed to be quiet, I couldn't even talk much--not surprisingly, I was bored to tears. Thus ended my fishing career.

As for my little girl, well, she'll be fifteen late in August, and last Saturday night, she went to her prom. This new private school she's been attending since September is a smallish institution, and as such, the prom is open to everyone in the ninth grade (like Julie) and up. You were also allowed to bring a friend from outside the school, and so Julie chose her pal from her old Junior High, Courtney, to accompany her. Fact is, these days, kids seem to show up at their proms either stag or with friends in far greater numbers that they ever did in the past, so when I dropped the two girls off at 8 o'clock, I figured they'd have a good enough time.

When I returned to pick them up a half hour before midnight, I was surprised to find out just how well the evening had gone for my daughter. Maybe she didn't have a date for the prom going in, but much to my surprise (and other queasy-like emotions), she had one going OUT! During the course of the dance, a boy she knew decided this would be the perfect time to ask her out, y'see, and so now she has a date for THIS Saturday.

Need I mention this is a first for ALL of us?

Geez, do y'think if I get up early enough tomorrow, I can get in a quick round of fishing with Julie before I lose her for good?...
May 12th, 2005
A few days back, I sent you all off to various corners of the Internet in search of free online comic book material. Well, a few more notable destinations have come to my attention in the short time since, and I feel duty bound to keep you all informed of these new developments.

I'm STILL making my way through the Ultimate Dennis the Menace Thread (and if I ever do make it to the end, I may very well stop by and say a few things, but that day is still a ways off, I'm afraid...), and I've made a pair of additional notable discoveries.
Earlier, I gave you the link to the first half of DENNIS THE MENACE #1, and now here's access to the second half. Additionally, here's your opportunity to read my all-time favorite Dennis story (from number 29, though I originally read it in a "Best Of" collection), "Running Wild!".

Aside from an unfortunate racial subtext (during this expertly contrived comedy of errors, dad Henry frets to himself--incorrectly--"must be a savage...escaped from the circus...on the warpath!"), this story still makes my laugh out loud. That sample panel above should give you some idea why. You'll need to scroll down a bit to unearth both of these gems, but it'll be well worth it,

Then there's Pure Excitement Comics, 45 specially assembled issues starring some of the more obscure costumed characters of the Golden Age (discovered via Tony's Tips).

You say you're a lover, not a fighter? Well, then check out The Golden Age Romance Comics Archive! (via Neilalien)

And if you're interested in learning HOW comics are made, you could do worse than read these pearls of wisdom from the legendary Neal Adams, sitting down for a decidedly frank interview.

Don't forget the fifth pulse-pounding edition of Jim Salicrup's Addicted To Comic! Was Stan Lee REALLY the inspiration for the original cinematic Lex Luthor? Read Jim's gloriously crackpot little theory and decide for yourself!

I'd also like to highly recommend this first of hopefully many future columns from Mike Tiefenbacher for The Nostalgia Zine, which was initially pointed out to me by good ol' Jim Engel (and has since also been plugged by Mark Evanier, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to second Mark's emotion). I haven't been reading all that many new super-hero comics in recent years, and though a scarcity of time definitely enters into the equation, a lot of the factors Mike discusses in his well reasoned piece play a large part as well. More, Mike!

Lastly, back on May 1st (scroll down, latecomers), I told you how, for a limited time only, you could get your very own DARK DETECTIVE postcard signed by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin. Well, two things--the time is pretty much limited to when they run out--and there are over 400 left, so c'mon! Send for yours today! And when you do, all you need enclose as a stamped, self-addressed envelope is your standard legal size kind, with but one stamp. That's how I got mine. Apparently, I overstated the need for stamps and size of envelope, and some folks have been sending box-like material for their return packages, and that's just not needed at all! My "oops". So, legal size, one stamp, and for those of you too lazy to scroll down, that address again is

Inky Fingers Press
PO Box 894
Woodstock NY 12498

And tell 'em Fred sent you--unless you send a large, bulky mailer, in which case, shhh, let's just keep this between the two of us, okay?...
May 11th, 2005
Following the recent spotlight I threw on Dick Rockwell, The Marvel Artist Who Wasn't, over at the IGN comics website, one time DC Comics hue-master and all time Old Time Radio expert, Tony Tollin, sent me the above strip, long-time Milton Caniff assistant Rockwell's tribute to his late boss. I would've included it in my follow-up last week, except it somehow got rerouted to an earlier position on my mail roll, and I didn't notice it until it was too late, or else I certainly would've included it. But, belatedly, here it is. Thanks, Tony--and "oops"...

Speaking of IGN ("Ah HA!", you're thinking...), the ninth and latest episode of The Fred Hembeck Show is now ready for viewing! The topic? Free comics, and lot's of 'em!

Don't forget to read Peter Sanderson's latest edition of Comics In Context while you're there. Peter's taking ANOTHER look at the big-screen "Sin City", and perhaps my PERSONAL favorite part of his latest essay comes when, directly after quoting MY modest little review of the Miller flick, the very next line following my deathless observations encapsulates the critique of ANOTHER noted cinephile, one Andrew Sarris! Yeah, and if anything happens to Richard Roeper, I'm next in line to wrestle Roger Ebert for that last box of Junior Mints, too!

May 10th, 2005
"24" still has the ability to not only to surprise, but to genuinely shock as well.

No, I'm not talking about how, in the final moments of last night's episode, head baddie, Marwan, was captured--though not before he successfully launched the stolen nuclear warhead, events one clearly might not have expected to see happen so soon with three full hours left to go. I WAS mildly surprised at these seemingly premature developments, but not shocked.
What shocked me then?


There was comedy spotted on "24" last evening! That's right--it was subtle, but believe me, it was there! Let me set the scene for you. Jack Bauer pulled up at a computer terminal next to CTU's Chloe, who's their top computer whiz, even if she has repeatedly proven to be noticeably deficient in her interpersonal skills. Asking whether the info he'd requested of her had been cleared yet, Bauer replies...

"I still have to talk to Audrey."

"Well, that's gonna be weird..."

Taken aback by this response, Jack pauses, turns away from the screen he's looking at, and says, "What?..."

"Talking to Audrey. I mean, you had to do what you did and her husband died. It's probably destroyed your relationship with her."

Patience waning, Bauer stares at his terminal, and says, "Chloe please--just free up the server!..."



She turns, and says with all sincerity, "Jack, I just want you to know if you ever need anyone to talk to as a friend, I'm here for you."

The deliberate turn Sutherland makes, accompanied by the slight cock of eyebrow and unbelieving look on his face, denoting the sheer unlikelihood of that EVER being a choice he'd consider making, was, in "24" terms, the equivalent of a full-out comedic double-take, and was delivered by Kiefer as skillfully as any sit-com star.

"Not now, but later when things calm down." Chloe helpfully adds, as Jack tries to keep his mouth from gaping.

"Thanks" he says, and then he's up and away, back off onto the generally grim business of heading up the "24" cast.

Y'know, most all noted action/adventure series--whether they be books, movies, comics, or TV--utilize at least a varying degree of what's called "comic relief", but not "24", not even that of the rueful or dark humored variety. In four seasons, I can only ever recall one other instance of a quip being made, and that was (I believe) early on in the second season as one of Jack's superior's (now deceased, natch), making a joke about how driving with Bauer was usually a clear ticket to the marble slab. Hey, it wasn't exactly "Seinfeld", but it was something. This little bit was subtler, but given our knowledge of the characters, quite hilarious in context.

Otherwise, I found myself getting somewhat annoyed by this whole new plot regarding the death of the official at the Chinese Consulate. For this, we have to worry about going to war with China? Hello--there's a terrorist about to wipe out millions of Americans with his purloined missile! Can we put things in perspective here? Things can get a little out of control under these sorta circumstances, y'know. We're sorry, okay? Cut us some slack, couldja? This imbroglio had better pay off somehow in the final hours--otherwise it's only a slightly more sophisticated diversion than Kim and that hungry mountain lion!

And here's a generic question that's been bothering me for a few weeks now. "24" has been careful not to indicate the party affiliations of their Chief Executives, but am I somehow mistaken--due to their debates during season three--in assuming that Palmer and the now incapacitated Keeler were on opposite sides of the aisle? Well, if that was truly the case, why then was Palmer's ousted Chief Of Staff, Mike Novick, acting in the SAME capacity for his successor, if indeed Keeler was a member of the opposing party? I'm willing to swallow that an acting Prez--and this new guy gets to do LOTSA acting, as we all saw last night--might call in someone from the opposition, especially if, in the world of "24", all other former Presidents are dead (hey, most everyone else is, so why not?...), but why Novick would be the choice of BOTH parties for such a high-ranking job, I just can't figure.

Three more hours, two more weeks of these recaps. Stay with me, "Full House" fans.

On another note entirely, today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the most celebrated cover artist of the Golden Age of Comics, Alex Schomburg, a salient fact I picked up earlier by perusing Tony's Online Tips, and I direct you all there to read friend Isabella's extensive--and nicely illustrated--tribute!
May 9th, 2005
Recently, I jumped into a little blogger Mixed Bag tune exchange initiated by Chris “Lefty” Brown over at his website. The carefully crafted mix discs from the other fifteen participants are starting to find their way into my mailbox, but before I get around to discussing their contents, I figured I'd best share the track listing from my very own contribution, as well as some thoughts about the selections therein.

Here then is the track listing from my mix CD:

"Go All The Way"-Raspberries

Sweet City Woman"-Stampeders
"All Summer Long"-Beach Boys
"It's Raining Men"-The Weather Girls
"I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande"-Bing Crosby
"My  Sharona"-The Knack
"Every Breath You Take"-The Police
"One Fine Day"-The Chiffons
"I've Just Seen A Face"-The Beatles
"A Little Respect"-Erasure
"I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm"-Dean Martin
"Morning  Train (Nine To Five)"-Sheena Easton
"(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet"-The Reflections
"Bodhisattva"-Steely Dan
"No Time"-Guess Who
"C30 C60 C90 Go!"-Bow Wow Wow
"Sing Sing Sing"-Benny Goodman
"Concrete and Clay"-Unit 4 plus 2
"The Word"-The Beatles
"It Feels So Good"-Sonique
"On And On And On"-Abba
"Rendezvous"-Greg Kihn Band
"I Ripped My Pants"-SpongeBob (and friends)

Now, let me immediately admit that I bent the rules to their breaking point tossing this compilation into the fray, as we were initially advised to cobble together a collection of ditties we were currently listening to. Well, the truth is, I've compiled about two dozen mixes in the last few years—with near half of those coming in the last few months. Truthfully, then, what I HAVE been listening to are my own mixes! So, in that spirit, I decided to offer up my very first attempt (from 2002) as my contribution to these proceedings. Why? Well, it's not necessarily that I feel it's my best mix--though maybe it is--but it does feature a slew of my favorite tracks, and, more importantly, I consider it to be one of my most accomplished sonically programmed set lists, with one song either just naturally segueing into the next, or providing such an abject contrast with one another so as to throw an entirely new light onto what was an otherwise overly familiar number.

The overriding theme? Simple—every single one of these songs are the sort that make me immediately reach for the volume button and crank it up when they come wafting over my car's speakers! And, if there's no one else in the car with me, there's every good chance yours truly will gleefully add his dubious voice to the storied (and not so storied) professionals responsible for the original recordings--sorta my own personal version of Karazee Karaoke you might say! The point is, this is a collection of songs that I can listen to endlessly, and truly enjoy as much the five thousandth time through as I did the very first time! Lyrical content? Always secondary with me. It's the sound that's important. If I want clever words, I'll read a book, y'know? Which isn't to say that I don't sometimes connect with a particularly touching or inventive set of lyrics, but I'll never look down my nose at a tune solely on the basis of supposedly inane couplets--not if it sounds hot, brother!

So, with that as an introduction, here's a few choice words about each selection...

"Go All The Way"-The Raspberries

Ideally, the opening cut of any CD should grab your complete attention, and immediately! This 1972 number five hit from the Eric Carmen led Raspberries more than fits that bill, with it's raucous, Led Zeppelin-like opening that quickly morphs into a Beatlesque ballad, and then back again, complete with Carmen's pitch perfect McCartney-ish “Oooos” during the extended fade! The fact that the song's sweetly sung lyrics are surprisingly provocative (at least, for its era) doesn't hurt its appeal any, either. Carmen—both with and without the Raspberries—had other hits after this, but none ever came close to matching the sheer joy of this recording, one that essentially defined the term “Power Pop”!

"Sweet City Woman"-Stampeders

“One Hit Wonder”? Maybe, but to me it's a “One Hit Wonderful!” Reaching the eighth position on the Billboard charts during my freshman semester of college in the fall of 1971, I can clearly recall the little extra charge I always got when the opening banjo strums of this tuneful ditty came over the car's AM radio on my way to class. The crisp arrangement of both vocals and instrumentation of this otherwise slight composition are what sell it for me—that, plus the lyrical reference to macaroons. Mmmm—macaroons! Anxiously awaiting the Stampeders reunion tour...
"All Summer Long"-Beach Boys

Is this my favorite Beach Boys recording. No. That'd be “Wouldn't It Be Nice”, or “God Only Knows”, or “I Get Around”, or “Good Vibrations”. or—well, you get the idea. But this title tune from one of their 1964 albums was indelibly etched in my mind several years later when it accompanied the end credits to a movie that had just left a lasting emotional impression on me, “American Graffiti”. To hear those opening notes play as the screen goes dark and the names begin to roll is to witness a small slice of cinematic magic. Plus, both musically and lyrically, it exemplifies everything the Boys represented at their good-timin' height.
"It's Raining Men"-The Weather Girls

Co-written by Paul Shaffer—yes, THAT Paul Shaffer—this 1982 recording only made it to number 46 in the final fading days of disco, but has had a robust afterlife in the decades since. Performed by a pair of large-size ladies going by the name of The Weather Girls in a manner simultaneously tongue-in-cheek AND sincere, it's a combination of the infectious—if ridiculous--chorus with sound effects effectively mimicking a storm to provide the unrelenting beat that has even a straight guy like me praying for a downpour! Hallelujah indeed!

"I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande"-Bing Crosby

This Johnny Mercer penned tune, expertly backed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, topped the charts back in 1936, and remains my all-time favorite performance by der Bingle. This tale of a boastful—if decidedly ersatz—cowpoke swings like there's no tomorrow at the dude ranch. Crosby pulls out all his tricks, as he sings it straight, then banters with the back-up vocalists, slows down the tempo in order to embellish the ditty with his unique talk-scat approach, and finally, embarks on an inspired flourish of acapella before closing the proceedings with a hearty—and wholly appropriate--”Whoa!” Ah, if only my technical mixing capabilities would allow for the elimination of the several seconds that are automatically programmed in between tracks, because my favorite segue comes between this number and the next one. (Truth is, I push the “forward” button on my remote as Bing and the boys shout out that last exclamation whenever I get the chance so as to do manually what I dearly wish I could've done mechanically...)

"My  Sharona"-The Knack that “Whoa!” sidled right up alongside the monstrous riff that opens this overwhelmingly successful chart-topper from 1979 gives a wonderfully new dimension to both recordings! Yes, some might say “My Sharona” was overplayed in its day, but you'll get no complaints from me. This thunderous number—that just repeats its signature riff over and over and over for over four minutes plus, briefly pausing for a masterful guitar solo that soon melts right back into the riff de jour—put the Knack on the map. Unfortunately, their comparatively tepid follow-up recordings knocked 'em right off again...

"Every Breath You Take"-The Police

As Comic Book Guy might say. "Best Police song EVER!" Most successful one , too—it resided comfortably in the number one position for eight solid weeks back in 1983 (and proved so strong that, when “borrowed” by the questionably talented Sean “Puff Daddy, P Diddy” Combs years later, it helped make a star out of the rap mogul). I'm not a particularly big Police—or Sting—enthusiast. Like 'em, don't love 'em, but I can't EVER resist this sinuous bass line. Sure, listen closely enough, and you begin to realize the singer's an unrepentant stalker, but hey, love's a crazy thing, y'know? Like, SERIOUSLY crazy...

"One Fine Day"-The Chiffons

I ADORE the Girl Group sound of the early sixties, and this robust number, with its barreling piano intro, was my somewhat random choice to represent the genre on this mix. Oddly enough, though I'd attempt on later mixes to run lyrical themes throughout several numbers, it wasn't until I listened to this Chiffons hit (number five in 1963) that I realized that the songstress could easily qualify as Sting's female counterpart, berating as she is a lover who's obviously spurned her, one who'll realize his mistake one fine day. Yeah—but fine for WHO?...

"I've Just Seen A Face"-The Beatles

The opening number on my all-time favorite album, one that, at this point in time anyway, doesn't yet exist on CD, the American version of “Rubber Soul”. No offense to “Drive My Car”, but even after all these years of spinning my British version of that landmark Beatles LP, I still can't get used to the absence of this cut (or “It's Only Love”, for that matter—and as to why I just didn't MAKE my own version of the U.S, assemblage, well, I certainly would've years ago, save for the fact that, for some odd reason, the sound level on “Help!” (where those tunes currently reside) is noticeably lower that the one on the “Rubber Soul” CD, and mixing the two would make for an aurally jarring experience. Here's hoping Capitol eventually sees fit to release a version of the beloved American "Soul"...) This nearly acoustic number is marvelously melodic, upbeat, and beautifully performed, with both McCartney's vocals and Harrison's guitar picking making this an outstanding track from a group that routinely issued virtually nothing but! No, it's not my favorite Beatles tune, but it's up there! And decidedly ahead of “Drive My Car”, for what that's worth...

"A Little Respect"-Erasure

I knew absolutely nothing about the duo Erasure when, purely out of curiosity, I picked up their “ABBA-esque” cover EP CD at the local used CD store for a mere pittance about a decade ago. Impressed by what I'd heard, I soon went back and scooped up their Greatest Hits collection from the same bargain-priced outlet. Since then, I've managed to amass a near complete Erasure collection, but I chose this, their biggest U.S. hit from 1988, for inclusion on my giddily non-stop up-tempo mix. Combining the charging beat's synth-based arrangement with Andy Bell's distinctively emotional vocal, well, this number garners MORE than a little respect from me, folks!

"I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm"-Dean Martin

I'd never heard this Irving Berlin composition until I picked up a reissue/compilation of Dean (my second-favorite classic crooner) Martin's Christmas songs a few years back, and immediately fell under the spell of its rollicking syncopated opening, evincing far more pure energy than you'd expect from your typical mid-fifties easy listening side. And Dino! What a performance! The way he effortlessly takes each line's final note to a soaring conclusion is a testament to the genius of his glib vocal style. My single favorite Dean Martin track as much for his contribution as for the livelier than usual instrumental arrangement. My only real caveat is a semantic one: this AIN'T a Christmas tune, people! Just because it's a cold December doesn't REALLY justify programming it up alongside the likes of more standard holiday fare like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, y'know! There are zippo sleigh bells on THIS track, gang. And speaking of tracks...
"Morning  Train (Nine To Five)"-Sheena Easton

All aboard for the Pop Diva Express! Yeah, this is the one that'll raise the most eyebrows. Ms. Easton had her first big success when this went to number one in 1981, but there are folks who'd likely consider this number little more than a piece of negligible fluff. Well, maybe, but I like it! Fact is, I somehow always manage to include a track from the likes of Laura Branigan, Taylor Dayne, Olivia Newton John, Expose, Donna Summer, and Paula Abdul on each one of my mixes! The fun is in aligning numbers like Ms. Abdul's “Straight Up” alongside such allegedly hipper stuff like the White Stripes' “Seven Nation Army”, and making it all sound somehow natural!
“Morning Train” abounds in cheese, sure, but it's a hefty load of smile-inducing cheese, even mirroring the happy syncopation of the previous selection (and, due to a brief passage of hand-clapping, foretelling the sounds to come), and it remains my favorite Sheena Easton recording (which admittedly isn't as impressive a declaration as some of the ones I made earlier, but...)

'(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet'-The Reflections

Despite my obvious sentimental attachment to this song--due to it being a part of the Top Forty scene (number six, to be precise) during those halcyon days when the advent of full-scale Beatlemania piped over the AM radio airwaves changed my life forever--I'd boldly make the case that this tune has far more than my rosy-eared nostalgia going for it, and is, in fact, one undeniably swell ditty! With a cleverly constructed lyrical nod to the Bard, this recording derives much of its appeal from having its beat provided by an enthusiastic orchestra of hand clappers! I LOVE hand claps! “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was another record that benefitted from this simple yet effective percussive practice. Combine the irresistible clapping with some fine back-up doo-wopping, all behind a propulsive lead vocal, whittling teen-age love down into Shakespeare-For-Dummies like terminology, and you've got a song that gets my heart racing every time I hear its opening notes! To play or not to play? NO question!

"Bodhisattva"-Steely Dan

And speaking of of lyrics, what do the words of this renowned album track from the Dan's second long-player, 1973's “Countdown To Ecstasy” mean anyway? Friends, I don't know, and I don't care! All I know is that this thing has a gleefully unstoppable quality that allows for some masterful playing (and yes, even some choice hand-claps towards the beginning), resulting in a suitably frenzied finale following the title phrase being repeated maybe one too many times, only to release an expertly played guitar rave-up on us lucky listeners when vocalist Donald Fagen coolly declares “Watch out!”

"No Time"-Guess Who

An oft-overlooked late sixties musical aggregation, mistakenly thought to be little more than a AM radio hit machine, the Guess Who—particularly before Randy Bachman had left singer Burton Cummings to steer the course (and pen more misses than hits) all on his own—was an impressive group that maybe never quite got the respect they ultimately deserved. Like the Raspberries, they had the ability to go from hard rock to ballad-like interludes and back convincingly—and given their lengthy string of hits (this one made number five in 1970), far more consistently.
"C30 C60 C90 Go!"-Bow Wow Wow

The debut single from a group created by the Sex Pistol's infamous manager, Malcolm McLaren, this ode to home taping didn't even chart on this side of the Atlantic, but by enlisting a fourteen year old vocalist named Annabella and then photographing her partially nude in an update of a famous Manet painting for their first album cover, the Svengali-like promoter kept interest high enough until they finally did score a modest world-wide hit with their version of The Strangeloves “I Want Candy” several releases later. I've always preferred this track, though, for its bare-bones percussion and spat out lyrics. Pound those skins, boys--and Annabella, for heaven's sakes, put some clothes on!....
"Sing Sing Sing"-Benny Goodman

And the playing by legendary drummer Gene Krupa on this most stunning of swing band tracks doesn't need even the hint of a half nude nymphette to totally engage listeners! Times were simpler back then. Along with future star Harry James on trumpet, and the gifted Goodman manning the licorice stick (that's a clarinet for all you squares), this pivotal 1936 recording was once called the era's “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”--and that WASN'T meant in a BAD way! At over eight minutes in length, Goodman's full compliment of top-notch musicians get a full work out, but its Krupa who carries the day and gives the number its unrelenting propulsivesness (which are terms I keep using over and over—maybe I should've dubbed this mix “Fred's Unrelenting Propulsive Mix”, eh? It'd certainly fit...). Every time I listen to this recording, I come away in absolute awe...

"Concrete and Clay'-Unit 4 plus 2

I don't know much about this largely forgotten English band, whose sole hit scraped the lower portion of the Top Forty in 1965, registering at a mere number 28. Vaguely recalling it from its day, I rediscovered it on a volume of Rhino's indispensable “History of The British Invasion” series, and I was won over not only by its appealing melody, but also for its unusually sharp sound clarity. Plus, the opening cow bell makes for a nice transition from the one heard towards the end of “Sing Sing Sing!” (which, perplexingly enough, doesn't feature anyone singing even a single note?...)

"The Word"-The Beatles

Another “Rubber Soul” selection, this time led by Lennon. Why I chose this tune I'm not entirely sure—certainly, it's not one of my top favorite Beatles tracks. It is, however, one that gets very little acknowledgement for its subtly ground-breaking nature. Musically, the piano seems to lurch back and forth as the boys—all three for a change—sing the chorus in joyful unison, and lyrically, well, I clearly recall it as some of the earliest evidence that the days of holding hands were over for good. It may sound like a small thing, but when John sings that he'd heard the word "in the good and the bad books that I have read”, that hinted for the first time that things weren't always bright and sunny in the Beatles world. I suppose they could've just meant lousy books, but I chose to interpret it more as forbidden books, which always gave that line--and tune--a little extra edge in my mind. I'm glad I included it in this mix, because hearing “The Word” in a fresh context only proves what an excellent song it actually is.

"It Feels So Good"-Sonique

This came from my daughter's fourth volume of “Now (That's What I Call Music!)” CD series , otherwise known to her aging parents as “Now (That's What They Call MUSIC?)”. To be fair, there's always about three or four tracks—sometimes, wonder of wonders, even more—on these things that I find appealing, and this clear and away was my favorite from the ones released in the late nineties. A very compelling vocal, seductive instrumental backing—and as far as I can tell—no further chart action for friend Sonique. That's the way it went then with the Stampeders, and that the way it still goes Now, too, apparently...

"On And On And On"-ABBA

Let me be totally up front about this—I LOVE ABBA! I have for a long time, and you're going to find one of their recordings on virtually every one of my mixes. Not just one their many, many, many hits, either—this little number comes from their latter day album, 1980's “Super Trouper”. Considering ABBA's material was written exclusively by a pair of gents for whom English was a second language, under those circumstances it'd do listeners well not to expect Springsteen-like couplets. Still, with music as gloriously exuberant as “On And On And On”, who cares? I've always had a particular fondness for this cut because it's so clearly ABBA's rewritten version of the Beach Boys late-sixties classic, “Do It Again” (and I'm not the only one who noticed the similarities, as Mike Love contributed his very own version of “On And On And On” to an ABBA tribute CD, which I suppose is preferable to presenting our Swedish friends with a lawsuit, yah?...)

"Rendezvous"-Greg Kihn Band

The story goes that, so impressed was the Boss—yup, Springsteen—with Greg Kihn's take on one of his early compositions, “For You”, that he gave “Rendezvous” to Kihn to record first (Bruce's version eventually turned up on his “Tracks” box set, decades after it first appeared on Kihn's 1979 "With The Naked Eye" LP). I was lucky enough to see them both in concert, and I've gotta say, the way he commanded the stage and held sway over the audience was unlike virtually anything else I've ever been privileged to witness--a masterful performance! And, y'know, Springsteen was pretty good, too...

"I Ripped My Pants"-SpongeBob (and friends)

This shortie (clocking in at less than two minutes) has a brief spoken word intro delivered by Mr. SquarePants himself, but he leaves the actual singing of this satiric—and flawlessly performed--“Pet Sounds” pastiche to some unidentified but fully capable studio musicians. Listen for the “Caroline, No” maraca shake (Mmmm--maraca shake...).

And that's it. From what little chance I've had to absorb, at this writing, the other mixes mixed up for this web-tastic experiment, mine fails, for the most part, to champion any worthy but obscure tunes. But I hope listeners can at least take from it a new way to appreciate the already familiar. There's talk of another round of discs being cooked up, and I'm all for it—and this time around, I'm determined to provide a fresh recipe with some decidedly exotic ingredients! Still, a reliable meal well prepared is a treat nonetheless, right?

(Oh, and if I managed to get anyone not in the Mixed Bag mix's taste bud's salivating with this extensive rundown of my musical menu, drop me a line, and I'm sure we can figure a way to get you a slice to go, hmm?...)
May 8, 2005
Best wishes to every mother--and Mother Box--from here to Apokolips, courtesy of Scott Free, Funky Flashman, and Fred Hembox!
May 7th, 2005
It's Free Comic Book Day!

But, if like me, you're busy and can't make it to your local Comic Book store (I'm seeding the front lawn--what's YOUR excuse?...), I've located several gems available to you gratis on the web, so enjoy!

Four vintage Jimmy Olsen-in-a-dress stories, and--huh?--my own parody of same on the Transgender Graphics and Fiction Archive (via the amazing Tom Peyer).

The first 18 pages of Dennis the Menace #1 (scroll down)--The Ultimate Dennis the Menace Thread.

The first story in Richie Rich #1--The Harveyville Fun Times

18 page Thirteen story by my all-time favorite comics humorist, John Stanley

Joe Yank episode drawn by Alex Toth

Jack Cole's Midnight--the three previous selections just some of the goodies available from The Last Of The Spinner Rack Junkies!

Homer the Happy Ghost by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo

"Dance of Doom" a 1953 story drawn by Leonard Starr from HOUSE OF MYSTERY #18

Barkis, 64 pages of Crockett Johnson, all the above just a few of the nifty oddities to be found at U.S.S. Catastrophe

1961's epic TREASURE CHEST expose, "This Godless Communism"--with wonderful Reed Crandall art! From The Authentic History Center.

"The Monster Of Dread End", written by John Stanley (him again?) for 1961's GHOST STORIES #1 (via Scott Shaw's swell Oddball Comics site)

"Raising Nancies" by Howard Cruse (Sluggos not included!)

"The Amazing Story Of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue" merely one of 75 (!!) classic Tales of Superman

The Fighting Yank, just one of nearly a dozen stories you could read at the Mort Meshkin page

"Just A Gigolo", The Little Lulu Page, by--yup--John Stanley

A 1955 Robin Hood story with art by Frank Bolle

A complete copy of MLJ's Hangman #3 from 1942, courtesy of Gold

...and three primo Stan Lee/Steve Ditko fantasy tales, a unique Kanigher/Kubert battle episode, and a Fred Toole/Al Wiseman Dennis the Menace Christmas story, all of which can be found off in another corner of this very site! Imagine that!

That should hold ya, don'tcha think? Have fun! And don't bother reaching for your wallets--it's all FREE!

But of course--you'd expect anything less on Free Comic Book Day, hmmm?...
May 6th, 2005
I've added forty new Comic Art Links today. As always, the ** next to them are dead giveaways that they're fresh.

Let me point with pride to one in particular: "Ramblin' With Roger" from my old Fantaco buddy, Roger Green. Though it isn't a comics blog per se, Roger promises that the fifth posting on his brand-new site will be about funnybooks, so those of you who lean in that direction may want to go take a peek. Me, I'll be checking EVERY day! To the best of my knowledge, Roger is the first person I've actually known, face to face, who's gotten an active blog going, and it's interesting in that you find out all sorts of stuff about folks, stuff that just never seems to come up in casual conversation, y'know? And inasmuch as I inadvertently inspired Rog to launch his blog--if I may be so bold--well, I HAFTA keep reading! It's just too bad he went online a smidgen too late to get in on the Mix CD swap that's currently in progress, but next time, Roger, next time!

In the meantime, we're all waiting breathlessly to hear your tales of "Jeopardy" and are collectively wondering what Alex Trebek is REALLY like!

And don't forget to read Jim Salicrup's fourth edition of "Addicted To Comics"--I didn't!.

(Forget, I mean...)
May 5th, 2005
Monday afternoon, I picked Julie up at school following her weekly electric bass lesson. She was all giddy when she approached my car, and I soon found out the reason: her teacher was showing her how to play her favorite "hippie" song, "White Rabbit", and my daughter, well known around these parts for her procrastinating ways, assured me that THIS would fire up her enthusiasm for her oft neglected practicing. Well, as always, she sounded sincere at the time, but two days later, no strings have been attacked.

(Odd thing--with all the great music available here at Casa Hembeck, the first, and maybe ONLY group from my past that my nearly 15 year old kiddo has ever embraced has been Jefferson Airplane! Yeah, yeah, I know--we'll keep the family hookah safely locked away just in case...)

Well, as is our routine on Mondays, we first stopped off at the Lexington Bagel Cafe to purchase a baker's dozen of those culinary delights. We walked in, and instead of the usual teen-age girl behind the counter--or the occasional older woman--there was a teen-age boy, maybe a year or two older than Julie, about to take our order. But before I could determine which varieties to choose, the young fellow smiled, his eyes keenly focused on what I was wearing...
Yup, it was the Graphitti Design replica of the mid-sixties Thor tee-shirt (of which, I wrote about here, in connection with the Classic Cover Redo I did of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #89, original home of that iconic Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers image). The kid looked at it admiringly, and said, "Thor, huh? Cool shirt." I thanked him as Julie looked on, paid for our goodies and soon left the establishment.

After putting the bag in the car, we walked back and went several doors down to the local Subway Subs eatery. Generally, we pick up a veggy sub for our young vegetarian, one that she can eat for dinner while her evil parents devour a meal of cooked animal flesh (mmm--cooked animal flesh!...). We found yet another teen-age boy behind this counter as well, and as we approached him to place Julie's order, he smiled an even wider smile than the kid over at the bagel store...

"Wow--Thor! That's a GREAT shirt!"

I thanked him, and smiled at Julie knowingly.

"I've seen a lot of super-hero tee shirts--man, I like those super-heroes--but I've never seen THAT one before. Where'd you get it?"

Well, rather than try and explain to him that I bought it from a firm called Graphitti Design through the Diamond Previews catalog, I just grinned and said I'd had it a long, long time. The answer seemed to satisfy him, and then he pointed out that Julie, too, was wearing a super-hero shirt, in her case, a blue one with the traditional Superman S emblem, surrounded by some red flames, which, despite her disinterest in all things comics, appears to be one of her favorite--and most frequently worn--articles of clothing. Apparently, this was all too much for him, as he proceeded to overload Julie's sandwich, and had an awfully difficult time getting it to close. An Uru hammer might've come in pretty handy right about then, but eventually, he managed without...

After we left, a couple of things occurred to me. In all the years since I've added these classic couture replicas to my wardrobe, I've received maybe three comments from interested strangers over the many times I'd worn them out in public. Suddenly, I get two favorable comments within the space of ten minutes!

And while I'm no expert regarding teen-age boys (insert your own Neverland joke here), neither of these fellows looked to be your stereotypical nerdy type. I'm not gonna say they were "hotties"--that's not my call--but as I said to Julie on the drive home, apparently I'd stumbled onto the secret of attracting good looking teen-age boys: wear a classic Kirby Thor tee-shirt!

I then offered her the shirt off my back, in fact, but she just rolled her eyes and smiled that mildly embarrassed grin she flashes all too often at one of my quips. Hey, I STILL think it's good advice, and so I offer it up to any of the teen-age GIRLS who visit this site!

(Hey, it COULD happen--I did post a picture of Jesse McCartney here once, though my purpose was NOT to lure in the little ladies--honest!...)
May 4th, 2005
Janet Van Dyne, the wonderful Wasp.

The credits say the pencil artist responsible for this drawing was none other than Steve Ditko, a lie that I--and I'm sure many other first generation Marvel Comics fans--accepted blindly, but thanks to facts revealed by our special guest investigator, Mark Evanier, the eighth episode of IGN's The Fred Hembeck Show rips the lid off this decades old cover-up, a little something we're doing our very best to resist calling "Giant-Mangate"!

WHO was the mystery artist? Use the link, friends, use the link--this one's quite the scoop!
And while you're there, stop by and check out Mr. First Nighter, Peter Sanderson, as he reports directly from the aisles of Broadway's hit Monty Python musical, "Spamalot"!

(Okay, so it wasn't REALLY the first night, but instead my fellow IGN associate's birthday! Happy belated one, Peter--and need I say, many more?)

(Huh--the Knights who say "nee"?...)

Bonus link: Postmodern Barney. Always interesting, always entertaining.

Not much more to say. Been a long day--too much yard work by a long shot. You might remember our front lawn was totally ripped up last fall when we needed to replace some water pipes. Well, now I'm digging topsoil from way out in the back, dragging it up front, raking it over the most barren spots (having removed as many rocks as I could muster in days past), in preparation of seeding it a few days hence. Did this fifteen times today, and probably have fifteen more loads ahead of me. Some people actually LIKE yard work, I'm told. Yeah, and some people think jumping out of a plane qualifies as FUN, too!...

At least I made it to the PO today and mailed out my Music Mixes--more on that as everybody else's CDs arrive hereabouts.
May 3rd, 2005
Well, I sure didn't see THAT coming!

I know, I know--I should've, as Paul's demise was telegraphed halfway through the hour when he unexpectedly went into arrest shortly after Jack finally had the chance to thank him for saving his life earlier in the day (that'd be over a month ago now for most viewers), but to have him going under the knife just as Bauer rushes into CTU's makeshift O.R. with the only witness who can tell them where the missing nuke is about to expire as well, causing the super-agent to pull a gun on the surgeon, and demand he abandon his girlfriend's (no longer) estranged hubby to save the life of his prisoner--all while she's watching!!--well, that friends, was the contrived genius of "24" at its very best! Man!
Up until those final moments, this most recent hour of "24" seemed to be fairly sedate in comparison to what had gone before. In fact, if anything, the whole episode seemed to be focusing a little bit heavier than usual on the lovey-dovey stuff: Audrey telling Paul she'd help him with his recovery, Michelle finding out Tony was living with someone, the big boss having words with Tony over Michelle, and even good ol' Edgar doing his best to console Machine Gun Chloe. Gravitas alternated with these romantic subplots as we welcomed the return of President Palmer, in for the haplessly overwhelmed President Logan. Of course, this being "24", it wasn't long before he put HIS foot in it, too...

The aforementioned witness was a Chinese national who'd taken refuge in the Chinese consulate, and despite Palmer's pleas for some swift diplomacy to get him into U.S. hands for questioning, in the end, that was going to take more time than they dared to spare, so the designated Prez authorized Bauer to go in covertly and pull their man out. Which he did--but here's where the producers proudly began waving the red flag of stupidity: having secured his man over his shoulder, Jack runs out to his compatriot's waiting van as a half dozen Chinese soldiers fire upon him! Now, in the course of this ill-advised tactic, the head Chinese diplomat is killed by friendly fire, making Palmer responsible for a nasty international incident, but here's the REAL question--if Jack is running off with a man the Chinese believe to be merely an innocent captive, WHY ARE THEY ALL SHOOTING AT HIM?? Yes, they want to get the man with the mask, I understand that, but the guy they're trying to rescue is DIRECTLY IN THEIR LINE OF FIRE!! And naturally, Jack isn't even nicked! The witness, however, is wounded just enough to precipitate the episode's gut wrenching finale...

Speaking of which, in nearly four years of being cooly in complete control of every situation, no matter how harrowing, Kiefer Surtherland FINALLY got to stretch a little, showing us what Jack Bauer looks like when he's helpless. Quick--someone call the Emmy people!

So that's it. Four more hours, three more weeks (since word has it that the last night will feature two episodes). To say I'm looking forward to it would qualify as an understatement, but I certainly knew better than to read the above TV GUIDE cover story, despite the tantalizing quote on the cover. Fact is, I refuse to watch the coming attractions at the end of the show--and should they come on live, when I'm watching Fox (rare, but it happens), I do the stereotypical "la la la la la" thing with my fingers in the ears--the whole routine. Hey, pardon me, but they give WAY too much away, something I learned early on. The first couple of seasons, y'see, I was taping the show to pass along to a friend, and, just out of curiosity, after watching an episode, I'd go back and watch the coming attractions from the PREVIOUS week, and I was repeatedly appalled at how many of the really nifty plot twists they blatantly revealed! No thanks--with a show like "24", it AIN'T nuance I'm looking for, it's shocks and surprises. Coming attractions--these days, ALL coming attractions--provide far too much information. So, if you've read that TV GUIDE article, fine--just don't tell me about it, okay?...

Lastly, from fellow "24" fancier, David Rutman, some questions about "24" you're not supposed to ask...

This season of 24 began at 7:00 AM. The current staff of CTU operatives was on duty as the crisis began. Assuming they don't ordinarily work 24/7, they probably started their shift at midnight and planned to leave at 8AM. This is the graveyard shift, traditionally the worst shift offered on a round-the-clock business (with the least capable staffers).

OK, it's a crisis and they've been told to stay. So where is the shift of CTU workers that would have clocked in at 8AM and the next shift that would have clocked in at 4PM. Did these "fresh" operatives show up to be sent home, in favor of keeping on an exhausted and hungry graveyard shift from the night before?

And how does Edgar stay so plump if he never eats?

And how threatening is the CTU security staff wearing cranberry colored uniforms?

Good questions, David, each and every one. I can almost forgive them for not showing characters eating (though, remember, the day DID begin with mom, dad, and teen-son terrorist sitting down for a healthy breakfast!), but you'd think by now, SOMEBODY at CTU would be drinking coffee--strong, STRONG coffee!

And you know, I keep asking myself, where's Secretary of Defense William Devane--and then I realize the obvious answer: he's ASLEEP!! Hey, somebody should be--not everybody can stay awake 24 straight hours, y'know!...
May 2nd, 2005
A man of many hats, several faces, and one history altering voice (really--look it up...) was born 104 years ago today.

I'll admit, growing up in the sixties, I didn't have much use for an old fuddy-duddy like Bing Crosby. If I ever even bothered to tune into ABC's Saturday night "Hollywood Palace" variety show, invariably it was to check out the latest hot rock band they set aside a stingy three minutes for towards the end of the program, not to listen to frequent host Crosby croon his quaint ditties. Still, he HAD co-starred with Bob Hope in those delightful "Road" pictures I dearly loved, so he did have THAT going for him...

Turned out to be a critical selling point in the end, too. Back in the early nineties, a CD collecting all the musical numbers from those Hope/Crosby comedy classics became available, and I quickly snatched up a copy, ostensibly to enjoy the singing of Bob Hope (yes, I LIKE the singing of Bob Hope--so sue me...). But, to hear Bob wistfully warble his numbers, one had to also sit through Bing's efforts, and soon enough, I found myself enjoying Hope's partner far more than initially expected. Well, you can probably imagine what happened next...

Reassessing der Bingle set off a sort of musical domino effect, as I became infatuated with crooners of all ilks, swing bands of every stripe, and smooth voiced chanteuses of every era, from the thirties right on up through the day Elvis changed it all--but never, in my new found appreciation for what most members of my generation--myself most definitely included--had always considered "old fogey music" did I find anyone who swung harder and more joyously than ol' Harry Lillis himself, especially when he was teamed with his frequent--and greatest--musical collaborators, the red-hot Andrew Sisters!

So my message to you all today is, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, forget about Mr. In-between--and join me and Joltin' Joe Sinnott in raising a toast to a true American original!
May 1st, 2005
So I'm out to lunch again the other day with my pal, Terry Austin, and afterwards he not only graciously gifts me with a copy of the initial issue of the BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE limited series, but he hands me this swell little postcard as well. Gee, ain't I the lucky one, I think?

Not as lucky as some of YOU folks out there can be, turns out. I was talking to Terry on the phone earlier this morning, and he clued me into a special limited time offer that's being made over at Steve Englehart's fine website--if you'd like a copy of this card (measuring 6 inches by 4) signed by none other than Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin their own selves, all you've gotta do is send a self-addressed stamped envelope big enough to hold a postcard to:

Inky Fingers Press
PO Box 894
Woodstock NY 12498

That's right--it's virtually FREE! But don't forget the boys are asking for a self-addressed STAMPED envelope--heck, if you're uncertain of the potential weight and all, toss on TWO stamps! This is still a bargain--as anyone who's ever quickly skimmed over the Dynamic Forces section of over-priced signed goodies in Diamond Previews can readily attest!

So go ahead--what're you waiting for? They won't last forever--send for yours today! And tell 'em Fred sent you! It won't do you a lick of good to mention my name, true, but it'll be further solid evidence of the power and influence I wield over this thing men call the Internet--and as such, it'll make me very, very happy!

Make YOURSELF happy, friends--buy DARK DETECTIVE, and then get yerself a commemorative card!

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