Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Blog for great Justice.

I was a huge fan of the Justice League of America in the old days.

Okay, not that old---that issue of The Brave and the Bold, which was the first comic to feature the Justice League, goes back to 1960; your man Fred was not born yet. Although when I got to collecting later in life I did buy a lot of the 1960s JLAs. Interesting to note that DC's two big powerhouses, Batman and Superman, were seldom seen on the covers in the early years of the book, even though they were members of the club. The editors of the Batman and Superman titles didn't want to lose sales to JLA, so they asked that their guys be kept off or kept small on the JLA cover.

Anyway, when I got the iBooks app I got a free download, and being a retired dork who sold his comics years ago, I almost resisted the temptation to see the new iteration of the JL (no more A---they'll justice you wherever you go). But I gave in.

A lot of comics readers like to make fun of the old Silver Age DC books, and it's true that they were written for children, and also that under the Comics Code Authority rules there was a lot of dopiness in the comics. And, obviously, comic art style was less concerned with anatomical correctness in those days, and the authors less concerned with character development. But most of the time the comics were non-goofy. The Justice League of America faced serious threats. Starro, pictured above, was a big starfish, yes, but he was a perfect 1950's-era movie monster of the type Jack Kirby was cranking out for Marvel at the time, threatening on his own as a big bastard but also capable of spawning gazillions of starfish that would latch on to humans and control their minds.

The new Justice League book I downloaded, part of DC's 2011 "New 52" reboot, was in some regards better than I thought it would be. The characters are interesting. Wonder Woman, newly arrived from Paradise Island, is an alien to the human world, charming and lethal as a Greek mythological hero would be. Green Lantern's as cocky as a test pilot; the Flash (Barry Allen not dead anymore!) is a law-and-order guy at heart. Batman, of course, kicks butt, even though the others can't believe he does it without superpowers. And Superman is still the baddest boy in town.

But the irony is that the 1960 book, which was aimed at children, had some grown-ups in it; the new book does not. Comics today are supposedly aimed at adults, but the characters in them all seem to act more like surly fifteen-year-olds. In this first installment, the heroes spend a lot of time posing and physically assaulting one another. The military is after these new vigilantes, and has decided to shoot first and not bother with questions ever. The only people destroying more property than the military are the heroes. The villains are barely evident in this issue. Batman is the closest thing to a mature individual here---maybe he's seventeen.

My experience with policemen and our military is that those who actually work in dangerous situations do not spend their time in pissing contests, flexing their muscles, treating civilians like dirt. That's what movie cops and movie soldiers do. The real ones behave more like the original JLA, making personal issues invisible to deal with threats.

I developed some of these themes in my book Cobalt Agonistes, but I wrote with great affection. I spent an awful lot of my formative years and beyond reading comic books, and not because I was doing sociological research. It was because they were fun, they were escapism, and probably because I wanted to smash something. If I had discovered modern comics as a teen, I would have loved them, even with all the sex and soap opera stuff that goes on. Maybe especially the sex.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fun + Futility = Funtility.

And so, another fruitless season scrapes to an end. 

Even at a Mets Shrine I have to see Yankees fans. I am not seen in this picture, FYI. I took it. Stop conjecturing.
Tell you the truth, I hardly watched any games this year. After coming up just short in 2006, the Mets have been coming up shorter and shorter ever since. Historically bad collapses under Willie Randolph, fortunes spent for guys who were also getting Social Security checks, and so many seasons just sagging from one useless series to another. Phenom pitcher pops up (Hooray!) and suddenly needs Tommy John surgery (Waaaah!). Everyone seems to think he'll be back next year better than ever, as if he just had a wisdom tooth out. To me, operations where they flip tendons around just seem to be a little wee bit treacherous. The only guy I know of who ever came back physically improved from an injury was Col. Steve Austin.

Still, I have begun to wonder if we're putting too much weight on championships nowadays. In professional baseball, for decades the season just ended when it ended. Baseball games were an outing for a day; there was no sense of a campaign, let alone a war. The 1903 World Series was considered an eight-game voluntary exhibition, rather like spring training games now but with less purpose. The Giants wouldn't even bother playing in 1904, so there was no World Series. (That would not happen again until a massive outbreak of major league greed ruined the 1994 season. Two World Wars and a Great Depression could not stop baseball, but greed did. There's a lesson there, I suppose.) Prior to the modern era, postseason was even less meaningful, although they were still fighting over money. And in the 1889 season, interestingly, the World Series was agreed to continue until one team one six games---it lasted nine, but it could have gone 13. Things were done year by year.

I guess I'm saying that we take this stuff too seriously nowadays. It's impossible for most of us to go enjoy a game in September when the team has already been eliminated from the playoffs and looks like it is going nowhere next season either. Here I'm feeling sorry for myself, and the Pirates (who made it in again this year) had twenty consecutive seasons of losing baseball. The Royals are back in the playoffs this year for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985! If all their fans acted like many of us fans, these would be dead franchises by now.

Baseball gets a lot of abuse for being a pastoral, old-fashioned game. I'm not going to argue its superiority to other sports here. I'm a terrible, disloyal fan, whose depth of wisdom has not prevented me from becoming a fair-weather friend. But there's a reason it's played all over the world, and has endured for so many decades in America. I am not that reason.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I club New York.

Saw an ad for various attractions for New York State in the fall.

Font of all knowledge Wikipedia tells us that this blasted slogan and logo have been used since 1977. Thirty-seven years is damn long enough, don't you think? If people don't frigging heart New York by now, they aren't likely to start hearting it with another round of this stupid thing.

And it is a stupid thing. The tourism board tells you "I Love New York." Well, of course you do! It's your job! What you want to say is "You'll Love New York," but it doesn't fit the square.

And this would be presumptuous.

No, it's clear that New York has to come up with something fresh to keep the interest of potential tourists who have lost their minds and want to be separated from their money here. Naturally, public-minded Fred aims to rush to the rescue with my ideas for new slogans.

And yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized how hard it is to come up with a tourist slogan for anything other than maybe a tropical paradise, and even they may cause you to circumvent the truth ("St. Urania: We Haven't Had a Bloody Revolution in Months!" "St. Urania: Now With 23% Fewer Febrile Diseases!"). U.S. states (and commonwealths, all right, Mr. Picky Pick) have other issues, such as the fact that most of them have very similar neighbors. A campaign that works for Idaho might work just as well for Wyoming. New York may consider itself an exception, but I have my doubts. (Jersey's got shores, Vermont's got leaves, Pennsylvania's got hills.) Further, U.S. states (and commonetc.) often have little to offer than cannot be found someplace closer.

"You there, in Texas! Get in your car and drive fifteen hours to Alabama for vacation!"


"The wonderful Gulf coast!"

"Like the one we have here? Or the closer one in Mississippi? Or Louisiana, for Pete's sake?"

"Fine, stay there."

What are we supposed to say, our autumn leaves are better than Vermont's or New Hampshire's? So you start trying to think of things your state offers that are unique. "New York: Kind of Triangular." Okay, no good. But New York does have some great features you don't find everywhere in the U.S., like "Niagara: Falls, Folks, and Fun!" Or "The Hamptons: We Don't Want Your Kind."

But you want attractions for the whole state, not just pieces (like "Can't Have Utica without U!"). It's tempting to make your campaign about your biggest city, like New York City or Chicago or New Orleans, but this has to be a state campaign. Let the cities have their own dad-blasted campaigns, is the cry from the state tourism board.

New York's got everything other states have, although often less of it. You want mountains? We got little ones---small, but potent. Sports? Yes, even one NFL team. Horse racing? Just a charming spot called Saratoga and a third of the Triple Crown. Museums? We got culture out the bazooty. National monuments? There's a big green lady I want you to meet. Historic military academy? You bet. Beaches? Down there on the pointy end. Lakes? Sure, lakes. "Even Our Lakes Give You the Finger!" As in most states there's a hodgepodge of things that will never all appeal to everyone. California has more different crap than any other state in the nation and they gave up and went with "Dream Big" as their slogan. It tells you only marginally more than I Heart New York.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the reason states even have a tourism board is just to get money. You are irrelevant, but your money is always needed. Especially in this state, where our government can't sneeze without a $10,000 gilded tissue. So I finally settled on "New York: Send the Money and No One Gets Hurt."

Not catchy, but it gets the point across.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I pad, U pad, we all pad for iPad.

Big breakthrough

This is the first blog entry I,ve written on the iPad I got as a gift. I am just typing it out straight in Pagesm not making corrections beyond allowing the autocorrect to do its magic. Why? Because I kept hearing about the lameitude if the iPad keyboard, but if there's one rhubarb I know about it is the friendliness if Apple products. Say what you will, Knut they are as easy to use as anything on earth. If you can't use apple products, I don
T even want to watch you try to use a fork .

Now, as ahoy can tell, there are a lot of errors getting through, but nothing compared to what this would llook like without the apple software. I,m not that bad a typist  really. I was self taught back when a mistake meant getting out the site out. Yep, you made a slip in that cuneiform, myth needed Liquid Rock to make kit right. Later we used liquid Wax on the diptychs. Shut up.

Anyway, wish me luck---I expect I will continue to do most of my entries on my laptop, but the iPad makes a useful backup, then you can blog in the subway, on the bus, driving the car (before the cops find you) , in the can, whenever, whatever doing. I promise solemnly that if I ever do blog on the toilet, I will withhold the information from you. Thank you, and you may now Ohio about your business.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Muse on this.

The Muses were the nine goddesses of song, dance, and music in Greek mythology. They were considered the source of inspiration for writers, musicians, poets, and all that crowd. In fact, the word inspiration, like respiration, comes from breathing in, as if the divine spark of creativity were given to the poet with the breath of life, and made of the same substance. Anyone who has felt truly inspired knows that feeling of having something outside himself, greater than himself, using him to bring some brilliance to earth---like he is a mere instrument and some Other holds the bow. None of this explains Robin Thicke, but it doesn't have to.

Everyone likes the Muses, and they never got into weird trouble like some other gods I could name. The nine gals all have great and classic Greek names, but oddly, despite their popularity, their names have not spread much into wider popular use.

Calliope was the goddess of epic poetry, and yet her name was given to a kooky steam-powered musical instrument of the type we associate with carnival music and organ grinders. It's an understandable appropriation, as Calliope may be probably the prettiest name of the bunch; you wouldn't call your new instrument "the Melpomene" and expect people to show up. Since Calliope got something named after her, though, I suppose the others ought to as well. You don't want them getting jealous.

Erato was the goddess of erotic poetry, so I guess in a way she does have something named after her. Remember that in the old days there was no prose; everything was poetry. So erotic prose would be in her bailiwick today. All those paperbacks for women featuring shirtless guys on the cover---that's Erato. (Sorry, guys; there was no Muse named Porno.) If there were a G-rated (rather than G-string rated) object we would name the Erato, I'd suggest some kind of Liquid Paper; maybe a variety used on quality stationery to remove errors while composing steamy letters to loved ones. Neatness still counts, you know.

Euterpe was in charge of lyrical poetry and music, so that would be more the kind of la-di-da stuff we think of as poetry now. How unfair is that name, though? Try rhyming something with "You-TURRR-Pee." "Hail to thee, beneficent Euterpe / With your flute and bright gold derby." Nah. I think the Euterpe would wind up being some kind of surgical instrument rather than a musical one. Or maybe an old-fashioned digestive illness.

Terpsichore (Turp-SICK-or-EE) does sound like a kind of old-fashioned instrument, a bit similar to the harpsichord (Harp-SICK-cord); and she was the goddess of choral dance and song. She'd own a club in Vegas now. I'd say the Terpsichore would be some gizmo used by sound engineers, but I'm not sure what. Either a kind of rhythmic version of Auto-Tune to get everyone on beat or an electric prod to wake the talent up before the opening act finishes.

Thalia is about the only Muse name you hear given to girls, and a pretty and mellifluous name it is. Thalia is the Muse of comedy, and is usually seen with a comic mask or a shepherd's staff. Not sure I get the shepherd angle. Maybe the same reason we liked Li'l Abner and The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dukes of Hazzard: Bumpkins is funny! Regardless, the Thalia should be a kind of nail polish.

Sorry, Urania; it's totally unfair, you being the goddess of astronomy, but your name is going to a device that reminds little girls to wipe front-to-back. (Yes, your great-grandfather Uranus got a planet named for him, but it didn't help him either.)

Polyhymnia looks like a total Joykillnia is this picture. As the Muse of the Sublime Hymn, or religious music, I'm not surprised. For every Ode to Joy there are five thousand Michaels Rowing the Boat Ashore. That would make anyone look glum. Still, her name fits the hymnal, as the words have not drifted too far away from the names; the Polyhymnia would be a special hymnal for choir directors, with all the professional notes for his use ("Allegro" "Fortissimo" "Make sure they don't all hiss like snakes on the 'bless' line").

Well, I've already made fun of Melpomene's name, and as the Muse of tragedy I'm sure she knows how to get even. That's a mask she's holding, by the way, not the head of another writer that crossed her. But I'll be nice. Ish. The Melpomene sounds like one of those exotic fruits that pop up at the grocery store that you know were flown in from someplace where they have a lot of shooting and disease, but it is SO exotic looking and impressive sounding---only, maybe it's one of those things that you have to cook or peel, or else you'll be tooting like a Calliope for days. Better check online.
And finally we have Clio, the Muse of history, whose name was inappropriately stolen for use as the award for advertising. So here's the one Muse devoted to telling the story of how things actually were, whose name is being used to reward those who tell anything else. There's nothing I can do or say meaner than that, so I think I'll just leave the poor thing to her misery.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


We hear occasionally that the economy is doing swell now, free from all the doldrums that have plagued us during the slowest economic recovery ever. But I have my doubts. Most of the evidence I can offer is anecdotal, and as we know, the plural of anecdote is not data.

One anecdote comes from Route 17 in New Jersey. As all Tri-State Areans (Areans? Is that a word?) know, Route 17 takes you through Paramus, one of the nation's great retail corridors. Mile after mile of chain stores, restaurants, mom & pop shops, fast-food joints, International House of Pancakes, specialty shops, banks, appliance stores, furniture stores, bookstores, pet stores, grocery stores, sporting good shops, etc, etc. etc. When the Internet boom started to kill off brick and mortar stores, Paramus endured. But the last seven years have seen many longstanding shops close, of various kinds (specialty sporting goods seem hard hit, from my observation). 

But don't worry! Help is on the way!

In the former location of an Eastern Mountain Sports is a Halloween store, replete with all your Halloween needs. Spirit is the largest chain of these I've seen, but this is another. They possess a dead retail location for six weeks or so leading up until October 31, then they disappear, leaving the space empty for another ten and a half months (unless lightning strikes and a new full-time tenant moves in). On a bus going north through Paramus on September 18 I counted three such temporary Halloween shops along Route 17.

On the east side of the road. There were more on the west side.

And a Party City.

I guess it's better than leaving the stores empty to rot, but this seems like an awful lot of Halloween. I have to wonder if we've reached peak Halloween. The National Retail Federation expects a big year, but spending was down in 2013 from 2012. Because of the economy. Which is doing better. Despite all the empty stores along Route 17 in Paramus.

So who the hell knows.

Interestingly, these same empty stores don't open as temporary Christmas retail locations. It's probably because every store becomes a Christmas retail location, even hardware stores---less so for Halloween, so there's a bigger opportunity.

But then again, it might be because Christmas is good...and Halloween is eeeeeeeviiiil!!!

Ooooh! Scary!