Friday, December 29, 2006

PXMD

My annual Post-Christmas Depression has set in, but with a slightly different feel this year. Usually it occurs because the holiday has failed to live up to my always-unrealistic expectations. This year, however, Christmas was merrier and brighter than it’s been in many years. Almost everything went well. The Video Party was a big success, my shopping for gifts went smoothly (and more importantly, was appreciated), there were some really special times spent with really special people. My trek back to PA was remarkably free of any anxiety or agitation (not one fight with the nuke!). I got to see some friends I haven’t seen in a long time (although the ones I missed were sorely missed). The ever-declining Fulton Bar was replaced with the far more enjoyable Quips Pub and there was a too-brief encounter with the Winger Wine Cellar. We got some great new stories that will be told for years (“I’m 69 but I feel 18 because I got Jesus in me~!”). My cousin Gretchen’s absence was palpable, but it was great to have Gary there. I got to see, hear and smell the 1800 starting up for the first time in decades. The fireplace raged despite the too-warm weather. The kind woman at the CVS gave me $20 off the memory card I suddenly needed on the 25th. I received a gift of the heirloom Christmas glasses! The rest of my pile of swag entices me to ignore work and just read, watch and listen for days and days. In fact, the entire holiday, the only real drag was the fact that Global Warming makes it seem as if the concept of a White Christmas is really going to be an anachronism found only in old recordings.

So why so glum?

Because this year I could FEEL the impending inevitability of time. A number of losses among extended family and friends this past year (yet another of which I just found out about while writing this entry!) hammered this home. And as I’ve said before, with no families of our own, my brother and I cling to our (countless) beloved holiday traditions tenaciously. But the day will come when they are going to be forced to change, and Christmas will never be the same. That’s the natural order of things, but I honestly don’t know if we’ll be able to deal with it. When friends of mine talk about NOT going home for the holidays or make comments about how it’s not a big deal in their family (or, worst of all, express outright cynicism towards Xmas), I’m frankly dumbfounded. I can’t imagine NOT having the enormous celebration of family and friendship (Jesus ain’t always the reason for the season) that we have every December.

I tend to be pretty self-absorbed (says the guy writing a blog, presuming people give a crap about his thoughts and tales). I can be petty and whiny and materialistic and impatient. But amidst that, I think I do have a sense of perspective. Over the past several years, the main thing I’ve learned is to not take what I do have for granted. Which made this Christmas both wonderful and heartbreaking.

And now comes the Hell that is New Year’s. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Names Withheld (but easy to figure out)

Santa came early this year. Last night at the bar, I got to fulfill one of my bartender fantasies (as mentioned in this posting)… I got to tell an underage celebrity that she couldn’t have a drink. I’m not going to say which one, but she’s a TV “star” on one of those shows with all the pretty young people having difficulties while wearing bathing suits (and she was mentioned hypothetically in that very post).

She was there with an absolutely awful band from L.A. who personify everything wrong with L.A. bands… completely obsessed with image, artlessly aping classic rock riffs and bringing nothing new to the table. The lead singer even took off his shirt (trust me, it wasn't hot). They blew, but not as much as the following band, a concoction fronted by some guy from Rock Star Supernova, a show which I had heard of, but never seen. Apparently it’s American Idol with “rock” pretense, but this guy seemed every bit as vacuous as any Idol contestant.

It’s always interesting to see the crowd that comes out for a band that sprang from the Tee-Vee. One of the craziest nights at the bar ever was when the band Flickerstick from the VH1 reality show Bands on the Run played. People were acting as if the Beatles resurrected and were playing the tiny room. Girls were snapping photos, cheeseballs in gold preened, thinking they were in the presence of cool and one sycophant was even heard to say that she couldn’t eat her dinner because she was so nervous being so “close to a rock star.”

Um, I’m not sure about this one, but I think one of the pre-requisites for being a rock star is to have an album out, which at that point, Flickerstick did not (They do now, though… their debut can be found used on Amazon for $1.81).

The point is, people who are awed by non-bands like this are people who do what TV tells them to. They don’t (or maybe even can’t) put any effort into developing their own tastes, music means nothing to them, at least in comparison to the tinny sheen of fame that TV applies better than anything else.

Anyway, back to the girl. Word spread through the club that she was there, although I wouldn’t have recognized her if she weren't pointed out to me. I will say that she wasn’t obnoxious at all, and even kept a cap on her wee head, somewhat hiding from the crowd. But she was also drinking a beer, and it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve seen her mentioned on the list of underage Hollywood clubbers. I got confirmation from Lauren (who knows about such things) and just waited.

She finished her beer and came up to the bar to order another. Taking a breath and relishing the moment, I asked for her ID. She paused for a second, stammered that she didn’t have one and pointed out that she’d already gotten a beer.

Not from me she didn’t, and I told her that I couldn’t serve her, at which point she kinda stomped away, perhaps cursing the backwards mentality of the wilds of New Jersey.

I was not trying to be (and hopefully didn’t come across as) a jerk. I was just doing my job. The law states, you gots to be 21, not 21 or on The OC. She no doubt called me an asshole and probably got another drink from someone else at the club at some point, but that’s okay. I am an asshole; I did get some sense of satisfaction in bringing a spot of perspective to the pampered state of celebrity. A teensy tiny infinitesimal temporary spot, but hey, you take what you can get.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bronze Beauties Christmas Comics Blowout

Time to put the Bronze Beauties to bed, as an overhaul of TGGS in the offing for early 2007, so I thought I’d go out with a holiday themed blowout installment.

My oft-mentioned love of this time of year follows through to all media. Christmas movies, music, TV shows, short stories by Dickens and Sedaris, vintage design and yep, comic books. The four collections below left impressions on me almost as indelible as the markers with which I colored some of their inside covers. Whoops. The Archie digest in particular contains such great stories and art from the 50s and 60s that the book has become as perennial to me as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or Mom's sand tarts. The DC and Marvel collections (both in that great huge tabloid size that positively screamed “YOU MUST OWN ME!!!!” from the newsstands in the ‘70s) were the first of what became tradition for the publishers. When the well of worthy holiday themed tales from the past started to run dry in the next decade, both of the Big Two started putting out Xmas comics of new material, which were welcome, but didn’t (and by definition, couldn’t) bring forth that same sense of nostalgia that old stories from a simpler time when Superman and Santa Claus could co-exist in the same story without ruining the “believability” of the character. Sheesh.

From the top, DC LIMITED COLLECTORS’ EDITION #C-34 (1975), art by Nick Cardy; ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #3 (1973), art by Stan Goldberg; MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL #1 (1974), art by John Buscema; and DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE #123 (1973), art by an unknown Hank Ketcham ghost.



And I thank you for your indulgence. Again.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's not sexy. No.

So, last week, I realized that I love Halloween in theory… but loathe it in practice. The problem is, 90% of all costumes just show how completely dull and original most people are. Working in a bar, I saw way too many “sexy” cats/nurses/nuns, etc. (I even saw a sexy PLUMBER), too many dudes just wearing stuff they found in their closet that didn’t match and waaaay too many girls wearing ‘80s clothes. I honestly don’t think I saw one decent costume the entire weekend at the bar. Granted, my place of employ is not a typical Party Bar, we didn’t have any special Halloween promotion or anything, but I doubt too much smart masquerading was going on in my mile square.

I’m not a fan of costume parties. Part of it is that I don’t like to dress to call attention to myself (my entire wardrobe is lacking in any bright colors). But in the context of a costume party, I’m not sure what’s worse… showing up with no costume or in lame costume.

But a costume doesn’t have to be elaborate... just clever. Subtle costumes that can take a while to figure out are often the best ones at the party, and almost always preferable to something just picked up at Party City.

Last year, I was peer-pressured into wearing a costume to work, something I was not happy about. So I went simple. I got a gray old lady wig, a glow in the dark plastic butcher knife and wore a crisp white button down with them (a sacrifice, as any bartender will tell you). I was supposed to be Norman Bates in mid-transvestite mode. A few people got it, some others didn’t. But it worked for me.

This year, I was invited to a party at my pal Haven’s and didn’t want to be the only wet blanket sans costume. But I still wasn’t keen on going overboard. So I made a red bow tie out of cardboard, wore a white shirt with a vest and my reading glasses and plastered a handful of band-aids on my face and hands. It’s an old reference, to be sure, so to help people out, I also made a press pass and even put “WKRP” on it. It was not the best costume at the party (but it was not the worst, either).

The lovely and vivacious Iloire had the best costume, a home-made Margot Tenenbaum, complete with “Four Plays” book and wooden finger. Gary’s simple, yet hilarious Rocky Balboa costume served him well throughout the week and Haven’s Annie was disturbingly perfect.




And not a sexy cat nor pregnant nun to be seen. Sheesh.

Bronze Beauties Election Week Special: Jackie Jokers

I read my fair share of Harvey Comics in the 70s: Casper, Hot Stuff, Spooky, the various Littles (Dot, Audrey, Lotta, et al), Sad Sack and Richie Rich were as pivotal to my early reading as superhero comics were. But maybe my favorite Harvey Comic was the bizarre, short-lived Jackie Jokers, a book about a vaudeville-style young comedian (no, it was not a period piece). Jackie was part of a successful showbiz family (including uncles and cousins), but somehow he lived in the typical Harvey suburbia instead of Los Angeles or New York City. But the weirdest thing about Jackie Jokers was that, despite being drawn as a little kid like Richie Rich, his exploits were decidedly adult, and many stories revolved around him trying to land grown-up roles in films. Also, his relationship with his girlfriend Candy seemed a bit less innocent than, say, Casper and Wendy’s.

Anyway. Jackie Jokers only lasted 4 issues in 1973, but Jackie teamed with the richest kid in the world for a far more successful 48-issue run in Richie Rich and Jackie Jokers. But that book wasn’t nearly as off-kilter as Jackie’s solo comic (aided primarily by outstanding art by Ernie Colón at the peak of his abilities). I mean, come on…. How many other comic book characters shared a COVER with Richard Nixon?!??!

Here's the cover to Jackie Jokers #2, May 1973, by Ernie Colón.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hello, New Jersey!!!

So, I worked the Beck show at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey City on Saturday night. I didn’t get to see any of the show (which is fine, I’m ambivalent about Beck), but I could hear it from the cavernous lobby where we had set up our makeshift bar (no, not an open bar, as one particularly stupid girl asked). And I got to hear something that I hear a lot working the bar at a rock club in the great state of New Jersey…

Beck came out to do his first encore to the strains of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Oh, Beck! I can truly see why people call you a genius!! You’re playing in New Jersey! How brilliantly hilarious to bust out some Bon Jovi! Ha ha ha! Nobody’s ever thought of that before!!!!

Actually, it’s as lame and as old as yelling “Free Bird!” I have heard dozens, if not hundreds of bands either perform a live chorus or take the stage to a recording of (a) Bon Jovi or (b) Bruce Springsteen (actually, there’s just as much Frank Sinatra, but I think that’s exclusively a Hoboken occurrence while Bon and the Boss “tributes” are statewide).

Does this happen in other states? Do touring bands playing in Tennessee feel obligated to sing a little “Jailhouse Rock?” Does every other troubadour strumming in California trill some Beach Boys? Is an ironic cover of the CHEERS theme de rigeur for combos passing through Massachusetts? I doubt it.

But Jersey has such a strong iconography that it’s almost impossible for visitors to just let it pass. And that’s fine. Those of us who reside in the perhaps ironically tagged “Garden State” are not only immune to the jabs, we embrace them. New Jersey is one of the only states that engenders a sense of identity that’s bigger than civic. As far as I’ve seen, only two states’ outlines have become common tattoos: New Jersey and Texas.

But while Texans display a sense of arrogance about their giant (if backwater) state that is practically begging for recession from the union (please), Jerseyites wear the badge almost defensively. Yeah, I’m from Jersey, what about it, douchebag? But don’t think it’s irony; most of us love this stinky state, corruption, bureaucracy, pollution, dirty beaches, closeted ex-governors, bad musical icons, mobsters and all. Mock all you want. We… don’t… care.

But bands, how about doing a Smithereens cover next time through?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Adornment

I’ve been having a hard time trying to figure out what stickers to put on my laptop. I know, life is a trial, right? But here’s the thing; There are only three places where a person should seriously consider their choice of ornamental adornment before casually slapping something on: (1) Their Body. (2) Their Vehicle. (3) Their Laptop Computer.

Unlike say, a notebook or a backpack, those three canvases are (or should be) considered declarations of who you ARE and not just an advocation of a passing fancy. There’s nothing more risible than someone walking into a tattoo parlor with no idea of what design they want. Tattoos for their own sake really are stupid. You’re permanently marking your body, if you just want something “cool” as simple adornment, then go get a henna job or just stick to T-shirts of whatever lame contemporary punk band you like.

A tattoo should be a statement about yourself, a visual personality résumé (at least the bullet points). And if you’re getting one, it should show. Business tattoos (ones that can remain hidden at the bearer’s corporate day job) can make you look like nothing more than a weekend warrior. Neck tattoos, however, remain a bad idea. And ladies, keep the needles away from the toes… it just looks white trash.

While certainly not as indelible as a tattoo, the statement made by a car bumper sticker is something the driver cannot deny, much like exiting a public restroom that the person before you stunk up (as any Democrat who’s ever borrowed a car from a Born Again Christian Republican NRA member knows [unlikely as that scenario may be]). If you take a stand on an issue via the permanent bumper sticker, you probably stand firm (removable, faddish magnetic ribbons are another, completely stupid matter). Proclaiming one’s beliefs on a vehicle is a ballsy move, though. You run the risk of vandalism from the opposing side. No doubt many Pro-Choice Hondas have been keyed by those pillars of hypocrisy known as the Right to Lifers. My car is currently (aside from a few glow in the dark stars) sticker-free, but if I come across one of those “mean people suck” stickers, I might just buy one and put it on there… after cutting off the word “mean,” of course.

So, my laptop. I’ve had it for almost two months now, and until last week, the only decoration it held were those ubiquitous GID stars and similarly glowing letters spelling out the name of one of the pages on this website. I went through my envelope of stickers (every adult should have one) at least a dozen times, repeatedly considering a handful, but never fully committing to them.

Like the political bumper sticker on a car, the sticker of a band on your laptop is a sign that you REALLY love this band. I have a lovely sparkly Southern Culture on the Skids sticker from their album Plastic Seat Sweat, but am I THAT much of a SCOTS fan in 2006? There’s that cool Ed Fotheringham sticker from The Muffs’ best album, Blonder and Blonder, and that one may still make the cut. The Matt Pond PA sticker would be on there if it weren’t so damn ugly. The Liz Phair sticker from Whitechocolatespaceegg? Sure, that record was great, but she is so unredeemably awful in her current sellout incarnation that I don’t wanna be guilty by association.

As for my own self-designed TOUGH GUY stickers (of which there are two), at first I just felt… too narcissistic putting them on. Besides, they’re like three years old now, I’m just sick of looking at ‘em. But, perhaps out of resignation, last week I gave up and applied the TG Blinky sticker on the left side of the front of my MacBook. And then I added a small, Bruce Timm-drawn Superman next to the glowing Apple icon. Then I tossed on a few more glow-stars. Then, exhausted, I took a break.

Glow in the dark stars. My own artwork. And Superman. That’s about right. For now, anyway. I've got more space.

In other, less Earth-shaking news, the Fall Tee Vee season is under way and my DVR queue is chockablock… AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL (Caridee is my prediction), NIP/TUCK (which qualifies as a guilty pleasure), GILMORE GIRLS (Amy is already missed… Chachi? Seriously? That’s the best you can do?). REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER (Go, Atheist, Go!). SMALLVILLE (Green Arrow? Without the facial hair?). HEROES (for now, anyway). THE VENTURE BROS. (Sheer brilliance). MY NAME IS EARL (my favorite new show in years). THE OFFICE (Get over it, Anglophiles). And, of course, the ever more essential THE DAILY SHOW and THE COLBERT REPORT (which I consider one show divided into two parts, really). Ah, glorious television… warm, comforting, brain-cell-fucking Tee-Vee… my love for YOU will never die.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pisser

Last Wednesday, Gary and I made one of our semi-regular trips to visit Kri-Bro at the Spotted Pig, and as usual, a splendid time was had. Carlos and Rob joined us late in the game and took over our stools for the second “Keep Kristin Sane” shift. Gary and I left about an hour later and began the trek back from Manhattan to the dirty Jerz. We were both quite intoxicated.

The walk from the PATH station to my apartment takes about twenty minutes. When your bladder is loaded to the gills with both booze and water (in a wise attempt to remain hydrated), that can be an eternity. By the time I was a few blocks from my place, I really had to go to the bathroom. With a mere hundred yards or so to go, my bladder was screaming at me to hurry up, so I started running. I got into the building, which unlocked the safety in my brain, and it quickly turned to Go-Time. Halfway up the steps to my second floor apartment, I thrust a hand into my pants for the squeeze-off. Reaching my door, I fumbled for my keys, RACING AGAINST TIME, COME ON, HURRY! HURRY!....

Ah, fuck.

Yes. I peed my pants. Just a wee bit (little pun there), but enough.

The last time I experienced this little incident, I was in the first grade. It was close to Thanksgiving and Mrs. Murphy (my first real life hottie crush) had us making Pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses out of construction paper and Elmer’s glue. Everyone was having trouble, and Mrs.  Murphy was getting impatient, so she told us we couldn’t raise our hands until Art was over. Only problem was, I had to go to the bathroom, but took her admonition seriously. So I squeezed and suffered and soon there was a puddle under my little wooden chair. And to this day, I can remember the whispered exchange I had with Abby Dochat.

“Abby! I had an accident!”
“But Mrs. Murphy said we can’t ask for help!” (thinking I was talking about my project)
“No…” (I pointed down) “… I had AN ACCIDENT”

Soon, Mrs. Murphy became aware of the predicament, and before long, my Mom was there to pick me up and take me home early. And the kicker was, because I got to cut school, nobody made fun of me. In fact, I was the ENVY of everyone else in my class. They waved goodbye jealously as I put on my jacket and headed out. I have to imagine that at least a few other youngsters were squeezing their bladders trying to emulate my actions.

Anyway. Back to last Wednesday.

Post-pee, the first thing I did (after washing my hands, but before taking a shower) was text message everyone I had just been hanging with to tell them of my pants-staining tale. And then, the next day at work, I must’ve related the story a dozen times. And now, here I am, writing about it for all the world (okay, a hundred or so people) to see.

More than one of my friends wondered aloud why I would ever want to share such an embarrassing anecdote. There are a number of reasons. Part of it is that I think it’s a funny story. Part of it is self-deprecation. And yes, part of it is self-absorption (Hey! Listen to a story about ME!). But I think the main reason is, I’m not embarrassed by it. I just don’t care. I’m just a stupid, gross animal like the rest of us, sometimes my body doesn’t do what I want it to (boy, doesn’t it). I do smart things, I do dumb things, sometimes I’m a good person, sometimes I’m not. In the grand scheme of things… oh, wait. There is no grand scheme. I forgot. So why not laugh about it?

Whoops, sorry. My nihilism is showing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Plus Five

Sometimes I feel guilty about the fact that this website is rarely political. True, it started out as my online portfolio and catalogue back when Tough Guy was created as something else (if you missed that rather self-flagellating post, it’s long deleted, sorry). As writing has replaced art as my main focus, TG has changed to reflect that. And yet, you’re far more likely to read an impassioned rant about the animated adventures of the DC Universe than a dissertation on Darfur. I’m a pop culture pundit, not a political one. It’s not that I’m not involved or don’t care about more serious matters. I just don’t feel overly qualified to talk about them, unlike my pal Dave. But I get so frustrated and angry at how damn stupid this administration both IS and thinks WE are to buy into its myriad lies and reprehensible scare tactics. But then again, that is how W got re-elected two years ago, so maybe they’re not so stupid after all.

Last night a group of us convened at In Vino, a spectacular wine bar in the east village to celebrate Gretchen’s birthday. Four hours and $500 later, we left, buzzed on both incredible food and wine and the even headier intoxicants of camaraderie and friendship.

It was just before midnight when we separated and I put in my iPod earbuds, continuing the Matt Pond PA marathon that I’d started when I left my apartment that afternoon. It was a beautiful evening in Manhattan, crisp and cool with a purple, cloudy sky lit up by the moon. And suddenly, it was September 11th, five years later.

I continued walking to the PATH train at 9th and Sixth Avenue, drunkenly taking in the feel of night in Manhattan. When I got back to Hoboken, I walked along the river, gazing at the breathtaking view of this city that I love so much. Gentrified, corporatized, yes, but still New York, still a city of people from all over the world who realize the importance of culture and community. A city of extremes, beautiful / ugly, rich / poor, pious / godless, sophisticated / trashy, nearly every kind of person there is, all rubbing shoulders with each other, interacting with and affecting each other in a microcosm unlike any other place.

I constantly hear hipsters lamenting the decline of New York, that it isn’t what it used to be, that the real artists have left and the real scenes are long dead. Boo Hoo, poor aging hipsters. So CBGB is moving to Vegas, what a beautiful metaphor for the state of Punk. I got news for you, Spike, things change. Maybe there are fewer venues for good live music in New York, but there are also fewer young people who give a shit, so there you go. I dare you to name a more vibrant place on Earth.

9/11 hurt and hurts more than almost anything I’ve experienced (and I was lucky enough to not lose anyone I knew directly). For those of us who saw it first hand, without the numbing filter of TV and the calming drone of pontificating talking heads, it was surreal and unifying in a way we can’t even describe. If this comes across as hubris on the part of New Yorkers (and those of us in northeastern New Jersey who border the Hudson River), then so be it. I’m not trying to say that the events of that day didn’t affect everyone in the country and the world… they did. I’m not trying to imply that our suffering makes us somehow better. It’s just… different.

But what hurts more now is how the very real tragedy seems to have taught us nothing, that we were unified for a mere heartbeat, that so many people either forgave or forgot that our fearless leader failed in his promise to get “the folks” who perpetrated the attack, that he used it as an excuse to go to a wholly unconnected war in Iraq and that he and his party have abused 9/11 as fear-mongering political fodder. "Patriot Day," my ass. I despise this truly evil administration as much as I adore this city. That’s a lot.


Next up: My thoughts on Heath Ledger as the Joker!! Sigh.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bronze Beauties #13: the Avengers

No, no, Hanlon, there’s no Emma Peel and John Steed in this comic. Legend has it that the Marvel Age of Comics was ushered in when publisher Martin Goodman asked editor Stan Lee to come up with a superhero group to compete with DC’s successful Justice League of America. The result was the Fantastic Four, but Marvel’s true response to the JLA wouldn’t come until 2 years later with The Avengers #1, a 1963 comic book teaming a number of by then established heroes from other books.

While I was more of a DC fanboy, I dipped up to the hip in the Marvel pool, and one of the things that I liked about the Avengers was that they had a butler (provided by Iron Man alter-ego, millionaire industrialist Tony Stark). The Justice League may have had an orbiting satellite HQ, but they had to get their own drinks (at least after they got rid of their silver age sidekick, Snapper Carr). Then again, maybe that’s why they let Red Tornado hang around.

Here are two swell 1970s Avengers covers, #92 (Sept. 1971) by my first favorite comic book artist, Neal Adams (who really didn’t do a huge amount of Marvel work) and #152 (Oct. 1976), a supremely hilarious piece by Jack Kirby. The voodoo villain’s name is NOT Chicken Man, but rather the Black Talon. And the guy in the swamp with the fluorescent disco duds is Wonder Man. I couldn’t tell ya about him.

BRONZE BEAUTIES ADDENDUM:
More covers to celebrate the release of THE AVENGERS movie!
Here's #83 (Dec. 1970) by John Buscema & Tom Palmer
#87 (April 1971) featuring a character who should've been in the new movie, the Black Panther, by John Buscema & John Verpoorten
#97 (March 1972) by Gil Kane & Bill Everett
#100 (June 1972) by Barry Smith
#116 (October 1973) by John Romita & Mike Esposito
#123 (May 1974) by Ron Wilson & John Romita
#141 (November 1975) by Gil Kane & John Romita
#172 (June 1978) featuring Hawkeye in the costume he really should've worn in the movie, by George Pérez & Terry Austin










© Marvel Comics

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Drunken Consumption

Yesterday, I may have had the most successful day of shopping ever. Yeah, I said Shopping.

A former girlfriend and I once tried listing all of my, let’s say, non-stereotypically-masculine traits. I’m neat and organized. I like to clean. I like Gilmore Girls. I have numerous face washing products. I don’t like sports. And I like to shop. Or at least, I used to.

Thanks in part to that now-ex-girlfriend, my affinity for walking around and spending money for its own sake went away (along with some other things, but that's another story). These days, I try to just spend money when I need to, “need” of course being as subjective as anything else.

But there was a short list of big items that have been squarely in the “need” category for a while now. And they weren’t easy purchases. Not for me, anyway.

1) I needed new sneakers for work.
This is an incredibly difficult task because I despise sneakers. I only wear them in the summer and only with shorts. A few months back, I threw out my disgusting old bar sneakers and bought a pair of low-top Converse All-Stars as replacements. In my 20s, I wore Chuck Taylors 365 days a year, but as I got older, their utter lack of arch support made them a bit uncomfortable (even with insoles). But I couldn’t imagine the searing, constant neck and back pain that wearing them for 12 hours on my feet behind the bar would bring. They were out. I have another old pair of Adidas (a style they don’t make anymore) that are my “street” sneaks and I didn’t want to ruin them by wearing them behind the bar (every bartender has a wardrobe strictly for work, due to become imbued with booze, dirt, cherry stains, and miscellaneous other alcohol-related extrusions). The search began anew.

2) I needed to pick up a new black light for the bar.
I’ve been threatening for months to buy a 16” black light fixture for the door guys where I work because the old 5” fixture hasn’t worked well enough to light up the fluorescent door stamps we use in a long time. Plus, I love black lights.

3) I’ve been looking for a new pepper grinder for a long time.
I just couldn’t find one I liked. This one wasn’t pressing, though.

4) I’ve been wanting to buy a laptop for over a year.
I need to be able to write away from the distractions of my home and also do work when I go back to PA (or on the incredibly rare instances when I travel elsewhere). But as anyone who was with me during the times I was buying my car and my LCD TV knows, when it comes to large purchases, I am more than hesitant. I’ve known exactly what model laptop I wanted, I just kept putting off buying the damn thing.

Yesterday was a beautiful summer day in Manhattan, and with the assistance of the wise and kick-ass Lysa with a Y, I headed out with resolve to accomplish at least one of those goals. And, unbelievably, I accomplished them ALL, in four hours, all in a short, direct walk from 18th Street down Broadway, with a right turn at Prince, ending up at the Apple Store in SoHo.

A trek which included one key stop: Gonzalez y Gonzalez, for two and a half margaritas. (Please note: This cavernous downtown Cal-Mex joint is mediocre at best and I would never dine there, but for a quick afternoon Happy Hour Margarita fix, it's fine.)

I discovered that my reticence to buy large items goes away if I’m a bit looped. Now, this would not have been a good thing when I was gettin’ the Jeep, but with every purchase yesterday, having some tequila in me removed my hesitation and I bought a new pair of AdidasSuperstar Vulcans (at the Adidas store at Broadway and Houston) and a MacBook. As well as a new pepper grinder, a black light for the bar, and, just for good measure and to show how subjective “need” is, new Brainiac and Lex Luthor action figures and the new issue of DRAW! featuring an interview with my pal Chris.


Y and I returned to Hoboken and headed to Louise and Jerry’s for celebratory shots of Maker’s Mark and a shared Bud and then back to my place where the icing on the cake was sitting in the door: A box from Amazon containing my impulse order of last week: Craig Yoe’s ARF MUSEUM, Booker T. & the MGs' HIP HUG HER, John Doe’s FOR THE BEST OF US reissue, Hal Lifson’s SEX AND THE ‘60s comp and Arch Hall Jr. and the Archers’ WILD GUITAR! anthology.

As a rule, I’m not a fan of conspicuous consumption. I don’t shop for the sake of shopping anymore. But I gotta say, as the pizza arrived and we cracked open a bottle of Pagor Cab, the heat emanating from my AmEx card didn't burn so much as feel comfortably warm. So, the next time I DO some economy-fueling dispensation of disposable income.... I’m gettin’ hammered first.

-Urp-

Friday, August 04, 2006

Oh, Lindsay.

I may be a pop culture dork, but as a rule, I despise the cult of celebrity. I don’t read any People / Us / Star style mags (although there’s a thin line between them and Entertainment Weekly, to which I’ve subscribed for over a decade), I don’t watch TV shows about entertainment “news,” I could care less about the private lives of the stars. I hate the fact that I know the names of movie star offspring and who Kevin Federline is.

Now, having said that, I do admit that I am fascinated by Lindsay Lohan.

She’s my favorite train wreck, but it’s not a strict case of schadenfreude (as with, say Britney Spears, who’s simply a lucky hillbilly idiot with no sense of perspective as to her success in relation to her talent and whose inevitable career decline I await droolingly). I used to like Lindsay Lohan. Part of me still does.

A number of years back, I thought that, in stark contrast with most young Hollywood pretzel sticks, she had a darker, kinda punk sensibility, she came across as a bit smarter than your Hilary Duffs, your Emmy Rossums. I thought she was great in Freaky Friday and Mean Girls (which I only saw on cable, mind you) .

And, I have to admit, at the risk of sounding like a creepy Chester, I thought she was hot. Yes, yes, I know, I’m old enough to be her father. Hey, so is Brett Ratner! And at least Lindsay has (or HAD) some curves on her (how anyone can lust after the Olsen Twins is completely beyond comprehension) and besides, it wouldn’t...um...

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Lindsay seemed to have her shit together.

But as Lindsay’s star rose and she hit her 18th birthday, she seemed to fall prey to all of those dangers of young Hollywood stardom. Suddenly she was hanging out at the hot spots, partying with yukky humans like Tara Reid and Paris Hilton and then she lost all that weight and dyed her hair blonde and began stalking cheezy directors and trashing better actresses on bathroom walls and Oh, Lindsay.

Of course, Lindsay Lohan is certainly not the first victim of the lure of excess that someone in her position in Hollywood is afforded. It’s actually strange when someone thrust into the pop culture spotlight at a young age DOESN’T put much of their paycheck up their nose (or some other orifice).

One of the things I find most fascinating is that in all of these stories about her already legendary clubbing, not one of them mentions the fact that SHE’S NOT OLD ENOUGH TO LEGALLY DRINK. I really hate the fact that celebrities rule the world (or at least America) to the point where the laws don’t apply.

Seriously, if Lindsay Lohan (or Amanda Bynes or Mischa Barton or any other underage ingénue) ever came into my bar and ordered a drink, I’d ask for their ID and then say “Sorry” when they annoyedly asked if I knew Who They Were. Fuck that. I would sooner lose my job than perpetuate the VIP status of these prima donnas.

But I know that I am in the minority. Most bars love the status of the celebrity hang. Hell, they usually don’t even charge the stars. The most overpaid people on Earth get the most stuff for free. How does that happen? Such is the wattage of fame.

Which brings us back to Lindsay. What makes me care (just a whit and within context) about this bizarre path of personal and career destruction she’s so publicly trudging down is that I really thought she coulda’ been a contender. And maybe the damage isn’t permanent. Maybe she’ll snap out of it and get back on the right track, baby.

Then again.... maybe she won’t.










POSTSCRIPT, October 2010:

Nope, she didn't.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fanboy Rising

I may have entered an entirely new realm of geekdom yesterday. I appeared on the G4 network’s ATTACK OF THE SHOW in a Crossfire-esque segment called “the Loop” (sposored by Yaris). The debate was what was referred to as an age old comic book battle, “Batman vs. Superman.” Which I, to be honest, don’t think is much of a battle, for numerous reasons, which I won’t get into here (I think I've crammed enough Superman down your collective throats for a while... so to speak).

My pal, cartoonist Bob Fingerman (who couldn’t care less about superheroes) recommended me for the gig and was the “creamy nougat center of neutrality” in the debate, at least until his feed went dead and I was left alone with the Batvocate. (As a side note, Bob was happy that he got to plug his upcoming book, Recess Pieces, and that he was not referred to as a “comic book expert.”)

Whether the debate was won or lost is a matter of opinion. Some have told me that I mopped the floor with the guy.

Okay, so I mopped the floor with the guy. But it’s not his fault. Maxim Magazine associate editor Jon Wilde, as we discovered while chatting in the green room before the show, isn’t even a comic book fan. He was a late replacement for author Scott Beatty, who has written numerous books about Batman (as well as Superman, to be honest). That probably would’ve been a more fair fight.

But I still woulda’ won.

Sequestered alone in a room at a Manhattan studio (Bob and Jon were in different rooms at the same place), I wasn’t sure at all how I was doing while the LIVE broadcast was occurring (gulp). It wasn’t until I got home late last night that I watched the DVR of the show and was stunned that I wasn’t mortified... at ALL... by the whole thing. Even I thought I came off okay.... within context, of course. I mean, Giant Nerd in a Bizarro Superman T-shirt, yes. But somewhat eloquent and funny, I think.

I was even called the nerdiest thing she’d ever seen by show co-host Blair Butler, the hottest comic book dork on Earth, a woman whose existence I only discovered last weekend. Oh, Blair... and we could’ve made such geekiful music together!

The funny thing is, my fanboy seems to be rising again. While there was a period some time back where I was losing interest in keeping up with the medium, that’s changed again recently. No doubt Superman Returns (box office dud that it is.... sigh) has something to do with it, but I think it has more to do with retreating into my own Fortress of Solitude. And I’m feeling more solitary than I ever have in my life (note: this is not a BAD thing).

But whenever I’m feeling overly disconnected from people, my geek level goes up. I know I’m not alone, it’s one of the main reasons why so many comic book / sci fi dorks fit into the stereotype of schlubby, tubby guy with no social skills. It’s not the chicken and the egg: The physicality begat the nerd. When you don’t fit in with so-called “normal” society, when you don’t get invited to the dance, you need to find other things to fill your time. And fantasy worlds where freaks possess incredible powers and justice prevails suddenly become very appealing places in which to retreat.

There are exceptions to the comic book guy stereotype, of course, and I don’t mean myself (see: Blair Butler again). The thing is, as easy as it is to deride the comic book nerd, in many ways, they’re actually cooler than, say, your average rockabilly dude. The rockabilly guy’s entire life revolves around being COOL, crafting a carefully calculated (but completely unoriginal) style that applies to everything from his outfit (jeans, black boots, tattoos, white T-shirt, chain, yawn) to his car to his music to his girlfriend. It’s all about how other people perceive him. And I’m sorry, but anyone who tries THAT FUCKING HARD to be cool.... isn’t.

The comic book nerd, on the other hand, is truly passionate about his world. He dresses for comfort, not style. His tattoos are usually pretty bad. His hair is sparse and unkempt and he doesn’t care. His hygiene can be in question. And his girlfriend... well, if she exists, she usually resembles, well... him. But, again.... HE DOESN’T CARE. He’s happy in his world and if you don’t like it, tough shit. So, in the larger sense, who’s more like Brando in The Wild One?

That may not fit into the typical notion of “cool,” but to me, the overweight schlub in the Hulk T-shirt is usually far hipper than the James Dean wannabe.

And Superman kicks Batman’s ass.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bronze Beauties #12: THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY

Originally a pale, watered down imitation of the EC horror comics of the 50s, DC Comics' The House of Mystery began in 1951, but hit its heyday in the 1960s and '70s when artists such as Alex Toth, Neal Adams, Berni Wrightson and Wally Wood illustrated stories cooked up by young, drug-induced new comics writing minds!!! By the late 1970s, the book had started to lose steam, but its covers remained usually great right up through the end....here’s a bunch of 'em from the Bronze era...

House of Mystery #186, June 1970. Art by Neal Adams.

House of Mystery #187, August 1970, art by Neal Adams.

House of Mystery #201, April 1972. Art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.

House of Mystery #202, May 1972. Art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.

House of Mystery #204, July 1972. Art by Bernie Wrightson.

House of Mystery #207, October 1972. Art by Bernie Wrightson.

House of Mystery #214, May 1973. Art by Bernie Wrightson.

House of Mystery #220, December 1973. Art by Nick Cardy. 

House of Mystery #222, February 1974. Art by Luis Dominguez. 

House of Mystery #224, May 1974. Art by various artists. 

House of Mystery #235, September 1975. Art by Luis Dominguez.

House of Mystery #236, October 1975. Art by Bernie Wrightson.

House of Mystery #254, October 1977. Art by Neal Adams.

House of Mystery #267, April 1979. Art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.

House of Mystery #277, February 1980. Art by Steve Ditko.

House of Mystery #282, July 1980. Art by Joe Kubert.

House of Mystery #292, May 1981. Art by Joe Kubert.

House of Mystery #294, July 1981. Art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.

House of Mystery #314, March 1983. Art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.

House of Mystery #321, October 1983. Art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.