Monday, March 31, 2003

It is Opening Day and I'm putting everything else on the backburner. Pedro is pitching today and the Red Sox are gearing up to once again break my heart.

"I think there are only three things America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball." -Gerald Early

Sorry, that it has been so long since my last posting. Can't even say that it has been because of work or family problems. It's simply that I really haven't had much to say.

Okay, I've had a LOT to say, but it would basically be me ranting about the war in Iraq and you can get that 24/7 just about anywhere.

What can you say at this point besides it being a bad mistake which shouldn't have happened? Hundreds of Iraqi civilians and more than that number of soldiers have died. The casualties of the coalition are not anywhere near that number but it is still sad to see them losing their lives for some ill-conceived, political agenda of the Bush administration.

The Washington Monthly has an interesting article by Josua Micah Marshall. He tries to exam the real reason behind the current war, and warns that this may only be the beginning of a much, longer series of wars. Given Donald Rumsfeld's recent comments about Syria, the first part of Marshall's essay seems almost prophetic. Whether you agree with him or not, the article is still interesting reading. (I admit that Mark Evanier had a link to this article last week, but I've only had a chance to read the article yesterday.)

Monday, March 24, 2003

While I served in the U.S. Navy for close to a decade I saw a number of things which I try not to think about. Collisions at sea caused by inept officers, sailors & marines hurt and killed during 'war games'. More than once the one of the ships I served on was under attack. These events all happened in 'peace time' or at least, in areas considered out of the combat areas. It was an open secret that one or two deaths were possible, even predictable, during mass exercises during manuevers.

Given this we should not be surprised by the events that are occurring in Iraq, at this point in time. At this very moment we are purposely trying to kill the soldiers and destroy the fighting abilities of an entire nation. Despite the obvious 'brave front' put on by the Administration and Pentagon spokespersons, it should have been obvious from the pre-planning stage that this was not going to be a repeat of the first Gulf War. We are not beating back a retreating force, who invaded another country. This time we are the invaders and the soldiers and many civilians (whether they be pro or anti-Saddam) see us as uninvited intruders into their nation. Did the planners in the White House and Pentagon REALLY believe that the citizens of a nation would all welcome us with flowers and invitations to dinner?

Britain's Daily Mirror has some interesting reports that you won't see in the U.S. press. In that country the major newspapers have not all embraced the Administrations policies. The majority of British citizens continue to oppose the use of their nations troops, while hoping for their safe return. It would seem that in the American media, if you oppose the war you dishonor those men & women who serve in the Armed Forces. As most anti-war protestors have tried to make clear, this is not the case.

Be warned that some of the photographs that are shown in the Mirror articles are disturbing. I couldn't look at many of them, once it became apparent what they showed. Still it must be clear, as the Mirror reporter does, that these images are being shown in the papers and television coverage in most Arab nations. Is this what we, as American citizens, want our country to be known for? Will this 'help our cause' (whatever it happens to be this week)?

Before I forget, and on a somewhat lighter note, I was happy to see that Michael Moore received his justly deserved Oscar recognition last evening. When it was announced that he had won for "Bowling for Columbine" I told my wife, "If you want to see a political statement, just wait." He didn't disappoint, that's for sure! :-)

Friday, March 21, 2003

Is it just me or is anyone else disturbed by the obvious glee that the invasion seems to have instilled in the media?

On Wednesday night I went home and found the anchor on MSNBC positively giddy when talking to some retired General about the possible damage that could be brought down on Bagdhad by US weapons. I was reminded of the all too common site of journalists, usually local anchor/reporter types, who have been sent to accompany troops from their area. It doesn't seem to dawn on them that the armaments and equipment they lovingly touch and show off will be used to take the life of actual people. It might as well be some video game, which of course, is what the tapes we see on the nightly news appear to be.

"If you enjoyed the action and destruction of the first Persian Gulf War than you'll love the new and improved thrills in store for you in Persian Gulf War II: Saddam Is Slain! Coming to you soon on Playstation 2 and Nintendo!"

Let's also be thankful that neither March Madness nor the Academy Awards will be interrupted, just because several hundred Iraqi citizens may be killed. Hey, it's business after all and you don't want to upset major advertisers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

It's 2:15pm and the 'deadline' for the beginning of war is about six hours away. Since Saddam has said that he is not going to leave, it may be that things have already begun that we haven't heard about.

We are going to be getting minute-by-minute coverage of events, even when the 'reporters' are hundreds (even thousands) of miles away and are passing along news second & third hand. You might want to check out "How To Tell If We're Winning In Iraq" over on at They won't be handing out a scorecard, but there are things that you might watch out for.

As I've said before, at this point we can only hope that the deaths are minimal and the destruction limited. In my heart of hearts I don't believe that, but it's the only way to keep from crying over this whole situation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Is there really anyone who doubted that it would come to this? I mean, since late last year the Administration has been talking 'diplomacy' on the one hand, while sending in troops, stockpiling weapons and ammunition along the borders. Bush & Co. wanted and pushed all along for a war and nothing the UN or anyone else did or said would have prevented it from happening. Even if there had been a second vote, and it had been vetoed the current unelected Commander in Chief would have used previous resolutions (as he has and said so last evening) to allow him to justify an invasion.

Of course, since we are invading the Iraqi military has every right to fight back, as would any country whose borders had been violated. One of those stipulations for a 'just war' (we have heard so much about) is such an incursion.

Try to put a 'good face' on it as they might the U.S. will have to live with the consequences (social, political and economic) for years after G.W. has returned to the ranch.

Monday, March 17, 2003

With the way things are heating up you might want to put things in perspective over at Get Your War On Wonderful clip art cartoon strip covering the mounting campaign to get the U.S. ready what is to come.

The Prez is going to make it "official" tonight, if the various newsites and media are correct. He'll give Saddam & Co. a few days to 'get out of Dodge or else'.

Sadly, the Administration aided by their toadies in the media have put any anti-war position as being disloyal at least, or treasonal at worst. Let's hope that we don't find ourselves rounding up Arab-Americans 'for their own safety' or some such.

It's a scary time and only going to get moreso in the weeks and months ahead.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Been a while since I actually mentioned comics here, so I thought it was about time.

The BRUCE WAYNE:MURDERER/FUGITIVE storyline, beginning back in BATMAN Ten Cent Adventure, got me hooked on a few of the Bat family titles. Quickly discovered that the ugly art and confusing storyline over on NIGHTWING weren't my cup of tea. On the other hand, I'm really glad to be reading both ROBIN & BATGIRL. Both are interesting characters in themselves, apart from their involvement with their mentor. Also, found that BIRDS OF PREY was a nice change of pace, allthough the recent change in art chores threw me for an issue. The three main Batman books (BATMAN, DETECTIVE & GOTHAM KNIGHTS) have allowed me to catch up on my one time favorite comics character and his extended 'family'. Two female characters, SPOILER and THE HUNTRESS both are going through some tough times and have enough backstory to keep me interested.

If somebody can explain why Marvel decided to completely change the storyline and characters in THUNDERBOLTS, yet retain the title and numbering of the original series, I'd love to hear it. I had heard the book was going to change and was disappointed, since I thought that both original scripter Kurt Busiek and follow-up scribe Fabian Nicieza were doing a fantastic job with some unusual characters. Dozens of second-string Marvel villains were re-introduced, changed, killed and than brought back, new heroes were introduced and yet both guys were able to keep the juggling act going, almost effortlessly. I found it funny that, when speaking with one of the co-owners of Clockworks Comics (where I currently buy my books), at least a half-dozen folks had the book dropped from their 'pull lists' after just seeing the cover art for issue #76 in PREVIEWS. To be honest, T-bolts was the ONLY Marvel title that I have been buying on a regular basis for a while now. I know that the publisher can certainly get along without me, but I'll be curious to see how long this revamp remains on the stands.

It's been known that YOUNG JUSTICE was going to end for a while now, but I was still sorry to see one of my favorite DCU books wrap up. I think Peter David was doing a great job on all the characters, and certainly proved (as if he needed to) that he is one solid comicbook writer. I haven't read or been interested in the TITANS for years, so I can't say that their demise means much to me. I'll be picking up the cross-over GRADUATION DAY, just out of curiousity but doubt that I'll have any desire to pick up either the new TITANS or THE OUTSIDERS which will apparently spin-off. To be honest, the idea of an illegitimate daughter for BLACK LIGHTNING seems to be a slap in the face of that characters creator Tony Isabella. Distaste it enough to keep me away.

In case anybody cares (and in no particular order) here are my current Top Ten Favorite comic books:
USAGI YOJIMBO, SAVAGE DRAGON, POWERS, JSA, GREEN ARROW, HAWKMAN, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to see them back and in the hands of one of their creators), DOOM PATROL (*sigh* Another DCU title that I've heard will be dropped all too soon.), STRAY BULLETS, ASTRO CITY (I'm really glad that Kurt & Co. are back, even on an irregular shedule).

Several other comics come out rather haphazardly, but I still love them when they appear:
AKIKO, 7 GUYS OF JUSTICE (The best superhero spoof since early issues of THE TICK, and almost as strange as LETHARGIC LAD), HEROBEAR & THE KID (the book makes me remember how wonderful the imagination of a child can be)

Hats off to both BONGO COMICS and ABC for publishing entire lines which are 'must have, double bag'. You probably couldn't find two companies who publish such 'different' books, but both seem dedicated to producing things which appeal to fans outside the standard readers of DC & MARVEL.

Oh, and I'd regret not recommending FIREBREATHER, one of the new 'superhero' titles being introduced by Image Comics. What do you when you are going through puberty, and just moved into a new town where the kids at school wouldn't allow you into their cliques? Now suppose you were orange, had scales and your father was a 300-foot monster bent on conquering the world? Only three issues so far, but this is quickly moving up on my list of favorities.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE comics lately?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

A couple of quickies this morning to get things started.

It was great to hear that Elizabeth Smart was found alive and apparently in good condition yesterday. The amazing thing is that just that morning there had apparently been some reports, in Utah papers, that the Smart family was lambasting the police for failure to follow up on various leads.

The family had nothing but positive things to say for all involved later, but it will be interesting to see what comes out about a police investigation that can NOT find a girl lost for months, while they had apparently spoken to the man who had abducted her.

I also give credit to Mr. Smart for using his media spotlight to aim some anger at politicians dragging their feet on the "Amber alert" legislation. He actually named one politician by name, and you can expect that guy to be dodging reporters for a while.

Watched the 1st Annual TV Land Awards last night. I mean, for the most part there were no surprised, as you could tell from the clips who was going to get any particular award, just by knowing which folks were actually in attendance. The best part, and sometimes the saddest, was seeing so many 'familiar faces' from past shows. I was most surprised to see how frail James Doohan looked when the cast of Star Trek appeared together.

Also evident was the editing, since some folks almost magically appeared on stage while others had their acceptance speeches very, obviously cut. It seems that Shatner's remarks began somewhere in the middle of whatever he had to say.

The show could have done without some of the padding, such as the dress designer Jacques Whomever(?) retrospective. Cutting bits like that could have shortened the show, or allowed the acceptance speeches to be kept.

Looks more and more like it will be the U.S. acting on its own in Iraq, although it's possible that the British will have some troops and aircraft in the area for support. It also seems that Blair, whose friendship with Bush, looked like a good move post-9/11, will actually be his downfall within his own party. With less then 20% (I think it was 19% in the latest polls) of Brits supporting a non-UN backed war, plus some of his Cabinet already resigned (and more threatening that), I would not be surprised to see a vote of "No Confidence" or something of that order coming up shortly.

I am fascinated by articles coming out about how various entertainment and sports events might be effected by a war. Networks fear that the "March Madness" college basketball tournaments might be shuffled off to VH1, with sidebars talking about how it will impact advertisers like Budwieser because they might hesitate to advertise if the games go to the youth oriented MTV channels.

We can hold our heads up high though, since the Academy has announced that a war won't cancel or postpone their annual event. It was one thing, apparently, to hold off when it seemed that 'terrorist' threats might take place, but there's nothing like a party to keep your mind off of the bombing of Iraqi citizens.

Man, am I Mister Cynicism again, or what?

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

As promised here's the first of several postings dealing with my experiences in Las Vegas and other casinos. Be sure to check out the link over on the side to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Great stuff on what's happening, hotel rates and other things you might want to know about in "Sin City", before you head out. Btw, you might also want to check out Mark Evanier's Las Vegas pages (go through the link to POVonline, also over on the side), besides general info Mark also has some wonderful stories about new and old Vegas that will make you want to go there even more.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Viva Las Vegas, pt. 1
My first trip to Las Vegas was back in 1995, with my ex (fellow Blogger Elayne Riggs). We ended up staying with her parents, rather than at a hotel, so I can only comment on what we saw driving along the Strip and visiting several of the casinos.

My greatest thrill was just going down the length of the Strip our first night. If you have never made the trip, or have only see the city in films you can’t imagine how absolutely overwhelming the place can be. Having grown up watching clips of Frank & The Rat Pack, plus numerous other scenes showing the place it was like a ‘dream come true’ for this kid. As I whispered to Elayne while gaping at everything, "I think I just orgasmed!"

The two casinos that made the most lasting impression, at least on the inside, were Ceasar’s and the MGM Grand. Both have made a number of changes since then, but walking down the main corridor of Ceasar’s is amazing. You have got to check out the ‘living statue’ show, with Bacchus (which hasn't changed since I originally saw it), as well as the newer “Fall of Atlantis” further down the way.

Outside the Strip, I vividly recall going one evening to checkout the Freemont Experience, a great light & music show. A huge canopy of lights has been erected over several blocks, under which have been placed some of the old-time neon signs (including the Lucky cowboy) you may remember from 1950s shots of Vegas. Each time I’ve gone the show has been different.

My second trip was with my current wife, Donna. We had been talking about Vegas since we began dating back in ’99, and finally decided to take a chance. The most important thing we discovered was that visiting Vegas in the middle of summer might not be your best choice. Surprisingly, not only is it incredibly hot, but the place is packed. We found on our next trip, in January of this year, that there were fewer crowds and it was much easier (especially on weekdays early in the week) to find spots at the machines and tables. January in Vegas has temps around 56% during the day (as opposed to around 104% in July), but you might want to bring a light jacket, for evenings.

If you do go, I would recommend passing on both the Aladdin and New York, New York. They are really pushy when you first walk in, with Greeters trying to get you to sign up for casino cards and shows. Also, Aladdin isn't really that special and NYNY is like a bad dream of what Times Square once was. Crowded, noisy and impossible to find your way around. We were trying to figure out where to find an exit and found ourselves standing behind a group of people. Some guy asked me what we're standing in line for! "Hopefully the exit," I said. He laughed and drifted away.
One surprise at NYNY was a ‘tribute/memorial’ to the police & firefighters who lost their lives in the WTC disaster. Around the “riverfront” (complete with tugboat) outside the casino is a fence literally covered by t-shirts and sweaters bearing the logos of EMS, fire & police departments from around the country. Many of these also have handwritten messages, which can still be read. Very moving.
Mandalay Bay, one of the newer casino resorts, is nice, but really nothing special. Although they do have some very nice restaurants. The Bellagio, on the otherhand, is quite lovely. You have to check out the blown-glass sculptures in the lobby ceiling, and the botanical gardens. The Luxor, which I didn't have a chance to really explore during my first trip is a lot of fun. The place really uses the ancient Egyptian motive to full-effect. Giant statues of the pharoahs, hyroglyphics, etc. adorn the lobby and walls of the casino floor. Looking up you are reminded instantly of the pyramid shape of the building and the unusual 'inclinators' which take you up to your rooms moving at an angle to the casino below.

Naturally, on my trip last year I had a chance to check out the Elvira 'nickel' slots at the Luxor! Pretty cool, featuring a little statue of her on top, sitting in a skulled throne. Donna had a lot of fun (and some luck) with the Munster video slots. A comical bat transforms into Granpa Munster when you hit certain sequences and gives you winnings, depending on what is next to him. There is also a "Munster match" where you match three video clips of one character and win a total combined number of coins. Naturally, Herman is the highest (50 to 150 coins) and Marilyn gives you only twice your bet (usually 2-3 coins), if you find the single clip of her. Donna had a lot of fun (and some luck) with the Munster video slots. A comical bat transforms into Granpa Munster when you hit certain sequences and gives you winnings, depending on what is next to him. There is also a "Munster match" where you match three video clips of one character and win a total combined number of coins. Naturally, Herman is the highest (50 to 150 coins) and Marilyn gives you only twice your bet (usually 2-3 coins), if you find the single clip of her.
Both the Elvira and Munster machines give little special extras for fans of either show. When you win on the Munster Match it ends with a close-up clip of Herman saying "I'm rich...I'm rich!!"
When you get a certain sequence on Elvira you have a chance to play Movie Macabre (or something like that) where you choose a clip from a list of bad movies (they only last about 10-15 seconds so look quick). Then you have to guess how many "skulls" Elvira gave the film. If you agree with her you win a bonus amount. As with the Munster game, it's cool to hear Elvira talking to you as you play. (Hint: When asked to 'touch a chest' for a bonus, don't automatically go for one of the 'treasure chests', see what Elvira has to say if you get a bit too chummy. ;-)
There is also an I DREAM OF JEANNIE video machine. It uses animation similar to the opening credits and you hear Barbara Eden's voice saying things like "Thank you, master" (which gives me goose bumps ;-) and things like that. Only played a few times in Atlantic City, but didn't hit at all, so don't know if it does anything really cool or not.
These things are really aimed at the Boomers and folks who grew up watching these shows. Not that that is a bad thing, of course. Face it, we go to the casinos to gamble, so why not give us a little something besides Triple Sevens and Video Poker to feed our bills into.
You can't miss the water show (a series of water jets & fountains, shooting in time with music) at the Bellagio. While interesting during the day, it is incredible great at night. Every half hour or so during the day, it switches to every fifteen minutes starting at dusk to 11:00pm, each time going off to a different song. Frank Sinatra was used often during the day, with more contemporary tunes in the evenings. Stay at least for two!

Friday, March 07, 2003

It's been a few days since my last update, so let me just throw out a few things (Larry King style).

Let me get this straight.... The latest 'resolution' the British are presenting to the UN is going to give Iraq until March 17th to disarm or face military intervention. Last night GW basically says he's going to send in the troops NO MATTER what the U.N. decision. G.W. doesn't really answer a thing, but brings God, and 9/11 repeatedly into those replies he does give. He's sending in American troops to kill innocent Iraqi citizens and further inflame the anti-American feelings throughout the world (and especially the Mid-East to preserve peace and protect 'democracy'. Oh..why didn't he say so in the first place? Let's go!!

Saddam doesn't have nukes, no a way to make them, while the North Koreans possibly already have them and are making more. We attack one, but 'diplomacy' with other nations is the best route in another case.

After almost thirty years I'm back in touch with a former shipmate from the USS Shreveport. We served together from late 1970 to mid-1972, during the ship's commissioning and early deployments. I found Ken's e-mail address over at a military website for vets to get in touch with each other. What a blast from the past to hear from him and to spend over an hour on the phone catching up.

Have a good weekend and keep the duct tape & plastic wrap handy, just in case!

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Sometimes your childhood catches up with you. The past week has brought a few things that reminded me of different periods of my youth and I wanted to quickly mention them (if only to rant for a while).

Last Friday night, while checking the "Guide" on television I was jolted to find that the "Lone Ranger" was listed as being broadcast later in the evening. My initial reaction was that it was the horrible movie from '81 LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, however the guide said that this was a new film, so I figured I'd set the VCR just in case.

*sigh* Well, it seems that the WB had hoped that they could revive the series by using their usual "teen drama" formula. Hell, it worked with SMALLVILLE, so why not the "Masked Rider of the Plains". Since I haven't had the time or interest in actually sitting down and watching the entire film, my comments are limited to the 10 minutes or so that I caught while commercials aired on other shows. "Mostly Harmless" pretty much sums up my feelings. The leads are too young, the dialogue to 'hip' and you never get the feeling that anyone is taking the thing seriously, even the 'bad guys'.

Maybe it's just a matter of the LR not fitting into current ideas of entertainment. Given a good script and skilled director, with actors and crew who had a desire to bring some magic to the franchise, maybe it could be done. I just don't see it happening now.

Go over to the link to CBS television and check out Return to the Batcave : The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, which reunites Adam West & Burt Ward. I had first heard about this a couple of years ago and frankly, thought it was one of those ideas that float around Hollywood but never actually get done. Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I saw the "Dynamic Duo" over on Entertainment Tonight talking about the TV-movie.

The linked page has some nice stuff, including photos from the movie, the old Batman theme, and a video trailer for the show.

Back when the show was originally aired I was one of those millions of kids who were thrilled, yet kind of bothered at the same time. It was fun watching the overacting and over-the-top scripting, yet as a comics fan, I was insulted that one of my favorite characters was basically being made to look ridiculous. Still I was there 'same Bat-time, same Bat-channel' twice a week watching the show, along with my younger sister and my parents.

It's time to get another tape ready. Hey, maybe I can just tape over the LONE RANGER, huh?

Finally, I got a postcard in the mail informing me that the 35th reunion of my High School class is coming up. Man, has it really been that long? I'll probably end up going, but since it isn't until the Friday after Thanksgiving I'll have plenty of time to change my mind a number of times. I'll keep you updated.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Occasionally I'll be hit by feelings of nostalgia and check in on the whereabouts of some of the Navy ships on which I served.

Seems one (U.S.S. Shreveport) is currently somewhere in the Persian Gulf, while another (U.S.S. Waddell) has been temporarily re-assigned to the Greek Navy. Still another ship (U.S.S. Butte) has been de-commissioned. The first ship on which I served was the U.S.S. Boxer which was de-commissioned in early 1969 and a brand new ship has become the sixth Naval vessel to bear that name. Also a helicopter carrier (as was the ship I sailed on) this ship is also possibly scheduled to be deployed.

"Fair winds and following seas" to former shipmates and those who serve currently on my old vessels. My thoughts are with those Navy guys putting in their time, lifers or not.