Sunday, November 11, 2007

Comics 11-14-2007

Here we go . . .

All-Star Superman #9
Batman And The Outsiders #1
Green Arrow Black Canary #2
Nightwing #138 (GHUL)
Salvation Run #1 (of 7)
Superman Batman #42
Welcome to Tranquility #12

House of M Avengers #1 (of 5)
New Avengers #36
Nova #8
Punisher War Journal #13
World War Hulk #5

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Juggernaut

Or how I learned to stop rationalizing and embrace the New England Patriots as the best team in a decade. They beat the undefeated, reigning Super Bowl champions on the road while wracking up a team record in penalties. Down by 10 in the 4th quarter, their all-pro QB engineered two TD drives relying heavily on his hall-of-fame, worldbreaker WR, one Randy G Moss. Great players make great plays, so it has ever been, so it will ever be. The Colts were missing their HOF wideout Marvin Harrison and that has to count for something. However, in the AFC championship, I don't think MH is going to be the difference at Foxboro. There's no reason to think that NE won't be hosting the AFC championship and that they aren't going to the Super Bowl. Having beaten their three toughest opponents buy a combined score of 124-55, I'm comfortable to submit to NE. Now onto a couple of rants and raves related to the "Flying Elvii" (credit: Gregg Easterbrook)

Rant - Don Shula: at ease General. Never has one man done so little with so much (Dan Marino, John Unitas). It's understandable that he would cling to the value of his one pantheon level achievement, the 1972 undefeated Dolphins. That team's holes have been beaten [like a rented mule] for 35 years. Their annual drinks of champagne as the last undefeated team falls becomes more small minded as time goes by. The fact that most NFL observers don't even believe they were the best team of the 70s is more than enough for me. Let it go, old warhorse. Your place n Valhalla is already set, and it's one of high distinction if not the highest. Whether the last three SBs are tainted (and they are) is besides the point. The 2007 Pats have crushed everybody. The only taint is the smoking carcasses of their victims, I mean opponents.

Rave - 1998 Broncos: John Elway in '98 was like Brett Favre today, not as good as in his prime but still possessing game breaking ability (Pro Bowler in his final year of '98 btw). Along with Elway in the backfield was Terrell Davis running for 2000+ yards (NFL Offensive MVP). They had 7 Pro Bowl participants and had the #2 offense and #9 defense. The only better team statistically was the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings (that had one Randy G Moss), a team whose failure to make the SB is still a shock. By the way the one game the Vikings lost in the regular season, they lost by 3 points. The Broncos cruised to 14-2 and comfortably ambled through the playoffs. They were the defending champions and perfunctorily handled the overmatched Atlanta Falcons 34-17. Elway had a great peformance and got his Super Bowl MVP. We tend to overrate great teams while they are playing, see this article as a perfect example:,/
The point here is that the Pats are a great, great team, but win something first and then we'll coronate you. Going undefeated doesn't necessarily mean your #1 (see '72 Dolphins) in the hearts and minds of fans and players. The other point is that really great teams get forgotten very quickly and we often lack perspective when handing out superlatives. The Cowboys' of the early 90s and the 97-98 Broncos were stacked with all-pros, and as glitzy as 16-0 is, there's little to indicate that the 90s Cowboys couldn't drop the hammer on the '07 Pats. This is, of course, an assertion that must remain unproven, which makes it endlessly debatable. Thank God.

Finally, the Pats have played their schedule and they've pummelled the little guys and convincingly beat their two quality opponents. They are, right now, the alpha and the omega and the prohibitive SB favorites. Bet against them at your peril (also because betting is illegal).

In a bit.

American Gangster - Review

Warning: this is a sprawing, "epic", stream-of-consciousness piece on "American Gangster." To steal from Gregg Easterbrook, "Warning: May contain review-like substance."

Take two of the best actors of the last 25 years, Academy award winners to boot, a director who has a lot of scalps on the wall, a big budget and plenty of runtime (2:40) and what do you get? A solid if long movie. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are two of the most compelling on screen presences in recent history.

Washington's aura has grown over the last decade and he seems reluctant to leave its protective halo anymore. Russell Crowe is still the consummate acting professional. The man who played Jeffery Wigand, John Nash, Maximus and Richie Roberts is able to take on these persona completely. I don't see Russell Crowe playing characters, I see three dimensional characters who bear a striking resemblance to that actor Russell Crowe. Denzel is Denzel first, and has been for many years. One exception to this phenomenon was his role in "Philadelphia." Be that as it may the movies that AG most invite comparison to are "The Godfather" and "Scarface." The Godfather is rightly mythologized and straight comparisons are no longer possible. It's very dialogue and various scenes have become part of the American lingua franca, so we'll leave that one alone. Scarface is an apt comparison and one that AG actively seeks.

Start with the movie posters for both:
Clearly, we're inviting comparisons . Tony Montana is caught between the dark and the light (not really, but that's what the poster implies), Washington and Crowe are the dark and light respectively. Now here's my thought, if you invite the comparison be it on your head. For instance, don't call a movie Catwoman, bank on its cache with the fanboy crowd and then cry "it's just a movie and you get to see Halle Berry in a tight outfit" when they complain about how you've desecrated a rich, complex, formidable, empowered female character whose origin (Spring 1940) pre-dates Wonder Woman (Dec 1941). In that case call it "Killer Kitty" and be done with it.
Denzel Washington is playing with house money, he knows it and it shows. Half the battle for this actor is showing up and delivering with some professionalism. He does, and it works and moves along the piece, but it doesn't lift the movie. Even the violent scenes are curiously sterile, especially in comparison to what you'd see in Scarface. Washington's character "Frank Lucas" never feels embattled. One day he goes to Southeast Asia, befriends a drug baron and then in the next few scenes we see he's become wealthy beyond imagination. He opens up a club and meets and marries Ms. Puerto Rico played by Lymari Nadal. Their lack of on-screen chemistry is palpable, by the way. I'm sure the 24 year age difference between the actors doesn't help. It's not always Bogey and Bacall. To be fair, Lucas was around 15 years older than his bride to be when they met but in real life, clearly, they had chemistry, Washington & Nadal? Not so much.
We are told (not shown) that he has displaced the competition. Where was the epic rise to power? If you're making an epic length movie, give us an epic story, give us broad themes, multiple intertwining plots, an all encompassing story arc. We only get some of that.
Richie Roberts' story is more interestingly told. We see that an honest cop doesn't mean a good person, it just means you're an honest cop (that's rare apparently though, so let's give some credit for that). However, his honesty in a difficult environment also allows him to see truths, unpleasant or otherwise when presented. It's a kind of introspection that Lucas can never allow himself or his family, particularly his mother. Crowe brings all the nuance, complexity and ambiguity that is best about characters who aren't pure but are trying hard to do the right thing. It's a very solid performance and Crowe left it on the court.
When a movie seems to have all the pieces but doesn't quite come together or deliver as it feels it should, blame the director or the producer. The movie looks great, Harlem feels like it should in that era and no pains have been spared to make it look right. Ridley Scott has delivered a very good, solid and entertaining movie, but it's not going to knock on the movie pantheon. To reference my buddy when talking about A-Rod, "he's not just Hall of Fame, he's Justice League." This movie is hall of fame, but it's not Justice League.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Comics 11-7-2007

Here we go:

Countdown to Final Crisis #25
Jonah Hex #25
Robin #168 (GHUL)
Tranquility Armageddon #1 (Wildstorm)

Annihilation Conquest #1 (of 6)
Fantastic Four #551

Monday, October 29, 2007

Comics 10-31-2007

A quick weekend in Vegas always strengthens one's perspective on things. However, I still love comics and I want a Batman tattoo . . . the classic Batman #20 cover on my left deltoid sounds right.

Action Comics #858 - Gary Frank on art, that'll do quite nicely, thank you.
Batman #670 - art by Tony Daniel, hey Kubert was good but not playing to his strengths
Countdown to Final Crisis #26
DC Infinite Halloween Special #1 - I'm a sucker for holiday specials

Sub-Mariner #5 (of 6) - Last issue was fantastic. Bring on the continued adventures of the 1st true superhero comics anti-hero.

Dynamo 5 #8 - I'm tired of pastiches but the premise of this book is fantastic.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Comics 10-24-2007

A good week, not too heavy but not light.

Authority Prime #1 (of 6) - Might wait for a review on this one
Countdown #27
Gotham Underground #1 (of 7)
Green Arrow Year One #6 (0f 6) - an excellent year one tale
Green Lantern Corps #17 - Sinestro Corps storyline rule
Superman Batman #41
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime #1 - there's nothing in comics like a pre-Crisis Kryptonian, there is some confusion between Diamond's and DC's expected shipping list.

Cable and Deadpool #46 - Issue #50 is the series finale, too bad
Thunderbolts #117 - Norman Osborn is insane whether it's in 616 or Ultimate Universe
Ultimate Spider-Man #115
X-Men First Class #5 (ongoing series)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Baby On Board

I've had to take a few days off to work at my job (I know, outrageous!) so no original posts for a little bit longer. I do however, have a special treat. My good friend recently had a baby and I asked him for a few tips to pass along to another friend who is scheduled to have his first child in the very near future. I was expecting a paragraph of sensible but banal advice. What I got was far more enlightening and vastly entertaining. What follows below is unexpurgated and unedited and hilarious. Enjoy.

Honestly, simply that they should be prepared for the hardest 1-2 months they've likely ever had. I don't say that to be dramatic - it would have made a big difference to Vickie and myself if we had been similarly, and seriously, counseled. Yes, we had heard it as a throw-away description lots of times, and so treated it as such. Had someone gone into some details with us, we would have been better emotionally prepared for the challenge, and not doubted ourselves as much, which frankly made it more difficult.

In that vein, your friend should expect:
The baby will need to be fed every 2-3 hours. You _must_ sleep in between feedings whenever you can. This is all the more necessary as you will often have to change diapers, feed yourself, clean etc etc between many of those feedings. Get to sleep _whenever_ the opportunity presents itself.

The baby can (and likely will) lose weight in their first week of life as they learn to eat. This happened with Luke, and it was very painful and nerve-wracking for us. Keep at the feedings, and consult your pediatrician to keep your nerves steady. They're used to nervous first parents.

Beware Titler. that's what Valerie and I took to calling the "leche league" breast-feeding nazis. Don't know if the mother is planning to breastfeed. If she is, she should know it's a real challenge at first - a wholly new skill for both mother and newborn that takes practice; combine that with the baby's likely initial weight loss, and difficulties with feeding can be very demoralizing. We had a number of breakdowns over this. What you need then is emotional support, and if necessary, formula supplementation (though not with a bottle until a few weeks in, as a rubber nipple too early can confuse the baby, and then they won't take the breast). Unfortunately lactaction consultation attracts a _lot_ of rigid ideologues, for whom the answer to everything, including global warming and the Iraq insurgency, is that formula is unacceptable no matter what, that the problem is that "the baby's latch on the breast must not be right", and that it's somehow your fault. Seriously. If you need help with breastfeeding, talk to your pediatrician, get a _number_ of references to lactation consultants, and screen as many as necessary to find one with a compassionate and _flexible_ approach.

Prepare everything beforehand. Get all the materials you'll need for the first 1-2 months now. Crib, outfits, diaper supply, bottles, frozen TV meals, menus, the works. You want to make everything as easy as possible for those first challenging 1-2 months.

Daddy - Mom's going to need to recover for some time, especially as she's having a caesarian. You've got to step up and handle most everything outside feeding until she's mobile again. Suck it up until you can split the work evenly again - which even then won't be a big change at first, because feeding is a very, very big time commitment. Every 2-3 hours, each feeding can take 20 minutes or more (in our case, we had lots of feeding difficulties, and it could take over an hour to get enough food in Luke), you do the math.

Lastly - and this one I feel is the most-kept secret about your first kid: there will be lots of times when you have dark feelings and even dark thoughts in the first 3 months. Everyone (especially grandparents) always coos and raves about how wonderful it is to have a child, but bear in mind they're delirious about getting a new baby in their lives without the workload. This is definitely what Vickie and I were most unprepared for, and it can make you doubt yourself and feel like a very bad person. DON'T. It's perfectly normal. Consider:

The baby will not reward you with interaction - not even a hint of a smile - until about the 2nd or 3rd month. It's literally just a food tube that eats, pees and poos. On top of that, it screams - loudly - when it needs something. Mind you, what that something is will occasionally take some time to deduce, during which the screaming will not stop. You can't ask it what it needs, you can't ask it to stop.

Now add on top of that prolonged and intense sleep deprivation - the worst you've ever had - the anxiety over being a 'good' parent, and the near-total isolation from your normal life routine that makes you feel like you've given up everything for a demanding small mass of flesh that barely looks human and just won't stop screaming. Yes, that's written with some dramatic license, but it's what will go through your head occasionally.

To really drive the point home: at the hospital it was required before discharge that we watch a video about shaken-baby syndrome. That's the irreperable brain damage that a baby can suffer if shaken with any vigor. Our reaction at the time was: "My God, what awful people. how could someone do that? To your own child?".

Let me just say that the hospital required the video for good reason, and that after the first 2 months, our tone was different. I proudly say I'm a doting father who adores his boy, whose protection is paramount to me. But, as the video wisely counseled, there were times I had to walk away from the crib - just _walk_ away - and hit the wall or my chest or sigh or do whatever I had to do to take a pause, a break, to calm myself down, and so return to Luke calm and attentive to his needs. I don't think Valerie and I would ever shake him, but we understand why it happens - we _know_ the feelings that precipitate it. They're normal. You haven't slept more than 1-2 hour naps in a couple of weeks, seen anything of your heretofore "normal" life, done nearly anything for yourself, eaten take-out and frozen meals for weeks, and after changing a diaper and trying a feeding the baby still hasn't stopped their shrill, skull-drilling scream. It's _normal_ to sometimes get very, very upset, even angry, or doubt your own sanity. It's normal. Just walk away and come back after a few minutes to yourself to calm down.

And now, after that, some encouragement. It gets a ***lot*** better after the 2nd-3rd month. The baby eats less frequently. He _might_ start sleeping through the night. The frequency of poos, initially 5-6 times a day, dwindles to once a day, or even every 2-3 days (the pees keep a-comin).

And most wonderfully - your baby smiles. He magically transforms from a eat-poo-pee tube into a tiny person you can't get enough of. He smiles - for you! There's nothing better than walking into his room first thing in the morning, and he always smiles just because he's so excited to see his parents. And it only gets better from there (turning over, laughing, grabbing your face). The first 2-3 months will be a gauntlet, but they're really, really worth what's on the other side.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Comics 10-17-2007

Let's get to it . . .

Countdown #28
Fables #66
Justice League of America #14 - Dwayne McDuffie - one of the best writers in the biz
Shadowpact #18 - it's long way down after helping take out the Spectre of Vengeance

Captain America #31
Captain America Chosen #3 (of 6)
Mighty Avengers #5 - gorgeous art, long delays
X-Men Emperor Vulcan #2 - Vulcan killed Corsair, unacceptable

Invincible #46 - bring on the Daxamites, I mean Kryptonians, I mean Viltrumites.

In a bit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Roman Empire

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the perpetual drama of the Yankees

The Roman Empire has fallen, again. Right now there is much tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, and there should be. The poor decisions of management have come back to haunt the franchise and Joe Torre will have to bear the weight of having to manage a team which boasted pitching luminaries like: Jared Wright, Carl Pavano, Mike Mussina (he of the 3.96 ERA during his tenure with the Yankees), Kyle Farnsworth, a broken down Roger Clemens and other blunders which lie squarely on the shoulders of management, not the manager. When your best pitcher can't crack the league top 10 in ERA you have a problem. Torre is perpetually granted free passes by the New York media, and yet he has presided over three straight flameouts in the 1st round. Surely, he is somewhat culpable for this trend of under-performance?

The Alex Rodriguez watch begins in earnest. Will he stay or will he go? Yankee management's tone has struck a very reconciliatory note. The hardline Cashman had set earlier in the year is a thing of the past. Steinbrenner has made comments that he wishes to re-sign the slugger and perennial MVP candidate. It only makes sense. The man is a gold glove at multiple positions and one of the five best offensive players in the majors. He is on track to hit at least 700 home runs and in the next 6 seasons could challenge Bonds' career home run mark. If he's not the marquis player in the majors, he will certainly hold that position over the next five years. He will likely establish himself as the top draw in the game.

A-Rod didn't have an execrable playoff. Going 4 for 15 with one home run was better than almost everybody else on the team (notably Jeter) and nothing to wring your hands about. My guess is that A-Rod gets re-upped at $30 million a year and stays a Yankee. What's hilarious about all this, is that the fans who booed him mercilessly for the last few years, are trying to be as positive and encouraging as possible so as not to drive away A-Rod.

In a bit.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What's Moving The Needle? October 8, 2007

What's moving the needle this week? What's resonating with me from last week or just bears watching? Without further adieu:

Marion Jones - A lot of different reactions about the former track and field golden girl. Many folks in the media have commented on feelings of betrayal and others skepticism about the sincerity of the statements currently being made. Journalists seem to be going through the five stages of grief with respect to Ms. Jones. It's actually pathetic to watch the moaning and groaning. More on this later.

Apple Inc - In the last month the stock has gone up 20%, it's rise has been nothing short of remarkable consider the relative maturity of the company. Apple went public on December 12, 1980. It's run up in the past few months isn't unique for a company its age, but it isn't common. Apple has been left for dead many times. However, it should be noted that with the introduction of the iPod articles about "Is this the end of Apple?" are few and far between. The first iPod, which was Mac only, was introduced in 2001. Since then it's become ubiquitous. It's dominance of the portable digital media player is the equivalent of Windows dominance in the OS market, perhaps more so. The iPhone and the new iPod Touch represent further leaps forward. The stock seems like an expensive option, but people have said that for years. I think if you've been a shareholder for the last few years you can't wait to cash out but also must be conflicted about foregoing any potential huge gains in the future. That's a nice boat to be in.

The Yankees - Not dead yet. Despite the predictable post-season flameout of Roger Clemens, the Yankees rallied in a stirring win. This is a flawed team, with mediocre pitching but an excellent line-up. This line-up can victimize any staff, the problem is their pitching can be victimized just as easily. Yankee bats have been mediocre, most notably Jeter's. It's okay, Yankee fans give him a pass, perhaps deservedly, but it's clear that the entire focus of attention is A-Rod. That's how it should be. Jeter is a great star, an excellent player with a lot of post-season huzzahs. Rodriguez is, however, on the short list of the very best position players ever to lace 'em up.

The Patriots - They beat a mediocre Browns team convincingly. Next week is their first big test as they play the, as of now, undefeated Cowboys. In terms of the offense the single most important aspect has to be the fact that over five games Brady has been sacked three times. I would wager that Brady has the most time to deliver the ball of any quarterback in the NFL. Add that and the fact that he has a fearsome wideout corps and you can see why he's putting up career best numbers.

In a bit.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Comics 10-10-2007

Here we go . . .

Countdown #29 - Last week wasn't bad
Green Lantern #24 - I can't get enough Sinestro Corps
Stormwatch: PHD #12 - a fond adieu to this series, it was good while it lasted.

Fantastic Four #550 - Dwayne McDuffie is one of the best writers in comics.
New Avengers #35 - Still the Marvel flagship comic
Nova #7 - best series out out of Annihilation
Runaways #28 - hmm, feels like this is behind schedule in terms of shipping

In a bit . . .

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Treat It Gentle - Sidney Bechet

The Ovation network periodidcally broadcasts a documentary on the life of Sidney Bechet entitled "Treat It Gentle" a wonderful look on the man frequently touted as the first recorded jazz soloist. Bechet's first recordings preceded those of Louis Armstrong and as soloists they were peers. Armstrong's genius went beyond soloing which result in his being the singular figure in jazz. Bechet, well Bechet was his own worst enemy.

Bechet unlike Armstrong was an extremely difficult personality, temperamental and not averse to violence when it suited him. A mercurial human being alternating between charming and vicious he was still an unbelievable performer. To this day his work on the clarinet and soprano saxophone defies imitiation. The great ones all have a distinct voice on their instruments. Armstrong on the trumpet is a study in virtuosity, foot-stomping rhythm, and a gorgeous warm tone that seems like it should be the only way jazz trumpet should sound. Art Tatum's piano inspired disbelief in his fellow musicians, Fats Waller called him God and the Ray Charles biopic "Ray" has a wonderful scene where Ray Charles walks into a speakeasy and in hushed and awed tones asks "is that Art Tatum playing?" Bechet's tone is energetic but sensual. On fast numbers like "I've Found A New Baby" he wows fellow musicians with his techique, rhythm and fluidity. On slow numbers like "I've Got A Right To Sing The Blues" or "All of Me" he'll seduce you.

Bechet was born in 1897 and recorded throughout the 30s and spent much of his adult life in Paris. LIke many other Jazz luminaires of the early 20th century he was a victim of the institutional racism in the United States that prevented many from subsisting solely as professional musicians let alone accrue any measure of wealth. Jazz recorded in the 70s by such greats as Coltrane and Davis is far more attuned to the sensibilities of the contemporary jazz listener. Indeed, it's fair to say Coltrane and Davis inform the modern jazz listener's sensibility more than any other musicians. Bechet's music is a generation earlier than those two giants and is firmly entrenched in Dixieland, early Swing and New Orleans style jazz.

It takes getting used to as our ears and brain aren't as familiar with that style of play. At the same time as Bechet was pressing his first records, Louis Armstrong was recording the seminal Hot Fives and Hot Sevens sessions. If Armstrong had died after recording those works he'd still be considered the most important jazz musician of the era. However, it is Armstrong's later work recorded throughout the 50s and 60s that gets the most play and is more readily identified with him. Aficionados talk about "West End Blues" or "Heebie Jeebies" but everybody recognizes "Hello Dolly" and "What A Wonderful World."

So the next time you're looking to expand your musical taste (a constant goal for me) see if you can give a listen to some "Best of Sidney Bechet" collection, especially if it has some of the aforementioned earliers tracks.

In a bit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

MSG Sexual Harassment Suit - Update 2

The federal jury in the case of Madison Square Garden/Isiah Thomas vs Anucha Browne Sanders has determined that MSG must pay $11.6 million in damages to the former Knicks executive. Quoting from ESPN's website "THe jury found that the Garden owes $6 million for allowing a hostile work environment o exist and $2.6 million for retaliation. MSG chairman James Dolan owes $3 million." So, "go home and get your f***ing shine box."

Predictably, Isiah Thomas has stated his disappointment with the verdict and will appeal. Just as predictably, Anucha Browne Sanders has declared this a victory for all women and for all the people whose voices can't be heard. Hey, maybe she means it.

In a bit.

MSG Sexual Harassment Suit - Update

Quick follow-up to today's earlier post re: Isiah Thomas' legal woes, here's the link for the post:

Here's the latest from The Grey Lady with news of the verdict:

Bottom line: the Knicks and Isiah Thomas have been found guilty of sexually harassing Anucha Browne Sanders. The jury has decided that the Knicks owe punitive damages to Browne Sanders but Isiah Thomas does not. This is a partial victory for Thomas. In general, even highly compensated employees are covered under the general umbrella of their corporate employer so it's not an exoneration that Thomas will not be personally liable. Employers must take ultimate responsibility for the workplace environment and the "tone at the top." This principle of ultimate accountability exists in most organizations including the military.

One final note: there are two types of damages: punitive and compensatory (which is further broken into physical and non-physical). The judge will determine compensatory damages, and the jury will decide punitivie damages. Punitive damages are fully taxable as income. Non-physical compensatory damages are also taxable, though physical compensatory damages are not.

It's not clear to me what tools the judge and jurors will use in determining the damages.

In a bit.

What's Moving The Needle - October 1, 2007

What's moving the needle at the start of this week? This week, just 3 topics. Isiah Thomas,The Patriots and Batman.

Isiah Thomas - It's a hard name to spell for whatever reason. What is it about certain combinations of letters or digits that make them harder to remember? Well anyway, it seems that MSG network may have to wrestle with a digit that has 6 zeroes behind it with respect to punitive damages. Oh, snap! Of course, Mr. Thomas has a tremendous amount of egg on his face, but Anucha Brown Sanders demanded $6M to walk away from the suit. Ronald M. Green, lead counsel for MSG "pioneered the use of preemptive litigation in suing current and former employees, and others, who threaten to bring legal proceedings of an extortionate nature against the firm's clients. He also is an innovator in the use of the federal Declaratory Judgment Act to protect clients' business interests that may be at risk from disaffected employees."

A guy like this does not come cheap and neither is the overhead associated with such an expensive attorney. How long has this case been in courts and what about pre-trial work, what's been the billable cost of it? Mr. Green is a name partner at his firm Epstein Becker & Green P.C. ("EBG"), he could easily be charging $500 per hour. This trial and the pre-trial phase has been on for months, I wouldn't be surprised if EBG had run up billable costs near the $1M mark. All signs point to an unfavorable verdict and the question is how much the punitive damages will be.

Ms. Sanders is not the most sympathetic plaintiff, but it seems clear she was harassed by a superior, and to me, that's sympathetic enough. If punitive damages awarded are even near the $5M mark consider it a big loss for MSG. They will have paid out in tandem with billable costs the same amount as Ms. Sanders demanded to walk away from the suit. In addition this public trial has revealed that as bad as the Knicks may be on the court, the "back office" is in worse shape. Punch it up as another loss for the Knicks. Fans are used to this by now. James Dolan continues to make his case for one of the worst owners in sports.

The Patriots - Wow, let's cancel the season and give these guys the Belichick, I mean Lombardi trophy. It's hard for me to hear the breathless analysts talking about these teams since they seem to be tripping over each other to either fellate Favre or the Patriots. Before we coronate the Pats, let's note one thing. The combined record of the four teams they've played to this point have a 4-8 record NOT counting the losses the Pats handed to these teams, otherwise their combined record is 4-12. The winning percentage of the teams on their schedule for the rest of the year for games they've played this year is 47%, not counting the undefeated teams of the Colts and Cowboys it shrinks to 35%. This is a schedule almost worthy of the '72 Miami Dolphins. The next five games for the Pats will really determine whether they're a good team or a potential team for the ages. The upcoming 5 games pit them against teams that have accumulated a gaudy 12-7 record including undefeated Colts and Cowboys teams. If they get through that stretch 5-0, I'll put a Pat Patriot decal on my jalopy.

Having said that, 4 games into the season isn't a big enough sample size for any sort of prognostication. I'll take a look at Brett Favre's "revival" at the halfway mark and analyze what's up with Brady's Bunch after their game with the Colts (Game 9 of their season). The way both teams are playing, this will, undoubtedly be the big matchup of mid-season. It'll also clearly establish which team are the Super Bowl favorites, all things remaining the same.

All-Star Batman & Robin # 7 - I love this comic and normally, I would review it, however, a gentleman by the name of Stephen Schleicher over at his wonderful website has written a wonderful review that pretty much exactly states what I feel about this much read and much maligned series. That site in general is one of my most frequently visited, so if you love comics, it should definitely be a frequent update.

In a bit.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Comics 10-3-2007

Let's do this, sorry for the intermittent posting, I'm going to get back on a (minimum) daily schedule.

Countdown #30
Detective Comics #837
Green Lantern Corps #16 - best crossover going Sinestro Corps
JLA/Hitman #2 (of 2)
Jonah Hex #24
Nightwing #137
The Question: Zen & Violence (the breakout character of the show Justice League Unlimited)
Scalped #10 - This is written by Jason Aaron and has gotten a lot of love within comics. So much so that Marvel had him do a standlone issue of Wolverine (#56 or #55) with Howard Chaykin on pencils which was excellent.

Nothing! - That might be a first

In a bit. More coming . . .

Monday, September 24, 2007

Comics 9-26-2007

Okay, let's get rolling, anything in boldface is what I really want to read.

All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder #7
Batman #669 - Morrison' run just hasn't been what I had hoped in terms of impact.
Countdown #31
Green Arrow Year One #5 (of 6)
JLA Classified #43
Justice League of America #13
Spirit #10

Savage Dragon #132 - Special edition going for $6.99, let's just say I'm intrigued.

Cable & Deadpool #45
Captain America Chosen #2
Franklin Richards: Monster Mash - Eliopoulous channels Bill Waterson as well as anyone
Sub-Mariner #4 (of 6) - Classic cliffhanger at the end of #3, can't hardly wait.
Ulitmate Spider-Man #114 - is Immonen chanelling his inner Bagley, this is two issues in one month!
X-Men First Class Vol 2 #4

In a bit.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Jena 6

Ahh, the South. It is the home of sweet tea, bbq, and a brand of racism that Dave Chappelle described as "magnifique!" How true. If you're looking for vintage racism, one that is devoid of sophistication or justfication one need only go to the Deep South. No doubt, this strain of burning, unreasoning hatred of black people can be found throughout the country but it seems reasonable to assert that its most widespread in the South.

In brief:
The town of Jena is located in Northwest Louisiana closer to Jackon, MS as opposed to New Orleans. It is a town that has always been sharply divided by racial lines. The incidents of the last year have brought this to national attention but this is nothing new. At Jena High School there is a tree that has been traditionally used by white students. Think about that for a moment. A black student sat under it one day and in response sometime later three nooses were hung under said tree. In a related incident three black students were threatened with a shotgun at a convenience store. The three students were able to confiscate the offending weapon and were subsequently charged with theft of a firearm! The white student who had produced the weapon had no charges pressed against him.

On December 4, 2006 Justin Barker was beaten unconscious by the now infamous Jena 6. Sources on the side of the six black teenagers claimed that Barker instigated the melee upon claiming that one of the Jena 6, a Robert Bailey, Jr. had been beaten up by a white man at a party three days before. Clearly, Mr. Barker was not relaying facts and was more likely taunting the Jena 6. The beating that followed was clearly an overreaction to the particular incident but perhaps not in light of the general atmosphere in Jena.

In every instance of racially divided tensions the law has prosecuted the black side far more harshly. Reed Walters, DA for the LaSalle Parish brought charges against Mychal Bell, 16, of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. He contended that that Bell's tennis shoes were deadly weapons. Second-degree battery requires use of a "deadly weapon." The all white jury agreed with the interpretation and a participant in high school brawl was found guilty of the charges and subject to a sentence that could be as high as 22 years.

The hue and cry about this case has no chance of reaching Duke Lacrosse decibels but enough that media scrutiny has increased somewhat. As of this morning Reed Walters has reduced the charges for Mychal Bell. The other 5 youths were 17 at the time of the Barker beating and thus did not qualify as juveniles in the state of Louisiana. Mr. Walters would do well to heed the lessons of DA Mike Nifong. The coverage of this incident has been underwhelming to say the least and has not been picked up with any enthusiasm by the major outlets. Fortunately, enough of the right people have been fired up to rally to the cause of the Jena 6.

For more on this story:

Spread the word. The US has a long way to go in terms of fair and equal treatment of its citizens. The more we know the better we can be.

In a bit.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's Moving The Needle? Sept 17, 2007

What's moving the needle at the start of this week? Without further ado:

The Patriots - Wow. Take that. It's hard to contend that the Patriots aren't playing the best right now. They absolutely shellacked San Diego, and the Charger offense has looked anaemic in the last few games. Robert Kraft was unwavering in his support of Belichick while criticizing him sharply during an interview with Bob Costas. Kraft denied any knowledge of the sideline shenanigans. Some have questioned this, but it's not unreasonable that this would be something way below his purview and something that Belichick would have hidden from Kraft, or just made sure it never came across his desk. Belichick won a Super Bowl within two years of getting to New England. He made a hugely ballsy choice when he replaced Bledsoe with Brady. Surely, this man has earned a lot of leeway and autonomy with respect to running the football side of operations.

Wild Hogs - By my reading of the numbers on IMDB, this movie has grossed in excess of $250M at the box office and nearly $30M at rentals. Just think about that, a movie about four men pandering to their mid-life crisis in what seems almost an asinine manner grossed $300M. I can't imagine who watched this. But people did.

Notre Dame - Wow, they're a bad team. A coach at ND has it tougher than someone at a football factory school like Miami or OSU. Those schools are beholden to their football programmes. In fact they're defined by the programmes. Regardless, it's hard to feel sympathetic for Charlie Weis. His performance by all accounts has been mediocre and yet he's garnered a 10 year extension with a hefty buyout clause. For the same performance, Wilingham was shown the door.

Transformers on IMAX - It premieres this Friday. Of course, it's one of the high holy days and I live in New York. Many of my friends are Jewish, so what's the chance that I can get them to come out to watch a Michael Bay flick on Yom Kippur? Yeah, I thought so.

The Brave One - the vengeance fulfillment fantasy delivered a mediocre opening weekend and will not be a jewel in Foster's oeuvre when, 20 years from now, a Lifetime Achievement award is thrown her way. The Emmy's were on last night, reminding us that there is no industry that is more hypocritical or masturbatory than the entertainment business.

3:10 to Yuma: Christian Bale and Russell Crowe are uniquely charismatic actors, in that both radiate an element of unpredictability and danger on screen. Most American leading men lack that, though Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood are exceptions. Unsurprisingly they were both actors that came to prominence in the 60s and 70s when anti-heroes were more appreciated. Three of the great American leading men of the last twenty years: Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise for example are unabashed good guys. Rarely were their roles even remotely unsympathetic. That's not a knock. Those three raked in billions and have created many memorable characters and a bushel of wonderful movies. One could make a strong case that Tom Hanks is commercially and critically the most successful actor of all time.

Special tip of the hat to Elmore Leonard. The crime and western writer recently turned 81 recently and has a new novel out in hardcover. His short story "3:10 to Yuma" has now been made into a film twice, a movie made in 1957 and the one out in the theatres currently. Would that all of us could be that mentally spry at that age.

In a bit.

Comics 9-19-2007

As of this week Diamond has stopped linking their shipping list. Maybe they're going to wait till this afternoon when they have a definitive list, we'll see.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #56
Birds of Prey #110
Countdown #32
The Flash #232
The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special - the first two wedding specials ranged from good to excellent. Last week's Justice League Wedding special was fantastic.
Shadowpact #17
Superman/Batman #40
Tales of the Sinestro Corps Presents Parallax - don't kid yourself there is no better crossover being written right now.

Captain America #30
World War Hulk #4

I'm a DC guy, although is there any superhero fan who exclusively reads only DC or Marvel? I bet there are more Marvel exclusive than DC guys if they exist.

In a bit.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Spirituality & Superheroes

When comic book fans talk about superheroes and the genre to non-comicbook fans we tend to focus on the ideas that they represent. We refer to them as components of the modern mythology. Whether its pointing out that Superman or Captain Marvel were instruments of wish fulfillment during their incipience or tracing the progress of Superman over the decades can illustrate society's dynamic view of itself. We project onto these fictional constructs the various fears, hopes and paranoia of our times. As has been pointed out by many, it's not a coincidence that many of Marvel's heroes were created as accidents of radiation exposure. The Hulk is a misbegotten result of a gamma bomb explosion. The Fantastic Four are a consequence of exposure to cosmic rays and the story of Spider-Man's origin is a metaphor for sudden transformation. These characters came to be in the early 60s, not coincidentally a time where the idea of nuclear war and holocaust was a very real fear.

One thing that never changes though is the fact that these heroes lives are predicated on a life of service to others. That is their raison d'etre. Characters that aren't in it for the service of others or allied with a specific cause are anti-heroes or viewed as mercenaries. Wolverine is an example of the former and Booster Gold of the latter.

I've read comics for a little less than twenty years. It's only in the last year or so that my obliviousness came to light. You can never be Batman or Superman (even de-powered John Byrne Superman). You may not have the means or ability to spend a life in service of others; few do. It is possible though, that you may have the wherewithal to make a small periodic commitment to do something for others. Volunteering at any of hundreds of thousands of not-for-profit organizations peppered throughout the world is a great place to start. If it's not something you do right now, consider doing it. It can only make you a better human being. There'll never be a downside to being a better human being; either that or "no good deed goes unpunished."

I'm going clubbing later. See you out there.

In a bit.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sexual Dimorphism - umm, what?

Sexual dimorphism is the phenomenon of markedly different physical appearance between the genders of the same species. It does go a little deeper than that, but we'll speak to dimorphism at its most obvious. Dimorphism can be demonstrated in simple ways like size. A male tiger is typically 50% heavier than its female counterpart. Of course this is the least interesting manifestation of dimorphism and generally not a highly reliable indicator of gender. Other species have much more pronounced dimorphic traits across the genders. The mane on a lion immediately distinguishes it from a lioness. Peacocks have their gorgeous tail feathers whereas the peahen could not be more unprepossessing. Biologists have posited that species where sexual dimorphism is more pronounced are indicators of polygamous mating behaviors. Makes sense to me. I'm sure you're thinking, umm, okay, so what? Here's the payoff.

Readers, I give you the triplewart seadevil anglerfish. The female of the species is approximately about a foot long and between you and me is an unattractive looking sea denizen. The male of the species is approximately 1.25 inches long, i.e. one tenth the length of the female. The male seadevil upon maturation attaches itself to female and enters into a parasitic relationship where its sole role is as an on-demand sperm supplier. When it's not supplying sperm its living off the female. Upon attachment, the male's organs begin to deteriorate into uselessness. In addition from attachment onwards the male relies entirely on the female for blood flow and supply.

Fantastic. A model that some, no doubt, strive for socially has a precedent in nature.

Your Cheatin' Heart

The Patriots cheated. We know this and Commissioner Goodell will soon be meting out some justice or punitive actions. How does this affect our perception of the New England dynasty and Bill Belichick? Does this revelation invalidate their three super bowls? No. Is there an asterisk of sorts next to their names? Time will tell. However, let's think about this, when would you be driven to cheat if you were a coach? Would you be driven to cheat when you've already won three Super Bowls and been anointed "Genius" and have your name mentioned in the same breath as Lombardi and Walsh? Or would you be more driven to cheat in the aftermath of a failed 5 year coaching job in Cleveland with doubters at every corner as you start a new coaching gig?

I recall that one of the things that has been constantly been said about the Patriots was that it was a team. There were no superstars, just team players. Players who weren't necessarily the most talented but always made the smart plays, the heads-up choices, the great reads, and were in the right place at the right time. The Patriots were characterized as very talented, but more importantly very smart and, savvy practitioners of the gridiron game. They were a reflection of their coach: disciplined and prepared. I think the fact that they've probably been cheating for a few years and have probably gotten familiar with the signals of their opponents (note the Patriots astonishing dominance of their intra-division rivals) goes a lot towards explaining why they were so good against those guys.
Please note that when they played NFC opponents, especially in the Super Bowls their performances were never dominant. It's probably why the Patriots have never really been considered en par with the 70s Steelers, 80s Niners or the 90s Cowboys. The routine dominance of the league was never there. These earlier dynasties are stacked with HOFers. I don't think NE is going to hit anywhere near the numbers of those dynasties with respect to HOF enshrinees (a pompous term btw).
Having said that, players make plays. You may know what's coming, but that doesn't mean you can stop it. Everybody knew the ball was going to Jim Brown, it didn't change things that much. Did the cheating give these guys an unfair advantage, sure, can we quantify in terms of Wins & Losses? Not really. The Pats made the plays, got a lot of lucky breaks, practiced gamesmanship that went too far and now will have to pay the price for that. The price is the eternal "they were great teams, but." Welcome to the world of Barry Bonds fans Pats followers. Your guys won three super bowls, flags fly forever. However, we can stop the debate about Belichick vs Walsh or Brady vs Montana. If there was ever a debate, it's stopped now.

In a bit.

Thor #3 - Retcons for the masses

Everyone's been waiting for the Thor vs Iron Man showdown. A little bit of schadenfreude for the reader masses as we take enjoyment in Tony Stark's comeuppance for the one unforgiveable consequence of "Civil War": the death of Captain America. Of course throughout the entire issue the death of Steve Rogers is not mentioned or even obliquely referenced. Naturally, one could imagine that Thor probably takes exception to having his DNA used to create a clone, the infamous "Clor" and will have words with Iron Man about that. And he does.
Iron Man goes into his typical spiel about registration and demanding that Thor gets on board. Fisticuffs follow upon Thor's refusal. The sheer [unintentional] comedy that follows can be summarized in spirit as follow:
- Thor is much more powerful than Iron Man remembers from the past. It's actually kind of hilarious that this is possible. Thor was a Gladiator, Black Bolt, or Hulk class being. Iron Man is formidable but he's not that class. When Thor humbles Tony Stark with relative ease his response to Stark's query about his upgrade in power is "I was holding back, I'm not holding back anymore" or words to that affect. This is a retcon of the most insidious kind. This essentially states that all the times that Thor got his a$$ handed to him in the past could have been prevented if he hadn't held back. Many of the times when the Avengers went down, perhaps they were shortchanged by their most powerful member holding back. Does this make any sense? Would a god who loves humanity, who fought alongside Captain America, who assembles with others to face foes no one hero could face alone hold back? Is Thor undefeated in combat to this point in Marvel history? No, I don't think so. It's one thing to play possum during a fight and then pull a "Ha! But sir, I'm not actually left-handed!" it's another thing to say that all this time through nearly four decades you weren't giving 100%.
- Continuity being such a flexible thing one shouldn't linger on the errors on it too much. This is after all serialized fiction in a shared universe and while adherence to continuity is appreciated it shouldn't necessarily compromise too much the ability to let the writer tell a compelling story. However, didn't Tony Stark get crushed and imprisoned by World War Hulk? Isn't the Hulk taking out everyone as we speak. He's taken down Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange (!), Iron Man, humbled the X-Men (a ludicrous tie-in built on the premise of "I'm going to come and smack you down for what I think you would have done to me given a chance" proving that Hulk might be the strongest there is but he's still stupid) and held Manhattan hostage to serve as fuel for a personal feud. Does not the God Of Thunder have something to say about this? It's easy to give a pass to continuity inconsistencies that arise when comparing two disjointed titles, say what's happening to Wolverine in New Avengers on Earth when he's on Breakworld with the Astonishing X-Men. We can live with that, it's the nature of the beast. However, World War Hulk is a Marvel Universe wide crossover which has spawned its own Frontline. As Thor returns to Earth shouldn't he be aware of the two biggest events of the period (CW/Death of Cap and WWH)? Yes on the former, no on the latter, apparently.

The art is nice, but there's something about Coipel's Thor that doesn't ring true. For one thing, he's not blond enough and his proportions don't seem very Thor-like. I'll address that more clearly another time. My subconscious has already come up with this conclusion, and I'll just have to figure out why on a rational level.

In a bit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Media Icons and Geniuses Part 2

You want to start a debate? Just say such and such figure is NOT a genius and the intellectual throw down will commence. This is especially true when the field is music, where everyone thinks they know a lot and everyone knows they have good taste. Here's a starter debate about genius: Ray Charles - not a genius, Stevie Wonder - quite possibly, yes. Go.

Western culture's obsession with music has brought us to the point that a few great albums, a handful of sonic innovations and abstruse lyrics result in the labeling of genius. The band that is definitely a recipient of this premature labeling is Radiohead, where a handful of albums spawned one Lily Holmes to comment, "No one comes close to the inventiveness of Radiohead. I wouldn't be surprised if Radiohead's popularity eclipsed that of the Beatles in 20 years." It's been almost ten years since Radiohead released "Ok Computer" an album that's feels as monstrous today as it did then. However, I think we can put to rest Miss Holmes assertion as nothing more than hyperbolic bong talk. Are they endlessly inventive, it seems to be the case, are they one of the great bands of all time, probably. Genius? I guess we have to delve into that definition.

Genius elicits a lot of emotion and a lot of, oddly enough, irrational responses. One would hope that a precise definition for it would exist. That would be a false hope. The human brain is an unbelievable complex organ that works on chemical and electric levels that we really can't fathom. Questions like where does personality reside or where is "consciousness" remain unanswered.

Let's start with IQ. Apparently, anyone with an IQ over 150 is a "genius." However, IQ tests examine very specific types of intelligence particularly the ones that deal with vocabulary, spatial geometry, logic and problem solving of an algebraic natures. I'm sure Mozart would flunk the math sections of an IQ test but his genius is a given. A lot of people can solve the quadratic formula, only a few can compose symphonies in their head. Not only that, there are millions of people walking around with 150+ IQs. Clearly genius needs to be a little more exclusive in nature for it to feel right. Also have you been to a Mensa convention? These are smart people, some are even erudite but they aren't all geniuses. In many cases they're highly educated people with a good amount of general knowledge and one focus where their knowledge is monographic.

I'll take a softer approach. It seems that one difference between a genius and someone whose brilliant is the leaps of understanding a genius makes. It's one thing to figure out that if a light particle (a photon) hit a subatomic particle (a quark) measuring the exact position of the quark might be compromised (Heisenberg) by compromised by the impact of photon against quark. It's however a completely different kettle of fish to posit space and time are one continuum and that the act of moving at near light-speed not only dilates that continuum but that hitting light-speed would cause an object to increase to infinite mass. As infinite mass is by definition impossible we now have a universal speed limit (Einstein). The multiple revelations and corollaries from his theories have completely reshaped how we view the world taking us from a Newtonian view of things to a "modern" view of things. In fact the work that Einstein produced just around 1900 serves as the convenient marker for modern physics. It took the genius of Einstein to largely invalidate the work of another genius (Newton). To be fair, Newton provided us with the intellectual underpinnings of modern physics and of course he provided us with one version of calculus: the indispensable tool of theoretical physicists. Einstein's theories demonstrated the various limitations of Newton's laws especially when considering the astronomic or the subatomic.

I think that hits on the primary aspect of genius. A genius changes the way things are done. A genius revolutionizes our approach and, often, signals the death knell of how things are done in the past. It would seem that genius is part raw cranial power, part demonstration of that power and one part that is unfathomable. That's the tough part of genius, it would seem that true genius is incomprehensible to one who isn't. I can play chess, but it's inconceivable to me how Garry Kasparov can think 30 moves ahead and match wits with a supercomputer that can literally do a trillion FLOPS Geniuses perceive the world in totally new ways that shed light more on our limitations than our understanding of them. An example:

"In 1917, Ramanujan fell seriously ill with what has since been confirmed to have been tuberculosis, and his doctors feared he would die. It was during this time that the famous 1729 story happened. Hardy went to see Ramanujan during his sickness, and during the visit remarked that he had travelled in cab number 1729, a boring number; he hoped it wasn't a bad omen. Ramanujan instantly replied that 1729 is not a boring number at all as it is the smallest number that is expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways (10^3+9^3 = 1000+729 = 1729 ; 12^3+1^3 = 1728+1 = 1729)."

There's a lot more material here than I thought. To be continued . . .

In a bit.

Media Icons and Geniuses Part 1

I almost feel sorry for the media. They pay lip service to "hard news" but are obligated to fill a 24/7 online world with information that can barely be called news. An increasingly broad spectrum of choices for the mindspace of the consumer has led to increasingly desperate ploys and tactics from various media outlets. Filling all that space has led to some serious brand deterioration (I'm looking at you CNN). One consequence of this "need to fill" is the dramatization of everything. Inflating the importance of whatever's on the stand, the cover, or the front page. You can't have the "best week ever" every week. I think MTV/VH1 is aware of this irony.

I was at a newstand the other day ogling various covers and the one that caught my eye was the cover of Vogue with Sienna Miller on it and the label "Fasion's Feistiest Icon". WHAT? ICON? Really. I don't know $hit about fashion but I know an icon when I see one, I think most people do. I figured I should look at a couple of sources first, so I queried Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionary. The definitions of "icon" that most closely mirror Vogue's usage would be: 1) an imporant and enduring symbol 2) One who is the object of great attention and devotion; an idol. When did icon status start getting handed out so readily and in such a short time? My enduring memories of Sienna Miller are her less than flattering remarks about Pittsburgh which started a minor firestorm and of course the fact that her much more famous boyfriend Jude Law cheated on her with his nanny. Make no mistake, Miller's fame skyrocketed with the revelation that she was a reverse-cuckold. It's certainly not her luminous body of work. I'm not a fashionista, far from it, I have no clue about its basic tenets, but she dresses a lot like Marianne Faithful. If you dress like a somewhat maudlin pop star from 45 years ago you're not breaking ground and you're not an icon. I'm gonna make that call.

It's not Sienna's fault, apparently she hates the label; probably because it underscores the fact that she's better known as a clotheshorse than a serious performer or artiste. Icons are enduring symbols that represent many things to many people or in some case a single grand idea. Historically important individuals are not necessarily icons, even though they could be more important than your typical icon. Is Winston Churchill more historically significant than Muhammed Ali? Naturally. Is Ali more of a cultural icon, absolutely. Global icons are rare but some that come to mind: Che Guevara, Muhammed Ali, Gandhi, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley. Now, these people can be vastly polarizing but their impact is unquestionable as is their fame. I ask you again, Sienna Miller?

I don't mean to pick on Miss Miller. She was the trigger. I recall some years ago Chloe Sevigny was labeled a fashion icon. It does make some sense that an industry that lives and dies in direct proportion to the attention it receives anoints so many with so grand an appelation. You want to read about "Fashion's Feistiest Icon" not about "Fashion's Flavor of the Month."

In the next installment I'm going to take a look at "genius" how it's defined and how people feel about genius. That might take two treatments, frankly.

If you have any thoughts on who is and who isn't an icon, send them in . . .

In a bit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quick Hits ~ 9-11-2007

Is it any surprise that General Petraeus' report to Congress mirrored and supported the official position of the White House? General Petraeus, like most of us, works at the pleasure of his boss. His boss is the Commander-In-Chief. The expectation that Petraeus would report anything that wasn't supportive of the current administration's stance is head-scratchingly naive. Both sides on the Iraq war debate are dug in deeply and the anti-war side can rant and posture as much as it likes, the fact is that the White House continues to act with impunity and the Democrats do NOT have the votes to block the President. This is a fact and it is indisputable.

Today is obviously a significant anniversary but what's also significant is how much people have moved on. Our ability to move on and continue is no slight to those who are no longer with us but a testament to the resiliency embedded within all of us. Whether it's a function of the individual or a result of inbuilt psychological coping mechanisms is at this point unknowable.

All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder #6 was delayed. This sticks in my craw. I can hear my buddy Stokely laughing in his office. He hasn't taken a sip of the Frank Miller Kool-Aid that I imbibe in massive quantities. Knowing the source of the delay isn't going to help, either. DC has no comment what the later date for resolicits will be. Aargh.

In a bit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Elvis and the King of Pop

Somtimes people forget how fantastic certain artists are. There's a reason why Elvis is "The King." I spent portions of the weekend listening to his 30 #1s album as well as the rightly praised '68 Comeback Special broadcast originally on NBC. A couple of things jump out from those records. Elvis' delivery is often imitated but never equalled; his charisma levels are matched by only a few performers.

The other is the criminal under-appreciation of his long-time guitarist Winfield "Scotty" Moore. If any three people could claim to have shaped the definitive sound of 50s style rock'n'roll they would be Chuck Berry, Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley. Moore's agile rhythm backing and dazzling leads generate as much excitement aurally as any of Elvis' vocal histrionics. Many young men picked up guitar to play like Elvis, blissfully unaware that those wonderful runs, fills and solos were played by Moore. If Moore ever felt he was shortchanged in terms of credit it's never something he aired publicly. No doubt he was appreciative of being able to hitch his wagon to Elvis' supernova, and being a highly introverted individual it's doubtful that any sort of real celebrity status would have been welcome.

Of course, in his final years Elvis became a parody of himself and although 50s Elvis is historically more important, for whatever reason 70s, Vegas Elvis seems to come up more in pop culture. I could be wrong on that one. Elvis' bizarre final years and life in general provided a perfect template for the next supernova of popular American music: Michael Jackson.

Where to begin with the King Of Pop? There's no need to recap his career, I'll just state some broad similarities with The King. Elvis's first successful record was cut and released when he was barely 19. Jackson was even more precocious and his youthful successes as lead the for the Jackson 5 are legion. The Jackson 5 were certainly a high point artistically and commercially with respect to the Motown sound. The King made his "important" music between 1955 and 1960. This was the music that helped define the sound of a generation and was one of a handful of major influences on the next decade's artists including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Michael Jackson's landmark works were "Off The Wall" and "Thriller", both released in a 3 year timespan (1979 - 1982). "Bad" came out in 1986 and were it not for the comparisons to Thriller would have been deemed a major success. Of course, "Bad" can be just as easily remembered as the cover where Michael Jackson's appearance took a turn into the strange. His descent into the utterly baffling had started years before but now the signs and symptoms of his madness were writ clearly on his face. After "Bad" his albums have had mixed sales but were uniformly musically irrelevant. The increasing litany of strange incidents and surrounding ugly innuendo mirror the downward spiral that Elvis fell into his final years.

Elvis died in 1977 and as details have surfaced over the past three decades they tell a cliched tale of a man in freefall. Michael Jackson will be 50 (!) next year. He is synonymous with oddity and eccentricity. It's almost impossible to explain to Gen Y'ers and younger how much of a megastar he was in his prime. Jackson, like Elvis at the end of his career is no better than a walking punchline. Could their unmatched megastardom have been a key to their falls from grace.

One final parallel between the two Kings. Elvis was by all accounts a sex symbol. He was, however, almost asexual in his drive according to biographers, rumored paramours and "acknowledged" lovers. Many early girlfriends assert that no true physical relations ever occurred. His multiple public relationships were often stated to be for benefit of the press and the thought that Elvis sought to and did bed every single female co-star of his movies seems to be less credible as time goes on.

Michael Jackson's sexual proclivities have been well documented and discussed. If there are any pointers to his sexual behavior one would uncharitably state that they skew toward pre-pubescent males. Throughout the 80s when pedophilia was not associated with Jackson, the country was tireless in its speculation of whether he had or hadn't. Think about that. A male pop/rock icon in the 80s whose very sexuality was in question. Not whether he was hetero or homosexual but whether he was sexual at all. Elvis and Jackson - asexual? A definite maybe.

To recap for Elvis and Michael Jackson
- Biggest (by far) star of their era (check)
- Important work completed in the first few years despite a 20+ year career (check)
- Bizarre and public descent into madness (check)
- Increasing body of evidence that they might have been asexual (check)
- Hypochondria (check, haven't mentioned above, but you can find evidence of this very easily)
- Created some of the best music ever recorded in the popular western music genre? Music that has not lost its sheen despite what we now know about them? (check, their work really is transcendent)

One last note. Michael Jackson is obsessed with Elvis. This too is well documented. My guessis that he more than anyone appreciates the multiple parallels, even the ones he wouldn't admit to himself.

In a bit.

What's Moving The Needle? Sept 10, 2007

What's moving the needle at the start of this week? Let's take a look back and see what impressed last week. I'm looking at sports for the openin WMTN?

Federer - This guy is the Roman Empire, he's the 1950s NY Yankees, he's Silver Age Superman and for now he is the alpha and the omega. At some point "there comes a time when even gods must die." For now though, enjoy the Reign of the Superman.

NE Patriots - The 38 - 14 dismantling of the hapless NY Jets serves as a reminder that the AFC belongs to Indy and NE; and not necessarily in that order.

Indy Colts - No one predicted a 31 point rented mule beating of the Saints but that's what they got and the Colts served notice that coronating NE is premature and probably foolish.

A-Rod - Best player in the majors right now. Cashman has stopped talking tough about not negotiating if Rodriguez opts out. Every home run destroys any remaining leverage. If A-Rod hits 60 and the Yankees don't re-sign him, the Bronx will burn.

Asafa Powell - Who? This Jamaican sprinter just ran the 100M at a world record time of 9.74. There was a time that "World's Fastest Man" and "Heavyweight Champion of The World" meant something. Now a combination of scandals, corruption and the rise of individual stars within team sports has diluted the impact of these titles. With that said, a world record in the 100M dash will always be significant on its own merits. So here he is, the Earth-Prime Flash - Asafa Powell.

In a bit.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What I'm buying - Comics 9-12-2007

After a night of clubbing, I like to sit down with a bagel, muffin and some sort of sugary drink (Gatorade, Powerade, Snapple) and review Diamond's expected shipping list on Sunday mornings. By the way, I went to a club called "Retreat" on 17th St. between 5th and Avenue of the Americas. The club has a lot of wooden furniture which is actually nice but doesn't really go with the chi chi vibe of the place. A Budweiser costs $6, a Heineken costs $7; these are both bottles. I'm not sure if that's reasonable or not, the only two cities I've been in the last few months are NYC and Miami. Neither city is reputed to be bargain-friendly, so keep that in mind.

Regardless, here's what I think I'm getting this week


All Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder #6 - Everybody hates this right, so how come it's routinely selling 100K copies six issues into it's run?

Black Adam: The Dark Age #2 (of 6) - Does anyone draw spookier than Mahnke?

Countdown #33 - I'm in, but not willingly at this point, it's

Fables #65 - best ongoing series in comics, no doubt

Green Lantern #23 - Sinestro Corps is delivering a wonderful event and should get a lot more publicity. It's much better than WWH. I've enjoyed reading reviewers trip over themselves trying to justify the Hulk's actions and Marvel's INCREDULOUS justification that this rampaging Class 100+ being has never caused real casualties.

JLA Wedding Special #1- I'm still a dude even though I'm getting it, right?

Stormwatch PHD #11 - Apparently it's being cancelled with #12, what a shame

Welcome To Tranquility #10 - Neil Googe's art is so beautiful and Gail Simone is one of DC's best writers, no doubt. How are the sales doing on this series?


New Avengers #34 - Marvel's flagship is falling very low

Nova #6 - More cosmic stuff, please, Earth is a crappy place in the Marvel U

Punisher War Journal #11 - Enough of Hatemonger let's get Punny back into the Marvel U

Ultimate Spider-Man #113 -Bendis must be having so much fun doing his cover version of the Lee/Ditko first run on Amazing Spider-Man. Hey, I'm having fun reading it.

X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #1 (of 5) - Someone, anyone, please avenge Corsair.

Alright people. The first Sunday of football season has arrived. My dad can't wait to get home to watch his beloved Jets taken on the Patriots. I imagine a slew of rationalizations will follow as he tries to justify their loss today. I guess we know where I think the game's going.

In a bit.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Anyone For Tennis?

So I went to the US Open yesterday for the Mens' Doubles Finals as well as the Women's Semis. The tickets were decent and were a result of largesse between corporations. Luckily, the bigwigs where I work were unable to avail of this particular pair of tix so my co-worker, Alex and I went off to Queens.

The ride into Willets-Point/Shea Stadium on the 7 from Grand Central is less than 35 minutes and much more pleasant than the shorter ride to Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium and its environs is short on charm, to say the least. I imagine Steinbrenner can't wait to get a new stadium deal.

I missed the Doubles Finals but did get to see Anna Chakvedatze versus Svetlana Kuznetsova. The less said about that match the better. Play was sloppy and mostly uninspired. The crowd was really disengaged and I think that may have bled into the play of the women. This match was just the appetizer, the main course was yet to come.

Venus versus Henin is what the day at Flushing was all about. This was the ballyhooed heavyweight match-up. They haven't played since 2003 but Henin's rivalry and recent dominance over Serena can't have escaped Venus' notice. Few beat the Williams' sisters consecutively within the same tournament, apparently just 5 times. It's only happened once in a Grand Slam, way back in 2001. Six years is a long time in any sport and it's fair to say that the Williams sisters today are significantly different from way back when. Clearly the last five years has seen their celebrity expand and their focus on tennis lessen. It's a natural evolution in today's celebrity-athlete culture but not one that can be taken for granted. Just because you're wonderful at your sport doesn't ensure fame and celebrity status. Henin has 6 Grand Slam titles, as many as Venus, she's nowhere near as famous though. That's neither here nore there, though. One gets the impression that the Williams sisters crave celebrity and Henin couldn't be less interested. The consequence of those attitudes may have manifested itself on the court.

Venus looks in much better shape than her sister and has always moved exceptionally well. Venus, in her prime, covered the court better than any other womens' tennis player. That was probably more a function of her unsurpassed speed as opposed to an uncanny "nose for the ball." Let me make this clear, Venus looks fantastic, her legs look perfect.

Henin and Venus had a lot of great points, bringing the appreciative US Open crowd to their feet more than a few times. Although both players are ectypal baseline players their willingness to go to net and pressure the other resulted in the most entertaining points of the match. Ultimately, I don't think Venus match conditioning was there. She has enough athletic ability and power to beat 99.9% of the players out there when she's not in peak condition. The same goes for Serena. It's probably why they seem complacent. Henin is in the .1% that doesn't get fazed by the general superiority of the Williamses. It totally showed as Henin overcame in two sets. My guess is that the Women's final is a foregone conclusion.

In a bit.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jump off the cliff and start flying

So here you are at my little corner of the InterWeb. Is this an exercise in relentless egotism? Umm . . yes. Is this a sincere attempt to document the meanderings and ramblings of a relentless talker? Abostively. Welcome to the last gasp at preserving some vague and distant relative of a creative impulse.

"Nothing is out of bounds"

I'll talk about whatever comes to mind and whatever resonates. We'll find out along the way what sticks, what slides and what, like VD, won't go away.

I'll start with a smattering of top 5s or thereabouts:

All-Time NBA Starting Five
PG - Magic Johnson - Easy
SG - Michael Jordan - Easy
SF - Larry Bird - Easy
PF - Karl Malone - I get the sense that Eligin Baylor may have been the best, but I wasn't around to see him play and have seen very limited amounts of footage.
C - Kareem - Toughest call, Bill Russell's my favorite athlete/social commentator, Wilt and Shaq were uniquely dominant and Hakeem's place in the center pantheon is probably to low. I'm going to go with Kareem because he won 6 MVPS in 10 seasons while playing against the best centers of the 70s and then stayed a near-perennial all-star center in the 80s when he was playing against another wonderful crop of centers, most of whom were 10 years younger than him.

Best MLB Position Players (not in order)
Willie Mays
Babe Ruth
Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Mickey Mantle
Stan Musial
Honorable mention to Jackie Robinson, my favorite player.

Favorite Guitar Players
Roy Buchanan
Jeff Beck
John McLaughlin
Jimi Hendrix
Stevie Ray Vaughan

Favorite Superheroes (5 ain't enough)
Captain America
Captain Marvel (Shazam!)

But really, is there a superhero I detest or actively dislike? Probably Wolverine.

In a bit.