Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Over the years, I dutifully bought all things Springsteen: the records, the singles, the bootlegs, the boxed set of Tracks, the single CD (18 Tracks), even the suicide-inducing Ghost of Tom Joad. I was there when he and the E Street Band reunited and toured in 1999-2000, and back again for The Rising tour of 2002.
But I started to lose the faith when he released Devils & Dust, and felt no desire to buy the Seeger Sessions CD. It was obvious Springsteen was off on a musical journey that inspired him; I just wasn't going along for the ride any more. I rented the Live in Dublin DVD (filmed during his Seeger tour, which I purposely missed, and ended up skipping through most of the songs).
A couple of weeks ago, Springsteen announced he'd finished a new album, one recorded with the E Street Band. The record was due in October, with a tour to follow. This record, Magic, was billed as a rocker. But still I was skeptical, like a lapsed Catholic who wants to believe but just can't drag himself back to church.
The first single for Magic, "Radio Nowhere," somehow made it on You Tube and it does, indeed rock. Alas, as of today (wednesday 8-29) it's been removed, but you can download the official song for free at iTunes.
It also sounds strangely similar to a couple of other songs from the 1980s.
Have a listen.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The sequel to Garfield's Big Book of Excellent Excuses, School Excuses is a fun little tome written by Mark Acey and me, with highly humorous illustrations by cartoonist extraordinaire Brett Koth.
It should be on Amazon sometime in the next few months. I'll post a link when the book is available.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Ran across this on a message board. Billy Jack is one of my favorite movies -- an incongruous blend of hippie-love and kick-ass martial arts.
I have a boxed set of all four Billy Jack films (on VHS) in a special case signed by Tom Laughlin (the man who wrote, directed, and starred in the films).
Born Losers, a sort of Billy Jack prequel, is the second best of the bunch. The Trial of Billy Jack is overly long and lacks the punch of its predecessor, and Billy Jack Goes to Washington is an odd Capra-esque film that's more about political machinations than butt-kicking justice.
If you're a fan of the films, enjoy these clips. If you've never seen 'em, rent Billy Jack. It's a curious classic from a bygone era.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I grew up watching his talk show, and it was always fun when someone like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Truman Capote showed up.
My wife worked for a private jet company in the early 1990s that catered to Hollywood's elite. The company, located at the Burbank airport, sold jets and serviced those of various celebs. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a Gulfstream housed in their hangar, as did Tom Cruise. Merv’s private jet, a Challenger, I believe, was serviced at the company and he flew out of Burbank frequently.
My wife got friendly with some of Merv's "people," and even met the man once. The jet company was throwing a Christmas party, and my wife asked Merv if he was planning to attend. He waited a beat, then flashed that impish Merv smile and said, "Oh, nooo," as if he'd just been offered a fresh turd sandwich. Made perfect sense, of course. Why would Merv the billionaire celebrity want to attend some piddly little party? It would be like your car mechanic asking if you wanted to attend the JiffyLube Christmas gala.
Goodnight, Merv. Say hello to Miss Miller for us.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
This is hilarious. Nobody did crazy, itchy-twitchy stammering better than Charlie Callas. Apparently, when he was younger, Charlie suffered from a real stuttering problem and cured himself by reciting Shakespeare. He worked as a drummer until his fellow musicians convinced him to be a comic.
Happily, he still does his act in Vegas and is scheduled to appear on Jerry Lewis' telethon August 31.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
The strip was probably doomed from the start. It was too gimmicky and I’m sure the multiple punch lines from a single character sometimes confused readers. It often looked like a sort of cartoon Tourette’s Syndrome, where the guy just couldn't shut up. I think the strips that featured lists or multiple characters delivering separate punch lines worked best.
Triple Take was Jay Kennedy’s idea (based on one of my submissions that included the “Things John Wayne Would Never Say” gag) and the strip outlived him by only a few months. I actually got the call that TT was being axed just 10 weeks after Jay’s untimely demise.
We were still in 29 papers, including the Chicago Sun-Times and the Seattle P-I. We'd lost a few big papers, however, and the sales trend definitely wasn’t on the upswing. Oh, well. That’s the way this business works. Most new strips don’t make it, running only a few years and then quietly vanishing.
Before we fade into the comics ether, here’s one final look at the strip, by the numbers:
28 Doctor strips
20 Dog strips
11 Baseball strips
8 Cat strips
6 Psychiatrist strips
3 Godzilla strips
3 McCoy brothers strips (mentioning one or both of them)
3 Ned the Optimist strips
1 Earl the Optimist strip
1 Rejected by the syndicate strip
My three favorite Triple Takes:
Monday, August 6, 2007
Sunday, August 5, 2007
I had an especially hellish trip Friday. I had to fly from Indianapolis, connect to Chicago, and fly on to St. Louis. Sounds simple enough. My flight from Indy was delayed over half an hour, which meant I (just) missed my connecting flight in Chicago (even after I ran across the airport to catch it), which meant I had to hang around another hour for a later flight.
Unfortunately I was up against a deadline. I had to be in St. Louis no later than 6:30. Actually, it was a suburb, technically in Illinois, about 30 miles from the airport. I needed to rent a car and drive to my hotel, which was right down the street from my ultimate destination.
I landed in St. Louis at around 4:30. Originally, if my connection hadn’t been late, I would’ve been there by 3 p.m. I was already an hour-and-a-half late. Renting the car took longer than I expected. I checked in at the rental agency in the airport but then had to take a 10-minute shuttle to the car lot. It was after 5:15. when I finally got my car and zoomed onto the highway. I was making fairly good time until I hit Friday afternoon downtown traffic. This delayed me about ten minutes and my 30-minute trip turned into 40 minutes. I pulled into the hotel parking lot just before 6 p.m., rushed thorough the check-in process, and collapsed on my bed at 6:05. Made it!
So why in the hell was I killing myself to get to Collinsville, Illinois? I needed to be at an awards banquet that started at 7:00. One of the award presenters met me at my hotel at 6:30 and we drove to the nearby Holiday Inn, which housed the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). After a tasty meal, and an entertaining audience-participation murder-mystery show, the awards commenced. At 9:00 I received the 2007 Golden Duck for Excellence in Picture Books. What the heck is a Golden Duck, you ask? I didn’t know either until I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by one of the award’s representatives. The Golden Ducks were created in 1992 to recognize excellence in children’s science fiction literature. In essence, the award is a Hugo for kid lit (the Hugo being the biggest award a science fiction author can receive). Past Golden Duck winners include Jon Scieszka, David Elliot, and somebody named J.K. Rowling (who was awarded a special Golden Duck in 2000).
It’s a major prize, to be sure, and I was thrilled to receive it. The book that won was NIGHT OF THE HOMEWORK ZOMBIES, written, of course, by me and illustrated by Steve Harpster. The Duck went to both of us, but Steve couldn’t make the banquet (he was at a show in California) so I hogged all the glory, although I will have to send him half the prize money…eventually. I also received a lovely framed scroll and a necklace with several rubber duckies (see photo).
At the banquet I sat next to another winner, Pete Hautman, who won for Best Young Adult Book. Pete’s a helluva nice guy, and after the ceremony we hung out in the cigar bar, talked books, movies, comics (as a kid, Pete wanted to write comics and created his own mimeographed comic book with his friends), publishers, agents, and why there were so many chubby goth girls in revealing homemade costumes at the convention.
Pete’s an excellent author, too. He gave me a signed copy of RASH, the book for which he’d received the Duck. It’s a darkly comic tale of a sixteen-year-old boy in the not-too-distant future, and it’s a wonderful read. Pete’s also the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Young People's Literature (for GODLESS), which is a really major award – one of the biggest. You can check out Pete's books at his website, and buy them at Amazon. I plan on getting as many as I can.
Pete drove from Minneapolis – a ten-and-a-half trip each way. He brought along the audio version of the latest Harry Potter book, which just so happens to run about 21 hours. Perfect!
My trip back to Indiana was uneventful and, thankfully, glitch-free. I was a little tired, my ears were badly plugged from the flights and a sinus irritation, but I walked in the door Saturday night proudly wearing my Golden Duckie necklace.