Friday, November 30, 2007

Mego Superheroes!

In my 10 years of writing, I've only blurbed I think six books. Here's the seventh. Yes, it's written by a pal (c'mon, you think the other 6 blurbs weren't for friends?), but I so heart this book. When I was little, on New Year's Eve, my grandfather would line up all my Megos and action figures on the kitchen table like they were all celebrating with us. I had Batman and Robin. They were the only ones I was really celebrating with. And I never lost the gloves or boots (for more than a few days). When I graduated college, I used to hunt comic conventions for more Megos. I found Batman. I found Robin. Then I found eBay. It was no fun. I didn't buy a single one online.



And so, here's Ben Holcomb's book: Mego 8" Super-Heroes: World's Greatest Toys!. It's obsessive and beautiful and insane. Just like us. He did this sucker all himself. How do we not support it?



There is a 32 page preview below. And buy away. Best holiday gift/coffee table book this year.





Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heroes Indeed

Most of you know my love of The Hero Initiative, which gives money to comic writers and artists who need it. Bad. We donate ALL the profits from our t-shirt/whatever sales to them. And here's why. Yes, it's a week after Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean we stop giving thanks.



Giving Thanks, Indeed
Posted by McLauchlin at 11:09:00 AM


I just wrote checks totaling $3000 for a creator who Hero just benefited. He wishes to remain anonymous, but our Disbursement Committee knows who he is. He lives in an area of the country, where the cost of living is moderately cheap, but still…he and his wife just rolled pennies to buy milk, and they luckily had a coupon for a free box of Cheerios. After the milk, they had $3 to their names.



The creator in question had cancer about a decade ago, and his wife was diagnosed with cancer a few years later. When she found she was going to lose her hair in treatment, she had it cut off and donated to the Locks of Love program. That's just the kind of folks they are. Her cancer is still an issue to this day. It took six years for her to get government help, as with no under-18 children living in their home, they had to get below 200% under the federal poverty guidelines before they could qualify.



Probably needless to say, due to health and mobility issues, finding work is difficult for these folks. The funny part is they're STILL plugging away, still writing and even self-publishing comics. Their spirit is indomitable. Some of the checks I wrote were to a landlord for rent and a propane company for heat. I spoke to said recipient today to tell him the checks went out and he remarked that "The prospect of a warm winter with no bills facing disconnect is more than we hoped for."



And it hit me: He had already resigned himself to the fate that the heat was probably going to get turned off for part of this winter. It was just going to happen. Until us. And until you, reading this.



So there. Just a quick reminder that the work we do, yes, is indeed important. Thanks to all who have donated their money, time, effort, and energies.



And happy Thanksgiving weekend, huh?



Jim McLauchlin


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sesame Street - Adults Only

Sesame Street - Adults Only

This saddens me so damn much. Are we really that sheltered?




Sweeping the Clouds Away

By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN

From the New York Times



Sunny days! The earliest episodes of “Sesame Street” are available on digital video! Break out some Keebler products, fire up the DVD player and prepare for the exquisite pleasure-pain of top-shelf nostalgia.



Just don’t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”



Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room. “What did they do to us?” asked one Gen-X mother of two, finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back. What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.



Nothing in the children’s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then — as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 — a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.



Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen — cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-’60s news report — something about a “senior American official” and “two billion in credit over the next five years” — that conjures a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the offing.



The old “Sesame Street” is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper “Elmo’s World” started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original “Sesame Street” might hurt your feelings.



I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of “Sesame Street,” how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody “Monsterpiece Theater.” Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, “That modeled the wrong behavior” — smoking, eating pipes — “so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.”



Which brought Parente to a feature of “Sesame Street” that had not been reconstructed: the chronically mood-disordered Oscar the Grouch. On the first episode, Oscar seems irredeemably miserable — hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.) “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now,” she said.



Snuffleupagus is visible only to Big Bird; since 1985, all the characters can see him, as Big Bird’s old protestations that he was not hallucinating came to seem a little creepy, not to mention somewhat strained. As for Cookie Monster, he can be seen in the old-school episodes in his former inglorious incarnation: a blue, googly-eyed cookievore with a signature gobble (“om nom nom nom”). Originally designed by Jim Henson for use in commercials for General Foods International and Frito-Lay, Cookie Monster was never a righteous figure. His controversial conversion to a more diverse diet wouldn’t come until 2005, and in the early seasons he comes across a Child’s First Addict.



The biggest surprise of the early episodes is the rural — agrarian, even — sequences. Episode 1 spends a stoned time warp in the company of backlighted cows, while they mill around and chew cud. This pastoral scene rolls to an industrial voiceover explaining dairy farms, and the sleepy chords of Joe Raposo’s aimless masterpiece, “Hey Cow, I See You Now.” Chewing the grass so green/Making the milk/Waiting for milking time/Waiting for giving time/Mmmmm.



Oh, what’s that? Right, the trance of early “Sesame Street” and its country-time sequences. In spite of the show’s devotion to its “target child,” the “4-year-old inner-city black youngster” (as The New York Times explained in 1979), the first episodes join kids cavorting in amber waves of grain — black children, mostly, who must be pressed into service as the face of America’s farms uniquely on “Sesame Street.”



In East Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1978, 95 percent of households with kids ages 2 to 5 watched “Sesame Street.” The figure was even higher in Washington. Nationwide, though, the number wasn’t much lower, and was largely determined by the whims of the PBS affiliates: 80 percent in houses with young children. The so-called inner city became anywhere that “Sesame Street” played, because the Children’s Television Workshop declared the inner city not a grim sociological reality but a full-color fantasy — an eccentric scene, framed by a box and far removed from real farmland and city streets alike.



The concept of the “inner city” — or “slums,” as The Times bluntly put it in its first review of “Sesame Street” — was therefore transformed into a kind of Xanadu on the show: a bright, no-clouds, clear-air place where people bopped around with monsters and didn’t worry too much about money, cleanliness or projecting false cheer. The Upper West Side, hardly a burned-out ghetto, was said to be the model.



People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading. Don’t tell the kids.



Points of Entry

Caveat teletor: Volumes 1 and 2 of “Sesame Street: Old School” are available on DVD, which you can sample and buy on Sesameworkshop.org. With a few episodes, extras and celebrity appearances by the likes of Richard Pryor and Lou Rawls, “Old School” sounds harmless enough. But are you ready to mainline this much ’70s nostalgia?



The Way Old: YouTube is great for performance art. If 1969 is not far back enough for you, how’s 1935? The Oscar-winning short film “How to Sleep,” by the Algonquin Round-Tabler Robert Benchley, can be found here in sumptuous black-and-white; search for his name and the film’s title on YouTube.



Come of Age: Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the men of “My So-Called Life” and “thirtysomething,” have at last introduced their online-only young-adult series, “Quarterlife.” It started Nov. 11 on MySpaceTV.com, and it marks the first time a network-quality series — a long indie film, really — has been produced directly for the Internet. If the old times unnerve you, welcome to the new times.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I'm Thankful For

Here in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving, where the tradition is to at least think about what you're thankful for. And so...



  • I'm thankful for my family.
  • I'm thankful for those of you who check in here every day.
  • I'm thankful for those who come every once in awhile.
  • I'm thankful for all the people who hate this nicey-nice and keep us honest.
  • I'm thankful for Charles Schulz and Snoopy, no matter what the new bio says.
  • I'm thankful for Kermit the Frog and making millions of people happy.
  • I'm thankful that when I show my mom the OK Go video on the treadmills (since she was NOT one of the 25 million who already viewed it on YouTube), she loved it.
  • I'm thankful that when my dad watched the OK Go video, he walked away bored after ten seconds.
  • I'm thankful that there are young men and women fighting for this country.
  • I'm thankful that there are people here fighting to get them home.
  • I'm thankful that comic books are cool again (first time since the 1940s).
  • I'm thankful that we get so upset when we think this country isn't headed in the right direction.
  • I'm thankful that we cheer when we think it is.
  • I'm thankful that writers are standing up to the giant conglomerates.
  • And I'm thankful that Oscar the Grouch is still mean, just like the rest of us.

Enjoy the day and love what you love.



-Brad

Monday, November 19, 2007

Writers Strike

I love this email. Reminds me why it's so damn great to have writers on your side.




The WGAE and the WGAW issued this statement in response to the AMPTP's misleading newspaper ads:



Nice try, AMPTP. In the words of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The AMPTP's paid and patronizing advertisement in yesterday's New York Times and Los Angeles Times is guilty of what most charitably could be called sins of omission.



The AMPTP maintains, "It is important to make clear that writers currently do receive residuals for digital downloading (regardless of whether the download is temporary or permanent)... The Guild is seeking at least a 700 percent increase over what writers currently receive, and more than a 200 percent increase over what they receive for Internet 'pay per view.'"



FACT: In our abandoned negotiations, the AMPTP insisted that the residual rate for digital downloading be pegged to the current rate for DVDs, a penurious third of one cent on the dollar. Let's repeat that: A THIRD OF A PENNY!!



The 700 percent increase they refer to roughly translates as 2.1 cents, the 200 percent as 2.5 cents. The AMPTP, as the saying goes, uses numbers the way a drunk uses a lamppost - more for support than illumination. Do the math and you'll see what we're asking for is nothing more than a small, fair respectful share of revenues.



The AMPTP states that it "has offered to pay writers a percentage of the revenues the producer receives from licensing streamed content on the Internet."



FACT: The AMPTP "offer" would allow them to continue to air the streamed content FOR FREE for the first six weeks after its initial broadcast release. In other words, the time period during which there would be the most demand from the public and the most bang for the advertising buck. After that time is over, they would throw us a fraction of the bone of whatever's left.



According to the AMPTP, "No labor agreement in history has given writers, actors or directors a portion of advertising dollars."



FACT: As their own ad notes, technology is rapidly changing the way our business works. They themselves admit, "There's a paradigm shift in how entertainment is distributed and consumed." They offer streaming video for free, but make millions for the copious advertising that accompanies the content. It's only fair that the creators, the storytellers that make those revenues possible, get a tiny taste of the pie.



Stop spinning and wasting money on expensive ads, AMPTP. Come to the table and bargain.



Contents copyright 2007, Writers Guild of America, East. All rights reserved.

The Writers Guild of America East


Friday, November 16, 2007

Vanity Plates

A reminder for those wondering what to do this weekend: you can still get a free (FREE) copy of The Millionaires on iTunes. Just go there and download away.



Anyhow. This is so easy, but here in Florida, we have vanity central. Like Dave Barry said, we also have every boat named WET DREAM. And so, the best of the best...




ASSMAN
via In The Pink Texas by Pink Lady on 11/12/07


Out of the nine million vanity license plates, roughly one in 10 are in Virginia. This is not news to me. When I was in high school, my personalized plate on my Dodge colt was "YOU WISH."


Sixteen percent of the vanity plates are issued by Virginia, with New Hampshire and Illinois following close behind. Texas has the fewest, with only a half percent of drivers personalizing their plates. But Texas does have the most American eagle-cloaked-in-flag decals, as well as family names like Gonzalez stenciled on their rear windows.


"I think a lot of people have stories to tell and they really want pieces of those stories out there," said Stefan Lonce, an author on the subject. This is exactly why my license plate says "BLOGGER." I couldn't believe it was still available.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Asperger's

I believe in this kid. Especially what he saves for the end: that if he could take an antidote to "cure" himself, he wouldn't. How can we not believe in that.
Be You. That's it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shooting War

Anyone read Shooting War yet? Yes, it's noteworthy because it's a webcomic with loads of press for now being a hardcover graphic novel. And yes, it's from my publisher (who really does believe that these 'funny books' can tackle great stories). But for me, well...artist Dan Goldman is a great guy and from my old 'hood. And beyond that, he's spent the last dozen years busting his ass to bring his vision to life (life being defined as: as many eyeballs as possible). So take a look. And support anyone from your 'hood (except for the dicks who used to make fun of us).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reminder: Today. Free Copy Of The Millionaires. Swear.

Just a reminder about the free copy of The Millionaires available now on iTunes or audible.com.



And how could we possibly do this without a true 'voice out' to the master narrator Scott Brick. He's been with us for four novels now and is the only person who I think captures my voice (and makes me sound far tougher and more baritone than I am). As my grandmother said when she first heard him on audio (true story): He sounds handsome.



Here's the post from yesterday...



Okay, we're no Radiohead, but I'm telling you, we've been talking about this for months, and now the publisher is finally doing it. Starting tomorrow, if you go to iTunes or audible.com, you can get a free (really free -- no catch) audio copy of The Millionaires. It's one of my favorite books I've done, and not just because the last hundred pages go into the tunnels under DisneyWorld. So download it free.



Also, just for kicks, you'll see that the rest of the novels are available for only $9.99, which is also kinda insane. But not as insane as FREE!



So go have fun with the free.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Free Copy Of The Millionaires. Swear.

Okay, we're no Radiohead, but I'm telling you, we've been talking about this for months, and now the publisher is finally doing it. Starting tomorrow, if you go to iTunes or audible.com, you can get a free (really free -- no catch) audio copy of The Millionaires. It's one of my favorite books I've done, and not just because the last hundred pages go into the tunnels under DisneyWorld. So download it tomorrow for free.



Also, just for kicks, you'll see that the rest of the novels are available for only $9.99, which is also kinda insane. But not as insane as FREE!



So go tomorrow and have fun with the free.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Brad Back In DC

Okay, are we gonna get a minyan or not? I'm back in the Washington, DC area this Sunday, November 11th for the JCC's Jewish Book Fesitval (details below). I'll be talking about books, comics, and just about anything. So come and nosh.
And as always, happy to sign whatever you want to bring.



See you then.



Sunday, November 11, 11:30 am


JCC of Greater Washington

6125 Montrose Rd.

Rockville, MD 20852

(
Google Map Link
)

301-348-3805


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Patton Oswalt

Just got the introduction for the next JLA hardcover, written by Patton Oswalt, who...c'mon...we love. And not just because he wrote a beautiful intro. The guy yells out, "Hal Jordan" in the middle of his act to signify will power. My hero.



And yes, this last hardcover has The Lightning Saga as well as issues 11, 12, and zero.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Write Your Novel!

Had no idea, but November is National Novel Writing Month. And so, how can I not plug it? I started by saying, "Everyone has one novel in them, so why not take a shot?" I took my shot. The book failed miserably and still sits on my shelf. But I got the bug. So those waiting, take a shot.




More fun here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano and on Wikipedia.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pilot Of Plane That Dropped A-bomb Dies

This guy fascinates me. Especially the, "slept just fine at night."




Pilot of plane that dropped A-bomb dies


By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press Writer



COLUMBUS, Ohio - Paul Tibbets, who piloted the B-29 bomber Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died Thursday. He was 92 and insisted for six decades after the war that he had no regrets about the mission and slept just fine at night.



Tibbets died at his Columbus home. He suffered from a variety of health problems and had been in decline for two months.



Tibbets had requested no funeral and no headstone, fearing it would provide his detractors with a place to protest, said Gerry Newhouse, a longtime friend.



Tibbets' historic mission in the plane named for his mother marked the beginning of the end of World War II and eliminated the need for what military planners feared would have been an extraordinarily bloody invasion of Japan. It was the first use of a nuclear weapon in wartime.



The plane and its crew of 14 dropped the five-ton "Little Boy" bomb on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. The blast killed 70,000 to 100,000 people and injured countless others.



Three days later, the United States dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Tibbets did not fly in that mission. The Japanese surrendered a few days later, ending the war.



"I knew when I got the assignment it was going to be an emotional thing," Tibbets told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published on the 60th anniversary of the bombing. "We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible."



Morris Jeppson, the officer who armed the bomb during the Hiroshima flight, said Tibbets was energetic, well-respected and "hard-nosed."



"Ending the war saved a lot of U.S. armed forces and Japanese civilians and military," Jeppson said. "History has shown there was no need to criticize him."



Tibbets, then a 30-year-old colonel, never expressed regret over his role. He said it was his patriotic duty and the right thing to do.



"I'm not proud that I killed 80,000 people, but I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did," he said in a 1975 interview.



"You've got to take stock and assess the situation at that time. We were at war. ... You use anything at your disposal."



He added: "I sleep clearly every night."



Tibbets took quiet pride in the job he had done, said journalist Bob Greene, who wrote the Tibbets biography, "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War."



"He said, 'What they needed was someone who could do this and not flinch — and that was me,'" Greene said.



Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was born Feb. 23, 1915, in Quincy, Ill., and spent most of his boyhood in Miami.



He was a student at the University of Cincinnati's medical school when he decided to withdraw in 1937 to enlist in the Army Air Corps.



After the war, Tibbets said in 2005, he was dogged by rumors claiming he was in prison or had committed suicide.



"They said I was crazy, said I was a drunkard, in and out of institutions," he said. "At the time, I was running the National Crisis Center at the Pentagon."



Tibbets retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general in 1966. He later moved to Columbus, where he ran an air taxi service until he retired in 1985.



The National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton plans a photographic tribute to Tibbets, who was inducted in 1996.



"There are few in the history of mankind that have been called to figuratively carry as much weight on their shoulders as Paul Tibbets," director Ron Kaplan said in a statement. "Even fewer were able to do so with a sense of honor and duty to their countrymen as did Paul."



Tibbets' role in the bombing brought him fame — and infamy — throughout his life.



In 1976, he was criticized for re-enacting the bombing during an appearance at a Harlingen, Texas, air show. As he flew a B-29 Superfortress over the show, a bomb set off on the runway below created a mushroom cloud.



He said the display "was not intended to insult anybody," but the Japanese were outraged. The U.S. government later issued a formal apology.



Tibbets again defended the bombing in 1995, when an outcry erupted over a planned 50th anniversary exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Institution.



The museum had planned to mount an exhibit that would have examined the context of the bombing, including the discussion within the Truman administration of whether to use the bomb, the rejection of a demonstration bombing and the selection of the target.



Veterans groups objected, saying the proposed display paid too much attention to Japan's suffering and too little to Japan's brutality during and before World War II, and that it underestimated the number of Americans who would have perished in an invasion.



They said the bombing of Japan was an unmitigated blessing for the United States and the exhibit should say so.



Tibbets denounced it as "a damn big insult."



The museum changed its plan and agreed to display the fuselage of the Enola Gay without commentary, context or analysis.



He told the Dispatch in 2005 that he wanted his ashes scattered over the English Channel, where he loved to fly during the war.



Newhouse confirmed that Tibbets wanted to be cremated, but he said relatives had not yet determined how he would be laid to rest.



Tibbets is survived by his wife, Andrea, and three sons — Paul, Gene and James — as well as a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A grandson named after Tibbets followed his grandfather into the military as a B-2 bomber pilot currently stationed in Belgium.



___



On the Net:



Enola Gay Remembered Inc.: http://www.enolagay.org


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween Is Us

Judging by last night's costumes, Star Wars is slowing down, and the superheroes and pirates are going strong. Also, a big Harry Potter contingent. But the one thing I noticed more than anything else was the amount of adults in superhero costumes, especially moms as Wonder Womans and Supergirls. Is this just the insanity that is Florida? What'd you see?



Also, for the DC crowd, I'm at the JCC in Rockville on Sunday the 11th. See you there.



Also, after talking to lots of TV writers, when the writers' strike hits, guess where lots of those writers are going? Comics are going to benefit.