Monday, September 29, 2008

What Are You Doing? Saying Thanks!

When you spend a lot of time around the same group of people, you will inevitably get on each other's nerves. Especially if that group is populated with individuals who have many of the same character traits, interests and intelligence level as you do. When this happens, you find yourself in a classic "Can't See The Forest For The Trees" scenario of forgetting (a) why you like spending time with them and (b) just how talented they are.

Almost 4 years ago, I was asked to join the Associate troupe at ComedyWorx. I never dreamed how much that invitation would change my life. I always thought I would enjoy performing but never thought I'd get the chance. Breaking into local theater is a lot like getting your first job-it's hard getting cast without experience, but you can't get the experience without getting cast. Here was a chance to get the experience while supporting local artists at the same time (and if you don't think improv is or can be an art form, then you haven't seen it done well.)

But aside from that, I've met some of the greatest people I've ever known. People whose talent and commitment inspire me to be better than I am. People who support me onstage and off. People I'm proud to call my friends.

So, for everyone I've shared the stage with at ComedyWorx either at practice or in shows, I am in awe of your boundless talent and limitless friendship. It has been a privilege and an honor to act silly in goofy pajamas with you. Thank you.

And for everyone else....come out & see the best improv in the Triangle. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Newman's Own

Paul Newman was a great actor because he never looked like he was acting. Not flashy, not showy...just always professional and very, very good.

If you're not familiar with his body of work, shame on you. Spend the next few Netflix rentals and watch a master at work...

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid

The Sting

The Hustler

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Nobody's Fool

Cool Hand Luke


To quote Newman as Butch Cassidy..."I've got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals."

Rest in peace Mr.'ve earned it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Philosophy 101

There's a whole generation walking among us who take everything too, not too seriously, too personally.

There's a difference. The pain, suffering, injustice and corruption that happen on a daily basis deserves to be taken seriously. It affects all of us in one way or another and we ignore it at our peril.

But those who take it personally take it too far. They get so wrapped up in the pain and gloom that they can't function. They get so outraged that they can't think straight. They get so focused that they can't talk about anything else. Quite frankly, they wind up annoying their friends who secretly wish they'd lighten the frak up.

If you're one of these people (and let's be honest...we all are at one time or another), allow me to share two pieces of wisdom that have helped me in times of great stress.


That's it...the beginning and end of the whole "Why is the world/economy/political system screwed up like a soup sandwich" conundrum. Stuff happens all the time...good stuff, bad stuff, funny stuff, sad stuff...any time you have stuff, stuff's gonna happen. And it's gonna happen just because...because it can, because it will, because it's Monday, because we want it to, because we don't want it to...just because. Like the swallos returning to Capistrano, Stuff will happen just because and unless you've been appointed Supreme Being, we can't change that.

So...take the important stuff seriously, but not so personally you become a shrill, shrieking bore. Give yourself an afternoon off from saving the world once in awhile & watch the Three Stooges or Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, rent some Mel Brooks movies or take a nap. Stuff's gonna might as well have a few laughs while it does. Why? Just because.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

That Guy

Ladies, if you will indulge me, this paricular missive is directed solely towards my male bretheren...although a female perspective is more than welcome.

Gentlemen...we need to accept the fact that we are flawed & stupid individuals. Single minded and stubborn to a fault, the best we can hope for is to find the right woman to temper and tolerate our rough edges. If you haven't been lucky enough to find that special someone (as I have), you can surely improve your chances by not being That Guy.

Now, we've all been That Guy at one time or another. It's hardwired into our DNA, much like our pathological need to control the remote or our constant amusement at flatulence (it's always funny). But with age should come wisdom or at least the ability to hide That Guy tendencies...but that's not always the case. Sometimes we're That Guy and don't even realize it. So, as a public service, here are some identifying characteristics of That Guy...ignore them at your peril.

*If you have more beer than food in your fridge, you're That Guy

*If you're in your 30s and your fraternity days are your greatest achievement, you're That Guy

*If you truly believe that "Chicks aren't funny", you're That Guy

*If you still refer to women as "chicks", you're definitely That Guy

*If you won't go to an important event with your girlfriend/spouse (like a work party or her father's funeral) because you'll miss the game, you're That Guy.

These are but a few warning signs. I urge all men to be vigilant. Don't be That're making the rest of us look bad!

Book O' The Week

Not a bad haul, comics-wise this week. Some really good titles...and a couple of great ones.

First up is Fantastic Four #560.

Until I picked up my first issue a few months ago, I had never read many regular issues of Marvel's First Family. But I'm sure glad I gave it a chance. Mark Millar is writing a killer story that involves time travel, alternate futures and a Galactus appearance that even surprised me. Factoring in the pencils of Brian Hitch (and my sheer amazement that he's able to get the thing out on time) and you have a truly cool comic.

But my Book O' The Week is Captain America #42 by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting.

This is the final chapter in the Death of Captain America storyline that's been running since the end of Marvel's Civil War. Like most Marvel titles, I came late to the party. But I sure am glad I showed up. Brubaker's run on the title has been equal parts spy thriller and traditional super hero goodness. He weaves all of the dangling plot threads together, drops a few hints about what's coming, and solidifies a new Captain America. Great stuff all around!

Also, for unadulterated Silver Age goofiness (if you like that sort of thing...and I do) check out DC's Showcase Presents: Metal Men Volume 2 and if you like that, be sure to hunt down the trade collection of Duncan Roleau's recent Metal Men miniseries for a more modern, but equally trippy take on the characters.

Man...I love it when comics are fun!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well, Duh!

American Idol runner up and darling to middle-aged soccer moms everywhere Clay Aiken has announced to People Magazine that he's gay.

In other breaking news: Water is wet, Fire will burn you and Scientists have discovered a cure for hunger...eating food.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Liberal Definition

For the most of my adult life, I've been called "liberal." What that means, I suppose, in relation to my politics and world view is that I've always cared more about the individual than the group...that institutions aren't as important as the people who comprise them.

I've always had a problem with the "You got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out" mindset that so many conservatives seem to have. Taking responsibility for your actions is important, but sometimes we forget how easy it is to fall through the cracks. I remind myself daily that not everyone is as lucky as I have been, not everyone grows up with the white picket fence and loving parents and supportive friends and family. If a Fortune 500 company and multi-millionaire CEO's are worthy of a helping hand, then so is a scared teenager or wounded veteran or lonely senior citizen. Everyone is worthy of our one should be left behind. To badly paraphrase scripture "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do also for Me."

A friend of mine told me the other day that I wasn't so much a liberal as I was an idealist. I think he was right. I don't necessarily agree with all the traditional liberal stances on issues (as I'm sure not all conservatives agree 100% either), but I sleep better at night with a heart that bleeds and not a heart of stone. I have to show mercy and love to repay the mercy and love I've been shown.

So, I guess in the strictest definition it all boils down to this:

Conservatives see the world as it is.
Idealists see the world as it could be.

It's a shame we all can't meet in the middle and make it the world that it should be.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Emmy Thoughts

Here are a few observations/ruminations about last nights Emmy awards.

*The 5 reality show hosts were a spectacularly bad idea. Tom Bergeron looked totally pissed off the entire evening, but he & Heidi Klum were the only two who didn't suck. Howie Mandel was ok, but the less said about Jeff Probst and Ryan Seacrest, the better.

*When 95% of the awards are won by cable networks, it says a lot about the quality of network television.

*Kathy Griffin demanding a standing ovation for Don Rickles justified her continued existence on the planet. I ordinarily would never, ever use the word "class" to describe her, but it was a classy move.

*Quoted for truth: "What did you win for? Reality program? So you didn't win for a real show." I love Don Rickles.

*Two good things will come from Stephen Colbert losing to Rickles: (1) I can't wait to hear his rant about it and (2) a probable appearance by Mr. Warmth on "The Colbert Report".

*I really loved "John Adams" winning most of its categories, but cutting off the writer while he was talking about a time when articulate men discussed important issues to tease the "Best Reality Show" award...not so much.

*Yay for 30 Rock...double yay for Alec Baldwin...triple yay for Tim Conway (one of the funniest men on the planet) winning for his guest role. Thanks, Tina Fey!

*Best presenter and (if the television academy had any brains at all) my choice for next year's host...Ricky Gervais.

*Josh Groban's theme show Josh Groban singing as Cartman from South Park...awesome!

*If your show is running long, perhaps consider cutting the painfully unfunny bit where the winner of Reality Host is delayed until after the commercial break. Better idea...dump the stupid reality show stuff back to basic cable and get it off a show that is supposed to honor creative and artistic achievement. Even better idea...dump reality all together, put the ridiculous sums earned from it into program development and talent acquisition and make shows that are thought provoking, exciting and funny again.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caged Bird

I have an ongoing debate with a friend of mine about Nicolas Cage. He feels that he is one of the greatest actors of his generation and I feel he's a giant cheeseball who hasn't lived up to his potential.

Depending on your tolerance for Cage and his ouevere, I suspect we're both right. But it does call into question just how we view films and what we get from the experience.

What's most important to us...the project as a whole or the individual components that make up the whole. For my friend Travis, the presence of Nicolas Cage in a film supercedes the overall quality of the film itself.

I know where he's coming from...I love many movies for individual performances or moments rather than for how "good" the film itself is. But I also know folks who don't care about great writing, directing or acting if they don't like the mechanics of the movie.

Neither opinion is 100% right or 100% wrong. How any work of art affects us is a matter of perception and that is filtered through the prism of the viewer's life.

When I hear people say they didn't "get" a movie or it wasn't "about" anything, I think they're more interested in the big picture rather than the parts of the whole.

But I still think Nicolas Cage has been coasting since "Leaving Las Vegas", but I guess a brother's gotta eat. Anyone up for "Con Air 2"?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Talking Out Of My Ear

From time to time, I might have an opinion on topics that I know less than nothing about (which, according to some people is all the time) but nevertheless feel the need to spout off welcome to the first installment of Talking Out Of My's topic is parenting.

I don't have kids. It's important to know that right up front. I have no idea about the stresses and challenges of raising children in today's world. I do know, however, that some parents shouldn't be allowed to raise sea monkeys, much less children.

I call it the "Joshua/Kennedy Syndrome." I'll be sitting quietly in a primarily adult establishment like Starbucks for example and in they'll come....little Joshua (usually between the ages of 9-11) wearing khaki shorts and a polo shirt. If his mom is especially cruel, he'll be sporting a hideous pair of Crocs. He'll be jumping up and down, babbling at the top of his lungs. His little sister Kennedy (approximately 4-6) shoes, juice stains on her face. She's always upset and alternates between whining and crying (also at the top of her lungs). Mom is on the cell phone and will remain on it for the duration of their stay. She plops the little darlings at a table, spends about 10 minutes trying to get them to decide what they want and then leaves them there as she goes to place the order...still on the phone. Joshua and Kennedy, who find themselves without supervision, proceed to make laps around the store screaming and/or crying at (yes, you guessed it) the top of their lungs. Mom, finally deciding to pay attention to the fruit of her loins, spends the next hour saying things like "Joshua, please don't touch that...Joshua, remember what we talked about...Kennedy, please don't climb on that...Kennedy, your behavior is unacceptable" as I contemplate shoving a stir stick into my ear just to get some relief. Multiply this by a factor of 5 if it's two or more moms who decided to stop after their yoga class and brought the whole brood with them.

First of all, Starbucks is not a day care center. If you want to ignore your kids while you have coffee, there's a McDonald's right up the street. Dump Joshua and Kennedy in the ball pit and chat with Margot about the curtains to your heart's content. Here's a good rule of thumb...if said establishment doesn't have a designated kids area, then hang up the phone and supervise the little angels. Also...don't leave them out of sight in a room full of strangers while you place the order. If you can't ride herd long enough to order a Venti soy milk green tea frappucino, then consider using the drive through.

Also, we don't negotiate with terrorists so why would you negotiate with a 6 year old. Getting input is fine...but taking up 20 minutes trying to explain to little Trinity why she'll be happier in the long run by making healthy food choices, which will lead to increased empowerment and higher self esteem while 10 people wait in line is incredibly annoying. Just tell her she can't have a damn cookie for breakfast and move along.

It has gotten to the point that I will sit in the smoking section of restaurants just to avoid sitting next to Joshua/Kennedy. I am willing to risk cancer rather than put up with screaming children and parents who do nothing to stop the screaming. If there are kids in the smoking section, at least I can count on their diminished lung capacity and energy level to keep the chaos to a minimum.

But what do I know...I'm just Talking Out Of My Ear.

Social Studies

A couple of (hopefully) brief and (hopefully) entertaining diversions into some cultural matters.

*When I think about John McCain and his desire to be president, I can't help but remember and compare it to the Madonna/Lauper choice of 1983.

Travel back with me to a more innocent time..."Return of the Jedi" was bringing the Star Wars saga to a (mostly) satisfying conclusion, MASH was getting ready to start it's historic final season and MTV was still playing videos. Suddenly, two new stars appeared on the horizon taking the music world by storm. Madonna and Cyndi Lauper were the golden girls of the moment, but only one could ultimately claim the title of "Queen of Pop". If you had asked me then, I would have bet the farm on Cyndi Lauper. She was cute, had an interesting sound, made really entertaining videos and even hung out with Captain Lou Albano. But I totally underestimated how far Madonna was willing to go to be the top dog. She had talent, yes, but Madonna was willing to do anything and I mean ANYTHING to be the biggest star in the world: Sell old nude modeling photos to Playboy, tick off the Roman Catholic church, agree to star in "Who's That Girl" and even sleep with Sean Penn. Cindy never had a chance.

So when I think of the John McCain of 2000, someone who was a troublemaker in Washington and a Republican that even I could vote for and then I see him today, reaching out to the fringe elements of the party...well, it makes me a little sad.

*I was in the car the other day and passed a house that had a large Confederate flag on display. On the one hand, I was glad to see it. It always makes me happy when morons take the time to advertise that they're morons...saves me the effort of forming my own opinions.

I grew up in the South and have seen and heard every possible justification for keeping this divisive symbol around in the 21st Century: "It's a cultural symbol...It's a reminder of a bygone era...It's honors the legacy of men who fought for a lost cause". All of these statements are true...but since you could say the same thing about a Swastika, it holds no water with me. Take it down Bubba...if you want to revel in Antebellum nostalgia, "Gone With The Wind" is readily available on DVD.

*An acquaintance of mine wanted to share some information with me the other day. He was telling me about this 70 hour lecture series that proves, PROVES beyond a shadow of a doubt that hundreds of years ago the Roman Catholic church founded Islam. Listening to him, I kept my expression blank. When confronted with such an obviously psychotic notion, it's best to not react. He told me that most people, after sharing this tidbit with them, told him he was crazy. I did not take the opportunity to mention that I wasn't a theatre minor for nothing.

I'm not a big believer in conspiracy theories. When asked how I account for "______" (fill in your whacked out theory here), I fall back on the tried and true and if it's not it should be scientifically proven notion that Stuff Happens. In fact, I would go so far as to say that no one was more surprised at what Lee Harvey Oswald did in November 1963 than Lee Harvey Oswald himself...and probably President Kennedy., not so brief but hopefully entertaining.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Enemy Mine

I've been doing some pondering as I've been wandering out under the stars and I've come to the conclusion that my life would be infinitely more interesting if I had an arch-enemy.

Now, I'm talking here about a real, Silver Age, old-school arch-enemy. Someone who pops up every few months, makes my life more interesting and then is easily dispatched thus returning everything to the status quo. Not like the villains of today who will kill your family, burn your house, steal your dog and not lose any sleep over it. I'm thinking more Cesar Romero Joker than Heath Ledger Joker.

The key to picking an arch-enemy is to find someone who annoys you enough to get your attention but not so much that you want to stick an icepick in their ear. It's a delicate balance, even more so if you follow the traditional narrative where the hero is somehow responsible for creating the villain in the first place (Batman/Joker, Superman/Lex Luthor, Al Gore/George W. Bush)...but since my life is already complicated enough, I'm going to skip that part.

You also need to pick someone who you know you can defeat. No sense leaving it up to chance. But be careful...if you're not good at physical confrontation your options are limited. You don't want to be known as the guy who beat up Johnny the paperboy with only one leg. Likewise, an intellectual victory is nowhere near as sweet if the only person you can outwit is dumber than a bag of hammers.

So...I'm taking applications for an arch-enemy. I offer no medical or dental benefits, no retirement plan or stock options and very little room for advancement. However, I do offer free publicity and promise at least once a battle to shake my fist and curse your name to the heavens in my best Shatneresque tones. Drop off your resumes at human resources. Notes From Nerdvana is an equal opportunity employer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Clearing The Decks

It's become apparent to me that the last few missives here have been a bit...cranky. It seems I've drifted slightly from my original purpose (shamelessly narcissistic and hopefully amusing stuff about me) and headed down another path entirely (shamelessly narcissistic pseudo-philosophical rants tinged with bitterness and/or regret). So I feel the need to clear the decks and get back to basics...there was a real danger this here blog might become responsible and mature and I just can't have that!

Now without further adieu, and with apologies to John Caravala a.k.a. Dr. Johnny Fever.....I'm gonna drag the needle over the record, put on my shades and loudly and proudly proclaim.....


Ah...that feels better.

In the spirit of lightening the &*%# up...I proudly present....

  1. Blazing Saddles
  2. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
  3. Dumb and Dumber
  4. Young Frankenstein
  5. The Naked Gun
  6. Airplane
  7. A Fish Called Wanda
  8. Animal House
  9. The Jerk
  10. The Producers
Please note the absence of any member of the Wayans family on this's not an accident.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Step Off

  • It has been requested by a loyal reader that I address an underlying theme that was present in my blog the other day (the one about social networking sites)...that they made it easy for people to stalk their long-lost friends. I took some time to mull it over, to consider all of the factors of privacy and societal mores and the sociological, psychological and ethical boundaries that could be crossed and came to, what I believe, a sensible, rational and morally defensible conclusion:

Cyberstalking is creepy and weird. If you're doing it...knock it off.

This has been a public service announcement from Notes From Nerdvana, Inc.

  • I took a break from all the chaos in the world this weekend. The news was all bad...Hurricane Ike, rising gas prices, an increasingly contentious and mean-spirited presidential was enough to give a brother a severe case of the blues. So, I checked out...went to a double feature on Saturday with Sainted Wife and then spent the rest of the weekend immersed in "The Andy Griffith Show" on dvd.
I decided that would do me a whole lot more good to spend time with Andy, Opie and Barney than it would to watch Wolf, Brokaw and "60 Minutes".

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shift To The Left, Shift To The Right

One of the things I love about social networking sites like Facebook is the ability to reconnect with people I knew when I was growing up. It's very cool to find out someone you hung out with in high school still remembers you and wants to know what you've been up to.

I've noticed an interesting trend, though, while finding my old friends. A lot of them have become a lot more conservative socially and politically over the years. This, in and of itself, isn't necessarily a surprise considering where I grew up and the crowd I used to run with. We were all pretty much good kids...didn't party, didn't do drugs and were pretty insulated from the evils of society by our parents and Sunday School teachers.

Of course, things change when you get out into the real world. You learn that everyone wasn't raised in the suburbs with a white picket fence and a loving Mom & Dad. You learn that not everyone was at church every time the doors opened. You learn that not all good people are good all the time, just like not all bad people are bad all the time. You learn about life.

Somewhere between graduating high school and turning 30, you become the person you're going to be. After that, your opinions and perception of the world are shaped by your circumstances. How you see things depends a lot on if you're married, if you have kids, if you have a job that pays the bills or if you're barely making it. People who once railed against the system and corporate America decide that eating and sleeping indoors is a pretty good thing and kids who saw the world strictly in black and white discover sometimes there are shades of gray.

I thought about all of this as I read over the profiles of my old friends. Then I realized that I was making radical assumptions about people I really care about based on a bunch of 1s and 0s on the Interwebs. People are complicated, messy and inconsistent...exactly like life. The anonymity of the web robs us of real, human interaction and personal contact.

Just because someone wants to elect John McCain or Barack Obama doesn't define them as a's merely a small part of who they are. To badly paraphrase Walt Whitman "We are large...we contain multitudes."

My Book O' The Week

It was an interesting week, comics-wise. Everything I picked up was good (Except Deadpool #1, which was barely average)...but nothing jumped out as exceptional.

Which is why my Book O' The Week is more accurately my Trades O' The Week....


I've really been digging Grant Morrison's run on Batman. Before he took over the writing chores, it had been many years since I had picked up and individual issue. I kept up with the character mainly through his guest appearances, Justice League and the repository of all knowledge that is the Interwebs. But when I heard that the Mad Scotsman was going to be the new writer, I thought I'd give it a shot.

If you've been following his latest arc "Batman: R.I.P.", you know that Grant is sending Batman down a twisted path that throws in a mysterious villain known as The Black Glove, The Joker, revelations about Bruce Wayne's father, Bat-Mite, adventures from the Silver Age and the kitchen sink as well. What I didn't realize (and should have) was that Morrison was laying the groundwork for R.I.P. at the very beginning of his run.

"Batman and Son" introduces us to Damian (oh're many things, but subtle isn't one of them), the result of a wild night in the desert with longtime adversary Talia who is the daughter of Ra's Al Guhl. Damian, being raised by the League of Assassins, is the very definition of a "problem child" and his introduction to the Bat Family doesn't go smoothly.

Aside from the great storytelling, foreshadowing of future events and a ten-year old kid beating up Alfred, "Batman and Son" also throws in flying Man-Bat Ninjas. That's right....flying Man-Bat Ninjas. It doesn't get much cooler than that. Highly, highly recommended.

Which leads into "The Black Glove". Once again, Morrison brings a Silver Age concept into the modern era. Batman once belonged to "The Club of Super Heroes", whose membership featured the Batmen of Many Nations. They've all been assembled on a remote island and are being killed off one by one. But what seems like a simple locked room mystery introduces the main villain for "R.I.P.", the Black Glove and lays more foundation for what's to come.

One of the (many) charges leveled at Grant Morrison is that the individual issues of his stories sometimes don't make much sense...he waits until the end to pull all the threads together. This is true. But as readers, I think we've been gotten lazy in the age of Interweb spoilers. We have to know everything up front, even how the story is going to end. Half the fun of reading fiction is the journey we take finding out not just what happens, but how it happens. With his run on "Batman", Morrison is not only giving us great individual stories, but creating an epic tale of the Dark Knight and his journey to madness and back (maybe...the story's not finished). I don't know where Grant is headed, but I sure am enjoying the ride!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Long Fight

For the past hour, I've been eavesdropping on a girl's conversation here at Starbucks. She's expounding her many, many theories about politcs, religion, anime & vampires at a volume that makes it virtually impossible not to overhear. She's young, opinionated and very passionate about her ideas. She seems to be fueled by caffeine and righteous rage.

God bless her...I just can't do that anymore. I don't know if I've compromised my values or mellowed with age, but the idea of having this shotgun blast of activism, anger and geekiness 24-7 makes me tired.
Passion is a wonderful can change the world (or at least your little corner of it) and create indelible works of art. But the fire and sacrifice needed to generate that kind of heat is incredibly demanding. Too often, the end result is burning up or burning out...and not everyone is willing or able to sustain it.

The long fight is inherently a young person's game. That's why we need to encourage the next generation to be active in their communites, dream big dreams and pay attention to what's going on in their world. Change doesn't come from politicians or organizations or comes from individuals willing to take the risk to fight the long fight.

As for me? Well, I'll let that great philosopher Billy Joel answer that question:
"I believe I've passed the age
Of consciousness and righteous rage
I've found that just surviving
Is a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless point of view
Now it doesn't matter
Who's wrong or right"

Yule Love It!

So, for whatever reason, I was feeling kind of down today. Nothing was especially bumming me out, but nonetheless I had the blues.

I had resigned myself to just riding it out...and then I had an inspiration.

I went to the You Tube and built a playlist around my favorite time of the year...Christmas.

You see, the few short weeks starting with Thanksgiving Eve (hey, every holiday should have an "eve") through December 26 mark the highlight of my year. I love everything about it. I'm generally in such a good mood that I can't even muster much aggravation at the two most recent grinches of the season...People who hate the holiday and feel that no one should celebrate it in any fashion and extreme conservatives who think that not being allowed to put a manger up in city hall constitutes a "war on Christmas". At any other time of year, extremists of this sort could look forward to a severe tongue lashing at how monumentally stupid they were being...but they get a "Peace On Earth, Goodwill to Men" pass.

So, my case anyone was's what the You Tube provided to lift my mood...

  • Hardrock, Coco and Joe: A pre-Rankin/Bass stop motion extravaganza that occasionally shows up on WGN during the holiday season
  • Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: Linus's speech about the true meaning of Christmas
  • John Lennon: Happy Christmas, War Is Over
  • Weird Al Yankovic: Christmas At Ground Zero
  • I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas
  • MST3K: A Patrick Swayze Christmas
  • MST3K: Merry Christmas, If that's OK
  • Judy Garland: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • Cartoon Voice Actors Read "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
  • Twisted Sister: O Come All Ye Faithful: What's a Christmas playlist without a traditional carol?
  • David Bowie/Bing Crosby: Little Drummer Boy
So, there you have it...I plan to add to it & keep my Christmas spirit to the last. God bless us, everyone!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mea Culpa...Gimmick Infringement

I must take a moment to apologize to my good friend & fellow blogger, the lovely and talented Ben Moser. Upon reading his entertaining, informative and opinionated blog (and if you know Ben, you also know he's nothing if not opinionated), I realized that I had committed that most grievous of crimes...gimmick infringement.

I have been calling my comic book picks "Funnybook of the Week"...which is also what Ben uses. I must have picked up the phrase by osmosis or that time honored literary tradition of "steal from the best." Ben has graciously not mentioned (or ignored) the fact that I have infringed upon his gimmick. But he was using it first and, if you've read his reviews, to much better effect. So, I will still be picking a book of the week, but I'm going to be calling it something else in deference to the good Dr. Moser.

With that being's what I'm getting this week....

DC Comics
Batman The Black Glove HC
Booster Gold #12
Final Crisis Revelations #2 (of 5)
Green Arrow Black Canary #12
Green Lantern Corps #28
Trinity #15
Wonder Woman #24

Marvel Comics
Deadpool #1
Secret Invasion #6 (of 8)

Not a huge week...but that' s kind of a relief since the past two weeks have been huge.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On The Fringe

I've just seen what may be the coolest new series of the Fall TV season...Fringe.

It would be easy to pigeonhole the show (created by J.J. Abrams) as an "X Files" for the new millenium...and it kind of is. But it's more than the sum of it's influences (which include "Lost" & "Alias" as well.)

Fringe has horror movie gross outs, science fiction psychobabble, conspiracy theories, buddy cop humor and a psychotic genius with a pet cow & a fascination with Spongebob Squarepants. What's not to love?

It remains to be seen if the rest of the season will live up to the promise of the pilot. Another concern is the Fox Network's notoriously itchy trigger finger with genre shows (see "Firefly") and if it has to endure a lengthy baseball playoff preemption, it could mean trouble.

But until that time, I'll happily go along for the ride. Highly, highly recommended!


I just saw an ad...the McRib is back at McDonalds. Thank goodness one of the major fast food companies is willing to make a sandwich for animal that contains no actual meat of any kind.

If, as the song goes, Spider Man does "whatever a spider can", then technically he would shoot his webs out of his butt. I'm not sure I'd want to see Tobey Maguire do that.

In an effort to be more culturally sensitive, shouldn't the cleaning product just be called "Span"?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Random Thoughts In A Minor Key

*There's been a lot of talk lately about lowering the legal drinking age to 18...mostly by people who are 18 and really, really want to drink. The members of this demographic who get on the news seem to be responsible, mature college students who make very compelling arguments, but they leave out the fact that lowering the drinking age means that all 18 year olds get to drink. I'm 39 and cranky and am pretty much resigned to the fact that most 18 year olds are morons who should barely be allowed out in public, much less be allowed access to alcohol.
But, a valid point can be made for the fact that if you are old enough to serve and die for your country, you should be allowed to have a beer. So, here is my solution: 18 year olds can legally drink if they are in the armed forces. You want that Appletini? Then enlist. A valid military ID will get you as many shots as you want at 18. A fraternity sweatshirt will get you jack squat.

*It was pointed out to me by Sainted Wife that I had left a few artists that I had seen multiple times in concert out of a recent blog. It was a sin of omission, not comission but just to set the record completely straight here is an addendum to that list...
  1. Poison
  2. Fleetwood Mac
  3. Robert Earl Keen
Many thanks to Sainted Wife for keeping me honest, if not humble.

*It amuses me no end when hearing people referring to abstinence as a choice. Speaking as a former teenage boy, I never consciously "chose" abstinence as much as I had abstinence thrust upon me. If the truth be told, the overriding goal of any adolescent boy between the ages of 13 and 20 is to find a way out of abstinence.

*I neglected to make my Funnybook Of The Week pick last week...for the none of you who missed it, here it is:

SECRET SIX #1 by Gail Simone & Nicola Scott

Spinning off from two successful miniseries, the Secret Six return in their own regular title. Part Dirty (half) Dozen, part Wild Bunch, Gail Simone's mismatched group of rogues begin a new journey with new members, new surprises and the same blend of wicked humor and action. I loved this book. I could count on the fingers of one ear the chances of me caring about a title that features Catman (yeah, really, Catman), Ragdoll and Bane, but Simone did it. The Butch and Sundance friendship between Deadshot and Catman is worth the price of admission alone.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


It's a lazy Sunday here at the Little Ponderosa...I took a waaaay too long nap & started flipping channels after I got up. I came across "Live Free or Die Hard" on HBO & decided to hang with my main man John McClane.

I've had a huge love affair with the "Die Hard" series ever since I saw the first one at a sneak preview in the summer of 1988 (useless trivia alert: The flick I got to stay & see for free? The Schwarzenagger/Belushi classic "Red Heat".) Watching David Addison spend Christmas at Nakatome Plaza absolutely blew me away. It was the perfect action flick.

"Die Hard 2:Die Harder" also blew my socks off. Bigger explosions, badder villains (although no one has ever topped Alan Rickman as exceptional thief Hans Gruber)and a pre-"NYPD Blue" Dennis Franz joining in the butt kicking.

The less said about "Die Hard With A Vengeance" the better. Seriously, no Holly, no Al, no Dick Thornburg & completely wasting Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons as well. A completely missed opportunity.

"Live Free" wasn't a complete return to form, but it was close enough for government work. Tim Olyphant was a credible threat & Justin Long didn't get in the way too much. The ending is kind of average, but Bruce Willis is having fun and stuff gets blown up real good.

"Die Hard" created a whole new subgenre of action film and gave movie goers a new kind of average guy who was willing to walk over broken glass (literally) to stop the bad guys and save his family. It also made Bruce Willis a star & introduced American audiences to the aforementioned brilliance of Alan Rickman.

So, next time you have a lazy Sunday, make some popcorn, turn out the lights and hang out with the hero of Nakatome won't regret it.

Yippi-Ki-Yay Mister Falcon

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rational Thought or How 'Bout Them Packers

We're in the midst of an incredibly important election. It will be as important as the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon presidential race in terms of what direction America goes in for (I believe) the next 20 years. The stakes are high. Emotions are running higher. So, in the interest of maintaining friendships and not ruining Thanksgiving, I urge all of us when discussing our choice of candidate to do two simple things....
  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Calm the #@%* down
Yes, this presidential election is very important. But we all have friends or family who have different political views than we do, and we're not going to change their minds. Not with our rational, cogent arguments, not with our carefully researched talking points, not with our impassioned defense of the need for change/staying the course in these troubled times and not by calling them bleeding heart liberal wussies or reactionary racist cavemen. It's just not going to happen.

The best we can do is to agree to disagree. Before the interwebs, this wasn't so hard. In the blogging age however, it's become more difficult. Communication has become increasingly more impersonal and we often forget that, no matter how many smiley emoticons we include, you can't judge tone in a web post.

All politics are personal. There's no getting around that fact. But there's also no reason to torpedo friendships or alienate family over it. I've known my best friend for over 20 years and it is safe to say that we are on (mostly) opposite sides of the political spectrum. The way we have remained friends for over 20 years is that we rarely talk politics and when we do, we have a code. When things get too heated (or as close to heated as we get), one of us will say "How 'bout them Packers."

This phrase means, roughly, "We don't agree on this topic. We never will agree on this topic. This topic is now closed. Let's move on to what 80's tv stars we were in love with." I don't remember who came up with this brilliant idea (ok, I do...he did), but it has curtailed many thorny discussions and helped us (see #2 above) calm the #@%* down.

So, pick your battles. Support and work for your candidate. Try and make a difference. But (in the words of my lovely mother) don't act ugly and remember to ask "How 'bout them Packers?"

I'm Chris Ayers and I approve this message

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Blog O' Lists

Lists are fun!

5 People Who Would Make A Better Vice President Than Sarah Palin
  1. Kermit the Frog
  2. William Shatner
  3. Bea Arthur
  4. Rich Little
  5. Inanimate Carbon Rod
3 Words That Sound Dirty But Aren't
  1. Bushwack
  2. Carbuncle
  3. Titicaca
5 People I Would Want To Have Dinner With
  1. Aaron Sorkin
  2. Samuel L. Jackson
  3. Kevin Smith
  4. Bruce Springsteen
  5. Vice President Inanimate Carbon Rod
5 Bands Who I Think Are Incredibly Overrated
  1. Journey
  2. Styx
  3. Duran Duran
  4. Led Zepplin
  5. The Doors
3 Things I Would Rather Do Than Watch The Republican National Convention
  1. Have A Colonoscopy
  2. Watch Soccer
  3. Gargle Razor Blades
10 Favorite Movies Of All Time
  1. It's A Wonderful Life
  2. The Godfather
  3. The Godfather II
  4. Pulp Fiction
  5. Die Hard
  6. The Wild Bunch
  7. The Dirty Dozen
  8. West Side Story
  9. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  10. McClintock
5 Performers I've Seen Live More Than Once
  1. Billy Joel
  2. Bruce Springsteen
  3. The Statler Brothers
  4. Todd Snider
  5. Alabama
3 Bad Movies I Love
  1. Hudson Hawk
  2. Dumb and Dumber
  3. The Adventures of Milo & Otis