The one good thing about reaching December 26th…

…is that the madness is done with and you can finally take a breath and relax.

Of course, this qualifies for first world problems yet there is stress involved in getting through these days.  I get tired of running from one family home to another to deliver and receive gifts.  Inevitably, I get fed -and eat!- way more than I should and today, as I’m sitting here typing, my stomach feels bloated.

First world problems indeed.

I suppose I should shut up and be appreciative about what I have, a family, gifts for all, a roof over our heads, and a meal on the table.

Certainly better to have than to have not.

Sketchin’ 42

So here we are, at the early stages of winter and what better subject matter for my latest image than a film that takes place in a cold hell?

Here you go, Kurt Russell from the incredible John Carpenter directed… The Thing!

John Carpenter and Kurt Russell collaborated on three of my all time favorite films: Escape From New York (though I felt the low budget hurt the film toward its climax, it was still a great, creative story and Snake Plisskin is easily one of Kurt Russell’s best characters!), Big Trouble In Little China (wherein Kurt Russell humorously plays the stupid sidekick… who thinks he’s the main show!), and the subject of my latest piece, The Thing.  (They made at least two other films together, Elvis and the tongue in cheek remake of Escape From New York, Escape From L.A.)

Sadly, all three films didn’t do all that well at the box office though all three are considered cult classics today.

Regardless, enjoy and have yourselves a very Happy Holidays, everyone!

Acute star fatigue…

Over at, Jack Hamilton offers an assessment of the state of music, circa 2017, and notes…

2017 was a year of acute star fatigue

Mr. Hamilton’s thesis is that in 2017 some of the biggest stars in the music biz released albums that were met with a big “ho hum” for many.

Now, its been a hell of a long time since I was plugged into current popular music trends (it’ll happen to you, too, one day!) but even so, I was fascinated with the article nonetheless.

Mr. Hamilton notes that even though 2017 saw the release of new music by the likes of, among others, U2, Katy Perry, Arcade Fire, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, etc., most of these new works either elicited a “ho hum” reaction from fans if not outright dislike, even if some of those albums sold extremely well.

As someone whose musical taste falls between releases from the early/mid 1960’s to roughly the very early 2000’s (like, 2001 or so), I’ve enjoyed plenty of music and plenty of musical styles that have seen its rise and fall.

There’s rock, art rock, heavy metal, glam rock, metal, new wave, punk, alternative, grunge, etc. etc. that are in my stuffed to the gills hard drive.

I’ve enjoyed the early Beatles but really love the mid to late Beatles period.  I love me some Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Rush.  I love David Bowie, Queen, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Velvet Underground.  I love Aimee Mann, The Smashing Pumpkins.  I really dig artists whose biggest days were in the 1980’s like The Smiths, The Motels, The Thompson Twins, The Go-Gos.  I really love some of the metal music also released during the time from the likes of Megadeth, Anthrax (and their side group, Stormtroopers of Death), and Metallica.

Yes, I like quite a big of music.

And yet in the very early 2000’s, tastes in music took a turn and, suddenly, I simply didn’t like what I was hearing anymore.

I’ve often pointed out a very amusing thing rocker/actor/writer/etc. Henry Rollins once said about music (and I’m paraphrasing here):

He noted how when he was young and he’d bring new albums into his household and play them, his father would shake his head and say the new music is terrible.  Mr. Rollins noted how “out of touch” his father was in his opinion, that the new music was so damn good and only those people who were indeed out of touch would not like it.  Then Mr. Rollins noted that as the years passed and new music styles emerged, he found himself liking new music less and less.  He concluded the story by saying something along the lines of: “I never thought it would happen, but I’ve turned into my old man!”

The point is, music, like so many artistic things, goes through its waves.  What is popular today (or in the 1980’s, 90’s, 00’s, 10’s) is not necessarily going to be popular with the next generation and the generation after that.

New artists will rise and, for some, the rise will be quick as will be the fall.  Others may find more lasting success, and are able to release many successful albums and stay in the public’s eye/ear for years, perhaps even a decade or two.

But inevitably, whatever is the rage today will recede when something new and intriguing catches the public’s attention.

For many years now, the musicians mentioned above by Mr. Hamilton have been in the public eye.  They’ve been very successful with their new releases and, as he notes (and this is obviously his opinion, though perhaps shared by many others), these “old” artists have found 2017 a harsher year for their music.

Maybe audiences have indeed reached a point where those styles are no longer as intriguing and new and fresh as before, and these audiences, younger each year, are looking for something else.  Something different.

This is nothing that hasn’t happened over and over again since music first became popular some, oh, few thousand years ago.

And so it goes.

Jingle Bells…

…Batman smells…

…Robin laid an egg…

…Batmobile lost its wheel…

…and the Joker got away!

Remember that old childhood variation on the song?   I certainly do, and at least to my memory, that was pretty much it for the parody of Jingle Bells.

Except that time being what it is, it appears a whole second verse was added to the song since my childhood back in the stone age and, much to my surprise, Tom Scocca over at writes about it here:

Do you know the second verse to “Jingle Bells, Batman smells?”

For those like me who never even knew about this mysterious second verse (something which clearly came to be sometime after my own childhood in the 1970’s), I’m sooooo tempted to not reveal it here and help out Mr. Scocca to get whatever pitiful clicks he can get via my site…

…but I just have to put it here, so Mr. Scocca, my deepest apologies.

And now, SPOILERS!, the second verse of Jingle Bells, Batman Smells





Batman’s in the kitchen

Robin’s in the hall

Joker’s in the bathroom

Peeing on the wall, hey!

Never heard those lines before.  Ever.

Interestingly, there are variations to even those lines.  If you do go to the website and check out the article (its not terribly long and, yes, I gave pretty much everything away here), scroll down to some of the comments.

Indeed, it appears this second verse found its way into the song sometime in the later 1980’s or perhaps into the 1990’s (which would make sense as my childhood was reeeeeallly far in my rear-view mirror by that time), and that even the first and this new second verse has its own variations…

For example, some people note that the line “Blew his nose in Cheerios and ate ‘em anyway” also appeared in the song at some point.

Then there’s “and joker took ballet, hey!”, which another one notes was a thing.

I vaguely recall another person who noted that at one point the line “Commissioner broke his leg” was a alternate variation of the “Batmobile lost its wheel” line.

Anyway, interesting stuff from childhood…

…oh, and to everyone out there:

Have a very Happy Holiday!

(And to those impatient for news about my latest/concluding chapter of the Corrosive Knights series… I’m working hard on it.  It will come out sometime in 2018)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) a (mildly) belated review

I can go really short with my review here: The film starts very well (and uses an extremely appropriate David Bowie song in those opening minutes), goes on to give us a plethora of superb effects, falls very flat in its middle third, then manages to give audiences a fairly exciting ending.

Unfortunately that flat middle section, and a couple of other problems I’ll note below, really hurts the film and makes it far less successful than one would have hoped.

When I heard a Valerian movie was in the works, I was excited.  I’m probably one of the few people in the United States who knew about the European comic books/graphic novels that were the basis for this movie.  Here’s one of the first graphic novels featuring Valerian I purchased way back when:

Related image

Here’s what the main characters, Major Valerian (in the movie, played by Dane DeHaan) and his partner Sergeant Laureline (in the movie played by Cara Delevingne) look like in the graphic novels:

Image result for valerian graphic novel

I found the comics often quite clever and loaded to the brim with ideas, though I will also admit the artwork didn’t always wow me like some other artwork and the story lines were at times odd… though that may have been a function of the translation.

Still, I was eager to see a film version of the characters, and especially so when Luc Besson was revealed as the director.  Mr. Besson has a long history in movies, first rising to prominence for movies such as La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, and, especially, The Fifth Element.

In many ways, The Fifth Element was Mr. Besson doing his “original” take on those many European sci-fi graphic novels presented in Metal Hurlant and drawn/written by the likes of Moebius as well as, yes, the Valerian graphic novels.

With the release of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Mr. Besson returns to that vibe but, unfortunately, I feel the results aren’t quite as good.  Here is the movie’s trailer:

While its easy to see the similarities between the two films, its their differences that make Valerian, IMHO, a lesser work.

To begin with, it pains me to say this but Dane DeHaan simply isn’t very good in the titular role as Major Valerian.  He certainly looks like the Valerian character found on the graphic novels pages, but he also feels far too young to be what is essentially a dark haired version of Flash Gordon.  Indeed, there are moments in the film where DeHaan is acting opposite what are supposed to be “grizzled” military veterans and each and every one of them look far more competent and capable of handling action than he does… and yet we’re supposed to view him as their better.

Cara Delevingne as Sgt. Laureline is sorta/kinda ok, but the problem with her character is one that is all too common in the role of women in many films: She’s a character and not much more.  She’s the love interest and woman of everyone’s dreams, she’s the damsel in distress.  She’s the “tough as nails/hard to get” one.  There isn’t a whole lot else.

Worse, DeHaan and Delevingne don’t have much chemistry between them, though I feel much of the problem for that lies in the breakneck pace in which director Besson moves from place to place and heavily special effect scene to scene instead .

Then there’s the movie’s runtime: 2 hours and 17 minutes long.

Once again it feels to me like a film fell under a director’s extreme love for presenting spectacle -the more the better!- and in this case a little more editorial guidance might have come a long way to strengthen the story.  Though the situation isn’t quite as bad as Blade Runner 2049’s 2 hours and 44 waaaaay too long minutes (IMHO!), I could have used a few “quiet” scenes between Valerian and Laureline to better establish their relationship.  Unfortunately, the near constant barrage of special effects in that middle section of the film got more than a little boring after a while.

The movie features cameo appearances by Clive Owen (he must have worked for maybe two days on the film), Ethan Hawke (ditto), and Rihanna (she’s also a cameo, though a somewhat longer one), but none of them add that much to the film.  At least fans of Rihanna get to see her playing dress up for another of those too-long special effect scenes.

So, unfortunately, despite some positives, I can’t recommend Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to your average movie-goer.  Those who enjoy movies with heavy special effects may find more to enjoy, however.

Older Apple phones…

For a while now there’s been a suspicion among users of Apple phones that older models (ie, any model which isn’t the very latest one) are experiencing slow downs.

It produced one of those “dark” conspiracies that Apple was purposely doing this to people who had older models of their phones to essentially encourage them to spend their money on the latest models.

Apple outright denied this for a while, stating that if the phones are experiencing any lag in their processing it was due to other factors.  The phone’s processor was an older model and today there’s so much more processing that need be done.  Or perhaps it was related to the wireless services people were using, etc. etc.

Well, turns out the dark conspiracy wasn’t all that dark after all.  this article, by Ivana Kottasová and presented on CNN, pulls the curtains to reveal…

Apple: Yes we’re slowing down older iPhones

You know, as I sit here typing this line, I feel a sense of rage building in me that’s all too damn familiar.

I like Apple products.  I’ve noted this before.  I really like my iPad and use it quite a lot during the course of the day.  I love the Apple pencil and I love the artwork I can do on it.  I love the fact that I have my music available for me (I do not, however, use iTunes).  I love that I can see my films or read a ton of books I’ve purchased (again, none of this through Apple).

Further, I have an Apple iPhone 6 and I’ve had it for several years now and haven’t felt the need to upgrade at all.

Despite using these two Apple products, I’ve always been leery of the company.  As good as they are, under the reign of Steve Jobs I’ve always felt that there was a mentality of extreme capitalism at work within them.  Sure, they released some dynamite products, but there was always this claim that their products were so sophisticated and advanced and original which, of course, more often than not they weren’t.  Much of the functionality present in Apple products was created by other companies but, to Apple’s extreme credit, they managed to polish these products and make them just about as good as they could be.

But the Faustian bargain for those buying into the products is that you were expected to keep buying them, often being tempted only a year down the line with newer, better versions of something you already had.

I recall many years ago when the iPods were released and my daughters wanted them desperately.  I bought two of them for Christmas, the then lastest models, and my daughters were thrilled to death to get them.

But a month or so later and into the new year, it was announced a new version of iPods would be released and they, unlike the ones I just spent my hard earned money on, would have cameras on them to take pictures (natch) and which could also be used for video conferencing between people who had them.

I was livid.

As I said, I spent my hard earned money on a product Apple was at that time promoting the living hell out of when they knew full well that a better version of the same was about to be released.  They were essentially making suckers of their clients in the hopes of selling out whatever stock was left in their warehouses before it was discontinued.

But even before that, I was never impressed with their annual conference/sales pitch for their latest products.  In my eyes, it reduced Steve Jobs (who, until his death was the headliner) into essentially being a slick used car salesman.  Now, make no mistake: I was clearly in the minority here as many in the tech world and outside it tuned in eagerly to hear what was new.

Yet it felt to me like too much of a sales pitch and, thus, made me suspicious.

After Steve Jobs’ death, I wondered how Apple would survive.  Like or loath him, Jobs was Apple, and the success of the company was attributable -despite my personal reservations- to his hard work and salesmanship.

Today, it seems to me Apple as a company is either status quo or slipping slightly.  The technology they sell has reached something of a plateau and huge innovations (like that damned camera on the iPod) aren’t coming as fast as before.

Returning to the story linked to above, one can’t help but get angry at the idea that this massive, so damn profitable company may be resorting to tricks such as slowing older phone models down.  According to the article, Apple states that there is no nefarious reason for the slowdowns they initiated, that this has to do with the older lithium batteries that need to be treated differently or else the phone will shut off.  Or something…

Sure now.

If they’re so worried about how the lithium batteries function, why design a phone that doesn’t allow you to pull out and swap batteries?  I mean, if the battery is even the problem to begin with.

Because there are going to be a hell of a lot of people who are going to believe the slowdown is designed for one reason and one reason only: To get people frustrated with their older phones and make them want to spend money on the latest models.

In spite of my anger, truth be told I don’t see myself giving up my iPad at this moment, especially considering how new it is.  However, given the age of my phone, when the time comes and it needs to be replaced, and given articles like the one above, I’m going to think long and hard about whether I’ll replace my phone with another Apple iPhone.  In fact, at this moment I’d say the odds are low that I will bother with another iPhone.

And a few years down the line and when the time comes when I need to replace my tablet, there’s a good chance I’ll be looking around for alternatives there as well.

That is, if Apple continues down this particular road.

Times change…

In this era where sexual harassment has become something everyone is far more sensitive to -thankfully!- there are things from the past that are being looked at with fresh eyes.

One of them is this song, Baby It’s Cold Outside

This is the first appearance of the song in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter and, yes, that’s Ricardo (KHAN!) Montalban singing!

The song is one of those very big Christmas songs that has been covered by many, many singers over the years since its release.  Here’s another version, by Dean Martin, which I’m embedding below only because it offers the lyrics to the song…

What’s the song about?  Easy: Sex.  Here we have a guy and a gal together in the guy’s apartment/home and the gal wants to head out but the guy wants her to stay over, and its not so they can finish off the latest New York Times crossword puzzle.

Yes, Baby It’s Cold Outside is a Christmas sex song!

Here’s the thing though:  Is the song really an innocent ode to having good ol’ fashioned sex or is this song about… sexual coercion?  Date rape?

Kim LaCapria at offers an examination of this song and the opinions about it, especially in these times:

Is Baby It’s Cold Outside about date rape?

As per usual, I don’t want to spoil everything in the linked article, but I will offer some analysis/notes of my own, some of which can be found in the article above.

First, the song clearly presents a woman who is, at least as the song starts, not interested/wanting to stay with the man.  The man, on the other hand, is clearly horny and wants the woman and the line “Baby, it’s cold outside” is his attempt to convince her to stay, among other things.

As the song progresses, the woman notes her mother and father will worry and, if she were to stay, she worries what the neighbors will think.  She’s offering multiple reasons for leaving while the man comes closer, offers her drinks, tells her there are no cabs to be found, etc. etc., all in the attempt to get her to stay the night with him.

Is it indeed sexual coercion?  Or is the song meant to be playful, with the protagonists of this song -both the woman and man- really wanting to get it on and we’re given a “wink wink” view of sexual politics, the woman playing hard to get -but not too hard to get- while the guy has to smooth talk his way to get to where they both want to go…

Here’s the thing, and I posted it clearly in this particular blog’s title: Times Change.

A short while back, and in another blog entry entitled Time Passes and Things Change (gee, how about that?!) I wrote about seeing the opening minutes of the western comedy Waterhole #3.  That film, which featured James Coburn as the protagonist, involves a search for missing money.

I like James Coburn.  I think he was a great actor and he appeared in many fine films, as well as the occasional dog.  Waterhole #3 isn’t one of his better known films, but it is an example of how sexual mores were different in the past versus what we have in the present.

While one could make a case that Baby It’s Cold Outside isn’t quite as dark a song as some view it now, there is no doubt, viewed from today, that the sexual “seduction” scene in the early parts of Waterhole #3 is rape.

Here’s what I wrote about the movie and the “seduction” scene between James Coburn and Margarete Blye’s characters in the film:

Billee (Margarete Blye) finds Cole (James Coburn) in her barn, with his pants down (I’m not entirely sure why he isn’t wearing his pants…I suppose that was meant to be part of the “fun”), and he corners her (“humorously”), she tries to fight him (“humorously”), he pulls her down to the ground (“humorously”), he starts kissing her (“humorously”), and then, but of course, she’s somehow charmed by his actions and succumbs to the passion.

I then added this: Holy shit.

Mind you, this happens within the first approximately fifteen or so minutes of the film and, no, the Billee and Cole characters do not know each other before their encounter and, yes, the scene was so off putting to me that I had to shut the film down right then and there.

But my point is this: Until recently (and by that I mean the last ten or so years and, particularly, within the past year) there was a far looser sense of sexual politics and in a movie like Waterhole #3, released in 1967, the idea that women would naturally fall for a “scoundrel”, especially one played by James Coburn, trumped the ugly implications of what was clearly, clearly, a forcible rape, which disgustingly was played for laughs!

Still, it doesn’t shock me that a forgotten film like Waterhole #3 doesn’t engender the same scrutiny as a famous song like Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Yet its a good thing, in my opinion, that people’s eyes are opening a little more to the world around us.

And if you think this is much ado about nothing, please take a moment to see this video.  If this doesn’t open your eyes about what its like to be the victim of sexual harassment, nothing will.

One last time (for now)…

I’ve written perhaps a little too much about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, especially considering I have yet to see it.  Further, unless I somehow find some free time, I suspect when I do catch it, if at all, it will be when it hits home video.

Even though I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, as I’ve noted far too many times before, the reality is that as a sci-fi and movie fan I’m fascinated with the stuff that is popular -or, conversely, the stuff that hits cinemas with a massive “thud”.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (LJ from here on) as I stated before looked like it would be a “can’t miss”.  Before its release and after Disney allowed critics to publish their thoughts, the reviews were gushing.  It looked, for all intents and purposes, that this would be a hit with fans, as well.

And then the fans/regular audiences saw the film and, well, I’ve written about that before (here and here), but the bottom line remains: LJ has very sharply divided audiences.  The film, on Saturday, had an audience approval rating over at of 57%.  Since then and as of today, Tuesday the 19th of December, that rating has further slipped to 55% positive.

Disney probably doesn’t care: The film took in a whopping $220+ million over the weekend and will no doubt earn its investment for the company (whew… wouldn’t want Disney to have to face any hardship! 😉 )

Anyway, the point of this post is that I stumbled upon this fascinating analysis of the film by Gerry Conway.  Mr. Conway, for those who may not know, was a prolific comic book writer who wrote just about every major comic book character there is.  He is most famous for writing the “Death of Gwen Stacy” story for Spider-Man and has, more recently, done considerable work in television.

Here he presents his thoughts on LJ and I have to say, its one of those analysis pieces that is so deep and insightful that either he’s dead on and the makers of the film really thought through more things than one thought were possible… or that perhaps Mr. Conway is seeing layers upon layers within this film that aren’t there:

Conway’s Corner – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I have to admit, either way I’m fascinated by his analysis.  I think he is right in the sense that LJ is the first “Gen X” version of Star Wars and as such provides an analysis/critique of the Boomer generation which came before it in the form of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and (while he doesn’t appear in this film) Han Solo.

Having said that, I stand by the feeling that his analysis might, in the end, be a little too much…

Still, a fascinating read if you’ve got a few minutes and definite food for thought.

The truth is out there…

No, this isn’t about The X-Files (though I’m eager to see the new episodes, now that you mention it!), but rather the recent reveal that the U.S. Government spent some $22 Million (let’s face it, chump change) to investigate UFOs and other unexplained phenomena.

Which led me to this intriguing article by Jacob Brogan and found on…

We Shouldn’t Be Looking For Aliens.  We Should Be Hiding From Them

To be clear, the article does not address anything new and startling regarding arguments among scientists and others about whether we should be trying to find other alien life or not.

Indeed, while one could adopt an optimistic Star Trek-like philosophy regarding alien cultures and the need to find and interact with them, there is a certain dark reality concerning what has happened in Earth’s past when cultures have found themselves.

Within the above linked article is this quote by Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin:

No civilization should ever announce its presence to the cosmos, [Liu] says. Any other civilization that learns of its existence will perceive it as a threat to expand—as all civilizations do, eliminating their competitors until they encounter one with superior technology and are themselves eliminated. This grim cosmic outlook is called “dark-forest theory,” because it conceives of every civilization in the universe as a hunter hiding in a moonless woodland, listening for the first rustlings of a rival.

I must admit, while I’d like to think that finding and interacting with other alien cultures sounds incredibly intriguing, there is a part of me -a sizable part, truth be told- that worries about exactly what Liu Cixin states.

As I noted before, when the European explorers met the native Americans in both North and South America, the results were not good, to say the least, for the Native Americans, be they Aztec or American Indians.

What’s to say that meeting up with an alien race capable of bridging the enormous gap between the stars (something we obviously haven’t come close to be able to do), won’t arrive to our planet and look at us much like those European explorers did to the natives way back when?

In which case, we could rapidly be toast.

Sketchin’ 41

To answer the unasked (so far!) question: How do I select which images to create?

Much of my choices are based on actors/things I like.  But now and again, I’ve had requests and, in the case of the following picture, something about the subject was fascinating to me.

So, without further ado, actor Dorothy Janis, circa the mid-1920’s.

Dorothy Janis (1912-2010) made only 5 films during her career, four silents and the final film, Lummox, released in 1930, was her only “talkie”.  She would retire, according to IMDB, at the age of 20 after marrying in 1932.

I have seen none of her five films.  Until I stumbled upon her image on the internet, I didn’t know anything about her…

…and yet I found her image fascinating enough to give it a go.  I’m particularly fascinated by the views of beauty.  Her hair, in the original image, would be considered a mess by today’s standards.  her dark, penetrating eyes were something typical to find in actors of the black and white silent era.

I hope Ms. Janis’ life, during and after her acting career, was a pleasant one.

Intriguing stuff, at least to me!