Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Wishes to You and Yours

Well, despite any odd rumors to the contrary, I am still alive and relatively well. It's been a bizarre few months and I haven't blogged for pretty much any of it as many of you have been quick to remind me. My major resolution for the new year is to blog on a more regular basis, as well as to clean up my office, and achieve world peace, but more on that later.

For the moment, I'm just here to wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons and the best wishes for a happy, healthy, sane and prosperous new year. May each of you get twice what you deserve in the coming year.

As for me, I'm off to party and chug egg nog. See you all soon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Modest Proposal

So I was going over my credit card statements for the last several months, and I noticed something interesting. The overwhelming majority of my purchases seemed to average about $40 a piece. Dinner out with my lovely wife, about 40 smackers. Gassing up the car, make it 40 bucks. Grocery shopping to stock up the old larder, you guessed it, forty clams. Of course, there were other expenses that were more or less than forty, but a remarkable majority hovered right around the forty dollar mark. Seems to me that forty is quickly becoming the new twenty. I mean, think about it, you stop by your local ATM and hit the quick cash button and what does the machine hand you? Bingo! Forty beans. So here's my idea...

I think the U.S. Treasury should issue a new 40 dollar bill with...oh, I don't know, let's say Millard Fillmore on it. After all, with a name like Millard Fillmore, the guy needs every break he can get.

I'm also a big proponent of getting rid of the dollar bill and using those nifty new presidential dollar coins we've been minting, finally putting us on a par with more sophisticated countries like Canada and Great Britain which both replaced their single bills with cool-looking coins. But, knowing the general intractability of the American public, that's a slippery slope I'm not quite ready to start climbing at this moment.

Spare change, anyone?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's in a Name?

Okay, let's see if I've got this straight.

There's a new TV series this season called Chuck, about Chuck Bartowski, Nerd Herd slacker turned reluctant spy. Then there's Dirty Sexy Money, where attorney Nick George attends to the daily fortunes and foibles of the fabulously wealthy Darling family. Then we've got the wonderful Pushing Daisies, where our hero Ned the piemaker has used his amazing powers to resurrect his childhood sweetheart Charlotte Charles, otherwise known as Chuck, whose two aunts were once a synchronized swimming team called the Darling Mermaid Darlings. And, lastly, there's the new sitcom series Back to You, where former Frasier actor Kelsey Grammer portrays TV network anchorman Chuck Darling.

And they say there's never anything new or original on TV.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It's the Fall TV Scorecard - Part Two

Sorry it's taken me a little longer than planned to get to the second chapter of my reviews for this season's new shows, but that's life. There are still several new series to come so expect the final chapter next week. Anyway, once again in no particular order, here goes...

This show is basically The Godfather with a Cuban accent. It's another soap opera with a stellar cast led by Jimmy Smits of West Wing and NYPD Blue fame, the always-engaging Hector Elizondo, formerly of Chicago Hope, and the everything-award-winning Rita Moreno. What this show is lacking for me that made Dirty Sexy Money watchable is a sense of humor. So far my lovely wife is enjoying the show. How much longer I'll stick around remains to be seen.

ALIENS IN AMERICA: It's sort of The Wonder Years meets Osama Bin Ladin, but with a lot more heart. Chris and I are watching it and loving it. It's funny. It's touching. And it isn't at all cloying. And it's got Scott Patterson playing a character very unlike the beloved Gilmore Girls' Luke. Try it. You might like it.

CARPOOLERS: Not the worst idea for a sitcom, but by no means the best. The biggest problem with this series is that it violates the first and foremost rule of a good situation comedy: it's just not funny. I didn't crack a smile once during its first -- and, frankly, my only -- half hour. Odds are it'll be gone by November Sweeps. Your time can be better spent.

JOURNEYMAN: Truth to tell, I found the first show to be a little grim for my taste, but I liked the second episode much better, as the characters started to address some of the inherent problems of time travel, like using older money, what to do about your cell phone, etc. The show has promise but, ratings being what they are, it seems like it may not make it past Thanksgiving, if it even lasts that long. Give it a looksee while you can.

CAVEMEN: Well, that's six minutes of my life I'm never getting back. Seriously, the things I do for you people. This show is another shining example of Hollywood trying to prove once again that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. God, I hope they're wrong.

GOSSIP GIRL: I gave it up 15 minutes into the first episode when I realized there was nobody in the cast I cared about, but it's just gotten picked up for the whole season, and critics are saying it has really improved, so maybe I'll give it another try.

PRIVATE PRACTICE: To be honest, I'm one of those few who don't watch Grey's Anatomy, so I thought it would be hypocritical of me to watch its spin-off. Despite sporting a pretty terrific cast, the critics all seem to hate it, so it seems I made the right choice.

PUSHING DAISIES: I've already told you all what I think of this show and, based on the first week's ratings, much of America seems to agree with me. I think it's the best new thing on the air this Fall, and I hope it sticks around for a long, long time.

BIG SHOTS: With a terrific cast led by Dylan McDermott of The Practice, Christopher Titus of the eponymous Titus, Joshua Molina of Sports Night and the West Wing, and Michael Vartan, late of Alias, you'd think this series would be better than it is. It's a show about four so-called Captains of Industry who are actually little more than Buck Privates in their personal lives. To me, the whole thing feels much like the hour-long dramedy version of the previously-mentioned Carpoolers, and sadly it's not much better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

So THIS is What Must-See TV Means!

A quick heads up before tonight's TV viewing begins. If you're not gonna be home or even if you are, set your Tivo or VCR or wax tablet to record my absolute favorite new series of the season, Pushing Daisies! This is a series that is not quite like anything else you've ever seen before on TV, sort of a mix of Tim Burton and Lemony Snicket meet Six Feet Under, and that doesn't even begin to do justice to the series. Some of you may find something that occurs during the first few minutes of the show a little unsettling, but please stick with it. I promise you everything works out for the best.

Pushing Daisies is the sort of series that will either be one of the season's biggest hits or biggest ratings disasters, which is why I'm pushing for you to watch it now and help, if you can, with the ratings. I think this series worth the time and effort. I hope you will too.

Watch it tonight and let me know what you think, okay?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's the Fall TV Scorecard - Part One

It dawns on me that the new Fall TV season is in full swing as of this week, and I haven't taken the time to tell you what I think you should and should not be watching because, let's face it, my wife says I spend my entire life in front of the TV set as it is, so who better to listen to? So here, in no particular order, are my opinions of the new Fall series to date.

BACK TO YOU: Completely professional. Completely serviceable. Completely unoriginal. Leads Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and the always-wonderful Fred Willard do what they do best, but I can't escape the feeling that I've somehow seen it all before.

THE BIG BANG THEORY: Easily my favorite new sitcom of the season. I've liked pretty much everything creator Chuck Lorre has touched, and this is no exception. I saw the first version of the pilot last season, and the second version earlier this year. Strangely enough, the opening scene that aired as part of the first episode is the third version of that scene I've seen, and I think it works the best. The only change they made from the first pilot to the second that I really disagreed with was the exclusion of a female nerd character who I thought was a perfect mix with the other three leads, played by Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, and now Kaley Cuoco. I've read that Sara Gilbert will be joining the show in essentially that role and I have to admit I'm pleased. Besides, how can I hate any show where one of the lead characters is clearly a DC Comics fan? I'll be watching every week.

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a big fan of chef Gordon Ramsey's other series, Hell's Kitchen, so I was already inclined to root for him here. While I've enjoyed the first two episodes aired so far, I'm afraid that this series will quickly start to become repetitive. Whether they can find enough different kinds of nightmare restaurants to hold my interest remains to be seen.

REAPER: Is a hoot-and-a-half. The basic premise of a young slacker discovering on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was even conceived is great fun, and Ray Wise (whom I've loved ever since he played Dr. Alec Holland in the original Swamp Thing movie) plays a Devil who is both charming and suitably unctuous, and incredibly entertaining to watch. Tyler Labine makes a great loopy sidekick to our reluctant demon-hunting hero played by a wonderfully woebegone Bret Harrison. I hope the show is a hit.

CHUCK: Does to the world of espionage what Reaper does to the supernatural. Slacker Nerd Herder Chuck Bartowski, wonderfully played by Less Than Perfect's Zachery Levi, suddenly finds that he has all of the NSA's greatest secrets downloaded into his brain and both the NSA and CIA want that information. The writing is crisp, funny, and kind of touching, and I look forward to seeing where it all goes. Right now, Chuck is appointment TV for me.

LIFE: Okay, so LA detective Charlie Crews, played by Londoner Damien Lewis, is framed for a multiple murder and spends 12 years behind bars getting brutalized, until his attorney finally proves his innocence and gets Crews released from prison, where he receives a multi-million dollar settlement and his old job back as an apology. Now Crews is sort of a cross between Adrian Monk and Doctor Gregory House, using what he learned in the slammer to help him solve crimes, even as he constantly munches on the exotic fruit he was clearly denied while in stir. The show hasn't hooked me yet, but I'm willing to give it a few more episodes before I bail.

BIONIC WOMAN: Boy, has there been a new series more hyped this season? I think not. And, frankly, I think it needs all the help it can get. Yes, I know the show is a reimagining of the old '70's series, told with the same sort of dark and gritty style of the similarly-revamped Battlestar: Galactica, but does it have to be so relentlessly grim? Lighten up, people. Despite the fact that this show costars my old friend Miguel Ferrer, I'm not sure I'll be sticking with it much longer if it doesn't give me somebody to root for.

K-VILLE: Oh, please. Basically, policeman Anthony Anderson stays in New Orleans when all about him leave town because of the flooding. Now Anderson is teamed with a new cop transferred in from another city and played by Cole Hauser. Problem is, Hauser turns out to actually be an escaped con who was accidentally freed by and had his life turned around by Hurricane Katrina. Sure. That sort of thing happens all the time.It's unfortunate they chose the Big Easy as the location for this series, since the basic plot just doesn't hold water.

DIRTY SEXY MONEY: Truth to tell, I liked this one a whole lot more than I expected I would. It's one of those huge over-the-top black comedy Dallas-type soap operas with a really terrific cast, led by Peter Krause (of Sports Night and Six Feet Under fame), the always-exceptional Donald Sutherland, and Oscar-winner Jill Clayburgh. It may start to wear on me after a while, but for now I'll tune in every week to enjoy the ride.

KID NATION: Okay, I may be the only person in America who actually likes this show, but in fact I like it a lot. I'm a sucker for shows about inspiring kids, and this show is full of them. 14-year-old Michael, who always knows what to say to rally the other kids, 10-year-old Emilie, who barricades herself in with the chickens to protect them from dinnertime slaughter; tiny little 9-year-old Taylor, caught between overwhelming homesickness and the need to be one of the town's leaders. I just love this stuff and these kids' attitudes and look forward to seeing if they can actually make the ghost town they now call home work.

Okay, that's it for the new season so far. More reviews and my humble opinions next week.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wickedly Wonderful

It seems my lovely wife Christine and I have been going to the theater a lot of late. Herewith my report...

Six weeks ago, we attended the season opener of Reprise!, a musical series of which I have spoken often here in the past. This season opened with On Your Toes, one of the lesser efforts by Rodgers and Hart, memorable only for the song There's a Small Hotel and for the mini-ballet Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Still, the Reprise! production was as charming as possible under the circumstances, with a wholly competent company led by Stephanie Powers (of Hart to Hart fame) and Dan Butler (Bulldog on Frasier). We had a fine old time and look forward to the revisionist Reprise! production of the legendary Damn Yankees this November. I'll fill you all in once we've seen it.

Three weeks ago, Christine and I and our dear friend Gillian Horvath went to see the Actors Equity special one night performance of William Finn's wonderful Falsettos, with Malcolm Gets (of Caroline in the City), Vicki Lewis (of Newsradio), and Seinfeld's Jason Alexander (now creative director of the aforementioned Reprise!) leading a talented cast. Although the performers were still on book for much of the production, we found the show to be funny, charming, and ultimately touchingly heartbreaking. Well worth our time.

Last week, Chris and I went to see the road company of Lerner and Loewe's classic Camelot at UCLA's Royce Hall. Lou Diamond Phillips has just stepped into the role of King Arthur, previously played on the road by the great Michael York, and while Phillips doesn't necessarily have the greatest voice in the world, he is certainly the best singer I have ever seen in the role. Christine was thrilled to finally see a show where she knew all the music. While the sets were clearly scaled down slightly for the road, the show remains one of the classics, and the cast was easily up to the task. If Camelot comes to your neck of the woods, it's an evening well worth your time.

Last night, however, was one of the best nights I have spent in the theater in many a moon, as Chris and I and our friend Emily Mayne went to the Pantages Theater to see Wicked! In a word, WOW! Now this is what a Broadway musical is supposed to be. The sets are spectacular. The songs are singable. The story is inventive, compelling, funny, and touching. And the performers bring the house down. The current production stars Eden Espinosa as Elphaba and Megan Hilty as Glinda, both of whom have performed the roles in the Broadway company, with the always-wonderful Carol Kane as Madame Morrible and the charming John Rubenstein as the Wizard. We laughed. We cried. We were heartbroken that it had to end. Christine, who is usually one of the toughest critics I know, absolutely loved the show, which should tell you a whole lot right there. Wicked will be playing in LA at least through next March. We absolutely intend to go see it at least once more. I strongly recommend you do the same. This show gets a resounding five claws up.

Friday, September 21, 2007

This is Supposed to be a Joke, Right?

As some of you may know, I live in the west San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles proper. About a half mile south of my house is Ventura Boulevard, one of the Valley's major thoroughfares. Until a few months ago, about a half mile east on Ventura stood one of the few Taco Bell fast food restaurants in the area. We have several Del Tacos around, but this was the only Taco Bell. Once every so often, I'd stop there for lunch, to try the latest Gordita (which somehow always sounded like a Japanese movie monster to me) or the newest Quesadilla or whatever. Three or four months back, I decided to stop by the Bell to grab a quick bite, only to discover it had gone out of business. This surprised me, since most fast food chains don't drop like flies much around here, especially when there aren't many others of the particular chain to be found locally.

At least once a week since then, I've driven by to see if anything had changed at the location, and about a month ago, I was thrilled to finally see a LEASED sign on the property. Something new was going in to replace the Taco Bell. I spent the next several weeks pondering the possibilities. We're already butt deep in McDonalds and Burger Kings and Wendy's and Jack-in-the-Boxes and Carl's, Jr. around here. Even In-n-Out Burger (the best fast food burger franchise in the country, bar none) has maxed out in the area, with one available within a couple of miles now in any direction. We've got all the Pizza Huts or Domino's or Little Caesar's or KFCs or Subways or Quizno's we'll ever need. What I was really hoping for was a Sonic Burger since the only Sonic in Southern California that I'm aware of currently is down by Disneyland, a 90 minute drive away. When I was in Metropolis, Illinois back in June for the annual Superman Celebration, I had brunch at their local Sonic Burger and fell in love with their Diet Cherry Limeade, my favorite drink and one I cannot find around here anywhere.

So you hope, right? You drive past the location every so often to watch the demolition and reconstruction and you wait for the big, bright banner to go up, announcing what's coming, and you hope it'll be a Sonic because you really have a Jones for those Diet Cherry Limeades and then one day the banner goes up as expected and you read it as you drive by and you almost drive your car straight into the nearest lamppost because you're so astonished by what you see.

COMING SOON, the banner reads, in bright green letters at least a foot high, ANOTHER STARBUCKS COFFEE DRIVE-THRU!

That's it? After all this anticipation? That's all I get? Another freaking Starbucks?

Now don't get me wrong. It's not that I dislike Starbucks (although, to be honest, I much prefer the Ice-Blended coffee drinks at the local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf), it's just that there seems to be a Starbucks on almost every other street corner, interspersed with the aforementioned Coffee Beans. In fact, to add insult to caffinated injury here, were you to stand in front of the new Starbucks location on Ventura and hurl your no-fat, no-sugar, half-caf, no foam, Venti Mocha Frappachino with enough force, you would literally hit someone standing in front of another Starbucks diagonally across the street. They are that close together.

So what are we to assume here? That Southern Californians are too lazy to cross the street for a cup of coffee? That the City Planners have finally run out of new ideas completely? That some evil super-villain is doing this just to drive me crazy (admittedly a short trip)?

Truth to tell, I just don't know, and I honestly don't really care. I just mourn for my stillborn Sonic.

So can anybody tell me where I can get a decent Diet Cherry Limeade around here?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Hear the Train A-comin'...

Well, seeing as how I lambasted the original so cruelly a few blogs back, I thought it incumbent upon me to go check out the new incarnation of the movie 3:10 to Yuma, based on the short story by Elmore Leonard. For those who came in late, the original film, made 50 years ago, mind you, starred Glenn Ford (Pa Kent in the first Christopher Reeves' Superman film) as the roguish, charming, homicidal stagecoach robber Ben Wade and veteran character actor (and Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Johnny Eager) Van Heflin as Dan Evans, the desperate farmer who accepts $200 to escort the captured Wade to the town of Contention, where Wade is to be put on the title train to Yuma prison, where he will be properly tried and then pretty much promptly hung. The film is essentially a character study, as the two men come to understand and to some small degree respect one another, on the long trip to Contention. There is some action and gunplay along the way but the biggest problem with the story, as I've mentioned before, is that it has one of the most anticlimactic climaxes I've ever seen in a film. It's the kind of ending that has you leaving the theater shaking your head, wondering why you bothered to watch it all in the first place.

The new incarnation of Yuma stars Oscar winner and perennial bad boy Russell Crowe as Wade and Batman Begins' own Christian Bale as Evans, and each of them brings more of what the characters are to the roles than did the originals. Crowe's Wade is more roguish, more charming, and infinitely more homicidal than Ford's, while I've rarely seen a more woebegone farmer than Bale's Evans. I should also make mention of Ben Foster as Wade's right-hand man, Charlie Prince, a role assayed in the original by the late Richard Jaeckel. As Prince, Foster gives new meaning to the word psychopath. Generally excellent in a variety of supporting parts are Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk, and especially Logan Lerman as Evans' older son William.

There is a lot more action in this new incarnation of Yuma, though the film remains at its heart a study of two men of radically different moralities thrown into mortal conflict. The climax, which I found to be the single most disappointing part of the original, is much, much better here, though still not entirely satisfying. Over all, however, I'd have to give this film a solid three claws up.

Truth to tell, though, as I sat there watching, there was only one real thought that kept rattling around inside my head:

"Y'know," I kept thinking, "What this film really needs is a catchy theme song."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just a Thought

An interesting observation as I grow older: as a rule these days, I find that I feel a lot less like a young Turk and a whole lot more like Turkish Taffy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Aw, Shucks

Okay, so I e-mailed the legendary Stan Lee to inform him about the bizarre coincidence of my previous post, and within mere minutes, the living legend replied thusly...
Just goes to show -- great talents tend to congregate at the same place.
Positively makes one blush, it does. Yes indeed.

Oh, and for those of you wondering the next most obvious question regarding Stan and myself having lived in the same building, albeit a decade or so apart, namely did we live in the same apartment, sadly I have to say no. Stan makes mention of having an apartment that faced the rear of the building, while I have vivid memories of standing on the sidewalk in front of the building, shouting up to my mother, who was leaning out our apartment window, asking her for ice cream money, which she would then usually toss down to me, a dime tied carefully inside a handkerchief so it wouldn't get lost.

Wow, I haven't thought about that in decades. The memories this is all bringing back: running around on the Grand Concourse with my now-departed grandparents sitting on a bench nearby, keeping a watchful eye on me; my late, lamented Dad buying me one of the last issues of the original Plastic Man comics at the small candy shop across the street; all of us carefully staying out of the path of the great dinosaurs that still roamed the earth in those prehistoric days. God, was I ever really that young?

Okay, Wein, that's just about enough of that. Any second now, and I'm gonna start hearing Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold singing softly in the background.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Believe it or Not

This is one of those things which, if it wasn't true, nobody would believe it. I was just browsing through Mark Evanier's always-entertaining News From ME blog, which you can link to at the right side of this very page. Today, Mark linked to an interesting article from the Sunday New York Times Key Magazine, which includes a slide show photo gallery of all the places comic book legend Stan Lee, former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics and the co-creator of the Fantastic Four, the Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, the Uncanny X-Men, and, just to balance the scales, the Astonishing Ant-Man, has lived in his long and prolific life. Out of idle curiosity, I decided to check out the gallery and what I saw there absolutely floored me.

It's no secret that I spent my formative years growing up in Levittown, New York, or, as I like to call it, "The Cliche´City of the East". Remarkably, I'm not the only comics professional to hail from that illustrious post-war Long Island village. That lovely little suburb also gave us former Dark Horse and Batman editor Bob Shreck, Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith, and Mr. Monster writer/artist Michael T. Gilbert, among several others. But, love Levittown though I might, it wasn't my first home.

No, from birth until I was seven-and-a-half and casually wandered out into the middle of the street one day, where only my father's quick reflexes saved me from being run over by a passing truck, thus deciding my family to move immediately to the suburbs, I lived in an apartment building in the New York City borough of The Bronx. The address was 1720 University Avenue, and, as I remember it, the place looked almost exactly like this.

The astonishing coincidence in all this? According to today's Times piece which can be linked to in its entirety by clicking here, Stan Lee lived in this exact same building just a decade or so before I did. Now what are the odds of that?

Sort of makes one wonder what future former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics is living there now, don't it?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Quick Claws Up

And it goes as promised to faithful reader J. Kevin Carrier for correctly identifying the title of the previous post as a line from Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues. When Eugene Morris Jerome, played in the film by Matthew Broderick, gets off the bus in Biloxi, Mississippi, to begin his Army basic training, he mutters, "God, it's hot. It's Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't live in this hot." I loved the line and it's always stuck with me.

Here, in the real world, it looks like the heat wave has finally begun to break. It's only 81˚ right now and they don't expect it to break 90˚ for the rest of the week.

Of course, weathermen have been known to be wrong before.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tarzan Couldn't Live in This Hot

And a quick claws up to the first faithful reader who can tell us where the title of this post comes from.

Well, it was 115º on Saturday, 114º Sunday, 112º on Monday, and the last time I checked, the temperature was already at 94º today. You know it's too damned hot in Los Angeles when people are traveling to Death Valley to get away from the heat.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blast From The Past - Pt. 1

This being the first of what may well become a series of reminiscences of my early days in the comics biz.

Okay, so it's 1973 and I'm the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, not bad for a kid in his mid-20s. The Marvel offices are on 575 Madison Avenue, I can't remember which floor. Head Honcho Stan Lee has the corner office, and what has lovingly come to be known as the Marvel Bullpen fills most of the rest of the same side of the hall. The Editor-in-Chief's office is a glass-walled room inside the much larger Bullpen area, so the E-i-C is available as needed to his staff. The Marvel editorial staff in those days, as best I can remember it now, includes Chris Claremont, Scott Edelman, Roger Slifer, Roger Stern, Irene Vartanoff, and almost certainly several others who will e-mail me immediately after this is published to chastise me for forgetting them.

Anyway, on this particular day, I had just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the West Coast to attend the now-omnipresent San Diego Comic-Con and spend some vacation time visiting with friends. During the course of my trip, I'd paid a visit to the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth", Disneyland. Now, being a responsible person and knowing I can't return home to the "kids" empty-handed, while at Disneyland, I've bought my entire staff those classic Mickey Mouse ears with their names embroidered on the back. Got it so far? Good.

So here it is, the end of the day, and the entire Marvel Bullpen is sitting at their desks, diligently doing their jobs, copy editing, color correcting, making bad puns, all of them to a man and woman wearing their mouse ears, and Stan strides by the Bullpen, heading for the lobby and the subway home. He glances into the Bullpen distractedly as he strides by, wishing us all a good evening, and then he's gone from sight.

A beat. Two beats.

Then Stan's hands come into view, grasping the side of the Bullpen door frame, followed a moment later by the top half of Stan's head, peering into the room sideways as if to verify he did indeed see what he just thought he saw. He looked a bit like the famous Kilroy drawing that was so popular during the Second World War. Seeing Stan's confusion, I raise a finger and open my mouth to explain why his entire staff is sitting there, wearing mouse ears. But, with a gesture, Stan stops me before I can utter a word.

"No, don't tell me," he mutters, sadly shaking his head, as he picks up his attache case and heads for the door, "I don't think I want to know."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Only in the Movies

Well, I was supposed to be spending this evening at a screening of the Russell Crowe/Christian Bale remake of the Elmore Leonard western, 3:10 to Yuma, but my movie-going buddy Bob Skir was involved in a minor accident this afternoon (just a dented fender and a mild case of Whiplash, thank Heaven, nothing more serious) and I didn't feel like going over to Hollywood alone, so here I am blogging.

In preparation for seeing the new film, I watched the original Glenn Ford/Van Heflin version of 3:10 to Yuma on the Western Channel a few days back (it's running twice more this Thursday if you've a mind to catch it before seeing the new one) and found it to be an interesting character study with one of the most "What the...? You can't be serious. I spent two hours watching, waiting for this?!?" endings ever, though I'm told they've majorly revised the ending in the new version. But what made the original film for me was the opening theme song, sung by the legendary Frankie Laine. Back then, the right theme song could help make or break a film. In fact, it's long been argued that what helped to make High Noon such a hit was a combination of the theme song, sung in the film by John's dad, Tex Ritter, and later on the record by the aforementioned Mr. Laine, and the brilliance of the film editor who cut in all those wonderful shots of the town's clocks counting down the minutes until the villainous Frank Miller (clearly in his days before 300 or Sin City) would arrive in Hadleyville to shoot hero Will Kane dead. And what would The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance have been without that haunting anthem by Gene Pitney? And even without lyrics, Elmer Bernstein's theme to The Magnificent Seven is one of the greatest movie scores of all time. But, as my friend Peter David often says, I digress. What I really want to talk about is the theme to 3:10 to Yuma, arguably one of the most surreal songs I've ever heard.

I apologize for the fact that I don't have the name of the composer or lyricist at hand (though you can easily check that out if you watch the film on Thursday) but I did take the time to copy down the lyrics. Imagine the great Frankie Laine (accompanied in parentheses by the inevitable chorus) singing this...
There is a lonely train called the 3:10 to Yuma.
The pounding of the wheels is more like a mournful sigh.
There's a legend and there's a rumor
When you take the 3:10 to Yuma
You can see the ghosts of outlaws go riding by (riding by)
In the sky. (in the sky)
Way up high, the buzzards keep circling the train. (ah ah ah)
While below, the cattle are thirsting for rain. (ah ah ah)
It's also true, they say, on the 3:10 to Yuma
A man may meet his fate, for fate travels everywhere.
Though you've got no reason to go there
And there ain't a soul that you know there,
When the 3:10 to Yuma whistles its sad refrain,
Take that train! (Take that train!) Take that train!
Wrong. Wrong. And, dear Lord, wrong. Take the stage. Take a carriage. Take a horse or a mule. Take gas, if you have to. But under no circumstances, get on that cockenlocker train. I mean, Jeez, they've just told you the train is lonely, it's haunted, you're more than likely to die while riding it, there are buzzards waiting to pick at your carcass, and you've got no sane reason to get on board in the first place. What are they trying to do, get you killed? Honestly, the lyrics could just as easily be...
Want to die from a terminal tumor
Or perhaps be devoured by a puma?
Then the 3:10 to Yuma is surely the train for you (ooo ooo ooo)
'Cause you're screwed (ooo ooo ooo) really screwed.
At least, that would be more honest. Think about it, people, the train is so bad, there's not only a legend about it, there's a freaking rumor. What more proof could you possibly need?

But things get even worse. Know all that cool, horrible stuff the song talks about? Well, none of it actually happens in the movie. Zero. Zilch. No ghosts, no fate, no buzzards. Hell, the train itself doesn't even show up until the last few minutes of the final scene. If there had been Truth in Advertising laws back in 1957, I think I might have demanded my money back, despite the fact that, aside from the ending, it really is a pretty good film.

Still, the worst part of it all (and my lovely wife Christine will happily testify to this, assuming she hasn't already killed me by now) is this:

I cannot get the damn song out of my head.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Blog or Not to Blog

The problem with starting a blog, says my good friend What's My Line? Live On Stage director Jim Newman, is that it's pretty much like beginning a diet or joining a gym; once you start, you really need to stick with it for it to do you any good. Hence, you may well guess, our little problem. When I started this, I intended to blog every day -- honest to Pete, I really did -- but life seems to keep getting in my way.

To give you an idea how bad this has become, I started to write this particular blog last Saturday. Not the Saturday just past, mind you, but the previous Saturday, ten days ago, and I still haven't finished it. I guess a big part of the problem is that I'm trying to figure out what the purpose of this blog, if any, really is or should be.

I know many people use their blogs for self-promotion, to advertise any upcoming products or appearances. Trouble with me is, much of what I'm doing right now, the expert witness work for a local law firm, the super-secret gaming projects, are things I'm not allowed to talk about, and most of my comic book work appearing these days is usually reprints in the Marvel Essentials or DC Showcase format. I feel weird somehow promoting the old work, and the new material like the Conan: Book of Thoth mini-series I wrote with Kurt Busiek, or the various Simpsons and Futurama issues I've done for Bongo Comics have generated no response at all here, nada, zip, zero, so I'm wondering why I should even bother. Also, with What's My Line? back on hiatus for Heaven know how long, I have no upcoming appearances to plug. I mean, my next out-of-town convention appearance will be in Memphis next March. So, for now at least, there's no point in promoting it this far in advance.

Other people use their blogs to talk about what's going on in their lives but, frankly, not all that much is going on in my life right now worth talking about and that which is gets covered much quicker than I can seem to get around to it by my lovely wife Christine over on her blog. Thus, if you'd like to know what's been going on in my world for the past month, just click on Chris's link over on the right. So, again, what's the point in my being redundant?

Still others use their blogs to discuss movies they've seen or upcoming TV shows. Now, while I've see a number of movies over the last few weeks -- Hairspray (absolutely adored it and can't wait to see it again), Stardust (starts off slow, but picks up steam, and Robert DiNiro's performance alone is worth the price of admission), Ratatouille (occasionally oddly creepy -- these are rats, after all -- but ultimately charming and endearing. Can Pixar make a bad movie?), and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (loved it, especially the last 20 minutes in 3D; gotta love IMAX) -- but, again, Christine has already mentioned these in her own blog, so I'm a day late and a dollar shy. I've also seen many of the new fall TV shows so, if you folks are interested, maybe I'll talk about those in another post. But again, reviews need to be timely, and that's one thing I'm not.

Then there's politics. A lot of folks use their blogs as a platform for their political agenda. Now, while I consider myself a lifelong Liberal Democrat, I've generally been a pretty apolitical person, at least until the Clown Prince stole the office six years ago. I could rail on about that, but what can I say that more well-informed, more articulate political pundits cannot and haven't already said far more ably than I? Besides, the one time I mentioned global climate change on this blog, I started getting nasty comments from several right wing ostriches, and who needs that in their life? So it looks like politics is out.

And what does that leave me with? Well, it turns out that when I fail to blog for any long period of time, I start to get email from many of you wondering after my health. Am I all right? Am I suffering from Death Cooties? Please, let us know. First, let me thank those of you who've done so from the bottom of my heart for your concern. It truly is touching. Second, let me assure you that, as far as I can tell, I'm in as good a shape as I can be for a guy missing most of his internal organs. But that, and that reason alone, seems to be why I've got to continue with this. I appear to be suffering from an affliction unique to the Computer Age...


I'll try to stay in touch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On The Road Again

Well, another few hours and I'm off again to the San Diego Comic-Con (and, considering the size of the crowds there these days, there are those who'd say you have to be off to actually want to attend). If you're anybody in the comic book biz (or want to meet anyone in the biz), this is the place to be for the next five days.

I've been going to San Diego since, I think, the fourth convention and have watched it evolve over the years from a small friendly relaxacon to the biggest trade show in the business. Truth to tell, I kind of prefer those early days, but time marches relentlessly onward.

Anyway, if you're gonna be in San Diego and can find me in the mob, please be sure to say "hi" and mention this blog. I'm still trying to figure out how many of you actually read this thing.

Catch you on the other side.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ah, There's the Rub

Well, Sunday night's incredible episode of What's My Line? - Live on Stage was certainly a blur of activity. No, I mean that literally, since I broke my glasses five minutes before showtime and had to go onstage without them. The rest of the panel this week consisted of Emmy-nominated writer and former co-host of Win Ben Stein's Money Nancy Pimental, comedian, writer, actor (The Astronaut Farmer), the multi-talented Rick Overton, and former Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast member Felicia Day, and a wondrous bunch were they all. We had two -- count 'em, TWO -- Mystery Guests this week, which was fun. The first, whom I guessed, was current CSI: cast member Wallace Langham, formerly of The Larry Sanders Show and Veronica's Closet. He was charming and chatty and we briefly discussed my one day visit to the CSI: set earlier this year. Our other Mystery Guest was Olympics legend Bruce Jenner, who remains as entertaining as ever, and who was guessed, as I recall, by the lovely Ms. Pimental. Guessing the two non-celebrity contestants, however, proved to be an entirely different case.

The first, after considerable questioning on our part which came nowhere near the truth of his line, turned out to be a gentleman who sells medical Marijuana. The second was a lovely young woman named Jessica Dragan, who we quickly determined was somehow involved with dogs. How she was involved with dogs, we had no idea. We tried everything we could think of, dog walker, dog groomer, dog trainer, dog doctor, dog dresser, dog manicurist, I even asked if perhaps she was a dog whisperer. Wrong on all counts. When the ten NOs were turned over, Ms. Dragan was revealed to be a dog masseuse, someone who massages dog therapeutically. As ever, our terrific host J. Keith Van Straatan, asked if the panel and the audience would like to see exactly what it is Ms. Dragan does, and when we all responded enthusiastically, J. Keith gestured to the side of the stage and said, "In that case, let's all welcome Len's dog, Muffin!" And, from around the corner, dragging our lovely hostess for the evening, Natasha Leggerro, behind her, comes trotting my big ol' beautiful brown baby. You could have heard my jaw bouncing off the floor from five counties over.

As many of you may recall, we almost lost Muffy early last month when she had to have her spleen removed. Thankfully, she seems to have recovered almost completely, and has been on a special diet where she has started losing some of her extra weight. But to see her come trotting out on stage like that? Those in the audience tell me I was slack-jawed. Apparently, just after my lovely wife Christine and I had left for the show, my buddy Bob Skir (who had told me he couldn't make it to this week's show because he had to finish reading the new Harry Potter book before someone spoiled it for him, an excuse, BTW, I understood) had secretly driven to my house, collected my stepson Michael and my dog and had taken them to the theater and hidden them backstage. Muffin thoroughly enjoyed her massage and then proceeded to spend the remainder of the show sitting by my side, thus adding a fifth, albeit silent, member to our panel.

All in all, one of the single most surreal nights I've spent in the theater. Wish you could've been there. Of course, you can still come to this coming Sunday's show, sadly the last of our current season. For details, click here.

My dog Muffin, definitely bigger than a bread box.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Quick Thinking

Hey, gang. I'm still laboring under that tight deadline, but I just received this from my old friend and former DC Comics Office Manager Pat Bastienne. It made me laugh, so I thought I'd pass it on. Enjoy.
A Florida senior citizen drove his brand new Corvette convertible out of the dealership.

Taking off down the road, he floored it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left.

"Amazing," he thought as he flew down I-75, pushing the pedal even more.

Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw the state trooper behind him, blue lights flashing and siren blaring.

He floored it to 100 mph, then 110, then 120. Suddenly he thought, "What am I doing? I'm too old for this," and pulled over to await the trooper's arrival.

Pulling in behind him, the trooper walked up to the Corvette, looked at his watch and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes. Today is Friday. If you can give me a reason for speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go."

The old gentleman paused. Then he said, "Years ago, my wife ran off with a Florida State Trooper. I thought you were bringing her back."

"Have a good day, Sir," replied the trooper.
And, on that note, I'll be back here as soon as I can.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Playing Catch Up

Yes, yes, I know. I promised to blog every day and I haven't which means I lied and so now I'm going to Hell when I die, but at least I've been promised a room with a view. Oh, and a heated pool.

Seriously, gang, it's been a strange few weeks. About fourteen days ago, I got offered an incredibly cool new Top Secret gig that required me spending most of last week up in the Bay area, working in the good offices of said Top Secret project, so I wasn't really in any position to blog, even though I finally bought a brand-spanking-new laptop iBook so I could work on the road. The iBook has wi-fi, so in theory at least I should be able to blog while I'm out of town and the next time I have to go back up north to meet with the fine folks I'm working with, I promise I'll try that.

In the meanwhile, the renovation of the kitchen is finally moving along apace. The new cabinets are in place, the new sink countertop will supposedly arrive tomorrow, the doors for said cabinets are due to be added in a matter of days, and then the painting will begin. It seems there is light at the end of the tunnel at last. So when will our kitchen finally be finished? Well, as Rick Blaine once so famously put it, "Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but soon, and for the rest of our lives."

Last Saturday, my lovely wife Christine and I got to see the first fifteen minutes of the new Disney/Pixar animated feature Ratatouille. Yep, just the first fifteen minutes, since that's when all the alarms in the the local mighty mega-multiplex (all 21 screens worth) went off and several thousand people had to evacuate the theater because of a popcorn fire at the concession stand. Now, I can understand the pseudo-butter catching fire, but the popcorn itself? What's the stuff made of ? As far as I'm concerned, I'm eating nothing but Raisinets from now on. Hopefully, I'll be able to find some time in my currently-insane schedule to catch the rest of the film at some point soon. What I saw was absolutely terrific.

Sunday night, as if things around here aren't already crazy enough, I was back on the panel of What's My Line? - Live On Stage, which I've been mentioning here repeatedly of late. The other members of the panel were Suzy Nakamura (currently on screen in Evan Almighty), former Mighty Carson Art Player and TeaTime Lady Teresa Ganzel, and my new friend, eight-time Jeopardy! champion and author of the terrific book Prisoner of Trebekistan, Bob Harris. But as wonderful as we all were, this was the first time I felt the group of challengers was generally more famous than we on the panel were. The contestants included a lovely young lady whose line is cleaning birds that have fallen victim to oil spills and such, multi-talented actor Dorian Harewood, who also teaches Blackjack as a sideline, ventriloquist Mallory Lewis, daughter of the legendary Shari Lewis, who brought along Lamb Chop to entertain the audience, and our Mystery Guest, Oscar-nominated actor (for Jackie Brown) Robert Forster. You can click here to check out who's gonna be on this week's show. Rumor has it that What's My Line? is being extended through the end of the month and I may be back on the panel the Sunday before Comicon. If so, I'll let you all know.

Let's see. Anything else going on right now? Yeah, probably. But I've got to save something for my next post. If I'm a little infrequent here for the next few weeks, chalk it up to the Top Secret project. It's not that I don't love you. You know what you mean to me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Are You Bigger Than a Bread Box?

Well, if you weren't at last night's performance of What's My Line? - Live on Stage (and if you weren't and live in the LA area, shame on you), you missed what may have been the funniest show ever. The panel last night consisted of Kate Flannery (of NBC's The Office), Greg Proops (of Whose Line Is Is Anyway? fame), Debra Wilson Skelton (of MADtv and Reno 911 fame), and the talented and entertaining Barry Saltzman, a What's My Line? regular. The contestants included a young woman whose line was selling paper (a tip of the hat to Ms. Flannery), another young woman who turned out to be an FBI agent, though you would never guess it to look at her, and, signing in as Mr. X, the legendary Leonard Stern, writer of such classic TV series as The Honeymooners, The Phil Silvers Show, Get Smart, I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, He and She, and many others, though Mr. Stern was there last evening in his capacity as the co-creator of Mad Libs, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The Mystery Guest this week was Jasmine Guy, star of the TV series A Different World and Dead Like Me, and as charming and entertaining a Mystery Guest as we've had.

It's not that the panel was particularly brilliant last night, though they usually are. In point of fact, the only occupation they guessed was the lady paper seller, and that was only because the show's accomplished host, J. Keith Van Straaten, artfully steered them back on course after they'd asked if the product the young lady sold might be paper-like or paperish, and then promptly forgot all about that. No, it was just that, as with any spontaneous live performance, there was the constant sense that tonight, just this once, everything was going to go completely out of control. Trust me. You had to be there. I laughed so hard over the hour-and-a-half of the performance that I almost gave myself a sore throat.

This coming Sunday, I will be back on the panel instead of sitting in the audience. My fellow panelists are comedian/actress Suzy Nakamura (from last season's short-lived comedy Help Me Help You), former Jeopardy! champion and radio commentator Bob Harris (author of the fascinating book Prisoner of Trebekistan), and the always-hysterical Teresa Ganzel. You can learn more about the show and how to buy tickets by clicking here. Right now, there are only two more shows left this season. If you miss them, you'll never forgive yourself.

So, I expect you see you in the audience this coming Sunday. Don't disappoint me. I'll be taking attendance.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Joy of Cooking

Last Saturday afternoon, my lovely wife Christine threw me a belated surprise birthday party. And what a party it was. Rather than throwing one of those big old barbecues with loads of people and paper hats and such (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. I love a big party.), Christine invited a much smaller group (Hi, Michael and Kathy, Gillian, Darla and Peyden, Lorien, Becky, other Michael and Karen) over to join us as our new friend Tory Davis, the Kitchen Coach (check out her funny and entertaining blog here) taught a "Cooking on the Grill" Class right in our own yard. I was supplied with my very own chef's apron and toque while most of the other guests brought their own culinary attire. The menu was exceptional, beginning with a nice Grilled Greek-style Pizza with Tomato, Feta Cheese and Olives. Our friend Karen, who has been studying to become a baker, brought along her homemade pizza dough, and the stuff was absolutely terrific. At first, we were afraid the dough would either burn or fall through the grill, but Tory knows what of she speaks, and it was more fun than I can describe first stretching out the pizza dough, then grilling it, flipping it, and adding the other ingredients. More importantly, it tasted like an afternoon in Heaven.

The second course was Grilled Fish Tostadas with a Pineapple-Jicima- Avocado Salsa. This involved adding a chili powder oil glaze to almost everything and I was afraid that, being Mr. Tissue Paper Stomach, it would all be too spicy for me, but the chili oil could barely be tasted. It added just the right amount of zip to the dish. Again, incredible.

The tostadas were accompanied by a Grilled Romaine Salad with Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese drizzled with a Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette. Who knew you could grill lettuce? Who knew it could taste so good?

Dessert was Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake with Creme Fraiche. Though I don't eat peaches myself, I have it on good authority (everyone else who was there) that it was wonderful.

While the meal was terrific, the best part of the evening was the sense of community, as everybody pitched in to make each of the courses. Folks would each claim one of the ingredients in each course and deal with the appropriate chopping or grating or whatever was needed. So that when each course was served, not only did everyone love the food, they had the sense of accomplishment that comes from having helped prepare it in the first place. Like I said, one of the best birthdays ever.

If you're interested in seeing what it looked like, check out Christine's non-legal blog which you can link to at the right. There are all sorts of photos from the evening uploaded there. Just be aware when you look at the photos of me that the camera adds about 20 pounds to your body and about 20 years to your face.

No, really. It does. 20 pounds. 20 years. Hey, would I lie to you?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This is Getting Out of Hand

Okay, so there I am, sitting in a fancy dining room having a formal breakfast with legendary Broadway stars Angela Lansbury and Nathan Lane, when suddenly I realize I have absolutely no idea what either of them is talking about because all I can think of is how cool this is going to be to blog about.

At which point the alarm clock goes off and I snap awake, to discover that it was all just a lovely dream.

Only a dream.

For the love of God, people, now I'm even thinking about this cockenlocker blog thingie in my sleep.

Is there no escape?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Because I Said So

Hey, for those of you who might be interested in such things, there's a new short interview with me up at a website called Marvel Gazette. You can link to it here if you're so inclined.

If you do decide to read it, let me know what you think, okay?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Okay, I'm Finally Back

Well, this week bore pretty much no resemblance whatsoever to the week that I had planned.

I did get back from the wonderful 29th Annual Superman Celebration in the terrific town of Metropolis, Illinois, last Sunday night on schedule and I will blog at some length about all the fun I had and all the fabulous people I met there as soon as I a) have a little time and b) figure out how to download all the pictures I took there to this here blog. My good friend Bob Skir picked me up at LAX and drove us both over to the legendary Canter's Deli in Hollywood to meet my lovely wife Christine and the What's My Line? - Live on Stage gang for a late dinner. Last Sunday's panel included Boston Legal's Gary Anthony Williams, the remake of The Parent Trap's Elaine Hendrix, Bones' Eric Millegan, and The Daily Show's Beth Littleford. The Mystery Guest for the evening was the wonderful Sharon Lawrence (of NYPD Blue and now Hidden Palms fame). You can check here for this coming Sunday's cast and how to order tickets. I'll be back on the panel on Sunday July 1st and will remind you of that in plenty of time before then. Anyway, I'd planned to blog about the trip when I got home, but it was well after midnight when we pulled into the driveway and I was a little jet-lagged and I figured I'd blog on Monday instead. Yeah. Right.

I got up Monday, ran a few local errands, and prepared to blog when I got a call from the aforementioned Bob, asking if I could come over the hill from the Valley into LA proper to pick him up at his car repair place. I said sure, put aside the blogging, and headed over the hill (which, of course, is where some say I've already been for a long, long time). Anyway, I picked up Bob, we had some lunch, did a little shopping, and then Bob asked me if I'd mind helping him pick up his beloved dog Barda from the vet. Again, I say sure, and we're back over the hill to the Valley. By the time we collected the dog, I realized I didn't have time to go home before my improv class that evening and, since Bob's home isn't far from the studio where the class is held, I hung out with him a little longer, then headed to class. By the time class was over and I've had my dinner, it was about midnight, and I was exhausted. I'll blog tomorrow, I decide. My readers will understand.

Now Tuesday was my birthday, and I was looking forward to the day. I was going to blog, have lunch with friends, maybe catch a movie, then have dinner with Christine and our dear friend, TV writer (Profiler, Reasonable Doubts, others) and novelist (the Circuit series) Melinda Snodgrass. But when I got out of bed, I noticed my big old beloved Golden Retriever Muffin seemed to be having trouble walking, and that she was groaning as she laid down. Concerned, I rushed Muffin to the vet, and x-rays revealed she had a mass of some sort around her spleen. The vet said they'd have to operate to remove the mass -- and possibly the spleen -- if she was going to survive. I told him to do whatever it took to save her, to call me if there was a problem, and went home. I wasn't good for much of anything else for the rest of the day. Bob came over to keep me company. We still went out to dinner. But my mind was on the dog, and not the company. Blogging just wasn't gonna happen.

Wednesday was basically devoted to sitting by the telephone, waiting to hear from the vet how the surgery went with Muffin. Bob came by, took me to lunch, then over to Golden Apple Comics to check out the week's new releases, but I really wasn't all there until the vet called to tell me that, although they'd had to remove her engorged spleen, Muffin had come through the surgery with flying colors. You could hear my sigh of relief in Australia. The vet did tell me that they'd sent the spleen to be biopsied to find out what had caused the problem, and we're still waiting to hear back the results, but at least she was alive, and that was all that mattered.

Yesterday, I spent some time visiting my old dog at the vet's, and was told I could take her home late in the afternoon. I went home, prepared the house, then picked my big old baby up and brought her back where she belongs. She moved slow, and she had big patches of her fur shaved, but she was home and everything else was incredibly unimportant. I spent the remainder of the day and evening keeping company with my dog. I didn't blog. So sue me.

Anyway, here I am at last. I'm back. I'm blogging. And I'll do my best to keep it up daily. Unless, of course, God forbid, something happens to my dog.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Few Quick Reminders

Well, in an hour or so, I'm off to sunny Metropolis, Illinois, for the 29th Annual Superman Celebration. I'll be there through mid-day Sunday, signing autographs and shaking hands, so if you happen to be in the area, drop by and say howdy. This, of course, means I won't be blogging for the next few days, since I have neither the equipment nor the knowledge to blog from the road. When I return, I promise to regale you all with my adventures. I'm really hoping to get a picture of me flanked by Noel Neill (the original Lois Lane) and Erica Durance (the current Lois Lane). I just think that would be the coolest thing in the world.

Being in Illinois, of course, means that I'm going to have to miss the premiere episode of the spectacular What's My Line? - Live On Stage this Sunday evening over at the Acme Comedy Theater on La Brea south of Beverly, but the rest of you in the LA area don't have to be so unfortunate. I'm expecting you all to go see the show (you can check out the details a few posts back) and report back to me on what I missed.

I'll see you all Monday. Have a great weekend.

The Long and the Short of it

I'm becoming more and more disturbed by what I think I'm going to call the Contraction of America. You know, the way we find to cutely abbreviate everything in our lives. First, for example, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization becomes NATO, then performers like Jennifer Lopez become cheesy nicknames like J. Lo, then couples like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner become one-named amalgams like Bennifer. Every day every name becomes shorter and shorter.

For a number of years now, there has been a fine banking institution called Washington Mutual with branches all over Southern California and across this great nation. A few years ago, in keeping with the aforementioned trend, it started referring to itself in its TV commercials as WAMU. Now, as I wasn't particularly crazy about the nickname but I figured I could live with it.

Until recently.

Which is when the firm opened two new branches in my neighborhood that did not have the bright blue Washington Mutual logo on the sides of the buildings. Instead, in the same typeface as the previous logo, the buildings proudly read WAMU. That's it. Just WAMU. I guess after the several years of TV indoctrination, they expect we should all now know what WAMU means.

I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, WAMU is the sound of a startled cow being hit by a Volkswagen beetle.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Rube Goldberg Lives!

Wow! And I thought I had too much time on my hands. This you've got to see.

Just click here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Poster Posting

Over the years, there have been a lot of terrific movie posters with a lot of terrific tag lines. Remember lines like "Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water" or "In space, no one can hear you scream" or "This summer, the coast is toast" or... well, you get the point.

My favorite poster for one of this summer's upcoming blockbuster movies is currently slapped on the sides of city buses all over Los Angeles. It's a wide black banner with bold white lettering that reads: Yippee Ki Yay, Mo though the 'O' is cut off in mid-letter. On the bottom right corner of the banner in much smaller lettering of the same type, the banner reads: John 6:27 as if it were a Biblical passage, when in fact it's the name of the speaker, and the release date of the film.

Anyone who does NOT know which film the banner is talking about, just leave me a comment here, and I'll fill you in. Oh, and any of the rest of you, if you've got a particular favorite movie poster tag line you think should be shared with the group, please feel free to let us know. That's a big part of the fun of a blog like this.

Paris is Burning...Me Up

Okay, so I'm on my way to my weekly improv class (about which more anon) and the radio tells me that the freeway is backed up for miles so I leave really early, get on said freeway, find it almost empty (which is often the case when the traffic report says it's jammed), and get to my class a half hour early.

On the drive over, all the news will talk about is the incarceration the night before of celebri-slut Paris Hilton and how ingenious she'd been in avoiding the paparazzi when she turned herself in and how she intends to spend her three whole weeks behind bars trying to find ways to make the world a better place and what she was wearing when she surrendered, and I'm struggling really hard not to toss my proverbial cookies while I'm behind the wheel. I mean, come on. More and more of our brave men and women are dying needlessly every day in the Middle East just so the most self-serving administration in American history (and that's including the Grant and Harding administrations) won't have to admit they made a monumental mistake in going to war in the first place, Global Climate Change threatens not only our generation, but the future of the entire Human Race on this planet, and all the news is talking about is some insipid, talentless media whore. It makes me crazy.

Which brings me back to standing outside the improv theater with a half hour to kill, steaming and seething, and this is what suddenly comes to my mind, virtually full-blown. For those of you who care about such things, it should be sung to the tune of The Loving Spoonful's Summer in the City.
Jail time, Paris in the slammer,
Posing in her cell, causing quite a clamor.
Most cons aren't impressed by glamour.
Others simply want to brain her with a hammer.
Won’t eat, skinny, looking half-dead,
Droning on her cell phone. Jesus, what an airhead.

Still, her sentence was cut in half.
Is that justice? Don’t make me laugh.
Come on, don’t ask me if that’s all right.
You push the point and you’ll start a fight.

And, folks, don’t you know it’s a pity
The rich don’t serve time like the poor
Just like Paris, in the slammer
Unlike Paris, in the slammer.
And now you see why I try to keep my mind occupied all the time. If left to its own devices, it does stuff like this.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Will The Most Fun I've Ever Had Kindly Enter and Sign In, Please?

About two and a half years ago, my lovely wife Christine and I were having dinner with our dear friends, Andy Zax (the Music Geek from the Comedy Central game show, Beat the Geeks, and one of the finest music producers in town) and his stunning fiance, the multi-talented artist/actress Lisa Jane Persky (check out her nifty blog by clicking on the link to your right) when Andy offhandedly mentioned that he would be busy the following Wednesday because he'd be appearing on the panel of the game show, What's My Line? No animated cartoon character ever gave a bigger or better double-take than the one I gave in response. As I may have mentioned here a time or two in the past, second only to my obsession with Musical Theater is my obsession with TV game shows.

"How can this be?" I stammered. "What's My Line? has been off the air for decades."

Andy proceeded to explain to me that former Beat the Geeks host J. Keith Van Straaten and his friend Jim Newman had revived the show and it was being performed live every Wednesday night at the Acme Comedy Theater at the corners of La Brea and Beverly Boulevards.

"Oh. So it's a parody of the original show," I say, sadly. "No," replies Andy, "They're treating it just as if the original program had never gone off the air. The panelists dress in appropriate evening wear. The contestants are completely legitimate. Heck, they even have a celebrity Mystery Guest every week, just like the original show." "How could I possibly have missed this?" I wondered aloud, sadly shaking my head, and at that moment determined I'd be in the audience of that Wednesday's show, not just to cheer on my friend Andy, but to see what the heck was going on.

Well, dear readers, that evening was right at the top of the most fun I've ever had. The panel that night included, as well as my buddy Andy, Marcia Wallace (Carol of the classic Bob Newhart Show and many of the voices these days on The Simpsons), Star Trek: TNG's own Wil Wheaton, and award-winning journalist and novelist Patt Morrison. The Mystery Guest was music legend Stephen Bishop, who sang several of his classic songs after his true identity was guessed by the panel. J. Keith stepped more than ably into the shoes of the show's original host, the late, lamented John Charles Daly. The show's regular music was performed by the absurdly talented keyboardist/songwriter (and now my buddy) Adam Chester, and our hostess was the lovely and talented Claudia Dolph. At the end of the show, J. Keith invited anyone with an odd or interesting line of work to leave a note with Claudia, and I happily obliged.

A few days later, Jim Newman called to ask if I'd be interested in appearing on the show as a contestant to try to stump the panel. I agreed before he could finish asking the question.

Thus, a few Wednesdays later, I found myself being asked to enter and sign in, please. Before I went out on stage, I had one of those self-conscious moments and asked the show's director Jim Newman if perhaps I should sign in as Mister X, since I am, in some circles, more well-known than I ever imagined I'd be. Jim said it was okay, that any member of the panel who recognized me was obligated to recuse themselves from the game. So I signed in, sat next to J. Keith and faced the panel, which that night consisted of longtime The Young and the Restless actress, Kate Linder; Whose Line Is It Anyway?'s own Greg Proops; former Win Ben Stein's Money co-host and screenwriter of the comedy feature The Sweetest Thing, Nancy Pimental, and retro-kitsch video historian Charles Phoenix. While no one on the panel recused themselves, a murmur ran through the audience, I was later told, when I signed in.

After the panel was told that I was self-employed and dealt in a service, Charles Phoenix immediately sent the panel down the wrong path by asking if there was an object involved in the service I provided and, when I answered yes, he then asked if said product could be folded in half and stuck in one's back pocket. I thought about it for a moment, then admitted that it could. After all, I'd done it myself many times as a kid. Phoenix thought the object was a wallet, and the other members of the panel never got anywhere near back to the truth of my occupation. After my line was revealed to the panel, I went down the line, shaking each panelist's hand as I exited. Greg Proops took my hand, and apologized to me, saying he read my stuff, but the name hadn't registered. I thanked him, took my leave, and joined my wife in the audience to watch the rest of the show. The Mystery Guest that evening was Kathy Kinney, who played Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show. The panel failed to guess her true identity, which made poor Greg Proops doubly embarrassed, since he'd just finished touring with Kathy the week before.

After the show, several members of the audience came up to me, asking for autographs, including one young man who said he was a professional photographer, and who raised his pants leg to show me his large tattoo of the cover of Batman: The Killing Joke, a book I had edited, which was a shot of the Joker taking a photo of the reader. I thanked him, and silently added that image to the many Wolverine tattoos people have shown me over the years that, I'm certain, will assure my place in Hell one warm day. After the others had left, a stocky fella in his mid-30s, wearing glasses and shortish blond hair came up to me and said, "Hi. Just wanted to tell you I'm a big fan of your work. Some of my friends and I are going next door for drinks after the show and we'd love to have you and your wife join us. Oh, sorry. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Drew Carey." I told him I knew who he was, having watched every episode of all of his shows, and we happily joined his group for drinks. As I've said before, living in Hollywood can be a surreal experience.

Anyway, a few days later, I get another phone call from Jim Newman. He said the audience had loved me, and he and J. Keith were both amazed at how knowledgeable I was about the show (I've watched every available episode of the original and syndicated series for years now on the Game Show Network) and would I be interested in becoming one of their recurring panelists? My answer was short and sweet. "Sure. Who do I have to kill?" I mean, seriously, how often does one get to become a member of the cast of one of one's all-time favorite TV shows, especially one that had been off the air for two decades. It would be like the late Rod Serling calling me up and asking me to write an episode of the original Twilight Zone, the show that is one of the single biggest influences on my becoming a writer.

Over the next year-and-a-half, I appeared on the panel nine times, alongside such stalwarts as game show hosts Graham Elwood and Frank Nicotero, comedians like Cathy Ladman, Debra Wilson, and Mo Collins, actors like John Waters' own Mink Stole, Ann Magnuson, Jane Brucker, ER's J.P. Manoux, Notes From the Underbelly's Rachel Harris, radio personalities April Winchell (Paul's daughter) and Kitty Felde, and actress and former Playmate Julie McCullough. I also shared the panel at various times with the aforementioned Greg Proops, Nancy Pimental, and Kate Linder. Our Mystery Guests included legendary game host host Wink Martindale (in the coolest white suit I've ever seen), Married...With Children's David Faustino, Hawaii 50's James MacArthur, the Love Boat's Ted Lange (who asked me for my autograph for his kids), LA Law and Dharma and Greg's Alan Rachins, Cheers' Shelly Long, The Hollywood Squares and the Academy Awards own Bruce Vilanch, soap star Lorenzo Lamas, and Laugh-In's own Gary Owens (with whom I'd had dinner just a few weeks before and who is so damn good at manipulating that incredible voice of his that I failed to guess him, thus forever forcing me to wear a paper bag over my head whenever I see him from now on). A sampling of other Mystery Guests on nights when I wasn't on the panel included Larry King, Ed Asner, Elliot Gould, former California Governor Grey Davis, Monty Hall, singer Lisa Loeb, Rose Marie, Nanette Fabray, and former Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty.

We wrapped our season early last July, intending to take the summer off, then resume with new shows from September through November. But life got in the way. For various reasons, J. Keith moved to New York for most of the year and, without our host, I assumed What's My Line? was finally dead.

Well, the reason I'm going on like this is that I'm thrilled to tell you we've risen from the grave. On Sunday June 10th and for the next four Sundays thereafter, What's My Line? - Live On Stage is back, once again darkening the halls of the Acme Comedy Theater. At the moment, I'm scheduled to be the panel on Sunday July 1st, and possibly one other Sunday, but things are still flexible and those dates may change. If you live in the Southern California area, I suggest you run, jump, hop or fly to get tickets while they're still available. You can click on the link on the Theater's name above for more details. But I'd do it and do it soon.

Trust me, people. This is one show you do not want to miss.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Kitchen Chaos 2: The Heretic

Okay, so after a week-and-a-half of having a kitchen that looks not unlike Dresden after the bombing, my lovely wife emails our phantom contractor this past Wednesday and reminds him that we did not sign on to eat all of our meals out for the remainder of our lives and that the temperature is predicted to rise considerably this coming week, which could conceivably add the piquant taste of Botulism to all of the canned goods we're currently forced to store out in our yard and, hey, just where the heck is he anyway? And he emails back that he's been forced to move his workshop to somewhere just east of the Black Forest and his email has gremlins and bears have stolen his cell phone and, hey, he told us he'd be back, didn't he, so what's the problem? He then sheepishly tells us that he'll be by on Thursday to drop off all sorts of equipment he needs and that he'll be at the house first thing Friday morning to get back to work.

Right. And the check is in the mail and there's another bus right behind this one and...well, you know the third lie already, don't you?

So Thursday comes and I have a couple of meetings to attend, so I leave the house at 10:30 in the morning and return at 3:30 in the afternoon, and...what a surprise, nothing has been dropped off in the interim. Still, one must continue to hope.

Friday morning comes. Hours pass. No sign of our contractor. At 11 in the morning, I leave a message on his cell phone (apparently, the bears bought him a new one) and ask where he is. No reply. At 12:45 in the afternoon, I leave to meet a friend for lunch, then drop said friend off to pick up his car at the repair shop. I get home about 3 PM. There's a note on the door. It seems the contractor showed up at 12:46, missing me by just a minute, having had some problems with his truck. He was going off to a local car repair shop (a different one than my friend was using) and hoped to come back soon and get to work. Well, he did indeed come back -- at 2:59 in the afternoon, at which point he left a second note and said he'd be by today to continue working. I tore out considerable portions of my hair.

Well, comes this morning, no sign of the contractor. I'm working on my remaining hair when I hear some commotion outside the front door at about 11:30 (which apparently is first thing in the AM to contractors) and, lo and behold, there he is, unpacking his tools.

He's been working in the kitchen ever since, anchoring our new cabinets and countertop to the wall. After which, he'll install new wallboard, cut the new through window to the living room into the wall, attach the new upper cabinets to the new wall, add the shelves, finish mounting the frames for our new flourescent lights, thus cutting off our contact with the Hubble telescope, and God knows what else. He says he'll work as late into this evening as he can, then come back tomorrow to finish the job. I'm trying to believe him.

Still, in the spirit of preserving my sanity, I'm also starting a pool to guess when the job will actually be done. I've already picked six weeks after the next Presidential election. Anybody else want in?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's ME!

It suddenly dawns on me that I ought to alert any and all of you loyal WeinWords readers in the Illinois/Kentucky/Whatever area that, the weekend of June 7th-10th, I'm gonna be one of the Guests of Honor at this year's 29th Annual Superman Celebration in the lovely and picturesque city of Metropolis, Illinois. Among the other guests will be the first Lois Lane, the indefatigable Noel Neill; the current Lois Lane, Smallville's own Erica Durance; Supergirl star Helen Slater, former Superman artist, Jon Bogdanove, and comic book legend and my old friend, the Grand Canyon-voiced Murphy Anderson.

There will games, panels, screenings, all manner of fun. We'll be there to shake hands, sign autographs, smile relentlessly, and make sure all attendees have a super-swell time. You can click on the celebration name above for more details. If you happen to be in that neck of the proverbial woods next weekend, come on by and say howdy. We promise we won't bite.

I'll try to remember to remind you as we get closer to the date.