Monday, March 31, 2008

Thanks, Mr. Mooney....

...for producing some of my favorite Silver Age comics. I have wonderful memories of your work on Supergirl (it was the first long-form continuity story arc I can remember, in fact; from the time she began in her own backup series until her world debut in Action #285, Supergirl's transition from trainee to heroine was one of my favorite stories, and I remember looking for missing parts to find out what happened next). I thought your work on Tommy Tomorrow was phenomenal. I loved your Superman/Batman stories in World's Finest.

I wish I could have said this to Jim Mooney in person, but he died yesterday at the age of 88 or 89 (I don't know when in 1919 he was born). Mooney was one of a decreasingly small number of comic book legends who helped to shape my love for the medium.

Like Curt Swan, Mooney was a consummate illustrator, a man whose fluid line captured motion and vitality while at the same time depicting emotion and humanity. He could draw te ordinary and make it look dramatic; I always thought he would have been a wonderful comic strip artist, had he chosen to go that way.

I heard rumors one time that, to amuse himself, Mooney would pencil his drawings of Supergirl in the nude, adding the costumes at the inking phase; I have no idea if it's true or not, but it made for a great story.

Mooney worked at Marvel for years, but I will always think of him as a DC artist; along with Curt Swan and Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson and Mike Sekowsky, he helped to define the clean DC look of the early Silver Age.

Happ'ly Ever Aftering...

Remember that list of things I'd like to see on DVD?

Well, strike one title from the list.

It turns out that Camelot, the Richard Harris version that I had remembered so fondly from the early 1980s, is actually available on DVD--and I've already placed my order. You can order a copy for yourself right here if you'd like to...

This production features an older, more wistful version of Arthur, and I thought it worked quite well. I had always thought it was broadcast on Showtime, so I had searched for it as a Showtime production; once Brett told me it was HBO, I changed my search terms to HBO Camelot 1982 and there it was!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Anna Naps

While Mischa is always ready for rowdiness, Anna is a docile charmer whose sleeps with angelic innocence. Here, she's taken up residence atop a footrest in front of Susan's chair; she loves to sleep close by Susan, keeping her company as Susan stitches on her needlework. Anna is a remarkably gentle, empathic girl who frequently amazes me with her ability to instantly tune in to my or Susan's emotions. We've owned many cats, but none more gentle or loving.

Mischa Dozes

Here, Mischa takes up a frequent evening position atop her favorite scratching post, dozing with eyes slightly open so as to be ready to take full advantage of any opportunities for mischief that might arise. She's a charming girl, but she can go from indolent to hyperactive in a fraction of a second, and for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Whatever Happened to?...

Barry Windsor-Smith?

It's been more than thirty-five years since he rose to prominence as a superstar artistic talent with his work on Marvel's Conan the Barbarian; since then, he has become one of those elite "artist's artists" whose work is cited as a major influence by many... but like Jeff Jones and Jim Steranko, he's done very little in recent years. His last major spate of work came during the Valiant days, when he returned to regular comics series work. He was rumored to be working on a Superman graphic novel that never came about; other than that, he's been pretty much absent from comics.

Apparently, he hasn't abandoned the field, though; according to his website, he's well into another project, Monsters (and I think this was the same name as a project he was once reported to be producing for Vertigo, but I don't see any publisher linked to the graphic novel now, so I could be wrong). According to his description, Monsters "explores the disastrous effects of a Nazi program of genetic engineering, discovered at the close of World War II, upon two American families." There are no lengthy segments to give a feel for the story, but there are some enticing pieces of art, including the one I've included here.

I miss Windsor-Smith's work. He is a distinctive talent, an artist who took comics illustration (and fantasy illustration in general) in a pre-Raphaelite-influenced direction that had not been explored in the field previously. He is one of the few artists whose work is intensely evocative; not only does he create a unique look with his art, he also creates a distinctive mood with each piece. It's hard not to have an emotional response to his work--and to me, that's one of the most telling signs of artistic greatness.

Not sure what he's doing to fill his days now, but whatever it is, I hope he's enjoying it... and I hope that, at some time, he'll return to illustration with a major new project.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Things that should be on DVD but aren't:

Batman (the Adam West series from the 60's, of course)
T.H.E. Cat (short-lived Robert Loggia tv series)
African Queen (Bogart)
The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
Let It Be (Beatles)
Every season of Everwood (only one was released on DVD)
Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (TV series)
Work Is a Four-Letter Word (truly wonderful offbeat British David Warner film)
Batgirl (Yvonne Craig TV series)
Camelot (Showtime or HBO production from 1980 or so)
The Second-Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World (great, rarely seen film starring Tom Adams as Charles Vine, the second-best... well, you know. Here's the trailer)


Well, we made the drive to Forest Park and to the cat show...

To say that the State Farmer's Market is a dismal, disgraceful facility would be an understatement. Offered the opportunity to stay there, the Joad family would have kept on driving. The state should be ashamed to own such squalor, much less to open it to the public. I ended up feeling sorry for the visitors and the cats for having to endure such conditions.

And the little bit of Forest Park we saw was scarcely better; it's hard to imagine this as it once was, a nicely maintained suburb on the way up.

There were some lovely cats to be seen, including a few Siberians and a virtual army of Bengals, along with the ubiquitous Maine coon cats that populate every cat show. Also saw a few very attractive Persians, but their ranks were surprisingly thin at this show. Virtually 15% of the cats there were Bengals, for some reason--and that's odd, considering the paucity of Bengals at the Gwinnett show last year.

However, if you hear that people are getting out of farming in Georgia, I suspect it's because they'd rather change vocations than possibly having to visit the State Farmer's Market sometime...

Lookin' for Fun and Feline's Groovy

I think Susan and I are going to head down to Forest Park for a cat show this afternoon. (And no, we're not shopping for another cat... I just like to look at cats of all types, so a cat show will always pique my interest.) I haven't been to Forest Park in many years--not since we used to visit a friend of mine, Rich Garrison, when he had a house in that area--so we may use the opportunity to drive around a bit and see how the area has changed over the past three decades. (Has it really been that long since those bygone Rich Garrison years?...)

The biggest problem with cat shows, of course, is that I end up wanting to take home oodles of cats--and I don't think that would be very popular with Anna or Mischa. Still, there's plenty of fun to be had in looking.

All The News That's Fitna...

There's a very informative short film out there called Fitna, produced by Geert Wilders; it offers some disturbing insights into the violent and brutal nature of Islam. Unfortunately, you mibht have trouble finding it, because Network Solutions shut down the first site set up for internet users to view the film in response to threats of Muslim violence if they allowed it to be run. So Liveleak posted it there for a while, but they took it down because of threats of Muslim violence if they allowed it to be viewed.

Thankfully, there's this thing called Bittorrent, and so far the Muslims threatening violence haven't figured out exactly who to threaten in order to shut it down.

Don't overlook the irony here: the response to the existence of Fitna proves exactly the point that Wilders was making.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Feeling Flaky

Ever find yourself really wanting something, even though you don't have the slightest idea what motivated the desire?

Tonight, it's coconut cake.

I love coconut cake. I love pretty much anything coconut, for that matter... but when it comes to cake, there is nothing better than coconut. And for some reason, tonight I can almost taste that dense, rich, whice-icing-overloaded-with-coconut cake that Mom used to make for me.

It's been a little over six and half years since I had coconut cake... that's the last time that Mom made one for me. But tonight, I can remember the texture, the taste, the touch of sugary crispness to that icing, the faintest hint of graininess to the sugared coconut, the extra moistness of the bottom layer of the cake as the dense sweetness settled...

Coconut and me, we go way back...

First Class Treatment

Took the MDX in to Jackson Acura in Roswell for its first service. The A1 service indicator came on two days ago, which I was told indicated the need for an oil change (the A) and a tire rotation (the 1). Jackson Acura said they could do both in less than an hour for $20 less than the price quoted by other dealerships, and one of our customers works there, so I had another reason to swing my business over there (I much prefer giving business to folks who give business to me).

Talk about first class service! As soon as I got there, Richard (the customer I mentioned earlier) saw me, came over to say hello, and worked with the service writer to get everything underway. I was invited to use either of two very comfortable lounges offered to customers (both of which include full wireless access, which was great), or to visit the bistro, which actually had a concierge dedicated to preparing drinks and snacks for customers (and at no charge, mind you!). I was informed of everything that was being done to my car, was given updated reports as to how the work was progressing, and was pleased to see all the work taking place in a work area surrounded on either side by large picture windows where owners could watch the work being done.

And what an immaculate service area it was--this was more like Michael Mann's idea of what an automobile service area should be, clean and orderly and spotless and high-tech.

I'm sold. Jackson Acura's service department is everything that a service department should be.. too bad that most of the others aren't!

Copyrights and Copywrongs

You may have seen the New York Times article about a judge's ruling in favor of the heirs of Jerry Siegel in regard to sharing the rights for the original Superman story.

Situations like this convince me more than ever that our copyright laws are so screwed up as to be nearly hopeless.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster entered into a willing arrangement to sell the rights to Superman to another company. They took the money, they closed the deal... and under the law of the time, that settled the matter. Then, years later, the law was rewritten and suddenly heirs who had nothing to do with the creation of Superman find themselves allowed to stake a claim to the same rights that the creators sold off.

Copyrights are assets. If I sell another asset, like my copy of Action Comics #1 (no, I don't really have one) to someone else, my heirs don't have the right to force that person to give it back to them after I die. For some reason, though, the copyright law has been restructured to give this strange boomerang ability to copyrights, even though no other form of asset works the same way.

I am all in favor of copyright protections for creators... but that protection should also protect the rights of those who pay out money to purchase those copyrights. This current law simply screws over those who made the process of creation profitable to begin with.

Where Have I Been?

Wish I had wonderful stories of my adventures with which to regale you, but the truth is, I haven't been doing much of anything out of the ordinary. I've been trying to work through this problem with my leg; it's not as bad as it was at its worst, but it's nowhere nearly back to normal, unfortunately. I still have trouble lying down or standing still; I'm at my most comfortable when I'm walking, although there is some pain involved in that activity, too.

Had a double-Comic Shop News week come up that kept me busy at the keyboard (had to work on the regular issue along with the Free Comic Book Day issue; one is finished now, the other is well enough underway that I feel like I have some free time to post an entry or two.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reduced Fat Is Not a Flavor

...and if food manufacturers would recognize that, I'd be a much happier snacker.

Take one of my fave snack foods, Cheez-Its. They offer regular and spicy and nacho cheese and parmesan and duos and... reduced fat. No, you can't get all those other flavors in reduced fat. They think that "reduced fat" is just another flavor, so that's all they offer.

Of course, you and I are smart enough to know that reduced fat is a means of preparation, not a flavor. If they only offered spicy and nacho cheese and parmesan and duos in reduced fat versions, then perhaps more people would be motivated to try a healthier, lower-fat alternative.

The same for potato chips, corn chips, and other snacks. Fatty-snack eaters get a cornucopia of flavor choices; those who want healthier snacks have one or two bland alternatives. I'd love to get vinegar and salt low-fat potato chips, but it apparently ain't gonna happen. (I'd also love to get a variety of foods prepared with olestra, but since some incontinent boob convinced the media that olestra gave him high-velocity diarrhea, olestra has been falsely branded as undesirable, even though subsequent studies revealed that olestra isn't a problem.)

I should applaud Target for offering two legitimate flavors of low-fat potato chips--Sea Salt with Black Pepper and Jamaican Jerk. Now if only the rest of the snack-making world would figure this out...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Early in the Morning

There is something rejuvenating about walking just before dawn. It's a time of dew and birds and schoolchildren and hope and smiles and opportunity, and I am always the better for the experience.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirteen)

I had assumed that, in spite of the move, David Lynch and I would remain steadfast friends forever.

The nature of childhood is such that we rarely see where the future will lead. It never occurred to me that, only a few months after our move to the Marchmont Drive house, David Lynch's father would get a new job. Not a new job in Rome, either--a job out of town and out of state.

When David told me that his family was moving to Birmingham, I was stunned. Birmingham was 150 miles away--a town so distant that my family had never once visited it during the time that I was alive.

Within a matter of weeks, my comic book friend had moved out of town, and I was adjusting to life in a new neighborhood with new friends and no one to share my love for comics. Even worse, as the school year came to an end, I realized that my third grade year at Garden Lakes Elementary would be my last at that school. Garden Lakes was a Floyd County school, and our new home was in the Rome city limits, which meant that I'd have to go a Rome city school when I began the fourth grade (my dad got permission for me to finish up my last two months at Garden Lakes, and thankfully they didn't tell me until a week or two before the third grade ended that I'd be giong somewhere else in the fall... there are some things a young boy doesn't need to know ahead of time, and this was one of them. I had felt very comfortable in my old school with my old friends, and my parents saw no reason to take that security away too soon.)

When the summer began, I got a call (long distance, mind you--and this was at a time when long distance cost big money! Today, we take free long distance for granted, thanks to the wonders of cellular telephones... but back than, a half dollar or more per minute for a long distance call was a standard rate, and that would adjust out to fifteen times in today's dollars, once inflation is factored in) from David Lynch; it turned out that he had an aunt and an uncle who lived on the Georgia/Alabama line, and he was going to stay there for a week in the summer. His aunt and uncle and his parents had told him he could invite me to join him, so he wanted to see if I could go.

I was thrilled. A chance to see my relocated comic book friend, a chance to spend some time in a new place--and David said the house was on a large lake, which made it even more inviting. My parents agreed that it would be okay, and my summer '62 adventure began.

David's parents came back to Rome to pick me up, and they took us both to his aunt and uncle's house. Once we got there, we spent the first day talking about comics, showing what we had read, trying to find things that the other had not seen, and catching up on old favorites.

There was a problem, though: David's aunt and uncle didn't really think that comics were a worthwhile interest for two young boys, and they actively discouraged us from reading them or talking about them. Instead, they wanted us to go out and play, to go to the lake, the enjoy the rural environment.

We did some of that, of course. One thing that amused us both was the house's location right on the state line; less than a quarter mile away was the sign that marked the Georgia-Alabama border, and it inexplicably tickled the heck out of us to stand on one side and say "I'm in Georgia!" then jump to the other and say "I'm in Alabama!" We would change the time on our watch as we walked across the line to the nearest store (the house was in Alabama, the store in Georgia) in order to (bet you can guess what comes next...) check out the comic book rack.

David's aunt and uncle encouraged us to go outdoors--and after a while, they pretty much banned us from the house during the day. "Go down to the dock and go swimming!" they'd tell us. So we went down to the dock... but of course, we took some of our comics with us, and we'd swim for a little while, then dry in the sun as we talked comics and (once we were dry enough that we wouldn't damage the books) read and re-read the books we had brought to the dock with us.

I was not a confident swimmer, however, and I was apprehensive about venturing out into the lake because David's aunt and uncle kept telling us how deep the lake was. I have no idea what lake it was, nor do I know if they were telling the truth about the depth, but I believed them; in my imagination, the lake was dark and bottomless, and I was reluctant to swim far from the dock. David didn't particularly enjoy deep water either, as I recall, so we both sat on the dock a lot, swimming out a little ways and then swimming back.

Somehow, that didn't suit David's uncle, though; he felt that boys should enjoy the whole lake, not merely its periphery. In his mind, the best way to get us used to the idea was to throw us in the deep end--literally. Naturally, he didn't discuss that idea with either of us; instead, he merely came up to the dock one afternoon when we were sitting there with our feet in the water, reading comics, and he picked me up, swung me a time or two, and tossed me in.

I suspect his toss probably threw me five or six feet out from the dock--but in my mind, I had been propelled forcefully to the middle of an immeasurably deep body of water, and I panicked. I don't think I swam so much as I flailed. Even worse, I saw the comic book I was reading--an issue of Strange Adventures--beginning to sink in the water next to me, because I had not let go of it when I was suddenly thrown in the water. I tried to grab for the comic, but my splashing pushed it away. I was probably yelling and spluttering, although I have no clear recollection... I know that I was upset and confused and angry, however. I gradually got my bearings and made my way back to the dock, and the closer I got, the more upset I got. I just knew that I wasn't going to make it back before I sank like my comic book--and, as it turned out, like the shirt that I had taken off on that sunny afternoon and had tucked into the back of my shorts.

Of course, I was only a few feet away, and I made the swim back... but both comic book and shirt were gone, and I was disconsolate. I wanted the comic, and I didn't know how I'd ever convince Mom that losing the shirt wasn't the result of my own irresponsiblity. I was upset knowing that she's be upset with me, and I began to cry, saying "I lost my shirt!" By this time, David's uncle realized that his little joke hadn't played out as he had envisioned, and I got the feeling he was upset with me for not sharing his sense of fun. In retrospect, I know that he thought I was overreacting, but it's hard to explain overreaction to an eight-year-old.

From that point on, I didn't feel comfortable at David's aunt and uncle's house, and the next three days passed inexorably as I counted the hours until his parents would pick us up and take us back home. I remember lying in the house at night looking at the ceiling, afraid to go to sleep because I had an irrational fear that his uncle would snatch me up and throw me in the lake again. To this day, I have a feeling of discomfort when I'm near deep water, and I am convinced it stems from this moment.

Of course, no such dire event ever occurred. The only thing memorable thing that did happen was that David's uncle took us to another store the next day and bought me a shirt--a light blue shirt with navy stripes that, as it turned out, became one of my favorites. I wore that shirt until it no longer fit, and even then it hung in my closet for a year or so before I finally let Mom get rid of it.

Somehow, this weekend became a sort of barrier between David and me. We never spoke of it, but I know that David could tell that I was no longer comfortable or happy at the lake house. David and I remained friends, and I would later visit him in Birmingham and he would visit me in Rome... but the friendship wasn't as close from that point on.

And it took me a long time to find another copy of that issue of Strange Adventures...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reading is Fundamental

In case you missed it, a news report published yesterday confirmed something that every sensible human being has known for years: Daylight Saving Time does not save energy, in spite of the claims to the contrary. You can read the whole story for yourself here in this USA Today article, but it basically boils down to this: they studied energy consumption in Indiana, where vagaries of daylight saving time implementation made such a study feasible, and found that the increased use of energy for heating and air conditioning more than offset any energy saving from reduced lighting cost.

DST is a 19th century concept that survived into the 20th, and now into the 21st; it shouldn't exist at all, since we're now pretty much a 24-hour culture. Nevertheless, last year the reactionaries in Congress went the other way, extending DST by several weeks on the front end and the back end.

When I saw the story, I wrote to my two senators and my representative, asking that they read the article and introduce legislation to abolish this energy-wasting policy. Today, I got a response from one of my senators, Saxby Chambliss, that indicates that the extra daylight has done nothing to help him to read his mail...

"Thank you for writing me about the recent proposal to change Daylight Savings Time (DST). I appreciate hearing from you.

"The U.S. first implemented Daylight Savings Time in 1918 during World War I. It was repealed in 1919 because of its unpopularity and was reinstated by President Roosevelt during World War II, as 'War Time,' in an effort to use less energy. In 1974, President Nixon signed into law the 'Emergency Daylight Savings Time Energy Conservation Act,' and in 1986 Congress amended the Act to begin Daylight Savings Time as we know it today, beginning on the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October.

"As you know, Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a proposal in the House of Representatives to extend Daylight Savings Time by two months. Again, this proposal is an effort to conserve energy. The Department of Transportation estimates that the extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day. The proposal was adopted as part of H.R. 6, the 'Energy Policy Act of 2005,' which passed the House of Representatives on April 21, 2005."

I wrote back urging him to (a) actually read his mail before sending out foolish replies, and (b) do something forward-thinking and work to rid us of this unnecessary, outmoded, and inefficient system of trying to legislate time.

Let's see if he replies again, or if I get another form response that totally misses the point. (And you gotta wonder if these guys read complex legislation any more accurately than they read mail from a constituent!)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sugar Tonight

Bruce Sugar, who did the surround sound production of the Ringo Starr DVD-Audio I reviewed a few days ago, posted a very kind response to my review of the disc, and he also answered a question or two as to how the disc came about and whether more 5.1 mixes might be on the way.

"Thanks for the great reviews of the surround album," Sugar wrote. "The idea to remix these songs was mine, of course with the blessing of Ringo and then I sold the idea to Koch. Unfortunately, most record labels are very short sighted and don't support multichannel mixes. It would be cheaper to do during the initial mixing of the project and would offer the consumer more bang for the buck and less incentive to download for free--hopefully they will catch on soon! It's such a better way to present a musical experience to the listener... Anyway, I hope this DVD-A does well enough to show the labels that its a viable format....


Thank you, Bruce, for doing such a first-class job with this material!

Not Approaching Normal

In these pages, I've mentioned my leg problems, which started about three weeks ago today. Earlier, I got an e-mail from someone asking if things were back to normal now.

Not so much, unfortunately.

My problems aren't as severe as they were, but I still have continual pain in my thigh muscles on my right leg, along with some calf pain. I have trouble straightening my leg fully, which makes lying in bed difficult, leading to fitful sleep. I have severe pain and muscle weakness when I try to bridge my back, lifting up with my legs to raise my hips from the floor; the right leg just doesn't want to cooperate.

Now I can avoid this exercise, but one of my daily activities involves corralling Anna and Mischa, our two cats; Mischa loves to get under the guest bed and wait for me to get her out. This involves getting on my back and pushing myself under the bed, like an auto repairman sliding under a car (only without the wheeled platform). I can get under there just fine, but I have to use the those leg muscles to pull myself back out once I've got Mischa in my arms, and that's where the problems come in.

Will it get back to normal? Can't say. Some folks say it has taken them six months to get back to normal, but others have indicated that the improvement they saw in the first few weeks was all they ever saw. Hope I'm not in the latter group...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ringo Gets Surround

With all too few 5.1 DVD-Audio discs on the schedule nowadays thanks to the format wars (unlike Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD, in which a winner gradually triumphed, both sides lost in the SACD vs. DVD-Audio war... or more specifically, the consumer lost), the addition of any new DVD-Audio release to the schedule is cause for celebration. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that a new Ringo Starr disc, Ringo 5.1, was in the works from Koch Records.

You'd have to be a true Ringo Starr aficionado to recognize most of the songs on this "sort-of best-of" album; while it does include some selected bests, they're the best cuts from his past few albums (prior to Liverpool 8, his newest), rather than the songs for which he's best known. Odds are, if you know any of these songs, it'll be "Never Without You," the song he did shortly after George Harrison's death; it's the only song that got any significant play, thanks in part to the subject matter and to the presence of Eric Clapton on the cut. The album also includes a second song with a brief guitar Clapton solo, "Imagine Me There"; "Don't Hang Up," in which Ringo shares lead vocals with Chrissie Hynde; "Oh My Lord," a gospel-ish piece that features a striking keyboard solo by Billy Preston; "Elizabeth Reigns," a catchy piece from Ringo Rama that incudes an accordion contribution by Van Dyke Parks; and "Memphis In Your Mind," with vocal addition by Eagle Timothy B. Schmidt and a sample lifted (with credit) from Roy Orbison. (The most surprising omission is Ringo Rama's "Write One For Me," with its Willie Nelson guest vocals; it deserves a place here.)

All in all, the album includes six songs from 2003's Ringo Rama (the even-numbered songs) and six from 2005's Choose Love (the odd-numbered songs). The DVD-Audio disc includes a thirteenth cut that's a real treat: a short tune called "I Really Love Her" that is a true Ringo solo performance: Starr plays drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, and bass, as well as supplying all vocals. While Ringo isn't going to find great success as a guitarist, there's no doubt he's every bit as skilled on the frets as Mick Jagger, who has insisted on including a cut or two on each of his solo albums that features his guitar-playing.

Are these Ringo's best songs? Not really, although "Never Without You" ranks right up there. When one speaks of Ringo's best, there are only two albums that really qualify: Ringo and Goodnight Vienna. Everything else has featured a musician struggling to become a musical act, without sufficiently strong material to make it work. In that regard, he's like Art Garfunkel, whose amazing, sometimes ethereal vocals have been bogged down by second-rate song choices ever since his first two post-Paul Simon albums. Ringo's pals Mark Hudson (the ex-Hudson Brothers member who co-wrote the songs) & Gary Burr never really seem to understand the persona that is Ringo; they homogenize his music rather than bringing out his best.

What makes this album remarkable, though, is the DVD-Audio mix. Since the album is entitled 5.1, I presumed that the first disc would be the DVD-Audio surround sound mix and the second would be the standard CD release of the same material. So I loaded up disc one in the Acura MDX's ELS 5.1 surround system (I salute you, Elliot Scheiner, for creating the perfect listening environment!) and was instantly disappointed. Weak sound field, lackluster separation, mediocre sound quality... then I noticed that the display said CD and not DVD-A. I checked again and discovered that Disc 2 is actually the DVD-Audio; I switched the two discs, and...


Suddenly, I'm in the room with the musicians, and Ringo is just a couple of feet away from me, every subtle vocal nuance as clear as if we were actually in the car and he was singing along. You'll have to decide how good that is musically (let's just say that Ringo isn't the strongest vocalist and doesn't always hit every note)--but the visceral impact is amazing. The instruments are clearer than they would be in any live performance; the surround sound field is rich and measured and well-placed; the listening experience is so vivid and vital that it makes even the lesser songs on this album enjoyable.

We can only hope that, at some time, Ringo's early albums--as well as every piece of music he recorded with the Beatles--is made available on DVD-Audio. Right now, we have only this disc and the brilliant Beatles album Love to give us a taste of Beatles (and Beatles related) material in high-resolution surround sound. But judging this album for what it is still leads me to recommend the disc for anyone with a DVD-Audio system: Bruce Sugar & Chis Bellman (the mixing and mastering duo) and Steve Clarke & Dan Bird (who handle the surround encoding) have brought Ringo's music to life, giving it a depth and timbre never heard on any Ringo recording before this.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Please Make This Show

I'd watch it.

(For those out of the loop: the worst written Batman comic currently on the stands (and perhaps the worst written of all time), All Star Batman and Robin, is defined primarily by Frank Miller's scorn-filled take on the Batman, who refers to himself as "the goddamn Batman" over and over again.

(We tried to point out to DC that this adjective is particularly bothersome in this region, but to show the level of credence our concerns were given, Miller made a point of greatly increasing his use of the phrase in response. However, his stand for literary freedom apparently doesn't extend to the scatological, since he did use the word "sh*t" in one issue rather than actually spelling out the four-letter word itself.)