January 5th, 2004

smokin'

Welcome to 2004

Hope everyone had a decent New year's celebration.

I got tanked on Russian beer, champagne and misdget hot dogs at a party and apparently carried on a bit (though harmlessly and more or less entertainingly) before heading home at 6:30 in the morning. A fun night, first time in a long time where I could blow off some steam. Fletcher V ripped my best sweater after a burst of alcohol gave him the idea that adults in their thirties should occasionally indulge in roughhousing (I tore a wide hole in his sock the following Friday at Kung the Lawgiver's, revenge being a hobby of mine).

My hangover was so exquisitely awful and debilitating -- an unwelcome throwback to the heady headachiness of the '80's -- that it has had a domino effect on my life and sleep schedule. I've been drifting into slumberland at the ridiculous hours of 10 am and 2 pm these last several days. Suffice it to say it hasn't allowed me to get much done -- fortunately, between the holidays and family functions I've not had much time to work even if I was capable of it. I just awoke a while ago at 4 in the afternoon. Ugh. I just can't seem to sleep aftere the booze bout, not because of anxiety or nerves or night terrors, the suual suspects -- but because of an inability to simply fall asleep. Getting a lot of reading done, which is at least something. David Thompson's New Biographical Dictionary of Film is the main aider and abetter of my recent insomnia, I'm juggling it with Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man and (don't tell anyone) some Aristotle. Finished Joe Haldeman's The Forever War in a night of sleeplesness while Sarah was out of town, and a a superficial but fun autobio from kid's tv icon Soupy Sales. No comics, still comics-shy these days.

Anyway, the 3rd edition of the Thompson book is a marvel, anyone seriously interested in film should give it a flip-through, you'll quickly become fly-papered to its pages and find yourself not sleeping nights. Rather than list films by title or studio and have at thee, Thompson offers a running series of biographical/critical essays of the people responsible, a parade of directors, producers, actors, writers, moguls, etc. The writing is razor sharp and pulls no punches, your favorite director/actress/film might be skewered, but he isn't cruel and doesn't seem to exact pleasure from knocking sacred cows. He offers concrete reasons for why he is unconvinced by much of the work of, say, Billy Wilder -- who is a personal favorite of mine. But I had to agree with a lot of his criticisms of Wilder's characterizations and structural problems and his tendency to chicken out at the ends of films like the Apartment (I like the ending, emotionally, but it doesn't ring true). What I like about this sort of writing is that I don't feel "stupid" or defensive for enjoying Wilder, he doesn't hesitate to balance his opinions and present the strengths (as he sees them) of people he isn't wild about, or even dislikes, like Wilder, Ford, Capra (he loathes much of Capra's work -- and worldview -- while acknowledging the talent brought to bear). Especially in regards to actors,. He admits and appreciates myth but doesn't buy into it, which is refreshing. He also defends lesser hyped personalities (Edgar Ulmer and Raoul Walsh, for example), gives proper respect to more or less forgotten ex-stars of merit (Ann Sheridan, Gloria Grahame), he has humor and isn't a stick in the mud, so he can appreciate the charms of lesser talents such as Paulette Goddard, and he celebrates character actors such as Peter Lorre, the peerless Jack Carson and the inimitable Edward Arnold.

Anyone who sums up Ben Affleck as "criminally lucky" has my support.

I think Thompson's approach -- an alphabetical listing of personalities covering career, projects and pertinent background/personal information -- would be a fascinating way to compile a look at the comic book industry. DHC put out a half assed attempt at something along those lines, but it was so "inside" and subjective and ill-conceived nobody seemed to have had much use for it or fun with it. I'd go full out in emulating the Thompson template, covering several hundred of the best, worst, most overpraised, most underappreciated, most important and most damaging in the four color field (along with real names, DOB, birthplace). Personally, I'd love love love to read clear-headed, level-eyed essays on the careers, strengths and weaknesses of such folks (and sacred cows) as Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Vaugh Bode, the Underground artists, Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, John Buscema, the EC creators, Tezuka, Herge, Moebius, Speigelman, Kirby, Ditko, Lee, Wrightson, Moore, Miller, Steranko, Gardner Fox, etc, etc ad nauseum -- if only we had a David Thompson or Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris or name your poison, I'm not saying I agree wholeheartedly with these folks or even like them, only that they don't write like fanboys, even when they do write like fans. Does that make sense? Anyway, I'd love a good, massive argument-inducing project of some merit to come across the shelves. Just as long as it (rightly?) leaves me out of it.

What else? Hmmm. I did get some work done, I finished up seven little action figure designs for an upcoming gallery show that a toy company is putting together. Sarah helped with the clean-ups on the copmputer and will be doing the color designs, and then some folks will be custom buiulding the figures based on the blank figures they use for one of their toy lines. As all my attempts to design a vinyl figure based on M&C have failed, I'm excited about seeing something I designed being transferred to a 3-D form. More on that later as I know about it. Otherwise, I've got a real grind ahead of me to finish up the Roger story while juggling another script for the DC mini-series. I've gained some time as the art is coming slow, but it's going to be tight. And thenj there's the pilot, if we haven't been yanked yet, and some other stuff I really need to get on. I'm hoping to clear the decks before Spring so I can finish Eltingville up. I'm going a little nuts not having been able to work on my solo projects. Not having a book out in '03 made me very unhappy. So we'll see how this goes for '04.

Sarah and I watched Parasite Eve last night, which wasn't very good. And then we watched Mr and Mrs Smith, the lone straight Hitchcock comedy, with Robt Montgomery and Carole Lombard. Lotsa fun, then stalls out in the last third with some aimless, overlong scenes, bad character motivation, and all around weak payoffs and situations. But, momma, Carole Lombard. Damn you, Hitler...

Oh, before I forget -- fans of the late William Steig take note -- Barnes and Noble has put the World of William Steig art book on sale, the coffee table book was reduced from $60 to about $17. I bought it last week during a half off sale, nabbing it for a measly $8. Go now, if interested.

Also, I only found out recently that Hong Kong superstar Anita Mui died at the age of 40 of cervical cancer. Ten bells for one of the Heroic Trio, she was in a lot of the HK films we started seeing as a group and I liked her a lot.

Happy to hear Ray Davies survived being shot in New Orleans. My first thought was that his brother Dave did it. Luckily he's okay, because the way the world works, Ray Davies gets shot to death while Kid Rock keeps recording sonic atrocities that even newborn voles find insulting to their intelligence.

Last, but not least, we have the matter of the ongoing "blame" contest. I am amazed and appalled at the number of entries, I can only assume many of you are bored at work. Is this what it takes to get a response here? A cheap ploy with a carrot dangled? Well, I don't blame you, really. Fear not, a "winner" will be announced shortly. Folks can still enter until then. Prize to be determined. No purchase necessary (and from my recent royalty statements I can see you folks know that), void where prohibited.

Type to you soon, kids.
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