Archive - September 2004
Who Fred? Links-a-Plenty!
September 30th, 2004
You know, I think it's darn nice of the candidates to schedule their first Presidential debate a mere two days before this season's SNL kickoff! WHATEVER they say tonight, you just know that some unexpected gem will come back and bite one--or both--of the politicos squarely on the butt come this Saturday's premiere episode! I know I'LL be keeping a close eye on the proceedings tonight--if only to better understand this weekend's gags!

But whichever eye it is you're using, it WON'T be the once-hallowed CBS eye. Much to my surprise, I noticed in glancing through this evening's TV listings that the so-called Tiffany network is in fact declining to broadcast the Bush/Kerry contest, providing America instead with brand spankin' new episodes of both "CSI" and "Without a Trace".

"Without a Trace"--say, you don't suppose THAT'S where the CBS News bureau's long-standing prestige has suddenly disappeared to, do you?...
September 28th, 2004
...Well, I TOLD you to watch last night's “Tonight Show”, didn't I? Of course, when I said that, I had absolutely no idea Jay would use the occasion of the program's 50th anniversary as an opportunity to announce passing the torch on to Conan O'Brien—five years from now!?!...

To me, that's great news. Conan's by far my favorite host, and his is the only night time talk show I currently watch without fail (albeit on tape) (Dave and Jay once enjoyed my undivided viewing patronage as well, but not for awhile now, no sirree). The big guy certainly deserves the promotion (even it does mean he'll have to get used to a grueling five night schedule as opposed to his current cushy four day work week), and I for one eagerly (if somewhat impatiently) look forward to tuning in.

Assuming, of course, that I'm still alive. Here's hoping!

Now, to change gears just a bit, I want to share with you a little household catastrophe that's currently eating away at our combined nervous systems and eroding our accumulated bank books....

You might recall some "Fred Sez" entries from late July wherein I complained—maybe even whined--about some rotten luck we'd been having, and the many, many things that had been breaking down around here, an unhealthy percentage of which crumbled as a direct result of something I did. Well, compared to our current situation, that dark cloud that hung over mid-summer was, to quote Ralph Kramden, “a mere bag of shells”. The only positive aspect this time around is that I am in no way responsible for our latest calamity (...not that can be proven in a court of law, anyway, and ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that's just the way I like it!...).

It all started with a puddle, y'see, a little itsy bitsy puddle. An unfortunate truth hereabouts it that, upon the occasion of a full bodied downpour--the likes of which we've experienced more than once in recent days as the remnants of those far too numerous killer hurricanes that wreaked devastation throughout Florida travelled inexorably up the East Coast—is that we get some small amounts of seepage in the basement, so when I came upon a small mass of water in the furnace room about ten days ago, I shrugged, got out the mop, cleaned up, and just assumed it was business as usual.

Uh uh. Would that it were.

Because the NEXT day, when the skies were bright and sunny and the ground outside had finally absorbed the recent monsoon-like barrage, there was that troublesome puddle again. Nothing overwhelming, mind you, but after leaving it alone for several hours as a test of sorts, it grew, expanding even if the unwanted moisture's entry point was imperceptible to the naked eye (or even me with my glasses). So you know what we did next, right? Yup—called us a plumber.

And THAT, my friends, is where things really started to get complicated.

Our plumber determined that what we we're dealing with was a leak from the pipe that delivers water into the front of our house (we're hooked up to a town water line, y'see). But he couldn't just drill through the concrete downstairs and fix it. Oh no—that'd be far too easy. Seems he'd have to approach the problem from the OUTSIDE to repair it. In other words, we 'd need to have the line excavated. Dug up. A back hoe would have to be brought in, and, well, tear up our front yard so as to best determine exactly where the leak is. It could be anywhere. It could be right under the sidewalk that's flush up against the front of the house, or maybe buried beneath the nearby shrubbery, or maybe even beneath the carefully cultivated strawberry garden Lynn and Julie planted only this past spring. Truth is, it could be virtually ANYWHERE out across the hundred or so feet that makes up our now suddenly all too expansive yard. Any portion of this area could soon be in line for single-minded destruction, all in service of finding this small, annoying—and increasingly expensive--leak.

But wait! There's more!

That would the simple solution to our problem. The—dare I say it?--easy solution. And that's the way events would indeed potentially proceed if weren't for one glaring fact—somewhere in our yard, we have a 550 gallon oil tank buried. “Somewhere” being the key term here, as while we have our educated suspicions as to its whereabouts, we don't, um, know EXACTLY where it's located. It was buried about forty years back, long before we arrived on the scene. Our plumber was understandably squeamish about plunging in all gung ho-like operating large equipment while the off chance remained that he might dig down and puncture said tank (which, at age forty, was nearing the end of its life expectancy anyway), thus letting loose a flow of filthy nasty oil into our otherwise pristine soil! THEN, lemme tell ya, the fine folks at the DEC (Department of Environmental Control, which, surprisingly, does still exist) would be all over us--and oh, the horror, the horror!! Not to mention, oh, the bills, oh, the bills!..

So whadda we gotta do to make things right? Well, first order of business is to get a new tank for heating oil, one now located safely inside our garage. That particular task was accomplished earlier today without much incident, happily. And, despite the cost, it was definitely something that needed to be done, and luckily, doing it sooner rather than later, it wasn't an action ordered at the DEC's behest. But take a deep breath, folks-- there are plenty of other steps to be taken before our plumber is ready to replace that line of pipe...

First off, workers from the local water department have to come by and mark the water line's whereabouts to guide the plumber. They stopped by earlier today, but found the shut off valve on top of the shallowly buried pipe to be rusted over and completely unopenable, so they're coming back tomorrow to repair it. This, incidentally, is the ONLY aspect of this ever escalating endeavor that we're not paying for out of pocket, as it's the town's responsibility. Even so, it's mere drop in the bucket(so to speak).

Further complicating matters is the fact that, while all our neighbors have their electrical lines coming in via elevated outside lines, ours is inexplicably buried underground. And because it's buried underground, it needs to be located before any excavating is done. Sadly, the local electric company declined to come out and find it for us. Why? Well, since they weren't the ones who originally installed it--it was instead done privately--we're obliged to go out and hire another specialist to locate the line. And, of course, pay him. Sigh...

Speaking of locating, another fellow altogether's gonna be prowling around outside our house at 6AM Wednesday morning, armed with a metal detector, trying to find our still elusive oil tank. There are two fill pipes jutting up from the ground out there, but as we found out today, the tank is NOT directly below these pair of openings. Y'see, the oil company came by to fill our new indoor tank (which they did), and fully intended to pump out the old tank as well while they were here. Only, sticking a long dipstick down the fill pipe only proved that it didn't go straight down, but instead snaked in one direction or another, a fact that prevented them from emptying the aged tank. So, it was now decided that it would be necessary to dig down to the top of the underground tank so as to get a clear shot at its actual cap.

So now we have to coordinate the guy who we're enlisting to “abandon” the tank—the same fellow who's gonna locate it--to dig out the top and expose it to air, then let the oil company come in, have them pump out all but the very last gallons, and the turn it back over to the tank closing specialist to siphon out the last bit of sludge, and, finally , fill it up with sand. (Sure, we could have it dug entirely out from the ground instead, but people, this alternative method is cheaper—a concept that, considering everything that's piling up, we can't help but find quite appealing...)

One last twist: given the location of the fill pipes, the oil tank is buried most likely either under some miscellaneous (and not long for this world) foliage—or our driveway.

Ohhhh, my head.

Well, if it IS under the blacktop, maybe—just maybe—the plumber will go ahead with his work, as they'll be absolutely no chance of his equipment accidentally crunching into a tank safely ensconced way over yonder under a tar topping, and maybe—just maybe--we can have our old tank hooked back up so we can use up the oil that's still in there rather than just dump it (and then switch back over to the new addition). Come spring, our thinking goes, we can then have the driveway torn up, the old tank condemned, and a spiffy new driveway installed (which, frankly, we're somewhat overdue for in any event). But who knows--that may all just be wishful thinking...

So people, THOSE are the high-priced hoops we're gonna haveta jump through before we're gonna get anywhere near able to clean up that innocent-looking little puddle that's recently sprung up in our basement! Dizzying, ain't it? Y'know, I don't know if I ever truly bought the domino theory as it applied to a potential Communist takeover in Southeast Asia back in the sixties, but there's NO denying the domino theory of homeowner horror that's staring Lynn and I menacingly in the eye! And that's not even taking into account the obvious landscaping refurbishment the front yard's gonna need after the plumber pulls his van out of our driveway (or what's left of it) for a final time.

I suppose it could be worse. After all, the flow of the seepage could be a lot steadier, far more intense, and much more worrisome than it is currently. Of course, the earliest the plumber will be able to work his magic is about a week from now, so until that time, here's hoping and praying that I don't have to use our handy dandy new wetvac more than once every ten hours or so that's the nefarious but steady puddles current schedule...

The big question is, can this soggy situation be solved successfully BEFORE Conan settles into his 11:35 gig? Well, I'm taking no bets—because at this rate, who knows if I'll even have the cash to pay 'em off?...
September 27th, 2004
No question about it--fifty years ago this evening definitely WAS the start of something big!

That was the date that marked the debut of an innovative new television program that went on to become an institution: NBC's "Tonight Show". And hosting that very first episode-- and in fact, practically inventing the TV talk show as we know it in the process--was the great Steve Allen.
Funny thing about how I stumbled across this anniversary: I'd been reading a terrific book spotlighting the significant new comedy stars of the fifties (about which I'll have more anon), and obviously, the man with the Clark Kent horn rims qualified easily for a chapter. My appetite thus whetted for some vintage--if elusive--Allen action, it was nonetheless only by sheer chance--or perhaps fate?--that, in looking for another tape altogether, I stumbled across an old, unwatched, VHS recording I'd made of "Steve Allen's 75th Birthday Celebration" when it aired on PBS back in (...coff coff...) 1997. (Okay, okay--so sometimes it takes a while for me to get to things, alright? I've, uh, been busy, y'know?...)

Anyway, yesterday I finally watched the show, and when they ran a clip from that historic initial broadcast, I was startled to see that the big five oh for the franchise was coming up real soon--like, tomorrow! Which is now, uh huh, today!?! (...both of which happened to be NBC programs as well, if I'm not mistaken...)

As I said, more about Steve in the very near future, but I just wanted to give you folks a heads up because, if, like me, you hadn't been tuning in regularly lately but still might be curious enough to check out this evening's Leno-led broadcast to see if the Peacock people might do anything special to commemorate the occasion, well, now you know!

Me? Hey, I'll boil MY tribute down to just two simple words (or actually one, repeated twice...):

Smock smock!!
September 26th, 2004
Just the other day, I ended my "Star Wars" overview with a seemingly out of the blue comparison with another popular pop culture icon, the ever lovable Spongebob Squarepants, and at the time, I believed these two franchises had absolutely nothing in common.

I was wrong.

As I learned mere hours ago, it turns out that the illustrious James Earl Jones is associated with both.
As everyone knows, Jones' booming voice--if not his actual body--is heard coming out of the mouth of the malevolent Darth Vader in the initial "Star Wars" trilogy. Conversely, he apparently appears, big as life and in all his glory, visibly on film in the upcoming animated feature, "The Spongebob Squarepants Movie"!


A voiceover in a live action movie, and a filmed appearance in a cartoon?

Go here, gang, and take a look at the teaser for said flick. Admittedly, this clever little piece would be far more effective if you were viewing it in darkened theater, totally unaware of the true nature of what's unfolding up there on the screen. Oh, I STILL think it's genuinely hilarious, but by seeing it at a Spongebob website, well, some of the delicious surprise is unfortunately missing.

No matter. It made me laugh anyway. But don't blink, or you'll miss Verizon's favorite thespian. It's just nice to know he's there, though, even if I'm not entirely certain this is a clip from the finished film, or something done especially as a teaser. Like I said, no matter--it's funny, and bodes well for the film's eagerly anticipated November 19th release date (the trailer is chucklicious, too).

But if the movie ends with Mr. Krabs declaring, "Spongebob, I am your father", I'm gonna want my money back--that'd be taking this already nebulous connection between these two disparate worlds a little bit TOO far, no doubt about it!!...

September 24th, 2004

Prompted by the release of the "Star Wars Trilogy" DVD set earlier this week (maybe you heard?...), I sat down and wrote up a piece dealing with my feelings concerning George Lucas's magnum opus, and initially planned to run it here.

Then I remembered that I had a yet-to-be posted Hembeck reinterpretation of the poster for "The Empire Strikes Back", and so decided to run the essay with that, allowing me to sneak up some of my art AND and give my writing perhaps a bit more of a shelf life (any of you newcomers to the site actually READ the "Fred Sez" archives, I wonder?...).

So what are you waiting for? Go take a Luke!...

September 23rd, 2004


It's a big, big day for Arthur. I won't tell you just exactly HOW old Artie is today; let's just say he's halfway to Hope—Bob, that is...

Arthur's a fellow comics fan who's been commissioning yours truly to churn out a buncha my custom made Classic Cover Redos over the last several years—even before this site went on line, if memory serves. Now, I don't know Arthur personally, but folks, anyone who's ponied up for over a dozen of my reinterpretations—with more to come!--deserves a special shout out on such an illustrious occasion as this! Especially since, like myself, he exhibits a pronounced fondness for the Silver Age appearances of DC Comics greatest Golden Age characters, the legendary Justice Society of America!

I've assured Arthur several times in the past that I'd turn my laser-like focus on some of the many great scenes he's had me redraw in my Classic Cover Redo section, but aside from the famed “Robin Dies At Dawn” issue of BATMAN, sadly, his requests have yet to garner my full examination. Sorry, Arthur. Actually, my posting track record over in that portion of has been both putrid, paltry AND pathetic in recent months. “Oops...” just doesn't cut it, does it?

Someday, friend. Someday I'll give these four fabulous faux Murphy Anderson 1965 redos pictured below the full treatment, but in the meantime, I just thought I'd share some of your choice choices with the readers at large in lieu of a really, really big cake. Enjoy, Arthur—and the rest of you as well! (And remember, I'm still available to add squiggles to the favorite cover of YOUR choosing—they make swell birthday presents, y'know! Just ask Mr. C!...)
On an unrelated note, I was relieved to hear that the impending Cat Stevens threat has been efficiently and mercilessly squashed with the singers swift deportation. After all, if he'd successfully weaseled his way into our great country, what chance would we've ever had of keeping Gordon Lightfoot out? And you just know it wouldn't stop there, as Al Stewart is ALWAYS hovering menacingly on the horizon! Phew—sure am glad we dodged THAT bullet!...

(Preceding gag shamelessly stolen and clunkily adapted from a clever comment made in a recent email from my buddy Bill Alger—thanks, Bill! Say, did I mention Bill has himself a nifty new Web comic up and running? Oh, I did, didn't I. Well, go hop aboard the Laugh Train and take a peek, pals and gals...)

September 20th, 2004

Bill Alger SEEMS normal enough...

I met Bill a few years back through our mutual pal, Rocco Nigro. Bill is an accomplished cartoonist who's worked on some of the biggest animated properties of recent times, including The Power Puff Girls and Lizzie McGuire, as well being featured in NICKELODEON magazine and DC Comic's line of toon based titles. So, maybe if you limit yourself to muscle-bound characters fairly bursting out of their brightly hued get-ups, you may not be familiar with his work.

That, friends, is all gonna change.

Y'see, he's been threatening to erect a Bill site for quite some time now (among other eagerly anticipated projects), but in the interim, he's chosen to launch a page featuring the anti-social antics of the adorable moppet, June, an enormously entertaining web-comic that's simultaneously sweet and sour (yup—just like the chicken!...).

Like I said, Bill doesn't immediately strike one as the crazed cartoonist sort, but just engage in an extended conversation with him, and soon his soft-spoken manner will be overshadowed by a dry, sardonic wit, one he puts to fine use in his latest endeavor.

Stylishly illustrated, he fills the mouths of the denizens of his surrealistic Happyville with seeming non sequiters and the occasional obscenity laden punch-line, solidly socking readers in their solar plexuses with the power of their startling visual versus verbal irony. Never—I repeat, NEVER--trust the quiet ones...
Look, I'm no clearly expert on the field of web-comics—and Bill is admittedly a friend—but I'm suitably impressed enough by June to heartily recommend the strip to you folks out there (as long as you're not easily offended by strips that are peppered with salty language, that is). Mr. Alger has close to 30 episodes available for your perusal, so, staying in the spirit of the strip as best I can, let me ask, just what the #&$! are you waiting for?

Go take a look!

(Gee, I'll bet this must've been exactly how Ed Sullivan felt when he introduced The Beatles to America, y'know?...)
September 19th, 2004
Spent most of the day applying pen to paper, finishing up some already pencilled illos. Then, feeling some pangs of guilt for neglecting you folks, I added 36 new comics oriented locations for you to explore.

Yup, today was all about inking and linking!

(I know what you're thinking--the level of discourse on this site is rapidly sinking! Some might say it's downright stinking! But please don't tell me--it'll drive me to drinking!!)

(Aw, you know I'm kidding--can'tcha see I'm just winking?...)
September 17th, 2004

Just checking in!

Yeah, I've been away from the keyboard for more than a few days now. Mainly, I've been attempting to catch up with the ever mounting steam of commissions (and several other panelogical-type assignments) that've been piling up, untended to, during the summer months. That, and the brain strain caused from trying to learn some new fangled software to work this site with--never an easy task for a technologically challenged fellow like myself—has put me off my game a tad. Plus, y'know, every so often, I just get tired of pecking out these reports, and I retreat for a bit, and that's essentially what's happening now, folks...

Which doesn't mean that there aren't some nifty entries hovering on the horizon for good ol' I have one piece partially written about my college days that should (surprisingly enough) be of interest to fans of old pulp magazines, and another planned about a favorite artist with 15 gorgeous accompanying pages already scanned in. Odds are, one of these reports should be posted in the very near future. Plus, with the release of the most recent issue of MOJO magazine, there's some more Beatles stuff coming as well, so keep checking back—this breather could be over without warning!

So, y'know, don't say I didn't warn you, okay?...

September 11th, 2004

Kids. You gotta love 'em...

September 10th, 2001 was the fourth day of sixth grade for our daughter, but Julie wasn't in class that particular Monday. Instead, I'd taken her to see the doctor, where she'd been diagnosed with a nasty strep throat. Going back to school anytime soon was definitely out, at least for the near future. And we know all too well what happened the very next day, don't we?...

Those of us who were home certainly did, anyway. Apparently, the schools in this area chose to just forge ahead with business as usual, not letting their young charges in on the horrific events that had occurred that morning. Was it the right decision? Who's to say, really--all I know is that that calculated ignorance resulted in the sort of exchange that would've surely wound up on Art Linkletter's old “Kids Say The Darndest Things” program, if only the topic weren't so grim...

Straight off the school bus later that afternoon, a pair of sisters who lived nearby came innocently up to our door, intending, as pre-arranged, to drop off Julie's missed homework. A couple of years younger than our daughter—Julie had just turned 11 at the time—it quickly became obvious they had absolutely no clue as to what monsterous acts had taken place mere hours earlier. Julie excitedly attempted to fill them in, but it was clear that the enormity of the situation wasn't truly sinking in. When told, for instance, that the Twin Towers had collapsed, their first question was, well, are they planning to rebuild them, and when? Realizing that our words were severely lacking, and that they really needed to experience this the way the rest of us had, I suggested that they simply go home and turn their TV set on, as this still unfolding tragedy was on all the stations.

Upon hearing that, one of the girls paused, her eyes widened, and she looked at me with a pained expression.

“ALL the stations?” she asked.

“Well, no. Not “Nickelodeon” or “The Disney Channel”--they've still got their regular programming on.”

“Phew”, she said, a burden obviously lifted.

And who can blame her? On a day like that, maybe spending time with Lizzie McGuire and SpongeBob SquarePants is the better way to go. Hey, I was about her age when JFK was assassinated, and tragic as that was, I still managed to take advantage of the time off from school—I wasn't sitting in front of the tube when Oswald was shot, y'know. I was out on the lawn playing touch football with some of the other neighbor kids.

Her all too human reaction on that dark day three years back made me laugh, however forlornly. Because kids gotta keep acting like kids, after all.

And when they don't?

Well, that's when the bad guys win, isn't it?

September 8th, 2004

Recently, reader David Johnson—or, as he dubbed himself at the top of his email, “The Incredible Nitpicker”--brought the following to my attention...   

In the PETEY episode about Thor and Loki, I realize the teachers name is S.Ditko in reverse which is perfectly understandable given your long-standing affinity for the guy. However, did you realize that phonetically it sounds very much like "Miss O-K-TITS"?

He then goes on to profusely apologize for expending so much effort on such seemingly trivial matters—making, ahem, mountains out of molehills, if you will—but I say thee nay!!

Instead, I say, “Thank you, David!” Thank you for searching out the farthest corners of this site, all in a desperate search for even the most meager evidence of humor! And by golly, look what happened--he found in places that even I'd never suspect!?!

Huh--apparently I've been working “blue” without even knowing it—who woulda thot??

But, I suppose when you're dealing with a strip named “Petey”, it was bound to happen sometime...

September 6th, 2004

When we bought our initial VCR back in 1983, one of my very first thoughts was, “Great! Now I can finally see what happens during those wee, wee overnight hours on The Jerry Lewis Telethon!”


In those long ago days preceding our purchase, I'd often managed to stay up until 2AM, maybe even close to 3 upon occasion, but 4, 5, and 6AM were clearly beyond me. For that matter, hitting the sack at such a late hour meant that pretty much everything before 10, even 11AM, would remain a mystery to me. But not anymore, I figured—thanks to the miracle of videotape, I would now KNOW!..

Well, it wasn't all that revelatory. Even two decades back, the days of Jerry mugging at daybreak were long gone. These dim hours were filled with jugglers, trampoline artists, and a variety of novelty acts, ranging from sorta good to just plain awful. Occasionally, there'd even be a genuine celebrity sighting, but more often than not, these would be pre-taped spots. The mystery was thus solved—clearly, virtually no one was watching, and the Telethon people knew it!...

In subsequent years, I haven't always been so diligent about recording the round the clock activities, but I have recently. Sometime soon, I'll discover exactly which jaw-dropping acts host Bob Zany presided over while I slept last night, but for now, I'll content myself for viewing live the beginning and the end of this curious Labor Day ritual that I voluntarily subject myself to each and every year...

Y'see, by the time I first discovered Jerry back in the early sixties, he'd already been separated from Dean for a number of years, so for me, it was never about Martin and Lewis—it was always about a performer whose pure shamelessness, even more so than his comedic talents, appealed to the kid in me. (Plus, he had his own DC Comic!) But unlike Bob Hope, who also headlined his own series for National Periodical Publications and whose comedy chops I continue to champion, at a certain age, Jerry pretty much stopped being funny to me, but never ceased fascinating me. Perhaps it's the dizzying way he can wear his rawest emotions on the lapel of his tux, all the while simultaneously maintaining the sheen of the ultimate show biz phony that continues to intrigue me—you always know what he's going to do, but you never know what he's going to say! And vice versa...

So I watch. Every year since I was a kid. Seeing Jerry come out on that stage each year somehow makes me feel young again. It's a nice little bit of self-delusion, one that Jerry has unfortunately had the habit of shattering in recent years by bringing out his son, Gary, to sing a few tunes. And it happened again last night...

Backed by a few latter-day Playboys, Gary Lewis ripped through a sprightly version of “Green Grass”, one of his half-dozen great Top Forty hits. After which the former teen idol came over and kibbitzed with his dad, even going so far as to climb up onto the elder Lewis's lap, reverting to a mock-infancy. Shifting him off his knees as the bit came to a close, the proud papa looked toward the camera, and stage-whispered “59 years old, folks!”, as Gary headed back center stage, to the opening strains to his first—and biggest—hit.

1964, people!”, he beamed, as his backing group launched into a lively performance of “This Diamond Ring”.

1964. I was there. While I'd grown up accepting Jerry Lewis merely as a fact of life—he was, and is, a presence that was always there—I'd watched Gary Lewis achieve his own stardom in real time, as it actually happened.

And now, forty years later, he's 59. It's a double whammy—Jerry makes me feel like a kid, and then son Gary comes out and effectively destroys that pleasant illusion...

Sigh. Well, I'd best go call in my pledge—after all, I'm certainly not getting any younger. Unfortunately...

September 3rd, 2004

It's time for me to take an end of Summer 2004 personal inventory. Indulge me, okay?...

I attended two musical events. In early June, I accompanied Julie and her friend Lisa to Q 104-Fest, an all-day affair held at our nearby Class A baseball stadium. Sponsored by a local radio station, we saw, among others happening acts, hip-hop “legend” Fat Joe. Later, in August, Lynn and I saw true legend, Bob Dylan, in a local club. Thin Bob...

Julie and I took in one baseball game at the aforementioned venue, tickets given out free to honor students courtesy of her junior high school. The home town Hudson Valley Renegades—an affiliate of the American League's Tampa Bay Devil Rays—lost, of course.

Various celebrations celebrated included a Beginning of Summer/End of School party for our daughter's pals, our own 25th Wedding Anniversary, Lynn's birthday, mother-in-law Terry's birthday, and of course, Julie's 14th birthday week-long gala.

We hosted nine sleep-overs, with four different girls (twice with two at a time): Lisa, Deanna, Courtney several times each, and Fiona, daughter of our out-of-town buddies, Jane and Paul, once. Julie attended two birthday party sleepovers herself, with both those girls, Deanna and Lisa, staying overnight here to help celebrate hers (Courtney, having travel plans the next day, left early, but had a night all to herself a few days earlier).

As there was no Girl Scout sleepover camp available to us this summer (the local leaders decided to invest their money in activities that would be utilized by a higher percentage of the troops than camp, as only about ten per cent of the eligble girls in our region took advantage of this annual opportunity), Julie instead went to a pair of day camps, one week each. She enjoyed her five days exercising her creativity at a well run art camp, but her time at the local horse-riding camp made an even deeper impression on her. Held at the farm where she'd been taking lessons for a little over a year now, after her sole week was over, she nonetheless wound up going back day after day merely to help out (but not to ride). Her good pal, Deanna, was there most every day, working off some extra lessons, and Julie was delighted to join her, volunteering without the expectation of any payment. Just like her dad, she was happily laboring away, doing something she truly loves for little or no renumeration.

And here I really thought she was a lot smarter than that...


We went on an eight day vacation in early August to Virginia and North Carolina. We flew. I hate to fly, absolutely hate it. Haven't done so since mid-2000. Luckily, the flights were all relatively calm, and trouble free—even if I DID have to take my shoes off before they let me board!?! (And all because one lone nut stuck some explosives in his footwear one misbegotten afternoon! Hey, just imagine what would've happened if he'd've stuck sticks of dynamite down his BOXERS?!?...)

Once we touched down, we enjoyed two swell days of fine hospitality at Lynn's Uncle Barry and Aunt Mary Beth's home in Norwalk, Virginia. The first day, we went to the Busch Gardens theme park, where we mostly waited as Julie stood in line, going on one roller coaster after another. It was hot, hilly, and definitely no Disney World. The highlight may've been when, towards dusk, we took in one of those custom made 4-D flicks, this one based on an original R.L.(“Goosebumps”) Stine tale, wherein the always over the top Christopher ("Reverend Jim") Lloyd did a comedic spit-take—RIGHT INTO THE AUDIENCE!?! As much as the audience loved THAT one, it set up another gag, one in which the young lead, after a rough trip in a rowboat, complains that he feels like he wants to hurl! Holding his belly and looking directly into the camera, the crowd began to giggle nervously. No need to worry—it was just a nicely choreographed fake-out. I myself was never overly concerned—this wasn't a John Waters film-festival, after all...

Day two was more enjoyable, as we spent most of it zooming giddily down slides and the like at Busch's associate water park, before eventually bidding our ever accommodating hosts farewell, and setting out after dinner on the two hour trek in our rent-a-car to our next destination, the outer banks of North Carolina. Midway there, we were unceremoniously ambushed by the remains of Tropical Storm Bonnie, forcing us to pull over and sit out the downpour in a Hardees fast food eatery, munching fries and drinking java. Luckily, it soon slowed up enough to safely press on, and we finally made it safely to the home of our old college friend--and Lynn's maid of honor—Naomi, who'd generously offered to host the three of us in her two-story beach house for the remainder of our sea and surf based vacation.

After setting up our stuff and reaquainting ourselves with one another—unlike Lynn, I myself hadn't seen Naomi in years, but as with any good friend, it soon seemed like only yesterday when we'd all last been hanging out together--we toured the area and did a little swimming in the surf the next morning, fresh from a good night's sleep. Then, after some minature golf and a fun dinner out, we spent most of the rest of that Friday evening fretting about the immanent arrival of Hurricane Charley the next day. The very real possibility of evacuation was briefly raised, but luckily, it never quite came to that. Instead, we spent Saturday morning lifting everything up off the floor in the lower apartment, watching movies (“Thirteen”, “Bruce Almighty”, and “Daddy Daycare”) during the afternoon, nervously playing Scrabble, and waiting. Lots of waiting...

Instead of the six hours—minimum--of wind and rain promised us by all the weather forecasters, we got about an hour and half of moderate precipitation, and only a little wind. By 6:45 PM, unbelievably, the sun was out. True, the streets were mostly flooded (but Naomi's downstairs escaped entirely unscathed, much to everyone's relief), but the power stayed on, and all in all, we certainly got off a whole lot easier than the poor souls in Florida did that weekend. And NOW look what's happening...

An overcast Sunday was spent collecting shells on the beach, visiting the local aquarium, and dining out at a ritzy seaside restaurant. The most memorable thing about this establishment—besides the fine, fine food (and the large, large bill)--was my very own little “Seinfeld” moment. Y'see, shortly after ordering, I slipped off quietly to the men's room. Once there, I soon noticed that, standing at the stall right next to me was none other than our waiter!! I couldn't help but notice that, yes, he DID wash his hands afterwards! Happily, this WASN'T Poppi's restaurant!...

Monday turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We went on a thirteen hour jaunt up and down the coast, nearly 70 miles one way. Naomi made for a superb travel guide, and we stopped at three lighthouses (including the highest one in the entire U. S., which both Julie and our game hostess scaled), saw a corral of wild horses, had a tasty lunch at a nifty little place run by ex-hippies with a SpongeBob SquarePants fetish, took a 45 minute ferry ride to the outermost island, swam in the warm surf for over an hour as the day faded into late afternoon, and finally, ate dinner at the infamous “Dirty Dick's Crab House”! Just a great, great day, enjoyed by one and all.

Tuesday saw some last minute souvenir shopping and eleventh hour swimming, then packing, bittersweet farewells, tedious driving, and flying home. Cleaning, laundry, and recovering followed upon our safe arrival. GREAT vacation! Thanks, Naomi—and to the Moss's as well.

What else? Well, played some outdoor volleyball with Terry, Jim, Todd and all the rest of the gang four or five times. My good—but busy--buddy Rocco visited one day in July. Lynn's brother Bob came over to swim once, while Julie's Granma came by at least a half dozen times while we were in attendence (and kindly stayed here and looked after things during our time away). Julie's three closest buddies, when they weren't sacking out over in our living room, were still frequent—and welcome--visitors.

Didn't do a lot of swimming this year. Oh, it was a comfortable enough summer, just not a particularly hot one. If we topped the ninety degrees mark more than twice after early June, I'd be mighty surprised. In all, we probably dipped in less often than any of the eight summers we've lived here and had access to our pool.

Now, as fate would have it, we're done for the season, as the pool's pump inexplicably broke last week, and there's just no point getting another one installed until the beginning of next season. Also recently broken: our lawnmower (replaced), dryer (replaced), leaky roof (patched), hole in the ceiling (still there), and, um, passenger door jammed when accidentally backing car out of the garage (fixed). Our computer gave us vexing problems upon several occassions as well...

My beloved New York Mets were a mere two games out of first place at the baseball season's midpoint in early July—and now, after a dishearteningly swift free fall, a meager two games out of LAST place!?!...

I didn't watch the Olympics—I never do. I watched most of the Democratic Convention, and some of the Republican one as well. As is my habit—and my curse-- I bought more DVD's than I had time to watch, more CDs than I had time to listen to, and more comics and books than I had time to read. I'm cutting back, really I am, but after all these years, it's a hard impulse to successfully put a damper on.

I was interviewed by MOJO magazine about the first wave of Beatlemania in America. I snuck a few pages into AVENGERS #500. I did a buncha other drawings, and wrote lotsa stuff, a majority of which turned up—where else?--right here.

Mostly, I spent a lot of quality time with my family.

Not a bad summer, not a bad summer at all.

So, how was YOURS?...

September 1st, 2004

ACTION COMICS #272 and 273 (January and February 1961) featured a two-part story sporting the titles “The Second Supergirl!” and “The Supergirl of Two Worlds!” These pair of Silver Age extravaganzas, written by Otto Binder, drawn by Jim Mooney, and presided over by editor Mort Weisinger, recently turned up in the second volume of DC Comics' SUPERGIRL ARCHIVES (well, duh...). When I read them last night, I was particularly struck by...well, we'll get to exactly what soon enough.

The thing is, these tales took place during SuperBlondie's earliest days, back when her cautious cousin, Superman, was keeping her very existence a secret from the world. As the poor girl found herself longing more and more for a little sweet recognition, she used a super computer to locate a planet in which an exact double of herself was the world's greatest hero, not it's biggest secret.

Yup, it's one of those typically twisted Weisinger episodes in which a few key differences amount to a full scale irony overload for regular “Superman Family” readers. For example...

On the planet Terra, the Statue of Liberty holds a banner instead of a torch, rabbits are fierce and tigers are timid, kids peddle four wheeled cycles, women walk tiny elephants on leashes instead of dogs, and the Eiffel Tower resides in America! Astounding, huh?

And on Terra, Supergirl's doppelganger is known as Marvel Maid, her secret identity is Lea Lindy, and she works as a cub reporter for editor Perry Waite for the Macropolis “Daily Planet”. She has a “Fortress of Marvels” orbiting in space, and like her older male cousin dubbed “Marvel Man”, she hails from a doomed civilization that once existed in a giant cavern somewhere in the center of Terra.

On Terra, the pair is susceptible to diamonds, not kryptonite, and it's the man who is being hidden away while he readies himself for open duty, not the young woman.

However, while Supergirl took refuge in an orphanage during her initial days on Earth, the man with the deja vu-inducing name of Ken Clark finds himself in a decidedly different sort of home on Terra. Still, SOME things sound somehow familiar...

Yup, on Terra, the president's name is George M. Bush, the Attorney General is Jim, not John, Ashcroft, and they have The Bill Of Wrongs, not Rights...

...or is that the Bizarro World?

Or worse yet, OUR world?

Sometimes ya gotta wonder, sad to say...

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