POVonline

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today's Free Plug

I get a lot of press releases, ads from friends, things like that. I've decided to only run ones from folks who (a) I know and (b) who send them to my special e-mail address for press releases and (c) who don't also send them to my regular e-mailbox. Here's one...

Aardwolf Publishing is taking pre-orders on The Whorehouse Madrigals, the newest dark fiction collection from Clifford Meth. With a cover by fantasy award-winning artist Kelly Freas (his last ever!), an introduction by "Handsome" Dick Manitoba (of the legendary proto-punk band The Dictators) and illustrations by the brilliant rising star Mike Henderson, The Whorehouse Madrigals contains Meth's best work to date. Solicited for $13.95 in this month's Diamond Prevues, you can advance order the book now for $9.95 postage-paid and have your book signed. Aardwolf is offering the collection with a double-your-money-back-if-not-delighted guarantee. How's that for confidence? Please visit www.aardwolfpublishing.com.

• Posted at 8:03 PM · LINK

Is the Caller There?

Wow. A guy who phoned in to CSpan this morning identified himself as part of a "teabag group" in Waycross (Waycross, Georgia, I guess) and was almost in tears as he asked a question of Senator John Barrasso. The caller had been praying for Senator Robert Byrd to die or be otherwise unable to show up for the Health Care vote. He was concerned that since Byrd had shown up but Senator James Inhofe hadn't, perhaps the prayers got misdirected and took out one of their boys, instead.

Can we count the number of ways this is wrong? I don't believe prayers ever affect this kind of thing either way but this guy obviously does. What kind of sick puppy would you have to be to want to use that "power" to cause the death of another human being? Especially another human being who was on his way to vote to expand health insurance — and to therefore probably save an awful lot of lives?

Let's give the guy the benefit of way more doubt than he deserves and assume he wasn't just worried that the bill would raise his taxes. Let's say he honestly thought this bill would cost lives...which I think is a big lie but let's say the man bought into it. Wouldn't then the appropriate prayer be for all Democrats (not just Robert Byrd) to come to their senses and change their votes? That wouldn't change the outcome either, but at least you wouldn't be turning God into an assassin.

And of course, there's the whole inane assumption here that you pray for the death of Person A and since God is so confused and has such lousy aim, he kills Person B, instead. So he's not only an assassin, he's a stupid, inept one, at that.

But the worst part of the whole thing is that Senator Barrasso just sat there and told the caller that Senator Inhofe was probably fine and that his vote wasn't needed today. He did not say, "You should be ashamed of yourself for praying for the death of another human being!" As any decent person would.

• Posted at 5:53 PM · LINK

Christmas Comics

This is kinda neat for the holiday season. Back in the forties and fifties, there was a comic book called Walt Disney's Comics and Stories that was, by far, the best-selling comic in the country. When Superman was selling a million copies of each issue, eight times a year, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories was selling between two and three million per month.

About half of that came through newsstand sales...and the high total was in part because there were newsstands that didn't carry a full display of comic books but made room for one. That one was Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. The rest of the sales came through an aggressive subscription push that included marketing via other Disney products (for a time, if you bought a Mickey Mouse watch, a subscription ad came in the box) and through more conventional, non-comic magazine subscription services. There was even a campaign that enabled you to buy a subscription to Walt Disney's Comics and Stories through your elementary school.

Subscriptions to the comic became a much-given Christmas gift...probably most coming from Grandparents. This website has dug up two of the letters that arrived in the mail to tell you you'd been gifted with a subscription to Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. These letters probably had a higher print run than any comic book published today.

And here's a "by the way" for comic historians: What company published Walt Disney's Comics and Stories for most of its run?

If you answered, "Dell," you're wrong. It said Dell on the cover insignia and Dell distributed the title along with all its other comics...but Dell was not the publisher. And if you said, "Western Printing and Lithography," you're also wrong. Western prepared the contents and printed the comics...but Western was not the publisher.

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories was published by K.K. Publications, Inc., a company set up by Herbert "Kay" Kamen, who was an outside licensing representative for the Disney company from 1932 until his death in a 1949 plane crash. When he sold Western on a licensing deal for the Disney catalogue, he also arranged for a partnership arrangement whereby they set up a separate company to publish certain items, including that comic and (later) the Red Ryder comic books. Western was a partner in the operation but the publisher of record was K.K. Publications. And don't feel bad if you don't know that because most of the people who worked on the comics didn't, either.

• Posted at 5:23 PM · LINK

To All Who've Written To Ask...

Yes, I can taste the difference between different brands of bottled water.

I don't swear I can tell them all apart, mind you. But I was drinking Sparklett's and then I started drinking Crystal Geyser and I decided I liked Crystal Geyser better. I also like it better than Dasani and Arrowhead and Aquafina and a number of other waters I tried. Some others — like Deer Park, which you don't find much in Southern California — are very close to Crystal Geyser. For the most part, I prefer water that comes from a spring to water that's been filtered, though I've encountered examples of each kind I didn't much like.

Even between good spring water and good filtered water, the difference is tiny. If I'm coming to your place to visit, please (pretty please) don't run out and buy Crystal Geyser just so you can be a good host. It's like the difference between an A+ and an A. One is perfectly fine. The other is, to a microscopic degree, perfectly finer. But whatever's on hand is usually okay.

And please...don't tell me the tap water at your house is perfectly fine. Once upon a time, the tap water at my house was perfectly fine and I wouldn't be buying bottles of the stuff if it was still perfectly fine. It's gotten worse and worse over the years. For a while, it was okay if I ran it through a Brita pitcher. Now, even that doesn't work. I had a city Water Inspector out a year or so ago and he ran tests and said it was perfectly safe, which I assume it still is, but even he couldn't stand (or explain) the taste. I decided it was better for my health to go with the bottled stuff, if only because I consume more water when I have the bottles available. Also, it's easier to drink if you don't have to hold your nose at the same time.

• Posted at 4:11 PM · LINK

Arnold Stang, R.I.P.

Character actor, comedian and cartoon voice actor Arnold Stang has passed at the age of 91. Arnold had an amazing career in radio, movies and TV and on the stage. He was in one of my favorite movies, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and he was the lead voice on one of my favorite cartoon shows when I was a kid, Top Cat. In animation, he was also the voice of Herman the Mouse in the old Herman and Katnip cartoons, and he was heard in other animation projects and in hundreds of commercials. He was, for example, the original voice of the Bee in the Honey Nut Cheerios ads. In radio, he had a long association with comedian Henry Morgan. In TV, he had a long association with Milton Berle. His other movies included The Man with the Golden Arm and the legendary Hercules in New York where he co-starred with (and provided a striking physical contrast) to the actor who would soon be famous as Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was even in the more-legendary Skidoo.

So he did an awful lot of stuff and more of it is mentioned in the New York Times obit. I can only add a personal note here...

As you can see, Arnold was in a lot of my favorite things. He was a naturally funny man and I was delighted, the one time we got to work together, to discover he was pretty much the same person off-camera as on.

It was a 1994 recording session for the cartoon series, Garfield and Friends. Ordinarily, the series was recorded wholly in Los Angeles with L.A.-based actors but the producer, Lee Mendelson, indulged me an extravagance. He let me go to New York and record a couple of episodes with talent from back there. I was there with the east coast actors while the rest of the cast was in a studio in Hollywood, the entire session connected via digital phone lines. For the day, I hired three actors I'd always wanted to work with — Arnold, Imogene Coca and Eddie "The Old Philosopher" Lawrence — and we booked a Manhattan recording studio. The studio was recommended by our L.A. recording supervisor and by coincidence, it turned out to be one where Arnold and Eddie had, decades before, recorded many Paramount cartoons.

Arnold was up first. I got to the studio a half-hour before he was due but, a true professional, he was already there...waiting patiently, looking for all the world like Arnold Stang. We sat and talked for a half-hour until the engineer was ready for us, and the main topic was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Arnold was one of the few participants in that film to suffer an injury. At the hotel where the cast was staying, he slipped by the swimming pool and broke his wrist. The cast is well-concealed during the famous scene where he, Marvin Kaplan and Jonathan Winters destroy a gas station.

He was a joy to work with. The only direction I gave him — the only direction you could give a guy like that — was, "Try to sound like Arnold Stang." He did so with ease, like he'd been doing it all his life and he was perfect. He was also gracious enough to record a message for my answering machine. Click the little arrow below to hear it...

While I was recording with Arnold, Eddie Lawrence arrived. You may not know Eddie's name but he's a wonderful character actor and comedian who did a series of much-quoted records as "The Old Philosopher." His catch-phrase was, "Hey, is that's what bothering you, Bunky?" Anyway, he and Arnold were longtime pals, and when Arnold and I were done with his cartoon and he exited the booth, he and Eddie embraced.

Then Arnold looked him in the eye and sounding as serious as Arnold Stang could possibly sound, he pointed to me and said, "Eddie, don't give this young man any trouble. He's a fine director and you just do everything he says."

Eddie promised he would. That wasn't good enough for Arnold. He added, "If you give him any crap, I'll come back here and kick your ass." Then he handed me his pager number and said, "Remember...if he gets out of line, call me and I'll come back and kick his ass." This wasn't necessary but there was one moment when Eddie was giving me a little problem and I had to threaten, "I'll call Arnold." He immediately apologized and agreed to do it the way I wanted. The power of an Arnold Stang threat.

I had a limo hired for the day to pick me up, pick Eddie and Imogene up, etc. I'd offered it to Arnold to get him there but he'd declined. After his session, I told him we could have the driver take him to his next destination. He said, "No, I like to walk. You don't stay in touch with the city in the back of a limo." I remembered that. Arnold kept working well into his eighties and he sent me a Christmas card every year for a decade after that. What a charming, funny man.

Here's Naughty But Mice, the fourth Herman and Katnip cartoon, which was released on October 10, 1947. This print, by the way, sports the original opening titles which were removed when these cartoons were released to television. As you'll hear, Arnold's performance as Herman was more than enough to make the little rodent into a star character. But to me, the real star of these is Arnold...

• Posted at 12:45 AM · LINK

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