IT'S A MIGHTY LONG WAY
This Friday, I'll be returning to the land of icy beer and spicy crabs for yet another Burners gig, this time with our (newly renamed) guitar-based quartet, Mad Jack, as openers. It'll be about three and a half hours of music; my brother and I are in both bands.
I did finally buy that "midlife crisis toy," the wireless unit for my guitar. I set off a little feedback here and there, but it's been working out quite well. It's weird -- and wonderful -- not having any chords to step over. I can spin in a circle or do anything I want, without worrying about getting tangled up in wires. As promised, Karch and Brinie tuned up my 1979 B.C. Rich Mockingbird. They even polished it. I have to think of a way to thank them.
Tonight, I caught "The Return of Dracula" at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. I saw it last Tuesday as well, at the Ocean Township Historical Museum. Seeing it on a screen in the dark with an audience was a revelation. So much so that I have just designated Francis Lederer as my second-favorite screen Dracula. (He just leapt over former No. 2 Christopher Lee, but he's still beneath Bela Lugosi, natch.) Lederer is so evil and charming. Seek out this movie!
I recently caught "Amazon Women of the Moon," which was pretty terrible except for three parodies: the title segment (which deftly captures color '50s sci-fi); an "Invisible Man" parody (with a hilarious turn by Ed Begley Jr.) and a parody of those unintentionally funny '30s public-service films ("Cocaine Fiends," "Reefer Madness"), with Paul Bartell and Carrie Fisher. If you can fast-forward through the garbage segments in order to watch just these, it would be worth your while.
Lindenwold, here I come.
"JACKASS," ON THE OTHER HAND ...
On the other hand, "Jackass Number 2" eclipsed "The Depleted" because it actually delivered on its promise.
I laughed through the whole thing. And I needed to laugh. So I give it a thumb's up. (INSERT JOKE HERE.)
A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewing director John Waters, who sees just about every movie on a big screen (he prefers this to DVDs). I joked: "I saw two steaming pieces of (excrement) over the weekend. One was in a scene in 'Jackass Number 2,' the other was 'The Departed.'"
Waters defended "The Departed" (as just about everyone does), but he admitted he loved "Jackass Number 2" -- and acually, he's IN it! Waters is the magician who makes Wee Man disappear. Never mind how.
It wasn't lost on Waters that HE gained the spotlight in the early '70s thanks to the climax of his grossout comedy "Pink Flamingos," which showed 300-lb. transvestite Divine consuming poodle waste. "Jackass Number 2" has a scene which mirrors that earlier cinematic milestone. In the newer film, the animal waste of choice is that of a horse.
I suppose there's just no delicate way to write about "Jackass Number 2."
I went to "The Departed" because, like many fellow movie nuts and Baby Boomers, I wanted to witness the historic first teaming of Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese -- in a theater with a box of Tropical Dots in hand.
I'm sorry to report that all those rave reviews of "The Departed" are just one big case of "The Emperor's New Clothes."
I said to a friend, "Any movie that has Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Marky Mark is just a hair's breadth away from ..."
"... a boy band?" my friend came back.
"... a Ben Affleck performance," I said.
There was just too much in "The Departed" -- or, as I've been calling it, "The Depleted" -- that reeks of movie cliches.
Case in point: I've had one shrink all my life. He happens to be a white-haired guy in his 50s with a mustache.
Leonardo gets a shrink in "The Departed." She happens to be a SMOKIN' HOT BABE.
Oh, yeah, and she's Matt Damon's girlfriend (a monster coincidence that, of course, has zero payoff).
PLEASE DON'T TELL ME LEO'S GOING TO SHAG HER, I thought when I first saw Leo in her office.
Guess what happens.
I have seven questions:
1.) Why would Jack give his lawyer instructions to mail Leo incriminating telephone tapes in the event of his untimely death? The audience is asked to accept this obediently, but if you really think it through, it's pretty hard to swallow.
2.) How could Matt Damon's shrink girlfriend recognize Jack's voice on the CD that Leo mailed to Matt Damon? How could she instantly comprehend the ramifications of the conversation?
3.) Why didn't Leo just mail the tapes to Marky Mark, instead of luring Matt Damon to a rooftop for a Hollywood Showdown?
4.) Exactly HOW did Matt Damon explain those three guys with their heads blown off? Was it: "Guy A and Guy B shot each other simultaneously, and then I shot Guy C in self defense"?
5.) Why did Matt Damon's hallway neighbors suddenly begin to treat him like a pariah? Even the old lady's poodle? What does the poodle know that the entire Boston State Police Department doesn't?
6.) How did Marky Mark figure out that Matt Damon was a baddie?
And most importantly:
7.) Are Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese pretty much a package deal now?
So many people get a bullet in the head during the last five minutes of the film, the audience was laughing.
But Jack, as usual, was The Man. And any movie that uses "Let it Loose" from "Exile on Main Street" is worth a look.
To all you slavering Scorsese-ites who rave about "The Depleted," I have this to say: Ten years from now, when you're looking for a good Scorsese movie to throw in the DVD player (or whatever Must-Have Machine will make DVD players obsolete in 10 years), I'll bet you won't be reaching for "The Depleted." It just ain't up there with "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull."
Here's the final bit from that student survey I participated in a while back . . .
Q: Do you own any comic related articles of clothing? If so, how often and where do you wear them? Please be specific.
A: I have an orange Thing T-shirt, a black Batman T-shirt, a navy blue Captain America T-shirt, a Batman watch, and a tie that has classic Marvel covers printed on it ("Hulk" #1, "X-Men" #1, "Amazing Fantasy" #15, etc.). I wear the T-shirts any old time. I wear the tie to comic book conventions. I'm wearing my Batman watch as I type this.
Q: Describe your interests within the comic book world. What type of comics do you enjoy? What type of comics do you not enjoy?
A: As I said before, I go for the "Silver Age" stuff (roughly 1956-71). It never lets me down. The artwork is amazing, the stories are exciting, the characters are like familiar old friends, and reading them makes me feel like an 8-year-old again. The books I don't like are, oddly enough, a lot of the "Dark Age" stuff (roughly 1985-present). I hated it when the books were gritty for the sake of gritty. I don't read many current books, although I recognize that they are better than they used to be. Reading new comics now is like watching a movie in print. The problem is, a lot of current movies stink. My other interests within the comic book world include bopping into my neighborhood comic shop once a week or so, talking to fellow geeks about comics, going to conventions about four times a year, and reading, reading, reading.
More Q&A from that comics-themed survey I took part in a while back . . .
Q.: Do you feel comic readership is something you are particularly conscious of? (i.e. do you think it is a distinction? For example, one often does not usually overtly think of themselves as television or sports fans, so is a comic fan different? Are we aware of ourselves more than fans of different mediums?)
A: I absolutely think so. I think we DEFINE ourselves as comic book fans. But as geeky as a lot of us are, I think sports fans can be even geekier. I mean, I've never gone to a convention dressed as a superhero, which I would consider too geeky for me. But by the same token, those sports freaks who paint their faces are as bad as the nerd who dresses as the Thing and goes to the Big Apple Con. And all of the sports fans' obsession with records and statistics is just like a comic book geek saying, "I like Jack Kirby's mid-to-late-'60s period when Joe Sinnott was inking him. I thought Vince Colletta's inking was too scratchy." To non-geeks, that's like another language.
Q: Do you own comics-related merchandise items (i.e. art, books, statues, figures, etc.)? If so, do you have a particular favorite piece or collection?
A: Well, I'm the world's #1 "Metal Men" fanatic. I'm a Metal Men completist and own every issue they've ever appeared in. This has become an expensive and space-consuming habit, since creators love to put cameos by members of the robot team in other books. But in all the years since Bob Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito created the Metal Men in the early '60s, there had never been a Metal Men toy or any kind of three-dimensional Metal Men premium -- only the printed material -- that is, until a few years back, when a Metal Men collector's plate (with a painting by Alex Ross) was marketed. The plate was followed a few years later by a seven-piece PVC set of Metal Men figures. My wife was so mad when I bought that plate. I mean, we had plenty of REAL things to spend our money on, you know what I mean? From then on, she would say, "Hey, there's a 'Sound of Music' plate for sale. Do you want to order it?" Or she would say, "I hope you don't mind -- I microwaved a lasagne on your collector plate." I have to admit that I understood her position. I definitely crossed a line when I bought a plate. That's something old ladies buy! But if you're a Metal Men completist, you have no choice but to buy the Metal Men plate. That's all there is to it.
Here's more Q&A from that student survey about comic books that I participated in a while back . . .
Q: Describe how you acquire your comic books (i.e. library, personal purchase, sharing with friends).
A: Since I'm a "Silver Age" geek, I usually buy at comic-book conventions. But I'm interested in what we call "reading" copies, not mint-condition copies. I don't mind physical imperfections if they will bring the price down. Recently at a convention, I found a dealer who had four boxes of vintage Silver Age books that were all coverless, yellowed and tattered for a dollar each! I bought 37 of them, and I wish I' bought more. I got coverless 10-cent "Batmans," coverless early "Brave and the Bolds," coverless vintage Marvels, coverless TV and movie adaptations such as "Mr. Ed," "The Munsters," "Three Stooges" and "Ski Party," and on and on. To a guy like me, that was a HUGE score. I never buy from the Internet.
Q: Do you spend a lot of personal resource (i.e. time and money) or have you made comic-book fandom a particular part of your life (i.e. creating, studying, teaching, selling comics).
A: I don't spend a lot of money on comics any more. There was a time, when the older books I crave were more available, that I could find them in my local comic shop, so I was buying two or three a week. But now, it's strictly catch-as-catch-can. I do spend a lot of time reading comics. I also write about them as part of my job. (My columns are about pop culture with a "retro" twist, so I'll write about comics, sci-fi, horror films, classic rock, classic TV, etc.) So on any given day, comics are probably on my mind and in my life.
Q: Describe the response your fandom generated from people outside this sphere. Did you have friends or family that read comics? Did you receive any outright negative reaction?
A: I have a lot of comic books friends -- the kind I can call up and tell all about, for instance, the 37 coverless Silver Age books I got for a buck apiece recently. But to most people, we're just "comic book geeks." I don't believe I get a particularly negative reaction from non-geeks. Just good-hearted teasing. When my nephew (who is 18) and I take part in comics-related discussions, my brother (his father) will say along the lines of: "Are you guys going to put on your Spock ears now?"
In my capacity as a columnist who writes about comic books, I was asked by a college student to participate in a survey for a project of his a while back. He emailed me some questions (which were also posed to other pros) and asked for my responses. I thought I'd share some of them with you (edited for this blog, natch). Here goes . . .
Q: First, please describe yourself. (The usual stuff: name, age, occupation, interests aside from comics, etc.)
A: My name is Mark Voger. I'm 48. I'm a writer/designer for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, where I have written about comics since the '80s. Aside from comics, I enjoy "Leave it to Beaver," "Exile on Main Street" by the Rolling Stones, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," playing in a band and the ocean.
Q: Describe your introduction to comics. Where did you first encounter comic art, and in what form?
A: I was born in 1958 and have loved comics for as long as I can remember. Before I could even spell, I was drawing comics on shirt cardboards -- those sheets of cardboard that dry cleaners used to keep men's shirts wrinkle-free. Before long, my dad was asking everyone at his office to give him THEIR shirt cardboards. He would bring three or four home every night and I would draw, draw, draw. I was 8 when the TV series "Batman" starring Adam West debuted in 1966. Adam West was my hero. That's when my interest in comics went into overdrive. I read "Batman," "Detective Comics," "Superman," "Action Comics," "Adventure," "Superboy," "Lois Lane," "Jimmy Olsen," "The Flash," "Metal Men," "Green Lantern," "The Atom," "The Brave and the Bold," "Justice League of America," "Sugar and Spike," "Fox and Crow," "Bob Hope," "Jerry Lewis," "The Inferior Five," "Plastic Man" (the '60s revival), "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Daredevil," Marvel giants, "Sad Sack," "Sarge," "Little Dot," "Little Lotta," "Hot Stuff," "Archie," "Jughead," "Mad," "Cracked," "Sick," "Famous Monsters of Filmland," "Creepy," "Eerie," "Vampirella," you name it.
Q: Describe some of the changes you have experienced as a comic fan over the years, as well as some consistencies.
A: The consistencies are easier to name, because I still LOVE and read all of the above titles to this day. I'm a "Silver Age" geek (the Silver Age being the period of comics from 1956 until, roughly, the early to mid '70s). To this day, that's what I still buy and read. One of the clerks at the comic shop I go to always asks me, "Don't you get tired of reading the same stuff over and over?" I try to explain to him that it's NOT the same stuff. I don't own every book from the '60s. I still buy issues from back then that I've never owned, so those issues are new to ME. As far as the changes -- I went through a period as a college kid in the '70s when I read a lot of underground stuff. I read Robert Crumb, Justin Green, Gilbert Shelton, Bill Griffith, Spain, S. Clay Wilson and all of those guys. In the mid '80s, I became fanatical about comics again after reading "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns." And, yes, I bought most of the "gimmick" comics -- the death of Superman and the holograms and the Image books, etc. Do I read them still? Nope. At this moment, I'm reading "Mystery in Space" #89.
MIDLIFE CRISIS TOY
I just returned from South Joisey, where we had back-to-back rehearsals with Mad Jack (Friday) and The Burners (Saturday).
Mad Jack turned a corner. Drummer Fro played like an animal on Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and the Led Zeppelin medley. Cream's "Badge" finally came together -- we built in some needed contrast and got comfortable with it. In his soloing, guitarist Karch is actually conjuring Eric Clapton. And if you've ever heard Karch, you know he USUALLY conjures Jimmy Page. The originals, one of which dates back to 1977, came back intact. We've worked up a kind of metal-ish version of The Beatles' "Please Please Me," if you can imagine such a thing. My favorite of our new covers is The Yardbirds' "For Your Love."
Mad Jack sounds like a band again, but we'll still take every minute of rehearsal we've got budgeted for the next month and two days.
I left my Mockingbird at Brinie's. Karch, bless him, is actually going there one night this week to scrub rust off my pickups and clean my "pots" (whatever THEY are). And I'm springing for a little midlife crisis toy: a wireless for my guitar. Burners guitarist Bad Bobby is getting me a deal on something called a Guitarbug. Brinie is going to research it first, to make certain it is "Elder friendly" (Elder being my band nickname). Not many technical gadgets are.
Y'see, I had so dang much fun at the last Burners gig with that wireless mike -- going wherever I please, whenever I please -- that I crave that same rush with my guitar. (Actually, in 1992, Kathy bought me a guitar wireless for my birthday. I had a lot of fun with it, but it's not compatible with our current equipment, so I'll give it to Nephew Headbanger, a fledgling rocker.)
The Burners are on fire again. We could almost play the gig now, but the Maestro is still tweaking the set list and discussion is still needed on Kansas' "Belexes." It's so great playing again with Johnny (my drummer since sophomore year in high school). We've been in a lot of bands: The Sponge Reunion, Scream, The Creeps, Squadron, The Back Street Kids and now The Burners. After practice, we all took a sip or two from that stainless steel flask of Jim Beam. I'd forgotten that feeling of warmth spreading across your lungs.