January 18, 2002 · 1:00 PM PST · link
OKAY, FIRST OFF, I want to point out how much the Enron logo resembles the Mad Poiuyt, an optical illusion featured many years
ago on the cover of Mad Magazine. You can draw your own connection in terms of both creating the illusion of something where nothing
exists...or an impossible puzzle...or something like that. Secondly, I want to say that I'm still standing behind my prediction that George W.
Bush will escape from this, relatively unscathed...but I feel a bit less sure of that prediction than I did when I posted it. The press and
pundits, for whatever reason, suddenly seem to be pouncing on this one in a way that suggests that they won't let it go. In a sense, it's
already hurt Bush in that this and the pretzel incident have declared that it's once again okay to ridicule our current Chief Exec.
(How long before someone floats the question that the pretzel story was a contrived cover story to mask that Bush injured himself
because he's drinking or doing heavy drugs? If and when those jokes start, they'll be like Clinton dick references. We'll never hear the
end of them.)
A couple of articles have made me rethink this thing a bit, most notably those that suggest that Dick Cheney is being hidden (and is
still stonewalling about his energy task force) because he's more enmeshed in Enron skullduggery than is currently known. Naturally, this is
just the rumor mill at work but lately, scandal-connected rumors have a way of becoming impervious to disproval. There are still plenty of
folks who are certain that Vince Foster was killed, that Hillary's using F.B.I. files to blackmail her enemies, etc. When Bush defenders say
that no one can prove he or his close associates did anything wrong...well, that may be so. I suspect it's so. I also think the Clintons,
Gore and others were injured by a lot of allegations that were unproven or were even disproven.
It may also be that the scandal of Enron will be that all the sleazy things that were done weren't illegal; that the company
bought the necessary regulatory changes to allow a lot of practices that clearly should have been illegal. This viewpoint is convincingly
discussed in an article Scott Rosenberg wrote for Salon. Most of it's in their
"subscriber only" section but the Smirking Chimp website has reposted the whole thing where you can read it for free. Here's the link. This is the piece that has most caused
me to think maybe this thing won't go away for a while.
January 18, 2002 · 1:00 AM PST · link
YOU WANT TO get a big reaction to something you write? Just mistype the name of the man who did the voice of Jonny Quest's
father. The role was played at various times by John Stephenson and Don Messick but never by Mike Road, as I said in my article in the current
issue of The Jack Kirby Collector. Road provided the voice of Roger "Race" Bannon and I swear my brain knew that, even if my typing
fingers didn't. The error — reported to me by many, some in high dudgeon — mars an otherwise splendid issue of John Morrow's
must-have mag for fans of Mr. Kirby. This is one of those publications that I don't even have to plug since if you have even the slightest
interest in J.K., you're already grabbing up every issue. If you haven't and you want to, here's a link to the website for TwoMorrows Publishing, issuers of a number of terrific publications.
By the way, Roy Thomas's Alter Ego, which I also love, will soon be doing an issue devoted to the late, great John
Buscema. They'll be running the text of at least one of the panels I moderated last San Diego Con in which John participated. The one we
had with John, John Romita, Will Eisner and Mike Royer will probably turn up in The Jack Kirby Collector.
I'VE RECEIVED A number of e-mails tonight regarding my position on anonymous posters on Internet forums. (My apologies if
I didn't respond to yours; I'm behind on a deadline.) It might save us all some time if I clarify one point...
Freedom of Speech does not include any right to have a captive audience. You can talk all you like but your First Amendment
rights are in no way being harmed if I opt not to listen...or even if I announce that the sound of your voice disgusts me so much that I'm taking a
I enjoyed participating in www.comicon.com and may drift back there someday if it
seems to have regained an atmosphere more conducive to discussion. I like the folks there (most of 'em, anyway) but I've decided that I no
longer want to be a part of a community where anonymous posters drive the discussions into inane and angry directions. Put simply, I've reached
the stage where it doesn't work for me.
One e-mailer accused me of "taking my ball and bat and going home." Well, first of all, it's not my ball or bat. The forum
can go on jes' fine without me. Secondly, if you're not enjoying the game, I think you owe it to everyone — especially, yourself —
to go home. I'm home. And if I have the sudden urge to get surrounded by angry people, I can always get the voice credits for Jonny
Quest wrong again. Thank you.
January 17, 2002 · 12:45 PM PST · link
I ENJOY THE GOOD conversation that one usually finds in Newsgroups and on chat boards like the one at www.comicon.com. I have generally been able to tolerate the occasional clown who posts with the sensibilities of
— and often, the same motives as — a 12-year-old making prank phone calls. One of the problems inherent in public electronic
communication is that those who post often think they're going over better than they probably are. You often see debates where some guy is like
the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: He gets his arms and legs whacked off but he's too danged stupid to know it.
(Actually, that's not the best analogy because, on discussion boards, such wounds are usually self-inflicted.) Much of the problem occurs when
a forum allows, as most do, its participants to hide behind handles. Anonymity is a great empowerer of the craven, giving them the opportunity
to hurl mud at real people (i.e., those whose identities are known and undisputed) who, in turn, can only return fire at phantoms.
I believe in always being polite and respectful to all who post. If you do a
Google Search on my old messages, I think you'll find that I always have been. I am, however, beginning to feel that simple rules of
courtesy need not extend to those who cower behind monikers; that in the electronic chatting community, they are and ought to be treated like
second-class citizens. The other day, a message on www.comicon.com attacking a friend of
mine struck me as so egregiously rude and stupid that I found my breaking point. I have withdrawn from that forum and decided to do likewise in
any venue where such folks run too rampant.
The reaction, at least in my e-mail, has been interesting. The rude messager is defending himself on two grounds, one being that
I am somehow suppressing his free speech by taking umbrage and refusing to participate any longer. This is, I'm afraid, an altogether typical
response. A lot of folks seem to think that the First Amendment means that they can post something stupid and no one else is allowed to say
it's stupid and/or to refuse to listen.
His other defense is that he is functioning in the time-honored role of critic. He compared himself to Dorothy Parker and
Alexander Woolcott — both of whom, as far as I can tell, always wrote what they wrote under real names. (They could both also
spell.) He accused me of being "thin-skinned," even though — in this case — I was not the one being criticized. I wrote back
to him that I've had my writing trashed by The New York Times and other such publications. A badly-written slam by an anonymous crank on
a computer forum is barely a gnat bite by comparison. Really, I find his position indefensible and assume he will soon disappear, at least
under that name. Perhaps, when he starts over under another identity, he will be a bit more judicious.
None of this is an immediate call to action on my part. I just felt I ought to write here about this change in my attitude.
I intend to continue to be civil and helpful to all, even the anonymous guys as long as they behave themselves. But I've decided that hiding
behind a handle does not show much respect for others and that, when such folks get abusive, they forfeit the right to be treated with any
respect. Perhaps if this approach becomes the Internet norm, more forums will be erected wherein the participants have to use their real names,
thereby accepting responsibility for what they write. It could only elevate the level of the discourse.
January 16, 2002 · 11:30 AM PST · link
I DON'T WANT to turn this place into Obit Central but I have to say a few words about a charming lady named Bibi Osterwald who
passed away a week or so ago at the age of 81. Bibi had a long, glorious career, the latter part of which was spent playing little old ladies
in commercials, TV shows and movies. The movies included a showy role as the neighbor lady in As Good As It Gets. Before that, she worked a lot on
the stage, including a legendary stint as the stand-by for Carol Channing and others starring in the original Broadway run of Hello,
Dolly! Some of the ladies who played Dolly Levi missed a lot of
performances and/or didn't play matinees, so Bibi went on quite often.
The producer — the famously-obstreperous David Merrick — did all he could to keep that
a secret. If the star is out, patrons can request refunds or exchanges until the moment the overture starts...so Merrick would have someone
announce, "At this performance, the role of Mrs. Levi will be played by Bibi Osterwald" and then he'd order the box office closed the second the
conductor gave the downbeat. A lot of folks did not realize that Mrs. Levi was Dolly until it was too late, and some never realized it.
They saw Bibi perform and thought they were seeing Ginger Rogers or Mary Martin. I never saw the show but I did work with Bibi and I'm sure
those people saw a wonderful performance. She certainly was in league with Carol, Ginger and Mary in talent, if not in renown.
Enron As Whitewater
by Jacob Weisberg, Slate
It's All Bill Clinton's Fault
by Gene Lyons, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The above links are to articles that the operator of this website believes contribute to the national debate. He does not
necessarily agree with all or any of what they say...and you won't, either.
January 15, 2002 · 7:00 PM PST · link
SO OUR president is watching a football game on TV and he chokes on a pretzel and faints for four seconds. Could have
happened to anybody. My question is: Why do we know this? Why did the White House — which has not exactly been a gusher of candor
regarding, say, who was on Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, feel that this had to be reported?
I looked through several news stories and all I find were a few remarks that they announced it because, recently, the office was
criticized for not promptly reporting when Bush had some skin cancers removed from his face. This strikes me as someone groping for an
explanation. To the extent there was such criticism, it was minor. Remember, Bush is still sitting on that awesome approval rating and
Americans overwhelmingly don't care about most issues unrelated to terrorism and the economy. The skin cancer was also something that, since it
was on the man's face, would eventually have been noticed...or perhaps the fact that the president had undergone surgery would have leaked, and the
rumor mill would have thought it was something more serious. But in the case of l'affaire pretzel, there was no visit to a hospital and
the president only suffered a few scratches and bruises which could have been explained a hundred different, less embarrassing ways. Would
anyone have screamed "Cover up" if they hadn't reported the fainting and it subsequently got out? My theory is that someone said, "You know,
Leno and Letterman have stopped ridiculing Bush since 9/11. Let's give the boys a break and tell them about this because it'll give them a
chance to jab him without looking like they're sabotaging the war effort." Because, as far as I can see, they're the only ones to benefit.
AND HERE ARE more links to comedians' websites...
And it's not up yet but I can't wait for www.irwincorey.org.
January 13, 2002 · 3:30 PM PST · link
I HAVE NOTHING to do with Cool and Strange Music Magazine and don't even think I know anyone who does. But it
covers a lot of the same aberrations that one finds on this website. So if you've found your way here, you might enjoy this publication as much
as I do. The current issue features a good overview of Mel Blanc's many kids' records, plus features on Gary Owens, Brother Theodore, Thurl
"Tony the Tiger" Ravenscroft and many others...and every issue has had something that I found of interest. They post very little of their
content on the web but don't let that stop you. Spend money for a subscription. (You can do that on the web. Here's a link to their website.)
January 13, 2002 · 10:45 PM PST · link
MEMBERS OF OLD comedy duos are dropping like flies. First, Avery Schreiber and now, Frank Shuster — who was one half
of the comedy team of Wayne and Shuster. (In the picture above, Shuster's the one on the right. Wayne, seen at left, passed away in
1990) In Canada, they were major stars. In this country, they were best known for their 67 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show,
wherein they performed very silly — and often, very elaborate — comedy sketches. They also starred in a short-lived 1961 summer
situation comedy on CBS called Holiday Lodge, in which they played two guys who botched up the running of a vacation hotel. Though it
failed, they probably could have been very big in America had they opted to work here more. They didn't, preferring to avoid high pressure
situations and to remain in their native Canada. I never saw an example of it, but rumor is that a couple of American comedy shows took
advantage of this to liberally borrow ideas from the boys.
Mr. Shuster's family ties may also be of some interest to those interested in American popular culture. His daughter Rosie was
one of the key writers of the first generation of Saturday Night Live and was briefly married to its producer, Lorne Michaels. And Frank
Shuster also had a cousin named Joe who, with a friend named Jerry Siegel, created a little thing called Superman.
I haven't seen anything on Shuster's passing in the U.S. wire services but here's a link to a story in the Canadian press.
January 13, 2002 · 9:15 PM PST · link
NICK CARDY is about as fine a comic artist as has ever worked in the field and I gush all over him in the foreword to The Art
of Nick Cardy, a superb work published a couple of years ago by John Coates. The print run sold out right away but Vanguard Press has
brought it back into print. It's a loving biography and art book devoted to a lovely man who's done a lot of
lovely comic book pages. Many of them are reproduced within and make the point far better than I can. As I said in the book, Nick was
always topping himself. We thought his Aquaman was great until we saw his Teen Titans. Then we thought his Teen
Titans was great until we saw his Bat Lash...and so on.
Bat Lash, which was co-written by my amigo, Sergio Aragonés, may have set some record for being the best-remembered comic
with the fewest number of issues. It came and went in an instant — six or seven issues, I forget — due to reportedly low
sales. (I am of the opinion that the comic book industry has often been too quick to cancel something new when it didn't catch on
immediately.) In the case of Bat Lash, it looks like everyone who bought the book loved it, remembered it and — when Nick came out
to be a guest of honor at the ComicCon International in San Diego — they all lined up to tell him how much they loved it. You probably
can't find a complete set of Bat Lash — I have one and you don't, nyah nyah — but you can and should buy The Art of Nick
ON JANUARY 22, A&E Biography is airing a program called Laugh Out Loud, which — well, here. I'll let you
read it for yourself...
We polled over 250 comedians, journalists, and academies to find out which TV comedians made them laugh over the years and which had
the most influence on television comedy today. The result is their list of the 15 greatest TV comedians of all time. We won't reveal the list until
the program airs, but we can tell you it will be full of hilarious clips showing our legendary comedians at their best.
I always think these "best" polls are silly and arbitrary and that folks take them way too seriously. But one of my spies sent me
a list that purports to be the fifteen funny folks that the poll chose and I have to admit, it ain't a bad list for what it is...
Assuming this is indeed their list, I can't argue with too many inclusions or omissions, except possibly that I don't think of Mssrs.
Pryor or Martin as really having done their strongest work on TV. Had it just been me deciding, I'd have bumped them for Bob Newhart, Dick Van
Dyke, Phil Silvers or one or two other guys. I might also have argued that Jonathan Winters has been both funnier and more influential than
Robin Williams and that Jackie Gleason's greatest contribution to televised humor was hiring Art Carney. But all in all, it's not a bad
list. I have another list of great comedians that some friends of mine and I compiled once, and I'll post it here in a week or two.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME