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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Black Candidate

I was shocked - SHOCKED! - to discover that race has actually been integrated into the Democratic Presidential primary race. I kid. I'm only surprised it didn't come up sooner.

This got me to thinking about the black people who ran for President in my recollection. In all cases except the first, I'll limit the discussion to the major-party candidates.

1968: I couldn't vote yet, but my mother and father asked me whether they should vote for Dick Gregory, who was running on the Freedom and Peace Party, or to vote for Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey. Being a pragmatist at the time, I suggested the latter, but I did recognize the attractiveness about the idea of voting for a black man for President.
1972: Or black woman. If Shirley Chisholm had been on the ballot in my district, surely I would have voted for her in the Democratic primary. But getting on the ballot in New York was/is complicated, requiring getting delegates in each of the Congressional districts and evidently, the Congresswoman failed to garner enough support in my upstate New York region.
1984: I was ready to vote for Jesse Jackson in the Democratic primary until I heard about the disparaging remarks he made about Jews and New York City. I guess I was holding a civil rights leader to a higher standard. I didn't vote for him in 1988, either.
1996: Alan Keyes was running in the Republican primaries, and in New York, there is no crossover voting, as there is in Michigan, e.g. Still, I wouldn't have voted for him anyway. He ran in 2000 as well, and I understand he's running again, presumably as an independent.
2004: Both Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun were running in the Democratic primary. The preacher I didn't particular trust, though occasionally at the debates, he made the most sense, and the former senator from Illinois never got any traction.

Which brings me to this year. Yeah, I still like Dennis Kucinich, but recognize that a snowball in Hades will get better odds than DK becoming POTUS. Anyway, he's "transitioning out of" the presidential race. Edwards losing badly in his home state of South Carolina didn't speak well of his chances, and now he's done, too.

About a month ago, I took a test here. I'd taken other tests before, with varying results. What I found was that the pencil point touched the bottom left of Barack Obama's picture.
"What does the pencil indicate?
The point of the pencil is the exact average of your answers. This is YOUR POSITION in the political landscape."

Of course, Edwards, Clinton and Bill Richardson, who was still in the race at that point, were all in the area around my pencil point.
"What is the ellipse around the pencil?
The ellipse surrounding your position is the standard deviation. The standard deviation indicates to what extent your answers differ mutually. The standard deviation is the average deviation of the mean, one could say."

I don't want to vote for "the black candidate" or "the woman candidate". But, I don't NOT want to vote for them based on race or gender. The pencil mark across Obama's face was almost like marking a ballot.

Shelby Steele was instructive. The author of A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win was on Bill Moyers a few weeks ago. He spoke almost as much about why Obama SHOULDN'T win as why he COULDN'T win - that all things for all people thing he does - but it had the opposite effect on me, making Obama a more attractive candidate.

I think that Osama/Obama spam mail has also solidified my intent. So, even though I have my reservations - that he's still as beholden to corporate America as most of the others - I'll vote for Barack Obama in the NYS primary on February 5.
From the NYS Board of Elections re: the February 5 (Presidential) and September 9 (unofficial date for other offices) New York State 2008 primaries.

In New York City and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Erie, POLLS OPEN AT 6 AM - CLOSE AT 9 PM. In all other counties, POLLS OPEN AT 12 NOON and CLOSE AT 9 PM.

Here's a list of candidates' delegates.
My friend Dan sent it to me, and it's also on Boing Boing, but has Hillary Clinton REALLY adopted an obscure Golden Earring song as one of her official campaign songs? If so, as Dan said, "Clearly, she has not seen the video.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hembeck is 55

Fred turns 55 today, that wonderful time of the year when he's older than I for about five weeks. The interview I did with him, which I posted a few days ago was only the first half. Unfortunately, technological difficulties precluded getting the second part. But since I still have the questions written, I'm going to piece this together based entirely on my recollection of a conversation ten days ago, and hope for the best.

I asked him about his comic influences: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the original team on Spider-Man; his recently expressed love of Lee/Kirby circa 1964; how he came to DCs first, and he told some wonderful tales, none of which I can summarize properly. Since he's not reading new comics heavily, he doesn't have strong opinions about the Brand New Day reboot of Spider-Man, with Peter as a single guy, Harry is back, etc., although, for most of Fred's reading of the character, Peter IS single, so it doesn't bother him much.

Fred is indeed a member of the Bing Crosby fan club. "Probably among the youngest members when you joined," I opined. Apparently his wife Lynn had said something similar. He first noted Der Bingle in those Hope/Crosby Road movies, and he thinks Hope is underrated as a singer, but that Crosby's voice he really appreciated. I noted that he turned me on to an album that Bing did with the Andrews Sisters.

I asked, "You seem to have more than a passing interest in Soupy Sales. You even have an album of him singing pop songs. One is forced to ask the question why?" He laughed, noting that his love of Soupy came from watching him on NYC TV growing up.

He claims to be less obsessed with Jerry Lewis, although he still watching the Labor Day weekend telethons and will catch him in whatever dramatic roles he takes. (I recall a Law & Order franchise show that Fred had mentioned in a column.)

A couple years back, I gave Fred some slight grief over his youthful affection for Al Jolson. He noted that, at the time, pre-Beatles, he hated all things rock and roll, and that he was fascinated by just how huge Jolson was, to have two movies of his life story, one played by Jolson himself and one by Larry Parks. (Sidebar: there was a video clue of Parks mimicking someone, not in blackface, in a video clue on the second day I was on JEOPARDY; I got that it was Jolson.) No, Fred has not seen the recent movie The Savages, where Jolson figures into the storyline.

I asked what old movies did he grow up watching that he thought most affected his sensibilities now. He demurred, saying that it was more old television that helped turn him into the man he is. He specifically mentioned Sgt. Bilko, and I almost asked him about Allan Melvin, who had died, but that Fred had not yet written about; he has subsequently. We talked about our shared affection for the Dick van Dyke Show, of which he's watched all five seasons on DVD AND has been reading a book about it. He needs to blog on how well it's held up. He professes that Car 54 Where Are You was a much better show than The Munsters, though they shared actor Al (Grandpa) Lewis.

His affection for Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys is legendary. I made him record the Kennedy Center Honors segment on Brian. He's glad, because he was touched, especially by Lyle Lovett's singing, surprising to him because he's not such a Lyle fan, though he knows I am. He was less impressed with Hootie and the Blowfish, who he though had broken up anyway. Always interesting to see Brian looking uncomfortable, we agreed.

I asked him what was about the Beach Boys and Brian’s solo work that he finds so appealing. He wished he were more versed in music terminology so that he could answer that better.

I noted that we’re both Beatles’ fans, but he leans towards Paul, Brian Wilson’s near twin, while I tended toward John. Fred clarified that, up to Rubber Soul or so, it was about even, and perhaps he was leaning a little towards John, before Paul took over. He noted John's near-absence on Revolver, which, of course, would have been the American version that Capitol Records had butchered. Yes, he was you watching Sullivan on February of 1964, and that was a transformative time in his life. He has seen both Paul and Ringo live.

He's gone through phases of music, which has involved everyone from Lesley Gore to Michael Jackson to Nellie McKay.

Fred has gotten over last season's colossal collapse by the New York Mets.

I went on to some personal stuff. He was born an only child of parents who were a bit older than his friends' parents. His father was 50, his mother 39. I noted that they were YOUNGER than I was when Carol and I had our daughter Lydia. He grew up on Long Island, in Yaphank, but went to college in Buffalo, where he met Lynn Moss. He spent a time in the Kingston/Woodstock area. Then he came to the Capital District when Lynn went to RPI. I had thought that was when he started hanging out with the FantaCo folks, even me. In fact, he had met Mitch Cohn in Kingston. He recalled that he had only known Mitch for a couple weeks before Fred and Lynn got married, so he didn't invite Mitch to the ceremony. They did invite people they soon lost track of, but Mitch was someone Fred especially would know for several years thereafter.

When Fred and Lynn moved downstate, I lost track of them. Somehow, probably through Rocco Nigro, I did know that they had a baby girl, Julie, who’s now 17, and getting ready for college. She has her first serious boyfriend, and I wondered if it messed with that strong father-daughter bond I’ve seen them have. He explained that he likes Julie's boyfriend quite a bit.

I asked about some friendships he developed in the comics field. I think I heard from Rocco that Fred had turned Terry Austin from a Luddite to a technological wizard. Fred noted several names, including Joe Staton, Joe Sinnott and Professor Herb Trimpe, but there may have been others.

One day in October 2004, I ran into Rocco, and he said to me, "Have you seen Fred’s website?" Of course, I hadn’t. Hembeck, of Germain origin, is an unusual enough name that when he registered, it was available. I asked him, "What was the goal when you started the site and how has that evolved?" Don't recall the answer to the latter part, but as to the former, he wanted to be all things to all comics and comics-related people, which I sensed almost immediately when I saw his list of links. When I discovered, I e-mailed Fred and he e-mailed me back. And I got a little obsessed with his site, as I sent Fred a SERIES of e-mails noting broken links on his prodigious links page. And, we recalled, I gave Fred a couple of blog ideas, one on Herb Alpert’s 70th birthday and another about those variation on album covers site.

"Ultimately, I thought I had enough ideas that I thought I could have my own blog. So, it’s YOUR FAULT, Fred Hembeck, for getting me to blog, curse you!" He just laughed.

Fred has a MySpace page where he actually get comments for some of the stuff he republishes from He also has The Fred Hembeck Show, which started on IGN and is now on Quick Stop Entertainment. Ken Plume brought Fred to IGN, so when Ken left, and Peter Sanderson as well, Fred followed.

That column was interrupted by the book, but now he's back at it. It used to be a weekly, but now he's re-examining what he should be doing there that he isn't doing at his home site. So recently, he's been doing strips that, one day, can be gathered for a collection.

My family’s been to the Hembeck palatial estate three years running now. I think the first year, Fred and I unintentionally seemed to be speaking in code and said, "Oh, yeah, I wrote about it on my blog" about a dozen times. Drove my wife crazy. I noted that Fred's wife is more likely to read my blog than my wife is, and that I’ve learned to accept that.

So, that, in peculiar summary form, was the second part of the interview. Happy birthday, old man. Let me know what double nickel is like.

[PHOTOS: Various combinations of Lydia, Carol (in the red) and me visiting Fred, Lynn (in the white) and Julie (in the blue), August 2007, all taken by me, except the one I'm in, taken by Julie. Discovered perhaps a week ago.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When In Doubt

Steal a meme, this one from GayProf from some weeks ago.

1. Will you be looking for a new job?

Not specifically. But I have been told that one should ALWAYS be looking for a new job, even if one doesn’t end up taking it. The first thing I’d need to do is do a resume, since the last time I looked at it is 1998.

2. Will you be looking for a new relationship?

Well, if you mean romantic, then no. If you mean other types, always.

3. New house?

As GP said, "Oh.My.God.No." Too much to do on this one.

4. What will you do different in '08?

Play more.

5. New Year's resolution?

Floss more.

6. What will you not be doing in '08?

Running for President. (Swiped from GP, but it works for me).

7. Any trips planned?

Considering I live 150 miles away, I haven’t been to NYC but once this decade, and that was BL (before Lydia). This year, at least two reasons to visit.

8. Wedding plans?

Not mine.

9. Major thing on your calendar?

Yes. Trip to Williamsburg.

10. What can’t you wait for?

February to be over.

11. What would you like to see happen differently?

Religious tolerance actually applied, American people outraged by the loss of civil liberties, Eddie Mitchell blogging more.

12. What about yourself will you be changing?

Promise less, deliver more.

13. Will you better your relationship with your family?

Actually, the relationship with my family is as good as it’s ever been.

14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about?

I’m sweet as hell.

15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in '07?

Yeah, more hats. Long-sleeve shirts in summer.

16. Will you start or quit drinking?

I drink quite sporadically. Probably won’t decrease.

17. Major lifestyle changes?

I hope not.

18. Will you do charity work?


19. Will you go to bars?

Rarely if ever.

20. Will you be nice to people you don’t know?

I’m ADORABLE to people who don’t know me. People I know, on the other hand...

21. Do you expect '08 to be a good year for you?

Marginally optimistic.

22. How much did you change from this time last year till now?

I think the skin condition was the big thing.

23. Do you plan on having a child?

I have a child, who just in the last month moved her dolls into her parents’ room to make room for the sister she’s decided she wants. Ain’t gonna happen.

24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now?

Some of the same, some different ones. Gotta mix it up.

25. What happened in '07 that you didn’t think would ever happen?

I discovered that two recent Arkansas governors were born in Hope, AR.

26. Will you be moving?

Barring catastrophe, not a chance.

27. What will you make sure doesn’t happen in '08 that happened in '07?

Getting on any committees. I don’t like committees.

28. What were your New Year's Eve plans?

I went to bed at 11 p.m. (midnight, Atlantic time).

29. Did you have someone to kiss at midnight?

She was asleep, too.

30. One wish for '08?

World peace. You know, the usual.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rod Serling's 1968 Binghamton Central High School Commencement Address

A January 28, 1968 address at his alma mater. (I started school there in February 1968 - nuts):

If conscience dictates that you disapprove of it—speak out that disapproval. Carry a sign, if you like. Or a placard or a banner. Yell out the slogan that comes to mind and that comes from heart. Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition.

Find the whole speech here. It's a link on a Serling pathfinder.

An essay (or sermon) on Rod.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Hembeck Interview

This interview took place by phone on Sunday, January 20 at about 9 pm, EST. (Now that Kiefer Sutherland of "24" is out of jail, imagine that it is he who read the preceding line.)

I’m talking to Fred G. Hembeck. What would you say is what it is that you do as a cartoonist? Is it a commentary, a parody, what?

Why do you start with the tough questions?

I want to loosen you up. To delve into your clever mind. And I figured you’d been asked it before, so you’d have a good, pat answer for it.

No, I don’t have a pat answer for this, honest to gosh. I wasn’t sarcastic when I said why do you start with the tough one.


It’s hard to explain what I do. What I do is turn myself into a cartoon character, intermingle with the comic icons I grew up with, and either banter with or mock them. And along the way, I try to throw in some information so that people reading the cartoons I draw are also amused by some of the jokes I put in there.

I’ve been amused by you for years. I hear you have a new book coming out, and we’ll be talking about that soon. But before that: I first noticed you in the pages of the old Comics Buyers Guide, run by Don and Maggie Thompson. How did you get that gig?

I must correct you, sir, because it was the Buyers’ Guide for Comic Fandom. It was run by Alan Light before the Krause people bought it from Alan in the early 1980s.
How did I get that gig? It all goes back to 1977. I was trying to get into the world of comics by putting together a portfolio of various characters such as Green Lantern and NOVA and other superheroes, dragging it to New York City and showing it around. It did not get a positive response, so I went home to prepare some other material to get ready for another round of this.
But in the meantime, I was trying to draw as much as possible. And I had just moved home from living in Buffalo for several years with a number of roommates. And to keep busy, to keep drawing, I would send them letters done in cartoon form. Of course, they all knew what I looked like, so I did a caricature of myself in there.
At the same period of time, I was also writing letters to the various comic book companies’ letter pages, and I sent in several letters in cartoon form using the little Fred character. One of which was Bill Mantlo, who was writing Iron Man at the time, and it caught his eye, and he asked me if they could use it, but he asked if I could redraw it, because I had used color ink. I said sure, and I redrew it in black and white, in standard 10" by 15" size. And they even paid me for it - $35 – and it appeared in Iron Man #114.
I think that actually inspired me to do another strip, and this was cartoon Fred interviewing Spider-Man., and I sent it into the Buyers’ Guide, because it’s weekly and they used a certain amount of editorial content because I guess there was some mailing regulations...

Yes, they had to have a certain percentage.

Right. And about a year and a half earlier, I had actually had a cover on the Buyers’ Guide. It was a montage illustration of the old Superman TV show, not done in the cartoon form. So I had actually had something published there. But, of course, a year and a half had gone by. So Alan Light liked it. He printed it. He said send some more. I sent some more. It kind of snowballed from there. I put my little name and address on the bottom of each page and that’s how other people contacted me, and that’s how we got going there.
At first, I wasn’t getting paid for this. You send it in, then they’ll printed. Eventually I got paid, very, very little. Still and all, it led to Marvel and DC knowing where I was, so it was all worthwhile.

Where did the title Dateline:@!!?# come from, and is there a particular obscene word you had in mind?

No, none whatsoever. The very first one said Dateline: Spider-Man, the very second one said Dateline: Flash. Then, there was, I think, Dateline: Howard the Duck. But then we came to Dateline: Miscellaneous. Then I realized that I needed to find some sort of overall title. So we kept the Dateline portion of it, but what we did, what I did, was to use the symbol for what Sarge says when Beetle Bailey screws up somehow.
So when I reprinted those pages, I took all the logos off the top. I generally forget that myself. It wasn’t until I got to this book that I found Dateline: Miscellaneous, which had never been reprinted before, and I said, "Oh, yeah, now I know why I changed the title."

I got to look over some of your work for this interview for the first time in quite a while. I was in Manhattan, probably in 1979, at a comic book store on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village when I saw this garish orange-colored cover on the racks with a familiar art style. That was The Best of Dateline:@!!?#, published by Eclipse. How did they get into the act?

The Eclipse book came about because I had become friends with Richard Bruning, who was doing, at that time, a little cartoon feature called Marvelous Fruits and Veggies, in which he would draw the Marvel characters as fruits and veggies. We wrote back and forth to each other, and he was friends with Dean Mullaney, who was publisher of Eclipse with his brother Jan Mullaney. They had come out with one book, I believe it was called Sabre, by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy. This was one of the first independent mainstream publishers, and they didn’t have anything else to go for a second book. They had some other projects they were working on, but everyone was going along rather slowly. So Richard said to Dean, you know if you contacted Fred, you could probably gather together a bunch of his strips, a few other pages, and boom! You’d have an instant book. That’s pretty much what we did. By that time, I had already had those cartoon strips in The Daily Planet promo page in DC Comics which they labeled as "Hembeck". I was going to call the book The Best of Dateline, but Dean said, "Why don’t we go with that as a subtitle and put the Hembeck out there, because people would know that from stuff they had seen in the DC Comics." Modest as I am, I said, "All right, why not?"

DC didn’t sue you for using your own name?

They did not. They didn’t sue me for that. Nobody’s suing me any time soon.

Glad to hear it. So where are you living at this point in the narrative. Are you living in Troy (NY)?

No, I believe I was in Kingston when that first happened. Yeah, I was in Kingston because Richard and Dean and Dean’s girlfriend all came to our wedding and we were in Kingston at the time.

And around that time, you went to the first FantaCon, with John Caldwell, Dan Green (no relation to me), Jeff Jones, and Raoul Vezina, of course. Do you remember anything about that first show in ’79?

Not specifically, no.

At the end of that first FantaCon, you experienced a personal tragedy. The death of Vivian Vance, of course.

Ah, yes, that’s right. You know how it is: it’s the end of the convention, everybody’s going away, the tables are folding up. The fun is going away and you look wistfully around. It’s all going to stop, all the fun. And someone came up and put the capper on me, on the downer mood that I was already in, and told me Ethel Mertz has passed away. And I said, omigosh. And that was the last time anybody said, "Fre-ed!" That is until Lynn said it the other day.

There you go. Then you did Hembeck 1980 for FantaCo.

That is correct, sir.

Now I never noticed until recently, but the subtitle was The Son of The Best of Dateline:@!!?#. Was it all reprinted? The first page, with all of those characters, with you saying Welcome certainly was done for the issue.

Was it all reprints? No, it was not. Obviously, the covers and the centerfold were always new. But there were several other pages I did specifically for that book. I think it was maybe a third.

Does your upcoming book have any text in it? Specifically, do you address the issue about how FantaCo did NOT steal you from Eclipse?

Yes, I do discuss how I went from Eclipse to FantaCo.

There was a 10th anniversary Eclipse publication that came out around 1988, and even though your Dateline was the second publication, after Sabre, as you said, there was no mention of you or it. Were you surprised, hurt?

It was like Stalin erasing history. I was surprised, but not extremely surprised.

You won’t remember this but I first met you in February 1980 at a store signing of Hembeck 1980. I was looking back in my journals and referred to you as "Mr. Hembeck". This was about three months before I actually started working there.

Ha! Yeah.

Then I started working there and doing mail order, and there was a bonus feature that came with every retail order of Hembeck 1980 that used to drive me crazy. Remember that X-Men sheet that was 8 ½” X 11”.

Oh, yeah.

The book was half an inch shorter in each dimension. So I couldn’t just slip the page in without fearing that it’d get all raggedy. And I didn’t want to fold it, lest the collectors fear that it was ruined.

We corrected that the next time it was printed.

Thank goodness. You’ve noted that Hembeck 1980 is a terrible title, because anything with the year in it sounds new and fresh with the current year in the title, but eventually sound dated. I’m thinking of that Aretha Franklin song: Think is timeless, while Think (1989) is of its time. And I’ve read that you felt the same way; that Hembeck 1980 was a really cool title when you came up with it, but...

I was inspired by Frankenstein 1970. Do you remember that movie?


It was made in 1959 and it starred Boris Karloff. But he was not the monster; he was the mad doctor. And I was always fascinated as a kid, in 1961, ’62, seeing in the TV Guide a movie called Frankenstein 1970. It seemed so futuristic to me. Because of the zero at the end. Wow.


So to think that Hembeck 1980 would seem futuristic in the waning months of 1979 – that was kinda dumb on my part.

Hembeck 1980’s success prompted Tom Skulan to promote a comic book featuring Raoul’s character Smilin’ Ed in a story. Tell me what you remember about Raoul and how your character The Dog became part of that first issue?

I do recall that Tom wanted to do a book with Raoul. But Raoul was very busy at the store, so he was having a hard time getting his material finished. And they asked me to help out, you know, contribute some pages. I wasn’t working at the store so I had some extra time. And I put together The Dog; that’s what happened with that.
The other thing I remember about Raoul, unlike you guys, that being yourself and Mitch Cohn and Rocco Nigro, who knew Raoul much better because you worked in the store with him… I specifically remember one night, when I was in his in apartment with him, when we were doing the color separations for the Hembeck 1980 book, we stayed there all night. We were up until four in the morning, red plastic, you know the way they used to do it.

Oh, yeah.

Especially for that back cover, which is like a fake EC cover And I had a really good time talking to Raoul all night. He was a nice guy, and I wish I knew him better than I did. And I said, "Hey, he’ll be around forever." But that didn’t happen, unfortunately.

No, he died in November of 1983.


Next for you was your third title, Abbott & Costello Meet the Bride of Hembeck in June 1980. I’ve met your wife a number of times. Now, you’ve immortalized yourself in your books, but did SHE feel getting the Hembeck treatment?

Ah, at the time, she didn’t seem to object. [Laughs] Yeah, we don’t use Lynn in the comic much anymore. But at the time, it seemed like a decent idea.

Hmm. Abbott and Costello had 10 pages of reprints. #4, Bah, Hembeck! Was that all new?

Bah, Hembeck! was all new.

And if memory serves, both #4 and the reprinted version of #1 premiered at the second FantaCon, which was in 1980.

We were crankin’ them out.

Yeah. But it wasn’t called FantaCon 1980 because the previous one [in 1979] was called FantaCon 1980.

Oh, yeah.

This is the one with Berni Wrightson, Richard and Wendy Pini, Joe Staton, Caldell, Jeff Jones, Raoul, and you. You participated in an artist jam. Remember that?

I have photos to prove it.

I brought that up because you got some recent scalding over something that allegedly took place in Detroit some years ago.

Oh, yeah, well these things happen. A minor occurrence that apparently happened many years ago.

I’ve always found you to be a generous guy. You charged me only ten bucks for that package you sent me at Christmastime.

Well, that’s the way I am.

I know. Anyway, Hembeck 5 is the The Hembeck File, that came out in February 1981. An international spy thriller. I was noticing that there’s a lengthy story in there written by Bill Mantlo called Erosion.


That you drew without your purple prose.

Without anybody’s purple prose. A wordless story.

You’ve contributed a drawing of ROM, of all characters, to benefit Bill Mantlo.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, and I’ll pause briefly to say, Hello, [daughter] Julie, I’m talking to my friend Roger. He’s interviewing me. I’ll see you later.
Funny you should mention Bill Mantlo just as Julie comes in, because of the fact, as I mentioned earlier, he helped me out quite a bit by starting me out in that Iron Man letter page. And we also worked together on the Spectacular Spider-Man during Assistant Editors’ Month, which, yesterday, Julie brought home from visiting her boyfriend Alec, and it turns out he had bought a copy from eBay specifically so I would autograph it for him.

That’s nice.

It was kind of an interesting thing to do. I would have given him a copy!

[Laugh] Probably. Because you’re a generous guy.

Well, yeah. That one, I don’t have too many of those, but I gave him copies of a couple of my other books. So Julie took them over there today and he now has some autographed copies. I signed one of them, "Julie’s dad, Fred Hembeck" on the cover of one of them. So that was a thrill for him, I’m sure.


Yeah, Bill Mantlo was integral in the beginning of my career. But unfortunately, the thing was we had a little bit of a falling out. After we worked together on that Spectacular Spider-Man/Peter Parker book. Because Bill gave me one of those small, short plots, two or three paragraphs, perhaps, as opposed to a very detailed situation. And I was pretty new at that point. I had only done gag strips. And I had no problems in the scenes where Spider-Man was interacting with J. Jonah Jameson and the Black Cat. But there was a sequence where Spider-Man is fighting the Human Fly. And Bill’s instructions were: "And then they fight."


I turned in this material, and it wasn’t really very well done. It didn’t surprise me. They asked me to redo it, they had Bill rewrite it and give me more concise, specific instructions, which he did. But I recall him calling me up, because we had spoken on the phone any number of times, but I had never met him in person. And he called me up, and he was a little bit annoyed at me, because I made him – it’s like I let him down somehow by making him do this extra work. And I was a little bit annoyed, because I felt like I wasn’t really in my element and could have used a little bit of help.
So we both kind of were annoyed with each other without really arguing or screaming or anything. But we never really spoke or had any contact after that.
And he had that really unfortunate accident a number of years ago, where he was hit by a car while rollerblading, and he’s been pretty much hospitalized ever since. So when the opportunity came around to contribute to the benefit for him, how could I turn these folks down when they asked? Because he was very much responsible for me getting into comics in a lot of ways.

Let’s see. Hembeck 6 is subtitled Jimmy Olson’s pal, Fred Hembeck.


That’s the one with all the characters with that scary eyewear.

Yes, indeedy.

That’s the one that premiered at the FantaCon that took place in 1981. I think that was all new stuff.

That was all new stuff.

Finally, there’s Dial H for Hembeck, the one issue I can’t immediately put my hands on. What was in that one?

It was two years later, surprisingly.

Yeah, it was in 1983.

There was a two-year gap because, in between, I did the Fantastic Four Roast for Marvel.
What was in that one? That one had a framing story, a new framing story, but the bulk of the insides were old Dateline stories. I’d say it was about 1/3 new material.

That was your last issue for FantaCo. What happened?

Well, for one thing, I was getting kind of tired of doing that kind of stuff, just in general, the Dateline stuff. And there seemed to be some mild disagreements between me and Tom – to this day, I can’t remember what they are, or were – but it’s one of those things where the little things build up and you go, What I am doing here? But, if you put a gun to my head and ask what were my gripes, I can’t remember. Nothing major.

I hear you’re going to have a new anthology out. What’s it called again?

What is it called? It’s called...

Drum roll.


Don’t worry, I’ll check that.

I’d only recently re-read Blind Date in the back of Smilin’ Ed #4. I think it’s a very funny concept that fits in with your obsession with television. Is that in the book?

That’s in the book.

You did some pieces that appeared in the FantaCo Chronicles Series. Will they be in the book?

Pretty much everything. There’s a couple of spot illos I managed to let slip by. Any of the strips are all in the book.

We’ve gone over about 1/3 of the 900-page tome. What else will we find in there?

You’re going to find in there? The Dog, Mr. Mumbo Jumbo, a strip I did for Topps Comics several years ago, which I actually had the copyright for, so I’m able to use that one. Several strips that were never published. A Date with History; it’s kind of a time-travel farce I had put together to – I had submitted the story to Epic magazine.

Marvel’s line.

And oddly enough, just as I had submitted it, Archie Goodwin called me up and said, "Well, we just announced the cancellation of Epic magazine, and we’re full up for the last several issues."

You caused the cancellation of Epic magazine?

No, no. They canceled it so as not to have to publish my story.

Which is what I said.

So, as you’re saying that, you’re probably right.

How does it feel to have a book with the bulk of your output out there? Like a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars?

Yeah, it is kind of weird. Especially since, at one point, both Al Gordon, whose idea it really was to start this book up, and Erik Larsen, who’s the publisher of Image currently, one of the things they both agreed on is that I put in EVERY SINGLE Dateline strip I ever did. And…there were some really bad ones!


There are! When I was starting to lose interest in the mid-'80s, and at one point I decided, I don’t have to use my regular rapidograph. I can just use a Flair pen. "That’ll look spontaneous." No, it’ll look like crap! They’re in there. Hopefully, they are only about a dozen or so really awful pages out of about 900. It’s the law of averages. And there’s the mediocre pages – just a couple.

Now, there was some confusion about the nature of the book. Some people seemed to think there would be no Marvel or DC characters in the anthology. Let’s dissuade people about THAT.

They’ll be PLENTY of DC and Marvel characters in there because those are the characters I used in almost all my early fanzine material that I did in the Buyers’ Guide. It’s just that the material that was published BY Marvel and DC that I did, THAT won’t be in there.

There will be no Daily Planet stuff, no Marvel Age or you roasting the Fantastic Four or destroying the Marvel universe.

No, none of that. To tell you the truth, there is a half page from Marvel Age in there. And that’s only because I thought it was from another magazine when I put it together. But it’s from Marvel Age. It’s a strip called Little Freddy, which not the one I wound up doing years later, but it’s just my character, so I think I can get away with that.

I'd think so. So, when is it coming out?

They tell me it’s coming out in the middle of February [2008]. I have not heard anything that makes me feel that is not the case. In a month.

OK, 900 pages for $25. What a deal!

And we have commission drawings in there, we have Datelines from the 1990s, material I did for the CAPA-alpha, an APA – that’s in there. There’s even some material I submitted to Marvel, but they never actually used. I threw that in there because they didn’t actually use it. It snuck by. And we have all kinds of crazy stuff in there. And there’s text material explaining everything, not page by page, but in general.

The news of it sparked a great deal of blog posts expressing affection for your work, even before the book’s come out. How did that make you feel?

Oh, man, like a million bucks. Or like two million bucks. The reception has been really, really good,. I’ve actually been told by the people at Image that, I’ll quote them, they’re "very, very pleased" by the orders. You know, the pre-orders; that’s good. There was some fears that they were going to call me up and say, "We didn’t get enough orders."

Twelve orders.

Yeah, right. But that did not happen. And we just await – I have no idea what it’s going to look like. I have no idea what the paper stock is going to be.

At which point, the tape recorder stopped. So the interview does as well. Thanks, Mr. HembeckFred.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Lydster, Part 46: Christmas

I was talking to someone I know pretty well who didn't know I had a blog - I've neglected to tattoo my URL to my forehead - and was explaining that there were really only two reasons that I started the blog in the first place. One was to tell my JEOPARDY! story, which I did early on. The second was to write about having a child at 50+, something I tried to do in a private journal but was unable to sustain. The blog has forced me - a contract with myself - to post something about her each month .
Anyway, you may be saying: why these aren't pictures from Christmas! No, they are from June and July of last year, which once were lost but now are found. The reason I've never gotten a digital camera is the very real fear, based on my stellar track record with all things technological, that a) I'd lose it or b) fail to figure out how the thing worked. Which is why I gave my WIFE a digital camera for Christmas, which she still hasn't taken from the box.

Lydia got for Christmas yet another doll. This must be the sixth one she's named Hannah. A bear named Elizabeth. Candyland, where she's fashioned extra pieces so that Elizabeth and some of the Hannahs can play as well. A scooter that I tried to put together on Christmas day; I got the top part and the bottom part right, but making the connection was highly non-intuitive, and my father-in-law finally fixed it with some great effort. A train set, which actually quite cool. Clothes. And a stuffed cat, the only thing she asked of Santa. So, it won't always be riveting, but I enjoy keeping to the contract.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Low Tidings, Indeed

Someone sent me a story called Why I Should Be Our Next President by Yo Mama Bin Barack, which you can find here, and if not, I can e-mail it to you. It's racist and sexist swill - references to jive talk and especially b-slapping abound - which did not surprise me. What did confound me is that it wasn't in some right-wing manifesto. It appeared in The Independent, a Pennysaver-type of adzine publication for the east end of Long Island, including the chichi Hamptons. This is the electronic version, of course, but there is a print version every Wednesday.

I was willing to suggest the piece was an aberration - I'd never seen the publication before - until I also found this thing by someone named Karen Fredericks:

In case you can't read it, the explanatory balloon on the left talks about how some women felt betrayed by Oprah's support for Barack Obama, rather than the woman, Hillary Clinton. The word balloon on the right reads:
Lord have mercy. I didn't get this rich by being stupid. A female president might improve the lives of women. Then they might have something better to do than watch my dopey television program.
Oprah no dummy.
Besides that Obama gets my va-jay-jay all tingly.

Within 24 hours, the Barack story, written by publisher Rick Murphy, was replaced by this:
By Rick Murphy
Our Low Tidings "humor" column that appeared in last week's issue of The Independent that was supposed to satirically address the increasing hostility between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was ill conceived and offensive. The Independent, a multicultural employer with a 13-year history of diversity, apologizes for this lapse of judgment. The column has been removed from our website and a complete apology will be printed in next week's issue.

Except that the original link to the story was still working this morning. We all say things we oughtn't but this apparent attempt at "humor" seemed egregiously wrong-headed, and not very good business, to boot.

Here's the Newsday article. It cites Jerry Della Femina as publisher. Ad guru Della Femina also has a regular column, which is more in line with the usual liberal bashing (Alec Baldwin, et al.), but with at least a sense of propriety.

Meanwhile, Channel 7 news (WABC-TV in NYC) was scheduled to carry a segment about the offending article at 5pm yesterday.

Here's the contact info for the publisher:
The Independent News, 74 Montauk Highway, Suite 19, East Hampton, NY 11937
Phone: 631-324-2500 Business Fax: 631-324-6496 Editorial Fax: 631-324-2351
Rick Murphy, Editor -
James J. Mackin, Publisher -
Meanwhile, also annoying me is that idiot church group stalking Heath Ledger's funeral because he was in Brokeback Mountain. These people give Christianity a bad name. But WABC seems to be LOVING covering his death, which they're running as a local story, which, I suppose, it is.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Worst Day of the Year

Today is considered the worst day of the year in these parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Not only is it cold - and it has been cold over much of the country, it seems - but Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to kick in. Last week, for reasons largely outside my control, I only got to play racquetball Monday and Tuesday. But when I didn't play on Friday, I thought I was going to lose it. I know that exercise is important in fighting SAD, so this was doubly frustrating.

For me, there is a reverse correlation between exercise and eating; the less I exercise, the more I eat, and usually the stuff on this list rather than this one.

The mantra THIS TOO SHALL PASS is only mildly satisfactory, but, fortunately, generally accurate.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar picks - first pass

This is what I THINK will win, not necessarily who I WANT to win. I claim my right to change my mind before February 24, as I actually SEE more of these pictures. The only ones I've seen so far: Charlie Wilson's War, The Savages, Juno and Sicko.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
(DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” (Focus Features)

Daniel Day-Lewis, because he's Daniel Day-Lewis. Second pick: Depp over Clooney.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Bardem. Hoffman might have won in another year for his body of work, or even Holbrook, who's an octogenarian.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal)
Julie Christie in “Away from Her” (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in “The Savages” (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in “Juno” (Fox Searchlight)

Cotillard, if anyone saw the film, much more appealing than she looks in the film, and Oscar likes that; Christie otherwise.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Blanchette, oddly nominated for Elizabeth, will win here over Ryan.

Best animated feature film of the year
“Persepolis” (Sony Pictures Classics) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney) Brad Bird
“Surf's Up” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

In the order listed.

Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/PathĂ© Renn) Julian Schnabel
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight) Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) Paul Thomas Anderson

The Coens over PTA.

Best documentary feature
“No End in Sight” (Magnolia Pictures)
A Representational Pictures Production
Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience” (The Documentary Group)
A Documentary Group Production
Richard E. Robbins
“Sicko” (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company)
A Dog Eat Dog Films Production
Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara
“Taxi to the Dark Side” (THINKFilm)
An X-Ray Production
Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
“War/Dance” (THINKFilm)
A Shine Global and Fine Films Production
Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

No End in Sight over Sicko. No more Moore.

Best motion picture of the year
“Atonement” (Focus Features)
A Working Title Production
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight)
A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC Production
Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
A Clayton Productions, LLC Production
Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production
Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production
JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

No Country over There Will Be Blood.

Adapted screenplay
“Atonement” (Focus Features)
Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
“Away from Her” (Lionsgate)
Written by Sarah Polley
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/PathĂ© Renn)
Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

PTA over Coen - share the wealth. Or the upset special- Sarah Polley.

Original screenplay
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight)
Written by Diablo Cody
“Lars and the Real Girl” (MGM)
Written by Nancy Oliver
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
Written by Tony Gilroy
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney)
Screenplay by Brad Bird
Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
“The Savages” (Fox Searchlight)
Written by Tamara Jenkins

This is the Michael Clayton consolation award.
How the mighty have fallen. Eddie Murphy, who was nominated for an Academy Award last year for Dreamgirls, is up for severall Razzies for Norbit. In fact, the conjecture was that the release of thwe noxious Norbit trailer early last year cost Eddie the Oscar.
i get these notices from the New York Times, usually once or twice a day. Yesterday was particularly busy:
Fed cuts prime 0.75% - not a shock.
Dow sinks anyway - not exactly a surprise after the European markets tanked the day before.
Fred Thompson drops out of the race; hardly "news" since his poor South Carolina showing.
Heath Ledger dead at the age of 28. What? Nominated two years ago as Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain. I first saw him in A Knight's Tale, light fare, then in a much more intense role in Monster's Ball. Sad for his two-year old daughter and the rest of his family.


More January Ramblin'

I should have written this yesterday, but I was in the midst of doing something (which will become evident), taped the end of the NFC championship game Sunday night, but neglected to account for it running long. The game had about two and a half minutes to go when the recording stopped I turned on ESPN's Sports Center and saw all the important remaining plays, including those in overtime.
GO, GIANTS!! I suggested three weeks ago that the Giants playing New England tough then, when it "didn't matter", was a good idea, and now they have the chance to play them again, when it does. I worry, though, that the transition that NYG coach Tom Coughlin's face will suffer going from -4F Green Bay - was he suffering frostbite? - to sunny Arizona will be a shock to his system.
Johnny Podres died. I got totally into that Boys of Summer storyline. The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, with Jackie Robinson, finally beat the hated New York Yankees, finally beat the hated Yankees, with Podres winning Game 3 and the decisive Game 7, for the only time before they moved to Los Angeles.

Allan Melvin died. He's one of those guys who you would see on TV (I remember him from Phil Silvers, Dick van Dyke and All in the Family/Archie Bunker's Place, plus a commercial) and you might say, "You know, THAT guy." (By Archie Bunker's Place, even I knew him by name. If you don't, see what ME had to say.

Suzanne Pleshette died. That last episode of Newhart, in which she reappears as Emily Hartley, probably THE best TV ending of all time, I was watching, and yet I missed it. From IMDB
The final episode ("The Last Newhart" Episode: #8.24 - 21 May 1990) ran for 30 seconds longer than the typical episode. WRGB Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY was the only CBS affiliate to not get the message, and halfway through the concluding joke in the entire series, the control room cut to a local newscaster. As was typical at the time, he was to read teasers for that night's 11 o'clock news but he was visibly surprised at his own face appearing on the monitor since he was watching the end of the episode as well. The station DID show it during the 11 pm news, but I didn't watch that program, and I never saw the end until it was reprised some months later. Most of the early obits missed the fact that she had been married to Tom Poston, another Newhart cohort, until he died last year.

Richard Knerr died. Who was Richard Knerr? He was only the co-founder of Wham-O, that made the hula hoop (I had one, never that good at it), Slip 'N Slide (I had one, loved it), and the Frisbee (STILL have one; most of the knockoffs aren't aerodynamically as sound as the original). Part of my childhood has passed as well.


Monday, January 21, 2008


From Tosy, I purloined this meme, which is meant to indicate how many advantages one has in starting adult life. It is, I understand, based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University.


Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
Were the same or higher socio-economic class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home probably
Were read children's books by a parent - don't recall that they did. I know I read a lot to myself in my room.
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 - I remember only a year of piano
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Family vacations involved staying at hotels (Family vacations involved camping, which I hated, or visiting someone)
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 - At least the vast majority. I WAS the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
There was original art in your house when you were a child Yes, several. Painted by my father, sometimes in frames, but more often, painted right on the walls.
You and your family lived in a single family house
Your parent(s) owned their own house(s) or apartment before you left home - They bought a house my first year in college
You had your own room as a child - Well, for the first couple years, maybe. After my second sister was born, my sisters shared a room, and my father built a couple walls into a room which became my "room"
You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School - not on your life.
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 - Actually, though, did fly from Binghamton to Albany on a 20-passenger plane when I was 16.
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up - No, but I went on my own.
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family - Maybe not the exact dollar amounts, but I had a sense of them

There's no rubric here, so make of it what you will.
Someone sent me this picture; I have no idea about the original source, but I find it most peculiar:

I think it must be dadaist. (As he anxiously awaits the fallout...)


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Herschell Gordon Lewis

One thing watching the movie Juno took me right out of it for a minute. That was a reference to Herschell Gordon Lewis. I shan't expand on that in terms of the movie.

Herschell Gordon Lewis is, more than anything, a businessman. He discovered that one way to make money is to make films filled with blood and/or sexual titillation that the major studios wouldn't get caught dead doing back in the early 1960s. Read this particular description by Steve Bissette, who knows a WHOLE lot more than I do:
"BLOOD FEAST (1963) Notorious Herschell Gordon Lewis shocker dared to go where no major studio would, crudely carving out brains, tongues, limbs, and its unique niche as the first true 'gore' film. This widely-imitated breakthrough hit of the 1960s drive-in circuit was filmed in and around the beaches of Sarasota, Florida."

I was working at FantaCo, primarily a comic book store, in 1983. Splatter Movies (1981), written by John McCarty, was, after we found a sales niche advertising in FANGORIA magazine every issue, became a huge success. So what do we do next? As I hope I made clear, it's not my genre, so I haven't a clue. But Tom Skulan, the owner, and John McCarty somehow team up with Daniel Krogh, cinematographer on Lewis' The Wizard of Gore (1970), and decide to put out a book called The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis, and His World of Exploitation Films by Krogh, with McCarty.

The book premiered at the 1983 FantaCon, and HGL, as I referred to him, was making an appearance. What kind of man makes these kind of films? Well, as it turns out, the guy was very much a gentleman, sweet, soft-spoken, at least in that setting. He was a natty dresser. I didn't spend a whole lot of time with him, but I did get him to sign my copy of the book, which read: "To my friend Roger". Daniel Krogh signed it "TO ROGER OF FANTACO". John McCarty, who I had gotten to know from Splatter Movies, wrote, "To Roger - Whose job I don't envy". That was in reference to the fact that my task, once the convention was over, was to ship hundreds and hundreds of these to the comic book distributors. Ultimately, we also sold directly to non-comic book shops and at retail. As FantaCo subsequently published scripts for 2000 Maniacs and Blood Feast, HGL dominated my life until I left FantaCo in 1988.

I started my new job as a librarian in 1992. Perusing the shelves of the SBDC Research Network, what should I see but a book on direct marketing by someone named Herschell Gordon Lewis! Could it be the same guy? It could, and it was - check out his bibliography and his filmography, right on his own website. He doesn't shy away from his past - or his present - there is a Blood Feast 2 listed for 2002.

So seeing the HGL reference in Juno brought it full circle for me.


Saturday, January 19, 2008


In a year and a day, George W. Bush will no longer be President. What will his legacy be on: 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, peace initiatives in the Middle East and elsewhere, the economy, the environment, Constitutional issues, human rights, security, etc.?
Will it improve in the next year or get worse?
Will history be more kind to him than we are?
Is there any cause to impeach him, as George McGovern called for recently? Or is it too late?
For me - well, if you've read this blog enough, you probably have a good idea.

The distortions that ran up to the Iraq war were revisited last fall, when former W henchman Karl Rove said the White House was opposed to having the Senate vote on the Iraq war so close to the elections, fearing it would "politicize" the process. (The Senate voted October 11, 2002.)
That, of course, was utter bullsh nonsense. Google any number of articles, including this White House press conference of September 24, 2002:
THE PRESIDENT: I'm confident a lot of Democrats here in Washington, D.C. will understand that Saddam is a true threat to America. And I look forward to working with them to get a strong resolution passed.
From CNN, October 11, 2002
"Bush also must certify that action against Iraq would not hinder efforts to pursue the al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked New York and Washington last year." As the forgotten war in Afghanistan is now getting more troops, that seems to have worked well.
I do think that people might get a little soft-headed about W as he moseys off into the sunset over Iraq if American deaths diminish, but this will be countered by rising anxiety over recessionary concerns of higher prices, higher unemployment, shrinking investments in a bear stock market, and fear of losing one's home really sink in.

I don't think history will see him as another Truman, as much as he has invoked his equally beleaguered predecessor.

Yes, he should be impeached - him and his little dog, too - but I know it won't happen.
2008 Presidential Primary Info. Voter Registration Deadlines, Delegate Allocation, Polling Hours.


Friday, January 18, 2008


Here's why I like to go to the movies early in the run of a film: I don't like to have preconceived notions. So, it was only mildly problematic that I knew this film, and its star, Ellen Page, were critically acclaimed. This was Roger Ebert's favorite film of the past year. Conversely, it has suffered a certain backlash of perhaps being too cute and clever and trendy - it was 0 for 3 in the Golden Globes! And there was one other antipathetic strain I heard: Juno is about [if you have seen the trailer or the poster, or the cover of the soundtrack, this absolutely CANNOT be a SPOILER] pregnant and 16, and she is, some feel, too glib for that situation.

Carol and I got a babysitter and went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany to see it anyway. It is a smart and warm comedy, though I can see that in lesser hands, this could have traveled into treacle. As it was, I really enjoyed the film, especially the co-stars Alison Janney (West Wing) as the stepmom, with one particularly great scene with Page; JK Simmons (The Closer; the Spider-Man movies) as the dad, totally credible. Two guys from Arrested Development, Michael Cera as the baby's father and Jason Bateman as the would-be adoptive father, are also strong, though they don't share a scene.

But the real surprise here is Jennifer Garner (Alias) as the would-be adoptive mom. Would it be catty to say that I didn't know she could act? Probably.

The other revelation is the music, much of it by someone named Kimya Dawson, which integrated quite well with the storyline. But the most affecting songs were by Cat Power and by Sonic Youth, oh, and the last song in the movie before the credits; I won't ruin it any further.

So, it may be "overrated" compared with the hype, but but it was a good time at the cinema.
The Ultimate Adventure.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Buy Dave's Comic Books

"I am helping Dave Cockrum's widow sell Dave's personal collection of comics--from his X-Men file copies to his Silver Age and Golden Age books. Dave was an important creator, a wonderful man, and his widow can use the money... Would you help me spread the word?" -- Clifford Meth. Well, since I have met Dave and Paty Cockrum once or twice, as explained here, absolutely, I will. Go here.
I was reading about a group called Empire State Troopers, who were featured on the cover of Metroland, the local news/arts weekly. I'm not familiar with the group, but the members, from Saratoga Springs and the Buffalo area, commissioned a friend of theirs to come up with this declaration:
"We are the Empire State because we alone have all the makings of a great empire. Coal. Grain. Timber. Iron. Granite and Slate. Livestock. Game. Fresh Water. Our per-acre agricultural output far exceeds that of any other state. We are too far inland to be hurt by hurricanes, yet too coastal and hilly to see tornadoes of any significance. Long after the world’s oil is gone, and the deserts once again are parched, we will still have our canals, our rivers and our lakes. This is our birthright, and from all this—from the hardcore squats of mid-1990s Buffalo to the North Country metal parties in July, from the explosives, the grease fires, the dog fights and homemade tattoos—Empire State Troopers make their rock." The part about the topography IS particularly why I do like being where I am.
Someone asked me last week: If twice something is double, three is triple, four is quadruple, etc., what is it for nine and ten? I had no idea. "Nonuple and decuple?" I guessed. Turns out I was right, and those terms are known as tuples; that I did not know .
I think the thing that bothered me most about Chris Matthews' remarks about Hillary Clinton was how utterly wrong his bluster was. She went to 62 of 62 New York State counties and convinced conservative Republican men and women that she could bring home the bacon to her state.
JEOPARDY! fans: The Online Test is back! These tests are for adults 18 and over only to qualify for the regional auditions. Eligible adults must register before taking the test.
EAST COAST Tuesday, January 29th at 8PM EST
CENTRAL/MOUNTAIN Wednesday, January 30th at 8PM CST/7PM MST
PACIFIC COAST (Including Alaska and Hawaii) Thursday, January 31st at 8PM PST
Registration will close at 7:30PST on Thursday, January 31st. Visit now to register, take the online test tutorial, and read through all instructions and information.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tosy Was Wrong

Tosy wrote: For some reason, I get the feeling that everyone knows about Coverville. But maybe I'm wrong. Yup, Tosy, you were wrong, 'cause I wasn't familiar with this eclectic website that offers a podcast two or three times a week consisting of cover songs, nothing but cover songs. Now I've subscribed to it via iTunes. I was considering listening to some of the earlier episodes, but there are 407 of them, so I thought the better of it.

I love cover tunes. I have whole albums dedicated to the works of Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles, Marvin Gaye, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Curtis Mayfield, Charlie Mingus, Harry Nilsson, Doc Pomus, Pete Seeger, Richard Thompson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Who, and Neil Young. The Red, Hot Blue albums tend to be filled with covers. I have Motown artists covering other Motown artists, and pop versions of West Side Story. And Beatles - LOTS of Beatles covers.

Coverville also features a search mechanism by which one can find who covered what songs. The main search page was offline last I checked; however, Brian Ibbott, host and producer of the radio broadcast, has sent me a link to the beta search site that works much better. I'm loath to put the beta link on this page because the original search page will be back online soon, but if the original search engine is not working, e-mail me and I'll get you the beta site.

It also has a discussion board, where I found this cover of Stairway to Heaven, if it had been done by four moptops:

Thank you for being wrong, Tosy.
There are other sites to search cover versions such as The Covers Project and Second Hand Songs.
Singing in a choir will keep you young
Misty Harris, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, January 05, 2008

Though Brahms and Beethoven aren't what Richard Simmons had in mind with "Sweatin' to the Oldies," new research suggests the composers' choral work might be just what your body wants.

According to Victoria Meredith, a University of Western Ontario professor who used the school's adult choirs as a "live research lab," participation in choral music leads to increased respiratory function, improved overall health, a heightened immune system and improved brain function. Meredith also concludes that performing in a choir "can keep you younger and healthier for longer," pointing to similar studies that found people who sing on a regular basis require fewer doctors' visits, are less prone to falls, don't need as much medication, and are less likely to be depressed.



Tuesday, January 15, 2008


There's a character called Little Critter that I read to Lydia. He said, "Sometimes I remember, and sometimes I forget."

So when I reviewed my 2007 albums, I forgot Nellie McKay's Obligatory Visitors. I got it so early in the year, relatively, it slipped my mind. It's much shorter than her previous two epics, and while I liked it in parts - a wonderfully vulgar 23 seconds of "Livin", e.g. - I prefer her singing to that of the bloke who she had crooning with her.

I forgot to give my football playoff picks; trust me, I was 3-1 the first weekend (I thought Washington would beat Seattle). The second weekend, it's more who I hope would win: Green Bay did (this has much to do with my dislike of The View's Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who's married to the Seattle QB, Matt); and my others won as well, except for Jacksonville, who lost to New England. (But doesn't everyone?) So my rooting interests for the rest of the season are set: Giants, San Diego, Green Bay, in that order.

I was glad that Goose Gossage got into the baseball's Hall of Fame, but I'm still looking for some love for Jim Rice, Lee Smith, and Andre Dawson.

On my list of TV themes, I didn't forget Barney Miller, M&R. It was on Greg's cusp list and on mine. Interestingly, that first season, not only was the show less good, in spite of the fine Barbara Barrie as Barney's wife, the theme was fairly lackadaisical.
The later theme, like the second Magnum theme, was MUCH better:

The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme didn't quite make it either, mostly because love may be all around, but Mary Richards' love life mostly stunk. I think I preferred the "you just might make it" of the first season, which I can't find, to "you're gonna make it" of later seasons.

I did find this:

Oh, a question: did the That Girl theme ever have lyrics? I know it didn't normally, but I swear I heard them at least once.

I forgot to mention that it was my friend Dan who gave me the comics-related question which I posed on Saturday that YOU can STILL answer.
I don't want him, or especially his wife Lynne, who I've known even longer, ticked with me.

I was going to use this piece from a United Methodist website on one of my grumpy days, but I forgot:
Lawsuit prompts new music and video copyright developments for churches
Dean McIntyre, of the General Board of Discipleship, is warning churches of new developments in legal cases regarding the use of copyrighted music and video in worship. In an article posted on GBOD's worship website, McIntyre writes, "In a new attempt to stop illegal copying -- which may have an impact on churches -- the music industry is now making a stronger claim of copyright protection not previously claimed."

He concludes that, "If the courts continue to uphold the new music industry claim, the implication for churches is clear: it is illegal to legally purchase copyrighted music or movies, to copy and store that music or movie, even a clip, on your own computer or disk, and then use the copy in worship. Churches that want to replay copyrighted CDs or videos in worship can legally do so only by using the original purchased copy."


Monday, January 14, 2008

Turn On the Mind

You Are 72% Open Minded

You are a very open minded person, but you're also well grounded.
Tolerant and flexible, you appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.
But you also know where you stand firm, and you can draw that line.
You're open to considering every possibility - but in the end, you stand true to yourself.

Don't recall where I found this.

1. Do you remember learning to read? How old were you?
No, but it seemed like I've always read - of course not true, is it?

2. What do you find most challenging to read?
Novels with flowery multiple adjectives. Certain fonts.

3. What are your library habits?
I go a lot for Lydia, maybe once a week. We usually get two books and one video.

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger?
Well, yeah. Mostly, I access it remotely, accessing databases.

5. How has blogging changed your reading life?
I might pick up something that someone has recommended.

6. What percentage of your books do you get from: New book stores, second hand book stores, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other?
About 10% each from the library, new book stores, and second-hand stores. About 70% from Amazon or the like.

7. How often do you read a book and NOT review it in your blog?
Maybe once. Excluding children's books, which I often read and seldom review.

8. What are your pet peeves about ways people abuse books? Dog-earing pages? Reading in the bath?
Marking in books that aren't theirs, even highlighting them.

9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work?
Most of my reading at lunchtime are periodicals (newspapers, mostly.)

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them?
Hope they give clues. That said, people have given me books, and if I like it, I might imagine other people who might as well.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Top 10 5 Albums of 2007

I only got 13 albums that came out in 2007, all CDs, as opposed to downloads or vinyl. Unlike the movies I didn't see, this fact does not particularly distress me as much as it might, since I did download some individual cuts as well as older albums I had on vinyl.

So coming up with a Top 10 seemed silly. I will discuss all of them, but then give you my Top 5, which is pretty soft.

Across the Universe SOUNDTRACK - It's OK. Too much of it sounds the same. Didn't see the movie, though, and that might have helped. I love EDDIE IZZARD doing Mr. Kite, though.

Like A Hurricane-Neil Young Tribute, Uncut Magazine. Pretty good actually, though invariably uneven.

It's Not Big, It's Large- Lyle Lovett. As I wrote here, I like it, but haven't played it in over a month. Might rank higher when I hear it again.

Memory Almost Full-Paul McCartney. I liked it, especially some of the latter songs. The cut that explains the meanings of the songs really enhanced the album for me.

Magic-Bruce Springsteen. I enjoyed it quite a bit actually, but with a couple of exceptions, it sounds as though it could have come out a decade or more ago.

Live In Dublin-Bruce Springsteen. This lives heavily on the songs from the Seeger Session of 2006 that I loved so much. Works well here, too, plus some great reframing of the Springsteen oeuvre, and a surprise or two.

We'll Never Turn Back-Mavis Staples. Lefty Brown turned me onto this album, and it was in constant rotation in the summer, one track in particular.

Photograph: the Very Best of Ringo Starr. Quite possibly all the Richard Starkey I'll ever need. A mostly known commodity going in, and some good songs. Beatlefan magazine posed the question a couple months ago whether Ringo, as a solo artist, deserved to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; I'd say no, as commercial success, and is largely not a criterion.

And now, my Top 5:

5) West- Lucinda Williams. This might be is a hard album to love for me. Sometimes the lyrics are weak, sometimes the music, though usually at least one element is outstanding. Some of the lyrics are as nonsensical as Dylan’s most obtuse. There’s a 9-minute quasi-rap song that somebody on Amazon called the WORST SONG EVER. But when it clicks, it really works for me. It's no "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road", but it is a worthwhile effort about loss.

4) Dirt Farmer - Levon Helm. – Maybe I’m a sucker for a feel-good story. Helm, the voice of the legendary group The Band, survived throat cancer, but he was unable to talk, let alone sing. But with treatment, he was able to do both. And this album, which sounds like The Band mixed with the music of the group's roots, is outstanding. His daughter Amy, who sings with the group Olabelle, is also present here.

3) Chrome Dreams II-Neil Young. What Nik said about the eclectic nature of the project. BTW, Tosy once had a post about the longest and shortest album cuts. He and I had the same Dylan cut as the longest, but Ordinary People on this album at 18 minutes surpasses that. (I have since discovered that I have a 20-minute live version of Frank Zappa's Don't eat the Yellow Snow.) Here's a review from the United Methodist Church website!

2) Raising Sand- Alison Krauss/Robert Plant. Actually, I bought this for my wife for Christmas. I always buy Alison Krauss for my wife for Christmas or her birthday when she has a new album out. While there were some duets that sounded more like her fare, there's at least one cut that's louder than anything on any Krauss album I've heard. In any case, it works because of genre-bending song selection and a great production by T-Bone Burnett. The more I hear it, the more I like it.

1)I’m Not There SOUNDTRACK- (Nik: this is how I write every day - I just quote other people.) As Nik says, compilations are tough, but this one works exceedingly well, even though I didn't see this movie yet, either.

The album I'm most likely to get, sound unheard, based on everyone else's reviews: LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Online Comics QUESTIONS

I get e-mails:

Lacking for material to write about? No, of course not. But I'd be interested in your take on this subject. Do you think Cory Doctorow is right?

The main point of the story, titled "Boom! comics' new series available as downloads on the same day as in stores" is that "comics publishers should -- at a minimum -- put up downloadable comics after they disappear from the stands, so that people who are coming to the serial after it starts can catch up. The trade paperbacks help here, but usually there's a 2-3 issue gap between the collection and the singles."

Well, I have no idea. In my days of retailing comics (1980-88 and again in the early 1990s), the business model was very different. I do know that a customer coming in in the middle of a story was/is maddening. I do know that dealing with back issue comics was often a pain. But does the online page of back issues solve the problem?

There seems to be an overriding premise in the piece that almost everything that comes out as singles (his term) or floppies will turn up in book form eventually, which I don't believe to be true, any more than every TV show eventually coming out on DVD.

I also don't buy the premise that the "publisher could spend approximately $0.00 and post downloadable singles 30 days or even 60 days after they hit the stands." To do a quality job online does not cost nothing, assuming you have to pay someone to do it. And what of the creative team? How are they getting paid for this, beyond the flat page rate? Or should it just be considered "promotional? (Shades of the AMPTP!)

I would really like to know, from comics collectors and especially retailers: does the online model stimulate new readers, and more importantly, new spenders, or are folks just reading product online for free? What is the general quality of the existing products - easy to use or not? Of readable quality or full of eyestrain? What's the best of the current crop, and what's a must to avoid?
Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal gave a plug for HowToons, an interesting site. It does have a link to a book for sale on Amazon, but I don't know how else it makes money, if in fact it does.


Friday, January 11, 2008

January Ramblin'

I was on the bus yesterday, and this young man sitting across the aisle, 13 to 15 years old, I gather, was telling his friend about his school's basketball team. "They're 4 and 2. I think that's .500". I waited a couple seconds, hoping his friend would correct him, but since that was not forthcoming, I said ".667". He looked at me, confused. "Your team won 4 out of 6 games. 4 over 6 is the same as 2 over 3. 2/3s, .667." Nothing - wish I had the time and the paper to show him long division. "If the team has the same number of wins and losses, THAT'S .500". Maybe I should have gotten into percentages and moving decimal points, but he got off before then. [Sigh]
From friend Don: "In short, it was all about money, cultural arrogance, and ignorance, in no particular order. (Or, alternatively, perhaps it's all about GE Schenectady steam-turbine manufacturing; see the bottom.) Surprisingly intelligent reflections by former NBC Dateline correspondent John Hockenberry, culled from an unlikely source -- MIT Technology Review.

Full story. There's stuff about dreadful coverage of the early days of the Iraq war, inane non-use of a videotape and other nonsense. If you decide to wade into it, check the last page, where JH discusses his aborted story about the shadowy figures behind the Nigerian e-mail scams, how he filmed them fleecing a mark in their Montreal hotel room, "To Catch a Predator"-style. A passing reference to this story came up on The Media Project, a local radio program, last week, and one of the panelists opined that perhaps Hockenberry had an "axe to grind", as he was let go by NBC. That person clearly hadn't read the piece.

"You Don't Understand Our Audience": What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC.
ADD rants about Spider-Man. I haven't read the character regularly in nearly a decade and a half, but I'm inclined to accept this analysis, based on the source.
The personal rantings against ethanol by a friend of mine.
101 Dumbest Moments in Business from Fortune magazine.
I don't even live in Buffalo, but I can get behind this one, suggested by Jaquandor, which is to let people know that Joe Cecconi Chrysler sucks, apparently. My favorite part of the narrative was after a frustrated Buffalo Geek sought help from a higher power:
I decide to call Chrysler Customer Service to see if they could help influence the process in some way. After calmly and rationally detailing the situation to the agent, I was put on hold as she attempted to contact the dealership and broker a truce. I sat immediately outside the dealership in my vehicle, from which I had a direct view of Clyde and Mike yukking it up in the office. Moments later, the agent came back on the phone to inform me that the dealership receptionist said that both of them had left for the day and they would call back next week. To wit, I informed the phone agent that I was staring right at them and they were sitting in their office. I instructed her to call back and let them know the customer is sitting outside, has visual lock on them, and that she would like to speak with them. They refused again. Classy. But Joe is hardly alone.

My goodness, this should be called January Rantin'. Won't even talk about the last Republican "debate"; let a child do it instead. But it's not as though somebody named Rush Limbaugh Person of the Year or something. Oh wait: someone did.
On a more pleasant note - not that I'm going myself:
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will be revived in a STRICTLY LIMITED ENGAGEMENT from FEBRUARY 12 to MARCH 13, with...what the press release say?

This explosive new production of TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ Pulitzer Prize-winning classic features a dynamite cast led by Academy Award® nominee TERRENCE HOWARD, Tony Award® winners PHYLICIA RASHAD and ANIKA NONI ROSE, and Academy Award nominee and two-time Tony winner JAMES EARL JONES. Directing is Emmy Award® winner and Tony nominee DEBBIE ALLEN.

Performance Schedule: Tues at 7, Wed-Sat at 8, Wed & Sat at 2, Sun at 3


I have an e-mail with a code that'll get you 30% off on the show, so e-mail me if you're interested.