Sunday, July 08, 2018

Steve Ditko Letter

This is my sole letter from Steve Ditko. I was working on what turned out to be a two-volume set on the history of Cracked Mazagine about 10 years ago. I was trying to contact and interview as many Cracked creators as I could and ultimately interviewed about 60 people for the books. Ditko worked for Cracked in the late 80s thanks to Mort Todd. I knew that Ditko was reclusive and thought that he wouldn't talk about Spider-Man, but perhaps he would talk about his Cracked work. I figured that I wouldn't be doing my due diligence if I didn't at least ask. So, I wrote him a letter asking him a few questions about his work at Cracked. This card is what I received back. I found it so amusing that inspiration hit me. I decided to print his letter as a Foreword for my book, just as a joke. Some people asked me if I thought I would get in trouble for doing this without getting Ditko's permission. I said I didn't care. If Ditko would have raised a fuss, I might have taken it into consideration to altering the book, but nothing ever happened, and so the Foreword by Steve Ditko remains in Volume Won of If You're Cracked, You're Happy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Defending My Monkees Credentials


My co-author Michael A. Ventrella and I aren’t immune to criticism, but one criticism we received on our Monkees book: Long Title: Looking For The Good Times concerned what made us qualified to do critiques of The Monkees’ songs. I’ll let Michael speak for himself, but as for myself, I don’t have a degree in music. However, I have written one other book that totally featured my critiques of Beatles music called Mark Arnold Picks On The Beatles (2011). which was based upon the old book by Roy Carr and Tony Tyler called The Beatles: An Illustrated Record (1975; revised 1978, 1981).

When I became a Beatles fan in 1977, I got this book and pored over its pages and virtually memorized Carr’s and Tyler’s reviews. What I discovered after I did further research is that many times I disagreed with Carr’s and Tyler’s assessments and would think, too, “How dare they? What qualifies them to make this judgment on an album or group I love?” Later, I realized, that nothing they did really qualified them to critique their music. Yes, they worked for music publications, but working for a music-related publication doesn’t qualify one to make disparaging remarks on a group “I” love. Still later, I realized that they’re critiques were truly based upon their love for The Beatles, and their sadness that the solo material in most cases didn’t live up to the level established by them as a group.

So, that’s where I am coming from. My love for The Monkees propels me to like or dislike their material. If you need more qualifications, I studied piano and classical music theory for 10 years from age 7-17. I have written songs, some of which won me Composer’s today awards. Our Monkees book was my 10th book published, so I have previous writing experience. Yes, most of my other books were about comic books or animation, but a knowledge of music helps appreciate animation, as many classical music pieces that are associated with Bugs Bunny are derived from much earlier origins due to necessity of time and cost.

My BA is in Broadcast Communication Arts with an emphasis on television. After graduating in 1988, I quickly landed a job at KBHK-TV 44 San Francisco in 1989 and worked there for five years. What I learned working for a major metropolitan TV station was that it wasn’t as exciting or glamourous or creative as college made it out to be. When I worked there, it essentially was the last gasp of what was fun about local TV, and it wasn’t part of a major network or media conglomerate.

My boredom was alleviated by creating and publishing my own fanzine The Harveyville Fun Times! In 1991 and realized that I could write. I also realized that there were pop culture history books that I loved and ones that I hated and it boiled down to this: good writing.

People have also asked why our other book didn’t list all the players on all The Monkees sessions. Michael and I made a conscious decision to not include this material as the focus was to be on what the actual members of The Monkees did on each track. We did like the songwriters, but as far as the other performers on the songs, I will refer you to two sources: The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation (2005) by Andrew Sandoval, and the DVD documentary of The Wrecking Crew (2016). Both of these focus on the players who actually played on a majority of the sessions during the 1960s.

A third source was the booklets of the various Monkees CD reissues over the years. The earliest CD issues were completely sparse to non-existent, but Rhino Records (and later Friday Records) have made up for this oversight on later issues thanks to the tireless work and access by Andrew Sandoval. We never wanted to step on Sandoval’s toes with our book and I personally secured his blessing on our project. Sandoval is still preparing an update to his 2005 book, and I like many Monkees fans, are looking forward to its release.

With that said, Michael and I are hard at work on a book about The Monkees' solo years....

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Facebook is Down

So, Facebook is down today. I was trying to post some typical things: obituaries, promotions for my books, posts about cartoons, comic books and music...and the requisite anti-Trump posts. The shutdown, whether short-lived or long-term makes me think once again what would happen if a major Internet or power outage occurred. Most people would have the worst time contacting others as they don't memorize phone numbers anymore and virtually everything is online.

I, fortunately, keep a few phone numbers for emergency sake written on a sheet of paper. I keep one in my wallet and another in my glove compartment, just in the off-chance I am stranded somewhere and off the grid.

Not being able to post on Facebook is kind of weird after doing it for over 10 years and MySpace before that, but there was a time when I made long-distant phone calls or (shudder!) actually took out pen and paper and wrote a letter and mailed it to someone.

We get so dependent on these technologies. It really makes you think - at least it does for me - when they don't work properly.

In any case, I hope they fix it soon, but if they don't, there are other alternative things to do in life. I will continue to write my books and watch my DVDs and listen to my CDs and vinyl. I just won't post as often and probably will resume writing this blog more frequently.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It's About Time

So, I am watching "It's About Time Complete Series DVD". There should be a lot for me to like about this since I am a fan of Gilligan's Island and of The Brady Bunch, both by Sherwood Schwartz, as this series is. I am also a fan of Joe E. Ross and Imogene Coca, but there is something about this series that just fails miserably. It plays like an episode of Gilligan with other actors, meaning the reason that Gilligan's Island worked so well is that the actors were usually able to elevate subpar material and make it funny. Here, the material falls flat. The two main actors, Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney are competent enough, but they don't have that special magic to elevate mundane scripts. As far as Coca and Ross go, Coca comes off best and I have laughed at some things she's said or done on this series, probably because she has the same ability as the Gilligan actors to make so-so material her own. Ross, unfortunately, comes off the worst. I love him in Sgt. Bilko and even more in Car 54, Where Are You? Here, he sleepwalks through his role as Gronk and rarely utters his infamous "Ooh, Ooh" catchphrase. I had seen a few episodes of this series over the years in very washed out prints that were almost unwatchable, so I gave the series a second chance. While the prints are much more colorful and saturated, none of it helps the humor and the scripts, so the entire effort comes off as kind of limp. It is easy to see why this series only lasted a single season.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why Christians Like Donald Trump

My take on it is I think it's because of Reagan's embracing of the Moral Majority and this strange Reagan lust that ANY Republican can do no wrong while any Democrat must be a heathen because they don't embrace as much religious affiliation as Reagan, Bush 1 & 2 and Nixon did (or claimed to). 

Bill Clinton getting a bj and the misguided claim that Obama was a Muslim didn't help matters much, so now evangelicals have poised themselves to believe that Republicans can do no wrong while Democrats are essentially the anti-Christ.

It's gotten so warped that they are willing to support and defend a man and a party that explicitly says and does things against Christ's teachings of loving thy neighbor as thyself and helping those less fortunate than themselves. 

When confronted with this hypocrisy, many resort to quoting the US Constitution rather than The Bible as defense claiming that there are no laws in the Constitution citing any wrongdoing.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Chris Elliott Story

I had an encounter with Chris Elliott which I wish went better. I was working at KBHK-TV 44 in San Francisco in 1991, my first real post-college job. 

Chris was to be interviewed by the lady on the station's public affairs show (remember those?). I wanted to meet him, but was told to do so after the live show. So, I patiently watched the show at my desk. 

The show was on and was probably the worst interview I had ever seen. Chris was truly uncomfortable (and so was I). The show ended, I went down a floor in the elevator to the studio. 

As I stepped out, I saw Chris rush in the other elevator and I saw the doors close on him. After I realized what had happened, I got back in my elevator and went down to the street level, but by the time I got there, Chris was gone. 

I went back up to see the host lady of the show and she said that the show didn't go very well and Chris bolted for the door as soon as the director said cut. She apologized that I couldn't meet him or get his autograph. I was mad at her for a bit after that, and just avoided her. 

I don't know if it was related to this, but she was replaced a couple months after that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sad Sack Armed Forces complimentary copies #HD1-HD40


I made three interesting discoveries today. I decided to finally tackle the 40 issue run of the Sad Sack Armed Forces complimentary copy series that are numbered HD1-HD40. I have found that each corresponding issue is not chronological; I have found the cover for HD18 is altered from Sad Sack #100 for obvious reasons, and I have just about concluded that HD12 does not exist due to me not being able to find a copy and also a person who goes by the handle "Marvelmaniac" on the CGC forum has asked about this particular issue with no success. Mycomicshop does not picture a cover, nor does Grand Comics Database. Does anyone had a copy of Sad Sack HD12?
Here are the corresponding issues for you completists out there:
HD1 - 57
HD2 - 67
HD3 - 69
HD4 - 68
HD5 - 74
HD6 - 75
HD7 - 77
HD8 - 81
HD9 - 83
HD10 - 84
HD11 - 87
HD12 - exist?
HD13 - 94
HD14 - 55
HD15 - 56
HD16 - 98
HD17 - 99
HD18 - 100
HD19 - 104
HD20 - 105
HD21 - 102
HD22 - 109
HD23 - 70
HD24 - 71
HD25 - 72
HD26 - 78
HD27 - 106
HD28 - 108
HD29 - 110
HD30 - 112
HD31 - 117
HD32 - 113
HD33 - 119
HD34 - 120
HD35 - 121
HD36 - 125
HD37 - 124
HD38 - 126
HD39 - 127
HD40 - 128