Archive - November 2004
Who Fred? Links-a-Plenty!
November 30th, 2004
It's been a long, long month.

We started things off on the first of November by railing at the man in charge, our metamorphical fist clenched and shaking viciously at the heavens, cautiously convinced that he'd most certainly be out of job in a mere matter of days.

Dream on, Fred.

So, after THAT little disappointment, I got all paranoid like, and practically began frothing at the keyboard. Hey, these things happen.

But, I managed to calm myself down--at least, somewhat--partially by keeping the Oval Office theme going throughout the ensuing weeks here in blogville.

So, I think it's only fitting that we END November staring slack-jawed at the image below, proving indisputably that, yes folks, we COULD be in far worse straits than we already are...
Yup, that's sweet li'l Julie Hembeck all right, standing proudly behind a mock podium while on a field trip to New York City with her art class a few days back, just before Thanksgiving. She's a swell kid, granted, but President? Trust me--I'm not so sure that'd be such a good idea.

I mean, replacing "Hail To The Chief" with "Beat It" would only be the beginning...

...of the END?...
November 29th, 2004
Recently, the Bravo network ran several specials presenting what they opined to be the 100 Greatest TV Characters, EVER!
No, I didn't watch, as I find these sort of things to be invariably frustrating, since at their core, they're merely an accumulation of some faceless folk's personal prejudices, and I'd rather not get myself all in an uproar barking at my poor, innocent television screen that, hey, Lucy Ricardo should be the number one choice, not Archie Bunker (yeah, I'll admit it: I saw a list of the list. Believe me, that was far simpler than slogging through all those hours of clips...)

Still, that doesn't mean I'm not susceptible to trying a little of my own List-mania !.
( opposed to “Lizstomania”, that awful Ken Russell flick that had The Who's Roger Daltry cast in the title role—with Yes's Rick Wakeman inexplicably cameoing in a Kirby designed Thor outfit! But THAT'S another topic altogether...)..
But my list is simply MY list—and I'm certainly not going to attempt to name the Greatest, the Funniest, and most assuredly not the BEST characters ever to grace the tube. Uh uh. My focus concerns a baker's dozen of characters who, whenever they show up on my television set, a smile immediately dances across my face, and I confess to pretty much laughing before they even DO anything! Now, these aren't your beloved Ernie Bilkos, Rob Petries, or Frasier Cranes, all of whom possessed the force of personality to headline some of the best comedies in the medium's more than half century history. Those comedic personas were inhabited by gifted performers who brought to life and greatly enhanced already top-notch material.
The list I'M compiling is made up simply of actors (all male as it turns out) who, merely by way of their look, their voice, or their attitude, meant instant chuckles when they moseyed onto the scene. Most were second bananas, most were decidedly odd, and ALL of them still manage to break me up each and every time!

So, in no particular order, and with no additional commentary, I present you with my list of the 13 Characters Who Never Fail To Break Me Up Each And Every Time! (..okay, okay--so the title needs work. Don't linger—just keep reading...)
1.Ed Norton (Art Carney, “The Honeymooners”)

2.Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty, “SCTV”)

3.Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond, “Leave It To Beaver”)

4.Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson, “Mr. Bean”)
5.Sgt. Rupert Ritzik/Officer Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross, “Sgt Bilko”/ “Car 54, Where Are You?”)

Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens, “Pee Wee's Playhouse” and especially any and all appearances he made while strictly maintaining character guesting on various talk and variety programs)

7.Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver, “The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis”)

8.Reverend Jim (Christopher Lloyd, “Taxi”)

9.Sgt. Vince Carter (Frank Sutton, “Gomer Pyle, USMC”)

10.SpongeBob SquarePants (Voice of Tom Kenny, created by Steve Hillenburg, “SpongeBob SquarePants”)

11.Soupy Sales (Soupy Sales, “The Soupy Sales Show”)

12.Ted Baxter (Ted Knight, “Mary Tyler Moore Show”)

13.Barney Fife (Don Knotts, “Andy Griffith Show”)
There you have it—a motley crew of goofballs if ever there was one. Please note that I consolidated Joe E. “Oo! Oo!” Ross's two roles into one entry, as they were essentially the same character—both married to the same TV wife, and both working for the same producer, the legendary Nat Hiken. This was a unique circumstance, as the glory of Maynard G. Krebs did clearly not carry over for Bob Denver in his role as the just plain moronic Gilligan—and the less said about Ted Knight on “Too Close For Comfort”, the better!!
Soupy Sales, I realize, isn't quite a character unto himself, but neither is he a stand-up comic or talk show host, folks I disqualified from consideration right off the bat, but he might just as well have been. Plus, he always, ALWAYS made me laugh, so...

Then there's Gomer Pyle. He ALMOST made the cut, particularly when he was a supporting character on the “Andy Griffith Show”, but when he received his own spin-off, his personality became just a bit too candy-coated to be incessantly amusing—but the shift opened the way for the criminally under appreciated Frank Sutton to shine as the perpetually flustered Sgt. Carter. The Pyle show didn't have the best writing (though they had far from the era's worst), but the sitcom derived an awful lot of laughs from the pairing of this deliciously mismatched duo!

And you've probably caught on by now, but I really DO like that SpongeBob fella!

Those who just missed making the list include Cosmo Kramer, Homer Simpson, Mr. Fields (Abbott and Costello's belligerent landlord), Al Lewis' Sgt. Leo Schnauser, and the Fonz—who would've easily earned himself a spot had “Happy Days” been cancelled after a mere two seasons! Instead, he went on to do that stunt where he jumped the shark, and well—THAT'S a whole 'nother website, one with their OWN set of lists!...
November 28th, 2004
There's probably nothing more delightful--or satisfying--than when two of my many seemingly disparate obsessions unexpectedly collide and combine to make for one near transcendent--if oft times silly--sensation.

Just such a magical moment occurred earlier this week, shortly after I eagerly purchased a copy of the brightly colored CD you see to your left.
By now, you're all at least peripherally aware of my allegiance to friend SpongeBob, of whose big screen debut I raved about not long ago. And you might recall the glowing review I gave Brian Wilson's "SMiLE" last month. Well, no, this soundtrack collection ISN'T the next "SMiLE", but it does include any number of gems in its 15 selections. Fine, fresh tracks from the likes of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Wilco, Avril Lavigne, and (gulp) Motorhead are judiciously mixed in with cuts either utilizing dialog clips from the cartoon, or the actual voice artists themselves, singing happily in character. And, gang, THAT'S where the fun begins!...

We initially listened to this CD while driving over to Grandma's for Thanksgiving dinner, and I was immediately taken by "The Best Day Ever" (sung by Tom Kenny as SpongeBob), and "Under My Rock" (performed by Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick). The two tunes--aside from the unavoidably goofy vocals--sounded exactly like something piping out of a hand-held transistor radio, circa 1965/1966!! The SpongeBob solo was especially reminiscent of the "Help Me Rhonda"/ "Wouldn't It Be Nice" era Beach Boys, replete with echoes of Boss Boy Brian's trademark Spector-like wall of sound, exotic percussion included. Throw in a few hints of the organ flourish from the Monkees' "I'm A Believer", wed them to some gloriously sunny lyrics, sung with undeniable enthusiasm by the faux sponge, and you have yourself a perfect piece of pastiche, one whose enjoyment upon repeated listenings admittedly hinges on your own personal tolerance of Kenny's high-pitched (yet tuneful) voice characterization. Me, I could just listen to him all day, but I've been told that not EVERYONE feels the same way. Huh--hard to figure...

Patrick's "Under My Rock" is far broader lyrically, and not nearly as ambitious musically. Still, an authentic British blues rock feel is nicely achieved with the aid of some harmonica and a concise guitar rave-up. Why, you might even think this number was the Yardbirds, the Animals, maybe even the Stones themselves--if it weren't for THAT voice. While Brian Wilson could himself conceivably croon "The Best Day Ever", there's NO way Mick--or anyone else for that matter--could attempt a go at "Under My Rock", since the words are laser specific to Patrick (who, for those not in the know, is a starfish who lives under a rock and has nearly the same I.Q. as one). Fagerbakke talk-sings the comedic couplets as the back-up band blisters in the background, easily eliciting laughter and furious toe-tapping simultaneously.

Midway to our holiday destination, I couldn't help but wonder: just WHERE'D these things come from anyway? So, to satisfy my curiosity once and for all, I asked Julie to hand me the CD case from the back seat so that I could check out the credits in the little booklet that came with it.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that both tunes were the work of the freshly-minted songwriting team of Tom Kenny and Andy Paley, with the latter responsible for the production on this pair of retro tracks. Paley, you see, is a long-time music biz veteran and is perhaps most celebrated for his collaborations with--uh huh--Brian Wilson on two of the ex-Beach Boy's highly regarded solo albums (one of which was never officially released, but that's a whole 'nother story...). No wonder these two cuts so precisely--and lovingly--aped an era. Paley--who's also worked with acts ranging from NRBQ to Madonna--invested each piece of fresh nostalgia with his considerable expertise--and while that doesn't make "Music From The Spongebob SquarePants Movie and More" the next "SMiLE", it should make it of at least passing interest to those of you out there who thrive on the sounds of deliciously replicated sixties era surf pop--even when it IS sung by a squeaky voiced cartoon character!!

(This isn't the first time the "SpongeBob" braintrust has wandered off into such celebrated waters, by the way. A memorable first season cartoon episode featured a brilliant, non-Paley Beach Boy send-up called "I Ripped My Pants" (..don't ask...). From its ersatz "Be True To Your School" melody right on down to its tell-tale reverbed tambourine intro that spot-on duplicates the wistful opening to the unforgettable "Caroline, No", its long been evident to this viewer that the folks who mastermind Bikini Bottom's inhabitants have a deep and heartfelt appreciation for the music of their land-based surfing counterparts.)
(One warning, though: the CD also features "The Goofy Goober Song", the very number whose key plot-turning sequence in the film I spotlighted in my recent review. Just as the thugs challenged their terrified listeners not to sing along with the tune's inane melody--snatches of the very self-same dialog are in fact included on the CD track--you'll most certainly find yourself unable to resist, and you'll soon be helplessly wandering about your house, musically muttering, "I'm a Goofy Goober" under your breath, over and over. Hey, there's no shame in it, folks--it happens to even the, ahem, strongest of us...)
November 27th, 2004
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: this is absolutely the LAST time I intend to discuss Richard Milhous Nixon's apparently ever-mounting appearances in various Marvel Comic books during his truncated term in office.

(However, that doesn't rule out his handful of DC cameos, and especially not his truckload of villainous Underground Comix appearances--though we'll save those for another time, if you don't mind...)

A note from Lee. K. Seitz came in citing two additional Tricky Dick sightings in the fabled Marvel Universe of yore, info the industrious Mr. S garnered by visiting something modestly labeled "The Marvel Chronology Project" (and yes, I've since added it to my Links Page), an ambitious undertaking if ever there was one, True Believers! Still, while turning up these pair of hitherto undiscovered guest spots that managed to escape my previous correspondents best efforts, they still somehow neglect to credit the Prez's splashy two page dialog with SHIELD head honcho, Nick Fury, in CAPTAIN AMERICA#144, proving that nothing's ever perfect, and that--gulp--there might well be MORE Nixon out there than that already unearthed!?! But, as we all quietly mull over the implications of THAT unsettling notion, in the meantime, let us examine our latest pair of discoveries, shall we?

From AVENGERS#82, November 1970, courtesy of Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Tom Palmer, comes perhaps the Chief Exec's most subdued pulp-paper appearance...
...and that's IT. A pair of hands, a quick silhouette (albeit a totally unmistakable one) and then--wham!--back to our story! Coming just a few months after his FF debut, Nixon's sole brush with the Avengers is comparatively disappointing. At least, then, latter-day readers can take solace in comforting cameos by the aforementioned Fantastic Four (one panel), Peter Parker (two), May Parker (one), and a substantial guest-starring role for Daredevil in this self-same issue, all gloriously illustrated by the top-notch Buscema/Palmer team! Good stuff.
Then, from the April, 1974 issue of INCREDIBLE HULK (#174), comes one of Nixon's last pre-Watergate scandal appearances in a Marvel comic.

The story in question is credited to Roy Thomas (plot), Gerry Conway (script), Herb Trimpe (pencils), and Jack Abel (inks)
However, these two panels--located on the tale's last page, with only one additional panel to follow--look to be obviously reinked by art director John Romita, as the style of brushwork bears scant resemblance to embellisher Abel's customary thin, dead-line approach.

WHOEVER drew the final piece, it was the only place in the entire story to showcase Nixon, seen here with an even rarer MU cameo by Henry Kissinger. (Oh, and need I add that the reports of Bruce Banner's demise were, as always, greatly exaggerated? I didn't think so...)

One last thing while we're on the topic. During his long career in politics, Richard Nixon was continually harassed--in the most imaginative of ways--by a hoaxster named Dick Tuck. My particular favorite of Tuck's many pranks came back in 1968 when the former vice-prez was out running against Hubert H. Humphrey for the top job, with his most prominent campaign slogan being the simple, straight-ahead message, "Nixon's The One!"

Well, our merrily malicious Mr. Tuck must've seen this as a challenge to his creativity, and he certainly didn't disappoint. At a large rally for the candidate, Tuck put his paid operatives into motion: who should make there way down front to near where the speaker was delivering his stump speech but several very attractive, very young, and VERY pregnant women, all carrying placards proclaiming that, sure enough, "Nixon's The One!"!!

The Presidential hopeful merely grimaced and beared it, allowing the press to have themselves their little laugh. (Had this very same thing happened during the CLINTON years, well sir, investigations most surely would've been in order!!...)

(For a concise overview of Tuck's reign of terror, check this entry at the fascinating Museum of Hoaxes website, a page that was brought to my attention several months back by, if memory serves, the always fascinating and concise Scott Saavedra! Thanks, Scott!) I'm tempted to say that was perfectly dear, but THAT just sounds perfectly...lame would be an acceptable term, right? Let's hope...)
November 26th, 2004
For what little it's worth, I can truthfully say I've been watching the "Seinfeld" show faithfully ever since the very first episode, back when it was still called "The Seinfeld Chronicles", and NBC aired in the middle of July, presumably hoping nobody would be very much paying attention.

It's not that I was all that big a fan of Jerry's, understand--he was just another of a slew of reasonably funny stand-up comedians who'd repeatedly appear on all the various late-night talk shows I watched at the time.
His material was generally pretty good, sure, but he always seemed a little bit stiff when the prepared material segment was over and he was then obligated to banter casually with the host (he's improved markedly in this aspect of his job over the years as his success expanded, seemingly exponentially--though he's still no Marty Short on the couch. Which, at times, can be a blessing...) He was funny, no denying it, but I sure never would've pegged him for a comedy-immortal-in-waiting. No, what attracted me to his show was the concept--a stand-up playing himself, starring in fictionalized scenarios based (however loosely) on his real-life experiences. It initially reminded me of the course charted by my all-time favorite comedian, the legendary Jack Benny, so I figured that anything having near the same sort of feel about it was definitely worth investigating.

It was.

Okay, so it WASN"T, in the long run, particularly autobiographical, and it wasn't "The Jack Benny Program", either (can't you just imagine Rochester, Dennis Day, Mary Livingston, and Jack competing in "The Contest"? No--me neither...), but it was--and is--a great show, far more clever than I could've ever anticipated. And a hot one, too--when I went to pick up my set of freshly minted DVDs of the first three seasons over at my local Best Buy Tuesday evening, much to my chagrin, they'd been completely sold out since three o'clock earlier that afternoon! Well, not to worry, cost-conscious fans--I promptly picked myself up some rain-checks, allowing me the ability to take full advantage of this week's bargain prices when I stop by again next Tuesday.

Sure, I've seen all the episodes--and most more than once--but beyond the meat, I'm looking forward to the gravy: the abundant extra material included in these new DVDs. Which, in a typically roundabouts way, leads me to the following missive, one I received a few days back from Batton Lash--creator, as you're all well aware, of the swell SUPERNATURAL LAW series--that puts the proverbial cherry on top of one of this blog's most recent topics of discussion...

I forgot to mention (in an earlier email--Fred) what I thought was the greatest-- albeit unofficial-- TV crossover of all: Seinfeld/Oz!

In case you didn't catch it a few years back: It was a pre-filmed sketch when Seinfeld hosted SNL, the premise being that Jerry, post- Seinfeld series finale, got transferred to a progressive, experimental unit of Oswald State Penitentiary ("Oz"). Of course, the incongruity of self-centered, oblivious Jerry with the hardened, humorless inmates of Oz made it hilarious. The best part was Jerry and the actors reprising their Oz roles all stayed true to their characters, playing it straight, filmed on the Oz set itself. It was a lagniappe for both series. That little tid-bit should be included on the final Seinfeld DVD collection!

Absolutely correct, Mr. L! That little sequence cries out to follow the last moments of the last episode on the last DVD of the last season of "Seinfeld"--and considering the obvious care that was poured into producing it, I'd be very surprised if it didn't. While I'd never actually watched "Oz", (and still haven't) I was certainly well aware of it when I watched Jerry host that particular week's "Saturday Night Live". Now, had they merely done an in-studio skit using the same concept, with several of the SNL regulars inhabiting the "Oz" roles, well, it would've been funny, sure, but little more than that. As it played out, though, it served as a brilliant--yet logical--coda to that final episode. Y'know, a lot of people were disappointed with the series finale--that can happen when you expect way too much, folks--but for me, the biggest laughs came during the show's tag scene, as Jerry modifies his act ever so slightly so as to better appeal to his fellow inmates. Another half hour of THAT situation would've been just plain hilarious, but in its absence, this small nugget of Jerry in the land of Oz will have to do. Thanks for jogging my memory, Batton--AND for beating me to the punch and being the first to use the word "lagniappe" here at the site! Darn--another few days, and I surely would've figured out a way to work it in SOMEHOW...

There's one other thing that sticks in my mind about "Seinfeld"s long goodbye--its timing.

The media overkill surrounding the season-long countdown to the inevitable end built in intensity and volume as the late May finale grew ever closer. There were entire magazines devoted to the show on the stands that spring, every newspaper ran prominently displayed features on the so-called end of an era, and TV newscasts--ALL of them, not just the ones affiliated with NBC--treated this pulling up of sitcom stakes and taking down of television tents to be a major, major story.

And then, the elongated ending entry actually aired--FINALLY!--and the very next day, you heard virtually nothing about it.

Because, in case you don't quite remember, that was also the very same evening Frank Sinatra left us, and the next morning--and for several days to come--THAT was all you heard about. Admittedly,the passing of as big a name as Sinatra was more important than a sitcom winding down its run, regardless of its merit. Still, I was struck by how totally the "Seinfeld" story was eclipsed by these subsequent news events. About the only tie-in that I can recall concerned the report that daughter Nancy had put off going to see her ailing dad that fateful evening so as to watch the "Seinfeld" finale instead. Well, it was too late after that, as the elder Sinatra didn't make it much past the opening credits of "ER".

Nancy, Nancy, Nancy--you COULD'VE taped it, y'know?

Which leads me to imagine yet ANOTHER epilogue to the whole "Seinfeld" shebang, one in which Jerry gets a very unexpected visitor while stuck behind bars, one wherein a visibly upset Nancy Sinatra begins to vent her frustration at her own miscalculation on the stunned and uncomprehending jailed jokester, and, well, write your OWN punchline derived from "These Boots Are Made For Walking". okay?...
November 25th, 2004
That sure is one big ol' turkey!

The Mitchell's are most certainly gonna eat good today! Hope you all do, as well--including those amongst you like daughter Julie, who'll be chowing down on Tofurkey as a prelude to her pumpkin pie!

And so, as that great American, Stan Lee, might say, "Enjoy, pilgrims!!"...
November 24th, 2004
A few weeks back, I posted 88 new additions to my Comic Art Links listing--but in truth, I really meant to add 90. There were two in particular, y'see, that I'd earnestly promised to add to the ever growing role call the very next time I hoisted more links onto the site--but when the time finally got around to me doing so, I promptly forgot! There are two "O"s in "Oops", right?...

Well, people, if nothing else, I pride myself in being a man of my word, so I'm here to rectify this sorry situation. Check the links page, and you'll see that I happily added my old pal Larry Shell's aptly named "Blah-Blah-Blog" to--where else?--the bloggers section of the compendium. Larry's a long time enthusiast of both the great old comics of years past, as well as the swingin' sounds of the fifties, sixties, and seventies! Now, we just need to encourage Lar to write a bit more frequently, and we'll ALL be happy! Consider this a politely worded request, Mr. S!...

Then there's "The Great Curve", a new weblog (with an attendant forum) launched by comic's journalist, Alex Segura, Jr. When Alex was just starting out, he solicited comics folk who wanted their sites to be linked to his, asking them to contact him. When I did, he very graciously added me to his listing, and I promised to do the same for him--better late than never, I suppose. Give it a look--having previously worked reporting industry goings on, he should offer a rather unique perspective. AND rumor is he's got a really great links section as well!...

I DID post Pete Von Sholly's web-site last time, but here's direct access to his not-to-be-missed, full-color, 32 page, 11th issue of MELVIN MONSTER, picking up where the character's creator, the legendary John Stanley, left off--and Pete does an amazing job catching the frenetic flavor of the original series! (Plus, you can sample the latest Von Sholly brainstorm, the soon-to-be-unleased Flying F#*!--and for the really, REALLY slow amongst you out there who haven't quite puzzled it out yet, you can experience his true name in all its @#*!ing glory!)

Of course, I couldn't very well just post these two links all by their lonesome, so I, um, put up another 68 as well. Look, I've SAID I can get a little compulsive at times, okay? No big deal. So, anyway, I found some me more links to a bunch more of those razzle-dazzle illustrators like I added last time--MAN, can these folks ever draw!--as well as a buncha cartoonists and some assorted comics links I, ah, found over at Tom Spugeon's indispensable new site. Pardon the poaching, Tom--feel free to grab anything you might find here for your list. I have the official Pete Best site if you're interested?"...

Oh, and I even found a few new sites on my own. A few...

Just to keep everything from getting TOO confusing, these newest additions are being designated this way,
**, while the links from a few weeks back remain labeled **. My plan is to keep them up during the upcoming holiday season, and then withdraw them shortly following New Year's Day, when all the OTHER red and green decorations come down.

But for now, let these latest links be my early Christmas present to readers everywhere--which begs but one question:

"What'dja get ME?? Huh ?? WHAT??"...
November 23rd, 2004
Now, THIS explains a lot...
I've heard of candidates being chosen in smoke-filled rooms, but ICE-filled ones?

Thank Gerry Conway (words) and the team of Herb Trimpe and John Severin (pictures) for revealing this little known bit of Milhous malfeasance in the pages of INCREDIBLE HULK#146 (December, 1971).

Okay, okay, so maybe it wasn't the REAL Tricky Dick, just an android stand-in.
Still, with dialog like THAT, this Nixon doppelganger emulates the original article perhaps a bit TOO closely!

This scene takes place in the series very next issue (with the same creative team responsible). Over the course of a truncated 11 page story, the ersatz Nixon and Agnew insert their jowls into a mere five panels, but still manage to spread them out over the course of five different pages!
Because of this, INCREDIBLE HULK# 147 is surely the controversial chief executive's most far-ranging, unadorned appearance in a single Marvel Comic, at least during his time in office.

Only, it's not REALLY him!

Or IS it?...
Now, THAT'S the Nixon I know!

Galactus is (once again) threatening to turn Earth into a late afternoon snack, and our canny Prez knows there's really only one man he can trust to put an end to the cosmic threat--and yet he well knows that there's still an election coming up! If this all goes badly for Richards and his group, the voter's are sure to blame HIM! Why, it might even turn out worse than that little break-in thing that was just starting to find its way into the nation's papers when FANTASTIC FOUR#123 (June, 1972) hit the stands, you just never know...

Though his cameo inside was minor--courtesy of Stan Lee, John Buscema, and Joe Sinnott--he did merit a small vignette on brother Sal's cover, the only instance of Marvel trying to sell one of their comic books to a panting audience of acolytes by plastering Richard M.'s mug on the front of it!
Nixon, Nick Fury, and the Star Spangled Avenger himself, all in a scene from CAPTAIN AMERICA#144 (December, 1971), as authored by Gary Friedrich and arted by John Romita. Ominously, Cap would come face to face with the country's leader-man again several years hence, though we readers would have the unmasked identity of the head of the evil Secret Empire left to our own rabid, conspiracy-laden imaginations in what was surely Nixon's greatest role in the overall Marvel tapestry--but one that doesn't quite fall under our pictorial purview here. It's a story best left for another time...
Finally, we have Nixon unbuttoned, giving ol' Thunderbolt Ross what for in the pages of INCREDIBLE HULK#139 (May, 1971--Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe, Presidential historians de jour). (Nixon also had a really, REALLY minor one panel gig in INCREDIBLE HULK#119, by the way...)

Regular readers are probably hip to what's going on here by now--a few weeks back, I ran some panels of Nixon from an old FF comic, and opined that it may well've been his only Marvel Universe guest spot.

Well, guess what? Craig Smith, Steve Chung, Baden Smith, and the ever knowledgeable Lou Mougin quickly jumped in to inform me of my egregious errors of omission. Oddly enough, nobody submitted a complete list of the above appearances, so I cobbled together elements of each offering to produce the above survey--which may itself indeed not even be completely complete yet! (And these aren't ALL the panels featuring the infamous top exec, just a representative sample...) Thanks, fellas--your input and assistance in assembling today's entry is sincerely appreciated!

Geez, November has somehow sorta turned into "President's Month" around these parts, hasn't it?

I'll be glad when we soon move on to the jolly fat man with the red cheeks--and friends, I'm NOT talking about Teddy Kennedy!!..
November 22nd, 2004
Today, as a very special treat, I offer up a complete 8 page story from the December 1965 issue of SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN, number 89, called “The Infamous Four”. This tale's surprise ending packs quite the...coff coff...emotional wallop, so if you want to experience it much the same way reader's did 39 years back, you'll go check it out right now...

Afterwards, you might want to peruse this little piece that I wrote up to accompany it, filed away in our Words About Pictures section.
And as for the above panels from ACTION COMICS#309 (February, 1964), you can read all about the peculiar circumstances surrounding their publication in a lengthy Classic Cover Redo essay I wrote when I posted my redrawn version of the Curt Swan original several months back. It remains a relevant topic for discussion, given today's date...
November 21st, 2004
Yeah, yeah, I know--"The Incredibles".

Don't worry, I'll get around to seeing what's shaping up to be the best reviewed animated film EVER eventually, honest. But in the meantime, I'm here to report that yesterday I transported a contingent of rabid fans--in whose number I proudly count myself--to a matinee showing of "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie", and I'm happy to say, NO ONE was disappointed.

Long time readers of "Fred Sez" might recall me recounting the tale of being turned on to the Nick Toon in its virtual infancy by my daughter Julie, and immediately falling under the spell of the energetic, good-natured silliness that's at the heart of its now broad appeal. Understand that this was SO early on that, in order to explain to my friends at our weekly volleyball game what I was ranting about, I needed to actually tape an episode, freeze frame just the right pose, and then draw a copy of what was up on the screen myself, all merely in order to show the uninitiated just WHAT a SpongeBob SquarePants was!!

Stop and consider that notion for a moment: there was once indeed a time when you literally could not find a visual image of the little guy anywhere, save for the earliest, intermittent broadcasts of his nascent program!

And NOW, well...

Now he's everywhere, including the big screen. Oh, there's been a certain amount of backlash due to his overwhelming presence on the current cultural landscape--I've heard more than one parent bemoan his very existence, much the way the ever pervasive Barney got slammed similarly a decade earlier. I contend that these folks either haven't actually sat down and absorbed (if you'll excuse the pun--or even if you won't...) an episode, or they're likely the kind of people who automatically turn their noses up at most anything that could be conceived to be of a childish nature. But perhaps this movie will finally convince enough of those unbelievers--the film appears to be getting generally good, if not "Incredibles" reviews--of the character's innate worthiness, see?

Lynn and I took Julie and two of her pals (all aged fourteen, for those of you keeping score at home) to see the Saturday afternoon showing (we would've gone opening night, save for a conflict the girls had with a dance). Me and the missus went in and got our seats while the kids waited out in the lobby for another buddy to join them, and by the time she showed, the only good seats left were the ones directly behind us. This allowed me the unique ability to gauge their reaction to the movie. But first we all had to sit through something new, or at least something I'd never encountered before: a loosely connected series of commercials for upcoming DVDs, video games, TV shows on NBC, the Sci Fi Channel, and the Cartoon Network, a creepy car ad that sprung the long-dead Steve McQueen on us unexpectedly, and of course, plugs for the lobby's candy and soda, all under the umbrella title of "The Twenty" (which was either it's length in minutes, the number of ads it inflicted upon us, or most likely, both...)

Then, finally, the lights went down and we STILL had to sit through the requisite half-dozen trailers of future presentations (the concept for the upcoming live action "Fat Albert" movie looked mighty peculiar--and it was hard to tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But it was definitely an ODD thing...) The main event hadn't even started yet, and already I was worn out from all the visual stimuli that we'd been bombarded with. Was this going to affect my potential enjoyment of our little yellow friend's cinematic debut, I fretted?

I needn't have worried. Commencing with a cleverly off-kilter opening live-action sequence set on a pirate ship, once the laughs started, they never truly stopped! While the plot was little more than your standard quest chestnut--SpongeBob and pal Patrick must find King Neptune's missing crown in order to save the life of the unfairly condemned Mr. Krabs--it served as the perfect template for any number of hilarious set pieces.

(One favorite: while attempting to retrieve the key to their hijacked Patty Wagon--long story--in a bar full of thug's, the pair inadvertently break the dive's one cardinal rule, allowing a bubble to float out of the soap dispenser in the washroom. The head hard case proceeds to line up everybody in the bar, and begins playing the "Goofy Goober" theme song on a turntable, knowing full well that no "babies"--as he likes to call them--can resist joining in for long, and once they do, he'll have his bubble blowing culprits dead to rights! Well, just watching the animated agony of our two stars as they try mightily to resist the siren song of the Goofy Goobers had me laughing uproariously! Silly, yes--but exquisitely executed as well....)

Patrick, in fact, has some of the funniest moments in the entire film. As someone who makes SpongeBob look like a prime candidate for the Bikini Bottom chapter of Mensa, his dumber than thou reactions to most any mundane situation can easily evoke a guffaw. Watch for his deliciously ridiculous encounter with Neptune's daughter, as he finds himself immediately and totally smitten with the young mermaid. Believe me, love never looked so stupid. And in a moment towards the end of the film that had children and adults in the audience alike howling, our pink pal receives an...unexpected wardrobe modification, one I won't otherwise spoil for you.

When the end credits began to roll, I heard Julie's friend Lisa say, over and over again, almost in a reverential tone, "That was the BEST movie I've ever seen..." I'm not willing to go QUITE that far--in fact, I'd even be willing to admit that, sight unseen, "The Incredibles" is probably a better piece of cinema--but this was anything but a quickly churned out, simply elongated episode of a kid's cartoon show. Thanks to the efforts of creator Stephen Hillenburg and all the talented writers, animators, and voice artists--with Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke leading the pack in their roles of SpongeBob and Patrick--"The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" should spawn an entire series of wildly inventive and gloriously fun-filled sequels!!

So, I guess my advice to you is simple: go see it!

And maybe--just maybe--I'll get the whole group together again to take in a showing of "The Incredibles" sometime real soon, okay?..
November 20th, 2004
The other day, I wrote about watching Morey Amsterdam's Buddy Sorrell character crossover from his comfortable home base on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to the unfamiliar environs of “The Danny Thomas Show”, and it put me in mind of the time when Michael Richards' Kramer turned up on an episode of “Mad About You”. Well, thanks to one of our ever alert reader's--Brent Peterson, to be precise--we can take this notion all a slippery step further and connect the cosmic—and cathode ray--dots.

Specifically, he reminded me that, in their fifth season, Carl Reiner himself guest-starred on “Mad About You” as Alan Brady—the very same showbiz bigwig whose weekly variety show Buddy informs soon-to-be-ex-employer Danny Williams (Thomas, natch) that he's oh-so-happy to be working for (okay, so he exaggerated maybe just a little...).

That means that (the-as-yet-to-be-named-Cosmo) Kramer—who appeared during “Mad About You”s debut season, and thus is included in THEIR sole DVD collection, making it highly unlikely the episode'll turn up as bonus material on next week's big double “Seinfeld” release—interacted with a character (Paul Reiser's Paul Buchman) who ALSO had on air dealings with Buddy's legendary boss! The cast of “Seinfeld”--Jerry, George, Elaine, Newman, even Puddy—apparently then exists in the very same world as Rob and Laura Petrie!

And if Buddy Sorrell sold gags to night club comic Williams, doesn't that put Jerry's Uncle Leo and Danny's Uncle Tonoose in roughly the same orbit? (Oh, if only I could somehow work in Robert Vaughn's Napoleon Solo here! You might want to call them the MEN from U.N.C.L.E. then, dig?)
But wait—there's more! The sheriff of Mayberry got his small screen start on an episode of “The Danny Thomas Show”, which thus magically puts Andy Taylor, Barney Fife, Aunt Bea, Howard Sprague, Floyd the barber, and Gomer Pyle all in the same wondrous universe as everybody living down in New Rochelle, as well as those hip nineties NYC denizens of both “Mad About You” AND “Seinfeld”!!
And since we all know how Gomer went off and joined the Marines—and received his own hit show in the bargain—that means that, somewhere, sometime, (and sadly, when the cameras WEREN'T rolling) there might well have been a blistering battle royale between the tough as nails Sgt. Carter and the thick as mud Soup Nazi!! Surprise, surprise, surprise!!

One more.
Look, I'll confess to never watching “Mad About You”, save for three episodes, the first two of which I've referred to above. The third and final episode that prompted me to tune in was one that featured ANOTHER famous character, this time a real-life one:Yoko Ono.

Yup, the widow of John Lennon appeared in a storyline that utilized her celebrity and artistic notoriety as an underpinning for that week's plot (the details of which, I've long since forgotten). So, let's see—that means “Make Room For Daddy”, “The Danny Thomas Show”, “Make Room For Granddaddy”, “The Andy Griffith Show” “Gomer Pyle USMC”, “Mayberry RFD”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, “Seinfeld”, and this apparent nexus of a vast array of video realities, “Mad About You”, all exist in world inhabited by genuine Beatles!

Somehow, that smidgen of info helps to explain somewhat an episode of “Gomer Pyle USMC” from the late sixties in which Jim Nabor's mellow marine character takes a few minutes to--sitting alongside a garishly painted flower-power VW van--strum an acoustic guitar and happily harmonize with a couple of Hollywood hippies (played by Leigh French and a young, pre-Meathead Rob Reiner) on a placidly restrained version of Bob Dylan's anthemic “Blowin In the Wind”..

Reiner? Reiner? Hey, isn't that where we came in? Yeah, I suppose it is, and it somehow manages to tie things up all rather neatly.

Except for one last thing.

What in the name of Corporal Boyle was Dylan himself doing jamming on “Dharma and Greg” a few years back anyway? (..and wasn't Helen Hunt Dharma's college roommate?...)

Mr. Jones isn't the ONLY one who doesn't know what's going on, that's for sure!...
November 19th, 2004
A few weeks back, I made the, ahem, shocking confession that I've pretty much given up on reading much of what's currently available emanating out of the comics field.

Most of you took this in stride, but not my good buddy, Jim Salicrup. Nope--he bemoaned my decision, and beseeched me not to give up on ALL the fresh product that's being published--and to that end, I think, just to insure that that wouldn't happen, he went on out and started assembling whole new lines of funnybooks, knowing that, given our personal track record, I'd have no choice but to read them!

Clever plan, fella, if a tad bit elaborate...
Yesterday, I received the first of those comics: THE HARDY BOYS#1 (Papercutz).

Now please understand, despite their impeccable pop-culture pedigree, I hadn't ever in my entire life read, watched, or even listened to anything even remotely associated with the otherwise world-renowned sleuthing siblings--and quite honestly, that was perfectly all right with me. Even when I was a kid, the series somehow seemed already antiquated, and I had absolutely no interest in cracking open any of the plethora of novels available (nor of watching Shaun Cassidy and Kirstie Alley's ex-hubby inhabit the role of brothers--shouldn't DAVID Cassidy have been considered?--on the tube Sunday nights back during the seventies). But Jim was really, really excited about his new project--and because Jim does enthusiasm SO well--I figured, hey, I owed him a look-see...

No, I am not going to tell you this was the greatest comic book I've ever read--I'm not gonna insult your intelligence like that--but I AM going to tell you that it clearly has a lot going for it, and the direction this title is apparently being steered in seems to be a promising one on a number of levels.

Look at that cover. Subdued hues, restrained typography, clear layout focusing on the main characters--it looks like something you'd expect to find on a book proper, not a comic. It would seem that rather than to expend all their energy convincing comic fans to sample this book, the Papercutz people are perhaps more wisely attempting to lure the sort of consumers who haunt the "Young Readers" section of bookstores to instead give their comic book a try. Which is not to say that they wouldn't be happy with boffo direct market sales I'm sure, but with an instantly identifiable brand-name like The Hardy Boys, it seems that they're wisely positioning themselves to attempt an expansion of the ever-shrinking comics market, rather than to merely cater to it.

To this end, scripter Scott Lobdell delivers the opening chapter of a three part saga, "The Ocean of Osyria", in a breezy fashion. Like I said, this is my first encounter with the bros--I didn't know Joe and Frank from Jaime and Gilbert before cracking open the cover--but the characters and enough of their back story just effortlessly fell into place as the pages flew by, so that I never felt at any loss as to what was going on. It's clear that the series has been updated for the times, but it's also clear that it HASN'T been darkened to pander to "sophisticated" tastes--and I say thank goodness for THAT! While having enough snappy banter, exciting situations, and intriguing mystery to entertain readers of all ages, there's nothing in this first issue that would be offensive to the parents of young readers, and call me crazy, but that doesn't necessarily strike me as such a bad thing.

The artwork, by Lea Hernandez, employs a style much akin to today's wildly popular manga look. Frankly, with a few exceptions, this type of artwork has never much appealed to me, but there's no denying the impact its had on the medium's stateside product in recent years. While I might quibble that some of the panels in this first issue look a bit sparse and sketchy, the good news is that the storytelling is clear and effective: I knew at all times who was doing what and the emotions they were experiencing while doing it. The opening action sequence featuring a horse and a motorcycle was nicely staged, with a real sense of motion showing up in the deceptively simple drawings. Okay, so it's NOT Dave Stevens-like "Rocketeer" artwork, but I think there's any number of reasons for that--not the least of which is that I'm sure Papercutz would like to publish more than TWO issues of THE HARDY BOYS!?!..

So there you go, Jim--you've got me reading comics again. Yours, at least. I sure hope others read 'em, too--and for anybody looking for a breath of fresh air amongst their weekly comic store purchases, $2.95 for 28 pages of story ain't such a bad deal, y'know? Good luck, Senor Salicrup, and I'm already looking forward to whatever you've got coming up for me next!...
November 18th, 2004
A few days ago, over on my Beatles Blog, I whined just a little about how I felt manipulated by the Liverpool Lad's stateside record company into buying the freshly released--and basically merely repackaged--four CD set, "The Capitol Albums, Volume 1". (All right, all right--no one held a gun to my head, true, but there ARE other ways to pressure the hapless consumer, no denying it...)

Still, on that selfsame day, I also bought myself another disc, one featuring 16 tracks, all of which I already possessed elsewhere--and I'd STILL consider it one of the very best purchases I've ever made!

Yup, I'm talking about "Neil Young's Greatest Hits".
Best I can figure, in this age of wildly indiscriminate "Ultimate", "Essential", and "Millennium" collections (Rick Nelson, I can understand, sure--but the Nelson twins?...), this is the first "Best Of" the veteran Young has released since the double disc "Decade", a once-vinyl product which came out, literally, decades ago.

(This current compilation doesn't include the sorts of odds and ends--nor the Buffalo Springfield cuts--that the earlier collection did, though it does boast a pair of tracks that originally came out under the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young logo.)
Taking a quick look through my collection, I find I already own an even two dozen Young CDs--and that's not even all that are currently available on the market, nor those yet to see a CD release, and certainly none of the scores of rumored albums that the quixotic performer has yet to afford an official release. That's a LOT of music, people, and an awful lot of it is well worth listening to. Still, there ARE those tracks that stand out, and here, boiled down to just under 80 minutes, are the ones most beloved to rockin' radio listeners over the last forty years.

Yeah, I have all these selections, sure, but that's just the problem--they're all over the place! Having them all distilled into a single package is priceless--well, almost (got mine on sale for $11.99).

Most folks who only know Neil from his relatively small handful of AM chart-toppers--"Old Man", "Harvest Moon", and most especially that inescapably sing-songie "Heart Of Gold"--have this idea of Young as a somewhat whiny-warbling vocalist singing his quiet little ditties, mostly just backed up by an acoustic guitar. Certainly, that's true up to a point--fully ten of the tracks included could fall into this mellow leaning category (though a few, like "Cinnamon Girl", are definitely skirting the outer edges of this nebulous definition)--but what REALLY sells me on this disc is having all of Young's most famously blistering, barn-burning guitar rave-ups in one place!

"Down By the River", "Cowgirl In The Sand", "Southern Man", ""Like A Hurricane", "Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)", and ""Rockin In the Free World"--clocking in anywhere from four minutes and forty-one seconds right on up to ten minutes and five seconds. These tracks may only make up six of the sixteen selections, but due to their generally extended lengths, they wind up dominating this disc with their churning ferocity. Yeah, Neil does a nice job when he wears his folkie hat, but for me, when he fronts Crazy Horse and launches into one of these high decibel anthems, there's just no harder rock than Young viciously flailing away at his guitar on one of these torrid tunes! "Cowgirl In The Sand", in particular, is one I've always found mesmerizing. To give his magnificent career it's true due, you'd need a 4 (or 5, or 6, or 7, or..) disc box set collection, but until that time comes along, look, if you have ANY interest in the singer--and even, if like me, you already own a bundle of his past albums--I beseech you to pick up this compilation! It's simply top-notch.

(Not that there aren't omissions. The most obvious one that immediately comes to mind is his spare and haunting "Tonight's The Night", a cautionary tale borne out of the heroin-induced overdose death of a member of Young's road crew. However, inasmuch as the roadie in question who "died on the mainline" was named "Bruce Berry", the comics geek in me can never, ever, listen to this song without thinking (at least briefly) about the potential consequences this tragedy would've had for the rest of the cadre of Jack Kirby's inkers!! First, I'm imagining, D. Bruce, so who next--Mike Royer?

(I sure would've liked to have heard Young wrap his tonsils around "Thibodeaux", though...)
November 17th, 2004
Yesterday, while ever so slowly making my way through my complete collection of “Dick Van Dyke Show” DVDs—or, as I like to call them, my DVD DVDs—I happened upon a nifty little extra attached to the third season set: an episode of “The Danny Thomas Show” (also known, at various times, as “Make Room For Daddy”), included ostensibly due to the appearance of Morey Amsterdam in his “Buddy Sorrell” guise for a single scene, but after I'd finished watching it, I realized that having this particular episode of the Lebanese funnyman's long running sitcom in such close proximity with the Van Dyke program served yet another important purpose altogether.

Quite simply, it clearly illustrated how a sitcom is done right, and, by comparison, how one is done wrong.
Because, in watching that bonus episode, in soon became blatantly apparent that the script was nothing more or less than a wrong-headed, turned-on-its-side, rewrite of “Ray Murdock's X-Ray”, a second season DVD entry that aired a full nine months before the Danny Thomas version back in 1963. (Perhaps the fact that the highly successful Thomas was financially involved in the production of the comparatively fledgling DVD series allowed folks to turn a blind eye to this bit of creative regurgitation—and anyway, they certainly didn't steal any of the laughs from Rob and Laura. Oh no, not hardly...)
In the original (written by series creator, Carl Reiner), Rob Petrie is tapped to guest on a talk show presided over by a host notorious for getting his subjects to let down their guard and reveal potentially embarrassing information. Try as he might to avoid falling into this trap, Rob ultimately winds up telling this Ray Murdock fellow how any number of silly domestic situations on “The Alan Brady Show” were inspired by the real life antics of his wife, Laura. And by the time he catches himself, well, he's already spilled about the freshly varnished chairs at the dinner party she threw, the flat tire suffered while she was dressed only in robe and slippers, and the turpentine/salad dressing mix-up that forced him to have his stomach pumped.

The remainder of the episode concerns the comedy writer's futile—but funny-- attempts to prevent wife Laura from watching the taped show when it's broadcast later that evening; her initial dismay when she DOES see it; and her radical mood swing (so to speak) when a woman from the local newspaper calls to interview her about being the inspiration for her husband's successful career, at which point she gleefully shares any and all past flubs with the flattering reporter.

Reiner has gone on record as saying he doesn't much like the ending—why would Laura be so proud of being made out to be an idiot, anyhow?--but they had to end the show SOMEHOW, and that was the best solution they could concoct at the time. Personally, I had no real problem with the resolution, and it's always been one of my favorite episodes. It works because the situation, though highly exaggerated, is grounded in a firm reality, and also because the leads—Van Dyke and the lovely and extremely talented Mary Tyler Moore—share such an effortless chemistry working together.

Now let's examine the Danny Thomas version.

(But first let me confess that I used to watch “Make Room For Daddy” regularly in the early sixties, and enjoyed it. Then, seeing it again for the first time after several decades on cable in the eighties, I was led to an inescapable—and nearly instantaneous—conclusion: no amount of visits from Uncle Tonoose, accompanied by the strongest prescription rose colored goggles available, was ever gonna make me enjoy THIS series anywhere near the way I once did! So, I put it aside, until now, another couple of decades later, when I felt obligated by the weight of television history to give this unique-in-many-ways-(but-not-in-others)-episode a gander...)

It commences with celebrated night club comic, Danny Williams, performing his act in front of an appreciative (and, one might venture, liquored up) crowd at the world famous Copa, while his dutiful wife, Kathy (played with an icy humorlessness that I hadn't at all recalled by Marjorie Lord), sits in the back, not the least bit amused as he launches into a series of domestic gags, casting her as the primary butt of his jibes. Now, while he DOES use her name to personalize things, these gags are SO generic that they could've just as easily been uttered by ANY stand-up of the era, ranging all the way from Henny Youngman to Redd Foxx (“My wife drove our new car into the dining room, so I asked her, how did it get there? She said, simple honey--I took a left at the kitchen!”, and other quips of that icky ilk.). Reacting as if this is the first time she'd ever heard these tired old chestnuts, the clearly peeved Mrs. Williams suddenly rises to her feet, and stalks out, all real mad like.

Later at home, as Danny is trying to plead his case (“Didn't you know I was a comedian?”...), a call comes in. From a TV talk show. They want KATHY Williams as their guest, not Danny. Still upset, she quickly agrees, seeing this as her opportunity, not so much to clear her name, but to instead impugn her hubby's. To this end, she engages Buddy Sorrell to write her some pointed put-downs (too bad Danny has hair—we all know Buddy's penchant for bald jokes...). Coming in on this scene, Danny is surprised to find one of his writer's helping plot his video vilification, and fires him on the spot. Luckily for Buddy, though, things are working out nicely for him on “The Alan Brady Show”, and after supplying a few more tired cutting remarks, Amsterdam leaves this scenario for good and happily returns to his day job.

Fade in: Kathy is seated behind the desk on the set of the (rather undiscriminating)talk show, and as she struggles to read one of Buddy's gags off a sheet of paper that she has in hand, she's continually getting cut off by the incredibly unctuous host. Unrealistically, he heavily ladles her with praise, calling her an inspiration to her husband, and a sparkling personality in her own right, full of wit (what show has HE been watching!?!...). Well sir, by this time, her head is definitely beginning to turn, so when he presents her with the million dollar question—“Don't you resent it when Danny uses you in his act?”—she smiles widely, and says, oh no, no, no, never.

THEN, disarmed by his silver-tongue, she goes on to give him a prime example of something she did that Danny exploited in one of his routines: the time she lost the car keys in the tuna fish salad! But not to worry, she informed her flummoxed hubby--she always kept a second set of keys around. And just where do you think they were, she cheerfully asks the now-incredulous host? Why, in the mashed potatoes, of course—and from that normal (according to her) bit of day to day business, Danny somehow got some yuks for his act (if not a very appetizing meal...)!?!..

The show ends much like the DVD one did, with the wife suddenly smitten with her own dim-witted notoriety, anxious to recall even more damning examples of her own dopiness. But unlike the script it was modeled upon, this one, upon closer examination, doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Rob is asked to go on TV to discuss his profession; Kathy goes on because of some fame she'd allegedly accrued merely for being the target of a night club comic's generic wife jokes. (Did anyone ever interview Mrs. Youngman, I wonder—even though Henny undoubtedly said “please”?...) .

Though unlikely, each of Rob's anecdotes concerning Laura's mishaps could conceivably have happened. While it might well be marginally possible to misplace the car keys in tuna salad, no way does the second set then turn up in the mashed potatoes—an occurrence Kathy doesn't seem to consider all that unusual (Laura, on the other hand, is well aware of how her goof-ups look to outsiders).

And at no time before the last few minutes of the program does Kathy come across as in any way ditzy. In fact, at no time did I ever swallow the notion that she and Danny were actually married. I saw them for what they were: Danny Thomas, and his straight woman. DVD and MTM, however—THEM you most certainly bought as a couple.

And just why was Buddy Sorrell working for this guy anyway? I thought he had an exclusive contract with Alan Brady?...

Look, I don't mean to be so hard on the late Danny Thomas—he was a much beloved performer in his time, admittedly, and did a lot of admirable charity work. But the thing is, a lot of folks younger than myself tend to casually write off old television sitcoms en masse: if they're in black and white and fail to meet the current-day quota of sniggering sexual asides, well, how good can they be, anyway? But “The Dick Van Dyke Show” IS a timeless treasure, and I think that fact becomes abundantly clear when you line it up alongside another popular contemporaneous program, carefully assessing just how it fares while utilizing the same basic storyline. Viewing these two shows back to back is a clear lesson in how the subtlest of nuances can sell—or irrevocably derail--a comedic premise. Character chemistry is vitally important, as well. Both shows were hits in their day, but only one is still hailed as a classic, and you have only to run these pair of episodes through the DVD player back to back to see why.

(On a related note, noting the inclusion of this related episode of “The Danny Thomas Show” as a bonus on the DVD DVD, it led me to speculate whether or not the episode featuring Michael Richard's “Kramer” character on the Paul Reiser/Helen Hunt series, “Mad About You”, will be similarly included in next week's big duo of “Seinfeld” DVD releases? Will they, I wonder, make room for Cosmo? We'll just have to wait and see...)

(And on a semi-related note, big thanks to “Dick Van Dyke Show” fan Number One, Mark Evanier, for his generous and gracious plug concerning my current sale of cover redos—as seen directly below, shoppers—even if the LAST line of his piece ends on a rather..ominous note. Gee, do you think he knows something I don't? Mark IS pretty well informed, after all...)
November 15th, 2004
While it has always been our great hope and desire to both amuse and entertain you here at, we WILL admit to harboring the occasional ulterior motive as well.

Specifically, we'd like to make us a few bucks, dig?

To that end, we've offered you folks the chance to donate funds, commission custom-made artwork, and to purchase already completed pieces, ones that have run as rich subject matter for our Classic Cover Redos sub-section.
All well and good--except, after a while, the frequency of posting in that sadly neglected area has slowed down to a virtual standstill. Meanwhile, I've got me over a dozen never before offered Redos waiting their turn in the sun, hidden downstairs.

Well, no longer--you can zip on over to the Sales page to check out 17 potential pieces for your purchasing pleasure. Just scroll down to the bottom half of the page, and click on any of the thumbnails so as to view larger sized versions. True, none have been colored, nor are they accompanied by any of my arcane personal anecdotes, but their cash-craving appearance on site here today doesn't necessarily rule out a later berth proper in the Classic Cover redo lineup, not at all. I have got, for instance, one doozy of a tale to tell about the above issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, number nine, the one that first revealed the secret's behind that illustrious group's origin, and I'll do my level best to get it on the record sometime soon, promise.

In the meantime, though, I'd REALLY like to sell one of you out there my fun-house mirror image of the iconic Sekowsky/Anderson original, okay?

Go. Take a look. See something you like? Contact us. We're here to serve you, after all.

And, every so often, if at all possible, to squeeze a few loose shekels out've you fine folks as well--is that really so bad?

(Hey, what can I say? Guilt trips USUALLY work for me...)
November 14th, 2004
Noticing that we were getting precipitously low on our stock of bagels--like unto the nectar of the Gods round these parts--I hastily decided that the time to make a run to acquire another baker's dozen of these doughy treats was, like, NOW!
As always, I'd pick out an assortment, concentrating on all the standard varieties: poppy, sesame, plain, maybe a cinnamon raisin or two. Realizing that my family may have OTHER favorites, I thought I'd magnanimously take some requests before I went off on my little sustenance gathering expedition...

"How about it, Julie--any particular flavor you'd like me to pick up?"

My daughter thought for a moment, and then replied, "Egg."

Click. A big, goofy smile crossed my face, and with my very best comedic timing, I looked the kid right in the eye and countered, "Oh, so you like egg bagels, junior? Me too--fact is, I never missed an episode of "St. Elsewhere"!..."


She just looked at me blankly.

Y'know, maybe--just maybe--if she'd watched "Kingdom Hospital", I might've gotten a laugh out of her?...
November 13th, 2004
Links, links, links!

I just added 89 new links to the Comic Art page (well, actually, 88, but we'll get to that in a moment).

Yup, just like most other right-thinking folks, Tom Spurgeon's wonderful new site, The Comics Reporter, is now accessible from my links page, up near the very top, right along with Heidi and Mark. We also have some new sites by the likes of Tim Sale and Pete Von Sholly for you--as well as 29 opinionated comics blockers! I"M not gonna be able to tell you much about what happens in IDENTITY CRISIS, but quite a few of these folks sure will!! (Oh, and I'm currently in the process of adding each site's given name alongside the blogger responsible--give me a little time to make that adjustment, okay folks? Soon...)

An overwhelming portion of the new listings are illustrators that work in a cartoony style, but who have no obvious ties to the comics biz. Johnny Bacardi got me started on this trail a few days back, and it seems if you wander on over to just one site, and then hit THEIR links section, well, a whole new world emerges!! I only listed the ones I really liked--but, hoo boy, I really liked a LOT of them! And I'm sure there's more I'm not even aware of yet! So look, if the name doesn't look familiar to you, go take a gander anyway. okay? Odds are you just might see a familiar Spandexed fave sneaking unobtrusively into more than a few of their various galleries--and you're gonna see spectacular art no matter what!! Kinda puts us here at to shame--luckily, we have the, ahem, witty repartee with which to lure you back!...

And as always, the new stuff can be easily ascertained by the tell-tale

There IS one thing, though--while zipping through the various blogs the other day, I came upon a brand spankin' new Jim Valentino webpage, but for the life of me, I couldn't relocate it today!! It's apparently too fresh to even turn up on Google or Yahoo--but I know it exists, cuz I saw it! Honest! So, the listing for it is on my page anyway, but it won't work til I can find it again--anybody wants to help me out, it'd be mucho appreciated.

So, what're you waiting for? Scroll on up to the top of the page and zip on over--lotsa good stuff to see and read, you betcha!..
November 12th, 2004
Several days ago, I was pleasantly surprised while visiting Neilalien's site to stumble across the news that Marvel would soon be publishing the following collection:

Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko (hardcover, color, 336 pp., $30)

Collects: STRANGE TALES #94, "Help!"; STRANGE TALES #97, "Goodbye to Linda Brown"; TALES TO ASTONISH #42, "I Am Not Human!"; AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #12, "Something Fantastic"; AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #14, "The Man in the Sky"; AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, "The Chameleon"; HULK #6, "The Metal Master"; STRANGE TALES #110, "Dr. Strange"; STRANGE TALES #115, "Origin of Dr. Strange"; TALES OF SUSPENSE #48, "Mister Doll"; AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1, "The Sinister Six"; AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1, "How Stan and Steve Create Spider-Man"; STRANGE TALES #126, "The Domain of the Dread Dormammu"; STRANGE TALES #127, "Duel with the Dread Dormammu"; AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #31, "If This Be My Destiny"; AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #32, "Man on a Rampage!"; AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #33, "The Final Chapter"; STRANGE TALES #146, "The End--At Last"; DAREDEVIL #162, "Requiem for a Pug"; HULK #249, "Jack Frost Nipping at Your Soul"; MARVEL SUPER-HEROES SPECIAL, "Iron Man and Squirrel Girl"; SPEEDBALL #1, "Origin of a Masked Marvel"; and more..

But as much as I'm looking forward to this worthy tome, I find myself still longing for a series of publications as yet unscheduled, a—dare I dream?--complete collection of those magnificently moody five-page twist-ending tales that took up the rear of most every pre-and post Marvel Age anthology comic, the ones lovingly assembled by the masterful team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko! Heck, I'd even settle for a “Best Of” if necessary--THAT friends, is what I want to see!

And if YOU want to see my personal three favorite Lee/Ditko gems—none of which made the final cut in the volume described above—zip on over to the latest piece in our “Words About Pictures” section for full access. You'll also find links to a “Little Freddy” episode dealing with the very same subject—in fact, there's SO much self-likage going on here today at, it's a wonder ye olde webmaster doesn't go BLIND!?!

Gee, and you think THAT guy's face is red?!?...
November 11th, 2004
There are many and varied ways to salute the legions of brave men and women who've served to defend this country in our long, proud history on this,Veteran's Day, 2004, and we here at have chosen to mark the occasion by sharing with you a combat charged panel from "The Hidden Doom" (BATTLE #63, April 1959) a rare World War Two tale illustrated by the legendary Steve Ditko.

Thanks, soldiers.
November 10th, 2004
In an effort to wean myself away from making all those pesky political pronouncements I've been prone to of late, I thought I'd make the transition back into the magically happy land of four-color unreality just a tad bit smoother by showcasing one of the rare--maybe even the only?--Marvel Universe appearance's by one of our nation's past, less-than-beloved (at least, round abouts here) Chief Executives, Richard Milhous Nixon himself.

Jack Kirby had barely left the cozy environs of the Bullpen for the waiting arms of Carmine Infantino (so to speak) when Stan Lee assigned artists John Romita and John Verpoorten to draw in the President--several years before beginning his unlucky second term--an authoritative role in the two-part war with the Sub-Mariner's Atlantean forces found in the pages of FANTASTIC FOUR numbers 103 and 104, hitting the stands back in the fall of 1970.
The man known to friends and foes alike as Tricky Dick doesn't come off as much of a happy camper in his two panel stint in FF #103, nor in the pair of panels he's allotted in the subsequent issue's conclusion (Short war, eh? Sure could use more of THOSE!!...), mostly just bellowing orders at Richards and company like they were spandex bedecked Haldeman and Erlichmans. He doesn't even show up on his viewscreen to congratulate his troops at the end of their successful engagement with the sea-based enemy.

In fairness, though,he MAY'VE been otherwise preoccupied at the time with his own various plots.

After all, in the end, he had less to fear from the water-breathers than he did from The Watergate, didn't he now?...
November 9th, 2004
I've had me a lot of colorful and crusading heroes in my life, fellas with impressive names like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman--even Aquaman and Ant-Man!

People, I have a NEW hero now:


Yup, that would be Keith Olbermann, the television journalist who anchors MSNBC's hour-long "Countdown" program each weekday night at 8PM (Eastern Standard Time, and rebroadcast again at midnight).
I've been enjoying his quirky yet informative take on the day's news sporadically for some time now, but have only recently given in to the urge to tape it each evening, so as not to miss a single minute--and, truthfully, to save some precious seconds by gleefully plowing through the nearly twenty minutes of mid-numbing commercials I'd otherwise have to endure!...

His approach to the news is unique in my experience: suitably serious and probing when the subject warrants it, he can then oh-so-easily slip into any number of funny voices, mocking the very next preposterous item up on that evening's agenda. One minute he's Tom Brokaw, and the next he's John Stewart--and he excels in whichever guise he assumes. But as much as I've long been meaning to plug this worthy program, I was motivated to write this particular piece more due to what he chose to feature on last night's show than anything else...

While all the other traditional news outlets--including his very own station--were in a dither about the latest developments in either Scott Peterson's trial or Yasser Arafat's hospital stay, or covering a renewed--and cynically timed--push in Iraq, one burdened with a name straight out of a bad George Lucas flick, Olbermann instead led his show with 15 solid minutes focusing on growing evidence concerning some jaw-droppingly suspicious voting "irregularities" from last week's election in--who'd a thot?--Ohio and Florida!! It might be all over the Internet, granted, but nobody else in mainstream media (and yes, wise guys--MSNBC IS mainstream media! Sorta..) appears to be covering this potentially explosive story.

Facts, figures, interviews--ALL from officially verifiable sources. Such as the very curious situation in 29 Florida counties wherein districts that housed a high percentages of registered Democratic voters somehow nonetheless came out overwhelmingly for Bush. Of course, this only occurred in areas where the counting was done using optical scanning--places wherein the old fashioned method prevailed, Democratic districts went Democratic, Republican districts voted Republican.

Then there were the 29 counties in Ohio that racked up 93, 000 more votes than voters.

That's right--93,000 more votes than voters. It's true, folks--I'm not making this up.

But don't take my word for it--check in with Keith himself. He has a Blog on the MSNBC site, and his last two entries deal with this emerging story, one that's thus far been left almost entirely to the Net to get word out. Finally, though, someone with a bit more exposure is talking about it, and that's why, beyond the fact that I invariably laugh at his snarky jibes, Keith Olbermann is my new hero.

Look, I REALLY don't want to turn this into a ponderous platform to constantly whine and complain about the election. I''m not gonna do that--promise. I said my piece the other day, and afterwards, figured I'd put it all behind me. But that was before my depression at the results morphed into righteous anger at the very real prospect that the whole thing was rigged against my guy. In light of the facts that are emerging, I really don't think I'm being a sore loser. I can accept coming in second if the results are reached in an honest, above-board manner, but in THIS instance, that's becoming more and more questionable.

Yes, I'm a Democrat, but no, I'm not against Republicans--I'm just against the sort of people who would subvert our cherished democratic process in such a despicable manner, merely to afford themselves more unchecked power. I gotta tell ya, I had no small difficulty getting to sleep last night after watching Olbermann's report (twice-- the second time with Lynn, who'd missed it earlier), my stomach churning and my mind racing. I was angry, excited, and feeling despair, all simultaneously: angry for obvious reasons, excited because someone was actually spotlighting these dubious results, and despair at the deflating thought that no one else in big media would follow up on this story, instead letting it die for any number of reasons, both sinister (pressure from above--WAY above) or mundane (an election weary audience who'd rather see the guy who killed his wife on Christmas Eve get what he deserves rather than see this country get the leader it was cheated out of...).

Don't let that happen. If you voted for John Kerry, make sure these investigations are not swept under the rug, and get all the attention they clearly merit. If you voted for George W. Bush, well, you might want to stop and consider the apparent lengths your candidate was willing to go to to achieve his goal, and speculate perhaps on just what might happen in some future instance when you and he AREN'T on the same page. Believe me, it WON'T be pretty. Clearly, these weren't the tactics of a principled statesman like a Bob Dole--I assure you, I don't want to paint the whole party with the same damning swathe. After all, there's always one bad apple in every barrel, right?.

It's just a crying shame that they're obligated to play "Hail To The Chief" every time THIS one falls off the tree!!..
November 8th, 2004
To paraphrase one of Smilin' Stan Lee's most overused Asgardian expressions, “I say thee neigh!...”

Lynn and I spent our Sunday morning watching Julie compete in a small horse show put on by the local Equestrian Center where our daughter has been taking riding lessons for the last year and a half. The nearly three hour event climaxed with a delayed yet still entertaining Halloween costume procession, in which ALL participants were awarded first-prize blue ribbons.

Don't misunderstand—it was just a relatively small group of buckaroos involved. There couldn't have been more than twenty in total—all girls--as it was mostly thrown for the benefit of the horse farm's regular students and their parents. The final results were NOT reported in the evening's papers, please understand, but that sure didn't minimize the fun-filled festivities for the kids. Julie herself rode in three of the competitions, and even given the less than dazzling rankings she ultimately chalked up, she was still all smiles at day's end. It's that girl and horse bonding thing you always hear about, I guess. Neither Lynn or I have any special fondness for the beasts--ah, but with Julie and her good buddy Deanna, it's a far different story...

When not comfortably in the saddle, Julie spent most of the morning, roaming the area, snapping dozens and dozens of pictures, using our relatively new digital camera (which, considering how much it'd cost to get all of these seemingly endless snapshots developed the old fashioned way, amounts to quite the preferable financial approach). When she strongly requested that I run the above picture of Casual the Bronx-cheering Horse here at the site for all to see, I felt I couldn't very well turn her down--especially in light of a conversation we'd had earlier that morning with one of the other participant's moms...

Backtracking a bit, here's what happened: after finishing her events, Julie took her horse—Buddy Two--back to the stables, while Lynn and I continued to watch the ensuing activities in the ring. Suddenly, we heard a familiar high-pitched screech. I turned and saw to my horror that Julie was in great distress—her less than amiable steed had bitten her on the arm! While no skin had been broken, the animal's strong jaws left a nasty bruise and had the poor kid pretty upset. Everyone did their best to calm her down, and one young woman assured her that it wasn't her fault, as she herself had ridden the horse in question just days earlier, and he'd been noticeably out of sorts during their entire trek as well. It was a nice gesture, attempting to absolve our Julie of any doubt that she'd somehow provoked the stallion's belligerent biting, and we most certainly appreciated it. Julie soon settled down, and went on to blithely enjoy the rest of the unseasonably warm and sunny morning the show had been blessed with.

Later, as things were finally winding up, and folks were preparing to leave, the woman who'd consoled Julie a few hours earlier approached Lynn and me.

“I just want to tell, you, I think your daughter is a great kid”, she began. “She's got a wonderful personality, a really funny sense of humor, and ALWAYS has something to say.”

(..don't I know it, I thought...)

“Most teenagers, well, you're lucky if you get an “uh huh”, a “yeah”, or maybe a ”mm-hmm” out of 'em when you ask a question, but not Julie. She's always happy to tell you exactly how she feels about something!”

All this unsolicited praise for our offspring—coming from someone who WASN'T one of her teachers, WASN'T someone we were paying to give her some sort of lessons, WASN'T the parent of one of her friends, and WASN'T a relative!?! No, she was merely someone who'd spent time with our daughter during a few of the many hours she'd spent at the horse farm over the past several months. There wasn't any conceivable benefit to this women for volunteering her opinion to us--words that nonetheless struck me as totally sincere, and not just some empty small talk on her part.

As we continued to speak, it eventually came out that her own daughter was nine years old, and mom's feeling a little bit wary of facing the upcoming—and daunting--teen years, but Julie's behavior gave her some small amount of solace for the future. Of course, at just about this point, I felt the need to interject a small dose of cold reality into the conversation...

“Well, thanks for your kind words, but the truth is, Julie can, at times, be a real pain in the butt.”

She just laughed, and replied, “ They ALL can, at home. There's no denying THAT. It's how they act while they're out in public that's the true test. And believe me, your Julie does just fine!...”

We thanked her one last time, and then went off to rustle up our now-golden child. I hadn't really thought of the overall big picture in quite those terms before—or, at least, not recently. I've been much more preoccupied with my exasperation over various incidents in day's not long past that had the two of us stubbornly butting heads. The kid really AIN'T perfect, people--and we've had our share of what polite society might refer to as loud discussions to prove it—but then again, who is? Seeing her through the eyes of an unbiased stranger made me once again appreciate her many positive qualities, and that'll give me pause the next time I immediately react in an overly negative manner to some small infraction of hers in the all-too-typical manner of a teenager's hopelessly clueless father.

Hopefully, today's entry doesn't come across as TOO parentally narcissistic. In any event, who'd a thot? Who'd ever figure I'd have to be corralled by a lone stranger in order to be given an eye-opening dose of horse sense concerning our own junior Annie Oakley!...
November 7th, 2004
You know that big-time Superman movie they've been trying to, um, get off the ground for some years now? It really should be amazing, I'm sure, but if you can't quite wait for the silver screen version, you might want to take a peek at this quirky little animated short. It features the Big Guy acting suitably iconic, accompanied by a pitch-perfect musical score. Watch the bit with the skyscrapers toward the end--it'll bring a lump to your throat...

This slice of internet magic is featured at the website of a talented artist named Chris Appelhans, and no, I'd never heard of him before today, either. (Yeah, right--like he's ever heard of ME!...). But thanks to Johnny Bacardi (I call him the Seeker, searching the net high and low), I found this wonderful little taste of animation amongst a score of new linkage provided by good ol' JB--and you can too, when you scroll down to the 11/6/2004 9:33:49am entry (geez--talk about precise!...). And after you've checked out the clip, take a look at some of the other goodies Johnny has for you.

Cuz friends, you WILL believe a man can link!!...
November 6th, 2004
Sure, I realize Halloween was nearly a week ago now, but that doesn't mean I can't turn the clock back just long enough to share with you one of those "Ohmighod, Fred! Seriously, dude--is your noggin screwed on tight enough, or what?"-tales that we seemingly yet shamefacedly revel in hereabouts. People, you gotta either laugh, or you gotta cry, and I guarantee you, I MUCH prefer the chuckle-based brand of therapy...

Some background stats first: happily, our long string of mild Halloweens continued as the temps reached all the way up into the mid-sixties during the day, and never dropped below the lower fifties as the evening hours wore on. Julie, as always, took full opportunity of the fact that the 31st fell on a Sunday this year and invited her pals to come over at two in the afternoon for an early, early start to the festivities. Deanna, Lisa, and Samantha were around from beginning to end, while another girl, Caitlin, had to leave early, her place subsequently taken by Deanna's younger sister, Jessica, and her friend. You practically needed a scorecard to keep track of things!...

Dressed in their near identical fairy costumes—Lisa in white, the rest in black--the coven-ettes took to the streets shortly after five, stopping back in intermittently over the next four hours to dip their aching feet, for the second year in a row, into our jet-streamed foot massager, a Christmas gift that I bought for Lynn years ago, little suspecting WHICH holiday would prove its true worth! The Gothic Tinkerbell gang stayed out, roaming the streets without incident—but amassing large quantities of candy--until nearly nine, the time of our area's newly instituted curfew.

Back here at the homestead, as those gruesomely glorious Halloween-inspired CD collections of novelty tracks--the ones that I alerted you to several weeks back--played incessantly in the background, we gave out candy to nearly forty Trick or Treaters, up about ten ghosts and ghoulies from our usual tally. It was, as always, great fun—it's probably no secret by now that I LOVE Halloween, and y'know, maybe all the excitement surrounding the day's unfolding events was what prevented me from thinking quite as clearly as I may've needed to. (Yeah, THAT'S it—that works, if only for one day a year...)

The question was, what's the easiest way to feed dinner to half a dozen hungry kids just before they embark on their All Hallow's Eve adventures? And the answer? Yup—pizza. Or, more specifically, THREE pizzas. Okay--most likely there'd be leftovers, but hey, no prob. After all, who doesn't LOVE pizza? (Hold that thought...)

So there it was, four o'clock Sunday afternoon. I was attempting to catch up on my email replies before going out to pick up the pizzas, so I asked Lynn to make the call. Now, we generally order our pies from one of three places, and since we'd decided to pass on the local Pizza Hut (a twenty minute round trip), I figured Lynn had called in the order to Romano's (a ten minute round trip ). So, I sent off my messages and then set off to get the pies at 4:15.

Funny thing—when I arrived at the Pizzeria, they had no knowledge of our order. None whatsoever. They checked and rechecked, and then checked with their other location to see if Lynn had mistakenly called it in there (Gee, I didn't even know they HAD another location!), but no, she hadn't. We were all puzzled, but then the chef behind the counter asked me what we'd ordered, so I told him: three plain cheese pies. He looked atop his ovens, checked the receipts attached to several loitering pies, seemed to mull things over for just a moment, and then pulled down a trio of already boxed pizzas, and sold them to me. I was relieved, as I certainly didn't want to wait around for him to cook up a fresh batch--and I didn't stop to ponder overmuch HOW these already prepared goodies fell into my lucky little grasp. Probably something about cash in the hand and all--I STILL wonder what happened when the folks who originally called in those orders eventually showed up later that night (if they ever, in fact, did)!

I drove into our driveway minutes later, my conscience clear, and entered the house triumphantly with my precious if abducted edibles.

"Pizza's here!", I gleefully announced, and then turned to Lynn and confided, "But y'know, the darndest thing happened—for some inexplicable reason, they said they never got our order! But don't fret--I got us these pies anyway! Isn't that great?"

My dear, darlin' wife's expression changed almost immediately from quizzical at the outset of my little news bulletin to an all too familiar "WHY"D I ever marry THIS guy?" look when she trepidatiously asked me just exactly WHERE I'd gotten those pizzas.

"Romano's, natch..."

Yeah, I know—you're ALL way ahead of me on this one. I said we usually order from a pool of THREE pie packin' outlets. Sure enough, Lynn had called Pizza Village, choice number three, which was a ten minute round trip in the exact opposite direction of where I'd gone! She pointed out, with just a modicum of exasperation (there were, after all, children present) that she'd told me repeatedly that was where she'd placed the order—Pizza Village, NOT Romanos. And y'know, I didn't doubt her for a nano-second—I'm SURE she told me where to go (and, ahem, would again, in the very near future...), but I was so preoccupied with what I was doing and eagerly anticipating the evening's excitement, that once I had it in my mind that Romano's was our eatery of choice, THAT was where I was going! Yes, it was a dumb mistake, but now there was yet another aspect of my blunder to consider—what about those three pies waiting patiently for us over at Pizza Village?..

Well, I suppose we could've just abandoned them, and I admit to at least considering that tactic for a brief moment, but Lynn was having none of it—we ordered 'em and we're buying 'em! So, off I went--again, and back I came—again, with three pies--AGAIN! The girls had had their fill of the first round of pies by the time I got back, and as they hit the streets shortly after five, I saw before me my future: four and a half uneaten pizzas, aka, dinner and lunch for the next three days! As dopey moves go, it wasn't all THAT bad when you consider those consequences!...

Sure, Lynn actually said she had gotten tired of pizza by Tuesday, but Julie and I never did, no sir. To relieve the magnificent monotony, we added our own toppings as the days wore on: first, onions and olives, then pineapple (REALLY delightful, for those of you who've never tried it and are blanching at the very notion), and finally, onions, peppers, AND pineapple! Delicious, every piece, and usually followed with a chocolate bar chaser!

So, in keeping with the spirit of the day, I guess I tricked myself, but in the end, you know what? It turned out to be quite the treat instead! But still, next time Lynn sends me off for pizza—which, incidentally, won't be for a long, long time—she's threatening to write the name of the venue on a piece of paper and pin it to my lapel! Too bad—then I can't pull this "Oops! I bought way too much pizza" scam for real...
November 5th, 2004
Good news--today we're NOT complaining about the election!

Today our complaints are limited to several Beatles-related releases, but your gonna have to go here to read about the specific target(s) of my petty whining and moaning!

Fear not--SOMEDAY I'll be happy again!...
November 4th, 2004
Red states.

Blue states.

(And boy, am I ever in a blue state NOW!?!...)

Welcome to the Divided States of America.

But is it really?

I don't think so. Not really.There were, after all, an awful lot of people in those red states who voted blue--and I can personally attest to the fact that there was certainly no shortage of red ballots cast here in this particular blue state.

This wasn't Nixon-McGovern, please understand. The margin of victory was only 51/48. A lot has been made by the winning side that the victor chalked up more popular votes than any other previous Chief Exec in our long and storied history. Fine, but you know what? So did the challenger. Just not as many as the incumbent, sadly, but still more than the previous record holder, Ronald Reagan. So, when you get right down to it, there's enough red and blue intermingling out there in this grand old land of ours to turn us ALL into a sea of purple, one nation, Prince overall!!

I'm not happy with the results of the election, that's pretty obvious, but I don't think it's gonna do us blue brothers any good to use that disappointment to launch into some ill-advised civil war. Look, even before I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11", I knew that I dearly desired a change at the top. I truly felt that if a lot of the folks who supported Bush in an only marginally informed manner would just sit down and watch that documentary, a high percentage of them would change their allegiances after the end titles ran.

But stuff like that rarely happens, does it? I walk into my local Barnes and Noble, and see scores and scores of books relentlessly knocking the Bush administration--and a like amount denouncing John Kerry and both of the Clintons. I wonder to myself, just WHO is buying and reading these blatantly slanted tomes? I doubt any Bush supporters have ever plunked down good money for a book ridiculing their candidate (unless they're planning to write their own "answer" tract)--and why should they? I surely can't blame them--I've never ever considered picking up even one of the many and varied selections of what has come to amount to being a veritable Clinton-bashing library.

It's tough to switch over from red to blue, and vice-versa as well--I realize that. I've been blue, I remain blue, I'll probably ALWAYS be blue. Why I should expect the red tide to turn, I'm not really sure. Maybe it was because I didn't feel that the red voters needed to read the admittedly propaganda-laden books and movies to change their minds. I kinda felt all they really needed to shift their thinking was to, well, just watch the news. But I guess I was wrong.

Let's not beat each other up over this, okay? They say everything happens for a reason, and someday maybe we'll all find out just why John Kerry was defeated Tuesday night. In the meantime, the good news here is that Adam and Steve won't be renting out the Wedding Chapel down the street any time soon, and hey, if we have to endure a struggling economy and a mismanaged war for that little reward, well, THAT'S a worthy trade off, right?



God bless the DSA!!

And tomorrow (and hopefully for the foreseeable future), it's back to the mindless fun we're well known for here at

It is, after all, my coping mechanism...
November 3rd, 2004
November 2nd, 2004
Out of the mouth's of babes...
Yup, that's my audience all right: reader's with the intellect of a perpetual five-year old--and one likely suffering ADD at that!! But, the sentiment is appreciated, Dennis—honest...

All kidding aside, I was delighted to receive this custom made cartoon in the mail yesterday from the very talented artist currently carrying on Hank Ketcham's legacy in daily newspapers all over this world, Marcus Hamilton! You might recall the October 24th entry discussing the recent email exchanges we'd had concerning our mutual admiration for those wonderful DENNIS THE MENACE comics by the sadly undervalued team of Fred Toole and Al Wiseman. Thanks, Marcus—it's a swell illo, and I hope you don't mind me sharing your thoughtful gift with my readers.

If nothing else, it's good to see that Dennis has FINALLY widened the scope of his interests beyond those “Cowboy Bob” comics he's seemingly been obsessed with for so long!...
November 1st, 2004

Well, the Presidential Election is tomorrow, and all the polls seem to indicate that the race is dead even. Split right down the middle. Fifty-fifty. Huh...

Y'know, I find that whole notion to be downright stunning.

Stunning because that means half the people in this country—HALF!--actually believe that George W. Bush did a decent enough job the last four years to merit being re-elected! Apologies to all my committed and undoubtedly decent Republican readers out there, but I find this to be extremely troublesome.

Okay, sure, I'll admit to being a lifelong Democrat—why, along with about, oh, 15 others, I cast my first Presidential vote for poor ol' George McGovern way back in '72—so I can't honestly say I ever cozied up to any of the candidates the G.O. P. has offered up over the years. Fact is, I went into that voting booth the very first time carrying with me a deep and personal loathing for Richard Milhous Nixon--and I was never one to fall under the sway of Reagan's charm, either. But, in reasoned retrospect, despite still having some serious qualms about certain aspects of their respective tenures in the Oval Office, history has proven even to an old lefty like me that they both managed SOME positive accomplishments while in charge (maybe even more than I'd like to admit).

But George W. Bush? What's HE done?

Well, he's increased tax breaks for all his rich buddies. In a fine burst of Bizarro-like rhetoric, he's divided our country, not united it. He's lost more jobs than any president in the last 75 years (one more would do me just fine...). And let's not forget that he launched the very first pre-emptive war in our country's history, one that was based on blatantly erroneous information and one so poorly planned that there've been more casualties in the time since he boasted hollowly, “Mission accomplished!” in his soldier suit, than there were during the entire actual combat phase of this misguided operation. Plus—and pardon me for saying so--but it was clearly the WRONG war, one cynically launched primarily for the dual purposes of securing oil and avenging his daddy's honor. Had he sent off our military forces in a more sensible direction, maybe we wouldn't have to endure Osama Bin Laden videos playing on CNN in as nearly a heavy rotation as a Brittany Spears clip on TRL!..

But you can't tell him that—you can't tell the man ANYTHING. Unless he knows in advance you're sympathetic to his iron-clad views, he won't even meet with you. He doesn't discriminate, though—he's turned away EVERYONE from his door: religious leaders, ethnic leaders, foreign leaders, even (gasp!) Democratic leaders! Let's face it, it's mighty tough to get through to someone when they're flat out convinced they're taking orders directly—and divinely--from none other than God Him--or Her—self!

Maybe THAT'S the most distressing aspect of his Presidency—his arrogant unwillingness to ever even consider another point of view. Some see that as a strength—I see it as a dangerous megalomania, at least in the manner Bush so blindly dances to the (off) beat of his own drumming. And all those unfulfilled campaign promises from 2000—also known as “lies”--well, they're no sparkling advertisement for another four years, either!

Look, I'm no political pundit, and I don't mean to sound shrill. I know a lot of good people are convinced re-electing this man is the proper way to go, but for the life of me, I can't figure out WHY? As the decades have worn on, that simmering firebrand that pulled the lever for the doomed McGovern campaign has slowly but surely morphed into the older, complacent voter who, though usually having a clear preference, eventually came to realize that one guy wasn't all that much different that the other, since they were both, after all, politicians. That pretty much summed up my attitude four years ago, in fact. But ever since the election debacle that installed Bush in the White House—which should've been a glaring hint right there—I've regained a sense of urgency regarding the political process that I haven't felt for years, decades even.

Admittedly, John Kerry may not be my ideal, dream candidate, but he's proven to me in recent weeks that he'd make, at the very least, a decent Chief Executive. Most importantly, he's NOT the nightmare candidate, George W. Bush. Heck, given the opportunity, I'd gladly punch my chad for Reagan--or even, heaven help me, Nixon himself—if by some strange twist of Twilight Zone-like fate either of those men were running against Bush Junior! In that same vein, Julie told me someone at her school opined that he'd rather vote for Hitler over Bush, but even I think maybe that's going a bit TOO far. (Of course, my final decision would clearly hinge on who's sharing the ticket with Der Fuerher...)

If I've insulted half of you, sorry. Really. Bush genuinely scares me, is all, and his popularity continues to both sadden and baffle me. But maybe I'm making too much out of this—after all, the Redskins lost yesterday, thus sealing the Prez's fate, right? Let's just hope that the Red Sox's improbable win earlier the Fall hasn't somehow turned the elusive world of sports-induced curses topsy turvey!...

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