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Thursday, August 27, 2015

WORST ID PHOTO EVER!!!

I just received my NYC ID card and it is without question the worst ID photo I have ever taken. They made me take off my glasses and as a result the puffiness of my recent eye infection is in full evidence. I look like sepia Uncle Fester. Feh.

The horror... The horror...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

EMPOWERED VOL. 9

I just finished reading EMPOWERED Volume 9 and it did not disappoint. Over a year-and-a-half between volumes is a looooong wait for a series as entertaining as this, but I'm perfectly happy to endure for a work of this quality.

Following her illegal adventure to Object 524 with Sistah Spooky, who lost an arm in the process, Emp finds herself tried by a jury of her assholish superpowered peers and sentenced to...No, that would be telling! 


Let it suffice to say that Emp's mettle is sorely tested in this installment and she reveals herself to be a more formidable super-presence than she ever would have imagined. It's engaging, funny, and even moving, so what's not to love? Adam Warren knocks it out of the ark yet again, in both the story and art departments, thus insuring EMPOWERED remains my favorite currently-running comics series. My only complaint is that regular characters Thugboy and Ninjette only appear briefly, but that deficiency is directly addressed and is promised to be remedied in the next volume. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION (though admittedly not for all tastes).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

FAREWELL TO THE DOMINOED DARE-DOLL: R.I.P. YVONNE CRAIG, TV'S BATGIRL

 For many of my age/generation, Yvonne Craig's portrayal of Batgirl in the 1960's classic hit TV series BATMAN can be directly pointed to as one of the moments in which they first felt confusing stirring in their private regions, and that kind of impact is powerful indeed. Batgirl was lithe, sexy, brave, glamorous, and possessed of a game sense of humor and joy in fighting crime that the Caped Crusaders lacked (thanks to their intentional and over-the-top whitebread squareness), so she was pretty much destined to own a considerable piece of real estate in the hearts and minds of her fans.

Craig in costume as Batgirl.

Craig got her start as a ballet dancer and her training in that art was evident in her every graceful movement, captivating the eye and leading one to marvel at the seeming effortlessness of her physicality. And while boys across the nation tuned in to drool over her luscious figure clad in shiny purple spandex (or whatever the stretchy stuff was called back in the days), girls also avidly watched and thrilled to Batgirl's exploits, with many going so far as to emulate her ballet-influenced high-kick fighting moves on the playground. What a lot of people didn't realize back then was that girls also needed superheroes and that female examples of such were quite rare. Fortunately, the 1960's were an era of change across the social and cultural landscape, so the likes of Honey West, Cathy Gale, Cinnamon Carter, and Emma Peel burst forth on the TV screen to engage in wild adventures and kick unprecedented truckloads of ass alongside their male colleagues and did so with a distinctly feminine flavor. And though she took the stage toward the end of the decade, it is perhaps Batgirl who stands out most prominently as the all-ages icon of distaff heroism for the era, with only Emma Peel giving giving her any real competition in the pop culture immortality/name-recognition department.

Craig as the cheeky Maude Waverly, in added footage shot for ONE SPY TOO MANY (1966), the theatrical version of the two-part installment from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., "The Alexander the Greater Affair" (1965).

That said, Craig's presence in 1960's pop culture was not limited to Batgirl. Among numerous other projects, she starred opposite Elvis Presley in two features, IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR (1963) and KISSIN' COUSINS (1964), my favorite of the many idiotic Elvis flicks, but it was her portrayal of the dangerously insane Marta in STAR TREK's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969) that may be her most remembered part not involving a cape, cowl, and bitchin' motorcycle.

As Marta in STAR TREK's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969).

One of '60's TREK's infamous "green chicks," Marta was light years away from Batgirl's fun sunniness, possessed as she was of outright criminal insanity. Marta fairly radiated raw sexuality and serpentine madness, and it was that "adult" sensibility coming from the woman who brought Batgirl to life that forever branded the character into two generations of young minds.

Yvonne Craig met her fate after a two-year battle with breast cancer that metastasized in her liver, perhaps the cruelest possible demise for an artist who excelled in roles requiring terpsichorean fluidity and expressiveness. Thankfully, Craig's beauty, youth, and lissomeness were captured forever on film and will live on to entertain, thrill, and enthrall audiences for as long as home entertainment survives. Rest well, Yvonne Craig, and know that your influence is undying.

Friday, August 14, 2015

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Yet another classic/cult TV series gets the big screen treatment and I'm assuming there is some hope that it may have legs enough to offer competition to the 007, Bourne, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchises. There's a lot of love and nostalgia for THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., 1960's TV's most direct answer to the era's massively popular James Bond boom, but I honestly wonder how much of that love is bolstered by memories dating back by as much as five decades. I sat through the show's entire run about a year and a half ago and I can honestly say that the first two seasons offered fun and intentionally tongue-in-cheek spy shenanigans before the series ill-advisedly dove headfirst into over-the-top brain-dead camp in the wake of the ratings juggernaut that was Adam West's iconic BATMAN program. The show became truly dreadful and downright embarrassing to watch, and a shift to a back-to-basics tone for its truncated final season proved to be not enough to stave off cancellation. Depending on where you lived, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. may or may not have played in syndicated reruns, though some of the foreign-released theatrical "films" cobbled together from episodes did occasionally turn up on local TV as filler in assorted movie showcase slots. In other words, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.  was a show  whose rep was bolstered mostly by nostalgia and not by rerun ubiquity, so it was in many ways more big screen reboot-ready than many of the more familiar television mainstays that made the leap from the small screen over the past three decades of Hollywood mining the glass teat for ideas.

To be fair, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movie was a lot better than I expected and the fact that it was set in 1963 added to its charm. As this is a spy movie with the usual twists, turns, and surprises in its plot, I won't give away any of the details, other than to say that womanizing CIA spook Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) remained pretty much the same character we've known since 1964 (though with a skill set cribbed from IT TAKES A THIEF's Alexander Mundy), while quiet intellectual KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is needlessly reinvented with borderline-psycho anger management issues. Nontheless, the strength of the film relies on the interplay between Solo and Kuryakin in what would otherwise be a slightly-better-realized-than-average yet generic Cold War-era spy adventure. The biggest drawback is that the filmmakers unnecessarily decided to give the men from U.N.C.L.E. an origin story that shows how they met and overcame their immediate dislike of one another. The TV series simply dropped us headfirst into their world with them already established as top international operatives, and we were trusted to be smart enough to keep up. Lastly, the show's main hook, the dropping of an innocent civilian into the shadow world of international espionage that exists hidden within our mundane world and seeing how they fare when involved with Solo and Kuryakin, is totally absent here. 

BOTTOM LINE: A fun way to fill two hours but you can wait for cable. And for those who care, the classic U.N.C.L.E. theme tune — the Hugo Montengro soundtrack album version — is only heard in a three-second snippet as Solo searches for something to listen to on a truck's radio.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS #1

Knowing full well that I no longer purchase the company's books, one of my connections at DC Comics sent me a care package containing (among other items) DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS #1, noting emphatically that "You will fucking LOVE this." They were absolutely right. This 1940-set retro-fest casts assorted DC females in the mold of the 1940's pinup art aesthetic while gearing them more as alluring adventure pulp types rather than just Elvgren-styled eye candy, and the result is a hell of a lot of fun. The script is engaging, the art is excellent across the board, and I really enjoyed how the story made it clear that detective Maggie Sawyer and Kate Kane, aka the mysterious and amusingly-literal Batwoman, are lovers while avoiding any prurient exploitation of that aspect. In short, this is worth your $3.99 and I hope it sticks around for a while with the same creative team.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

GREASE IS THE TURD

I've been discussing assorted music stuff with a former DC colleague who's also a fellow music nut cut from my eclectic cloth, and the conversation turned to fails when people who didn't know any better gave us very bad choices of LPs as presents that were were meant to love. 

Summer 1978: When the movie of GREASE came out and was super-popular, my mother totally ignored my actual musical tastes (which she neither liked nor understood) and decided to buy me the soundtrack as a present. That idea was bad enough but it was made even worse when she bought the ancillary Frankie Valli album that also included his single of "Grease is the Word." The album was clearly a Valli solo album with a huge portrait of him dominating the cover, but what made my mom think it was the movie soundtrack was the gigantic red sticker that proclaimed "Featuring the hit single 'GREASE ." When I unwrapped the LP and was confused as to why I was given a Frankie Valli album, my mom said "It's GREASE ! GREASE is popular, right?" I then had the unpleasant task of attempting to explain to a ragingly-menopausal and prednisone-addicted black mother why the gift was a massive fail. It was not pretty.

The album in question. A junior high buddy and I took it into the woods and blew the shit out of it with his dad's shotgun.

Friday, August 07, 2015

A LONG-ANTICIPATED WEEKEND NEARLY RUINED

Jared and me, at his 2011 birthday shindig.

As I write this, I'm in Rockland County for my old friend Jared's annual birthday cookout, the summer event that I most look forward to all year, and the weekend almost commenced with a disaster.

My friend Daisy​ was driving down from Rhode Island to pick me up for the trip to Jared's — our shared journey in her car is a yearly highlight — and when she was relatively close to my apartment, she called to let me know she'd be arriving soon. I had three bags packed — a large Ikea bag containing my barbecue tools, assorted food items, a spare blanket, and a six-pack of Mexican Cokes; a duffel bag with enough changes of fresh clothes for four days, plus a bag containing my toiletries and meds; and lastly but definitely not least, a large black backpack containing my laptop and its power cord, my CD burner, a box of blank CDs, and a good number of books to be given out as gifts to some of the coming attendees — and had brought the bags down to the front stoop of my building to await the imminent pickup. After a few minutes I realized I'd forgotten the sack of quarters that I'd meant to bring for tolls on the way back, so I figured it would take me less than sixty seconds to run back up to my second floor apartment and return with the coins. Looking at the broad-daylight street, the only people in sight were one of the nicer Stoop Louts, who was across the street with two friends, so I figured my stuff would be safe for less than a minute.

WRONG.

When I returned in the predicted less than sixty seconds, of the three large bags, only the one with my clothes remained on the stoop. I instantly shifted into hawk-like focus mode and immediately spotted a short Hispanic guy with a bike led by one hand hurrying across the street, struggling to keep my Ikea bag over his shoulder. I yelled "HEY!!!" in my loudest, most ominous voice and he stopped dead in his tracks. "That stuff is mine!" I yelled, as I barreled across the street in a state of Hulk-esque rage. When he lifted my stuff during the seconds in which I was gone, he probably expected the luggage to have been left by some woman or by someone who would not make it back down the stairs in time to catch him, but the look on his face made it clear that he did not expect to be nabbed in the act by an irate black man of nearly six feet in height and nearly 230 pounds. He was clearly terrified but he kept himself together enough to try and weasel out of a crippling ass-kicking by claiming that he thought the bags were garbage that had been left out for anyone to take. I fought back my urge to tear off his head and floss my teeth with his spine, and as he handed my my Ikea bag I narrowed my eyes and said "And the black backpack." The pack was not visible, as he had hidden it behind a nearby car, but he could see the murder in my eyes and he immediately produced it. As I checked my stuff to make sure nothing had been stolen — the backpack showed signs of having been opened for inspection; that was the bag with my computer — the thwarted thief made every effort to ingratiate himself to me, again claiming to have thought it was just garbage and saying "Hey, I wasn't trying to rob you, man," to which I called bullshit and noted that he'd opened the backpack. At that he dropped some of his obsequiousness and had the nerve — THE FUCKING NERVE!!! — to start to lecture me on "In New York you don't just leave stuff lying around..." I angrily cut him off, called him as a liar and a scavenging opportunist, and when he saw how much angrier I was getting he tried to give me a soul-shake and said, "God bless, brother!" before beating the hastiest retreat I've ever seen.

With my stuff retrieved, I slowly began to wind down and by that point the Stoop Lout was paying attention to the scenario. He's one of the Louts who's seen me as a daily presence for eighteen years, so he's used to Nice Bunche and was appalled to see Anger Bunche for the first time. As I noticed him staring at me in disbelief, I asked him if my stuff looked like garbage. He swiftly shook his head and unequivocally stated "NO!!!" and apologized for not paying closer attention as the guy made off with my bags. When Daisy arrived, I told her what happened and had her pick up my bags in order for her to see how heavy they were. I'm convinced that my standard habit of packing heavy is what thwarted the disaster mare than my speed in returning; I tend to pack for maximum preparedness and bearing heavy objects is what my ancestors were bred for, so carrying heavy backpacks and bags has been second nature since I was a child. I don't even think about it when I'm carrying them. Needless to say, Daisy was appalled on my behalf and she noted that she also would have left her stuff if she knew she would only be gone for seconds and there was no one on the street, but she was equally glad that everything turned out alright.

BOTTOM LINE: I learned a strong lesson during this incident and that your stuff is not safe on the streets of NYC for even sixty seconds, so don't be a lazy piece of shit and not bring the items into the locked safety of your building's lobby, especially if you know for a fact that the residents all look out for each other's stuff as an unstated rule of common courtesy and do not rip each other off. Not even relatively-posh Park Slope is free of parasites who cruise around on bikes in search of things to steal and people's good vibes to ruin without a care in their larcenous little worlds.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A QUICK WORD ABOUT ANT-MAN

Just got back from ANT-MAN and I'm glad to say that Marvel has added another winner to its expanding cinematic tapestry. A hoot from start to finish, it's a movie that I never would have imagined getting made but the same was said for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and that was also a hell of a lot of fun. Heartwarming, funny, briskly-paced, featuring some music cribbed from the soundtrack to the Pam Grier classic COFFY, and loaded with really cool sequences that make the most of just how amazing the ability to shrink and control ants would be, it's fun for the whole family.  I'm opting to review it in maybe a week, in order to let all of you see it for yourselves and not have me spoil it delights, so stay tuned. Oh, and make sure to stay through to the very end for two Easter eggs, the latter of which led several audience members to wonder why it was included in an Ant-Man movie...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

TODAY I AM FIFTY

Kissing my forties goodbye with two staunch pals whom it is my distinct honor to know..

Dear Vaulties,

Despite many years of assorted idiocy, Yer Bunche somehow managed to live to see my fiftieth birthday and I'm quite pleased to say that I did. I have stuff to do today but I wanted to note that the big day is here and that I will be reporting on my entry into the half-century club over the next few days. STAY TUNED!