September 22, 2001
BEFORE I GET to the subject of the above photo, I wanted to mention that of all the late night comedy hosts who made heartfelt,
moving speeches upon their return to the airwaves, one moved me more than any other. Letterman and Leno were fine, but if you tuned in The
Daily Show With Jon Stewart, you saw Mr. Stewart give a wonderful, from-the-gut summation of what he was feeling and what it all meant —
certainly one of the most eloquent things I've seen on TV in the time since the towers fell.
If you missed it, the text is currently up on the Comedy Central website and, yes, I'll provide you a link to it. However, if it's still available when you go there, I would suggest clicking the
video link on the same page, because Stewart's emotional delivery is half the eloquence. It's long — about eight minutes — and it
may moisten your eyes. Butat a point in my week where I felt I was starting to get numb to talk of the tragedy, it renewed the chills.
I'm trying not to think a lot about you-know-what but every now and then, I browse Ye Olde Internet for interesting comments and facts,
and here are some more pieces I found interesting...
NOW THEN: This evening, I attended a screening of the 1979 Bob Fosse film All That Jazz at the Motion Picture
Academy. A brand-new, restored print — in stereo, which the original release was not — was followed by a brief panel with some of
those involved in the film's creation. Unfortunately, the movie was preceded by a long, condescending speech by some U.S.C. film professor who
didn't seem to realize we weren't there to hear him explain the film to us...and badly, at that.
After about ten minutes of him telling us what was in this movie we were about to see, the house was getting audibly restless.
You could hear muttered remarks and, pretty soon, everyone began applauding every time he came to the end of a sentence, hoping he'd get the hint and
stop. On and on, he went, oblivious to the fact that he had long since worn out his welcome at the mike. Finally, he said, "Lastly..."
and there was a huge burst of cheers and applause — but still he soldiered on, concluding only moments before we would (don't ask me how) have
gotten our hands on tar and feathers. Unfortunately, since he consumed so much time at the outset, the panel at the end was truncated, and most
people left before it started, anyway.
In-between, we saw the film, which I discussed in an article here on this site. Seeing it with
an audience, as I haven't done since its initial release, I'd forgotten how funny so much of it is...and how so many wonderful moments occur just
because of the slightest look or reaction on Roy Scheider's face. It was really a film meant to be seen on a big screen and with a big audience
and, viewing it that way, I found myself enjoying it much more than I ever have on home video. I still have mixed feelings about the basic
propriety of Fosse's portrayals of himself and those around him...but it really is an amazingly effective film. One of these days, I hope to
write a really long article about it. If I do, I promise not to try and read it to a theater-full of filmgoers waiting for the movie to
I HAVE A COUPLE of corrections and an apology to make here. This week, DC Comics brought out Volume 1 of The Blackhawk
Archives, a collection of early stories of what was just about the first — and for many years, most popular — war strip. I did
the foreword and because I was rushed, I made two dumb mistakes in it. One is that I identified Chuck Cuidera, who drew the early
Blackhawk comics, as the creator of the super-hero character, The Blue Beetle. Chuck claimed that at times but his claim is arguable, at
best, and I should not have repeated it the way I did. There are other claimants, some of whom seem to have at least as much evidence on their
side, if not more. So I take no position on who created The Blue Beetle.
The other mistake involves an apology to Dan Thompson, who operates The
Unofficial Blackhawk Comics Website, which you can reach by clicking on that name. Rushing my deadline, I grabbed a quote off his website
(with his okay) but in my hurry, I edited it badly and...well, here's a note Dan sent me that explains it all:
I just picked up my copy of the Blackhawk Archive. Naturally, I read the forward immediately since you had mentioned that you were
quoting me about the Skyrocket. Boy, I sure wish I'd had a chance to read that before it was published. You took my statement out of context and
completely changed the intent and meaning. It sounds like you did not actually read the entire article about the Skyrocket on my website. If you did,
I don't see how you could have missed the fact that I was arguing that the "common knowledge" that the Skyrocket was a poor aircraft was completely
wrong. The Navy did not adopt it because it was a poor performer but because of logistics concerns and the Navy's outdated ideas of the proper size
for a carrier plane. This is what my website says about the Skyrocket:
It is common knowledge in the comics community that the F5F-1 was a failure but it was used for the Blackhawks because it looked
cool. It does have a unique look, but it was not the failure commonly believed. The F5F-1's test pilot, "Connie" Converse, in 1980 recalled "the
flying qualities for the XF5F-1 were good overall. The counter-rotating props were a nice feature, virtually eliminating the torque effect on takeoff
... single-engine performance was good, rudder forces tended to be high in single engine configuration. Spin recovery was positive but elevator
forces required for recovery were unusually high. All acrobatics were easily performed, and of course forward visibility was excellent." In 1941,
Navy pilots tested the Skyrocket in a fly-off against the Spitfire, Hurricane, P-40, P-39, XFL-1 Airabonita, XF4U, F4F, and F2A. LDCR Crommelin, in
charge of the test, stated in a 1985 letter to George Skurla, Grumman president, "for instance, I remember testing the XF5F against the XF4U on climb
to the 10.000 foot level. I pulled away from the Corsair so fast I thought he was having engine trouble. The F5F was a carrier pilot's dream, as
opposite rotating propellers eliminated all torque and you had no large engine up front to look around to see the LSO (landing signal officer) ...
The analysis of all the data definately favored the F5F, and the Spitfire came in a distant second...ADM Towers told me that securing spare
parts...and other particulars which compounded the difficulty of building the twin-engine fighter, had ruled out the Skyrocket and that the Bureau
had settled on the Wildcat for mass production." It is true that the Skyrocket had some developmental problems, but no more than any other aircraft
of similar radical design. The Navy was also concerned that the F5F was overweight, but this was more a problem of their expectations than reality.
The Navy was used to comparatively small, light biplanes. The newer, high performance monoplanes were all overweight by that standard. The F4U
Corsair weighed more than the F5F, even though it had a single engine compared to the Skyrocket's two.
The purpose of the whole paragraph is to show that the "common knowledge" described in the first sentence, the one you quoted, is
not true. I'm afraid this has diminished some of the enjoyment I anticipated in seeing this book. I guess the only good thing is that I do have the
website as a forum to explain that I was seriously misrepresented and point out the real story. Of course, it will only be seen by a small percentage
of the people who read this book, but it's the best I can do.
This is M.E. again: Having been misquoted and mis-excerpted myself on many occasions, I am embarrassed that I accidentally did it to
Dan. So I'm posting the correction here and I'm going to run it in my Comics Buyer's Guide column. And if anyone can think of any
other way I can bring it to the attention of those who purchase what is a very fine book, by the way, please suggest it. And again, Dan, my
THE BIG NEW slot machine in Las Vegas is one based on the TV show, The Price is Right. If you'd like to view an
on-line demo of how it works, this link should take you to
the site of the company that makes it. You'll need Real Player installed, and about six minutes to view the demo.
MY FRIEND Buzz Dixon sends me this
link to a very clever bit of animation done with Lego blocks. It will have special meaning for those of you who are familiar with the film,
Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
HERE'S A MYSTERY that perhaps some fellow animation buff out there can help me solve. It involves the
1949 Tex Avery cartoon, The House of Tomorrow. The film is narrated by Frank Graham — all but for one short gag for which the
narrator momentarily turns into Don Messick. Then, when they get to the next bit, he's back to being Graham again. If one studies the
music and art style, one concludes that the Messick-narrated segment was done later — probably years later. There's an abrupt jump in the
music, suggesting that the bit was inserted after the cartoon was completely scored. (Also, Messick and Daws Butler both always agreed that Don
got his first cartoon job, which was with Tex, after Daws was already working for the director. House of Tomorrow was made some time
before Daws's first work in the field. Graham died in 1950.)
Anyway, the inescapable deduction here is that the cartoon was completely filmed and perhaps even released...and then, years later,
someone — probably not even Tex; probably Hanna and Barbera — went in and replaced one joke with a different one. This may have
been done for a re-release. And the inescapable questions are, assuming all this is true, what was replaced and when and by whom?
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME