Saturday, February 28, 2009


With The Watchmen movie debut just around the corner - it's time to look at that fabulously strange branch of DC Comics known as Vertigo.

Vertigo is DC's line of comics intended for mature readers. Interestingly, although the plots and situations are occasionally sexual in nature, more often they are just deeply psychological, taboo, and/or disturbing.

The line's crown jewel was probably Sandman - created by Neil Gaiman (who also wrote the current film Coraline). I used to read a lot of Sandman, Doom Patrol, and a few other Vertigo titles. Unlike say, Fantastic Four, these are often challenging reads - because they play with your expectations of what comics should be about. (Don't expect any clearly defined heroes and villains).

Today, I discovered that Vertigo has the first issues of several of their most popular titles available online for free (in PDF format). Sandman, Books of Magic, Doom Patrol, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Army@Love (above), and many more.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wendy Richard, RIP

Sad news that Wendy Richard passed away earlier today in London.

She is probably best known in America as Shirley Brahms on Are You Being Served? (a Golem favorite), but she was equally famous as Pauline Fowler from EastEnders. (She also did a scene with Paul McCartney that was cut from Help!)

I couldn't find a good enough clip of Wendy on YouTube, so I made one up myself. They'll probably take it down due to copyright infringement, even though entire episodes are freely viewable on the site).

The clip is from 1973. Interestingly, the older actors in this scene - Mollie Sugden and Frank Thornton - are both still very much with us at ages 86 and 88 respectively.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rourke vs. Jericho after all?

Now comes word that not only will Mickey Rourke be at Wrestlemania 25, but he will be involved in the planned finish of Chris Jericho's match - whatever that match turns out to be.

It seems like only last week it was doubtful Rourke would show up at all.
I wonder what didn't happen to change his mind?

Superman Dailies

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman back in the 1930's, they envisioned the character as the star of a proposed newspaper comic strip.

After being turned down by a few publishers, they eventually struck a deal with DC - who pasted the strips into comic book form. The result was the classic Action Comics #1, and the rest is history. is re-printing Siegel and Shuster's original daily Superman comic strips from the 1930's. They're a bit crude by today's standards - but they're a lot of fun. Check 'em out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cuckoo on a Choo-Choo

Let's watch a Three Stooges movie. Not just any Three Stooges movie, this is "Cuckoo on a Choo-Choo" - a movie widely considered to be the team's absolute worst.

Why? Well, Shemp plays a raging alcoholic who is haunted by visions of a giant canary. Oh, and Larry appears to be doing some kind of cheap Marlon Brando impression throughout.

This one was so bad, it was often left out of TV syndication packages. I saw it once, as a kid, and it gave me nightmares.

Let's watch...

Andy Richter

When Conan O' Brien takes over the Tonight Show in June, his new announcer will be... Andy Richter.

Richter was Conan's sidekick for the first seven years of Late Night. He made a generally positive addition to the show, since he gave Conan someone to play against (it helped reign Conan's manic behavior).

I looked for a funny clip of Andy Richter - who is generally a funny guy - but couldn't find one that was funny enough.

Monday, February 23, 2009

James Bond

Recently, I've been reading Ian Fleming's original James Bond novels in publication order. Currently, I'm up to Goldfinger (the seventh novel, and third film).

The Bond character in the books is slightly different from his film counterpart - he's less assured, and more prone to fall in love. He also leans a little heavier on the use of Benzadrine, especially in the earliest novels.

The stories are different from the films as well; the book Moonraker has little to do with the film of the same name. The same goes for Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die. (Although the other books come pretty close).

Last year, Penguin released the Fleming hardbacks with great new cover art (see Casino Royale above). You can see the entire set here.

George Harrison: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Here's a great clip from a 1991 Jools Holland documentary featuring George Harrison and friends performing "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea". This is the exact same track that eventually turned up on George's posthumous album Brainwashed.

Great stuff.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Afterschool Special

The Little White Girl Who Looked Like a Little Black Boy

"It's not like you're really black..."

Oscar® Predictions...

Best Picture : Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Sean Penn (Milk) - followed immediately by Mickey Rourke crashing his BMW into the Le Brea Tar Pits.
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Actress: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Doubt)
Best Director: Once again, goes to Who Gives a Shit.

Oscar® for Best Actress: Sally Field

Why not - babble like an idiot and destroy your credibility?

Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave

Why not piss off the Jews with an anti-Zionist acceptance speech?

Oscar® for Best Actor: Tom Hanks

Why not "out" your high school drama teacher?

Oscar® : David Niven

Have a naked hippie perform a suspiciously orchestrated run on stage behind an old pompous windbag.

Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor: Jack Palance

Give an award to an old-school maniac.

Oscar® for Best Actor: Marlon Brando

Dear Hollywood:

There are lots of things you can do to make this year's Academy Awards show memorable.

For starters, you can always send up an Indian.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pride & Predator

Looks like they're making movies now that would barely qualify as Mad TV sketches.

(The photoshop is mine, but the movie is - incredibly - actually in pre-production).

The Tonight Show Experience

NBC celebrates the various eras of its longest running late-night franchise with The Tonight Show Experience.

To me, there have only been two great late-night talks shows (in my lifetime anyway) - Carson's Tonight, and David Letterman's old NBC show. I wish Conan the best, and hope he really shakes things up at 11:30.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Conan O'Brien

I've always been a fan of Conan O'Brien's Late Night despite the fact that his monologues are only mildly funny, and his interviewing skills are non-existent.

Conan's real strength will always be his comic sensibility. The "desk bits" and sketches on the show are typically hilarious (many of his earliest comedy bits borrowed cast members from Upright Citizens Brigade).

In fairness, the music has always been a strength, too. Conan's band (The Max Weinberg 7) is top-notch, and the guest bands are almost almost cutting-edge and worth a look. (I'm wondering if the musical sensibility will survive the trip to Los Angeles - or will Conan be forced to start booking Miley Cyrus and the like?)

Anyway, tonight is Conan's last Late Night before he starts hosting The Tonight Show later this year. It should be interesting to see if Conan gets emotional, like he did when sidekick Andy Richter left the show in 2000.

Here are some of my favorite comedy bits from Conan's show over the years:

Triumph and the Star Wars Fans
Best of Satellite TV
Preserving the Masturbating Bear

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr. Wonderful meets Gary Spivey

Back in the early 1990's, Gary Spivey was somewhat famous for being the star of several TV commercials for something called the "Psychic Companion's Network". Actually, he was more famous for his helmet of grayish white hair, which looked like a cross between a toilet brush and a sheep's behind.

Someone at WCW (the now defunct World Championship Wrestling) thought it might be hilarious for Spivey to meet up with one of their wrestlers - and the fact that it's thug Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff is just icing on the cake.

The only sad thing here is that Orndorff didn't give Spivey his trademark piledriver for hanging around outside the locker room.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The "What's G" commercial

There's been this TV commercial that's been running for a while now for some kind of variation on Gatorade. This clip shows a slightly different version than the one I'm used to seeing, but you'll get the idea.

There's something terribly creepy about it - from the guys in white death masks, to the Parkinsons-stricken Muhammad Ali. It seems to be targeting athletes/black radicals from the sixties or something. The lighting is so stark, it's actually less spooky to watch in LOW definition.

Now along comes a sequel. Just when you think it's going to be slightly less disturbing than the original, they pan to -- JACKIE ROBINSON? Didn't he die, like - fifty years ago?

Fake Shemp

When Shemp Howard (above) died unexpectedly in 1955, Columbia forced the remaining stooges (Moe Howard and Larry Fine) to complete their then-current contract for four more films.

They considered becoming "The Two Stooges", but then figured it would be cheaper to use stock footage from earlier films, and a "Shemp" body double (Joe Palma) for new scenes. (They'd already been doing remakes using stock footage for years).

The results can be viewed here. (I watched these for years as a kid, and never suspected a thing!)

The Many Faces of Eustace Tilley

The iconic image above is from the cover to the very first issue of The New Yorker in 1925. The fictional character depicted has been dubbed "Eustace Tilley", and has appeared many times since - as the magazine's "logo", and also - in "remixed" form on subsequent covers.

Here is a collection of those "remixed" covers. It does not yet contain the current cover, which features Apple's Steve Jobs as the character.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Estelle Bennett (The Ronettes)

Let's belatedly mark the passing of Estelle Bennett - one of the original Ronettes - who passed away last week. (That's Estelle in the middle of the picture, between cousin Nedra Talley, and sister Veronica aka Ronnie Spector).

They had the wall of sound and a great look. You can't find much from them on YouTube or iTunes, but their Greatest Hits and Christmas albums are essential.

Note: Above link is from a 1965 appearance on American Bandstand.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day

Since today is a President's Day holiday for me, I wanted to celebrate by linking to a dignified tribute to one of this country's greatest - Abraham Lincoln.

Unfortunately, this was the best I could find.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nancy Pelosi and Lambchop

Have a nice weekend.

Simpsons in HD (...and with NEW title sequence!)

The Simpsons will air its first ever episode in HD on Sunday. The bigger news is the show will also update its opening title sequence for the first time since its debut in 1989.

The story and new title video can be seen here.

Political Yearbook Photos

Here we have an amazing collection of Political Yearbook Photos, which finally answers the question that everyone has been asking for years - "Was Nancy Pelosi hot when she was younger?" (The answer is yes, if you're really, really into Shari Lewis).

That A/V Club member above is a very young Michelle Obama.

Chris Martin on Extras

Although quite a few stars played themselves as jerks on Ricky Gervais' Extras - I always thought Chris Martin (of Coldplay) did it best.

Here is his appearance, followed by a funny duet he did with Gervais that originally only aired on the American HBO version.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Norm MacDonald on Conan

Let's watch Norm MacDonald chat with Conan about how Jay Leno "outfoxed" him.

I'm linking to the entire show here, but hopefully the clip starts when Norm comes out. Although his "Great Depression" jokes flop (go figure) - he's quite funny later with guest Gordon Ramsay, so stay tuned if you haven't seen it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fantastic Contraption

I spent a few hours today playing this great online game - Fantastic Contraption - a kind of physics puzzle that forces you to be innovative to solve each level.

Pre-emptive RIP: Satellite Radio

It's not dead yet, but things are looking pretty grim for Sirius-XM satellite radio.

On rumors that the company would soon be filing for bankruptcy, the stock plummeted 51% today to around 5 cents a share.

Satellite radio seemed like little more than a nice-to-have during its formative years, but suddenly appeared essential in late 2005 when news broke that Howard Stern was taking his show to the uncensored "promised-land" of Sirius.

I was one of the multitude who followed him there, even opting for a "lifetime subscription" (please stop laughing). Interestingly, the increase in freedom of speech for Stern correlated almost exactly with an inverse reaction in comic inspiration - the Sirius shows (mostly) stunk, relying heavily on D-list comedians and hangers-on to provide the laughs.

The rest of Sirius wasn't bad, however - I loved Underground Garage, Siriusly Sinatra, and a handful of others genre-focused music channels. (The 2008 merger with XM brought over Willie Nelson's channel, which turned out to be a surprise favorite).

I stopped listening in early 2008 when the satellite reception in my car - which was always spotty under trees, crossways, bridges and such - became unworkable. By then, I was listening mainly on the Internet anyway, which seemed to defeat the entire purpose of "satellite" radio.

So what does today's news mean for the future of Sirius-XM? Probably nothing for the time being - but I won't be too surprised if the current lineup of "star" channels (including Stern, Martha Stewart, Oprah, and the like) fails to survive any sort of debt-restructuring intact.

In fact, I'll be interested to see if Stern can possibly survive to the end of his contract in 2010.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beatles - Philippines (1966)

Let's relive the Beatles' disastrous trip to the Philippines in 1966.

How bad was it? Well, George Harrison was quoted immediately following the visit as saying "If I had an atomic bomb I'd go over there and drop it on them."

It takes quite a lot to get Mr. Bhagavad-Gita to wish genocide upon you.

Blossom Dearie

Blossom Dearie was an accomplished jazz vocalist long before she became a favorite of children across the country every Saturday morning on Schoolhouse Rock.

Interestingly, although her voice was widely associated with Schoolhouse Rock, she only recorded two songs for the show - "Unpack Your Adjectives" (which we previously sung the praises of here) and "Figure Eight" - which you can enjoy here. These songs were so catchy (and were played so often) that they threaten to stick in my head forever.

She passed away on Saturday - at age 82.

Donald Duck's Family Tree

Here's the Donald Duck Family Tree.

There are a lot of strange things in this diagram - Huey, Dewey, and Louie's father appears to be a one-night-stand, for example.

If you're confused by who's who in this diagram - and what era they're supposedly from, I find that this helps.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Soccer (football) is hideously huge in the U.K.

When you walk down the street in London, all the kids (and too many adults) wear EPL jerseys (usually Manchester United - which is odd because Chelsea is the popular local club in London). Go anywhere on a Monday, and the cab driver, newsagent - whoever - will invariably ask you if you saw the matches over the weekend. It is at this point that I would shrug, and pretend to be Estonian.

It's even bigger in Glasgow, where the two local teams - Celtic and Rangers - divide fans along religious lines. The Catholics cheer for Celtic, and the Protestants cheer for Rangers. When someone asks you "Which team do you support?" in Glasgow, you better have a good answer.

I've given soccer a chance. For a few seasons, I watched the games on Fox Soccer Channel - an American network that shows the U.S. league (a team for which is coming to beautiful downtown Chester, Pa), the English Premier League, and La Liga - a world-class Spanish league. Without exception, the thrill associated with these, for me, was akin to watching paint thicken. It's just like hockey - only worse.

However, English Football isn't all bad - just look at this clip.

The Grass Roots

Here are The Grass Roots from an 1960's episode of The Hollywood Palace.

And yes, the lead guitarist (pictured) is Creed Bratton - currently playing himself on The Office.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Obama's Foul-Mouthed Audiobook

From, the potty-mouthed bits from President Obama's Dreams From My Father - read by the man himself. It's enough to make Christian Bale blush.

Presidential Discretion Advised.

This Song (George Harrison)

Here's George Harrison performing "This Song" (a tune about his "My Sweet Lord" plagiarism trials) on German television.

He's lip-synching, which becomes obvious when the spoken bits (recorded by Eric Idle) appear out of nowhere at the 2:15 mark.

Interestingly, when George appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1976 - he brought along the videos of "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace" even though he was available to perform the songs live. (He did two songs with Paul Simon instead).

Tommy Cooper

Here's British comedy legend Tommy Cooper - performing magic badly on one of his '70s TV specials.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If you've ever wished you could turn your favorite picture into an "Obama" icon, today is your lucky day.

Just please don't use any copyright-protected material. You know, like Obama did.

The Blog Readability Test

According to The Blog Readability Test, this site is "genius" level.

I think it was "The Day Batman Went Bats" that put me over.

The Japanese Louis Armstrong

Today we examine the Japanese Louis Armstrong - actually, a contestant on what appears to be a Japanese version of Stars in Their Eyes.

The fact that he's wearing blackface, and the inevitable racist comments something like this portends, prove that it's definitely NOT such a wonderful world.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Beatles Christmas Records

A few weeks back, we discussed The Beatles' Christmas Album - a rare collection of recordings made by the Beatles exclusively for their fan club each year between 1963-1969. (The 1965 record - which was never sent to American fans - can be seen above).

Someone was nice enough to post all the records online here, including a handful of session outtakes that I've never heard before.

They are well worth a listen for any Beatles fan - especially the ones from 1966 onward, when things start to get even more experimental and creative.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Day Batman Went Bats

Let's listen to Christian Bale scream at the Director of Photography on the set of Terminator 4.


For reasons that I dare not decipher, YouTube was suggesting tonight that I watch a clip of Donny Osmond and Lucie Arnaz butchering "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" on an episode of Here's Lucy from the early '70s.

I share it with you here for two reasons: 1) I choose not to suffer alone, and 2) Lucy is inexplicably seated with Jan Brady during the performance.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

John and Yoko: Luck of the Irish

In 1972, John Lennon released his third solo album - Some Time in New York City. The record was so overtly political and controversial (radio stations largely ignored the debut single "Woman is the Nigger of the World" for obvious reasons) - that it was Lennon's first real flop.

Some of the songs are worth a listen, however - including today's clip of "Luck of the Irish" from (I think) The Mike Douglas Show. I think it's one of the better presentations of John and Yoko as a duo - too bad you never hear this played anymore. Perhaps it's just a little too edgy. (If you listen carefully in the background, you can hear Mike Douglas strangling whoever it was that booked John & Yoko as guest hosts that week...)

As an added bonus, here they are again - on Dick Cavett defending (and then performing) "Woman is...".