Tuesday, February 28, 2006

TV: Shows To Rock Your Face

Here are a few shows that are currently rocking my face. Hard.

The Shield: I'll probably say this two or three more times as I go down the list, but if you are not watching this show, I don't think we can be friends anymore. One of the best, most gripping dramas on TV, The Shield continues to amaze and surprise, even into this, its fifth season. Forest Whitaker is always great, and if you were to legally challenge me on this point, I would only have to submit: Exhibit A. Case dismissed -- with prejudice! As Kavanaugh, the Internal Affairs officer hounding Vic Mackey and his crew, Whitaker is again mind-blowingly great. There's a certain zen air of inevitability to his towering confidence, which made his recent room-smashing breakdown following Mackey's deception of him all the more powerful and disturbing. And as his determination/obsession to take down Mackey grows, so does his grotesque, irresistible manipulation of anyone in his path. And CCH Pounder continues to give an award-worthy performance as Detective Claudette Wyms, whose struggles with disease this season led to last week's shocking and heartbreaking (and possibly fatal) collapse following her brilliant interrogation of a serial killer. Then there's Walton Goggins as Shane, Jay Karnes as Dutch, Benito Martinez as Aceveda, and of course Michael Chiklis as Mackey -- one of the best casts on television, top to bottom. I look forward to tonight's episode, featuring the return of last season's fantastic guest star, Anthony Anderson as Antwon Mitchell.

Battlestar Galactica: After a slump in the second half of its second season, BSG has come back with a vengeance the last two shows. Two weeks ago, yet another chief officer of the Pegasus gets killed -- and Apollo gets promoted to Commander to take his place. Yikes. And then this last week, we find that not only has the Number Six Cylon who died protecting Baltar from the explosive blast way back in the mini-series been reborn with images of Baltar haunting her, exactly as images of her haunt the real Baltar, but she's also teamed up with the reincarnation of the Sharon Cylon who attempted to assassinate Adama and then was herself assassinated. Teamed up to kick Cylon ass. If this show got any more awesome I would need to be sedated. Only two episodes left to the season finale, which I guarantee will piss me off with its sheer awesomeness -- piss me off because it'll be another four or five months till I get another fix.

24: I haven't always been 100% behind this show, and I'm still not this year. Stupid stretches of logic and plausibility are always plentiful -- Sean Astin leaves CTU in the middle of a terrorist crisis and gets mugged by his junkie sister's boyfriend? But the action is always top-notch, and Kiefer Sutherland's no-holds-barred, bellowing, scenery-chewing performance as Jack Bauer is a blast. And hey, Kim Bauer is coming back this year, so there's always a chance someone will finally put her out of our misery!

How I Met Your Mother: As if you couldn't tell from my tribute to Barney on the sidebar, I love this show, and if you're not watching it too, well, maybe we weren't meant to be friends. It's got all the trappings of a traditional sitcom, but takes enough flights of fancy (flashbacks, split screens, the whole "telling the story from the future" gimmick) that it transcends the traditional. Also, it's really frickin' funny. This week's game of "Marshgammon" seemed like a hell of a good time to me (drink if you just said "What?"). Neil Patrick Harris' Barney is a wickedly funny character, but the rest of the cast also hold their own, especially Freaks and Geeks alum Jason Segel (and I'd like to see even more of his former castmates make guest appearances; so far we've seen Samm Levine, Martin Starr, and exec producer Judd Apatow). Sadly, I think Ashley Williams, in a recurring guest role as Ted's girlfriend, isn't working out very well, but she is easy on the eyes (what up!).

Justice League Unlimited: We're into what is reportedly the last season for this show, and the end of the DC Comics/Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animation dynasty. But we've got the Legion of frickin' Doom to show us to the end, and that's all kinds of all right. I'm a big fan of the Flash on this show, and I was glad one of these last episodes was centered on him, and showed us again why he's more than just comic relief. Deadman's appearance, and the battle in Gorilla City, were also excellent, as was last week's showcase of several of the lower-tier, non-superpowered League members (including the return of Nathan Fillion, channeling Mal Reynolds as the voice of Vigilante). I'll be sorry to see the show go, but I greatly anticipate the epic battle that is sure to wrap things up.

So that's what I'm digging on TV recently. Any objections? OVERRULED!!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sidebar Update. Now back on Saturday!

After an off-kilter updating schedule the past couple weeks, the Sidebar Update is back on Saturday where it belongs. And there was much rejoicing.

The Object(s) of My Affection this week are the skip and vice-skip* of the US Women's Olympic Curling team, Cassie and Jamie Johnson. They're such fresh-scrubbed little midwestern cuties! I'd like to blank their ends, if you know what I mean! (Wait, that makes no sense.) (Or does it???) (No, it really doesn't.)

Still reading that damn Jonathan Strange book. It's really good; it's just that it's taking me for-frickin-ever. Hey, it's a big book with small type! Don't judge me!

Watching American Movie again sometime this weekend. A buddy of mine introduced me to a couple of adorable young lady friends of his a couple weeks back (hello, Didi and Kristen), and it turns out they're producing a pilot for Comedy Central featuring American Movie's Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank. How cool is that? (Answer: very cool.) I can guarantee with 100% accuracy that this show will be awesome. Keep an eye out for it sometime this summer. My buddy's never seen American Movie, so I'm making him watch the DVD with me. It also is awesome, and if you haven't seen it, you really, really should.

Listening to The Presidents of the United States of America's first album, which, by a remarkable coincidence, is titled The Presidents of the United States of America. Great, funny, high-spirited stuff. As is their second album. As for the albums after that, I don't know. Never heard them. I probably should; I'm betting they also would rock my face.

And can we all agree on the Hating this week? This damn guy keeps popping up in the news, sending in video or audio tapes, making a mockery** of our "War on Terror". Why is he not dead yet? You kill this fucking guy, all is forgiven, Dubya. (Okay, not all. But a lot. Well, some.)

Lyric of the Week is from Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" (from the coincidentally-named album Breakfast in America). Every time I turn around this week, I hear this song. I've heard it, like, eight times in the past five days. I surrender, "Breakfast in America"!

And Barney gives some sage advice regarding mix CDs. Click the link to see the track list for Barney's ultimate "Get Psyched" mix.

*If both the skip and vice-skip are unable to serve, it falls to the Speaker of the House. HA! That's funny because "house" is a curling term. Oh, forget it.
**More of a mockery than it already is.

Friday, February 24, 2006

COMICS: Webcomics Links

I added a bunch of links to webcomics over on the sidebar, way down at the bottom. Mostly as a reminder to myself to check them for updates. For now, they're all links to comics that originated on the internet; I may go back later and add links to print comics (like Doonesbury).

Shall we do a rundown of the list? We shall!

8-Bit Theater: A comic based on the original Final Fantasy, using the 8-bit artwork straight from the video game. You don't really have to know anything about the game to enjoy the characters (especially the hysterically evil Black Mage) or their adventures.

Achewood: This is one of those comics that I think I should like, but have never really gotten into, other than reading a few strips every now and then. Maybe with the link to prompt me, I'll give it the attention it deserves (or decide it really isn't for me, after all).

Alien Loves Predator: A photo comic, using action figures of, well, Alien and Predator. They don't really love each other; they're just roommates. Hilarity ensues! (No, really.)

American Elf: James Kochalka's daily diary, in comic form. Little slices of life, by turns funny, sweet, sad, and strange. I love it, but I always forget about it. Hopefully this will remind me to check it every day.

Casey & Andy: I've praised this comic before. Very, very funny stuff.

Checkerboard Nightmare: A comic that I enjoy when I read it, but I often forget it exists. This will hopefully remind me.

Freefall: A comedic sci-fi strip, starring very likeable and funny robots, aliens, and bio-engineered wolf creatures (well, just one bio-engineered wolf creature, actually). One of my top four or five must-reads.

Irregular Webcomic: Another photo comic, this one of Legos figures. Has about a dozen different casts of characters (including the author), with their own storylines, which take turns at center stage. I check in on this one sporadically, so I can go through chunks of the archives at once. Warning: contains frequent puns!

Jeffrey Rowland has three comics on my list:
--Overcompensating (which I've also written about before) is, like American Elf, a diary comic. Only this one is completely made up. It's hilarious, and it may well be my favorite webcomic.
--Wigu is about a young boy named Wigu, his messed-up family, his favorite cartoon character, Topato, and the crazy and twisted adventures they all go on. Very very funny. On hiatus right now; Rowland is switching over from semi-daily strip to monthly (or so) book form. I'm not sure how that's going to work, exactly, but Wigu is one of the only online comics I would actually consider paying cash money for in book form.
--When I Grow Up is Rowland's original, and now defunct, webcomic, about a handful of twenty-something doofuses and their adventures. Look at this strip's initials, and you can see where Rowland got the name for his subsequent strip.

Men in Hats: No longer updating, but still funny as hell. Lots of very mean humor.

The Order of the Stick: The newest addition to my must-reads, set very firmly in the world of Dungeons & Dragons (the characters often refer to their stats, saving throws, armor bonuses, etc.). I got turned on to it very recently, plowed through the archives, and now I have to wait for its thrice-weekly updates just like everyone else. Dammit!

Penny Arcade: Two links for this one -- one to the comic, which is probably the best-drawn of all the comics I've listed, and one to the news page, which is usually even funnier than the comic, and which often contains vital information non-video game fanatics need to fully understand the comic. Which is annoying. But the strip is pretty damn funny, so what are you gonna do?

PvP: Another comic frequently centered on video games, like Penny Arcade, but about a thousand times more accessible to the non-gamer. Funny stuff, with extremely clean and appealing art.

Questionable Content: A relative newcomer to my must-reads. Sometimes it reads like Penny Arcade for indie rock, with obscure references that are impenetrable to the indie rock outsider. But mostly it's a cute strip about a bunch of young people awkwardly fumbling around in relationships.

Scary Go Round: A very continuity-heavy, plot-driven comic, divided into distinct chapters, which I tend to leave unread for weeks or even months at a time, so that I can go through a full storyline or two at once.

Shortpacked: Another recent add, centered on goofballs working in a toy store. Good fun.

Sluggy Freelance: One of the first webcomics I followed with any regularity, and one I've pretty much completely given up on now. Very, very plot-heavy, with epic storylines that have recently become too much for me to try to slog my way through. I include the link because I may someday go back through the archives and try to get caught up on it.

Something Positive: Like Achewood, a comic I feel I should like, but haven't really gotten into. I read through a huge chunk of the archives once, and kind of dug it, but the characters and their relationships are so complex, and veer so often away from comedy into overwritten melodrama, that I stopped reading it. With the link there, maybe I'll get back into it.

I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting, but those are the main ones for now. And I'm always looking for new webcomics to get hooked on. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Only don't recommend Narbonic. I frickin' hate that strip. Almost as much as I hate Get Fuzzy. They're both so very, very not funny. NOT FUNNY!!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

TV: Gilmore Girls

I feel it is time to speak of Gilmore Girls. Mainly because I just watched three TiVoed episodes back-to-back. To-back.

I like Gilmore Girls. Perhaps that's the first subject I should broach. I do. I like it. I have since day one. Admittedly, I only watched on day one because of star (and future Object of My Affection -- well, past, present, and future OoMA, but future in the sense that I haven't yet actually put her picture on the sidebar in the OoMA spot) Lauren Graham. I loves me some Lauren Graham. She makes me go like this: ggrRR-RR-ROWWWwll. She maketh me to lie down in green pastures; she leadeth me beside still waters. She's smokin' hot, is my point, I guess.

What good fortune that the rest of the show should turn out to be pretty darn good, too. The first season was almost uniformly fantastic, and I was solidly hooked.

Every season after the first, though, has been playing a game of catch-up, with varying success. A lot of it has to do with the rotating cast of significant others for mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. There was that season where Rory was dating Jess -- oh, he was awful. Then there was Max for Lorelai -- he was all right, actually, but the relationship just dragged on for so long, and then ended so abruptly and poorly. And then Chris Eigeman was there for a season -- what was that all about? And now Rory's dating Logan, who is five times as obnoxious as Jess ever was. And what should have been the best relationship of the show's run has turned into one of the least successful, in my eyes, anyway: Luke and Lorelai, together at last.

From the first episode, we knew those crazy kids had to end up together. But I never expected their hook-up ultimately to be so chemistry-free. It's very rare the two characters seem to be connecting on-screen; they seem mostly to talk at each other, rather than with each other. A lot of that may have to do with rumors that the two actors don't much care for each other off-screen (or more specifically, according to most of the rumors, that she doesn't care for him). Keep that in mind next time you watch an episode. Then watch how often they kiss. This is supposedly a couple very much in love, soon to be married. But they kiss less often than Frank and Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond. Compare them to other romantic TV couples -- Sam and Diane, Monica and Chandler, frickin' Dharma and Greg. They were always smoochin' it up. But on the rare occasions when Luke and Lorelai kiss, it seems as though they are fulfilling their contractually-obligated minimum kiss requirement for the episode. Think of the episode after Lorelai asked Luke to marry her. They didn't kiss for like, half an hour afterward. They hardly touched each other. Dude, you get engaged, you think there'd be some lip-locking. I'm just sayin'.

Above and beyond the way the actors do or don't connect, the characters don't seem to like each other very much. She's always bullying him into doing some stupid, annoying thing he hates (but then, she does that to everybody, which is not nearly as endearing as the writers seem to think it is); on the other hand, he hates everything. On the recent Valentine's Day episode, the couple went on a romantic getaway to Martha's Vineyard, and Luke spent the entire time bitching and complaining. I was glad that she finally called Grumpy McFrownsalot on it, but he does that every episode. On the other other hand, if I had to live with someone who, say, made up gigantic lists of handyman work for me to do at her bed & breakfast, without pay, without asking, when I actually have my own business to run, thank you very much... I might be grumpy, too.

So, anyway, that's been bugging me. This whole season has been bugging me, really. I would say it's the least successful season of the show yet. It just seems like one long series of misssteps, from the actor who plays that jackass Logan being promoted from guest star to full-time castmember, to the sudden appearance of Luke's previously unknown 12-year-old daughter (and of all the obstacles the show has thrown in the way of Luke and Lorelai's relationship, that is the most ridiculous), to the increasingly forced and unfunny insane obsession and bitchiness of Paris, who used to be my favorite character, to the near-complete disappearances of Lane, who is allegedly Rory's best friend in the world, and Michel, who has been a primary castmember from the beginning, but who seems to appear in the show less frequently these days than former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, to, worst of all, the agonizingly drawn-out rift between Lorelai and Rory, which dragged the show down to its lowest point ever. It's not that a falling-out between the two characters was impossible, or even dramatically unsatisfying, it's how long it went on. Maybe the extended duration was meant to add to the realism of the dispute between the two, but when your show is built primarily on the relationship between mother and daughter, to have those characters not speak to each other for half a season is a mistake, plain and simple.

There have been reports that the show's creator doesn't want to continue with Gilmore Girls after this, its sixth season, and that maybe she doesn't want the show to continue at all. With the merger of the WB and UPN into one network, the CW, which will need an established success or two for next year's schedule, it seems very unlikely Gilmore Girls won't be back, but still -- I don't think that's such a terrible idea. The show may very well have run its course. It hasn't all been downhill since the first season, despite my complaints; it's had plenty of high points throughout its run -- though none really stand out from this season -- which is why I'm still watching, six years later. But the show seems to have lost its focus and momentum to the extent that, rather than continuing down wrong paths, maybe it would be best off finishing this season with a bang -- big wedding, whatever -- and just letting it end.

Monday, February 20, 2006

TV: Torino 2006

I finally watched some of the Olympics this weekend, and as always, I got completely swept up in something I couldn't otherwise imagine myself being even slightly interested in. In 2002, it was curling (which turned me into a permanent fan). In 2006, it's the biathlon. That's the event that combines cross country skiing with sharpshooting. It's just so damn random! Next Olympics, it'll be boardbowling: snowboard the halfpipe, then bowl a strike. Or skatedogging: you speed skate ten laps, then have a hot dog eating contest.

Anyway, in the biathlon, the announcers were all crazy for some Norwegian guy who's won five gold medals, and who made a huge comeback from an earlier round to take the lead in the final. But then some random French dude comes out of nowhere and passes him in the final sprint to take the gold. Whoopee, right? And yet, there I was, absolutely riveted, literally on-the-edge-of-my-seat excited about the outcome of this crazy event.

That's the beauty of the Olympics. It generates excitement and interest far beyond what would normally be expected. I had no home country rooting interest at all; I think the top American competitor finished 36th. But for nearly an hour, I was glued to the set, breath caught in my throat, watching the men's 12.5 km biathlon pursuit, praying that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen could hold off Vincent Defrasne in the home stretch.

I didn't watch much else. Some speed skating qualifying runs, some hockey (which not even the Olympics can really get me interested in, unless it's USA vs. the USSR in 1980). On Sunday I watched a little of the downhill skiing, and finally saw that nifty camera trick I've been hearing about, where they superimpose footage of the leader's run over the current competitor's run, so you can see exactly where their runs differ, and how just the slightest error can result in that fraction of a second loss. Now that is an awesome use of technology.

Then I fell asleep to ice dancing, which goes to show not everything about the Olympics is thrilling.

Still haven't watched any curling, but I've got some recorded on the TiVo. I can't wait to check it out!

UPDATE! As if curling weren't already awesome enough: Women of Curling Nude Calendar. I'm grateful to Greg at Delenda Est Carthago for the link, even though he's a Communist for not liking curling. Actually, even Communists like curling! Greg Burgas: worse than Commies.

Friday, February 17, 2006

TV: Potpourri

Last week I was all amped for the Olympics, and the awesome coverage I was going to provide on this here blog, for you, my adoring devotees.

Here's what I've seen of the Olympics:

Nuttin'. Big zilch. Not one second. Not even curling, which, as you know, I love a truly inexplicable amount.

Not really sure why I haven't been watching. No special reason, I guess, other than I haven't gone out of my way to catch it. I could TiVo some of it, I suppose, but my TiVo is always full to bursting as it is; adding a couple two-hour chunks o' Torino would play havoc with my saved programs, causing some to get deleted before I have time to watch them. Yes, it's a chore, having so very much TV to watch, and so precious little time.

From what I hear, I haven't missed an awful lot. The Americans have won, like, what, two bronzes? All our guys keep getting DQ'ed! All the hyped-up superstars are coming up goose eggs. Like Michelle Kwan -- it's just sad. She shouldn't have even been there in the first place, and now that she's had to pull out, the only thing she's going to be remembered for is never getting the gold. And her future Playboy pictorial, which I predict will be in three and a half years, just in time to promote Vancouver 2010.

One reason I might have been missing the Olympics, come to think of it, is how much time I've spent watching the Battlestar Galactica DVDs with a buddy. Time well spent, I have to say; he's completely, hopelessly hooked.

Rewatching the previous seasons, it's amazing to note how well every episode flows from one to another. It's truly like a single story broken up into chapters. Which is what has disappointed me about the second half of season two. After the Pegasus storyline from the cliffhanger ending to the first half of the season was wrapped up, the show has kind of meandered about, telling self-contained stories which don't advance the overarching major storyline(s), and which have seen most of the supporting cast disappear into the background. And when they do show up, they get shot. (BIIILLLLLLYYYYY!!!)

Jacob, the recapper of BSG at Television Without Pity seems to have information that the show will go back to kicking huge amounts of ass starting with episode 18; unfortunately, tonight's episode is only 17. [EDIT: Having watched it now, I can report that it still kicked a whole LOT of ass.] Also, Jacob is a Cylon sympathizer (and the weird thing is, I'm not joking about that, and neither is he), so it's hard to take much of what he says as serious, or reliable. But this I'm inclined to believe. The show stepped back from forward momentum to kind of explore a bit with these past few episodes, I think, and it's been... not entirely successful. But once they get back into the groove of things, I don't doubt this show is going to rock all our faces once again.

Anyone remember Space: Above and Beyond? I've talked about it here before, and suggested that it has to have been an influence on BSG. After the episode before last of BSG, I'm more sure of that than ever. That episode, called "Scar," featured the hunt for a mysterious, seemingly invincible enemy ship that would stalk and surprise the good guys, destroying them before they even knew what hit them, and which had grown into legend in the fleet, and was given a nickname: Scar. In S:A&B, the episode "The Angriest Angel" featured the hunt for a mysterious, seemingly invincible enemy ship that would stalk and surprise the good guys, destroying them before they even knew what hit them, and which had grown into legend in the fleet, and was given a nickname: Chiggie von Richthofen.

A quick Google search shows I'm not the first person to have made that connection. Frankly, if you've ever seen that episode of S:A&B, the similarities are undeniable. Tribute? Or lazy writing on BSG? You make the call!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sidebar Update

A belated update this week. Preparing for yesterday's 100 Things I Love About Comics post took up too much time (and it's not even properly finished yet!).

Following last week's Object of My Affection, Katee Sackhoff, is another Battlestar Galactica babe: Dana Delany, guest star on last Friday's episode. Not that that's the first time I became aware of her; like every other non-Communist heterosexual male in America, I became infatuated with her as the tough and sexy Colleen McMurphy on China Beach. Then, of course, Satan answered my unholiest prayers, as she starred as the frequently-naked dominatrix queen in Exit to Eden, a truly, truly awful movie which I couldn't possibly love more. And as if that weren't great enough, then she became the voice of Lois Lane on the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm Superman animated series. Nerd heaven! And on Battlestar last week, she showed she's still as lovely as ever. And can you believe this: she'll be turning fifty in one month. Damn.

Still reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. And still watching Battlestar Galactica. We're up to season 2.0 now. Just two episodes left, and my friend will be stranded without new episodes until the Sci-Fi Channel starts rerunning the second half of this season. Bummer.

Listening to a classic: They Might Be Giants, Flood. A great album from start to finish, and my favorite by one of my favorite groups. Does make me feel a little old, though, when I hear the opening track herald "a brand-new record for 1990." Sixteen years ago? Yikes!

The Hating image is an actual screenshot from Yahoo's news links yesterday. The White House is making jokes about Cheney shooting a 78-year-old man in the face, just an hour before the dude has a heart attack, caused by a pellet lodged next to his heart... which got there because, oh, yeah -- the Vice President shot him. Hey, they say laughter is the best medicine, right?

The Lyric of the Week is from William Shatner and Joe Jackson's amazingly rockin' cover of "Common People." I might have to get that whole Shatner album. And finally, there's a new Wit and Wisdom of Barney. Hint: "burlesque entertainment"="stripping."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

COMICS: 100 Things I Love About Comics, Version 2.0

If it's Valentine's Day, it must be time for some love: 100 Comics-Related Things I Love!

I was ill-prepared for last year's Valentine's Day gift to the world of comics (in fact, it was posted a week after Valentine's Day, if you want to quibble). And I swear I actually made a certain amount of preparation for this year's list -- but apparently not nearly enough, as I'm still gathering links and images for the project. And trying to make sure I didn't duplicate any items -- I know some of the names from last year's list appear on this one, too, but they're all associated with different projects. (I think.)

But I'm not going to let that stop me! Here's the no-frills (or very few frills), but on-time, version. I'll keep adding more links and images, until it looks so super-keen you'll want to kill yourself. And thanks to Mike, who may not have been the one to originate this idea, but who inspired me to do mine (and who has probably been planning this year's list since last February 15). It's refreshing to concentrate on only positive things to say about comics. Does a body good!

1. The best %$#?!! bar in the multiverse!

2. Jim Aparo's Batman, my favorite version of the character.

3. Fred Hembeck's knee spirals. (In his art, not on his body!) (Presumably.)

4. Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim.

5. Ivan Brunetti's Schizo.

6. Kyle Baker's The Cowboy Wally Show.

7. The Flash on Justice League Unlimited (as voiced by Michael Rosenbaum).

8. Chris Ware's Building Stories.

9. Jeffrey Rowland's Overcompensating.

10. Mike Allred's Madman.

11. Matt Wagner's Mage.

12. Matt Wagner's Grendel.

13. DC's Showcase Presents library, especially the Jonah Hex volume.

14. Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Luke Ross' Jonah Hex.

15. Jonah Hex, period. (I'm going through kind of a phase right now.)

16. Looking forward to reading Los Bros. Hernandez's Love & Rockets. (I know, it's a crime that I haven't read any of it yet, but look at it this way: don't you envy me the experience of reading it for the first time?)

17. Rich Burlew's The Order of the Stick.

18. R. Crumb's cover art for Big Brother & the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills album.

19. Ham the Weather Wizard (from Mike Baron's Badger).

20. Bizarro.

21. Renensco P. Blue (from Evan Dorkin's Pirate Corp$/Hectic Planet).

22. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead.

23. Robert Kirkman's Invincible.

24. Phoney Bone (from Jeff Smith's Bone).

25. Dan Slott & Ty Templeton's Spider-Man/Human Torch.

26. Big Time Attic.

27. More of Linda Medley's Castle Waiting coming soon!

28. Charles Schulz's Patricia Reichardt. (Don't tell me you didn't know that was Peppermint Patty's full name!)

29. Andy Weir's Casey & Andy.

30. PvP's Blamimations.

31. Peter David's Strong Guy.

32. Bill Willingham's Fables.

33. Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris' Ex Machina.

34. Molly's facial expressions, as drawn by Adrian Alphona in Runaways.

35. Garth Ennis' Kevin.

36. Knobby, Chuck, and Go-Go (from Root Nibot and Colleen Coover's Banana Sunday).

37. Greg Mannino and Mark Masterson's Dorothy.

38. Jeff Nicholson's Colonia.

39. Scrooge McDuck.

40. Carl Barks.

41. Don Rosa.

42. Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke's Catwoman.

43. Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier.

44. Joe Kubert.

45. The idea of Green Lantern (but very rarely the execution).

46. The main exception to the above: Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire's Guy Gardner.

47. Artie Simek and Sam Rosen, letterers extraordinaire.

48. Phil Foglio's Buck Godot.

49. Terence Stamp as the voice of Jor-El on Smallville.

50. Tom Beland's True Story, Swear to God.

51. EC Comics.

52. John Severin.

53. Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine's The Middleman.

54. Art Adams.

55. Steve Rude.

56. Flint Henry.

57. The Death of Captain Marvel.

58. The Death of Jean DeWolff.

59. The Death of Kraven the Hunter.

60. "By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!"

61. Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's Fantastic Four.

62. Paul Chadwick's Concrete.

63. Brian Wood and Rob G's The Couriers.

64. Kerry Callen's Halo and Sprocket.

65. Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules.

66. Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount's Scurvy Dogs.

67. Zodon (from Aaron Williams' PS238).

68. Ruthie (from Rick Detorie's One Big Happy).

69. That Paris Hilton has nothing to do with comics... yet.

70. Ruben Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug.

71. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (even if I can't afford it, I just like knowing it exists).

72. MODOK.

73. William Messner-Loebs.

74. Sam Keith.

75. Dale Keown.

76. Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's Fell.

77. Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary.

78. The Incredible Hulk's classic brick logo.

79. Steve Gerber and Brian Hurtt's Hard Time.

80. Pretending I'm killing the industry by purchasing trades.

81. The Chainsaw Vigilante (especially Zander Cannon's short-lived spinoff series).

82. Patrick Warburton as the Tick.

83. Jarella's world in The Incredible Hulk, especially the original, Harlan Ellison-inspired story, "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom."

84. Dreadstar (more the Peter David version than the Jim Starlin -- blasphemy!).

85. Mike Baron and Kelley Jones' Deadman.

86. Getting a letter printed in a comic.

87. Ron Lim.

88. Marvel's nicknames for its creators, back in the day.

89. The bizarre, illogical, and often cruel nature of Superman, especially regarding his relationship to Lois Lane, back in the day.

90. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman.

91. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "For the Man Who Has Everything."

92. The Batcave's giant penny.

93. The Fortress of Solitude's giant key.

94. Grant Morrison's Animal Man.

95. Dave McKean.

96. Reading comics in public and not giving a damn what people around you think about it.

97. Peter Bagge's The Adventures of Bat Boy.

98. The fact that Barry Allen and Wally West both got their Flash powers by being showered with chemicals that had been struck by lightning. (While holding a winning lottery ticket.)

99. Comic Book Guy's Book of Pop Culture.

100. "Excelsior!"

Monday, February 13, 2006

TV: TV Gal

Very quick post to note that I got name-checked in this week's TV Gal column at Zap2it.com, for suggesting a Quote of the Week. Unsurprisingly, it is the very same quote currently found on my sidebar under the inaugural edition of The Wit and Wisdom of Barney: "Ted, the only reason to wait a month for sex is if the girl is 17 years 11 months old."

Also, finally watched the two-hour season (series?) finale of Arrested Development. Bittersweet in its hilarity, with the knowledge that these are likely the last four episodes which will ever be produced of one of the funniest shows in the history of television. If it is the end, it's a very fitting and satisfying one, bringing the series full circle.

That's it. Told you it was a quick post!

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I've noticed that Zombie Tom has recently begun posting again. You might want to check it out while you can. Who knows how long before he'll go back underground? (Literally.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

COMICS: Schizo vs. Or Else

This week I picked up the new, gigantic issue of Ivan Brunetti's Schizo, and issue #3 of Kevin Huizenga's mini-comic Or Else. I've long been a fan of Brunetti's; I picked up Huizenga's book after reading favorable reviews online. Reading them back-to-back (Or Else first), I couldn't help but compare the two, and I have to say, Huizenga's work came off a very distinct loser in that match-up.

I'm not necessarily talking about the relative size or packaging of the two books, although certainly that's something worth looking at. Schizo is a huge 11" x 15", 32 pages of content (counting inside and outside covers) in full color, for $9.95. Or Else is 4.5" x 5.75", 40 pages of black & white content (plus two color pages on the inside covers), for $3.50. Schizo is imposing and impressive, a bold and weighty book to behold. Or Else has a nice cardboard stock cover, making it more durable than the usual mini-comic, and the cover is attractive, but it looks and feels disposable, which isn't what you want when you plunk down tree-fitty. I'm not sure why Huizenga went the mini-comic route instead of standard size, considering the price, and considering it's not self-published, but rather printed by Drawn and Quarterly.

With this issue of Schizo, Brunetti takes a huge leap forward from most of his previous work, which has majorly consisted of extremely sick and filthy (but extremely funny) short strips and gags. This issue consists almost entirely of single page strips, with an emphasis less on crude gags and more on crafting brief cohesive narratives. The strips fall into three basic categories: autobiographical shorts, filled with the self-loathing, depression, and rage we've come to expect from Brunetti; reflections on art and its creation; and bio-strips about artists, filmmakers, musicians, philosophers.

Brunetti doesn't just reflect on art, he experiments with it here. His style is constantly changing throughout the comic (the contents were created between 1999 and 2005, and are presented chronologically), growing cleaner and simpler as it progresses. Brunetti's line becomes razor-sharp. His characters lose their features; their arms and legs devolve into sticks in the latter strips. In the next-to-last strip in the book (a bio-strip of film producer Val Lewton), the characters have been simplified to icons, with perfectly round heads and perfect little dots for eyes. And the format of many of the strips are bold and unique; one strip is fashioned in the form of Brunetti's house; a strip on Mondrian has the panel structure and coloring of a Mondrian original; another strip, depicting the process of cartooning, is sketched in rough pencils. And the coloring throughout is striking, from white lines on a scarlet background, to monochromatic schemes, to soft pastels, to sharp-contrast black and white.

The front cover is a fantastic piece created following Charles Schulz's retirement, respectfully reflecting on the importance of Peanuts, both artistically and culturally. "Peanuts is an epic haiku," Brunetti says, drawing himself in the style of Charlie Brown. "Peanuts offers us a simple, beautiful, empathic glimpse into the human condition." It's a touching, honest, and insightful tribute. It really sets the tone for the rest of the book -- it shook my expectations of a Brunetti comic, and signaled a maturity and thoughtfulness I hadn't found in his previous work. And the remainder of the book continually surprised and delighted me, whether with an amusingly told anecdote about Harpo Marx, taken from Groucho's autobiography, or a hate-filled rant that is turned upside-down by a simple act of kindness and gratitude.

I loved this book. It's already a contender for best single comic of 2006.

Or Else, to me, shows what a fine line there is between success and failure. Huizenga covers a lot of the same ground that Brunetti does -- there are a couple of autobiographical stories, split up by a three-page adaptation of a passage from Franz Kafka's Diaries, and concluding with bizarrely out-of-context prose passages taken from various sources (such as Boys, Beauty, and Popularity Featuring Alyssa Milano, which I have to admit was pretty hilarious). But Brunetti's take on a similar kind of material felt original and vital to me; Huizenga's work strikes me as banal and insignificant.

Part of that comes with the kind of stories Huizenga is telling, concerning banal and insignificant things -- phone conversations, work anecdotes. Even the opening story, a brief look at his mother's (or the narrator's mother -- whether these strips are presented as straight autobiography or as character sketches is hard to tell) battle with cancer, comes across as pointless and uninteresting. It closes in a style that seems all-too-familiar to me from the world of indy bio-comics, a last line significant in its insignificance, as though the powerful emotions of the story won't allow Huizenga/the narrator to speak of anything of any import. "Then Mom and I watch 'The Negotiator,' with Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, and dad falls asleep." It's a dull, empty wrap-up to a story that lacked any kind of emotional resonance it should have had.

The longest piece in the book is about Huizenga's struggle with an ethical dilemma at work: whether or not to use the phrase "Fashionably Zen" on promotional materials he's been instructed to type up. The whole dilemma is a tempest in a teapot, but I think it really illustrates Huizenga's immaturity as an artist. He truly battles with himself as to whether or not he's going to write this silly phrase or quit instead, blowing everything up to the point where he basically equates giving in on this to contributing to the destruction of the environment, and imagines some kind of connection between him and his cushy job, with its simple tasks, and the factory workers in Asia who slave over the cheap bracelets he's supposed to be selling.

There's nothing inherently wrong with examining minutiae, like Huizenga does with this story, and expanding it to encompass a larger reality; Nicholson Baker, for example, has often done so brilliantly. Brunetti does so successfully in Schizo. But Huizenga completely fails to gather me in with this story, or any of this comic book; he can't convince me that his petty workplace travails carry any weight at all. I almost wonder if he's trying to make a larger point, about the grandly inflated self-importance every individual gives to their personal experiences, but then he closes with this faux-deep insight (tying back in again with his seeming belief that his "Fashionably Zen" dilemma is destroying the world): "I have seen it with my own eyes: everything gets covered with asphalt. But I noticed at this job we all had nature pictures on our desktops." Please. Get over yourself, and grow up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Emergency Object of My Affection Post

So today I'm reading Logan's House of the Ded blog, as I am wont to do. And in reference to the DVD release of Hearts Afire, I see that Logan has made the following comment, and I quote:

Markie Post sucks.
Markie Post sucks? Markie Post sucks???

This Markie Post??

All praise to Markie


Our Markie, who art in heaven




Okay, okay, calm down, Tom, calm down. Maybe Logan didn't mean it. Maybe he was hit in the head with a crowbar and has suffered severe brain damage, which is about the only possible reason in the world I can imagine anyone ever saying anything as blasphemous as "MARKIE POST SUCKS"!!

GRRRRRR!! I need another shot of Markie to restore my calm.

Forgive him, Markie, for he knows not what he does

That's better.

I tell you what, Logan. I'm feeling in a generous mood. I will let you live. If -- and only if -- the glory that is Markie Post concurs. Markie? What say you?

Tough but fair

Sweet, terrible vengeance

Sorry, dude. I tried.

In light of recent events concerning Danish cartoons, I feel I must say: please, nobody actually kill Logan. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Movie Madness!

First, a note: I added another little bit to the sidebar. Find and enjoy.

I've seen a lot of movies recently, but haven't bothered mentioning any of them here. Time to rectify that situation. IT'S MOVIE REVIEW SPEED ROUND! (Many possible spoilers ahead.)

My Big Fat Independent Movie: Starred Paget Brewster, which is the main reason I rented it. An Airplane-style comedy taking on all the indie film successes of the last 15-20 years or so (such as Pulp Fiction, The Good Girl, Swingers, El Mariachi, Memento, and of course My Big Fat Stupid Unfunny Greek Wedding), it covered an impressive amount of territory, but was way more miss than hit. Mainly because Paget Brewster is pretty much the only real actor in the movie.

Cry Wolf: A surprisingly clever, if minor, teen slasher film. I mostly guessed where it was going, but I enjoyed the journey. I'd like to see what the director does next. Features Gary Cole in a small role, which is always a good thing, but he's inexplicably playing British. His accent needs work. Also: Bon Jovi!

Broken Flowers: Man, I dig Jim Jarmusch, but his films do require patience. Watched it with a friend, and we both liked it a lot, but we decided to make up a drinking game to go with it. "Every time we watch someone in the distance walk silently for farther than the width of the screen, take a drink," I suggested. My buddy was more direct: "Every time there's a pointless scene, take a drink." We took many drinks. But again: still really liked the movie. And what a cast! Just amazing from top to bottom.

Flightplan: Despite my reservations, almost seemed like it might be decent for a while. But then Jodie Foster went over the top, from intriguing psychological breakdown to scenery-chewing nutso, and of course all her mania wound up being justified in the end. She wasn't going crazy, the bad guy was pulling a Gaslight on her! I completely lost interest at that point. Not that I had much interest before that; I was mostly just predicting the plot as it went along. "There's the bad guy." "Jodie's husband didn't commit suicide, he was murrrrrrdered." "The bad guy smuggled something onboard the plane in her husband's coffin." When she somehow finds a cubbyhole on the plane which is magically immune from being BLOWN UP, SIR! by a gigantic explosion, I thought the film had gotten as bad as it could possibly get. No, wait -- the Arab she accused of being a terrorist makes pals with her in the end. Now it's as bad as it can possibly get.

The Squid and the Whale: Man, I thought this was supposed to be a comedy. It is funny, very funny in spots, but it's the kind of comedy where you have to cover your eyes and shake your head and mutter, "Oh, Jesus." Brutal stuff, about a truly messed-up family, centering around the bitter break-up of the parents. The comedy, and the pain, work to great effect because it all feels so absolutely real. I love Laura Linney an insane amount, and she's very good here, but this film is owned by Jeff Daniels, who rocked my world. Just a simple "Don't be difficult" from him is razor-sharp. After seeing this, I'm amazed he hasn't won every acting award of the year. Great stuff.

The Matador: Pierce Brosnan as an assassin who's losing his edge, and Greg Kinnear as the regular Joe he befriends. Plus Hope Davis as Kinnear's wife -- like Gary Cole, Hope Davis is always a good thing. I wonder if they've ever been in a movie together? (Research reveals: not yet.) I forget how good Kinnear can be, how much I like him, and he's a treat here, but Brosnan -- I knew he could act, but I don't think he's ever been better. He's great, funny and sad, always on the edge of doing something dangerously, stupidly self-destructive. Loved it.

I'm sure there are a few movies I'm forgetting right now, but that's good enough for the time being.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sidebar Update

I removed the "Borderline-Stalking" joke from the "Object of My Affection" heading. You can all just take it for granted, I guess. Especially with this week's mega-nerd crush, Katee Sackhoff, who plays Starbuck in the new Battlestar Galactica. I've liked her since she was on the little-seen show The Education of Max Bickford, with Richard Dreyfuss, but she's really blown me away on Galactica, which, despite the last two relatively weak episodes, remains very nearly the best drama on television.

Speaking of which, I recently managed, after a long time of trying, to get a friend of mine to watch the Galactica mini-series which preceded the regular series, and it totally hooked him into the show, just like I knew it would. I plan on watching the DVDs of season one with him in the coming weeks. Yay for me!

I recently once again gave up trying to read Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, and now I find myself trying to tackle Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, another epic period piece from your local book store's Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. I fear I'll get a few dozen pages into it, like it a lot, and put it down and not pick it up again, like I did with Quicksilver. We'll see.

Have I mentioned this album before? I bought Kathleen Edwards' Back to Me for my brother-in-law for Christmas, and he let me copy it, and I have to say, it's pretty fantastic. I'm not sure how to properly classify her music; "alt-country" is the term I see used most often, and I guess that's as good as any. I've also read a number of comparisons to Lucinda Williams, which may or may not also be appropriate. I just know I like it. Fantastic lyrics, some upbeat and rocking, some hauntingly sad and beautiful. If I were to make my own comparison, I might suggest some of Neil Young's more acoustic-y albums, like Harvest and After the Gold Rush. Good stuff. And her first album, Failer, is supposed to be even better.

The Hating category returns, this week featuring the NFL, who invited the Rolling Stones to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, then bleeped two of their three songs. Apparently, the Stones were aware in advance that this would happen, but it still seems stupid and cowardly to me. Why even ask someone to perform a song when you know you're too chicken to let them perform it uncut? A song that's been played uncensored on the radio for almost 25 years, by the way. Why bother? Or at least why not ask them to play any of their 800 other hits instead?

And Lyric of the Week is XTC's "Your Dictionary," a surprisingly light and funny song about an abusive relationship. "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell love in your dictionary?"

Friday, February 03, 2006

Random Hatred

Via Go Fug Yourself.

This guy was engaged to Paris Hilton. His name is also Paris (or, as GFY call him, Man Paris). Man Paris has a bajillion skillion dollars. And yet he dresses like this:

Man Paris

For some reason, this makes me want to punch him in the head SO HARD.

Is that wrong?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sidebar Revamp

Quick note for Object of My Affection fans: on Lisa Loeb's new reality/dating show, #1 Single, in the first episode she flashes her bra, and in the second episode she parades around in a thong (thanks to Phil for alerting me to that link). She'll be going hardcore by episode four.

I knew there was a reason I was TiVoing that show.

I revamped the sidebar. I removed the links to Blogcritics, since I haven't posted there in several months. Mainly because the staggering majority of comments to my posts there have been left by imbeciles. And no moderation of comments is allowed by the original poster, nor undertaken by those allegedly responsible for running the site. I'm all for a healthy debate, but when a dozen people just call me "homo" or any of a hundred other (mostly misspelled) insults because I gave a mediocre review to Prison Break... well, let's just say I don't need to be part of Blogcritics anymore.

I also removed the list of every TV show I reviewed for the Fall 2005 season. I've left a link on the sidebar to an archived post that contains the entire list, if anyone's still curious what I thought of Freddie. (Hint: it sucks ass.) I may also be adding more links to other posts which have been popular, or which have been personal favorites of mine, such as my liveblogging of the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Oscars, and my epic coverage of the 2004 Olympics.

Coming soon: my epic coverage of the 2006 Olympics. I've got two words for you: CURLING, BABY!!

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