Thursday, October 29, 2009

"I just as soon leave him home by himself."

Bill Cosby - WonderfulnessImage by Furldman via Flickr

With kudos and credit to blogger/artist Fooksie for creating a graphic (left) that was the perfect visual to go along with this Halloween post, I share with you my all-time favorite Bill Cosby routine from childhood (it's the most liked by my kids, too). From his 1966 Wonderfulness album, it includes the immortal lines:
This is before babysitters, when parents did not believe in babysitters, at all. The philosophy was, 'What! Let some stranger look after my kid?!? I just as soon leave him home by himself.'

Chicken Heart

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Miscellaneous Monday

Not that it means anything special, but this is the last Monday for the month of October, already. We're sliding, alright. Halloween on Saturday and November (along with the return of Daylight Standard Time) comes Sunday. Plus, I've got a newly minted 14 year-old who still wants to trick or treat (and says he needs a costume), a 9 year-old (who can't wait for next month to arrive so she can turn 10) who desires pumpkins for sculpturing and spider webs for decorating the house with, and a wife who is juggling so many projects at work and at home that the last thing she wants to see is any ghoulish creature coming to our door, at the moment. Add to this that she-who-must-be-obeyed cares little for the time change (winter blues), and we (kids and I) have our work carved out for us as the light wains. Good to know that it's another normal October at the insane asylum that is my home during this time of year. So, let's mention a couple sundry items and get them out of the way.

First, the author of Big City Bad Blood and Trigger City, Sean Chercover, is having a diverting giveaway. His READING@WORK CONTEST:
I'm giving away prizes for the best pictures of people reading Trigger City in the workplace. So take a picture of yourself reading the book at work, and send it in.

Prizes include Trigger City lapel pins, t-shirts, signed books, and one-year subscriptions to Crimespree Magazine. You might even win your name used as one of the characters in my next book. You could end up as a cop, a corpse, or even an arch criminal.
Send your photo to the author to get in on this. I sent mine in this morning (I should have shaved, though):

Since I'm in my seasonal movie mode (Silent Hill and 1963's The Haunting, already), there are a couple still I'm looking forward to teeing up on the DVD player. The new one is (from what I hear) the highly unrated werewolf movie, Bad Moon (1996). Eric Red (the writer of The Hitcher and Near Dark) directs this tale of a man coming to visit his sister and her son at their home. What intrigued me to this film is that it's told from the perspective of the protective family German Shepard (yes, I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories):

Of course, Halloween wouldn't be Halloween for me without my annual viewing of Tim Burton's Sleep Hollow. Whether it's how the director handles this period horror film, the startling visuals he employs throughout, the Hammer films that provided the inspiration for the design of it, and favorites like Christopher Lee and Christopher Walken giving chilling cameos in it, I have to have this fix this time of year (that and candy corn):

Who knew that my children would continue to amaze their father (and hand out gray hairs to their parents like it was candy on a certain holiday). I don't know if it's related to the solar system sculpture he recently completed and turned in for his 8th grade science class, but this is what my son wants his old man to play (and re-discover) in the car as we make our way to school:

And my daughter is no slouch as to enforcing her will on to my iTunes library. She's got her father scratching his head as to how he ignored (or missed entirely) this song:

I'm definitely getting too old too fast.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tales from the (Movie) Theater: Part 6

Continuation of the series--see Intro, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5:


After only a few months of working without too much incident (mostly the closing shifts) at the Huntington Park Warner, big changes came to the theater, and my way. Even though I started off as the newly minted projectionist, the low wages contributed to the one prominent trend of my tenure there: turnover. It didn't take long for the middle guy to leave. So in a short time, I was no longer the lowest man on the totem pole. Unbelievably, I became the second most senior tech there (right behind my younger brother, the lead projectionist).

The rest of the chapter has been updated and relocated to my current blog, found here.

Next Up: Surprise! (Part 7)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Honor to Scribble

You know, I'm usually dumbfounded when I win things. Be it compliments, gifts or awards, they're not what I expect... but I am grateful for such things and to those who bestow them. Such is the case with blogger J.D. and his more than fine movie blog, RADIATOR HEAVEN. His site is one I had been lurking on for some time (and only recently interacting with). That, and because he covers a wonderful array of film in a marvelous manner and enlightening detail (plus, he adds some tremendous comments of his own to the blogs he visits). J.D. very kindly conferred on me the Superior Scribbler Award. And since I'm curious by nature, I looked into the award, which has an interesting history in the year it has been out there circulating through the intertubes (click on the award link to check it out).
So, onto the rules of The Award:
  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
With that covered, I'll move on and share/bestow this award with the following:
  1. Dennis over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule - while I've conversed online with this movie blogger, and since he's local, I look forward to the day we meet at the New Beverly Cinema and discuss the merits of The Howling vs. An American Werewolf in London ;-)
  2. Elyse over at Obsessions of a Pop Culture Nerd - she of the frighteningly smart nieces (and their spotless punctuation and grammar... really, I'm not bitter) and her fun as hell content covering books, authors, film, directors, and what not; she also happens to look stunning in red (and not all can pull that off, IMO)
  3. Lesa from Lesa's Book Critiques - not only does she read and review some of the most interesting books out there, she's a librarian (and they are, as a whole, some of the nicest, smartest and best read people on earth); and my thanks for the book recommendation for my teen's recent birthday, Lesa (he loved it)
  4. Nordette over at Who's Shoes Are These Anyway - this blogger/writer/future novelist always challenges her readers with the topics she covers (life, politics, injustice, music, parenting, breaking events, etc.), and she does it all with a manner and clarity I wish I had; plus she lives in the city with the best jazz out there
  5. Livius over at Riding The High Country - this is another of the movie bloggers I discovered this year and now follow because of his writing, reviews, and depth of knowledge (plus the depth of his movie archive); that, and his admiration of the western make visits there well worthwhile
It goes to show that there are plenty of good things and people out there on that darn thingamacallit intertube thingy. Thank you, J.D.

p.s., where are my manners? Congrats to you, J.D., upon receiving this very same award. Well earned and well done.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Richard Matheson's I Am Legend

My recent first time visit to the West Hollywood Book Fair, a couple of weeks back, seemed to re-ignite my interest in author Richard Matheson's seminal novel (an intriguing mix of horror and sci-fi) on vampire mythology in the modern world. When I arrived at the fair, I first stopped at one of the comic shop booths before heading over to the initial panel (Ghost & Goblins: Exploring the Supernatural in Mystery Fiction) that featured author Charlie Huston. Among all of their wonderful comic book offerings, there was one particular graphic novel that stood out - the I Am Legend compilation of Steve Niles and Elman Brown comic series from the early 90's of the Matheson work. I'd heard of it, but I hadn't seen this adaptation in graphic form. Between looking at its terrific illustrations and seeing how the artists constructed and re-told the author's tale, it was no wonder I was late to that book panel (I was so caught up in it).

Then upon finding and reaching said panel, what were Charlie Huston and moderator Leslie Klinger discussing at that very moment? Yep. That same novel, which they then directly credited for being the impetus for much of the written work their panel was discussing that day. Alright... Synchronicity, strike two. Finally last week, Film and TV blogger John Kenneth Muir noted in a post (and directly linked to blogger B-Sol's The Vault of Horror's said list), titled The Cyber Horror Elite's Reading List: The Greatest Horror Literature of All-Time, the results from a panel of distinguished bloggers and authors listing their favorite horror lit. [and kudos to both of them for that, too.*] And what was at 15th rung? Nuff' said... strike three! I had to put something down in a post regarding this all-time great novel (and since it was published the same year I was born, 1954, let's add that coinkydink to the mix). And besides, it is now the month of Halloween. So here it is, along with some of my thoughts towards its varied adaptations.

* that top 30 list drew such an interest-piquing response, B-Sol also posted the remaining novels, short stories, and poems that did not make it onto there or the honorable mentions list.

The Book

I think the author who influenced me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson ~ Stephen King
It's been over three decades since I first heard of this novel. I'd estimate I first read it during the early 1970's - and likely in response to seeing the first couple of its film adaptations. The story is about one man, Robert Neville, and his fight to survive in a world that's been decimated by a 70's viral pandemic (eerie to me then, and strangely apropos to me now). As much as he knows, he's the last uninfected man living on earth, and he's doing so among what's left of the population: the infected vampire horde wandering the Los Angeles nightscape. A couple of parallels are fairly obvious when reviewing the work. The Robinson Crusoe tale seems evident - especially when he's boarded up at night in his (desert island-like) reinforced and hardened home (with his stash of food, drink, and classical music LPs to keep him company). His Man Friday could be the seemingly uninfected woman, the biblically named Ruth, too. As well, the Cold War paranoia and fear track of the 50's permeates the tale. His story comes to light in a unique mix of flashback, science-fiction, mythological horror, and ultimate irony. The fact that Matheson imagined a world (and my hometown), some twenty years beforehand, that people even in the 21st century, upon reading it for the first time, would still recognize, proves the author was prophetically dead-on (so to speak) with this novel.

Matheson's clever use of flashbacks appears to use time (and its passage) as a interesting device in storytelling and as a tool for leveling the distance between the moment in time the reader takes it in and into the prescient world the author imagined. It's all too easy for the reader to simultaneously imagine Neville's plight of the damned, and whatever future pandemic (natural or man-made) that yet could come. It's considered the first of the modern vampire novels with its prominent use of science to explain away old vampire lore and subjugate religion's treatment and links in ancient mythology. The novel also seems so influential in so many other authors work. It's hard to imagine many of today's modern blood-sucker tales (with the intertwining vampire and humans storylines) coming about without this one novel breaking through and mixing myth and science (or our own use of standards and technology to explain things). Even George Romero's unique zombie and apocalyptic series (that began with the equally seminal Night of the Living Dead film) would seem difficult to conjure without this novel's direction and power.

Film Adaptations

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

I remember my brother telling me he'd seen this movie on some TV broadcast in the late 60's and trying to explain the story to me. What can I say? Early teen recall is not worth the hormones they are imprinted with. And it wasn't until the decade turned (a few years later) that I caught up to it on another late night showing. This Vincent Price feature, an Italian production, did have Richard Matheson write its original screenplay. But the changes and re-writes made to it had him pull his name from the film. However, it does seem to come closest to the story and spirit of the author's novel (but it suffers in its low cost production values and poor dubbing). I would say it's my sentimental favorite since it's the first telling of this story I ever saw (along with the next film) on celluloid. Additionally, these first two pushed me to actually read the book that it was based upon.
The Omega Man (1971)

This was the first film adaptation that I saw in an actual movie theater. This Charlton Heston vehicle (along with the subsequent one decades later) began to shift this tale to more of an action/sci-fi film in its execution and bearing. Gone are the plague aspects of the original work, along with the demythologized vampire text. Enter that period's introduction to the biological warfare scares as imagined by the screenwriter's adaptation in the midst of the Cold War. That, and homicidal mutants (meh). Although, the film does make great use of its L.A. setting and locations (like that originally used in the novel) - and is the only one among the film conversions to do so. Unfortunately, this film feels the most dated (hey, it's the 70's). Still, it was entertaining (as long as you let go of the superior narrative in the novel). The film's best moments are Heston being Heston (in his own inimitable way) and any of the scenes that have Rosalind Cash in them (I always admired this actress and she was never in enough movies, for my liking).
I Am Legend (2007)

This century's adaptation was the third film version, but the first to use the original title of Matheson's novel. It also returns to the concept of a viral pandemic in this re-telling. And it has two of the most charismatic performances among all of these screen adaptations. Will Smith and Alice Braga, you say? No. Will Smith and Samantha the dog (and Will was hard pressed to beat her out). [note: Ms. Braga does indeed look better than the dog, but Sam acted better] Unfortunately, the film seems to emphasize its special effects and action over the story's tenets - plus it has the worst use of CGI characters in any of the big budget, high profile film releases of late. Let alone the use of an ending (theatrical or alternate ending included on the DVD release) that seems the antithesis of the novel's. And unfortunately, it made a lot of money at the box office. So much so, the studio is preparing for something that should be abhorrent to anyone who appreciates the original book: a prequel. Coming in 2011, I Am Legend: Awakening. [don't get me started on this]


Also in 2007 (in conjunction with the late year release of the above film), the original novel was re-issued (yet again) by a book publisher. And for the first time, Blackstone Audio published an unabridged audiobook for the groundbreaking work. The high profile nature of the then upcoming film, and the importance of bringing a pioneering novel to the spoken word form, necessitated the studio managers bring out one of its big guns for this first audio treatment. Narrator Robertson Dean, he of the "sonorous, classically disciplined bass-baritone" voice, was selected. As one of my 2008
reads/listens, all I can say is it was one of the best audiobooks I heard last year. His superlative reading gave a voice to that of the character of Robert Neville that I hadn't imagined. And since it all comes from the original novel by author Richard Matheson, without abridgement or adaptation, I'd recommend it hands down to anyone who wishes to hear his legendary words and story. And this would include any of the aforementioned film versions (I'm sorry to say).

This is a masterpiece of modern fiction by one of the true pioneers of books, television and film. The man wrote novels of mystery, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and believe it or not, westerns. Name a writer's award, and he's probably won it (the Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, Golden Spur, and the Writer's Guild awards to name a few). And if I were to pick just one of his works to be emblematic of his skill and genius at writing, I don't think I could do better than naming this novel to represent that. And, it's a pity that the film treatments of it don't really come close to the words put down over half a century ago. And since I can't do better than those words, I'll let the final ones in the novel close this post out (to hear Robertson Dean say them, click here):
Robert Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain.
A coughing chuckle filled his throat. He turned and leaned against the wall while he swallowed the pills. Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs. Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.
I am legend.
Full Disclosure for the FTC: not one bit of compensation was had during the writing of this post (sadly enough). In fact, author Richard Matheson is one of the few people I'D PAY to have his autograph. And, no animals were harmed during the making of this movie. So there!

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Appreciative Review: The Best of Times

Bakersfield must be destroyed!
Usually around this time of year, I start watching some horror/monster classics as the month builds up toward Halloween (btw, over at RADIATOR HEAVEN, blogger J.D. is reviewing that genre of films for the month of October as I compose this piece). And when I get to next month, it'll be the few Thanksgiving-related films and then on to the Christmas variety. Who knew my viewing habits are so seasonal? [let the record show that my wife has just raised her hand] However, (as "... the first leaf of autumn falls forlornly on the ground below") it's also football season and that has its own priority. [it doesn't really matter, much, that Los Angeles no longer has a pro team - but I'm not bitter] And when you mix in my historical penchant for being one of the (oh so) few in the theater at movie gems that weren't successful during their first run (Hickey & Boggs, The Ninth Configuration, etc.), my motivation should be transparent.

The rest of the review can be found on my current blog, here.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

w00t: WeHo Book Fair

After a busy day of getting flu shots for the kids, attending a classroom school picnic, and a 3-D Toy Story double feature (which I highly recommend, btw) on (the Roman god) Saturn's day, I took some time for myself come Sunday. I left my poor spouse late in the morning to fend for herself, to deal with our children and their homework (seriously, I have no scruples), and I selfishly headed out to West Hollywood to attend an event, all by lonesome.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Just across the street from the Pacific Design Center, at the West Hollywood park, was the site of the 9th annual West Hollywood Book Fair. Previously, I was so clueless about this event and that it has been running as long as it has. This was my first visit to this book fair (and I only found out about it by stopping at author Sophie Littlefield's web site). Brilliant. Pretty soon now, I'll be able to dress myself and find my way to the beach one of these days. That's pretty pathetic (I've only lived in this city my entire life). Sheesh! Anyway, I did make it to this event and really had a great time - mainly for the book panels hosted at the festival, and the people I either met for the first time or the friends/authors I got to hang with for a short while.

From Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer
From the book fair's web site on its history:

The West Hollywood Book Fair was founded by the City of West Hollywood in May, 2002 as a means of continuing West Hollywood’s history of participating in reading and literacy programs. The inaugural West Hollywood Book Fair was held on Saturday, October 5, 2002. The Fair was a tremendous success as a community literary event.

The Book Fair has grown in size and prestige each year since. It is now known as one of Southern California’s most eclectic literary events, and is inclusive of nearly all genres and age levels. The 8th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair, held on September 29, 2008, drew over 30,000 guests, 400 participating authors and artists, 150 volunteers and over 180 exhibitors. The authors appeared in panels, live storytelling and theatrical and poetry performances and in writing workshops on 12 stages.

Luckily for them, they weren't depending upon the likes of me to get the word out before today. How did I ever miss this? Anyway... here are some of the pictures I happened to take while I wandered around the event:

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From left to right, top to bottom: that's comic book artist and writer Mike Mignola (right after he signed a Hellboy comic for my teen son), author Charlie Huston (third from the left) at the Ghosts & Goblins: Exploring the Supernatural in Mystery Fiction panel, author Sophie Littlefield (seated center) at the Take Back the Night: Feminism and Powerful Women in Fiction panel, thriller and comic author Gregg Hurwitz (rightmost) at the Wonderful Words & Worlds: New Fiction From Great Writers panel. Author Julienne La Fleur in her Lessons from Oz booth (before she autographed her book for my daughter), and author Charlie Huston (again) attempting to hide from a stalker with a camera. All very gracious and fun people.

Gregg Hurwitz, who I've met more than a few times this year at other events, was the same very

Promotional art of Moon Knight descending from...Image via Wikipedia

approachable and genuine cool dude he's always been. He autographed both copies of his Vengeance of the Moon Knight (#1) comic for my teen (and I) after his really lively and fun book panel. Charlie Huston, and it seems like all of those who write crime fiction in general have this trait, is very considerate to his fans and the people he meets for the first time (he also wrote for Marvel and the same Moon Knight character that Gregg now has taken up). I was late to his panel, but when I arrived it was very interesting hear his and the other panelists thoughts concerning Richard Matheson's seminal story, I Am Legend, and its impact on their and other's work.

But, the person I came to meet and hear at the fair was simply the showstopper. Sophie Littlefield was as great as bloggers Jen, Pop Culture Nerd, and Corey have written about her and her debut book (yes, Corey, she is somethin'). She's one of those magnetic people that have that rare mix of considerable wit and charm about them while also remaining very accessible. She also hung out with the people below with no qualms, and even showed up to Gregg Hurwitz's book panel just to meet the guy (who knew she's a fan). Plus, she writes crime fiction. What else do you need? Years from now, I can tell my kids I knew her before she got all rich and famous (and bounded off to Monaco for the tax break). It won't even bother me when they roll their eyes in disbelief. I'm really looking forward to finally reading her book, A Bad Day for Sorry (once I pry it away from my wife, who now has it). As well, PCN graciously provided the following shots from yesterday, too:

(photo © pop culture nerd of some old guy hitting on Sophie)

Say... isn't that golfer Corey Pavin talking to Sophie? See, you can meet all sorts of people here in the City of the Angels. Not that you should go by what I know (it seems). But I have to add what really made it an even more special book fair was joining up with the Pop Culture Nerd herself (below and center) and her dear friend (the resident U2 expert, and the one who was in (vicariously) Robert Crais' The Last Detective) Debbie (left). Not only are they both great, interesting, and friendly folk, but they make quite a beautiful and vivacious set (especially when you add Sophie {on the right} to this group), don't you think?:

(photo © pop culture nerd {but cropped by le0pard13})

I've always liked that word... 'vivacious'... so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence. [yes, I'm still channeling Kill Bill] And I better stop there because I'm a married man and running around with other beautiful women can cause conflicts. So, after returning home from the event and spreading around the items I picked up at the book fair with the family, life in my household returned to normal. Later, when the kids were in bed, I attempted to resume my accustomed domestic partnership (and tranquility) with my bride of 20 years and tried to thank her (and snuggle) for letting me attend said fair (all while she watched The Next Iron Chef). To which she-who-must-be-obeyed responded:
You know, you have evil children who don't finish their homework. And one of them lies about washing his hands.
Uh, oh...

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