Saturday, April 30, 2005

COMICS: Jay's Day Giveaway winners!

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Yes sir and madams, I survived my work week of hell and at long last it's time to announce the winners of the Jay's Day Giveaway Contest! Thanks to all the folks who took the time to submit, I didn't get a ton of entries but enough to feel it was worthwhile to introduce folks to the great toons of my old pal Jason Marcy. Thanks also to the folks at Landwaster Books and Jay himself for donating cool swag to the winners.

So, to recap, in the spirit of Jay's hilarious and naked autobiographical comics, I asked folks to send in a title for what they'd call their own autobiography. Had some wicked funny (wicked? Am I in 1989?) entries, including a couple of honorable mentions...

From that nogoodnik Will Pfeifer, star of stage, screen and writer of the Catwoman comic book...
It's not in very good taste, but I think my autobiography should be called....
"Triumph of the Will"
Really, what else am I gonna call it? It's not my fault Leni Riefenstahl used it first.

Another honorable mention goes to Dave Lartigue:
I would call the story of my life:
"What Didn't Happen"
There's a long story as to why, but that's what I'd call it.

Now we get to the top three! Third place honors go to old college nemesis Lain Hughes, who wins the award for sheer quantity with his nine (!) entries, including such works as "Ham: The Definitive Treatise," "All My Pancakes" and "When Wheatfields Are In Bloom: A Lain Hughes Romance." But this one tickled me the most:
"The Manly Art of Self-Collapse"

I don't know what it means, but I like it. Lain wins five cool rare Jason Marcy minicomics and digests, including "Days With Jay: The Daily Journal" volume 1 and 2, "Aaargh!" #3 and #4, and "Marcy Musings" #2, a nice sampler of Jay's Days.

Second place goes to Andy Thornton, with this title:
"Raised On Mildew: The Story Of A Sensitive Boy And A Poorly Ventilated Home."

Andy wins two rare Jay Marcy minicomics, plus a signed copy of Jay's first graphic novel: "Jay's Days Volume 1"! Three cheers for Andy!

And finally, we come to first place. Need it be said that all entries were picked entirely on the fantastical and possibly misbalanced whims of myself with assistance from intrepid wife and random babbling from Baby Peter. Sponsors of today's presentation include the accounting firm of Price-Waterhouse and the letter "K."

Drum roll please, for the winner of the contest -- Gary Esposito of Brooklyn, New York, with this life story title that somehow sums it all up, doesn't it:
The catchy title for my autobiography?
What my parents would say when they screamed at me as a little kid:

"I Should've Drowned You In The Tub When I Had A Chance."

Gary wins not only "Jay's Days Volume 1" but Jay's most recent work, "Jay's Days Volume 3: Rise And Fall of the Pasta Lothario," plus magazines of the first two years of Jay's daily Internet strip! Holy smokes!

Thanks to everyone again for paying attention, and maybe one fine day I'll have recovered enough to do another contest. Cheers!

Friday, April 29, 2005

MOVIES: Can you 'DiG' it?

Have you entered my Jay's Days Giveaway contest? Tomorrow is the deadline, and I'll announce winners tomorrow evening sometime. Here's the scoop! This is the last plea I'll make for entries, so come on aboard!

Anyway, here's a Thursday Video Review of a great new documentary -- ‘DiG!’

Want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star? After seeing the new documentary “DiG!”, you might change your mind.

Raw, uncensored and shocking, it ranks up there with the best rock ‘n’ roll documentaries I’ve ever seen.

“DiG!” focuses on seven years of friendship and rivalry between two small-scale, up-and-coming alternative pop/rock bands, Portland-based The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

The Dandies, led by the mellow Courtney Taylor, are amiable, professional and moderately successful (they’re huge in Europe). The Massacre, masterminded by mercurial Anton Newcombe, are a fluid mess, constantly sabotaging any chance at success with their terrible behavior. Taylor and Newcombe start out as friends, but as the Dandy Warhols rise and the Massacre flames out, anger and jealousy come to the fore.

For people who love reality TV shows, this is “Rock Star: The Real World.” It’s the messy side of rock — long nights, endless road trips to lousy clubs and uninterested audiences, scraping along for success. Frankly, it doesn’t feel like a lot of fun to live this life, but it’s a blast to watch.

Director Ondi Timoner achieved amazing access to the bands, shooting more than 1,500 hours of footage from 1995-2003. She captures incredibly unguarded moments, such as Newcombe assaulting members of the audience or even his own band during concerts, a police bust in Georgia, fights, break-ups and partying galore.

And then there’s Anton Newcombe. A self-proclaimed “musical genius,” Newcombe, frankly, comes off as a total sociopath. He dominates the film, ranting about the “revolution” his mildly appealing rock is supposed to kick off, treating everyone around him terribly, succumbing to drug addiction, driving away his bandmates and eventually ending up a bloated, raving loner. And you can’t take your eyes off him.

What’s missing from “DiG!” is more exploration of the creative side of music — you get the passion these guys have for rock, but you’re left wondering if they really have any talent.

Newcombe’s missionary fire is the engine that drives “DiG,” a cautionary tale of where rock stardom dreams can lead. Watching people behave so badly has rarely been so entertaining.
***1/2 of four

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

MOVIES: Do the hustle!

Well, this week is shaping up much like last week, with deadlines and an unexpected chaotic situation at work to deal with. And Baby Rampage!!! to deal with when I get home. Been meaning to post of a variety of subjects but unable to find time to get in-depth, piecemeal it shall be.

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Anyway, a buddy from work loaned me the Hong Kong DVD of "Kung Fu Hustle" over the weekend, and I can't say enough cool stuff about this ultra-wacky, butt-kicking flick, which just opened in fairly wide release in the U.S. Roger Ebert's review refers to it as "like Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny," which sums it up better than I can. Writer/director/star Stephen Chow hits a home run -- It's like vintage Bruce Lee crossed with a bit of "Crouching Tiger" and finished off with an adrenaline shot of pure gonzo over-the-top superheroics. It starts off oddball, and proceeds gradually into its own realm of kung-fu glory that's hard to describe ("Toad Fighting Style"?!). It may not be entirely original, but it takes what's come before and puts a fine spin on it. Check your sense of logic at the door and geek out. Anybody who loves a bit of the ol' kicking, leaping and chopping, rush to the theater and check it out. I liked it so much I think I'll have to watch the DVD again before I give it back.

In other news, my Jay's Days Giveaway ends Friday! Enter the contest while you still can!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

COMICS: Jay's Days Giveaway contest ends Friday!

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If you haven't entered the Spatula Forum Jay's Days Giveaway contest, your time is running out! Deadline is Friday to enter and win some great some by autobio comic artist Jason Marcy -- his first and third "Jay's Days" trade paperbacks, collections of his daily Internet strip and rare minicomics galore!

Full details in this post, but all you need to do is make up a title for your autobiography, what you'd call the story of your life, and e-mail to me at nikdirga @ hotmail .com -- and you're in! Five more days, folks, the more the merrier!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

TOYS: The force is cute in this one

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Oh man, they're so freakin' cute. I have a new addiction - the Star Wars Galactic Heroes toys, which are about 2"-2 1/2" high miniature action figures of the Star Wars characters, done in a somewhat cutesy style with exaggerated features. They're different than the standard Kenner figures, with less articulation, and a smaller line of about 10-20 figures I think. And at the age of 33, I am buying them every chance I get. The first one, of C-3P0 and Chewbacca, I convinced myself I was buying for Baby Peter (sure, they say ages 3-8 on the package, but he'll appreciate them later). But somehow or another I ended up finding the ultra-cute ruthless killer bounty hunters Bossk and 4-LOM in the mini-figure format, and well I do like my bounty hunters, and anyway that's how I've come to have several jaunty cute-ified Star Wars figures around the computer at work. Their tiny size makes them quite compelling to touch. I like to fondle them during particularly stressful periods. I do this covertly. Frankly, I love how they make bounty hunting mercenaries and intergalactic despots like Darth Vader adorable - it's kind of like finding a Barbie doll of Osama Bin Laden, when you think about it.

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Like pretty much every red-blooded American lad in my generation, I had a fine collection of Star Wars action figures in my day, back when "somewhat disappointing prequels" wasn't even a conceivable thought. It wasn't the biggest collection on the block but it was decent, at least until in a momentary lapse of sanity I sold half of them in a yard sale circa 1982. Aaarrgh! Anyway, while I still pick up an occasional action figure now, there's too danged many to collect and maintain that you're only doing it for ironic kitsch value rather than, say, because a small glowing piece of your soul is forever trapped back in the toy aisle of Rascoe Drugs circa 1981 or so, searching for that brand-new Imperial Snowtrooper figure.

The mini-figures are a perfect solution. Cheap - $5 per package of two - and small and portable, without little teeny-tiny accessory guns and such that end up in the vacuum cleaner, and really, there's nothing wrong with having a few toys in one's life, is there? Is there?

Friday, April 22, 2005

ETC.: Still alive

• Still swamped with my 80-page Visitors Guide project this week, but I did get nifty spoils of war -- the new work computer I'd been promised for a good year or two finally came in. Behold the glory of my new flat-panel iMac!
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She is a beauty, with an enormous screen that is so wide I feel like I'm at the movie theater. Actually it will take some getting used to, I'm likely to get crosseyed until I adjust. This fine computing machine definitely makes our now-aged 1999 iMac at home look even more poky, though. Replacing that bad boy will have to wait until we win the lottery or something, alas...

• Sad to note in the news today that actress Ruth Hussey died at age 93. Who? What? You say? Admittedly I wasn't sure where I knew the name either, but then I realized she is the last of the four stars of one of the all-time greats, "The Philadelphia Story."
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While not as legendary as her co-stars Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart, Hussey did shine in a nice cynical turn as Stewart's reporter character's wisecracking girlfriend and photographer. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for it. Curiously "The Philadelphia Story" was on TV just last week so I watched some of it again. The fast-talking, loud and dramatic style of golden age farces like this don't work for everyone, and I'll admit not all of 'em work for me, but you can't go wrong with this one. Everyone's firing on all cylinders, and 70 years on or so, it still crackles. Rest in peace, Ms. Hussey.

• Hey, my Jay's Days Giveaway contest entries have slowed down. Don't forget the deadline for it is coming up in a week or so -- April 29 is the last day to e-mail me with what you would call your imaginary autobiography. The most original, funny, wacko titles get a shot at prizes of great autobiographical comix by my pal Jay Marcy. Step up, people!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

BOOKS: 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'

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What happened on Sept. 11, 2001 has been the subject of countless reams of reporting, analysis and debate, on what it meant for Americans and the rest of the world. Eventually life trickles down into art, and so it is that author Jonathan Safron Foer's new novel, 'Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close' takes on the tough topic of 9/11. Is it too soon? Maybe for some, but overall it's an original, tragic and dryly humorous look at loss and coming to grips with it.

Foer, who's only 28, made a splash a few years back with "Everything Is Illuminated," which was a very interesting debut novel that was a bit too clever and experimental for its own good. "Close" is more cohesive, but still daring and takes chances. The central character and the novel's beating heart is 9-year-old Oskar Schnell, a would-be inventor, precocious and filled with trivia but woefully clumsy socially. Oskar's father was killed on 9/11, and the hole that event leaves in Oskar's life can't be easily filled. Oskar discovers a mysterious key in his dead father's closet, and decides to search all of New York for whatever it unlocks.

In between Oskar's quixotic quest, Foer tosses in lots of tricks -- typographical art, photographs and shifting perspectives. The bells and whistles distract some from the main story, although the use of photos is often very effective, especially at the devastating conclusion. What makes "Close" work for me is Oskar, who is indelibly given life by Foer. He's a totally believable, too-smart-for-his-own-good boy, one who uses all the tricks of his mind to escape the horror of his dad's death. Foer makes him often funny, but never a joke, as he travels New York, searching for the "Black" whose name is on the envelope his father's key was in.

Where "Close" falters some is in lengthy digressions featuring Oskar's grandparents, who tell their own stories in journal and letter excerpts. Survivors of the Dresden firebombing of World War II, Foer is obviously trying to tie that holocaust in with 9/11. But he makes these two characters so willfully eccentric and mannered in their behavior (Oskar's traumatized grandfather doesn't speak, and writes all his conversation; his grandmother's bizarre relationship with her husband), that you're thrown out of the story. Their quirks overwhelm the message. When "Close" focuses on Oskar's powerful voice, it's a great book, and says something sensitive and respectful about a real-life tragedy. I wouldn't toss all of the stylistic experiments of "Close" - the photos work well, as I mentioned, and one point when the type blurs and compresses into a wall of words is very effective.

At 28, Foer's got a lot of books in him, I hope - I just would like to see him get the showboating out of his system and settle down to tell his story more in the next one. Grade: B+

LIFE: Happy 14 Months, Peter

At 14 months old today, Baby Peter is developing his vocabulary. He's had words for a while but they make sense only to him. Cracking the code is where our parenting brains are focused lately. Words so far:
Tat = cat. First official word, we think.
Cah = car.
Ma ma = Mom, or, pay attention to me now.
Da = me
Ohhhh = extreme interest
Eh? = curiosity
nighnigh = good night (may be imagined on dad's part)
Gahwheeeeeeeeeeee = I'm going to jump on Daddy's groin now. (Oddly enough, same noise Daddy makes in response.)

Posting will be light this week as I'm deep in an annual 80-page project I head up. In the meantime consider entering our Jay's Days Giveaway contest (details in post immediately below). I got the package of prize stuff from that Canadian goof this weekend and there's some swell things, including collections of Jay's daily Internet strip, for the winners! So enter away!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

COMICS: Jay's Days Giveaway!

Yeah, it's Friday and I have little to say but before you begin your weekend debauchery, consider entering the Jay's Days Giveaway contest I'm running here at Spatula Forum. Entries are inching in, but the more the merrier!

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I'm an old pal and big fan of Jason Marcy and his autobiographical comix, and you should be to. For a chance at some cool swag, I want you to pretend you've written your own life story, and come up with a catchy title for it that'll get those books moving off the shelves. Then, e-mail me your autobiography's title to nikdirga @ You'll have a shot at winning Jay's latest book "Jay's Days Vol. 3: Rise and Fall of the Pasta Shop Lothario" plus even more rare and early work by this great cartoonist. Jay's Days 3 is as funny as ever, and his most mature, heartfelt and accomplished work yet, taking on Jay and his wife Kris' leap into parenthood. Take a few seconds and jot off an e-mail, help support this fine toonmaker. The new deadline for entries is April 29, two weeks and counting!

Friday, April 15, 2005

COMICS: Troy Hickman, A God Among Men*

A huge big' old slap of the golden spatula congratulations to my old buddy Troy Hickman, who picked two Eisner Award nominations in the announcement today for comics' most prestigious awards, named after the late great Will Eisner.

Troy nabbed nominations for "Best Anthology" for his "Common Grounds" superhero slice-of-life series from Image comics (and where's the sequel, Image?) and "Best Short Story" nomination for “Where Monsters Dine,” by himself, Angel Medina and Jon Holdredge, in Common Grounds #5. Way to go, buckaroo!

I've known Troy since 1992 or so and had the joy of having him do some writing for my late, not-that-lamented "Amoeba Adventures" small press comic. He was absolutely the finest guest writer I ever had, and my most faithful critic/letter hound/obsessive fan to boot. Not one but two Eisner nods is the least the man deserves. (To give you some perspective, that's the same amount of nominations as Dan Clowes, Warren Ellis and Art Spiegelman.) Now, in manners of hygiene and breeding, he may be an unspeakable abomination from the pits, but the man can wield a pen. Now let's see some more projects from you, boyo!

* The terms "God," "Among" and "Men" may not necessarily be true.

MOVIES: I saw 'Elektra' so you don't have to

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of Elektra. I think she was done right in a dozen or so stories by her creator, Frank Miller, and frankly it would've been better for all concerned if she'd never appeared in comics again after that. But hey, femme fatales sell, so Elektra sputters along in comics to this day. And this year's recent movie adaptation does little to convince me this is a character worth reading about --

It’s hard to see how you could make a movie about a sexy, deadly knife-throwing assassin boring, but somehow “Elektra” manages to do just that.

A spinoff of 2003’s comic-book adaptation “Daredevil” starring Ben Affleck, the plot revolves around Elektra (Jennifer Garner), a conflicted young woman who’s a hired assassin, but doesn’t seem to like her work very much.

When she’s hired for a mission that she finds she can’t go through with, Elektra comes into conflict with the evil Japanese death cult The Hand. Will Elektra stay on the side of the angels or the devils?

Judging from online chatter, I’m one of the few who rather liked the Gothic bombast of “Daredevil.” In that movie, Elektra apparently died at the end. This movie glosses over her apparent resurrection in hazy flashback sequences, and doesn’t mention the events of “Daredevil” at all (a deleted scene on the DVD does feature a 30-second cameo by Affleck).

“Elektra” the movie is toothless action, lacking the hard edge of the original Frank Miller comics or the colorful fun of the movie “Daredevil.” Directed by Rob Bowman (“The X-Files”), it’s a film convinced of its own deep solemn meaning. We have many dreary shots of Elektra looking depressed, and poorly visualized slow-motion fights that all look like they escaped from a 1988 Guns ‘N’ Roses video.

There are a few cool moments, even if they don’t make much sense — ninjas that explode in a puff of smoke when they die; a man whose tattoos come to life. And Terence Stamp makes a nice impact in his few scenes as Elektra’s mentor Stick.

Garner has proven herself to be a pretty appealing actress, on TV’s “Alias” and movies like “13 Going on 30.” But here she’s given a moody assassin to play, and little of her charm emerges.

The makers of “Elektra” realize a cold-blooded murderer isn’t very sympathetic to audiences, so they try to make her a cuddly assassin who only kills really bad people. The movie sinks in manipulative clich├ęs. She’s the killer who cries. Yeesh.

I’ll say this for “Elektra.” It’s not quite the bottom of the barrel for recent Marvel Comics adaptations (that would be last year’s “The Punisher” in my book). But that’s about all that you can say that’s positive about this lazy hackwork.
*1/2 of four

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

COMICS: Quick Comics Reviews!

Got my box of monthly comics goodness from the fine folks at Westfield last week, and have a few quick comic thoughts to jot down...

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Fantastic Four #524
A great wrap-up to writer Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo's nearly 40-issue run on the Fantastic Four, the best the comic's seen in many years. Waid really understands the "family" part of the Fantastic Four setting it apart from the rest of the superhero comics, and balances slapstick humor with galaxy-spanning action and solid drama. This last issue is a nice sampler of the entire run's feel - after an accident, the Four's powers have "left" their bodies and are randomly jumping into people's bodies throughout New York City. Imagine spontaneously becoming a rocky orange Thing, or a Human Torch. It's that real rarity in today's comics, a one-part story, and it's just great superhero fun, with nice insights into the characters in between the action. I'll miss this creative team, although I'm excited to hear they're doing a Spider-Man comic this fall. Grade: A-

Black Panther #2
The Black Panther is one of those characters I just like, regardless of the iffy stories he appears in. Cool jet-black Batman-crossed-with-black cat visuals, the novelty of being the first major black superhero, ruler of an African nation and James Bond, Einstein and Doc Savage all wrapped into one. The late, lamented recent series written by Priest was the highlight of this character's printed career, combining great art with twisting, complex stories unlike anything else in mainstream comics. It got a little too labyrinthine toward the end of its 62-issue run, but I dug it. Nobody stays gone long in comics, so yet another Black Panther comic has started up, written by Reginald Hudlin and drawn by the great John Romita Jr. Two issues in, and I'm not super impressed. Hudlin comes from movies ("House Party," "Boomerang") and doesn't have anywhere near a consistent authorial voice or tone. It doesn't feel like the man's written a comic in his life. Characters speak inconsistently -- the Panther's homeland of Wakanda is a proud and independent African nation, so why do we get people talking in American slang? Nobody feels realistic. Worse yet, this is one of those insanely drawn-out series where two issues in and the title character has hardly appeared. We've basically had a leisurely tour of Wakanda and its leader's fearsome reputation. The art by Romita is pretty darn great as always, but the writing almost reads like amateur night. I'll stick with it for a little while because darn it, I love the Black Panther as a character, but we either need radical improvement from the writer or a new one, stat. Grade: C

Secret War #4 (of 5)
Man, I want my money back. I'm really starting to lose my faith in writer Brian Bendis, who misses as often as he hits lately. This overpriced, underplotted series is a prime example of "Bendis bloat," taking four $3.99 issues to tell a two-issue tale. I liked the first issue, with its "James Bond" type premise of heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man, Cage, Wolverine and more getting involved in a mysterious undercover mission that somehow ties in with the source of the technologically-powered villains in the Marvel Universe's origins. Interesting idea, done with a bit of menace and nice Bendis one-liners. But since the first issue, this story - terminally late between issues - has dragggggged, already out-of-date thanks to Bendis' more entertaining "New Avengers" series. The painted art by Gabriel Del Otto is nice, I guess, but often too dark and not very good at sequential storytelling. This issue sums up the meandering pointlessness of the series - a long fight scene, with a mysterious villainess we've never seen before showing up at the end. Padded out with 20 pages of filler pin-ups and scripted profiles. I've already pre-ordered #5 so I'm in for the whole tale, but this ranks as one of the more disappointing miniseries in recent memory. Grade C-

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

LIFE: Monday meme

There's been a lot of the memes floating around lately. Your Monday morning treat is reading me fill out this one! Take it and pass it on if you like.

TEN random things about me:
1. My wife is from New Zealand and my son has citizenship in both the U.S. and New Zealand.
2. I am 6 foot 2 inches tall, left-handed, and mildly color-blind which is why for a long time I had a favorite blue shirt that turned out to be green.
3. I wrote and often drew a small press comic book series from 1990 to 1998.
4. I was determined to be a zoologist as a kid. I would design elaborate imaginary zoos. I was going to have a blue whale in my zoo.
5. I interviewed former California Governor Jerry Brown in college... and I stepped on his foot.
6. I have written 200 or so newspaper columns since 1994.
7. The lead singer of Phish once left an angry message on my answering machine at 3 in the morning after I wrote an uncomplimentary article about them.
8. I own 65 CDs by David Bowie. And I am not ashamed.
9. I had an job internship at Billboard magazine in New York City.
10. My wife and I actually met through letters we both had in the "Cerebus" comic book. We became pen pals and got married 7 years later.

NINE places I’ve visited:
1. New Zealand from the top to the bottom
2. Fairbanks, Alaska, where I was born
3. Most of Europe
4. The Bahamas
5. Ensenada, Mexico
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Austin, Texas
8. The Grand Canyon
9. (Next month!) Vancouver, Canada

EIGHT things I want to achieve in life:
1. I want to write a book, fiction or nonfiction
2. I want us to move to New Zealand for a few years
3. I want to raise a good kid
4. I want to visit Australia, Asia and Africa.
5. I want to figure out that material possessions aren't everything
6. I want to take up drawing again
7. I want to lose 20 pounds or so
8. I want to keep working doing something I enjoy

SEVEN ways to win my heart:
1. Recommend a good book or movie
2. Be interested in learning
3. Have a sense of humor
4. Be decent
5. Be open-minded
6. Look me in the eye
7. Steal it from my wife

SIX things I believe:
1. I believe nobody knows what happens when we die, but I'd like to think this isn't all there is
2. I believe there is life in outer space somewhere
3. I believe you can never read too many books
4. I believe humanity is quite full of itself
5. I believe our brains are our best friends and worst enemies
6. I believe in the future

FIVE things I’m afraid of:
1. Aging
2. Anything bad happening to my boy
3. Frogs (don't ask)
4. Bad drivers
5. Kidney stones

FOUR of my favorite things:
1. The family
2. Kudzu my cat
3. The Amazing Spider-Man
4. David Bowie's "Station to Station"

THREE things I do every day:
1. Read
2. Edit
3. Play with Peter

TWO things I’m not trying to do right now:
1. Spend money
2. Eat breakfast

ONE person I want to see right now:
1. Who else? The person who's asleep in the next room, Baby Peter, superstar!
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P.S. Don't forget about my Jay's Days Giveaway contest - the rules were changed and deadline extended over the weekend, so check it out!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

COMICS: Jay's Days Giveaway, REVISED!

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As Gob on "Arrested Development" would say, "I've made a huge mistake."

My Jay's Days Giveaway contest is a huge flop so far, and I sure want to share Jay's cool comix with folks, so I've realized my idea for the contest and that whole 'most embarrassing moments thing' was wayyyy too complicated. (And besides, as someone else pointed out, it's hard to write anything for this topic when you're as perfect as most bloggers are, wink wink.) Anyway, forget that idea. I'm big enough to admit I'm lame and so -- new Jay's Days Contest rules!

So here's the scoop — instead of some huge essay, in following with Jay's autobiographical comic theme, I want you to pretend you've written your own life story, and come up with a catchy title for it that'll get those books moving off the shelves. Then, e-mail me your autobiography's title to nikdirga @ You'll have a shot at winning Jay's latest book "Jay's Days Vol. 3: Rise and Fall of the Pasta Shop Lothario" plus even more rare and early work by this great cartoonist. The winners will be picked from the most original, funniest and whatever the co-judge, my wife, likes the most. Feel free to tell us more about your imaginary autobiography if you want -- dust jacket copy, perhaps?

New deadline is April 29, and you can find more details about Jay's groovy comics and what the prizes are on my original now-updated post here, or at his Web site. C'mon, let's get some entries coming in, by gum! I know I'm far from the most read spot in the blogosphere, but some of you have got to want cool free comic swag!

Saturday, April 9, 2005

ETC.: This and that

Well, I realize I never did post my impressions of the "Sin City" movie but every other well-adjusted fanboy on the Internet already has. Suffice to say, excellent adaptation, although part of me felt it was a bit weird seeing Sin City in shades of gray -- obviously, they couldn't have imitated the comics' stark black-and-white imagery without doing it animated, and they did a good job replicating the look, but one of the things I love most about Frank Miller's comics is their absolute chiaroscuro (my $10 word for the day). Anyway, I dug it -- if you want more, read the ***1/2 of **** review I wrote for my day job over here.

People who deserve to be mercilessly beaten every day for the rest of their lives, Part One: The guy driving the big-ass Hummer in the middle of the road yesterday with the license plate, "PD CASH." Oh, bite me.

Gosh, "Lost" continues to be one of about four shows on the TV I can't miss (the others being "Scrubs," "Arrested Development" and "24"). This week's episode was particularly solid, with a surprising death and promises of upping the antagonism between several characters. Some people are grumbling that "Lost" doesn't give answers to the many questions it's posing, but it looks like some might be forthcoming. Anyway, in my mind it's more successful as a character study than some sweeping mystery. The risk with a show like this is it meanders off into "X-Files" territory, becoming a twisted mess of continuity and contradictions by the end. Hopefully the producers are smart enough to give us just enough answers to keep tuning in. If the show ends the first season on a high note, it's going to be a long summer of waiting...

People who deserve to be mercilessly beaten every day for the rest of their lives, Part Two:
The commentator I happened to overhear on the teevee the other day saying, "Amber Frey, the most famous mistress in history..." (Yeah, I had to look her up too. Something to do with the Scott Peterson trial.) And this is why I hardly ever watch TV news anymore.

Yadda yadda mandatory Jay's Days Giveaway Contest plug win free stuff deadline April 15 please oh please enter yadda yadda...

Friday, April 8, 2005

ETC.: Celebrate the spatula

Hey, it's my BLOGOVERSARY! That's right, it's been one entire freakin' year of inane blog posts from yours truly. I have to admit, when I started, I wasn't sure if I could keep it up. I've never been a "post-a-day" kind of guy, but when I post, I do tend to ramble on. The Blogger page includes information on how much I've written:
Posts Written 236
Words Written 74,140


Let's take a trip in time back to that faraway time of April 2004, and ask, what did I write about in that first month? Like I have ever since, a little bit of everything, I guess. Topics included movie reviews of "Shattered Glass," "Hellboy" "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "21 Grams" and "Kill Bill Vol. 1," writing about Baby Peter spitting up, a couple of old newspaper columns [something I've gotten away from reprinting here], the end of Dave Sim's Cerebus, some comic reviews, a gushing essay about TV's "Scrubs," my day judging a spelling bee, a look at 2004's summer movie lineup, the end of Guided By Voices, and an exhaustive look at Avril and I's trek to the Pixies Reunion concert in Eugene -- plus a buncha other junk.

Anyway, thanks to those of you who read the blog, link to the blog, comment on the blog – like most bloggers, I'm an incurable narcissist, doing this mostly to satisfy some strange inner writing demons, but it's been a blast and I hope to continue it for a while longer. Many thanks and keep reading, and hey, don't forget about the Jay's Days Giveaway contest -- deadline is April 29 if you want to enter and win a shot at some cool Jason Marcy comics. You could be the icon of millions!

Thursday, April 7, 2005

BOOKS: Books I Read - March

A few days late, but anyway, here's March's installment of Books I Read. (January and February editions can be seen here and here respectively. Grand total for March, eight books -- three fiction, two biographies, two essay collections and one book about giant face-eating rats.

"Lost In A Good Book" by Jasper Fforde The second in Fforde's entertaining "Thursday Next" series, about a "literary detective," funny, lighthearted and very literate sci-fi/mystery adventures. A lot of series fantasy fiction doesn't appeal to me, but so far the Next books are great fun. This one's even better than the first, and I look forward to reading the third, currently in my "Stack of Books I Really Must read Soon."

"Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants" by Robert Sullivan Slimy reading, literally, but fascinating stuff about the rats of New York City, where they live and the animal's impact on human history over the years. Not for the weak stomached, but one of those "science made fun" books. Goes on a little long - how much can one read about rats? - but a decent read.

"Amnesia Moon" by Jonathan Lethem One of Lethem's early science-fiction novels, reading like an acid trip. Before he got more polished with books like "Fortress of Solitude," Lethem was good at coming up with incredibly original, strange ideas, but the plots weren't all that tight. A road trip about a man's journey through a post-war wasteland he may have actually created.

"The Life and Death of Andy Warhol" by Victor Bockris After checking out a recent local exhibition of his work, felt like reading a bio of Andy. Bockris does a great job capturing the crazy vibe of post-WWII New York's art scene, exploding into the crazy '60s and hung-over 1970s. It's full of gossip, but also educational and nonjudgmental. Warhol himself comes off as a sad, lonely man, a man who intentionally becomes a void, eaten alive by his own creations.

"Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction" by Sue Townsend I've been reading the Adrian Mole series — fake "diaries" by a pretentious, hypochrondriac and chronically oblivious British lad with delusions of grandeur — since 1984 or so, when the title character was about 13. Now, in this latest book, which my darling wife brought back from New Zealand as it's not out in America yet, Adrian is in his mid-30s, with kids and "accidentally engaged." A lot better than the last book, which tipped the series a little too much into farce, and a nice job of tying in topical events such as the War in Iraq and Tony Blair.

"Hold The Enlightenment" by Tim Cahill (Re-read) Cahill is my favorite travel essay writer, a frequent columnist for "Outside" magazine who manages to combine harrowing adventure tales with humor and self-deprecation. This is his latest collection of essays, another excellent tour around the world, tinted with the author's solemn realization he's getting older. Any book with an essay about hunting for a platypus is OK with me.

"The Partly Cloudy Patriot" by Sarah Vowell Solid book of essays from a disillusioned yet optimistic Democrat, history buff and NPR contributor (also the voice of Violet in "The Incredibles"!). I've heard her compared to David Sedaris but didn't find her quite as funny, although I like her wry tone and ability to combine fervent liberalism and patriotism in a way we don't see too often these days.

"Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Eliot Grant is right up there among my top classic Hollywood stars, and I checked out this new bio from the library recently. The man who was born Archie Leach had a fascinating life story, from abandoned orphan to a traveling acrobat to becoming one of the world's biggest movie stars. The author here seems a little fixated on Grant's alleged bisexuality -- he digs into Grant's sharing a house with fellow actor Randolph Scott in the 1940, frequently calling them "lovers" -- yet a dig through the notes in the back show little solid attribution for a lot of this in this otherwise well-researched tome. A few "anonymous" interviews are cited to back it up, which always get this journalist's ire up. Anyway, nitpitcking aside, I'm making it sound like I didn't enjoy the book as much as I did. Admittedly, Grant might well have "played both sides" of the fence, but it's only a part of his story. Eliot does a nice job examining the reasons for Grant's appeal through the decades, and the mystery of how this icon of manhood was rarely ever satisfied in love. Great Hollywood babylon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

MUSIC: Hootie's Hell

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Honestly, I've seen this incredibly annoying Burger King commercial on TV 59 times but I never realized the cowboy is Hootie from 1990s mellow-rock sensations Hootie and the Blowfish. (I'm a case study in failure of advertising -- I can have a commercial flash by me a hundred times in TV, register it, and still not be able to tell you what they're advertising.)

Anyway, man, Hootie. Geez. From #1 records in the '90s to singing jingles about Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch whatzits. Wouldn't it just have been more dignified to have a heroin overdose or star in a porn movie?

Sunday, April 3, 2005

My life as a journalist, the last few days:
"Is the pope dead?"
"Is the pope dead?"
"The pope died!"
Remake page of Friday's paper, big 90-point headline POPE JOHN PAUL II DEAD, ten minutes later discover AP won't confirm death, CNN says reports he's dead, then takes it back, Pope not dead.
New headline, "POPE NEAR DEATH."
"Is the pope dead?"
"Is the pope dead?"
"Why won't the pope die?" (Journalists have a peculiar pitch-black gallows humor, honest.)
Cranky wire editor: "He's doing this ON PURPOSE!"
"If the pope dies Saturday, what do we do with our Sunday package?"
"Is the pope dead yet?"

Anyway, the pope is gone, rest in peace. I'm not a very religious man myself but he was a dignified fellow who always stood for peace, even if I don't agree with the church on a lot of its positions. He suffered a lot this last decade with stoic grace, I felt. And now I know what our Sunday front page will be like.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

COMICS/MOVIES: Living in 'Sin'

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Oh yeah, I can't wait to check out the 'Sin City' movie this weekend. I'll catch a Saturday afternoon show to avoid the scary teenage crowd at night, and plan on writing a review for the paper next week. Judging from early reviews by critics I respect like Roger Ebert and Shawn Levy, this is one kick-ass over-the-top crime noir fanboy treat. I imagine it'll be way too extreme for most of mainstream America to be a huge hit, and the inevitable backlash will probably ensue, but I'm psyched. These days, I kind of view watching movies in theaters as a trailer for the 2-disc special edition DVD I'll buy down the road, anyway.

If you haven't checked out Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels, you're missing out. The first one, now known as 'The Hard Goodbye,' remains my favorite, all hard-edged dialogue and black-and-white art so sharp you can cut yourself on it. When I read this a decade or so ago, it utterly blew my mind in a way few comics have -- with its unrelenting violence, nihilist worldview and the iconic Marv, seen above, the most dangerous man in comics. Frankly, if the movie captures half of this story's power and mood (it's one of three adapted in the film), I'll love it. The next two novels in the series, 'A Dame To Kill For' and 'The Big Fat Kill', are also great, featuring the antihero Dwight (played by the awesome Clive Owen in the movie, which adapts 'The Big Fat Kill'). 'A Dame To Kill For' might be my second-favorite of the comics, all "Double Indemnity"-style twists and turns with a bad woman leading a weak man astray, and some of Miller's sexiest art. Fourth in the series is 'That Yellow Bastard,' an utterly depraved, wonderful slice of vengeance and payback as an aging cop hunts down a pedophile. This is the third slice of the movie, starring what I consider a perfectly-cast Bruce Willis as the cop. There's also a volume of moody, effective short pieces, 'Booze, Broads & Bullets,' a great 'sampler' of the series' style. and the less successful crazy-women-on-a-tear 'Family Values.' Pretty much regarded as the least of the series is also the, to date, last one, 'To Hell And Back,' which is more experimental in tone than the others, and lacks as compelling a protagonist as Marv or Dwight. But generally you can't go wrong picking up either 'The Hard Goodbye' or 'That Yellow Bastard' for a taste of what the sin is about and if you'll like it. Warning: it ain't for sensitive types.

Reminder: ...And don't forget about that Jay's Days Giveaway contest I'm running. All you need to do is tell me what the title of your autobiography would be in fitting with Jay's confessional autobiographical comix theme - and you might have a shot at winning some cool swag by cartoonist Jay Marcy! Thus far the entries aren't exactly overflowing my e-mailbox, so give it a shot! Many thanks to Alan, David, Fred, Dorian, Johnny B and anyone I've missed for their linkage. Deadline is April 29, two weeks away.