Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing Prompts

I was reading an interview of an author whose work I enjoy and the interviewer got to that question that has probably been asked of every creator of fiction since Oog the Caveman told his first story: "Where do you get your ideas?"
And, like so many others who have answered the question, the author replied that inspiration is all around us. A writer never knows when something will spark his or her imagination, but it could be just about anything.
To that end, I've been looking out the window while sitting at the computer and a variety of things have happened on the street over the past hour. For those who are inclined to write (especially those former CTY students of mine who I've encouraged to practice their craft regularly), here is some inspiration. Call it a different kind of "writer's block."

  Two boys, about twelve years old, walk past the house. One carries a football; the other has a broken half of a slat from a picket fence. What game / mischief will ensue?

  A man on a bicycle, bundled up because it is only 37 degrees outside, has the gears set so that he is pedaling furiously, yet not moving very fast. Why? Is this more of an exercise benefit?

  An SUV stops across the street. There is a string of blinking Christmas lights strung around the roof rack. The driver appears to be texting someone, so I guess we should all be thankful that she pulled over. Presuming that the driver lives somewhere nearby -- this is, after all, a residential street, not a main thoroughfare -- what message could be so vital that it needed a response before she got home?

  Our mail carrier usually parks in the dead end across the way to eat his lunch. I think he sometimes reads a magazine. What kind of article might he find so interesting that it will delay delivery of my copy of Entertainment Weekly?

  A red pickup truck drives past the house. A minute later, it drives past again, slightly faster, in the opposite direction. It passes a third time, once more in the original direction, faster than the first two times. What did the driver forget and have to go back for? And what is he presumably now running late for?

Saturday, December 22, 2012


According to the New York Blood Center records, I made my first donation in 1982. It was at a blood drive at work. Warner Communications held them twice a year and I became a strong proponent of donating. Though DC Comics was a very small part of the WC empire, we represented a disproportionally large percentage -- sometimes 25% -- of the total donors. One time I even got a print salesman who was taking me to lunch to come and donate a pint first. It gave him a story to tell for years, how I not only wanted excellent printing and good pricing, but that I also wanted blood.

In the mid-'80s I started to supplement my twice-yearly blood drive donations by visiting the nearby Blood Center. It was at the Center that I met Joe, an appointment coordinator who would actively recruit whole blood donors to try doing apheresis -- platelet donation. And so, on May 25, 1991, I made my first one.

This morning, I completed platelet donation #200. In the five hundred or so hours I've spent donating,  I've watched a lot of episodes of TV sitcom reruns on TBS; for awhile, it seemed that the same episode of "My Name is Earl" was on every time I donated. I've made the acquaintance of many blood center staff members, as well as numerous fellow donors, both long-timers and newcomers.  I have also eaten a lot of Lorna Doones for breakfast.

And, presumably, helped a whole lot of people I've never met...


If you are already a donor, great! If you aren't (and only 2% of eligible people actually donate, so there are a lot of you out there), please consider becoming one. Contact your local blood center or the American Red Cross.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End of the World

The above is from George Takei's Facebook page. He is well worth friending as his posts are always entertaining.

So, if tomorrow really is the end of the world, exactly what time should we be expecting it? High noon? The stroke of midnight?
And what time zone should we use? Were the Mayans in the Central Time Zone? Or Mountain? After all, it will be December 21st in Asia and Australia long before it is here in the U.S. Will they all be gone some time this evening?
Or should we be waiting for the moment it is December 21st all around the globe? (Which is when, by the way? I'm confused by the International Dateline.)

If the world does end tomorrow, a lot of people will probably annoyed that they did all their Christmas shopping. Especially those folks who lined up in the cold and rain to be first in line for those "door-buster" sales at 3 a.m. on Black Friday.
What about the folks who've been putting money into 401k plans and IRAs? Not going to have a chance to use that. On the other hand, people who ran up big credit card bills and have huge mortgages won't have to worry about paying them off.
Personally, I'm going to be annoyed that I have a whole pile of books I want to read and I'm not going to get to them. Then again, I can probably skip going to the gym.

Hmm, could it be that the reason the President and Congress are stalling about dealing with the "fiscal cliff" is that they know something they're not telling the rest of us?

In any case, to those folks who actually believe that the Mayans were able to predict the end of the world, perhaps you need to ponder this: Why did these people, who were supposedly so precise in foreseeing the future, not realize that their empire would be long-gone well before their calendar ran out? Shouldn't they have known they weren't going to need it?

Friday, December 14, 2012


   I started playing volleyball in the Farmingdale Adult Ed program about twenty years ago. Back then, it was just on Tuesday nights and we had a relatively small but avid group. In the intervening years, there has been some turnover in players, as well as in who was supervising the class. Through attrition (or just the fact that I didn't run away fast enough), I became the "guy in charge" half a dozen years ago.
Members of the Fall 2012 Tuesday night volleyball crew
     Registration has swelled in recent years. We had an influx in players when a nearby school district shut down their Adult Ed Volleyball class. And word-of-mouth brought us more players from among those we played with at Jones Beach during the summer. We maxxed out the capacity of the gym and so I asked the powers-that-be about adding a second night.
    Though the high school gym was being used for other programs the rest of the week, we were able to start Wednesday night VB in the middle school gym in 2010. This has, at times, been a challenge, as the equipment gets moved around from season to season and finding it becomes an adventure. (Just a few weeks ago, I arrived to set up and found the nets had been taken somewhere. While the players waited, I had to drive to the high school and retrieve the nets we use there.)

Members of the Fall 2012 Wednesday volleyball group, bathed in a strange green glow. Kryptonite, perhaps?
    We have now reached the point where both the Tuesday and Wednesday night rosters fill up well before the session begins. (The folks in the Adult Ed office refer to the regulars, who send in their registration forms the first day they are available, as my "volleyball cult.") In the past two seasons, we've had to turn people away.
    So what are we doing? Adding a third night!
    Beginning in February, we will play on Monday nights in the girls' gym in the high school, taking over the space from a Golf class that had faded away due to lack of interest. Unlike the Tuesday and Wednesday night games, which can be quite competitive, we are billing Monday night as "kinder, gentler volleyball" for beginners and players who like a more relaxed game.
    You might notice from the photos above that there are a number of people who play on both Tuesday and Wednesday. I fully expect that there will be some familiar faces on Mondays as well. In fact, if we could find the gym space, it's likely we could fill the courts every night of the week.

Monday, December 10, 2012

BobRo Archives: Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2

As promised, a lightly-edited compilation of my decade-old recap of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2...

   Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2, in the same blank-blue-paper-cover format as #1, opens with a “cover” by Alex Saviuk showing a business-suited guy (sometimes suggested to be either Joe Orlando or E. Nelson Bridwell, but actually just a generic numbers-cruncher) kicking Omac, Steel, Shade, Prez and other characters out of 75 Rockefeller Plaza.
   That building, which is still Time-Warner corporate headquarters, bears the sign “Unemployment, Inc.” and was DC’s home before the moves to 666 Fifth Avenue, 1325 Avenue of the Americas and 1700 Broadway. It was been pointed out that DC had been slowly but surely moving west on 53rd Street across Manhattan and could eventually end up with offices on a barge in the middle of the Hudson River. (These days, however, it seems more likely the next jump will be across the country to California.)

   Unlike the first issue, which sported a 10c price (and an annual subscription cost of $10,000), #2 jumped to a dollar (but subscriptions were reduced to $7.65… in West German marks only). 
   The intro page also thanks “Neil of the Magic Finger deep down at Warner Duplicating who kept the spirit of PLOP! Alive when Paul Kupperberg came down with about a ream of original art and asked for 35 collated copies. Neil’s hat actually flew off his head and, when he fell straight backward, an audible ‘Plop!’ sound was to be heard.”

      Kamandi #60 leads off this volume with a cover by Rich Buckler and Jack Abel. “Into the Vortex” by Jack C. Harris, Dick Ayers and Danny Bulanadi (misspelled as “Bulandi”) is Chapter 2 of Kamandi’s “vortex adventure” and has him being pulled through an opening in the wondrous western wall. The Voice of the Vortex explains all about parallel Earths and alternate histories and advises Kamandi that “you are the pivotal point of infinities uncountable!”
   Meanwhile, Dr. Canus, Mylock Bloodstalker, Doile, Spirit, and Pretty Pyra are boomeranged to a wall by the murderous Kangarats. The three mutants, Ben, Steve and Renzi , transform into a gigantic energy beast which drives off the Kangarats before they can kill their captives. Then the energy beast fights with Pyra’s spaceship, which is actually an alien creature. The outcome of this battle will result in either the possible death of Ben or the possibility that Pyra will never be able to return to her home world.   
   Back in the vortex, Kamandi watches his life pass before him. He decides that, of all the possible worlds he could journey to, he wants to return to his own. The Voice tells him to return via the Dream Stream. Moments later, a pair of odd-looking characters named Brute and Glob grab Kamandi, call him “Jed,” and announce they are taking him to The Sandman. There’s a space for a “Next Issue” blurb, but none is in place.
   The balance of the issue is “The New Origin of OMAC” by Jim Starlin. In this 8-pager, a videotape prepared by Quair Tox, chief science officer of the planet Vision in the star system Mira, retells and revamps the origin of the One-Man Army Corps. Other than that, it adds what amounts to a “coming attractions” for where the series will lead and introduces a new villain named Dr. Skuba. Further chapters were never completed, so we never learn about this epic battle to come.

   Like Claw in CCC #1, Kamandi was one of books which was on or ahead of schedule, so the complete #61 is next up in the volume. Of course, the deck was stacked in their favor.
   Editor Al Milgrom had unearthed the unpublished issue of Jack Kirby’s 1970s Sandman and he and Jack C. Harris cooked up a way to incorporate it into the adventures of the Last Boy on Earth. “I’ll See You in My Nightmares” by Harris, Ayers, and Bulanadi (his name spelled correctly this time) is little more than a “wrapper” for “The Seal Men’s War on Santa Claus” by Michael Fleisher, Kirby and Mike Royer.
   By the way, following up on the “cliffhanger” in #60, Kamandi does indeed bear a resemblance to Sandman’s pal Jed. After all, both are blond-haired boys originally drawn by Kirby. Not surprising that Brute and Glob got confused.
   In his headquarters, Sandman utilizes his view-screen to “show” Kamandi the 18-page story of the Seal Men. [In the 80s, we used to joke in the office about using this gimmick to get series that were running late (usually New Teen Titans) caught up with the help of series that were ahead of schedule (like Star Trek and Firestorm). We figured we could have George Perez draw an opening page of a couple of the Titans sitting around their HQ with nothing to do. Then one of them could say, “Hey, let’s watch Star Trek” and the rest of the issue would be a story from that book’s inventory.]
   Jed is sent to the mansion of stingy millionaire Titus Gotrox to ask for a donation to the Christmas Fund. Cutting to the chase, Gotrox tells Jed he’ll contribute $1 million to the cause in exchange for proof that Santa Claus exists. Flabbergasted by the proposal, Gotrox’s nephew Rodney follows Jed and witnesses the arrival of Sandman when the boy blows his special whistle.
   Jed tells Sandman of his quest and the hero replies that “Santa Claus is a friend on mine from way back.” Off they go, unaware that Jed has dropped his whistle in the process.
   After a brief stop at the Dream Dome, Sandman and Jed jump into the Dream Stream and head for the Fantasy Forest, home of the Nightmare Wizard. “We’ll need his help if we’re going to make the long journey to Santa’s workshop in time.” (One wonders why the Dream Stream couldn’t take them directly to Santa.) Said “help” consists of loaning Jed a parka -- leaving us to also wonder why there weren’t any available in a more accessible location -- and providing a sky sled for the trip. Obviously, the Nightmare Wizard runs the “Sky Sleds R Us” franchise.
   Meanwhile, Rodney has found and blown the whistle, bringing Sandman’s sidekick Brute to the scene. Rodney is brought back to the Dream Dome, then tossed into an ejector tube. In the Fantasy Forest, he is quickly grabbed up by a man-eating plant, but rescued by the Nightmare Wizard. Rodney tells the Wizard he’s a friend of Sandman’s, gets his own parka and sky sled, and heads off after the hero.
   Sandman and Jed arrive at the North Pole where they are immediately attacked by hammer-wielding elves who mistake them for Seal Men. Thankfully, Mrs. Claus sets things straight before anybody gets pounded. She advises Sandman that the Seal Men have kidnapped Santa and Christmas will have to be called off if Jolly Old Saint Nick isn’t rescued.
   Sandman and Jed head off in search of the missing Mr. Claus. When Jed asks how many Seal Men there are, Sandman says, “Roughly ten thousand! But don’t you worry – good will always triumph over evil!”
   In short order, they get lured into a trap and captured by the Seal Men. They are locked in a dungeon with Santa, but easily escape when Sandman melts its wall with his hypnosonic whistle. Unfortunately, they are immediately recaptured.
    As they are taken before the king of the Seal Men, we learn the reason for their war against Santa. Seems they haven’t been happy with the gifts Santa’s been bringing for Christmas: wool gloves that don’t fit their flippers, scuba equipment, and fishing rods! If they can’t have  a merry Christmas, neither will anyone else.
   Sandman and Jed explain that even Santa can make a mistake. “You just got the wrong gift boxes by mistake,” says Jed. “Somewhere out in the Sahara Desert or someplace, there are probably kids wondering what they’re supposed to do with cases of frozen fish they got.” [Okay, and what were kids in the Sahara Desert going to do with gloves, scuba gear, and fishing rods?]
   Once Santa promises to have his elves exchange the gifts, the trio is set free. Christmas is saved, or so it seems until they get back to the workshop and find Mrs. Claus bound and gagged by Rodney. He’s not about to let the existence of Santa interfere with his inheritance.
   It’s Sandman’s sand capsules to the rescue and, once Rodney is overcome, we switch to Gotrox’s mansion. Santa drops the bound up Rodney down the chimney, then arrives himself, convincing the millionaire to make the contribution he promised.
   The story finished, we’re back in the Dream Dome where Sandman explains to Kamandi that “in another reality…your name would have been Jeb instead of Kamandi.” [In still another, where the proofreading is better, it would have been Jed!]
   Sandman takes Kamandi back to his own Earth, defeats the energy creature threatening Kam’s pals, and warns that Kamandi’s reality is “the nightmare of one called Omac.” It is up to Kamandi to turn this nightmare into a pleasant dream.
   “I’ll remember,” promises Kamandi as Sandman -- and this series-- fade to black.

    Following Kamandi is an issue of Prez featuring “The Devil’s Exterminator” by Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti, and Creig Flessel. Yes, it’s another book from the DC “Written Off” inventory.
   Insects of all sorts invade our nation’s capital and Prez calls in exterminator Clyde Piper to handle them. This is little more than a retelling of the Pied Piper fable. (Please don’t think the member of Flash’s Rogues Gallery was in any way involved.) I’ll spare everyone the detail-by-detail recapping of the story.

   We next come to Shade the Changing Man #9… and I have a confession to make. Back in 1978, one of my duties as Assistant Production Manager was proofreading all the books, which, frankly, is not a bad deal for a comics fan. However, of all the titles DC published, the one I always dreaded was Shade. Thirty-four years later, I couldn’t tell you what exactly about the book I didn’t like, but every time an issue showed up, I’d put off reading it for as long as I could.
   Anyway, #9 features Shade in “The Deadly Ally” by Steve Ditko and Michael Fleisher and it opens with the hero heading off to battle Doctor Z.Z. and save Earth and the Meta-Zone. The hero battles Klugs, then gets sucked into a corner of the Zero-Zone where he is subdued by Zekie and forced to join the slave-troops.
   Meanwhile, on Earth, Doctor Z.Z.’s agents have disguised as regular folks and are infiltrating something or other. One of Z.Z.’s trusted allies is Wizor, who is actually plotting to overthrow the madman. Wizor is awaiting the arrival of an N-Agent who is two weeks late and who, we find out in a flashback, has been killed by Lt. Emp, who is actually Kempo. Who is Kempo? I don’t know, but a footnote tells us to see Shade #1.
   Shade escapes with a former enemy named Xexlo and eventually defeats Zekie, amidst lots of Ditko’s phantasmagorical art. And when the hero finally arrives on Earth? He floats past the Occult Research Center and notes that the lights are on. “But what’s going on inside? What’s happening with Wizor and Dr. Z.Z.?” he muses. We won’t find out, however; as Shade floats off into the night, he thinks, “Odds are, I’ll find out tomorrow, because that’s when I intend to begin my reconnaissance for my mission.” (Whatever mission all this infiltration has to do with can’t be that critical if it can wait till tomorrow!)
   The backup tale in the issue is The Odd Man in “The Pharaoh and the Mummies” written and drawn by Ditko. The Odd Man is on the trail of a killer who dresses as a Pharaoh and mummifies his victims in plastic. The Pharaoh is gathering “Nile Gems” for his queen, the reincarnation of  “the first Nile Queen” (Cleopatra, one presumes), but the Odd Man intervenes. After the Pharaoh accidentally mummifies the Queen, he does himself in the same way…in the last (very narrow) panel while the Odd Man shouts, “No! NO! Too late!” Sure looks like Ditko ran out of room at the bottom of page 8 and needed to end the story quickly.

   Next up is Showcase #105, starring Deadman in “Requiem for a Deadman” by Len Wein and Gerry Conway, with art by Jim Aparo. This story eventually appeared in Adventure Comics #464, though a two page sequence in which Deadman saves a boy chasing his cat on a building ledge has been excised.
   Paul Levitz’s text page in the issue includes some comments about upcoming issues. The Creeper was scheduled for #106, followed by three issues of The Deserter (one of which was in CCC#1), and then a triple-dip of World of Krypton. WoK instead holds the distinction of being the first comic book miniseries when it came out in 1979.

   The Creeper's Showcase appearance is next with “Enter Dr. Storme” by Steve Ditko. In Gotham’s Cosmic TV studio, Jack Ryder finds himself turning halfway into the Creeper without having activated the change. Before he can deal with the problem, he’s in the middle of an energy blast created by Dr. Storme. Seems Storme is really Al Whetly, the former weatherman at Cosmic, who was replaced by his former assistant, Sunny Daze, and now he seeks revenge. (Today, he’d be seeking an attorney and filing an age discrimination suit.)
   Another half-change to the Creeper takes place just as Storme attacks again. (The Odd Man makes a cameo appearance, getting caught in the attack, but doing nothing to stop the villain.) Throughout the tale, every time someone makes a comment with the words “all wet” in it, Ryder and others try to figure out what it means. This particular bit gets beaten to death by the end of the tale, though long before we’ve decided that every one of the characters is a dolt.
   The Creeper does stop the villain, who dies when he completely dehydrates himself whipping up a storm. Ryder also solves his half-change problems. And they all live happily ever after.

   Up next is Steel #6, featuring “Super Soldier” by Gerry Conway, Don Heck and Joe Giella. We’re in London in 1940 and Steel finds Nazi spies attacking the British Ministry of War. Their leader, “Die Schwartzer Meuchelmorder” (or “The Black Assassin” for those of us who don’t speak German), escapes while Steel makes short shrift of his henchmen. The target of the assassins is Winston Churchill, who invites Steel to join his team.
   In a flashback, we learn that Dr. Gilbert Giles, Hank Heywood’s mentor and the father of his fiancee, has learned of Hank’s dual identity. He demands that Hank give up being Steel or break his engagement. (And since the book is called Steel, not Hank Heywood Comics & Stories, you can guess what he does.)
   Back in London, Churchill recruits Steel to join a commando team he’s sending to Germany to kidnap Adolf Hitler. Action follows as their plane is shot down and the commandos are captured by a colonel known as “The Butcher.” Steel, minus his costume, awakens in a concentration camp. (Conway plays a bit fast and loose with historical continuity here, particularly when one inhabitant of the camp describes the “bath-houses” and the experiments being tried on the captives.) A battle in the camp hospital leaves “the Butcher” splattered by a bottle of acid Steel has thrown, setting the stage for some future super-villainous revenge. And the cliffhanger has the melee abruptly halted by the arrival of Hitler himself. Alas, we are not privy to the next issue’s confrontation and the debut of Baron Blitzkrieg.

   We’re going to jump now to the final story in CCC #2. (I covered the Secret Society of Super-Villains / Freedom Fighters / JSA stories some time back and you can read about them here.) The last full-length book included in is The Vixen#1. Is she the same character who finally debuted in Action Comics #521, three years after the DC Implosion? The same one who became a member (with Vibe and Gypsy) of what’s been referred to as the Justice League of Detroit? Well, yes…and no.
   Super-model Marilyn McCabe is on top of the fashion world and a modern businesswoman, but after seeing President Manitoba of the African nation of D’Mulla on TV, she faints. This brings back awful memories of her childhood, memories buried in her subconscious of her father being murdered by Manitoba.
   After consulting with her attorney and realizing she can not pursue Manitoba from a legal standpoint, Marilyn discovers that a necklace left with her by her father has mystical powers. It awakens powers within Marlyn and she dons the costume of The Vixen.
   The Vixen learns that Manitoba, while now preaching peace, intends to unite all of Africa under his rule…by force. His true mission in coming to the United States is not to preach peace, but to murder the sole remaining witness to his crimes in his own country. Luckily, The Vixen is there to save the day. In the battle that ensues, Manitoba is killed by his own manic attack, bringing down a massive cross which crushes him.
   The story ends with Marilyn feeling that a new energy has taken control of her, that she has been reborn. And the bottom caption promises us that this is “The End…and The Beginning.” (Well, so, it took three years before she actually appeared. Maybe she was just a slow starter…)
   Beginning with issue #2, there was to be a back-up feature in The Vixen, one that I was going to be writing starring Duela Dent a.k.a. The Harlequin. It never got past script stage… a series SO canceled that it never even made it into CCC!

  Wrapping up the volume is a collection of covers, beginning withArmy At War #2 and Battle Classics #3, both by Joe Kubert. Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin did a reworking of the “Flash of Two Worlds” cover (replacing the man about to be hit by the girder with the super-villains tallying their loot) for Demand Classics #1. Ross Andru and Dick Giordano collaborated on Demand Classic #2’s cover… featuring Superboy and the Legion and the ghost of Ferro Lad. The (unsigned but it looks like Jim Aparo to me) cover for Dynamic Classics #3 is a split between the Goodwin/ Simonson Manhunter and the Phantom Stranger. Michael Golden and Russ Heath teamed up for a really nifty Mister Miracle cover. Joe Kubert provided the cover to Ragman #6, while Joe Orlando did the one for Weird Mystery Tales #25. (The latter, showing an alluring woman with a serpent’s body saying to a hunky guy, “Come in, my darling – I can’t wait to embrace you!” was eventually used on one of the other titles.) A Michael Kaluta cover was scheduled for Weird Mystery #26. (This one was also used elsewhere.) Finally, the covers to Western Classics #’s 1 and 2, featuring Bat Lash wrap things up. (The first is by “Sherman and Whitman” and the second is unsigned.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

BobRo Archives: Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #1

This blast-from-the-past is the compilation of two columns that originally appeared online more than a decade ago...


   In the previous installment, I gave you some background about the “DC Explosion,” how it came to an abrupt end, and how the resulting “Implosion” spawned a near-mythic double-volume series that have sparked fan interest for more than two decades. Some of the material in CCC did eventually see print, but much of it never did.

   Though the cover of the volume was blank blue cardstock, CCC #1 did have a “cover.” Drawn by Allen Milgrom, it depicts a virtual army of DC characters lying in the road as a truck with a DC bullet careens away from them. The price box reads “Still 10c! No Ads!” but you couldn’t buy it for a dime or a dollar or even $1,000 at the time.

   Leading off the volume are the complete contents for Black Lightning #12. In “Lure of the Magnetic Menace,” former Green Lantern foe Doctor Polaris shows up in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum to do battle with Black Lightning. But is he really the old Green Lantern enemy? The Polaris in this tale is Baxter Timmons, a fact discovered by his runaway nephew. In Who's Who, DC’s official guide to the characters, Dr. Neil Emerson is Dr. Polaris and he’s listed as having no known relatives. One wonders if writer Denny O’Neil was the one who ignored continuity or if the editor did. In either case, this particular Polaris never appeared anywhere else.
   The back-up feature stars The Ray and retells (with some revamping) the origin of the character. The story provides another little tidbit didn’t make it to Who's Who: “Happy” Terrill’s first name is given as Langford. Also of note is that this story begins where The Ray’s appearance in CCC #2’s Secret Society of Super-Villains #16 ended. As you’ll discover when we get to that tale, The Ray is presumed dead by the villains. And obviously, had I been able to continue with my plans for the Freedom Fighters, they would have been short one member.
   This first chapter concludes with an ebony-costumed character named The Dark vowing to destroy our hero. Alas, we shall never know what writer Roger McKenzie (who scripted from a Mike W. Barr plot) intended. John Fuller and Bob Wiacek did the art.
   Nor will we know what would have happened to Black Lightning, though this section concludes with the cover of #13 which shows the hero unconscious and chained to a wall.

   Claw the Unconquered #13 is next. In case you don’t remember him, Claw was DC’s answer to Conan, created to cash in on the then-hot sword-and-sorcery market. As “The Travelers of Dark Destiny” begins, Claw is involved in a barroom brawl, but it suddenly concludes when a silver-gowned woman named Trysannda arrives on the scene.
   Though Claw had managed to chop off the monstrous hand that gave him his name in the previous issue, it manages to find him and reattach itself. All this as the hero joins Trysannda on a quest to Ravenroost. Despite having a full 25 pages for this tale, not much more is accomplished Claw-creator David Michelinie’s story (with art by Romeo Tanghal and Bob Smith) is continued in the next issue.
   This issue was complete with a letter column too. Marty Greenberg, who in the 1950s published Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories in hardcover, offers “constructive criticism” of Claw on the page.
   We’re not left to wonder what happened to Claw and Trysannda as Claw was one of those titles that was ahead of schedule back in 1978. The complete issue #14 follows, though this time it’s Tom DeFalco taking up the scripting chores. Tanghal and Smith are again the art team while the cover, which features Claw and Trysanndra battling Rat-Men, was provided by Joe Kubert.
   “When the River of Ravenroost…Ran Red” (Ah, such alliteration… the titles just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?) pits Claw against a living mountain (more like a hillock, actually), those aforementioned Rat-Men, and a giant mystical snail. But, despite another 25 pages, this saga is still not at an end. The cliffhanger finds Claw and Trysanndra in “a world gone suddenly and irreversibly mad!” A grotesquely gloating foe warns them, “Welcome to the Lair of Lunacy—from which you’ll never leave alive!” One suspects he was right since there was no fifteenth issue.

   The Deserter #1,  a western series created and scripted by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Dick Ayers and the prolific Romeo Tanghal. This series was originally slated to appear in Showcase (as confirmed by the fact that all the pages are labeled with that book’s title), but instead got the go-ahead for its own book. Ultimately, of course, it never appeared anywhere but in CCC.
   The story opens in 1874 with a stranger riding into the town of Cooper’s Canyon, Arizona. Within moments of his arrival, he stops a potential shoot-out between the town’s sheriff and  a gunman. When the stagecoach to Dry Water arrives with its drivers shot to death, we find out that Jase Carson, the “biggest landowner this side of St. Louis,” is behind it. Seems Carson wants to buy part of Dry Water, a part owned by newspaperman Will Olsen, and threatened to burn the town down if the people in it didn’t force Olsen to sell. A coded letter to Olsen from Washington D.C. is on the stage, so the stranger volunteers to deliver it.
   Not long after the stranger leaves on his mission, a former Union soldier arrives in Cooper’s Canyon. Ex-Sergeant Willie Dredge tells the sheriff the story of Aaron Hope, who deserted the Union Army during a Civil War battle. Dredge, who’d been maimed during the battle, vowed to bring in Hope and, ten years later, was still in pursuit. The sheriff, though he recognizes a picture of Hope, does not help Dredge.
   Meanwhile, Hope avoids an ambush by Jase Carson and his men and, after a confrontation in Dry Water, the villainous landowner is arrested for murder.
   Back in Cooper’s Canyon, the sheriff confronts Hope about whether he deserted the army. The issue ends with Hope telling him that perhaps the sheriff should first hear his side of the story. Alas, no one but Gerry Conway and editor Paul Levitz know Hope’s side; the second issue was not completed.

   Next up in the volume is “Tapestry of Dreams” by Cary Burkett, Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta. This 25-page story, sporting a Michael Kaluta cover, was originally scheduled for Doorway To Nightmare #6, but eventually saw print in an issue of Unexpected.

    Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom and Bob McLeod provide “The Typhoon is a Storm of the Soul,” originally scheduled for Firestorm #6. Most of the first half of the issue focuses on the Nuclear Man testing his powers of transmutation. At the same time, a private detective named Liam McGarrin, hired by Professor Stein because he’s concerned about his “blackouts,” is trying to figure out why Professor Stein keeps disappearing. Firestorm fans already know it is because Stein and Ronnie Raymond are “fused” into the hero and the professor is only cognizant of his role when Firestorm is in action.
   Elsewhere, aboard a research vessel in the South Pacific, we’re introduced to Jonathan Shine, who, it turns out, is the son of New York mob boss “Shoe” Shine. Shine, however, is trying to escape his family background and has established himself as the world’s foremost authority on deep sea diving. Determined to prove himself, Shine goes on a dive. He is exposed to tremendous deep-sea pressure and radioactive water and becomes a living storm.
   Back in New York, McGarrin spots Ronnie Raymond leaving Stein’s lab and decides to follow him. (Uh-oh, is Ronnie’s double identity in jeopardy?)
   Meanwhile, in the South Pacific, one of the ship’s crewmen spot a swirling column of water headed towards them and calls it a tornado. “Not in the South Pacific,” corrects another sailor. “It’s a typhoon!” (Actually, a typhoon is the Pacific version of a hurricane. What they’re seeing is a waterspout, the oceanic version of a tornado. Obviously, Gerry Conway did not think Waterspout was as effective a name for a villain as Typhoon.) Typhoon makes short order of the ship and heads away.
   Back in the Big Apple, Ronnie Raymond has an argument with his father, gets into a shoving match with classmate/ pain-in-the-butt Cliff Carmichael, and spots the school’s principal being kidnapped by “Spit” Shine, brother to guess who.
   When Firestorm arrives to rescue the principal, his mission is interrupted by the arrival of Typhoon, who has made his way across the Pacific and the United States to Brooklyn. The mandatory battle ensues, ending when the Firestorm, using his newly-tested transmutation powers, is able to change Shine back to normal.

   Closing out CCC #1 is a pair of 20-page Green Team stories by Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti and Creig Flessel. Unlike the other material in this volume, there were no plans to actually publish “The High Price of Food” and “The Deadly Paper Hanger” as part of the DC Explosion; both had been written off in 1977.
   The Green Team, something of a cross between Richie Rich and the Boy Commandos, made their only official appearance in First Issue Special #2. Between the giant lobster attack in the first story and the wallpaper designs that come to life in the second, it’s not hard to see why they never got an encore.


Next time, a look at the contents of CCC #2.

BobRo Archives: The DC Implosion

More than a decade ago, I wrote an online column for Silver Bullet Comic Books. In addition to trivia quizzes and answers to questions, I wrote on a variety of topics of interest to comics fans. Those columns were archived online for many years, but I recently learned that they are no longer available.
For your reading pleasure, I will re-present these musings with minimal editorial changes...


Spiraling inflation spelled doom for the 35c price of comic books in early 1978. (Yes, imagine that, a standard 32-page comic book for 35c!) Faced with having to raise the price a nickel to 40c, publisher Jenette Kahn opted instead from something much bolder: DC would add eight pages of new story material and raise the price to half a buck. It was promoted as “The DC Explosion,” though no one at the time realized just what kind of a big bang would result.

Team books like Justice League  would carry 25-page stories which “gives us something we haven’t had for the better part of a decade: the chance to do full-length stories with fully-developed sub-plots and characterization,” Kahn explained in her Publishorial “Onward and Upward.”

Other titles, rather than expanding a single story, would become the home for new back-up features as well as old favorites. As Kahn put it, “some of your favorite characters that haven’t been able to carry an entire 17-page title: Enemy Ace, The Human Target, The Atom, and OMAC.” Well, that’s almost true. After all, The Atom’s own magazine lasted six years in the previous decade… certainly impressive considering the average lifespan of a comic book today.  Even OMAC, which ran for 8 issues over a little more than a year, outshines much of the current output.

“We’re not stopping here,” Kahn promised. “We’re continuing to grow and branch out, to boldly go where no comics company has gone before.”

Actually, she was following a path similar to one chosen by her predecessor, Carmine Infantino, six years earlier. At that time, with comics set to raise prices from 15c to 20c, Infantino added sixteen pages of reprints and pushed the price to a quarter. The plan was apparently “unacceptable to retailers” and soon after, DC was back to 32-page books for 20c, like the rest of the industry. [One has to wonder why a retailer, who makes his money off a percentage of cover price, would want cheaper magazines. The owner of the mom-and-pop store where I bought my comics had been quite happy to have me handing over a few extra quarters a week. When the prices dropped by a nickel, he grumbled about “those %&#$ publishers” taking money out of his pocket.]

And where Infantino’s plan was unacceptable to retailers, Kahn’s plan was shot down by her bosses upstairs at Warner Publishing. Even as DC was launching the Explosion, horrendous sales reports for the winter months were coming in. Thanks to a series of blizzards and ice storms, hundreds of thousands of comic books never even made it out of warehouses, reducing sell-through percentages to their worst-ever levels. Taking this on a strictly dollars-and-cents level, the Warner Publishing powers-that-be told Kahn and company President Sol Harrison to cancel the plans for bigger books and cut the line to 20 32-page titles at 40c each.

Faster than The Flash could outrun a bullet, writers and artists were stopped in mid-assignment. Books were canceled, new projects were axed. Twenty-five page stories were chopped down to fit into the old 32-page format. Back-up features were tossed into filing cabinet drawers. And more than a couple of people lost their jobs. The publishing breakthrough that had been hailed as an Explosion suddenly became known as “the DC Implosion.”

From the rubble emerged Cancelled Comics Cavalcade,  two blank-covered volumes of the material consigned to the filing cabinets. Ostensibly created to protect the copyrights on all the material, CCC was also a way for the fanboys on staff to create something of a collectible for the people who worked on the axed features. Thirty-five copies were produced in the Warner Duplicating department (and “Neil of the Magic Finger” was thanked for his efforts); thirty-four went to the creative folks involved and the copyright office. The last copy went to Price Guide publisher Bob Overstreet “to show the world it actually happened.”

The contents of CCC are not exactly a tightly-guarded secret. Overstreet reports that in 1989 a set of the two volumes was sold for $1200. Through the years, duplicates have been made and circulated from either that set or one of the others. (Not surprisingly, no one has ever come forward to claim credit for “leaking” the copies.) Just last week, after I mentioned that CCC would be the subject of my column, emails circulated about the availability of “twelfth-generation copies.” With so much money to be made auctioning things off on eBay and similar sites, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before an original set turns up there.

One little-known fact about CCC: At the time we were about to hand out the 34 copies, I suggested to then-Editorial Coordinator Paul Levitz that we should mark the originals, by having some of us sign random pages in colored ink. That way, any pirated duplicates could be recognized instantly. Though he agreed with the concept, it wasn’t done, leaving the door open for someone with a bit of skill to make bogus “genuine” copies.


Next time, a look at the contents of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


For the first time in more than thirty-five years, Laurie and I did not host Thanksgiving dinner, which also meant it was the first time in decades that I was not up in the middle of the night dealing with the cooking of a giant turkey.

Some months ago, Rebecca's parents, Jim and Debbie, asked if we would be willing to transplant the event to their home in Fairfax, Virginia, because their son and daughter-in-law were able to join the festivities. They graciously invited our other Turkey Day regulars, my brother Richie's family and the Greenbergers, so that we could all still be together.

In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, Laurie and I headed off. We stopped in Jersey City to pick up Chuck and Rebecca and then headed south. Shortly after noon, we rendezvoused with Sammi at the motel we'd be staying in; she had made the trek from her home in southeastern Virginia. After checking in, we drove to Jim and Debbie's house.

As always, there were large quantities of food (and many pies) and everyone ate heartily.

Alas, one Thanksgiving tradition that did not translate to the new location was the visit of Sammi's friend Karl to join us for dessert. His arrival is always greeted with a "Cheers"-like shout of "Karl!"


Our Friday plans were for sightseeing in nearby Washington DC. Laurie, Sammi and I took a tour of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. We've all been in printing plants plants before and I'm happy to report that printing money is not all that different from printing comic books.

Rozaki in Washington DC
Chuck and Sammi recreate a pose from a visit to DC twenty-five years ago. In the original, they are much shorter and you can see the Capitol behind them.
We then met up with most of the clan -- eleven of us in all -- and quickly realized that everyone had different things we wanted to do. Laurie, Chuck, Sammi, Bob, Debbie and I went to lunch. Chuck and Sammi split off to visit the Aquarium and tour the monuments. Bob and Deb and Laurie and I hiked across town to the Library of Congress and Supreme Court, then split up as there was only time to visit one and each couple had a different choice. After our tour of the LoC, Laurie and I then walked back to where we'd parked to meet up with Chuck and Sammi.

Following dinner at a Tex/Mex restaurant, we reconvened with the clan for a family karaoke that Chuck has coordinated. Among the highlights was Jim and me reprising our rendition of "Sunrise, Sunset" that we first sang at Chuck and Rebecca's wedding.

On Saturday we headed home, but, unlike the drive down that had been virtually traffic-free, we crawled on a long stretch of the Jersey Turnpike. Overall, it was a nice change of pace for us, but I look forward to a return to tradition next year. If nothing else, I miss having all the leftovers...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Mystery Box Sale

My pal Tony Isabella has been clearing out his Vast Accumulation of Stuff with weekly sales. (Check it out by clicking One of the items he's been offering is the Mystery Box, filled with a wide assortment of comics and other "stuff." He's inspired me to put together some Mystery Boxes of my own, which are available right now as part of Cyber Monday.

Boxes A, B, C, D, and E each contain more than 100 comic books, plus magazines, trading cards, old promotional stuff, and at least one autographed item, all from my Cabinet of Goofy Stuff. -- Boxes A, B and C -- SOLD.
Box F has dozens of DC 100-Page Super-Spectaculars instead of the comics. -- SOLD
Box G has an assortment of trade paperbacks. -- SOLD
Box H is the widest array of stuff of all, including comics, magazines, DVDs and more. -- SOLD
Boxes F, G and H also have the "plus-items" of the other boxes.

$30 each, first-come, first-served. Contact me at if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post-Sandy Post 4

The Verizon truck parked in front of our next-door neighbor's house yesterday signalled that our block is finally "fully-connected" again. They were the last to have electric power restored -- on Saturday evening -- and we were only a day ahead of them as far as phone service; our phone was finally back in service late Sunday afternoon.

We got our cable and internet connection restrung last Thursday. The work was done by a man who said that he didn't mind the cold and the snow on the ground because he was from Wisconsin. He worked on our house as well as those of two of our neighbors, refusing our offers of coffee and water. (He did accept some fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies Laurie had just baked.)

Still to be done are the removal of the tree stump and sidewalk repair, replacement of the fence, and repair of the solar panels on the roof.


Having been in the dark for six days, I can certainly understand the anger being expressed by my fellow Long Islanders who waited (and waited) for their power to be turned on. There is no gratification knowing that 95% of us have been reconnected if you are in the remaining 5%.

What I don't understand is the disparagement of LIPA repairmen by people who had the work done by crews from Tennessee, Florida, Quebec and many other areas around the U.S. and Canada. All of these men and women -- including those who work for LIPA -- appeared to be working exhausting schedules to replace snapped utility poles and restring downed wires. Last Wednesday afternoon, with heavy wet snow coming down, I saw a sizable crew that appeared to be both LIPA and out-of-state workers replacing two downed poles and stringing new wires.

If there is something to direct anger at, it is the management and coordination of all these crews to get the maximum work done in the shortest period of time. I have no idea what amount of staff is necessary to collect and assess all the information coming in and then coordinate the crews in the field. It may be determined that LIPA management was under-prepared for this and was then overwhelmed, but for those who have been doing it these past two weeks, it has to be a thankless job.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Go Vote!

A few years ago, when she was a U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton gave the commencement address at SUNY Farmingdale. As Laurie is a professor there, I got to attend and hear the speech.

One of the points Senator Clinton focused on in her speech was voting. When people came to her to complain about something that the government was doing or something that it wasn't doing, she would ask them if they had voted in the last election. Not "Did you vote for me?" Just "Did you vote?" If they responded that they hadn't, she would point out that they really had no justification to complain about the government, as they had not exercised their right to elect it.

That said, be sure to vote tomorrow. Your candidates may or may not be elected, but the next time you to complain about something the government did or didn't do, you will be able to answer Hillary Clinton's question in the affirmative.

Post-Sandy Post 3

There was a flurry of activity yesterday. In the early afternoon, a Town of Oyster Bay work crew came and removed the trunk and branches of the fallen tree that had been pushed to the sides of the road.
Then, at about 4:00, three LIPA trucks arrived. The crews examined the utility pole that was on a 60-degree angle, discussed options, and went into action. First, they secured the pole by tying it to the other, still-standing tree in front of our house. Then they repaired the cross-beam at the top of the pole, hoisted up the two parts of the heavy-duty line that had been split and spliced them together. Meantime, another worker spliced new wiring to the line from our house to the pole, which was then attached to the line.
Within about ninety minutes, some six days after the lights went out, the power was back on. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing in our house.


There are still about a quarter-million homes and businesses in Nassau and Suffolk waiting to be reconnected. In six-plus days, LIPA has restored power to upwards of 700,000 customers. While that is of little solace to those still in the dark, it can be taken as a sign that they are doing the best they can. Based on what I saw in front of my house, the crews are working quickly and efficiently and should be applauded for their efforts.
Certainly what they do not need is posturing by the Governor, first saying that he will replace the higher-ups if they are not "responsive to their customers" and later saying that there will be an investigation into whether LIPA was adequately prepared for Hurricane Sandy.
Of the latter I can only ask, how could anyone have been "adequately prepared" for the disaster that occurred? And even if there were a plan in place that might be deemed "adequate," who was supposed to pay for it? Should we start paying now so that LIPA can have a plan in place for all of its customers lose power, rather than just 90% of them?


Speaking of paying, we're still waiting for an announcement of a "government investigation" into the price-gouging that is going on at those gas stations that are able to pump fuel. Sparked by media reports that the power outages would limit the availability of fuel, many people took to the streets to fill their tanks. Not surprisingly, news reports of closed stations sparked even more people to join the hunt.
This resulted in blocks-long lines at gas stations and waits of hours to fill tanks, many of which were not really in need of filling. (Come on, how many people normally fill their gas tanks when they have 3/4 of a tank?) Yes, there are certainly people who did not heed warnings and fill up before the storm, and now they need gas to get to work, etc. But how much fuel is wasted by people driving all over looking for an open station and by those sitting in their cars for hours with the motor running?
Meantime, stations that were selling gas for about $3.75 a gallon eight days ago are now charging $4.30 a gallon. Where's the justification for this increase other than, "Hey, here's our chance to rake in a nice pile of extra cash because we have power to pump the fuel and the guy down the road doesn't"?
Where's the governor's sabre-rattling on this one?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Post-Sandy Post 2

As I write this, more than half a million LIPA customers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties are still without power. There has already been grumbling -- folks on the radio wanting to know why it is taking so long and Governor Cuomo talking about an investigation -- but if you take the positive view, they have restored power to somewhere around 400,000 customers in three days.

Though we have heard from friends around the Island who have their lights back on, we are still in the dark... and fairly far down the LIPA list. When they came to turn off the power yesterday so that the tree, which had been across the road and sitting on a pole and wires, could be cut down, they were then able to restore power to a few-block area just to the south of us. Unfortunately, two of our neighbors across the street, who had had power throughout, are now in the dark. So, we are now just four homes in need of a crew to restring the power lines to our houses.

On a positive note, both Laurie and I have power in our offices at work, so we've been able to recharge phones and laptops. We're becoming masters of cooking things on the gas grill; last night we had fried eggs, ham steak, and toasted English muffins all on the grill. We have been able to go to our friend Gudrun's house to shower and have dessert in the evening.  And then we return home to watch DVDs on the laptop before heading to bed.


The lines at gas stations bring back memories of the oil embargo back in the '70s. Cars are lined up for blocks, many of the drivers pushed to sitting in lines by media reports of shortages. There are many people who need gas to run the generators they have powering their homes and others whose vehicles are very low on the fuel they need to get to their jobs, but there are also those who are in "panic mode" and will spend as much fuel driving around trying to find an open station as they will be able to purchase.

Local government officials continue to tell us that these shortages will be short-lived, especially since part of the problem is that many stations don't have power to pump the gas. As the power is restored and the roads are cleared for deliveries, this will, hopefully, resolve itself without any nasty incidents.


Finally, here is the tree, in a photo taken by our neighbor, Danielle Geddes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post-Sandy Post

When we bought our house some thirty-eight years ago, the entire block was filled with large oak and maple trees. Over the past three-plus decades, almost all of them have come down, some by choice and some by the hand of Mother Nature. Last year, one of the two in front of our next door neighbors' house came down in Hurricane Irene and they opted to take out the one next to it.

That left only the two maples in front of our house. But, as soon as clean-up crews get to it, they will be gone as well. One of them blew over in the storm, taking out the telephone pole across the street along with our power lines. The top portion of the other one snapped off and landed on the neighbors' lawn across the street; I had at first thought that what was there was from the tree that had fallen, but later saw what it actually was.

We'll miss the shade the trees brought on hot summer afternoons, but not raking up all the leaves in the fall, nor the roots that clog the sewer line. And our street, which was once tree-lined, will be that no longer.


Other than the trees and power outage, our damage was relatively minimal. Sections of the fence in our yard came down, the wind so strong that it snapped some of the posts like toothpicks and in other spots blew the slats right off.
Still to be assessed is just what happened to the solar panels on the roof. From ground level, it looks like they have been curled up by the wind, but it will take someone more knowledgeable than I to determine whether they need to be fixed or replaced. Since the pool is closed for the season, their import is minimal till next spring's First Dunk. Any other damage to the roof, of course, would be far more important.


Thanks to our neighbors, the Capones, who made room in their freezer, we will not have to lose all of the meat, vegetables, and sauce made from our home-grown tomatoes that would have fallen victim to the power outage.
Thanks to our friend Gudrun, who has invited us to use her shower, we will not be "those smelly folks." (Though I will have to remember to bring a razor there next time, as I am starting to look a bit scruffy.)


The current estimate is that more than 850,000 LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) customers are without power, upwards of 80% of their total users. It is amazing/ annoying/ distressing to listen to people calling in to the radio stations complaining because they haven't had their power restored yet. ("What are these guys doing? Why isn't my power back on yet?")
Yes, we'd all like to be first on the list and I'm sure many folks would try to make a case for why their power is more vital than anyone else's. But we're all in this together and, as soon as humanly possible, we'll all get through it.
Instead of complaining that they're not working as quickly as you would like, be thankful that there is somebody there to fix it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Swimsover 2012

As has been the case for the past few years, Columbus Day is the unofficial end of summer for us because it is after that three-day weekend that we close the pool. Though the last time I got in for a swim was October 6th -- when water and air temperatures were both in the 70s -- the pool was just closed yesterday because we had to wait for a new cover to be delivered.

Eternal optimist that I am when it comes to the pool, I did hold out hope that I would get in one more swim before the cover went on, but a stretch of very cold nights brought the water temp down to the low 50s and no amount of solar heating was bringing that up to anything above "Yow! That's cold!" (I did stick my feet in on Sunday after doing a variety of yard chores, but that was as far as I got.)

So now we can look forward for First Dunk 2013, about six months away. Or, the way time seems to fly by, in about a week and a half.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Politics As Usual

Over the past few months, Laurie and I have been watching the seven seasons of The West Wing on DVD and it is interesting to see how much of what was done in the series parallels things that are still happening today. Though a couple of plot lines -- the kidnapping of Bartlett's daughter, for example -- are overly melodramatic, situations in the Middle East, issues with North Korea, and numerous domestic problems all ring true.

Much of the sixth season and all of the seventh focus on the presidential primaries and election of a successor to Jed Bartlett. The rise of Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), a Latino Congressman from Texas, so foreshadows the emergence of Barack Obama in 2008 that you wonder if Obama's campaign people used the show as their playbook. The behind-the-scenes look at the campaigns of Santos and Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda) in the show gives a lot of insight to the current Presidential race.


Since it is apparently a foregone conclusion that President Obama will win in New York, we have seen virtually no ads for him or for Mitt Romney. In fact, our airwaves have been relatively free of political ads.

Our junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is running for re-election, and there have been a couple of TV ads about her. I mentioned to Laurie a couple of weeks ago that there had to be a Republican candidate running against Gillibrand, but had no idea who it could be. A day or two later, Laurie found a small article in the newspaper that mentioned the candidate, Wendy Long.

Similarly, there must be a Democrat running against incumbent Congressman Peter King, but whoever it is seems to be hiding out.

In fact, the only race spending money on local airtime seems to be that between Congressman Tim Bishop and challenger Randy Altschuler in nearby Suffolk County. The entire campaign is devoted to attack ads; neither candidate bothers telling the voters what good he has done or will do, just how bad his opponent is.
An Altschuler ad condemns Bishop for "voting with Nancy Pelosi 97% of the time" in a tone that would make you think Pelosi was Satan. She is, rather, the Minority leader of the House of Representatives and, since Bishop is a Democrat, it is not surprising that he votes the party line 97% of the time. One might reasonably expect that the voters who elected him would want that.
Bishop's ads focus on Altschuler's claim of being "a proven job-creator," by pointing out that Altschuler was a leading proponent of outsourcing and that most of the jobs he created were in India.


Finally, a radio ad that has recently debuted asks, "Aren't you tired of politicians who tell you at election time that they are on the side of the taxpayer and small business in order to get your vote?" The ad goes on to say that only one political party has remained consistent on their position in support of those groups -- the Conservative Party -- so you should vote for their candidates.
Well, assuming that I agree with their views, that might be a viable alternative. Except that most of the candidates on the Conservative ticket are the Republican candidates... and aren't they among those flip-flopping candidates the ad starts out by condemning?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Baseball Fun With Numbers

Other than generating more revenue, I don't see any reason for the new one-game wild card round of playoffs that Major League Baseball has introduced this year. Any team, including the MLB-worst Houston Astros, can win one game; they did it 55 times this season. A lucky break or a bad umpiring call can end one team's post-season in three hours.

Everything seems to have worked out as it should in the National League. The three divisions have been won by the teams with the three best records in the league and the wild cards are the two next-best teams. If five teams are going to compete, they should be and are those five.

Not so in the American League. The winners of the East and West divisions are still to be determined on the last day of the season. Three of these four teams have identical records at the moment, with the Yankees only one win better than the Orioles, Rangers and A's. What happens tonight will determine which two will play the wild card game on Friday, after which, one of them will be done for the season.

Okay, that is also as it should be and makes for some great baseball.

But let us consider the American League Central Division, which has already been won by Detroit. The Tigers have the seventh-best record in the American League, with fewer wins than the aforementioned quartet of teams. They also will end the season with fewer wins than the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels, both of which have already been eliminated from postseason play! And after the playoff game on Friday, a third team with a better record will also be gone before the Tigers even take the field!

And what happens if the Tigers go on a tear, make it through the playoffs and win it all? Then the World Series winner will be the team with the eleventh-best record in baseball!

Yeah, that makes sense.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hours You Can't Get Back

We've all spent time doing things that, when we've finished, we say, "Well, there's time I've spent that I can't get back." Three such occasions came along for me this week...

I started reading Kathy Reichs' "Bones" books because I enjoy the tv series. Other than Temperance Brennan herself, however, there is not much in common between the novels. If you are looking for Booth, the Jeffersonian, and that array of characters in print, you'd best seek out Max Allan Collins' Bones: Buried Deep because none of them appear in any of Reichs' novels.

Like Reichs herself, the Tempe Brennan of the novels works both in North Carolina and Montreal, and the books pretty much alternate between the two locales. Some of the books are more entertaining than others, but one thing that is fairly consistent is that at some point during the investigation, Brennan will do something incredibly stupid that puts her in danger. In one book, for example, she goes by herself to a cemetery in the middle of night to dig up a body, and, as I recall, nearly gets herself killed.

The most recent addition to the series, Bones Are Forever, starts with an interesting premise. A woman turns up at a hospital in Montreal, then disappears, and the search for her leads to the discovery of three mummified babies in her apartment. The trail leads across Canada, the plot becomes more and more convoluted, and Tempe, not surprisingly, manages to get herself into a ridiculous predicament. Conveniently for this threat, neither of the two police detectives she is working with answers his cell phone (for reasons that are not explained), but when they do finally try to return her calls, her phone is damaged because she has fallen into a koi pond!

It was at this point -- when I found myself saying "Oh, come on!" -- that I started skim-reading. Just as well because, as I said, the plot became convoluted and Tempe got herself into another fix that she should not have survived. Overall, a disappointing read.


On Thursday evening, Laurie and I went to see the play Grace, starring Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Ed Asner and Kate Arrington. While Laurie is much more a theater-goer than I, it was the chance to see Asner live that got me to go. (After all, the man is almost 83 years old; how many more chances will I get?)

Rudd and Arrington play a devoutly religious couple who have come to Florida to open the first in a chain to gospel-themed hotels. Shannon, who looked amazingly small and gaunt in comparison to the way he appears as the FBI agent on Boardwalk Empire, is their neighbor, who has been scarred, physically and emotionally by an accident that killed his fiancee. Asner, clad in shorts and carrying a spray gun, is an exterminator who comes to treat their apartments for insects.

Asner certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, despite the fact that the play didn't make that much sense. Unlike his fellow actors, who didn't seem to pay attention when the audience was laughing at a line and kept right on speaking their lines, he knew to pause until the laughter was not stepping on his lines.

The play is performed without an intermission, probably a good thing, because I suspect some of the audience would leave after the first act and not return. There would have been a good chance we would have been among them.


This evening, Laurie and I joined our friends Barbara and Benny to see "The Master," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jaoquin Phoenix. Well, if there was ever two and half hours I wish I had back, it was the time I spent watching this.

Despite glowing reviews in just about every newspaper and magazine, this has to be one of the worst movies I've ever spent my time on. When I got up to visit the men's room midway through, I wondered if the others would notice if I didn't come back for awhile because I went into a different theater to watch something else.

When the movie ended, a few people applauded. Said one woman who clapped, "I was applauding because it was finally over!" Not only did the four of us agree on how much we didn't like the film, I have never walked out of a theater and heard so many people saying the same thing. It was almost as if there was some comfort in sharing with everyone else the idea that we had all be snookered into coming to see this incredible piece of poop!

It's a good thing they don't do exit polls at movie theaters!