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.