Thursday, August 28, 2003

It seems to have been a while since I’ve actually talked about some current comics, so let me discuss a few books that I’ve picked up recently.

SMAX #1 – This is a five issue spin off from Alan Moore’s ABC series TOP TEN. TT is a police precinct in a city filled with super-heroes (generally called ‘science heroes’ in the ABC universe), gods and assorted aliens from any number of dimensions. Imagine, if you will, NYPD BLUE’s cast with superpowers.

Anyway, Smax comes from another dimension, is very strong and is able to project incredible force. He’s also not a very likable guy and pretty much of a loner. This time out he must return to his home world for family reasons and actually asks his current partner, a young lady known as Toy Box (because of her use of a small arsenal of tiny creatures and equipment she carries with her) to accompany him. While Smax is sort of embarrassed by his fairytale like world, Toy Box, on the other hand is absolutely fascinated and a bit out of her depth.

It’s only the first issue, so I have no idea where Alan Moore is going with this, but certainly have enough faith in him as a writer to tag along.

Over in the Batman family of books, the latest issue of DETECTIVE continues a nice mystery, co-starring the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Poor Jim Gordon seems to have discovered the identity of the serial killer, but the killer gets the best of the ex-Commissioner, so things don’t look so good. Guess we can expect a last-minute rescue next issue. Still the book is among those of the Batman family that I’ll continue to pick up for now.

Over in ROBIN, Tim Drake seems to have become involved in mystery of his own. Contacted by what appears to be Alfred, using a device which allows contact between the future and the past (as least one way) Tim must discover who among his fellow costumed heroes takes a turn to the ‘dark side’ and eventually leads Gotham into a very dangerous future. Of course, Tim isn’t really sure is the message is true or if someone is setting him up seeking to discover the identity of his mentor. I like Tim Drake and find his own book one of the best of the current Batman family of titles.

Rick Veitch continues to write a very interesting AQUAMAN. Arthur and Garth have now gone their separate paths in their attempt to defeat The Thirst from his quest to drain the Secret Sea, while at the same time looking to see just what’s going on in Atlantis, where Garth’s wife and child are held captive. Meanwhile, Arthur seems saddled with a possibly reformed Black Manta who may or may not be able to help our heroes with both their problems.

One of the nice things about not reading PREVIEWS any longer is that the items that turn up often surprise me. I never know what might appear either in my subscription file or on the shelves when I visit Clockworks. This past week I was lucky enough to find two titles that I had all but given up on seeing.

BIG BANG COMICS SUMMER SPECIAL is filled with the adventures of the ‘Golden and Silver Age’ characters of the BB universe. These characters are pretty much knock offs of some very famous super-heroes and drawn in a style reminiscent of older eras. From Ultra Man to Knight Watchman & Kid Galahad the BB heroes faithfully recreate the stories that fascinated comic book fans decades ago. While the artwork on some of these stories may not be at the level of the folks working at the Big Two, the creators at BB put so much enthusiasm into their work that it makes up for their lack of polish.

The other great surprise was LETHARGIC LAD JUMBO-SIZED ANNUAL #2. I had all but given up on Greg Hyland and company, not knowing that they were continuing the satirical adventures of these characters on line. What this book does is to reprint many of the recent web strips and tossing in some new things as well. If you’ve never encountered LL (or the League of Non-Mutants, HIM, or Walrus-Boy) than you have missed some of the sharpest spoofs of the marketing ploys and excesses of the major comics companies. If you’re a regular reader of WIZARD and would never miss an issue of COMICS JOURNAL than LL and the other characters that Hyland has put together here may not be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you have a sense of humor and don’t mind seeing your favorite characters (and creators) knocked down a peg than this is the book and Lethargic is the site for you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Just a few things while I'm thinking of them.

Since Fox has decided to drop the suit against Al Frankin I'll be dropping the "Fair and Balanced" from my logo in the next day or so. Found it interesting that in several items I've read that Bill O'Reilly seems to have been the main instigator in this whole situation. Mark Evanier had a link to an article dealing with that very thing a day or so ago.

Also interesting that Fox couldn't simply drop the suit but had to get in a dig while doing so. Reuters reports that a Fox spokeswoman said, "It's time to return Al Franken back to the normal obscurity he's accustomed to." This of course, coming from an unidentified and unnamed woman who would, no doubt, love to just once see her name printed anywhere favorably or unfavorably, oh, please just so I can show it to my friends..oh, please... ahem....

On a not so amusing note an article I discovered in the Sunday Washington Post site (8/24/03) talks about the recent increase in suicides in Japan. Not only has this country seen an increase by almost 11,000 suicide attempts annually (both successful and unsuccessful) over the past ten years, but this seems to coincide with the downturn in the Japanese economy. While this is probably not completely surprising the creepy factor in all this is that there has been a 'growth' in suicide pacts amongst younger Japanese who find each other on the Internet. Over the past few years there appear to have sprouted up a number of websites and chatrooms for people seeking 'how to' advice and even looking for others with whom they can commit this fatal act.

Let's be honest here, I have considered suicide in the past and I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm sure that many folks have thought, even fleetingly, of just ending an existence they find unlivable for whatever reason. Whether it's the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job or the death/illness of a loved one, there comes a point where some folks may think that it might not be such a bad idea to just end things at that point.

Thankfully, in my case, I have always found someone to turn to or have even found the strength within myself to pick up and move beyond the moment. I wonder what would have happened if I had, instead, went looking for someone to assist me in taking my life. Would I have felt with their encouragement the 'courage' to actually perform the deed?

Do such 'suicide support' sites or chatrooms exist on this side of the Pacific? Probably I suppose and isn't it sad if they do?

Take heart, things can and usually do get better. Turn to your friends and loved ones, speak to those whose wisdom and advise you respect. Live this life, as if it is your only one. Which, IMHO, it is!

Peace and friendship!

Monday, August 25, 2003

A quick congratulations to Al Franken for the dismissal of the injunction requested by Fox News. The judge hearing the case rightly felt the thing had no merit and felt the decision was 'easy.' Good for him!

Since Fox says that it is "considering its options" the "Fair and Balanced" will remain in my logo for the time being. I'll try to live up to the term. :-)

The past weekend was quiet and domestic, with most of the time being taken up with getting things ready for the up-coming cruise and doing some laundry. As Donna has said, it's better to get this stuff out of the way now instead of waiting (as is my usual way of dealing with anything) until the last minute.

Oh, here at the University of New Haven the students have begun arriving, with new Freshmen coming in yesterday (Sunday 8/24) and returning students moving in today. I'm personally hoping that some of the student workers I used last semester will return for the Fall, since at least three of the four were reliable and competent. I've requested five workers this time around and will keep my fingers crossed that the majority are just as good.

I'll try to have some comics related stuff later, as I was able to pick up several weeks worth of titles last Friday.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Had to toss this in while I had the chance.

There's a new group out there (at least new to me!) called the FAIR AND BALANCED PAC who have created a nice website called Taking inspiration from the Republican strategy in California, the PAC is asking folks to sign a recall petition to remove the G.W. from the White House. Of course, there is no such legislation, but it is a way to get lots of press and to contact like minded Democrats (and independents) who think that four years of the Bush Campaign are just about enough for this country.

If nothing else, you have to love the name of this group, don't you?
As usual was checking out Mark Evanier's site and found this link to an excerpt from Al Franken's new book, which should be in many bookstores today.

I personally think it was brilliant PR to rush the book out on the day that the Fox/Franken "Fair and Balanced" case will be heard in court.
In a 'fair and balanced' media (if such a thing every existed) the story of the Bush Campaign's (remember, we don't use the term Administration around here) lying (or stretching the facts, if you prefer that phrase) about the reasons for our invasion of Iraq would still be getting at least some airplay. Naturally, those in charge of such things would prefer coverage of the California recall 24/7, so we can put such unpleasantness involving G.W. behind us.

A glance at the international press on the other hand will show us that George's pal, Tony Blair is coming uncomfortably close to having to step down or at least face a vote of 'confidence' in Parliament. Today I found this item in the Straits Times of Australia. Seems that the other member of our 'coalition', namely Austrailan Prime Minister John Howard may have also allowed his staff to 'sex up' the information on Iraq.

Like his father before him, perhaps poor George was 'out of the loop' when all these things were done. If that's the case maybe he should follow his father into retirement come November of 2004.

Just one guys 'fair and balanced' opinion, of course! :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Well, this is the last western I'll be reviewing for a while, so you can rest easy. Sometime in September I'll start going through the Roy Rogers/Gene Autry collection I bought, so prepare yourself for that.

After thinking about the review (which I'm also running in an apa I belong to) I wonder if I should have talked more about really being bothered by the 'rape' scene and the fact that the woman seems pretty forgiving. There is a scene a while later where the viewer is not sure if Rio is going to kill Billy, but after that it's apparent that she is more than happy to put such things as sexual assault behind her and fall in love with her rapist.

Anyway, I just didn't want folks to think that the whole thing didn't bother me, since it did.
THE OUTLAW (1943) I’m sure that I must have seen this film at some point on television, but you’d think that I would have had some memory of it. It certainly has a few scenes that should have stuck in my mind, but I honestly can’t recall anything other than seeing various clips. Most of those, naturally, were of Jane Russell’s ample and heaving bosoms.

To be honest the shot often showed of Russell with her torn dress falling from her shoulder doesn’t actually appear in the movie. At least not in the version I have on the DVD collection. Also, just to point this out to anyone interested in buying said collection this film contains the only major glitch that I have discovered in either disk. About three-quarters of the way through there is a flutter and for the next twenty minutes or so the audio track is several seconds ahead of the video. Annoying, but it does make for some funny scenes when Russell begins lip-synching Walter Houston. It goes back to normal in the final reel, so I can’t say that it totally ruined the film for me.

There are according to Leonard Malton’s book a couple of versions of this film around, including a 117 min. ‘uncensored’ version. I can certainly see why the censor’s at the time may have had some problems with the film, especially a ‘rape’ scene that takes place in shadow. Or rather, it’s implied as Billy the Kid (played by first time Jack Buetel) pulls Rio (Jane Russell, also in her first screen role) down into the hay, after she has tried to Billy for the murder of her brother. Their conversation and revelation of this plot point is shown clearly, but then when Russell attempts to shove a pitchfork into Buetel the two of them roll into darkness. You hear Rio tell Billy to get off her, but he responds with something along the lines of, “Stop struggling lady, or I’ll rip all your dress off.” Music swells and camera fades to the next morning with Billy talking to Doc Holliday (nicely acted by Walter Houston). Whoa!!

There is a later scene where the more than willing Rio is about to fall once again into Billy’s arms, only to be interrupted by her aunt. The scene is shot from such an angle that Russell seems about to perform oral on the camera lens, so maybe it was good that they cut away at that point!

This would certainly have the ladies in the audience getting up and heading for the exits in some theatres, I’m sure. I also have to wonder what the kids in the audience might have made of all this on some Saturday matinee.

Actually, the film isn’t as bad as some folks seem to find it, in my humble opinion. It would have been interesting to see what Howard Hawks (who is reported to actually have directed this, with Howard Hughes taking credit) would have done without Hughes butting in. No doubt Hughes wanted to ensure that Russell, his then current lady friend, came off well. There are certainly stories of Hughes using his well-known engineering ability to construct a bra suitable for Russell’s full figure.

With all the double-crosses and back stabbing going on in this film it’s amazing that it actually has a ‘happy ending’ (at least for two of the characters), although I’m sure that historians would be tossing their popcorn long before the final credits rolled. I also doubt that any estates that Billy, Doc Holliday or Pat Garrett (played here by Thomas Mitchell), if they had any, would have been overly happy with the portrayal of any of their ancestors. Although Holliday certainly comes across as the best of the lot, not counting several cold-blooded murders along the way.

A fun and entertaining film, and certainly one that has it’s own notoriety in cinematic circles. Would have been interesting to see what Joel or Mike and the ‘bots would have thought of the whole thing.

As I said, I did have some problems with the assault scene, but in general I didn't find the film isn't as bad as some others. An odd film, but certainaly not a classic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

One of those days when there doesn't seem anything worth ranting about, even in a Fair and Balanced manner. However, I couldn't let the day pass without posting something so....

Whenever I find that I've finished the new comics I have and don't feel like reading a 'real book', I'll grab something from the 'unread' box of comics. There are titles in there that I picked up close to 7-8 yrs ago that I've never looked at since the day I picked them up. Hell, I have entire mini-series and multiple issues of monthly titles that haven't been printed in years.

Right now I'm going through approximately a year's worth of the EC reprints put out by Gladstone/Diamond. These aren't the better known Horror/Crime books, but rather the later "New Direction" titles that Gaines & Co. published in an attempt to get around the newly formed Comics Code Authority. I'm not enough of a scholar to know how well these books sold, nor what kind of distribution they had, but considering that none of the series seems to have lasted more than a handful of issues I don't think they were exactly capturing the hearts & minds of your typical comic fan.

Of course, when you consider some of the titles, it is obvious that the folks at EC weren't directing their books at the same kids who were picking up SUPERMAN and his four-color contemporaries.

I'll have some more on this later, since it wouldn't be out of line for me to actually get some work done here. :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

As a former New Yawker, I have mixed feelings about the articles and newshows all writing about how wonderful the city was during the BLACKOUT OF 2003 (I've decided not to copyright this, and felt that it was only Fair and Balanced to allow others to use this expression in their work.). Frankly, there was scattered reports of looting, some price gauging and more than a couple of folks getting ripped off. Also, unlike '77, which was by and large restricted to the Metro area, this sucker effected millions of people who had never set foot in NYC and seemed to be doing okay just the same.

There's a nice article over on TV BARN that makes this same point.

This is NOT a knock on the city, but just does point out that the media does tend to like to think that the folks 'out there' really don't matter quite as much as us Big City folk. Unless of course, we can poke fun at them!

Monday, August 18, 2003

I've got good news and I've got bad news. Of course, depending on your point of view nothing I'm about to say is in the realm of being good and if that's the case, keep your opinion (no matter how Fair and Balanced it may be) to yourself. :-)

Anyway, after this review I've only one more movie to rant about from the 2 DVD set I purchased about a month ago. On the other hand, I located another 2 volume set from the same collection "Great American Western" which I'll start to go over in a few weeks. That particular set is comprised of older films by Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Since I was a fan of the 'singing cowboys' as a kid you can bet I'll have a few things to say once we get to those.

Last Friday, while many good folks out there were still hoping to get power back, I was comfortable in my air-conditioned apartment, sipping iced coffee and watching the following:

SANTA FE TRAIL(1940) was directed by Michael Curtiz who was already a respected director when he came to the U.S. from his native Hungary in the mid-1920s. Curtiz had already worked with Errol Flynn several times prior to this film (including THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD), so it's likely that they felt comfortable with each other. Than again, I'm not a Flynn scholar, so it could have been just as likely that both actor and director where forced to work together again and again by the studio heads. This film is not a high point in either's career and was probably thrown together to fill a double bill with a higher profile release. Still the movie is entertaining enough, if not exactly easy to follow.

Back in 'the old days' I had an acquantance, whom we'll call The Dude. Now The Dude (TD, from here on) wasn't just a fan of Errol Flynn, she was infatuated with the man. Although, she'd have probably denied it, there was something obsessive about her interest in Flynn. It's probably just as well that the man died years before she was born, since I wouldn't have been surprised learn that she had been picked up for stalking, had he still been around. Not only did she collect everything she could get her hands on in the form of books, old articles, videos, photographs, TD (who was admittedly a fair artist) had sketchbooks filled with renditions of Flynn in and out of costume (the later making use of stills of the actor in bathing trunks, and a bit of imagination on her part).

TD had not only all this Flynn material on her book shelves and in filing cabinets, but also a number of photos on her bedroom wall AND a large poster on the ceiling above her bed. It really is probably best NOT to dwell on that last bit of info, but I tell it for a reason. (Besides letting you know that I do know some intesting folks. :-)

It has become impossible for me, in the years since becoming involved with TD to watch any Flynn film objectively. I don't dislike Flynn, and in fact, enjoyed the man's films for years before TD and I ever crossed paths. Still the woman did have an effect, so bear that in mind while I try to review this sucker, okay?

Flynn stars as J.E.B. Stuart, opposite a very, young looking Ronald Reagan as his fellow West Pointer, George Armstrong Custer. Reagan looks fresh of the the back lot and it's hard to believe that he would one day become more famous for his political skills than for his acting ability. I'd have to dig out my history books, but I have my doubts as to rather or not Custer and Stuart ever competed for a women, let alone a Kit Carson Halliday, played with wry, humor by Olivia de Havilland (whom also co-starred with Flynn in ROBIN HOOD, among others). Of course, I could be wrong!

This love triangle acts as backdrop for the more dramatic tale of Custer and Stuart's hunt for the abolutionist John Brown (with Raymond Massey scaring the crap out of anybody and chewing up entire barnloads of scenery in the part). As Leonard Maltin (or one of his reviewers) states in his indispensible guide, the movie makers seem unsure of what exactly they are trying to do here. The film throws in comedy, melodrama, action and even a song or two, apparently hoping that if one thing doesn't grab the audience, something else a few minute later might.

The script also seems unsure where it stands on the Civil War, since it does it's best to make the abolutionist side come out as the heavies and the slaves in some cases seem an after thought for other economic and political motives. In fact, while he is the heavy Massey's Brown appears to be the only one who genuinely wants to help free the slaves from their bondage.

Not a great film by any means, and probably one that nobody listed first on their later acting resumes (aside from the brilliant Massey). I've got a fondness for this film since I was a kid and it certainly is a lot more fun and enjoyable than a number of major films that have become better known.

Hey, we're almost through here, so just one more and then it's time for Roy & Gene. Pretty cool, huh?
Wanted to jump in with a Fair and Balanced overview of my weekend.

Since New York, and specifically Brooklyn, were still recovering from the BLACKOUT OF 2003(I'm still seeking copyright on that.) Donna and I decided to stick closer to home. We had some shopping to do, in order to get everything we need for our up-coming cruise.

Our first mistake was going into one of the remaining K-Marts in the area. Man, the place looks like it is being constantly picked over and everything is just left to lay where it fell. Naturally, a half hour of shopping only turned up a pack of t-shirts I wanted, but one look at the check out line and we just decided it wasn't worth the effort. It's no wonder that the chain is verging on going bankrupt, if they are all like this!

We had better luck by hitting a couple of Wal-Marts, which is probably where we should have gone to begin with. We were able to pick up some shorts, and other small items, plus a garment bag for each of us (the first W-M only had one in stock, so we had to travel to a second store to pick up the other), so at least we can pack everything without getting my suit and Donna's gowns all wrinkled.

Both of us are hoping that we can start getting things ready at this point, so we don't have to rush around the week of the cruise finding last minute items. At this point both of us are trying to figure out which book to bring along, for the flight and for any 'down time' (this meaning those periods between meals, time spent at the pool and the casino). I have a paperback that Joe Bob sent along for review, but I think I'd rather take something I don't mind losing, should I forget it along the way. Donna say's she'll probably take her copy of Hilary Clinton's biography, since she hasn't had time to finish it yet.:-)

A couple of quickie comments on television:

Caught another episode of TEEN TITANS on the Cartoon Network, the other night. I have to say that initially I was taken aback by the "Japanimation" look of the characters, but I quickly got over that and found the show to be cleverly written. As I mentioned to someone earlier, DC might be wise to dump the new revamp of TT, they are currently publishing, and just go with one based on the cartoon.

I also caught the final few minutes of TV Land's "THE ALAN BRADY SHOW". I forgot the show was on and only found it while surfing the channels. I'd love to catch the entire episode (and I'm certain it will be re-run over & over), since I found the final scenes in the church amusing.

If I have a chance later I'm going to bore everyone with a review of yet another western. Hey, like I've said before, I may be Fair and Balanced, but I've never promised to be entertaining. :-)

Friday, August 15, 2003

If I did everything correctly you'll find a link to the Al Franken Web over on the left. If I didn't do it correctly, blame it on my still being a hopeless newbie and I'll try to get the link up and running later. Catch after I finish my coffee!
I'd like to begin with a Fair and Balanced overview of how things went here yesterday.

We survived the BLACKOUT OF 2003 (which I plan to copyright, so Fox News take notice), pretty much uneffected. The lights flicked and all the computer terminals in the library had to be rebooted. Fortunately, the only major inconvenience were some of the traffic lights along Campbell Ave. (the main street here in West Haven) got screwed up and you had to take your chances with flashing red signals. Otherwise, everything remained normal.

I feel for those friends in the New York metro area, since Donna and I heard from family members in Brooklyn and they had no power at all. As of this morning (8:40am Eastern Time) it has been reported that only about 20% of New Yorkers have power. The subways are completely down and many of the commuter rail lines are only working on limited schedules. Donna and I had plans to go into the city this weekend, but we decided to stay home where things are (at the moment) running normally.

This has been my own Fair and Balanced report of the events of BLACKOUT OF 2003 (copyright Steve Chaput). Later!

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I don't dislike Joe Lieberman, and frankly think he's been an okay Senator. On the other hand he is beginning to sound a bit shrill and the message he is presenting is not going to win him any converts.

Those folks as tired of hearing from the junior Senator from my home state as I am should check out this article over at The Nation by John Nichols.

I have to think that ol' Joe is actually running for the VP nod again, or perhaps a cabinet post in any Democratic administration. "Anybody but Lieberman", indeed!
I don't know Richard Eaton that well, but we do have a 'nodding' acquaintance. He's the Public Affairs Director/'spokesman' here at the University of New Haven.

A couple of days ago, his son Richard, Jr., an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army, died in Iraq of a pulmonary edema. Possibly falling victim to the mysterious 'pneumonia' that has striken a number of U.S. troops over the past month or so.

I'm not going to make any political statement here, but just want to express my condolences to his family.
Just to let folks know, I'm going to jump on at least one bandwagon here and dedicate tomorrow's Blog entry to Al Franken. Our plan is to take part in "Fair & Balanced" Day and to discuss nothing of substance. I will however rant in an annoying way and demand that my point of view it the only "fair and balanced" way to look at things.

Thanks to the always helpful Mark Evanier for putting the Neal Pollack article up on his website. (The link to which you'll find over on the side.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Just a few things while they are fresh in my mind.

First, it's been a while since I mentioned Weight Watchers so a quick update. I went in for the weekly meeting last night and found I'd lost another 3.4 lbs. This amounts to a total of a little over 25 lbs lost in the 9 weeks I have been attending. The good thing is my cholesterol is down and it isn't as much of a challenge going up and down the stairs. A mixed blessing is that the new clothes that Donna and I bought for our upcoming cruise are already getting loose and they have to be brought in to the tailor. Our plan is to sign up for another 10 weeks and then see where we stand.

The news shows yesterday were filled with stories (as are today's papers) with accounts of the FBI sting operation that caught an 'arms dealer' trying to get a shoulder-fired missle. Naturally, this story was followed by scary talking heads revealing how vulnerable the U.S. airports are to attacks by such devices. Anyway, as a complete read of the articles in the papers reveal (and wasn't really made clear in the television accounts) was that both the sellers, suppliers/shippers of the missle and the eventual 'buyers' of the missle were all in on the operation. Everybody except this one schmuck who tried to make a dishonest dollar was in on it! Apparently this guy could not have either supplied the missile or even found one without the government agents helping along. I'm not saying the guy was an innocent lamb, but doesn't this ring of entrapment? Just call me a 'bleeding heart', I guess?

Finally, great article in today's Washington Post by Joel Achenbach on the whole Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez situation. Who knew that the tabloids had nicknames for the twosome? Jennufleck? Bennifer? Ben-Lo? Way cool! (Sorry, but the WP asks you to answer a few questions to get to the article. If you are not really interested, I mention the basic points below.)

Actually, the articles makes some good points, with the most obvious the publics love to bash and tear down those celebs we created to begin with. Also, how we want celeb couples to fail and fail big time. Yeah, I won't deny that things like the Nick Cage/Priscella Presley and Michael Jackson/Priscella Presley and "insert celeb"/Priscella Presley type of marriage amuses me to no end. Still as the article asks, 'why do we get such enjoyment' out of this kind of thing?

Monday, August 11, 2003

Just got an e-mail from Public Citizen announcing a new project they've started. Wanted to pass it along.

Start with a quote from their e-mail:

Public Citizen has launched a new Web-based effort to rescue and strengthen the presidential public financing system. This country was founded on the notion that democracy should be of, for and by the people. The value of that notion hasn't lessened. And neither should our resolve to achieve it.

This is a fight to replace the stench and corrosive impact of big money politics with integrity by our political leaders and policies that serve the best interests of the American people -- from clean air and water, to access to quality health care, to fairness and safety for rank-and-file workers. will track special interest contributions made to President Bush and document what contributors have received in return -- especially as their agendas trample over what is best for Americans.
The site is just getting started, but you might want to click on over to
the new site and see what they have. I'll be adding this to my 'permanent' list in the next day or two.
Well, I can't say that my 35th Nowich Free Academy reunion was a wonderful experience, but it was nice to actually run into a couple of folks I haven't seen in years. The event itself was held in an un-airconditioned tent at an area restaurant. Fortunately, the place is right on the water and we got enough breeze to almost compensate for the lack of fans.

Two things stand out immediately. First, why do so many of my classmates look so OLD! Man, I know I'm not in the same shape I was even fifteen years ago and I certainly have less hair, but some of the guys looked like they could be my father! Secondly, unless some of the fellow had decided to take their daughters along there were more than a few 'trophy wives' tagging along Friday night. I mean, whose kidding who?

It was great to see one of the two classmates who 'made it big' actually show up this year. Author Wally Lamb, with whom I attended elementary school as well as NFA was there and actually raffled off signed copies of his novels to raise money for a class donation to the school. You couldn't meet a nicer guy.

Pete Slosberg, who founded Pete's Brewing Co. (makers of Pete's Wicked Ale and other products) couldn't make it this year. He did send along several boxes of chocolates from his new endeavor Cocoa Pete's. The guy made a hobby into a mulit-million dollar success and I have no doubt the guy will do it again.

Maybe you can't go home again, but you can drop by for a visit.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Going to stay political for a bit more here. Interesting article in yesterday's LA Times (not sure how it was covered elsewhere outside the alternative community, if at all) on the Executive Order signed by G.W. the other week. Seems to give the major oil companies blanket immunity to do anything they please in Iraq. Nah! That can't be what the President wants, can it?
With the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy a little more than a month away it might be time to look at things again. If you check over at the Center for Cooperative Research you'll discover some interesting material. Among those items is an eye-opening timeline on what G.W. was doing (and NOT doing) as things were happening in NYC and D.C.

Called "An Interesting Day" the article goes through official White House accounts, newspaper articles and interviews with numerous officials and witnesses. To use the time-worn Watergate era phrase: "What the the President know and when did he know it?"

As the Bush Campaign (and shouldn't we stop calling the group in the White House the Administration and just be upfront about it; it IS and HAS been the Bush Re-election Committee since Jan. of 2001) gears up to put a legitimate face on the questionable election of 2000, we should all look back and question what happened. Don't expect any of this to be discussed on the nightly news come next year!

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Not that anyone cares, but since I do this blog to amuse myself anyway, I'm going to review another Randolph Scott western.

TO THE LAST MAN (1933) Adapts a Zane Grey novel by the same name. The film was also filmed previously in 1923, this silent starred Richard Dix in the role of the returning son, played later by Scott. The basic plot being a long-time feud between southern families who take their hatred out west and poison another generation. Of course, you can't have this type of thing without the Romeo and Julliet scenario cropping up, can you?

The Scott film takes liberties with Grey's novel, chiefly the names of the characters and the opening of the film which sets up the history of the main characters, whereas in the novel two of the books main characters meet and everything is explained in their conversation. Where the feuding families in the original story are the Isbel and Colter clans (as they are in the '23 film), Scott is a member of the Hayden family with his romantic interest Ellen (played by Esther Ralston)the daughter of his father's sworn enemy the head of the Colby clan(Ned, played by Noah Berry).

Just as an aside: I notice that in several of the Scott films the names of characters are changed (for no reason I can understand) from those in the novels and stories from which they are adapted. I wonder it this was something the studio heads demanded, once they had the rights to particular properties.

The movie is predictable, but is odd seeing Buster Crabbe and Fuzzy Knight together, as they both appeared in the TV show "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion" more than twenty years later. The film is also notable as being the first feature film in which a young Shirley Temple appears, as one of the Hayden children. She doesn't sing or dance, but does slap & punch a pony (rather viciously, I thought) in one scene, before having her doll's head shot off by one of the bad guys.

Oddly, enough when I noted the films title I went to my comics and discovered that I had a reprint of the Dell Four Color adaptation of the same Zane Grey story. The comic (reprinted in b&w by ACG several years ago) takes some liberties with the story as well, which is understandable, since it had to pass the Comics Code and the novel ends with a near rape of Colby's daughter by the villanous Jim Coulter. In the Scott film Berry's chief henchman (who leers at the very, lovely Miss Ralston through the entire film) is called Jim Daggs (with Jack La Rue, who made his career. Now I don't know a lot about the Hayes Code, but Daggs sleazy advances towards Ellen (including one as Ralston goes skinny-dipping, and she certainly seems nude or nearly so in the film) are way too obvious and even young kids in the theatre would not have been unsure of his desires. The camera also seems to love focusing in on Ralston's posterior, as often as possible. It has almost as many closeups as some of the major characters.

Not one of your classic films, but certainly enjoyable and with enough action in its 70 min. running time as director Henry Hathaway (who went on to direct the John Wayne films, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER & TRUE GRIT and Marilyn Monroe's NIAGRA) could cram in.
Boy, I called that one wrong, huh? Most folks seemed to believe Da Arnold would walk away from this one. Glad I didn't have money riding on the outcome.

Then again, I don't think I've ever voted for a successful candidate for President since Jimmy Carter the first time around, so my political skills are suspect.

Still would have loved to be able to take part in history as the California voters will be doing. No matter how things turn out for Gov. Davis in the recall this is going to be like the situation after Gore/Bush 2000. You can bet books will be written and there will be more than a few court cases before the whole thing ends.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Damn! Makes you wish you were a citizen of California just so you could get in on the fun, huh? Hell, it would be worth the $3,500 just to get your name on the ballot and get some CNN airtime.

Da Arnold is going to make his 'decision' public tonight on Leno. There will be more folks watching that performance than have shelled out any money to see him in T-3. He's going to clown around with Jay, say he is not going to run, the audience will "Ahhhhh" and then he'll endorse Rich Riordan. Yawn...Guess I'll be hitting the bed early tonight.

Larry Flint, Gallagher and even Gary Coleman all seem to have taken out papers. I'm hoping that NBC signs them all up and puts them in mansion somewhere. "Gubernatorial Survival" Makes me glad that all we have here in Connecticut are mayors abusing children, taking bribes and a Governor whose 'friends' are getting indicted for various things. Shame on Califonia! :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

It seems that William Saletan over in Slate has a better opinion of Joe Lieberman as a candidate than I do. Maybe seeing and hearing from the Senator from my home state for all these years have soured me on the guy, but I personally wish Connecticut's senior Senator Chris Dodd was in the running rather than ol' Joe.
Sadly, one of my own senators here in Connecticut is making an A** of himself. Apparently Joe Lieberman wants to be the Democratic nominee so badly that he wants to drag the party further right (although he claims it's centrist). His major campaign issue at this point seems to be bashing fellow Dem Howard Dean, who is currently leading the pack of nine declared candidates. Lieberman claims that Dean, and John Kerry (of all people) are too far to the 'Left" for Americans to support. "Too Far to the LEFT????" I only wish they were!

Give it up, Joe! Here's a man who should just switch parties, as he really is nothing more than a 'moderate Republican', as far as I can see. If the Dems do, by some fluke, nominate him or Gephart, than it's seriously time for the party to fold up its tents and declare itself morally and ethically bankrupt. As it stands now more and more folks see no difference between the major parties and it really would take somebody 'far to the left' to wake things up.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Was able to watch a couple more of the westerns on that 2DVD set.

ABILINE TOWN (1946) Is another nice Randolph Scott effort. He plays the town marshall, torn between two women as well as between conflicting elements in the town. It's your standard homesteaders vs. cattlemen confrontations, with the town's most influential citizens pretty happy to let the cattlemen run wild in one section of town, as long as they stay away from the business section. Scott gradually comes to realize that the future of the town would be better served by backing the homesteaders and is able to eventually get the businessmen to see it the same way. Naturally, there is plenty of shootouts, fist fights and stampedes along the way. One of Scott's female admirers is played by Rhonda Fleming, who discovers that young, homesteader Lloyd Bridges, just might be a more stable lifemate than a town marshall. Ann Dvorak, plays saloon singer & co-owner Rita, who gets to perform three songs with the other saloon gals. She's also Scott's other romantic interest and gets her man in the end. If you check out the video box over on The Internet Movie Database you'll see that Scott's name doesn't appear on the box, which features Bridges and Fleming.

VEAGEANCE VALLEY (1951) Only released a few years after the above film, certainly seems much more modern in terms of theme and acting. Burt Lancaster plays the foster son of a rancher who finds himself in conflict with the rancher's actual son, played as a perfect slimeball by Robert Walker. Besides Walker trying to weasal more money and power from his father, he also has been fooling around on the side (and fathering a child of his own) without his wife's knowledge. Add in the love that Burt feels for Walker's bride and you know that things are going to come to an ugly end. Based on a novel by Luke Short, director Richard Thorpe creates a nice little film and gets fine performances from all the cast. Especially, nasty little turn by TV's "Wyatt Earp" Hugh O'Brien as one of a pair of vengeanceful brothers out to take down Lancaster, who, Walker has led to believe is the actual father of their sister's illigetimate child. Again, a nice movie, while not classic, that entertains. Enough action to keep you interested, although I can't see the kids sitting still in the theatre during the long dialogue scenes.
This is the latest Joe Bob review. Part of a so far thankless task, as not a single one has been posted. On the positive side, the last couple were accepted and approved by John exactly as I wrote them, so that makes me feel pretty damn good.

The 37th Amendment by Susan Shelley; Reviewed by Steve Chaput
Published by Writers Club Press; ISBN 0-595-23083-0

Ted Braden is an ad executive more concerned with keeping his clients and Hollywood studio heads happy than in politics. He is doing okay financially, with an ex-wife, young daughter and a long-time girlfriend. He also has season tickets to the Lakers and this is where things go wrong. A wager made with a fellow fan accidentally causes Ted to become a defense witness in a murder case. Unfortunately, it’s a high-profile case and the mayor of LA doesn’t want facts or inconsistencies to get in the way of a quick conviction.

When Ted discovers that his fellow fan may have been wrongly convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit, he decides to see if there is something he can do to clear the man’s name. It doesn’t take long for Ted to discover that the police and the mayor do not want this to happen.

In Shelley’s first novel she demonstrates that she has the potential to be a very good writer. However, entertainment seems to be secondary to the author’s political aims. Shelley’s argument is that the members Supreme Court have put themselves above the Constitution and interpret the Bill of Rights to fit their own political agendas of the moment. Her main beef seems to be with interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment, which she finds has been used to twist the original intention of the first ten.

Shelley sets up her ‘straw man’ arguments via a story that takes place in the Los Angeles of 2056. A near future world made better (if not utopian) by the passage of the 37th Amendment earlier in the century, which removed the concept of ‘due process’ and allowed the various states to formulate their laws without interference from the Federal government. In Shelley’s world this made the streets safe, and never mind if a Right or two got in the way, since they really didn’t matter anymore.

While the pace of the story is fast, Shelley occasionally brings everything to a screeching halt to go into arguments pro & con on everything from the First Amendment to the death penalty. Fortunately, she does leave most of the factual history of her ‘case’ for an appendix, which you can skim or ignore, depending on your interest in such things.

Sadly, because she seems more concerned with getting out her ‘message’, Shelley doesn’t allow her characters to really have much depth, with the exception of Ted. He’s the only one we really get to know and care about. Also, Shelley falls into a new writers trap of being in love with her descriptive powers so much that whole passages are filled up telling us about fashion and interior design. It’s also evident that Shelley has no fondness for reporters, and especially those networks anchors concerned more about how they look and sound than with the stories they cover. Ratings are everything in this future, which really doesn’t differ much from our own. Two and a half stars.
I'd be interested to see what Shelley would do without her political hat on. Once she gets going the story moves and sadly she feels so strongly about the issues she addresses that she stops everything dead for pages of argument.

Not highly recommended, but someone more conservative than I might disagree.