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Saturday, June 27, 2009

The critics agree...

Compared to this sequel, the first "Transformers," released two years ago, ranks right up there with Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason."
-The Wall Street Journal

...a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine... If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.
-Roger Ebert

...a perfectly dreadful sequel that's the filmic equivalent of a 150-minute waterboarding session.
-Creative Loafing

I'd rather listen to Mr. Roboto on a loop for 150 minutes than watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen again.

Michael Bay has once again transformed garbage into something resembling a film, at least in the loosest sense: it can be run through a projector and used to sell millions of tickets.
-Combustible Celluloid

Revenge of the Fallen is more like listening to rocks in a clothes dryer for 2 1/2 hours.
-Chicago Tribune

The digital effects are mind-boggling, assuming, after extensive pulverisation, that you have a mind left to boggle.
-Financial Times

Transformers: The Revenge of The Fallen is beyond bad, it carves out its own category of godawfulness.
-Rolling Stone

...nearly unwatchable, a 140-minute video game that will insult your intelligence, hurt your eyes, and offend your sense of decency until you worry that your skull might explode while your brain trickles right out of your ears.
-Washington City Paper

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Friday, June 26, 2009

The National Enquirer was right again

As much as it's despised, The National Enquirer has proven itself to be a generally reliable news source, especially since the whole O.J. Simpson business in the early 90s.

Take a look here. The paper reported in January that the King of Pop had just six months to live, a prediction that proved to be correct.

It will be interesting to learn the results of Jackson's autopsy, and if it confirms the Enquirer's allegations.

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Michael Jackson's death takes me back to my junior and senior years in high school. The Jackson Five's first single, "I Want You Back," was a huge hit. It was played incessantly by the record club, and our ad hoc five-piece stage band, which jammed at half time at home basketball games, spent hours trying to master the marvelously unique descending chord progression in the song's chorus.

In retrospect, the rise of the Jackson Five marked the beginning of the end of the Motown with which I grew up. It was at that point that Berry Gordy, well, started losing his mind. Within two years of the Jacksons' arrival, Diana Ross had departed the Supremes and Motown left Detroit for Los Angeles, in the process losing Martha Reeves, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips and, perhaps most critically, the Funk Brothers. Motown's legendary studio band had played on more number one records than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys combined. They were the ones responsible for the label's singular sound.

Motown was never the same.

If you're old enough to remember, another group rising at the same time was the Osmond Brothers. They hit it big recording songs that sounded a lot like the upbeat pop being produced by the Jacksons. The groups found themselves being identified as "a white Jacksons" or "a black Osmonds;" their sounds were almost interchangeable.

Indeed, the Osmonds' number one hit, "One Bad Apple," was a deliberate paraphrase of "I Want You Back," with its own funky descending bass line in the chorus. The similarity isn't surprising, since its non-Motown writer had composed it as a follow-up to the Jacksons' first single. (Supposedly, the group passed on "Apple" for their second hit, "ABC.")

Listen to the videos and compare the groups. You can skip over the Cosby shtick and start the Jackson video at 1:20 in.

The Osmonds' show in June 1971 at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh was the first concert I ever attended. I had to hear "Apple" performed live.

When I think of Michael Jackson, I like to think of the little kid doing "I Want You Back." The post-"Thriller" weirdness just makes me sad. Jackson never knew a life even remotely related to normal. Kids who no longer want to be doctors or engineers or astronauts, whose goal in life is "to be famous," ought to take a long look at Jackson's life. Make your kid take piano lessons, sure, but also let him explore the neighborhood with his friends, play video games, and generally goof off. I wouldn't wish The King of Pop's life on my worst enemy.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Remembering The Great One

Jackie Gleason (February 26, 1916-June 24, 1987)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A good laugh...

From one extreme to another. I prefer the overachieving type. The last guy in the Oval Office spent 1,020 days- 35% of his presidency- on vacation. And we all know how well that worked out.

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I can hardly wait

2012 is certainly going to be a fun year.

In addition to the ensuing hilarity of a US presidential election, we're going to have to deal with all the nutcases talking about the end of the world, which, according the Mayan calendar, will occur on December 21, 2012.

On that date the earth, the sun, and the center of the Milky Way galaxy will align. This astronomical phenomenon has a specific name which may be familiar to you: it's called the winter solstice- or the summer solstice, if you're south of the Equator- and it happens every year.

Actually, the big day may be December 23, depending upon how you do the math. In any event, there's no evidence the Mayans themselves gave any sort of doomsday significance to the date.

Personally, I think the Mayan calendar ends at December 21, 2012 because that's where they ran out of space on the temple wall. There was a note on a block of stone on the base that said, "Continued on next temple," but the adjacent temple was destroyed in an earthquake sometime in the distant past. And the "continued" block? It was converted into a decorative paving stone by a native who sold it to an antiques dealer, and it now resides next to a bird feeder in someone's garden outside of Petaluma.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bye, Ed

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Reasons why you can lose hours surfing the web, #103

"They can't pull the rug out from under you if you're already lying on the floor."-The Covert Comic

My pal in the CIA, The Covert Comic, alerted me to some spurious intel I distributed yesterday.

The whole Dick Van Dyke comic book business?

Awesome, awesome story about the Dick Van Dyke Show comic book.

... But the more I read the entries, the more it seemed too good to be true. Particularly the bit about discovering and 'scanning' a proof of the final issue Zwart worked on (scanning in 1972?! Otherwise he basically stole the old proof from Western Publishing's library and kept it for three and a half decades ...?).

Likewise, there was bluriness around the account of the purchase by a relative of a copy of the book with Zwart's picture in Lansing 'about the time [Zwart] passed away.' Did he commit suicide immediately upon losing his job at Western Publishing? Why no mention in the account about this?

A search of the Internet turns up precious little about Walter or Elliott Zwart (although, interestingly, a dog lover by the name of Elliott Zwart apparently exists).

Then, finally, Mark Evanier's own confession (

"A Confession

A few weeks ago on this site, I posted three covers from comic books based on TV shows produced by the Danny Thomas-Sheldon Leonard company. Since then, a number of folks have written to me to ask questions about those comics, including wondering who drew them. Well, the comic based on The Danny Thomas Show was drawn by Alex Toth. The comic based on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. had a first issue drawn by Warren Tufts (who was best known for Casey Ruggles, one of the greatest adventure newspaper strips) and then it was subsequently drawn by some artist whose identity is unknown, but all he did was swipe/trace poses from Tufts' issue. And the comic book based on The Dick Van Dyke Show wasn't drawn by anyone since it didn't exist.

Yeah, I'm sorry: It's a phony that I cobbled up using an old still and pieces from other Gold Key covers. I wish they had done such a comic and if they had, it would probably have been drawn by Dan Spiegle. But they never did so I whipped up the cover to one to see if anyone would notice. A few folks (like Scott Shaw!) did. A much larger number of correspondents wrote to say they remembered owning the Dick Van Dyke Show comic long ago and most asked who did it and where they might find a copy. To save these folks from prowling eBay for all eternity, I hereby confess to the hoax, beg your forgiveness and ask the logical question: They did The Danny Thomas Show and Gomer Pyle. They also did, from the same TV production company, The Andy Griffith Show in comic book form. Why didn't they do The Dick Van Dyke Show?"

... But like I said, what a great, great story!

CC was being kind. I replied:

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right?

Actually, I became suspicious at the point of the "Red October" opening:

"Today, though the shows are constantly rerun, the comic book is largely forgotten and there are those who claim it never existed."

The Edward G. ("Where's Your Messiah Now?") Robinson angle was also a brilliant touch.

But Evanier is a noted writer, and besides, it was posted in August, not April, right? Sigh.

In any event, the premise of the entry- losing hours on the web- is still valid.

Wonder if Evanier ever wrote anything about WMD?

This should make a good post for tomorrow, considering I'm the one who crushes everyone's fun with links to snopes when they send me egregiously stupid email hoaxes.

And, if you clicked on the links and read everything, you have, in fact, wasted hours on the web.

You're welcome.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Support call of the day

Q. Can I have the list of undocumented command qualifiers?

A. Sorry. The Support Paradox Filter has intercepted your request.

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Reasons why you can lose hours surfing the web, #102

First, I stumbled onto a web site dedicated to the series of Dick Van Dyke Show comic books published when the sitcom was on the air in early 60s. I scanned it quickly, figuring it to be typical fan drivel, when the amazing saga of Walter Zwart began to unfold during the review of issue #8.

The most interesting thing about this issue is the cover which features pictures of all the major cast members except Larry Matthews and Carl Reiner. But though they were excluded, for some reason Edward G. Robinson can be seen in the green box right next to Dick Van Dyke's hands. There is no known explanation for this. Edward G. Robinson was never on The Dick Van Dyke Show. What the hell was Walter Zwart thinking?

UPDATE: Shortly after posting the listing for issue #8, I received a most welcome e-mail from the son of the late Walter Zwart, who informs me he's been following this series and finally feels he has something to add...

I was only twelve when it occurred, but my mother (now deceased) later explained to me that she and my father separated about the time he was fired from his previous job at J. Walter Thompson Advertising and joined the staff of Western Publishing Company. At J. Walter, he had been involved in something of a scandal when he designed a series of print ads for Dash detergent. At the time, Dash had a campaign involving a repairman and they had engaged a certain actor to portray the repairman in TV spots and print ads. My father for some reason decided to "recast" the role in the print ads with his favorite actor, Edward G. Robinson. No one ever approached Mr. Robinson about this but my father did several mock-up ads and one of them was accidentally sent to press and appeared in Ladies Home Journal and several other magazines.

Robinson sued and I believe it was quickly settled out of court but my father was fired. My mother said that it contributed to the break-up of their marriage because my father accused her of not being supportive of him "like Laura Petrie is of Rob." He was a big fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show and was always trying to get my mother to be more like Laura. He kept insisting she wear tight capri pants about the house even though she weighed 235 pounds. After the ad incident, she told him he was a fool and he moved out. Thanks to a friend, he landed the job designing covers for Western where he promptly stuck Edward G. Robinson on the cover of several comics he had nothing to do with. Only one of these (The Dick Van Dyke Show) got to press. He also put Robinson on the cover of Daffy Duck but this was caught in time.

He was summoned before the president of the company where he defended his actions by saying over and over, "Edward G. Robinson is a damn good actor." The executives did not fully understand this but no harm was done apparently since Edward G. Robinson was not a big comic book reader and never noticed. They made my father promise not to do it again and sent him back to work on the next covers. He did nothing out of the ordinary on other comics but could not help himself when it came to the Van Dyke covers.

All very interesting. From the covers of subsequent issues, it was obvious to me that something was going on involving Laura Petrie. I'll quote more from Elliott Zwart's informative message in the appropriate spots...

Walter's story had me hooked. Go here and keep reading. Trust me, it's the most bizarre tale you'll encounter for a while.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Turn up the music

For the last several weeks I've had to spend a great deal of time preparing music and running the sound board for memorial services at my church. Add to that the number of funerals I've attended in the past few months and the ongoing hilarity of normal day-to-day existence and, frankly, my perception of reality was starting to get more warped than usual.

Perhaps you know what I mean. I believe everyone has a fairly well-defined set of personal standards and philosophies that provides the context of our particular existences. When you wake up in the morning and fire up the ol' consciousness, you immediately know you're you.

Think of the registry of a computer running Windows. In a brand new installation, the registry is neatly ordered and intact, so the machine runs well.

Then stuff starts happening. Daily irritations and disturbing events start cluttering things up, and, sooner or later, you're like a Windows machine with a corrupted registry. If you're lucky, you can function minimally in Safe Mode while studiously avoiding those things that are causing problems. Inevitably, though, you reach the point where nothing seems to work.

With a computer, you can just reinstall the software and be done with it. The mind is a different sort of machine; software and wetware have vastly different operating environments.

Monitoring the sound during a recent service, I heard a song with lovely harmonies. I wasn't paying attention to the lyrics- I too busy keeping the mikes balanced and preventing a hot speaker from causing feedback.

Back at the keyboard at the end of a long and draining day, I downloaded the tune and listened to it.

The song is "How You Live," performed by the Christian group Point of Grace. But it's really not a praise song. The author, Cindy Morgan, was hoping to get a secular country star to record it, but Point of Grace picked up on it, provided she alter the song's first line: "Make love in the sunlight with all the doors open..."

Whatever. It's a lovely tune, and clearly states a sound, solid philosophy in about five minutes.

I feel... rebooted.

Wake up to the sunlight with your windows open
Don't hold in your anger or leave things unspoken
Wear your red dress
Use your good dishes
Make a big mess and make lots of wishes
And have what you want, but want what you have
And don't spend your life looking back

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
Cause you won't regret it
Looking back from where you have been
It's not who you knew
It's not what you did
It's how you live

So go to the ballgames and go to the ballet
And go see your folks more than just on the holidays
Kiss all your children and dance with your wife
Tell your husband you love him every night
Don't run from the truth cause you can't get away
No, no
And just face it and you'll be ok

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
Cause you won't regret it
Looking back from where you have been
It's not who you knew
It's not what you did
It's how you live

Wherever you are and wherever you've been
Now is the time to begin

Give to the needy and pray for the grieving
Even when you don't think that you can
Cause all that you do is bound to come back to you
So think of your fellow man
And make peace with God and make peace with yourself
Cause in the end there's nobody else

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
Cause you won't regret it
Looking back from where you have been
It's not who you knew
It's not what you did
It's how you live

Oh, it's not who you knew
It's not what you did
It's how you live.

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Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


Crystal Methodist

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

I am a professional. Do not try this at home.

I canna change the laws of physics

As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)

Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

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Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.

Eff the ineffable, scrute the inscrutable.

If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.

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