Hooray for Captain Spaulding

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A page about Frank Gorshin's hit record "The Riddler", authored by Mel Torme. If you find a copy of Batmania, a collection of Batman-TV-show-related novelty songs, the Gorshin song is worth the price alone (the Amazon page has a small snippet).

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Via TCJ, via ComicsReporter, a "CartoonRetro" message board thread with some really excellent rare Harvey Kurtzman art. Kurtzman bio for those that need it.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

A funny prank to pull when watching Sith is, as you walk out of the theater, say "Wait, Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father?"

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I link to this Mark Steyn column because of this line:
In October 2001 Faizal Aqtub Siddiqi, president-general of the International Muslims Organization, warned that the bombing of Afghanistan would create 1,000 Osama bin Ladens. In April 2003, Egypt's President Mubarak warned that the bombing of Iraq would create 100 bin Ladens. So right there you got a 90 percent reduction in the bin Laden creation program -- just by bombing a second country!

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Smigel's Saturday TV Funhouse cartoon goofed on the same thing I complained about two weeks ago.

I also noticed a lot of applause lines in the Weekend Update segment. An "applause line" is a joke where the punchline is not particularly funny (and sometimes isn't really a punchline) but expresses a politically correct viewpoint. The audience applauds the sentiment but doesn't actually laugh at the joke since laughter is involuntary but applause isn't.

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I saw Sith Sunday. Action sequences are good; dialogue and non-action scenes not so good. Good but not great; about Return of the Jedi level. If Episode I had been like this, I would have been happy-ish. There is an unintentionally hilarious scene at the end which I wouldn't dream of spoiling. It was nice to see Chewbacca but he had more to do in that Diet Pepsi commercial (He's reading the paper; that's hilarious!). Also it needed Admiral Piett.

Spoilers below:
  1. The scene I'm talking about is, of course, Vader screaming "Nooooooooo!" To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, you have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at that scene. Seriously, electric-distorted James Earl Jones should not emote.

  2. That scene is proof that Lucas is out of touch with the pop culture of today since I would think post-Simpsons, anyone else would be ashamed to do such a scene. I predict that when the DVD comes out (if not sooner) someone will dub "Mendooooooza!" over that scene. And/or "KHaaaaaaaaaaan". (UPDATE: Someone's isolated the soundclip anyway.)

  3. It would actually have been more in character if Vader had not been upset by Natalie Portman's death.

  4. So it took twenty years or so to build the Death Star? No wonder it had the exploitable flaw. Pressure to get thing done after so many cost overruns.

  5. Kenobi abandoning burnt Vader is arguably a good contrast with Luke allowing for there to be some goodness in him still.

  6. Christopher Lee gives a really-good "what the hell" reaction when the Emperor orders Anakin to kill him.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Jerry's Famous Deli is a chain of decent delis in the Los Angeles area (and it's where Andy Kaufman used to work as a busboy). I drove by one in Marina del Rey and they switched their logo from the pleasant one on their site to a new one not findable on the web yet. The new one has this weird futuristic vibe. It looks the logo for a deli Logan eats lunch at between chasing runners. Or where one dines on Soylent Green.

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Sorry posting has been light. A client was under deadline pressure which meant I was under deadline pressure. And I get to work Saturday. All of this means I probably won't see the new Star Wars until Sunday. Yeah, I know, tear up my geek membership card (fortunately I taped a conversation I had Wednesday at the funny book shop about the Superman Red/Superman Blue story so I can use that in appeal).

I will have time tonight to watch the combination of two of my greatest childhood loves: the Muppets and Oz. (Hey, what if the Muppets did a version of a different Oz? What would that be like? It might go something like...) I do have memories of how terrible Muppet Christmas Carol was* but I'm hopeful.

*The basic problem with Muppet Christmas Carol was that it was a fairly straight adaptation of A Christmas Carol. We don't need that what with there being 500 other adaptations. Plus you end up with Michael Caine giving the are-there-no-workhouses speech to Beaker.

The great Frank Gorshin died. One of the triumverate of great impressionists (the other two being Rich Little and Frank Travelena), the inventor of the hack Brando impression, the Riddler (whose performance literally revived a one-appearance character into one of Batman's more popular foes), and one of two comedians whose action figure I own (well, technically it's a Bele doll but I call it my Frank Gorshin action figure). (The other one if you care is a Bob Hope GI Joe doll).

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Saturday, I saw Buck Benny Rides Again, a Jack Benny movie which, contrary to my assertion that such a film didn't exist, is an adventure of his radio character. Curious as to why he didn't make more movies like this, I skimmed Milt Josefburg's book on Benny and found that it was Benny's decision not to just play his radio character (or someone like him). I can understand how he felt but it's a shame we missed out on some possibly entertaining movies due to that decision.

You can tell that the audience of a theater is filled with film nerds (besides the fact that they're watching a Jack Benny movie) when they burst into wild applause at the unexpected appearance of Charles Lane.

And a microcosm of how African Americans were treated in Hollywood can be seen in the IMDB entry of Theresa Harris, the very attractive love interest of Rochester. Count how many times the word "maid" appears.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Available at Kroger, Ralphs and other Kroger-owned grocery stores is Old Yeller-brand dog food (Press release here). Idea for slogan: "Your dog will go crazy for it."

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A New Yorker review of Steven Johnson's book (the one on how pop culture is smarter than ever) quotes Johnson pondering a world (and its cultural critics) where the video game had been around for centuries and the book had just been invented:
Reading books chronically understimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying—which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical sound-scapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page...
Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children...
But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in any fashion—you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you...This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they’re powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it’s a submissive one.

UPDATE: I forgot to link to the review. D'oh!

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My brother, Mr. AEI-bigshot, is interviewed here. He gives a linkless shout-out to this blog (I'm assuming the linkless part is Legal Underground's fault and not my brother's).

Elsewhere he notes the consequence of a decision awarding 45K for a dead cat is apparently the state prefers one totals ones car to avoid hitting an animal in the street. Although if your car then damages the oldest tree in Bedford Falls, well, then you're screwed. (Maybe that's why George Bailey was going to kill himself; he knew he'd be sued for 45 G's for hitting that tree.)

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Via Evanier, a Newsweek article on how Nixon used to consult with Jeane Dixon. Dixon is, of course, the psychic who amazed the world by predicting the assasination of John F. Kennedy one week after it happened.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

I learned two things from today's LA Times Summer Films Sections:

First The Aristocrats opens August 5th. However the film's website sez July 29 in NY and LA and August 12th nationwide.

Second, Stan Lee will be playing the role of Willie Lumpkin. I was going to say this was the first time Stan Lee played a character he co-created but he did play the guy rescued by young Matt Murdock in Daredevil. Yeah, the guy was just a MacGuffin to give Daredevil his powers and blindness and we never saw him again but Stan Lee co-created him.

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Can someone explain to me why Paula Abdul was on SNL? She intros a skit with a "Hey, they're gonna do it skit but it's made up and it's all in good fun" and she closes the skit by critiquing the impersonations. So her presence adds nothing to the sketch. I mean, if American Idol were an NBC show, I could understand that maybe a network honcho would ask SNL not to crap on the golden goose. But it's not the hit show of another network! Sheesh.

Maybe Jim Downey needs to resubmit his Sneaker-Upper sketch (scroll down).

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Via Hit and Run, an article on fan attempts to explain continuity errors in fictional universes. Science-fiction and comix universes mostly, although somewhere there's fan-fiction that rationalizes why The Odd Couple had three different contradictory episodes about Felix and Oscar's first meeting. And I'm still looking for Chuck Cunningham fan-fic.

One interesting section deals with a lad named Charlie whose father wanted him to watch Star Wars in numerical/fictional-chronological order.
Getting the child to watch the series with fresh eyes from Episode I through VI in order, in a way that we Generation Xers never can, would enable us to watch the child for signs of confusion: the child might spot contradictions that our chronology-skewed brains never would. Other obvious research questions suggest themselves: When would Charlie first notice that Senator Palpatine is a bad man who wants to become Emperor, for example? When would he first have doubts about Anakin? Would Charlie be saddened that in Episode IV Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru don’t remember their old friends C-3PO and R2-D2?
The experiment fell apart however when the boy's mother rented Return of the Jedi
one conclusion is unavoidable: due to contamination by girl, the experiment is now invalidated and must be abandoned.

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Under the category of "Why couldn't they have toys like this when I was a kid?" is this Star Wars video game thing from Tiger Games. You plug the motion-detector doo-hickey framus into your TV and you can have light saber battles in the comfort of your own home.

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Via Evanier, a fanmade video for Shatner's cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

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I saw Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy tonight. I liked it more than I thought I would but it's somewhat joke-free. Huge chunks of comedy are cut to get the story told which isn't really the strong point of the source material (however you define it).

One thing that's interesting about the movie is that technology is such that jokes Douglas Adams made because he was writing for radio can be realized on the big screen without looking like crap. Arthur can say that Ford is turning into a sofa and Ford can look like a convincing sofa. Heck, in 5-10 years, they could have Zaphod be two-headed throughout the movie with the same budget rather than do whatever the heck it was they did.

  1. One consequence of waiting until the second weekend the movie's out to see it is that I'm the only one in the audience to notice the self-referential jokes: Simon Jones's appearance, the original Marvin costume, the original Hitchhikers theme.
  2. Given the amount of comedy they did cut for lack of space, it's a shame they decided to extend the joke of the Big Sneeze beyond the two sentences it received (and deserved) in the original. They cut the Philosophers' Union bit for this?
  3. So they make a "Bush stole the election from Gore" joke but then the Gore analogue for that joke turns out to be evil.
  4. An interesting plot change is that Earth Mark II is not a new version of the Earth but rather a backup (allowing for the ending where the Earth is back to its pre-destroyed state). But if it's a backup then how come the mice need Arthur Dent's brain? The original reason was that the Earth program was going to have start its ten million-year-old program over again and Dent's brain was a way around it. That doesn't seem to apply anymore.
  5. Did they return New Earth to its solar system? 'Cause if they did, it's just gonna get destroyed by the Vogons again, right? (Unless the Earth was destroyed not for the hyperspace byway but to prevent the Question from being revealed, which I believe was a plot point in the fourth or fifth book, maybe).

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

If someone is seriously considering going to the 500-dollar charity screening of the new Star Wars picture, he probably doesn't need the press release to tell him that Mark Hamill played the role of Luke Skywalker. In the "Learn Something New Everyday" department, I didn't know that John Ratzenberger was in Empire.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

One last time travel thing...In 1983-4, Lorne Michaels produced the New Show, a sketch show which preceded his return to SNL. One sketch involved time travellers (played by Dave Thomas and Buck Henry) deciding to warn Lincoln (played by Paul Simon) of his impending assasination. The joke was that his theater box quickly filled with time travellers. I recollect this bit of dialogue:
Time Traveller: Excuse me, I'm looking for Koznofski.
Buck Henry: Koznofski?
Time Traveller: Yeah, he's going to be shot today.
BH: No, this is where Abraham Lincoln is going to be assasinated.
TT: I don't think so.
[ENTER Second Time Traveller]
STT: Pardon me, Mr. Lincoln...
TT: Koznofski! [Takes aside STT.] You're not going to believe this but...

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Speaking of time travel, Lileks notes that we're approaching the point with Back to the Future where 1985 will be as far away as 1955 was to Marty McFly but notes that there's little in the film "that seems silly or dated."

One scene that does sort of date it is the scene where McFly orders beverages that haven't been invented yet. Were McFly to order these sodas in 2005, he'd have similar trouble, what with Pepsi Free having morphed into "Caffeine-Free Pepsi" and TaB only being available in speciality stores that carry Nehi and other such things. Although even in 1985, the comedy in that scene seemed forced since it wasn't like either beverage was likely to be carried in a small-town diner even in 1985

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Via a variety of sources, a time-traveller convention will be held at MIT in three days (or "kaputniks" as you in the 43rd century call them). I see a couple of flaws in this plan.

The idea is that you only have to hold one convention because you could always time travel back to it multiple times for repeat visits. But suppose time travel works like it does in Superman comic books and you become an invisible wraith if you time travel to a period where you already were? Then what?

If no time travellers show up, there are two possibilities for why that would be:
  1. To avoid contaminating the past, all attendees from pre-time-travel-invented eras are hypnotized to forget.
  2. A horrible disaster was destined to occur at the time and location of the convention. All time travelers were visited by their future selves, warning them not to attend.

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Paraphrased conversation between myself and a friend Sunday .

ME: Hey, the Jiminy Glick movie is opening Friday. Ya wanna see it Friday night or some time Saturday?
FRIEND: I can't. How about Sunday?
ME: Sunday? Are you crazy?!?! The movie will have closed by then.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

I understand that Honolulu only features rather than stars Burns and Allen. But why have George Burns and Gracie Allen in your movie if you're going to seperate them by a continent and an ocean? And in the few minutes that they were together, Burns kept fainting because he'd see lookalikes.

I was going to give A Damsel in Distress the same fast-forward-when-Burns-or-Allen-aren't-onscreen treatment that I gave Honolulu (with an exception made in Honolulu for Sig Ruman) but when I saw P.G. Wodehouse's name in the credits, I figured I shouldgive the movie my full attention so I'll wait until I have a full 90 minutes to watch.

Coincidentally I found this DVD of three other Burns and Allen movies at Costco for 9 bucks; these pictures seem to have the same "doesn't actually star them" issue.

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BlogRoll Update: I've added my brother's new weblog. Read about his new gig with the vast right-wing conspiracy. Also added my buddy Robin Jones's site.

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Speaking of Passover, Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola is still available for sale at my local Ralphs and may be at a supermarket near you. Look for a U surrounded by an O (or an "O-U" as the Jews call it) with a P next to it on the bottle cap. This Coca Cola is made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup. Coca Cola Inc. will tell you that corn syrup is just as good as sugar; they are liars. In a libertarian paradise, all soda would be made with sugar since a) you wouldn't have tariffs artificially bumping up the price of sugar and b) you wouldn't have price supports artificially lowering the price of corn syrup.

And talking of beverages, Virgils Root Beer is the best damned root beer ever.

UPDATE: The Dublin, TX Dr. Pepper bottler makes Dr. Pepper with cane sugar and will sell it to you online.

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From the Dept. of You Think You've Got Troubles: As I approach the end of Passover and face a sminor hortage of Kosher for Pesach stuff because I didn't stock up enough, Responsa from the Holocaust arrived in the mail. Its questions and answers asked of a rabbi in the Lithuanian ghetto during the Holocaust. Questions such as "Can lumber stolen from the Nazis be used for a sukkot?" (Yes, since it was stolen by the Nazis to begin with and the original owners had no hope of retaining it) and "How can a man whose left arm was amputated perform the mitzvah of wearing tefillin on his left arm?" (Have someone wrap it on his right arm). Best taken in small doses but a good reminder that you've never had it so good.

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