Monday, November 23, 2009

A Frank Review of "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007)

The Short Version? A train ride through India to some peace of mind.
What Is It? Twee dramedy.
Who Is In It? The usuals.
Should I See It? Sure.



The Darjeeling Limited is an enjoyable movie, and the most widely accessible by director Wes Anderson. It's much lighter than The Royal Tenenbaums, and less quirky than Rushmore, with reasonably likable characters. Owen Wilson breaks out of his usual laid back dude mode to play a controlling, obsessive surrogate patriarch to his two brothers. Adrien Brody remains stuck in mopey mode, this time with an angry undercurrent. Jason Schwartzman is almost debonaire as the passive-aggressive scribe of the three, a far cry from his usual loser/slimeball role. The film is brimming with strong supporting performances, excellent soundtrack choices, lush visuals, and deft direction. It's also a rather obvious adult fable with a clear moral, and is too on-the-nose too often, but the sum of its parts make up for any deficits in the story's whole.


Extras?

  • Hotel Chevalier A short film that serves as a prequel to the feature, starring Schwartzman and Natalie Portman and her naked butt. Elevates the main movie through its cynical lead. A must see.
  • The Darjeeling Limited Walking Tour A terribly boring behind-the-scenes production featurette.
  • Various Trailers


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pepsi Maximum Challenge: Romulan Ale


While visiting relatives in Oklahoma, I was offered the opportunity to purchase a mason jar full of "authentic, home brewed moonshine" in the flavor of my choice for something like $6-9. I was concerned about the potential health hazards, as I'd never dared much past 100 proof, and envisioned anti-freeze-induced blindness, hallucinations and/or blood poisoning in my future. Still, how could I pass this up? An hour later, I was treated to heavily watered down Everclear "distilled" through supposedly having been boiled in a pot, with cheap, weak artificial flavoring. Splitting the jar, I barely brushed against a buzz.

This brings us to "Romulan Ale," the blue alien alcohol so potent that in the Star Trek future, it's outlawed by the Federation of Planets. While I've heard of more terrestrial mixed drink concoctions intended to replicate the e.t. juice, this is a studio approved energy drink available for sale wherever geeky bullshit is sold. It goes down very mild and slightly fruity, somewhat like those girly low-calorie energy shots. I've tasted far worse.

The problem is, this is supposed to be Romulan Ale, described by Webster's as "an alcoholic beverage brewed especially by rapid fermentation from an infusion of malt with the addition of hops" ... from Romulus. There are no hops here. This is without malt. This is a tepid energy drink. Further, Romulan Ale is supposed to be the gutrot of choice five-hundred years from now. That means this energy drink is further evidence that everything about Star Trek is pussy, and that Tyler Durden would shit out the Shat. We're talking Edward Norton here, and not Derek Vinyard Norton, but unnamed-narrator-who-kicks-his-own-ass Norton. Regardless of how the fight goes, if you can consider Jared Leto a worthy opponent, you're limp but manageable, and yet still more manly than the entire Star Trek universe (who creams over the Shat getting replaced by a guy whose closest contemporary would be the dude who played Human Torch in Fantastic Four.)

In summary, Romulan Ale is an energy drink for little girls and Klingons, the latter of whom I will drink under the table and draw Cardassian cocks on their cheeks in Sharpie marker while they're passed out and drooling.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Short Films of Takena Nagao

Gory and otherwise provocative claymation stop motion shorts heavily influenced by Romero, Raimi, Hooper, Zombie and Tarantino.

Chainsaw Maid:


Bloody Date:


Pussycat:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1984 Hawkman Postcard by George Pérez



I've had a conflicted relationship with the Hawks. I can't recall a time when I wasn't aware of their existence, and Hawkman had one of the finest action figures in the Super Powers Collection. I salivated over the house ad for The Shadow War of Hawkman, but had to settle for guest appearances and team books to get any kind of fix. Not only were the Hawks mostly exiled from the newsstand, but when Hawkman did appear, he was portrayed as a self-righteous, pushy jerk. I don't think I got serious about the character until the early '90s, when I took a crash course in Thanagarian studies. I picked up a trade paperback of the earliest Silver Age stories from The Brave and the Bold by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert, the Hawkworld collection "As Above, So Below" by Tim Truman, the Tony Isabella/Richard Howell mini-series and special, and even completed runs of Hawkworld and the 1992 series.

There was so much to like about the Hawks, but also much to hate. Pre-Crisis, Hawkman was a mild-mannered space cop, likable enough, but too milquetoast and narrow to live up to his looks. I preferred the easygoing and clever Hawkgirl/woman, as available. Hawkworld turned her into an irritating ballbuster, but if you could overlook the murder and drug addiction, at least Katar became more introspective. Hawkman eventually began to use his medieval weapons as prescribed, and Hawkwoman's temper was tempered, but any personality they had kind of fell by the wayside. The Golden Age Hawks came into the mix, and the continuity became so toxic, the whole premise went on a shelf for half a decade. I tried the most recent relaunch, and it just didn't do the job. Despite lovely Rags Morales art, an off-game from the usually reliable Geoff Johns put me off.

At this point, I have a hard time getting excited by Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Unlike most DC characters, I'm not even sure who they are. I know the history, but there's so much conflicting characterization, I'm now emotionally detached. I respect the books, but it's tough to claim fandom anymore.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1984 Zatanna Postcard by George Pérez



I probably saw Zatanna for the first time just like this, drawn by George Pérez in the costume he designed for a Justice League of America cover or somesuch. I didn't know then how hard DC was trying to turn her into their own Scarlet Witch at the time, but I do know it never took. I bought her two part guest appearance in early issues of Blue Devil, and like most readers before and since, was more impressed by her girl-next-door approachable quality than the Marvel character's traumatized drama queen style. Unfortunately, DC's never stopped trying to saddle poor Zee with neurosis. They killed off her father before her eyes, subjected her to a magical quasi-rape, sent her off for a time with her assailant, massively reduced her powers, dumped her at Vertigo... it just never stops. As a result, I try to follow Zee's appearances, but not compulsively, attempting to pick the gems from the junk. I don't care near as much about what she can do as how she handles what comes, but it would be nice if someone could figure out the right balance for once.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon (2008)

The Short Version? Slo-Kill w/Spoon
What Is It? Horror Comedy.
Who Is In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? Yes.



Official Release-- Enjoy!!! Please Rate! SUBSCRIBE for more to come!

COMING SOON TO DVD: The mind-shattering Horribly Slow Murderer EXTENDED CUT!!!

http://www.richard-gale.com for details.
Winner of 12 Film Festival Awards!

Produced, Written and Directed by Richard Gale

Cast:
Jack Cucchiaio........Paul Clemens
The Murderer...........Brian Rohan
The Mystic...............Fay Kato
The Girlfriend...........Melissa Paladino
The Doctor...............Mike Kacey
Narrator....................Richard Gale

Music by Christopher Brady

Special Makeup FX by Dean Jones and Paul Clemens

Details at http://www.richard-gale.com

imdb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1301160/

Saturday, November 14, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "Know Who You Are at Every Age" by Cocteau Twins

Written By: Cocteau Twins
Released: 1993
Album: Four-Calendar Café
Single?: Yes, but only in Chinese. The cover "Ji Gei Ji Bei" was released by Faye Wong in 1994.



Lyrics:

It seems things are indictive to, A distinct desire to
Observe such, Heal such
Behave such that makes this hard for me
I'm not real and I deny, I won't heal unless I cry
I can't grieve, so I won't grow, I won't heal 'til I let it go
I'm not real and I deny, I won't heal unless I cry
It seems things are indicative to, A distinct desire to
Observe such, Heal such
Behave such that makes this hard for me

I'm not real and I deny, I won't heal unless I cry
I can't grieve, so I won't grow, I won't heal 'til I let it go
(x2)

Cry, cry, cry 'til you know why, I lost myself, identify
(x2)

I'm not real and I deny, I won't heal unless I cry
I can't grieve, so I won't grow, I won't heal 'til I let it go




Friday, November 13, 2009

1984 Black Canary Postcard by George Pérez

P6199


I believe I first encountered Dinah Lance while thumbing through my visiting uncle's copy of Green Lantern/Green Arrow #84. That would have been around 1983, when he paid us a visit after having left the states to live in Hawaii. I remember our visiting a friend of his with a comic collection that filled bookshelves, and being quite envious, even if a lot of it was head comix and Howard the Duck.

This particular issue stuck with me because of the gorgeous Neal Adams/Bernie Wrightson art. Up to that point, I don't recall having seen drawings that were so lifelike, especially the lovely ladies and little details like Ollie's beard and turtleneck. I also wasn't familiar with super-heroes that came across as helpless as Green Lantern after a disguised Black Hand had slipped him a mickey. I haven't even seen a reprint of that story in over a decade, but my mind readily conjures images from the book as I recall them nearly thirty years past.

Of course, this all has little to do with the Black Canary. Like Clea in the stack of Dr. Strange comics my uncle left me, Dinah was just the girlfriend, sometimes in a costume, but rarely more than a few steps above damsel in distress. I didn't much regard Dinah before Justice League International, and even then she was just a straight for the goofier characters to bounce off of. Dinah was gone inside a year, so that she could be victimized and de-powered in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. If I had to guess, I'd say her serial in Action Comics Weekly was the first time she registered as worthy of notice, in part because she'd burnt the terrible replacement costume that reared its truly ugly head in the early-to-mid '80s. I gave her points for sheer audacity, plus the serial was drawn by Randy DuBurke, whose long forgotten style merged Paul Gulacy with Bill Sienkiewicz. This led to my buying her four-issue mini-series, and even a few issues of the ongoing that followed, but the scripts by Sarah Byam left me cold.

As I became more invested in the DC Universe after ditching Marvel in the speculator years, I learned the history of Black Canary. I respected that she was one of the longest active comic book heroines, with membership to major super-teams, and had even been retconned into a JLA founder. Still, I struggled with my respect for what Black Canary represented and the character's shoddy treatment as a hanger-on for decades.

Finally, Chuck Dixon and Gary Frank crafted the first Birds of Prey special, and even though it was Oracle who had brought me to that party, it served as a vehicle for elevating Dinah's regard. Over a hundred issues of the estrocentric team book were fueled by Black Canary, and the premise ran out of gas once she was removed. All in all, I still vastly prefer the original Batgirl and her Earth-2 counterpart the Huntress, but I've always wished Dinah the best, though she rarely gets it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Frank Review of "V, Season 1.1: 'Pilot' and 1.2 'There Is No Normal Anymore'" (2009)

The Short Version? The Visitors are on Earth to be our friends...?
What Is It? Sci-Fi action drama.
Who Is In It? Joss Whedon and Scott Peters' people.
Should I See It? Maybe.



I was only vaguely aware of the original V mini-series on NBC, but I was down from The Final Battle on. Then week long syndicated rebroadcasts of both mini-series become an annual event on local stations, and I remained faithful. Unlike most other passions from my childhood, I retain a deep fondness for V, which I am still able to fully appreciate as an adult. It was a smart series with enough action and effects to hold the attention of audiences of all ages. Not only do I love V, but there's something still special for me about watching the show "live," in original broadcast. I stopped regular television viewing years ago, so ABC's "reimagined" V relaunch represents not only a chance to hook old fans and new, but to potentially shepherd lost viewers back to the boob tube itself. Besides, I'd hate to have V spoilt for me the way I've tried to avoid being with Battlestar Galactica, which I still haven't seen.

The modern V V at the opening theme is still red on black, but this looks more like it was brushed than spray-painted. It materializes as a slow moving wipe at an angle before righting itself. It's not bad, but signals a major shift between the original show's philosophy and the modern take. In the old school, you had a static graphic with ominous symphonic music lasting for several minutes. Today, the graphic comes and goes in seconds, logging an instant impact, but no lasting impression.

The ships are in the sky from the start, and the most visible Visitor, Anna, appears on a giant viewing screen to comfort everyone before the title card. There's no time for a slow build-up, no real mystery-- just nice CGI and a pop culture snub against the V derivative ID4. Hell, there isn't even time to call the aliens "Visitors" anymore. Too many syllables, I guess. Now, they're "V's," and I take that moronic spelling from their official website. "V's" make me think of vee-jay-jay, and considering the show itself acknowledges that all these aliens are "attractive," maybe that's intentional.

All the leads show up in the first fifteen minutes. Jesse Wheeler plays Brandon, but old fans will recognize him as Daniel Bernstein Jr. There's half the depth, none of the menace, but he's got "snark" and at least one (obnoxious) human friend now. Daniel Jr. isn't a social pariah, so he needs added motivation. I never saw Laura Vandervoort play Supergirl on Smallville, and at least she isn't in short-shorts here, even if she's still just the Venus flytrap for the boys (in show and out.) Daniel Junior looks to be a goy as well, so the Jewish schtick is out, and in its place is F.B.I. agent mom Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell, the bi-curious photographer from Gia.)

Morris Chestnut plays a successful professional who loves his girlfriend and wants nothing to do with his old life. We know this because all he does is tell us right up until the end of the episode, when he takes it back.

Rather than a kindly old priest in a supporting role, Joel Gretsch plays hunky Father Jack Landry, among the first individuals to openly question the aliens' motivations. This attracts the attention of a member of an underground movement, which serves to draw the leads together for the big action set piece.

Scott Wolf appears to be playing a hybrid of Michael Donovan and Kristine Walsh, the first newsperson with heightened access to the aliens. Sure, Chad Decker initially sells out to the V's under pressure, but he retains some journalistic integrity and investigative interest. A decent job is done of establishing his credentials as a real reporter forced into the role of prettyboy anchorman, so it isn't complete nonsense that the V's would put faith in him. Also, Morena (Firefly) Baccarin, like Diana before her, seems to have allowed her "V" to guide her down a dangerous path in media relations.

Fellow Firefly alum Alan Tudyk plays Erica Evans' F.B.I. partner Dale Maddox, who helps to lead the show toward one of its innovations. Space Nazis are out, terrorism in. Further, the enemy no longer wears red, nor leans right. The V's are in blue, smile nice, and manipulate the media in a decidedly Obamaesque fashion. They're all about peace and the betterment of mankind, but there's already a tea party ready to slow their commie progress. Of course, the kids are all about the V's, spreading "hope" through social organizing and tagging walls with their iconography.

While watching the V pilot, I was pleasantly surprised by the ways it stayed faithful to the original series. Its political subtext is actually a lot more relevant than the 1984 version, and obviously the effects are improved. People forget how cheesy the direction and acting were in the old show, very much a small screen mentality not far removed from the '70s. On the other hand, the new characters seem much more slight, and everything is told in a distancing shorthand. This is a retread, and some of the charm has been lost in the revisitation.

Worse, I confess I was studying for a test during about half of the V pilot's running time, so I imagine I was occupied in a way folks who complained about slow pacing were not. Also, it wasn't until the next morning I had time to think about some of the show's many inanities. It seems like a good deal of effort was put into designing the new ships in order to make them far less distinct and iconic. In fact, they now appear less advanced, even crude, than in the '80s. When the V's aren't in a generic blue Roddenberry type suit, they're in actual Earth clothes, which is plain boring. To replace the shocking reveal in the first movie, two new last minute twists were added, but not earned. The final fight wasn't bad, but it was needlessly confusing, and the lead-up to it makes some remarkably stupid mistakes.* Suddenly, given proper consideration, the show was looking like more of a dog.

I remained optimistic at the start of the second episode, titled "There Is No Normal Anymore." It started slow, heavy on recap. We learned the torture techniques of the V's are a lot more refined than Diana's inquisitions, and hint at some sort of illusion abilities. There are potentially some among the V's might believe their own hype, and indication that Daniel Jr. might end up with a bit of Robin Maxwell thrown in. Some subplots were advanced, and new characters introduced.

Who am I kidding? The second episode spun its wheels. There was so much pressure to introduce all the major concepts associated with the old series into the first episode, it was easy to miss that very little else had been sufficiently developed to stand on its own. The characters are cardboard, and what's been added to the series is obviously lifted from other sources, like the Phantasm balls, the X-Files shadow government conspiracy, and so on. I said before I loved V on television, but I now must confess I didn't stay with the short-lived ongoing spin-off for long. The original mini-series created a perfect engine to go weekly, but after The Final Battle, I couldn't see where else they had to go even as a child. The same mistake wasn't made with new V, but its basic machinery is so familiar to genre fans, I'm already feeling fatigue.

I'm going to give V the length of its initial "pod," a four week run in November before returning in March. Hell, I might even try back then, seeing as major changes were being made behind the scenes even before the pilot aired. I sincerely hope for the best, but honestly, the more I see, the less it's V.



*In a half hour, we're to believe a couple dozen people had time to be anesthetized and submitted to needless surgery without explanation, plus have an actual deep orientation, before being raided. Also, why would they wield swords, and what's with the lack of the striking laser weapons from the good old days?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

1984 The Elongated Man Postcard by George Pérez



I believe one of the first times I ever saw the Elongated Man, not to mention the whole of the Justice League (as opposed to "Super Friends,") was on George Pérez's magnificent cover to 1983's Justice League of America #217. I noticed this stretchy guy flinging his neck about in the background, and my response was, "oh, another one." Like most people, I never particularly liked super-heroes with that particular power set. What respect I have for Mr. Fantastic comes from his superior intellect, where I've had to unlearn decades of Plastic Man hate based on his cartoon show and lousy modern comic appearances. Turns out the Jack Cole originals are some of the best comics of the Golden Age.

Leading the discussion back to Elongated Man, I'm already fighting the urge for another tangent. Ralph Dibny was an okay guy, and I liked Sue quite a bit. That doesn't change the fact that as far as I'm concerned, the only interesting thing Elongated Man did in 2 1/2 years of Detroit League service was to pown Vibe in his final outing. His time with Justice League Europe was similarly misspent-- the hero most obviously suited to be in a "funny" League that never pulled any laughs. When your non-powered, unadventurous wife outshines you simply by providing decent supporting work to other characters, you should have your hero card revoked. The only time Elongated Man ever worked for me was as a straight detective, but he was rarely shown in that light, and that was Plastic Man's original territory to boot!

Poor Elongated Man. So little love for you. Many heroes gain a soul with their passing, but even in death, Sue Dibny upstaged him.

Sorry for the lack of flavor text and other details. I don't actually own this postcard, nor DC Comics Classic Library: Justice League of America by George Perez, a recent hardcover that reprints the art from this postcard set. However, I found a pair of pictures on eBay, and doctored them up to preserve here. I understand it's numbered P6197, and was part of a 14 card set, plus a promotional Batman piece. I bothered so that I could offer them up to my other super-hero blog, Justice League Detroit.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

1984 The Martian Manhunter Postcard by George Pérez



I'm not 100% sure how I was introduced to J'Onn J'Onzz. I suspect it was either DC Comics house ads circa 1984, or my having bought a heavily discounted Super Powers Collection action figure. I loved that toy, and was given a more thorough feel for the character through his appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. A saleswoman at Waldenbooks thought I was just too cute in my raggedy Houston Oilers jacket, and gave me the comic for free just before I went on a trip to Colorado Springs. Not only did the Martian Manhunter come off well in the double-sized issue, but in my mind he would always be at his coolest when drawn by the master himself, George Pérez. Also, Supergirl died, but that stuff never takes.

There must be something about the nomadic Martian, because a dinged copy of
Justice League International #8 was one of the last comics I read in Texas, and a guest appearance in Action Comics #595 was among the first comics I bought when I arrived in Nevada. I'd tried Martian Manhunter#1 in 1988, and was not amused, so I tended to discount any further J'Onn J'Onzz solo reading. I followed the Martian Manhunter's appearance irregularly for years after that, mostly as a result of being a Justice League fan. Alternately, I started buying Justice League Task Force for its Nightwing appearances, and the post-Zero Hour J.L.A. for Wonder Woman and Hawkman. Despite lots of good stories and nostalgia for my action figure, I didn't truly become a diehard fan until 1996, through Mark Waid, Fabian Nicieza, Darick Robertson & Jeff Johnson's Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare mini-series. It was like a therapy session had unearth repressed memories. Something about the moment where J'Onzz's family is taken from him again hit me with a tidal wave of emotions related to years of accumulated stories. I was an old lady sitting on the bus sucking humbugs, finally realizing I was a Rider on the Storm. I was a J'Onzz Fan, man!

JLA and my introduction to the information superhighway soon followed, and upon learning there were no Martian Manhunter fan sites on the internet, I resolved to one day build the first. It took me a couple of years to get started, by which time a few sites had emerged, but they're long gone now. My Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA lasted a couple or three years, and was a major learning experience. A little over two years ago, inspired by Rob Kelly's The Aquaman Shrine, I decided I would reconstitute my old site material into a daily blog. The Idol-Head of Diabolu has, to this day, barely touched any of the old material. This is one part because I'm a dimwit masochist, another part due to my becoming a better writer, and yet another part due to the format freeing me to both deeper and broader exploration of the character than I would have otherwise considered.

Above is one of my favorite images of the Manhunter from Mars, a lovely postcard I picked up on eBay about a decade ago. I used to feature it prominently on my old site, along with the two articles Who is the Martian Manhunter? and J'Onn & Me, neither of which have been restored to the net.

George Pérez produced 16 postcards for the unnumbered JLA set. Also featured were the Sword of the Atom (Ray Palmer,) Aquaman, Batman, Black Canary, Elongated Man (& Sue Dibny,) the Flash (Barry Allen,) Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond,) Green Arrow, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan,) Hawkman (and Hawkgirl, of Thanagar,) the new Justice League of America (Detroit Era members Steel II, Gypsy, Vibe and Vixen,) Red Tornado, Superman, Wonder Woman and Zatanna. You can view signed versions of all the cards here.

Card Back Text:
THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Brought to earth by the ill-fated Professor Erdel and unable to return to Mars, J'onn J'onzz adopted human form. His powers include telepathy, super-strength, flight, and invisibility. His only weakness: vulnerability to fire.

Friday, November 6, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: " Come Back When You Grow Up" by Bobby Vee

Written By: Martha Sharp
Released: 1967
Album: Come Back When You Grow Up
Single?: #3 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Chart



Lyrics:
Come back when you grow up, girl
You're still livin' in a paper-doll world
Livin' ain't easy, lovin's twice as tough
So come back, baby, when you grow up

You look real good like a woman now
Your mind hasn't gotten the message somehow
So if you can't take it 'n' the goin' gets rough
Come back, baby, when you grow up

I want you girl but your wide-eyed innocence
Has really messed up my mind, yeah-eah-eah
I'd rather you get your very first heartbreak
Somewhere else along the line

Come back when you grow up, girl
You're still livin' in a paper-doll world
Some day be a woman ready to love
Come back, baby, when you grow up

Come back when you grow up, girl
You've still got a lotta time left in the world
You'll some day be a woman ready to love
Come back, baby, when you grow up


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crisis On Earth Blog: DC Challenge Preview



Your regularly scheduled post has been preempted so that we may bring you a special crossover event. Today on comic book-themed blogs across the internet, DC Comics characters are being spotlighted in a trivia challenge. Your DC Challenge, if you choose to accept it, involves reading each question, and clicking the link assigned to the answer you believe to be correct. The correct answer will open up a new tab/window on your browser leading to another character's page. The three incorrect answers will do the same, but these pages will likely feature more questions. The fewer the questions, the more likely you will be directed to a goal page featuring a lush scan from an obscure George Pérez pin-up featuring every major character involved in this event. Also, a fifth "E" answer option will lead you to a page that will give you all the information you need to solve the question, and give you a chance to read up on a given site. We all hope you enjoy this holiday season scavenger hunt, and the new comics blogs you'll be exposed to!

SAMPLE QUESTION #1
The Blue Devil kissed which of the following members of the Justice League of America in an early issue of his 1980s solo series?
A) Mera
B) Hawkgirl
C) Black Canary
D) Zatanna
E) I don't know/Error Message

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Adventures of Mark Twain & The Mysterious Stranger



Background:
From around 1890 until his death in 1910, Mark Twain made numerous attempts at writing a story about morality and the failings of the human race. The first version to see print was titled The Mysterious Stranger, A Romance by Twain biographer Albert Bigelow Paine. After Paine's death, it was discovered that he had actually collapsed several of Twain's unpublished efforts into one, heavily re-editing and re-contextualizing the material. These other unpolished or unfinished variations include The Chronicle of Young Satan; No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Translated from the Jug; and Schoolhouse Hill, the latter involving Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Several film versions of these projects have come into being, including Will Vinton's 1985 stop motion The Adventures of Mark Twain, also called Comet Quest. The above is a clip from the claymation effort, in which Twain, Huckleberry, Sawyer and Becky Thatcher meet Satan. When it aired on cable-TV's The Disney Channel, this sequence was excised.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blue Tale

Once upon a time, there was a wonderfully small village filled with the tiniest, most delightful beings on all the Earth. These Smurfs were just three apples tall, had blue skin, and did their very best to care for one another.



The Smurfs were active and enthusiastic. They typically lived in mushrooms, and took pleasure in the little things.



Sadly, one day, a terrible smurftastophy destroyed the Smurfs' entire community, as devastating swirling blades ripped their houses out at their roots.



The Smurfs were forced to make due in their surroundings, hunting temporary shelter, and fearful of malevolent humans who would pursue them in their most desperate times.



Gutters, dips, plumbing-- the Smurfs sought whatever shelter they could find. Refugees, they were in constant fear of discovery and consumption.



The Smurfs immediately began to work toward a solution to their problems, calculating their needs and abilities against their circumstances.



The mystic of the Smurfs quested after the cause of their problems, and learned they were to be permanently displaced by an air-conditioned shopping center.



Papa Smurf, the wizened leader and chief scientist of the the community, developed a formula to produce new mushroom homes. However, the development was too slow, too sparse, and too fragile for the Smurfs' needs. Also, chemicals had rendered the soil too toxic for farming.



Despite their inherent optimism, some Smurfs were terribly frustrated by their living conditions, and lashed out at their surroundings.



Papa Smurf called a town meeting, announcing his intention to lead his people to a better, more fertile land.



The Smurfs began to gather their most precious belongs; just enough to carry on their backs; for the lengthy journey ahead.



Wearing her garb of mourning, Smurfette baked rations for the sojourning Smurfs in her underground cave.



Lonely, heart-wrenching music could be heard as the village and life the Smurfs once knew was laid to rest.



All together now, the Smurfodus began.



Scouts were sent ahead to insure as best as possible the Smurfs' safety and advise on their direction.



More often than not, they found concrete, glass, steel-- nothing that could sustain their agrarian lifestyle.



With great trepidation, the Smurfs ventured further from the world they knew, and into the unknown wilderness.



Like a wee mazarine Valkyrie, Smurfette was more than equal to the task of defending her loved ones.



Again and again, the Smurfs found themselves in wholly alien landscapes, fending off predators in a path fraught with peril.



Recognizing they were now in a world not their own, the Smurfs did there best to adapt and make their way. Diminutive but industrious, they tried to integrate into the manners of man.



Their good nature was too often abused, as they struggled to find two pennies to rub together.



This urban jungle was a hard place, but the Smurfs maintained their composure, their dignity, and made do with what was provided to them.



A dark, foreboding portal to an entirely unknown sphere was uncovered.



Out the other side, the Smurfs trekked down a steep decline.



Only to find themselves staring over the edge of a treacherous cliff.



Some of the Smurfs raged against their poor luck, but all eventually collected themselves and continued.



Eagle eyes spied a watering hole and small farm ahead.



The Smurfs were jubilant about access to a clean pond and prospects for their future.



The Smurfs were delighted in their new garden, celebrating with much jubilation, and offering up their few possessions to share with their neighbors.



Whether through chores, treats, or merely their gentle company, the Smurfs did whatever they could to ease any concerns about their presence and earn their keep.


However, all was not well in the garden, as their good natures were met by pesticides and traps intended to shuffle them off this mortal coil.


Though they meant no one any harm, and in fact tried to improve every life they touched, the Smurfs were swept out of the garden and off into renewed exile.


Is there no place the Smurfs will ever call home? Must they forever wander this world, unwanted and unloved. Do you know someone who would open their hearts and hearths to these delightful creatures? Won't you...?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pepsi Maximum Challenge: Mana Energy Potion

There was a time when it was a popular dismissal to say something tasted like medicine. Nowadays, medicine is actually pretty darned sweet, and if it were not for the unit cost, addiction, and disgusting side effects, I could see downing a smooth, thick bottle of cough syrup on a warm summer's day. I think it would be like a milk shake, only Jolly Rancherier.

Mana Energy Potion tastes like medicine from back in the days when a spoonful of sugar was required to help avoid bitter beer face in the underage drinker. Remember when Coca-Cola tried adding vitamins to its formula, and it tasted like Coca-Cola with vitamins in its formula? Now remove the Coca-Cola. Manna from Heaven, this ain't. Further, I drank it on a day when I was feeling really wiped out, and it brought me all the way back up to below average. True, its only 25 calories a dose, but when you're shooting something so vile, you'd just assume take the hit.

...nurghophiles...

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