Thursday, September 27, 2007

Restaurant code violations, Batman-style

Caveat venditor!

If Batman does not like the way you run your joint, he will shut you down, Dark Knight-style. In Gotham, restaurants, bars, and clubs that run afoul of local ordinances don't get cute little letter grades posted in their front window like they do in L.A.. No, if your tavern gets a "B" grade that means he shuts you down - with a BIG ASS STICK.

In Batman #400, Batman drops in on The Belly of the Whale, a quaint establishment on the Gotham waterfront with a colorful clientele. It's the only place on the East End that has Bludhaven Stout on tap due to an arrangement the proprietor made with some local criminal types. The Belly's local charms are lost on Batman, who finds the following violations:

  1. establishment used as a front to push skag
  2. no hot water
  3. unclean food contact surfaces
  4. illegal sub-lease to supervillain (The Riddler)
  5. improper food temperatures

Wow. Five violations. That's when Batman puts away the baseball bat and picks up the oar.

After administering his fine/punishment, Batman advises the proprietor on the appropriate course of action to correct the five violations: "Just close." The merchant is free to disregard Batman's advice, but is cautioned that he will return within 24 hours for another inspection - with an even larger stick - perhaps a fence post wrapped in barbed wire.

And that my friends, is why it's safe to eat out in Gotham.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We're back and we're Cracked

Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin'
We gonna do what they say can't be done
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there
I'm eastbound, just watch old Bandit run

-Eastbound and Down
by The Great Jerry Reed

OK, we're back.

The road trip east beyond the Rockies to pick up the Megaforce Destroyer was a success, but very grueling. Fortunately there were three of us, so we switched driving duties while the others caught what sleep they could. We pulled three all-nighters in various weather conditions and arrived back in Seattle totally bleary. Highlights included ghost towns, semi-ghost towns, Yellowstone, fall colors in the Jackson Hole area, a truck vs buffalo showdown (advantage: buffalo), a really mean thunderstorm, a flat tire, nearly running out of gas in the middle of Nowhere twice, evil waitresses, and a lengthy debate on the merits (or lack thereof) of adapting old cartoons and TV shows to film.

The highlight for me was a two-hour hellride in the dead of night along a remote highway in Wyoming that was boiling with animals, all of whom seemed intent on jumping in front of the truck while I drove. Seriously, I felt like one of the cars in Frogger. Every thirty seconds or so, jack rabbits, deer, antelope, or coyotes would loom up in the highbeam glare as they suicidally flung themselves in front of my vehicle. Judging by the amount of gore and carcasses on the road, other drivers had the same experience. Either that or I was following some kind of animal serial killer. That was some nerve-wracking shit. Oh, and I saw a UFO on that road.

But now I'm back and the moustache I had cultivated just for Wyoming has morphed into a big scuzzy growth of stubble that collects lint and scraps of food.

While I was gone the good folks at posted a few pieces I had written for them. The first, written with the Cracked staff, explores the philosophical musings of Wesley Snipes, who has much wisdom and head-kicking to offer us all.

The second piece examines the most disturbing and disturbed sidekicks in history. What force compels the craven bootlicking of Smithers, Renfield, or that guy from Morris Day & The Time who seems to exist only to hold up a mirror to Morris Day. I'm not speaking metaphorically, that's all he does.

So now that my annual road trip is out of the way and I've used up all my vacation time for the fiscal year, I can commence posting on a regular basis again.

No, really. I know you've heard it before baby, but I can change.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Once again, it is ON

I was born a ramblin’ man, and I must listen to the call of the open road.

The spirit of the American highway sings to me, and she sounds a lot like the bombastic lead singer of Four Non-Blondes, wailing, “WHAT’S GOING ON?!!” I don’t know why the American highway sounds like that, and I kind of wish she didn’t, but I must heed the call regardless of how annoying it is.

As a North American, the need to go on a road trip is ingrained in my genetic code. In the New World we are all wanderers, only a generation or so removed from people who come from Someplace Else. The road trip is part of our identity and our culture, from the Conestoga wagons to Steinbeck to Easy Rider. Combine this deep urge to roam with our love of automobiles and crappy food and you have a powerful biological imperative that you can only ignore for so long. You turn to your buddy – you know, the one who understands – and all you have to say is: “Road trip.”

Once again I am teaming up with my pal Bob for our annual adventure. In years past we have launched a 300 mile boating expedition up bear-infested Lake Roosevelt and back, searched for a ghost town in a blizzard, traversed a burning mountain range, crawled through endless volcanic caves, snapped an axle high up in the Bitterroot Mountains, and made a pilgrimage to the fabled Ring of Fire train wreck.

This time: Megaforce.

Every decent road trip has to have a purpose, a goal that transforms the journey from a standard car vaction into a full-on quest. This year we’re traveling to Wyoming to pick up a Megaforce Destroyer – the dune buggy of the future!

Take a look at this clip – at about the fourteen second mark there’s a good shot of the dune buggy. It’s the one SHOOTING THE LASER!

OK, it’s actually just the fiberglass shell of the dune buggy of the future. But it's from Megaforce! Bob bought the actual Megaforce dune buggy shell on eBay and we’re going to pick that bad boy up and bring it back to Seattle, where Bob will bring it back to its former glory. Or so he tells me.

Bob and I are huge Megaforce fans – I’ve discussed at length why Megaforce is one of the greatest movies ever made HERE – so this is right up our alley.

As usual, Bob drives and I plan the route and navigate. This year I’ve picked a route that should take us through four ghost towns, a few abandoned mines, some old railroad tunnels, and a mountain backroad called "Deadman’s Road." I anticipate awesomeness.

Since we are heading east into the Old West, I have decided that I must grow a moustache (pictured). I just have to, it’s important. I know, I look like a date rapist. In retrospect, I should have started growing the ‘stache earlier, because it will not have reached Sam Elliot / Tom Selleck state by the time we start the trip. Maybe I should get a cowboy hat, that might make me look cooler.

Road Trip 2007 is ON. It’s on like the Wrath of Khan. We must live the Megaforce motto: "Deeds not words."

See y’all next week.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nostalgiametrics: The Science of Today for Yesterday's Crap

Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that you loved as a kid and just been shocked - shocked, I say! - by how crappy it was? Sadly, stuff that seemed great when you were a kid is often revealed to be utter shit, and that can be hard to take. Believe me, I know. I had a full-on existential meltdown when I realized that Charles in Charge was not the comedic masterpiece that I remembered. I was like, "What is truth if this is a lie?"

As a handsome man once said here:

"Nostalgia is deception wrapped in sentiment. Nostalgia is a ghostly lover dressed in a lovely, old-fashioned gown, who beckons you to dance with her, to make love to her… and then she turns into a hideous mummified ghoul who rips your throat out with her teeth and blood gushes and the screaming, my God, the screaming… That is nostalgia."*
Gosh, if only there were some way to scientifically determine whether or not say, an old network TV show sucked or not, so we could spare ourselves the pain and disillusionment...

Well now there is!

Introducing Nostalgiametrics: The Science of Today for Yesterday's Crap

Using the patented Nostalgiametric grading system, we can now quantify a show's suckiness or lack thereof. It's simple: just pick a favorite old TV show, run it through the Nostalgiametric Checklist to assign it quality points, and then add up the points to get your Nostalgiametric Quotient!

Here's the Nostalgiametric Checklist for One Hour Network Television Programs:

The Main Guy(s)
  • Doesn't suck: +5 points (Incredible Hulk, Wild Wild West)
  • Is William Shatner: +5 points (T.J. Hooker, Star Trek)
  • Is a Woman: +3 points (Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman)
  • Superpowers: +3 points (Man from Atlantis, Greatest American Hero)
  • Ex-astronaut: +3 points (Buck Rogers, Six Million Dollar Man)
  • Ex-soldier: +2 points (Magnum P.I., BJ and the Bear)
  • Ex-convict: +2 points (Rockford Files)
  • Ex-cop: +2 points (Booker, Renegade)
  • Cop/agent: +2 points (Hunter, Martial Law)
  • Hot cop: +3 points (Miami Vice)
  • Private eye: +2 points (Spenser for Hire, Vegas)
  • Bounty hunter: +2 points (Renegade, The Fall Guy)
  • Can fly helicopter/plane/spaceship: +2 points (Matt Houston, Airwolf)
  • Mysterious loner who helps people in trouble: +2 points (Kung Fu, The Equalizer)
  • Occasionally shirtless: +1 point (Wild Wild West, Starsky & Hutch)
  • Always shirtless: +2 points (Magnum P.I., Man From Atlantis)
  • Hunted by somebody: +2 points (A-Team, Incredible Hulk)
  • Main character totally sucks: -5 points (Manimal, Automan)


  • Dog: +3 points (Tales of the Gold Monkey)
  • Monkey: +5 points (BJ and the Bear)
  • Hot chick: +3 points (Hunter)
  • Ernest Borgnine: +3 points (Airwolf)
  • Robot/alien: +3 points (Buck Rogers, Alien Nation)
  • Master of disguise: +2 points (Wild Wild West)
  • Punching bag/goon: +2 points (The Fall Guy, Walker Texas Ranger)
  • Dreamboat: +2 points (T.J. Hooker, JAG)
  • Comic relief: +2 points (Riptide, Fantasy Island)

Theme Song

  • Totally rules: +5 points (Magnum P.I., Six Million Dollar Man)
  • Sucks ass: -2 points (Manimal, Misfits of Science)
  • Written by Mike Post & Pete Carpenter: +5 points (Hill Street Blues, Rockford Files)
  • Spoken word intro: +3 points (A-Team, Charlie's Angels)
  • Sung by star of series: +3 points (Walker Texas Ranger, Fall Guy)
  • Title of show mentioned in song: +2 points (BJ and the Bear, Love Boat)
  • Gratuitous synthesizers: +2 points (The Equalizer, Airwolf)
  • Theme song sucks bad: -5 points (Misfits of Science, B.J. and the Bear)
The Cast
  • Lone wolf show: +3 points (Kung Fu, Incredible Hulk)
  • Buddy show: +5 points (Hunter, Cagney & Lacey)
  • Hero + posse show: +3 points (Walker Texas Ranger, T.J. Hooker)
  • Ensemble show: +2 points (Love Boat, SWAT)
  • Show named after buddies: +3 points (Starsky & Hutch, Tenspeed & Brownshoe)
  • Romantic tension: +3 points (Moonlighting, Hunter)
  • Old man buddy: +2 points (Hardcastle & McCormick, Jake & The Fat Man)
  • Attractive buddies: +2 points (Miami Vice, Charlie's Angels)
  • One attractive/one ugly buddy: -1 point (CHIPs)
  • Hot chick: +3 points (Dukes of Hazard, Buck Rogers)
  • Roddy McDowell: +2 points (Tales of the Gold Monkey)
  • Science guy/mechanic: +2 points (Street Hawk, Bionic Woman)
  • Patriarchal old dude: +2 points (Battlestar Galactica, Love Boat)
  • Frustrated police lieutenant: +2 points (Rockford Files, Starsky & Hutch)
  • Pilot: +2 points (Magnum P.I., 240 Robert)
  • Token old dude on posse: +2 points (Walker Texas Ranger, Matt Houston)
  • Major cast members replaced: -3 points (Airwolf, Dukes of Hazard)
  • Minor cast members replaced/added: -1 point (Airwolf, Knight Rider)
  • Hot chick added: +2 points (T.J. Hooker)
  • Normal vehicle: +1 point (Rockford Files, Heart to Heart)
  • Boss vehicle: +3 points (Magnum P.I., A-Team)
  • Super boss vehicle: +5 points (Airwolf, Street Hawk)
  • Crazy ass stunts: +2 points (Fall Guy, Dukes of Hazard)
  • Vehicle talks: +2 points (Knight Rider)
  • Loaded with custom features: +2 points (Wild Wild West, Star Trek)
  • Vehicle has a name: +2 points (Battlestar Galactica, Hardcastle & McCormick)
  • Vehicle is frickin' huge: +2 points (Love Boat, Supertrain)
  • Vehicle blows shit up: +3 points (Airwolf, Buck Rogers)
  • More than one vehicle: +1 point for each extra vehicle (Miami Vice, Riptide)

Bonus features

  • Two fights + one chase per episode: +3 points (T.J. Hooker, Hunter)
  • Weapon/gadget created out of scratch each episode: +2 points (A-Team, MacGyver)
  • Characters often pose as exotic dancers: +3 points (T.J. Hooker)
  • Has spawned spin-off show: +2 point (Dukes of Hazard, B.J. and the Bear)
  • Is spin-off show: -1 point (Enos, Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo)
  • Shameless use of stock footage: -1 point (Airwolf)
  • Non-lethal gunplay: -2 points (A-Team)
  • Fights vampire at least once: +2 points (B.J. and the Bear, Starsky & Hutch, Buck Rogers)


That's the basic Nostalgiametric Checklist for One Hour Network Television Programs. Now, let's add up all the points and see what your favorite show's Nostalgia Quotient is:

1-20 pts: Sucks ass. Try
to pretend it never existed - everyone else has.

21-25 pts: Some redeeming qualities. Watch it again after drinking a few beers.

26-30 pts: Halfway decent. Buy the DVD. Somebody out there has a website devoted to this show.

31-34 points: Kicks ass.
Begin letter writing campaign to network begging for the
show's return. Write fan-fiction or get a tattoo with the show logo.

35-40 points: Best show ever. Devote your life to this program and bludgeon anyone who speaks ill of it. Create a cult based on show. Name your children after characters on show.

Here are some examples for your reference:

Tales of the Gold Monkey - ABC's 1982 Raiders of the Lost rip-off starred Stephen Collins as Jake Cutter, a pilot/adventurer in pre-war South Pacific. Featured one-eyed dog and Roddy McDowell.


- Jan Michael-Vincent and Ernest Borgnine fly into danger and into our hearts in Airwolf, a super helicoppter. Extra points for awesome theme song, but loses points for replacing the entire cast for the last season. No Borgnine? No love.

T.J. Hooker

- William Shatner, Adrian Zmed, and Heather Locklear keep the streets of L.A. clean in this cop show. Shatner clung from every manner of speeding vehicle known to man, while Zmed and Locklear posed as exotic dancers on regular basis. Loses points for losing Zmed to Dance Fever.

*Wow, what kind of egomaniac quotes himself?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

...aaand we're back.

OK, we're back. At my place of work, we have to use up all our vacation time before the end of the fiscal year in October. As a result, half the corporate headquarters packs up and leaves in September to burn off those extra vacation hours, and I am no exception. What have I been doing? Nothin'.

However, at the end of the month my pal Bob and I have yet another Epic Quest planned that should meet or surpass the level of radness of all previous Epic Quests. And that's saying something, since last time we were almost killed by a bear. All I can say right now is that it involves ghost towns, slat flats, and the film Megaforce.

Attached is a clip from the 70's martial arts epic Crippled Masters. Thanks to pal Kevin for the link.

Did everyone see that Iron Man trailer? Did everyone FREAK OUT at its awesomeness? I know I did.

More soon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Less Than Compelling Covers

(Sorry I've been AWOL recently. I'm working on a big time-consuming project and frankly, even I get burnt-out writing about comics every now and then.)

Comic book covers are designed with one primary purpose in mind: to sell comic books. A cover can be a beautifully drawn masterpiece with holographic effects and 5 naked ladies - if it doesn't get somebody to stop, pick it up, and open the damn thing, the cover has not done its job.

Sometimes we forget this. After all, if you religously buy every issue of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose **cough Chris Sims cough** then you're going to pick it up regardless of whether the cover blows or not. And when we get Tarot home and have mastur-- um, read it, we're just interested in whether the cover is pretty or not because we bought the damn thing already. But back in The Day, when comics were on spinner racks at 7-11, every cover was designed with commercial, not artistic demands in mind. It's why so many of those old Spider-Man comics from the 70s and 80s show Spider-Man getting his ass kicked or in some jeopardy. The kid browsing the racks would be all, "Holy shit! How's Spidey going to get out of this one? MUST BUY THIS!"

Which brings me to the point of this post. As I often do, I was digging through my back issues and I came across a couple of books with less than compelling covers. It was the cover to Aquaman #53 that did it for me. What about the cover to that comic would compel a casual browser to stop and pick it up? I still don't have an answer.

Take a look:

Pretty much the only thing commercially interesting about this cover is that it promises a guest appearance by Superman. Other than that... The cover asks the burning question: "Who's busier? Aquaman or Superman?" The answer: "Who gives a shit?"

Seriously, aside from the special guest star, why would anyone aside from an Aquaman completist pick this up? "Who is busier?" is not exactly what I would consider a raw, primal conflict. Let's see, Superman wakes up at 5:20, showers and shaves, grabs a bagel and catches the 6:15 train for downtown, arrives at work at 6:40, gets an Americano from the Starbucks in the Daily Planet lobby, has to wait for the damn elevator, gets to his desk at 6:50, checks his email for ten minutes before a 7:00 AM staff meeting, which he's 5 minutes late to because he has to save a drifting oil tanker off the Virginia coast... Let's see, Aquaman's tide clock wakes him at 6:30 SDT (surface dweller time), he hits snooze, wakes up at 7:00, has a breakfast of mussels and caviar while he checks the sports scores in the Tritonis Times, considers going back to bed or shaving... Yeah, Superman's busier. There, now you don't have to get that comic.

Here's a Gen13 cover that absolutely screams: "BUY THIS COMIC (and find out who wins the illegal iguana race)!" While the cover may accurately reflect the story inside, I ask you: is this a comic that demands your attention?

Again, iguana racing is not what I consider high drama. Let's ignore the fact that I actually purchased the comic, shall we?

Here's a Marvel UK comic, Death's Head II, that coasts on the old trick of just adding Wolverine or Spider-Man to a cover. Like most Marvel UK comics, Death's Head II sucked ass, so perhaps this lame cover is truth in advertising. But couldn't they have had Wolvie and 'Head actually doing something? Anything? Drinking tea? Bowling? Flying a kite together? Throw us a frickin' bone, Marvel UK - give us a reason to actually want to buy the book.

Finally, here's a continuity cocktail courtesy of crazy Roy Thomas - What If? vol 2 #36 - which poses the question that has been on fans' lips for decades: What if the Cosmic Avenger battled the Guardians of the Galaxy? Look, it's part 2 of 5. The question was so vast that it could not be contained in one, or two, or even four comics!

I gotta call bullshit on this one. The purpose of the What If? books was to explore paths not taken in familiar storylines. Some of the issues were kind of lame, sure, but at least they stuck to the central concept of the series. Asking what if the Cosmic Avenger battled the Guardians of the Galaxy is just cheating. Nobody aside from writer Roy Thomas knows or even cares who the Cosmic Avengers are. I can't imagine this thing was flying off the shelves.

You know, this was kinda fun. I'm going to have to look for more comics with less than compelling covers - books that lay untouched in comic stores because the covers send the clear message: DON'T BUY ME.