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January 7, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
I ORDERED several fonts from Comicraft when they had their New
Year's Day sale and I really like what they sent me — especially their new font based on the lettering of master comic book illustrator Joe
Kubert. Because it pretty much has to appear in perfect ellipses, computer lettering can occasionally look a bit too precise to blend with
comic art, especially that which is broad or loose in style. Like I wrote in the balloon, this is probably the best one I've seen. Those
of you doing comics might want to check it out.
A SETTLEMENT has been reached in a lawsuit brought by shareholders in Stan Lee Media. Here are the details. You'll notice there's no mention of my stock options.
I AGREE with almost every word of this
article by Joe Bob Briggs. It's about those occasional news stories about how teens are increasingly turning to virginity and sexual
abstinence. I concur with Joe Bob that those reports are full of swamp gas. When I was in school, we kept being asked to fill out these
anonymous polls on whether we were having sex and, if so, how much. Since there was no place on the form to check off "none of your damn
business," we all lied. Most of the kids who were having sex said they weren't, just in case the whole thing was a trap to figure out who was
doing it and to inform their parents. Most of the kids who weren't having sex said they were, just because it felt good to pretend. And
some weren't sure how to equate their limited, back-seat fondling to the definitions of sex on the questionnaires, so they just put down
anything. I don't believe any of these surveys. I don't believe anything anyone tells me about their sexual experiences unless they're
available on DVD.
THIS IS kinda funny. I was just over at www.amazingkreskin.com
— and you don't have to be The Amazing Kreskin to guess that that's the official website of The Amazing Kreskin. It still displays his
fearless predictions for 2002, such as "If [Gary] Condit chooses to run for re-election, he will win." There are clippings and current U.F.O.
predictions and all sorts of nonsense, and I also love Kreskin's Photo Gallery in which "the bona fide mentalist" cannot seem to even identify many
of the people with him in the photographs. There's a picture of Kreskin with George Kirby, but no one seems to have been able to remember
George's name, so the caption is "Kreskin with famous impressionist." There's another one of him with "one of New York's leading weathermen"
and one of him with "an actor from Law and Order" but he couldn't divine the names of these people. But the real treat is this
I have always used my mental abilities to predict specific events in other people's lives and while looking into the minds of others
I have often discovered things that I would rather not have seen. At first, this bizarre twist to my chosen profession took me by surprise, but
as I grew accustomed to it I learned how to ignore the bad and concentrate on the good. Now for my latest stunt, I have set all fear of my own
mortality aside, turned my perception on myself, and decided to share my death with the world before it even happens.
He has not yet revealed the details of how he is going to share his death with us. But judging from his list of upcoming
appearances, it probably involves playing a dwindling string of low-profile benefits and out-of-the-way showrooms.
WE DON'T LIKE SPYWARE. These are programs you download from the Internet (occasionally, without realizing you're doing so)
that not only do whatever they claim to do but also, secretly, gather data about you. When you're online, they secretly transmit this data
to...someone. You never really know what the data is, who's collecting it, what they're going to do with it, etc. Most often, it relates
to building a "user profile" of you, figuring out what kind of consumer you are and how you can best be targeted with advertising — but other,
more pernicious practices are possible.
Once I learned about Spyware, I began uninstalling it all over my computer. A program called Gator did a neat job of filling in
online forms for me, like credit card info and such. But it's Spyware so I got rid of it and instead installed Roboform, which does most of the same things but without nosing around on my harddisk. A lot of download managers
like Go!Zilla and free games (like some called Free Solitaire) are nice but they tattle on you, so you want to get rid of them. No matter what
a program does, there's probably a safe, non-intrusive alternative.
Some time ago here, I recommended the first and foremost Spyware Detection and Removal Program, which is AdAware. This was a great program and it will probably be a great program again, but its makers are running
behind in releasing its next version, which will be 6.0. The current version, 5.83 is so far out of date that it won't detect a lot of
newly-developed Spyware programs. In a few cases, Spyware programs it detects have been upgraded so now, if you use the old AdAware to remove
them, it does more harm than good. Until 6.o comes out in a month or so, use AdAware to detect Spyware but be careful about using it for
removal, and don't assume it will find everything.
In the interim, the best detection/removal program is probably Spyboy Search and
Destroy, though it's a bit more difficult to use. I'll let you know here when the new AdAware is out.
January 6, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
I USED TO look up television programming on sites like tvguide.com and tv.yahoo.com — services which show you a grid of what's on the schedule. And those free
sites were fine for what they provided. However, for a measly twelve bucks a year, one can subscribe to DigiGuide, which is a more
sophisticated, multi-featured way of finding out what's on and what's going to be on.
DigiGuide was originally a British-only service and that's where the company is still based. But they've extended to the U.S.
(and elsewhere) and seem to cover even the smallest UHF stations I can receive. You download their software, tell it what channels you receive
and then it downloads the latest program info for those channels, compiling it into a highly-searchable database. Very neat, very handy.
I've spotted a lot of shows I wanted to watch that I might otherwise have missed.
You can download a 30-day trial version over at www.digiguide.com. If it
doesn't help you out, delete it before the month is up. If it does, send 'em twelve smackers for a year's subscription. End of tip.
I'M JUST WATCHING a very old episode of Jack Benny's TV program and here's the joke they just did. There's a cab driver
played by Mel Blanc and he introduces himself to Mr. Benny by saying...
I'm Harry Gilmore. You and me went to Waukegan High School. Don't you remember? I was the one voted "Most likely to
succeed." Got my own cab.
Oh well, isn't that nice?
Hey, what are you doing now?
I'm the voice of Bugs Bunny.
I'm not sure I quite understand the joke — an apparent ad-lib — but everyone (including Blanc) broke up. The audience
not only recognized Mel in the role but knew who he was. Very nice.
WE ALL LOVE Buster Keaton. And since we all love Buster Keaton, we should all pay regular visits to his official (and
quite splendid) website. Every time I do, I find several
articles and other features that hook me. Earlier this evening, it was a series of articles about Keaton's famed Italian villa — a 10,000
square foot mansion he once owned in Beverly Hills. After he could no longer afford it, it went through a series of celebrity owners. One
of them — James Mason — discovered an old, forgotten film vault in the back. In it were prints of several Keaton films that were
thought lost, and which exist today only because Mr. Mason found them there.
The villa eventually fell into disrepair and was targeted for demolition...but a restoration company stepped in and now has it close to
being back the way it oughta be. Over in the "articles" section of the website are several pieces about it, including then-and-now
photos. (I can't link directly to them or I would, but they're well worth a bit of hunting.)
GOOD INTERVIEW with Mad and EC Comics editor Al Feldstein here.
January 5, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
I JUST ORDERED a batch of DVDs from www.johnnycarson.com. They
have some wonderful shows for sale there, and I'm a sucker for Carson at his best or even his near-best. Great stuff. However, whoever
wrote up the history stuff on that site is a little fuzzy on details. Here's one paragraph they have posted over there...
"Tonight!" was originally hosted by Steve Allen in 1954. Allen’s regular side-kick was Ernie Kovacs. Kovacs became
known as "the first commercial television artist". Ernie Kovacs alternated hosting the show with Steve Allen. However, it was Steve Allen
who established many of the standards of late night television, introducing the desk and couch and an emphasis on conversations with guests.
Okay, first of all, the show was never called "Tonight!" and Ernie Kovacs was never Steve Allen's sidekick in any sense of the word;
they weren't even on the show at the same time. Kovacs did not start hosting The Tonight Show until the last few months of Allen's
run. The above makes it sound like they alternated the whole time, whereas Ernie only hosted two nights a week for about seven months.
(It's a shame none of those episodes still exist, as they were reputed to be Kovacs at his non-gimmicky best. I've always preferred him without
the camera tricks and wacky props.)
The rest of the above "history" is more arguable. Some might suggest that Sid Caesar or even Steve Allen was "the first
commercial television artist." And conversation was a very small part of the Steve Allen Tonight Show. It was more like a variety
show with the occasional interview, much like Broadway Open House before it. Jack Paar was the guy who first did a late night show that
consisted mainly of folks just sitting around and talking.
This is all, I suppose, trivial. But you'd sorta kinda maybe think Johnny Carson's official website could get the lineage of
The Tonight Show straight. Makes you wonder about a lot of the "research" we all do on the Internet.
January 4, 2003 · 11:00 AM PST ·
WANT TO help this website?
Donations are always nice but if you have a site of your own, you can help promote this one by placing one of our spiffy POVonline
banners on your page and linking it to www.POVonline.com. You can read more about this, and choose from
other sizes and designs over on this page. Just think of the warm, comforting sensation you'll experience from
finally doing something to aid humanity.
January 4, 2003 · 2:15 AM PST ·
SO I HAVE TO STOP in at the drugstore and pick up something. This is last evening. I'm heading into the store when a
kid — maybe 16, maybe older — stops me and says, "Excuse me, sir. If I give you the money, would you buy some Miller's High Life
for me?" Reminds me of the scene in American Graffiti where the kid with the glasses is outside the liquor shop, trying to score some
Sneaky Pete for his date to chug. I tell the kid outside my friendly neighborhood pharmacy, "Sorry." What I don't tell him is that I've
never even bought beer for myself; I'm not about to buy any for a minor.
I find the item I want and take it to the checker. Ahead of me in line, a guy is buying a six-pack of Miller High Life.
He's around 40 and wearing a dark blue pea coat. I think to myself, "Ah, I see the kid outside is going to get his beer."
I pay for my item, walk outside and find that two plainclothes police officers are arresting the guy in the pea coat. The kid who
asked me to buy him beer is looking on, an obvious confederate of the policemen. Entrapment? Or strict enforcement of liquor laws?
I don't know which, but it would be kind of comforting to think the police didn't have anything better to do than this.
EIGHT COLUMNS previously posted on this website have been removed. Why is this? Because I'm starting to assemble a
sequel to my book (incessantly plugged on this site) Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life. Those eight
columns will be in it, along with 20 more that haven't been posted on this site, plus about five more that have never been published anywhere.
Don't start looking to buy this new collection because it won't be out 'til late this year, by which time you'll be sick to death of seeing me
mention it here.
January 3, 2003 · 5:15 PM PST ·
COMIC BOOK ARTIST Jack Keller died yesterday at the age of 80. Keller was born June 16, 1922 and got into comics in 1941
when he wrote and drew a strip called "The Whistler" (no relation to the radio show of the same name) for Dell Comics. He soon joined the art
crew at Quality Comics where, among other assignments, he assisted Lou Fine on The Spirit (while Will Eisner was away in the service) and
inked Blackhawk and other features. He later worked for Fawcett, Fiction House, Lev Gleason, Hillman and other houses, but he was best
known for his two longest gigs. Commencing in 1950, he worked for Stan Lee at the company that came to be known as Marvel Comics. For
them, he primarily drew westerns, most notably a long run on Kid Colt, Outlaw.
In 1955, he began working for Charlton Comics, both on westerns (Billy the Kid, among others) but mainly in his other area of
expertise, which was auto racing. He drew and often wrote hundreds of stories for comics like Teenage Hotrodders, World of Wheels, Dragstrip
Hotrodders, and Drag 'N Wheels. He retired from comics in 1973, but occasionally appeared at comic conventions near his home in
Reading, Pennsylvania. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but fans who did report that he was a very nice man — one who was
genuinely surprised and delighted that so many people had followed and enjoyed his work.
January 3, 2003 · 4:30 PM PST ·
CORRECTION: Comedy Central is running Beat the Geeks at 8:30 AM PST, not 5:30 AM PST. It's three hours earlier on
DirecTV, since they carry the East Coast feed, and that's how I receive it. Also, I forgot to mention that they're currently running the first
season shows, which aren't as good as the later ones.
January 3, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
ACTOR-WRITER Royce D. Applegate died New Year's Day when a fire of "mysterious origin" (as they say) swept through his home in
the Hollywood Hills. Royce was probably best known for his recurring role on the old s-f TV series, SeaQuest DSV, but he appeared in
dozens of TV shows and movies over the years, often playing a cop or a biker. I met him when he co-wrote an episode of Welcome Back,
Kotter, and I somehow managed to run into him often enough after that to develop a casual friendship. One time, when I extended the
Hollywood courtesy of asking what he'd been up to, he ticked off the names of three recently-filmed movies in which he'd had roles.
A few months later, I was walking down Cahuenga Boulevard when Royce, who was driving by, spotted me and pulled his car over to the
curb. "Remember those movies I said I'd been in?" he asked. "Well, I got cut out of all three." That was said without a trace of
bitterness. It genuinely amused him, and he wanted to share it with me. (I think one of the movies was High Anxiety. Mel
Brooks later gave him another part and didn't cut him out of History of the World, Part One.)
I didn't know the man well, but I always liked spotting him on the screen. I think the last time was in the TV-Movie version of
Inherit the Wind — the one with Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott. It was fun to think, "There's Royce again" and sad to see him
this morning on the obit page.
MY FRIEND animation/comic book writer Paul Dini has started a page on his
Jingle Belle website where he posts thoughts and personal reflections. Here's a direct link to that page. While you're there, order some Jingle Belle books or the snazzy
figurine or the lunch box or the Wacky Wobbler. I'm having dinner with Paul next week and it's his turn to pay.
January 2, 2003 · 10:00 AM PST ·
PHOTO OF the Beany and Cecil Rose Parade float at this site. (Don't thank me. Thank Gertler...)
January 2, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
COMEDY CENTRAL has quietly snuck Beat the Geeks back onto its schedule. (How quiet? Is 5:30 AM PST quiet
enough for you?) Still, if you're any sort of geek, you know how to set your VCR or TiVo, which is what I've done. I didn't care for this
game show the first few times I saw it but last year, when we did a panel with some of its putative "geeks" at the San Diego Con, I started watching
again so I could get up to speed...and I really enjoyed what I saw. The show had a new host but, more important, its squadron of trivia experts
had developed a certain sparkle. I don't like the robes, I don't like the mocking attitude towards expertise in a subject, I don't even like
the use of the word "geek" — but I like watching the three guys depicted above ("Movie Geek" Marc Edward Heuck, "Music Geek" Andy Zax, and "TV
Geek" Paul Goebel) and certain "Guest Geeks."
This is not just because, having some capacity to retain similar data, I identify with these gents. Lord, I could name dozens of
fans who know as much about TV, comics, movies, whatever as any of us — but who you wouldn't watch for ten seconds. The thing of it is,
the "Geeks" really aren't geeks; not in the sense that a geek has no perspective on the info he amasses in lieu of having a life.
They're just smart, sharp guys and I think what drove me from the show in the first place was that it seemed to treat them not as geeks but as
There was also the matter of how limp the game itself seemed. Win Ben Stein's Money worked...well, it worked mostly
because of the banter between Jimmy Kimmel and Ben. But to the extent it worked as a game, it worked because the contestants were very
intelligent guys competing against another intelligent guy — a very basic, primal kind of competition. Beat the Geeks is more a
matter of, "Can a non-expert answer more non-expert questions than our experts can answer of expert questions?" Not as basic, not as
interesting. Would you watch Jeopardy! if some contestants were handicapped with easier or more difficult questions than their
competition? Well, trivia questions are what Jeopardy! is all about. They just cover a wider range of categories.
I suspect there's a wonderful show implied that no one is doing, which is to pit guys like Heuck, Zax and Goebel against folks who
stand a chance of beating them at their own game. But it would have to involve giving both sides their dignity — i.e., no robes
left over from Trekkie masquerades, no trying to make a joke out of the very knowledge on which the show is based. Someone's going to produce
that show someday and if done right, it could be a monster hit. In the meantime, given its time slot, one does assume that Beat the
Geeks does not figure into Comedy Central's future, especially since they have to make room for more of those wonderful Chevy Chase Roasts.
So you might want to catch the current airings while you still can.
January 1, 2003 · 1:30 PM PST ·
A READER OF THIS SITE named Jamie writes to ask, "I noticed that Jay Leno did a live show last night with a remote from Times
Square, whereas Letterman (who's in NEW YORK, for God's sake) had on a rerun. Why is this?" Answer: It's precisely because Dave is in New
York, only blocks from Times Square. He elects not to subject his staff, his audience, and himself to having to fight the crowd and drunken
revelers that turn out there on the last night of the year.
In the past, they tried taping a show earlier in the day. Then, they would insert live cut-ins to Times Square around the
midnight hour. One year, they had stage manager Biff Henderson atop one of the big buildings down there. Another year, they just had
cameras. Either way, cutting between tape and live seemed awkward, and it meant that some of Dave's crew had to be in the midst of it all and
work that late. So they finally decided it wasn't worth it, and they were probably right.
This reminds me of a story I didn't tell relating to this article I posted here about a time when I
was in Las Vegas for New Year's Eve, watching (among other marvels) the demolition of the Hacienda Hotel. A few weeks later, back in Vegas, I
was introduced to a gent who worked for some committee that had been involved with the event. I asked him why, even though the sheer fact that
it was New Year's Eve already packed the Strip to capacity, they had chosen that evening to stage a big, crowd-attracting spectacle. He
explained to me that it was part of a five-year-plan they'd formulated to do something spectacular each New Year's Eve — something TV cameras
would want to capture live.
He went on: "People associate New Year's Eve with Times Square. Times Square gets all that publicity and attention. Well,
when we're done, people will associate New Year's Eve with Las Vegas. Everyone around the world will want to tune in and see how we're ringing
in the new year here on the Strip. We're going to take that away from New York."
Interesting, I thought. But I had to ask: "How are you going to deal with the fact that the new year arrives three hours
earlier on the East Coast? By the time it's the new year here in Vegas, two-thirds of the country has already celebrated and gone to bed."
The man didn't answer me. He just stood there, as if no one had raised that point before. And I got the idea that he was
thinking, "There has to be a way to get that changed..."
TONIGHT'S installment of Up Close (the Ted Koppel-hosted interview show that follows Nightline on ABC) features
inventor Dean Kamen. Perhaps some mention will be made of his father, Jack Kamen, one of the great EC comic book artists. And perhaps
January 1, 2003 · 11:00 AM PST ·
TWO FINE FOLKS — Nat Gertler and Elayne Riggs — independently of one another — sent me this link to a page with photos of the building of the Beany and Cecil float. We're still
on the lookout for pics of the finished product.
ANOTHER FINE FOLK — and a masterful voiceover talent — is Bob Bergen. As a youth, Bob dreamed of growing up to
be Porky Pig and, following the passing of the great Mel Blanc, achieved his dream. He also does tons of other characters and jobs, and teaches
one of the most-respected v.o. workshops in the business. Why am I telling you this now? Because he just launched his own website where
you can read more about him and hear him in action. It is, of course,
www.bobbergen.com. Start the year right with a visit.
January 1, 2003 · 12:00 AM PST ·
IT'S ALMOST NOT ENOUGH to say, "Let's hope this year is better than the last one." Let's hope this year isn't any
worse. None of the indicators that have to do with peace and prosperity are inspiring much optimism today, and the TV pundits seem to have
their fingers crossed — maybe for luck, maybe because they think they're fibbing — when they say, "2003 will be a whole lot
better." I'll be delighted to have my cynicism prove unfounded. It may be that if we can get through '03 without going to war, that will
make the year look pretty good.
IF YOU'RE UP IN TIME to catch the Rose Parade, watch for the float from the city of West Covina, California. A fellow
named Raul Rodriguez designed a display that will feature Bob Clampett's immortal cartoon show, Beany and Cecil. The float will depict
the sea-sick sea serpent swimming alongside Beany's ship. If anyone spots any photos I can link to, please let me know.
MANY ARTISTS have drawn Batman over the years, and an awful lot of them were "Bob Kane," insofar as the credits were
concerned. It's not the ideal situation in which to expect a creative talent to create but still, a few managed to rise above that anonymity to
distinguish themselves. One of them was Dick Sprang, a lovely, gifted man who passed away a few years ago. At the time, I wrote this column about him and I have just added it to our online library here. There will be more new/old articles turning
up on this site in the year 2003, including some very old ones.
IF YOU'VE ever thought of purchasing any of the wonderful comic book fonts from Comicraft, today's the day. For 24 hours, every font in the place is $20.03. But hurry. The
clock is ticking.
FRED HEMBECK'S clever cartoons have been gracing fanzines and various comic-related magazines for years. He has a sincere
sense of humor and a distinctive art style that more than does it justice. As of this new year, he is
despoiling gracing the Internet
with his personal brand of silliness. You'll want to drop by his newly-erected site at
www.hembeck.com now and also later as he gets more and more of his drawings up there. I don't believe Fred and I have ever been in the same
room together but we're interested in so many of the same things that I feel like an old friend. Go visit my old friend's new website.
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