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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

HERE WE GO AGAIN...

I tell you, if it isn't one thing, it's another...

I went to Mount Sinai today and got a preliminary checkup with the nephrology department, which my new primary care physician figured was a good thing to do because I had not been seen by nephrology since December of 2015. Diabetes plays havoc with one's kidney function and mine had not been monitored in a while, so there you go. Anyway, my last general checkup was at the end of April and my lab results from that stated my kidney function had dropped to just above 20%, meaning I now have to get regularly monitored by nephrology. Unless my kidney function increases, the specialist told me that I should allow the more hardcore doctors in the department to give me a more thorough going-over, because I could eventually require either dialysis or a kidney transplant. But that's a good ways off if it comes to that, and right now I just need to be monitored with more testing to see if anything can be done. And the worst part of all of this is that I feel fine, but what the hell do I know, since I am not a doctor?

Ugh...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

ON THE LOOSE AT THE ART OF SPIDER-MAN EXHIBIT-6/9/2017

On June 9th, I attended the opening party for the Society of Illustrators' ART OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN show, an event showcasing original art from throughout the hero's publication history, with work by legends such as Steve Ditko — the co-creator of Spider-Man — and John Romita Sr. It was a gathering of NYC's comics professionals and venerating fans, and a great time was had by all.

The entrance to the Society of Illustrators.

John Bligh and Jared Osborn, my college and Marvel Bullpen brothers. Two of the most important people in my life and I love them very, very much.

Sadly, my web-shooter was empty. 

A Milton Caniff original of the Dragon Lady from the legendary TERRY AND THE PIRATES. I would kill to own this.

Hallway decoration.

It's always fun to get one's drink on at an industry party.

A concotion that the bartender described as tasting "like a melted sno-cone." When I asked him if it was any good, he unequivocally responded with "NO."

Miscreants and reprobates.

John Romita Sr. signs for a delighted fan.

A confluence of fans and pros. The line to get into the event reportedly went around the block. (Thankfully, myself and a few close friends and former colleagues were able to get in early and avoid the line.)

Big pimpin' with John Romita Sr. 

With Kenny "PIercing Metal" Pierce, a much-loved fellow geek and metalhead. 

College and Marvel colleagues.

The nice lady who interviewed myself and Jared for the SYFY CHannel.

Bullpen vermin, telling the cameraman and interviewer true tales of Marvel that were in no way fit for print or broadcast. They were appalled.

The interview in question.

With Chris Claremont, the writer whose classic stories set the majority of X-Men tropes in stone (for better or worse).

From THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #33: The original art from the legendary "Lifting Sequence" that arguably served as the true coda to our hero's development. It was also the end of the Lee-Ditko run on the series. I never imagined I would ever see these actual pages in the flesh (so to speak).




The awesome moment of triumph. I have no idea of this page's actual cash value, but its sale could likely pay the full mortgage on a house.

The middle segment of the famous three-part drug storyline in which Marvel defied the Comics Code Authority and published the story minus the Comics Code seal of approval. A major moment in the maturation of American comics content.

Harry Osborn: Drug addict!!! 

Spidey encounters a negro who's "stoned right out of his mind." (Surprisingly NOT at SUNY at Purchase, circa 1985-1988.)

More Marvel vermin.

Sylvia takes egregious advantage and cops a feel. (Yeah, like I minded...)

With the one and only Hildy Mesnik, one of the few remaining completely perfect human beings. I adore this woman, both professionally and personally. 

'90's Bullpen lads venerate the Romitas.

With John and Virginia Romita. John is one of the legends of the comics industry, being the second artist on Spider-Man and arguably the illustrator whose clean, Caniff-influenced figures defined the look of the character. I was honored to work with him every day for just shy of nine years (he was Marvel's art director at the time) and I find him to be one of the kindest, nicest, and most generous cornucopias of skill and knowledge when it comes to the art of comics and visual storytelling. Working with him was an education on the art of comics storytelling and how to be a true professional in the comics industry. I am honored to have been his colleague and student. Sweetest man in the biz. And his wife, Virginia, was my boss for several years. (My relationship with her got off to very contentious start but we ended up as friends.) Seriously, I love these guys. 


Freiends and former colleagues whom I adore.

With fellow staffers Mike Higgins and Terry Kavanagh.

As seen in the ladies' room. (photo courtesy of Francine Grillo)

Exposing Spider-Man's best-kept secret.

"Spider-Man No More!" my black ass!!! He's still going strong!

KONGING IT UP

From 1933, a classic moment in cinema history.

Yesterday I went to the Brooklyn location of the Alamo Drafthouse cinema, and on the way out of seeing WONDER WOMAN for a second time I noticed an area where one could pose atop a replica of the 1933 spire of the Empire State Building and swat at planes a la the original KING KONG (1933)As it's my favorite movie, I could not resist the photo opportunity, so my dear friend Tracey took the following pictures.

 A scene I enacted many times during childhood play, finally properly realized.



Monday, June 12, 2017

DAMNED IF I DO

Just received my first new Damned shirt since the GRAVE DISORDER tour (2001), and it's superb. The staring Bride was enough to sell me on it, but the icing on the cake is the quote of "Two close but two worlds away," from "Plan 9 Channel 7," the song that instantly turned me into a Damned fan for life back in the fall of 1986. I'd already heard "Nasty" on THE YOUNG ONES, but "Plan 9 Channel 7" genuinely touched the soul of this horror kid. Oh, joy!!!

CALL ME, MAYBE...

While heading back to Brooklyn from the Fulton Concourse, I stepped into the elevator to the 4/5 train platform and was joined in the conveyance by a very pregnant young woman who had her android phone at the ready. The moment the door closed and it was just me and her. she began loudly talking into the phone with a nasal, ultra-ghetto accent and I swear to god this is exactly what came out of her mouth: 

"Ah'm in the Bronx an' lookin' faw a main dat wants ta watch me play wit' mah toys through mah panties an' watch me while ahm cummin'. Ah charge $200..." 

This was uttered without a second though about there being anyone else in the elevator, and when she disembarked I just stood there speechless before cracking up laughing. I tried to picture my mom having witnessed that and her head subsequently exploding, a la SCANNERS.

And why did she lie about the Bronx?

Monday, February 06, 2017

"THE SENTENCE IS..."

The one and only Judge Death. NOT a feel-good kind of guy...

I love it when people get the obscura that I often sport. Case in point: As I crossed the strret during today's errands, a guy and his girlfriend were out walking their dog and the guy focused on my badge. He turned and said "Thank you for sparing us, Judge Death!" I looked back at him, scowled, and said in my best Mercedes McCambridge intonation, "THE SENTENCE IS DEATH!!!" We both cracked up as he waved goodbye.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

WHEN DIM SUM GOES AWRY

The business card to a special level of Chinese Hell.

I just got back from the single worst dining experience of my life. Allow me to elucidate:
Feeling the call of Saturday dim sum, ErynDennis, and myself made our way to Chinatown, anticipating seating at the fabulous Jing Fong. What all of us failed to remember, however, is that it's Chinese New Year, so the place was so packed by the time when we arrived — around 11am — that some of the massive crowd had been waiting for an hour simply to get a shot at a seat, and the place simply stopped letting people in. Undaunted, we figured "any port in a storm," and after a couple of false starts we found ourselves at a joint called Ken's Asian Taste and were seated downstairs. 
When we arrived, the downstairs area was packed but there was an empty table near the kitchen, so that's where we ended up. We were the only non-Chinese in the place and the majority of the staff spoke little or no English, but I was able to place an order for a few items from the dim sum menu, plus a Coke. Before my friends could order straight entrees, the lady who took my order vanished, never to return, and we waited for a number of short eternities before a visibly annoyed waitress came by with random dim sum items of wildly varying desirability. We made do with a handful of those selections, mainly subsisting on so-so crystal shrimp dumplings and pork gyoza, and I'm glad we ate that stuff because the items I ordered never showed up, not even the Coke. Dennis eventually ordered the seafood lo mein, and when it finally arrived it was below the quality of what one would receive at the shoddiest of local hole-in-the-wall takeout joints.
Time crawled by as I awaited my order and my friends half-heartedly attempted to choke down their order, and every once in a while the disgruntled waitress might drop by to offer us dim sum items that were clearly the afterthoughts of what had been served upstairs. I asked for a Coke two more times, saw the order jotted down, and yet nothing ever showed. After over a half hour of waiting for anything that I'd ordered, I asked where my order was, pointing out the sticky rice that was offered o the menu. The waitress did not understand me, so she called over the disinterested waiter and asked him what I was indicating. When he twigged that I was talking about the sticky rice, he shook his head and firmly stated "No more." If I had not asked, I could have sat there all fucking day waiting for rice that would never come.
Though we tried to make the best of it, it was apparent to all that we were getting the "Fuck you, gweilos" treatment and that the excursion was a complete and utter bust, so we asked for the check. We were considerably over-charged for the amount and quality of what we ordered, but we were just glad to get the hell out of there and make on more attempt at getting into Jing Fong. Alas, when we got there we were informed that the place was simply too crowded, so they'd cut off admittance entirely. Defeated, we made our way back to Brooklyn...where the first thing I did was buy myself a goddamned Coke!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

ROGUE ONE — sub-headed as "A STAR WARS Story" — is a well-made, visually spectacular, action-packed adventure set in the galaxy far, far away that we all know and love so well. So why didn't I like it? Allow me to explain.

The first of an announced ongoing series of stand-alone STAR WARS flicks that are not part of the serialized main saga, ROGUE ONE squanders the vast galactic toybox that is the STAR WARS realm by once again relying too much on fannish nostalgia and not moving forward. The basic story has to deal with a group of Rebel heroes stealing the plans for the Death Star, the aftermath of which mission leads immediately into the original STAR WARS (1977, and fuck you if you think I'm going to call it "A New Hope"), so we already go into the film knowing that the heroes succeed in their mission, thus killing what suspense may have been generated. The Death Star is trotted out yet again, thus revealing a certain bankruptcy of ideas, and the heroes who seek to thwart it mostly fail to generate any sort of interest because we're simply thrust into the narrative while getting to know little or nothing about them.

The protagonist, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is the daughter of the designer of the Death Star, as seen in the opening segments, and when we meet her again as an adult, she's in prison for reasons that are given only the merest scrap of explanation. She's broken out of jail by Rebel forces who want to use her to connect them with a guerrilla leader (Forest Whitaker) who may be able to help them locate her dad, who years earlier was press-ganged into helping the Empire build its "planet-killer" of a battle station. Other than Jyn's longing to be reunited with her father, we know absolutely nothing about who she is as a person or what motivates her actions, so her coming to care about the Rebel cause comes from out of nowhere and carries zero weight toward the growth of her character.

The rest of the Rebels that we meet are basically ciphers about whom we are told nothing, and they are so unmemorable that their individual names are almost instantly forgotten by the audience. Other than a few familiar faces from the original STAR WARS trilogy that were shoehorned in here to little or no narrative effect, Jyn Erso, Imperial weapons developer Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) are the only characters whose names stuck with me once they were verbally identified. And the only standout among the Rebels that I cared about was the blind warrior Chirutt Imwe, played by my man Donnie Yen, whose character believes strongly in the Force but is notably not a Jedi, despite wielding a stick with speed and skill that makes Stormtroopers his bitches.

 My man Donnie Yen, whom the whole movie should have been about.

Cool though he undeniably was, Yen's character is given very little by way of backstory to explain why some random blind dude who is, again, not a Jedi whips ass with his walking stick like a deep-space Zatoichi. That's a damned shame, because he totally ruled during the moments when he's given something to do, including being given the film's funniest line — in a film sorely in need of some levity — but the real point of his inclusion was so that the film would have a star who's drawing power with put asses in seats in the Chinese market.

With no developed characters for us to be invested in, the story trusts in the audience's nostalgia and love for previous STAR WARS movies to do all of the narrative heavy-lifting, which just struck me as lazy. For a film about which much was made of its intent to break new ground and bring audiences a "different" kind of STAR WARS movie, it's basically just more of the same, a soulless piece of corporate product of the type that less-demanding moviegoers will eat up and thus pour billions into the coffers of Das Uber-Disney. I won't presume to speak for most of the audience out there, but I was bored during most of ROGUE ONE and had to resist the urge to check my phone's clock multiple times. It's two hours and fifteen minutes of pretty much watching a filmed version of some kid making up a STAR WARS adventure in his backyard with some action figures and vehicle accessories, and I found its dour, "more realistic" war movie tone to be as dull as dirt. Sure, it looked amazing — the special effects are nothing less than stunning — but where were the characters to engage me? Where was the movie magic that transports the viewer? And, most importantly, where was the fun in all of this? I wish I could tell you, but I got nothin'.

As I left the theater, a family followed close behind me, discussing the movie amongst themselves. The mother was clearly not impressed but tried to put a positive spin on things, while her three kids — apparently ranging in age from seven to twelve — all expressed how boring they found it to be. The one enthusiastic voice was dad, who countered their arguments of being bored with "Well, I wasn't bored, because I recognized a lot of stuff from the other movies!" Like I said previously, the filmmakers relied on the audience's nostalgia to do all the work, and more's the pity. And while a similar argument could be made for last year's THE FORCE AWAKENS, I found that film to be far more engaging, complete with characters I gave a damn about, both old and new, and a sense of plain and simple fun entertainment that I felt ROGUE ONE was largely bereft of. Your mileage may vary, probably depending on just how much of  STAR WARS zombie you are, but ROGUE ONE just didn't do it for me. Sitting through it once was enough for me, and I earnestly pray that the subsequent stand-alone films in the series provide us with something a lot more worthy of our time and money. It was a noble experiment but I call it a dud.

Oh, and while Darth Vader does indeed appear during two sequences — one of which is really cool — his inclusion is both short and virtually meaningless to the film's overall plot. He could have been left out entirely and it would have made not a lick of difference to the story. If you're planning on seeing it in hope of a serious Vader fix, forget it.

Poster from the theatrical release.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

R.I.P. CARRIE FISHER (1956-2016), THE TOUGHEST PRINCESS IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY

I can't speak for the rest of us first-generation STAR WARS kids, but when I first saw the original film at age 11 (a month shy of turning twelve) I fell in love with Princess Leia precisely because she didn't just sit there waiting to be rescued. In fact, it can be argued that she was hands down the toughest "good guy" character in the movie. Yes, Han Solo was cooler than a snowman's dick and Obi-Wan Kenobi was the space-samurai I wanted to be, but it was the Princess who stood out as the story's trope-defier, and I will go to my grave loving her for that. Plus she was refreshingly rude.

 Requiescat en pace, Carrie. Your influence was tremendous and meant a lot more than you may have appreciated.