Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Makin' Bacon

Once at work, I found a bank envelope that had two strips of bacon in it.

I think I'd like to do my banking that way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Muzika Memoria

Over the last few months, one of my weekend rituals has been catching Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's on local radio station 92.9. It is a fascinating look back at a past where Pink Floyd's "Money" and Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" could co-exist on the same countdown. If you can find it, it is worth a listen just for the insane novelty value.

The whole concept of a "Billboard Top 40" seems kind of arbitrary to me. Why the Top 40, I wonder? Because it made for a suitable length for a radio show? The full chart is the Top 100 songs, so choosing the forty biggest ones feels a little random. Why not the Top 25? Or the Top 50? Someone out there knows the answer to this. Bank on it.

All of these chart flashbacks are terribly interesting, but it's important to remember that the Top 40 is not the only measure of success when it comes to the music business. As you may recall, I did an entry on this subject back in January. One of the points I mentioned was that Black Sabbath had exactly ZERO songs on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. David Dundas, on the other hand, had a chart hit entitled "Jeans On". Does that make David Dundas more significant in the history of music than Black Sabbath? Of course not. Songs like "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" are iconic, while you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who remembers "Jeans On" or David Dundas in America.

The charts are funny that way. While they do provide a snapshot of what were popular singles, that doesn't always tell the whole story. If we relied strictly on chart performance, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead would be considered one-hit wonders, while Andrea True Connection would not be (she charted twice). Yet, I'd wager far more people have heard non-Top 40 songs "Hey Joe" and "Truckin'" (to name two examples) than True's "NY, You Got Me Dancing". Don't get me wrong; I love "More, More, More" in all its suggestive disco-fied stupid glory. But who's the one-hit wonder here, despite what Billboard says?

There's no great lesson in these meditations, except to repeat that perhaps what is popular in the here and now is not necessarily what will be enduring and timeless. Though both bands rose to fame at about the same time, I don't think there is any question that the Ramones have become far more legendary than Pablo Cruise, despite Cruise's 5 Top 40 singles to the Ramones' none. And I groove out to "Love Will Find A Way", so don't even think of calling me biased.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider

It hardly seems possible today, but there was a time not that long ago when I knew precious little about either Ultraman or Kamen Rider. I had heard about them, read about them, and seen a few pictures from the various series. I had even managed to glimpse some tantalizing video clips here and there. And yet, I'd somehow missed seeing the big picture. They were both mysteries - the kind that were so commonplace back in those days before the World Wide Web was everywhere.

The beginning of all that changing was when someone (Andre DuBois, I believe?) reviewed the video we're discussing today in an issue of Kaiju Review (#6, I believe?). I think I learned more about both Ultraman and Kamen Rider in that single review than I had anywhere else. It made me hungry to learn more about both franchises. The simplest solution was to track down my own copy of ULTRAMAN VS. KAMEN RIDER.

I wasn't disappointed. Even today, over 15 years later, this video is an excellent sampler of what the two biggest Japanese superhero properties were all about up to that point. It might seem a little quaint to those people who regard ULTRAMAN TIGA and KAMEN RIDER KUUGA as "old stuff", but it's dynamic and powerful and gives a good overview of just about everything.

I won't bore you with listing the individual sections of the video. Suffice to say that each one rocks, hard style, and gives you a peek into the world of every Ultra and Rider up to that moment in time. Yep, even poor unloved Shin Kamen Rider and Ultraman Great get their turns! The latest production when the video was created was KAMEN RIDER ZO, so neither KAMEN RIDER J nor ULTRAMAN POWERED (the U.S.-filmed ULTRAMAN : THE ULTIMATE HERO) got their turn in the sun. Although, speaking of Rider J, this video supposedly influenced him.

In a move that rivals the original Superman/Spider-Man meeting as an unlikely hero team-up, Ultraman and Kamen Rider get to fight TOGETHER in a short film near the end. It's not exactly plot heavy (to put it mildly), but the coolness factor is off the scale. It's the original versions of Ultraman and Kamen Rider (Ichigo for the latter, if you're in the know), united for the first and probably only time. I won't give away the climactic surprise, but you might be able to piece it together from the clue above, if you don't know it already. Oh, and watch for the highly amusing scrambling of the two characters during the closing credits. Somehow, Ultraman astride a motorcycle and Kamen Rider doing the Spaceium Beam pose never fails to bring a smile to my face.

As far as reality goes, the special also features the much-beloved pair of Koji Moritsugu (ULTRASEVEN) and Hiroshi Miyauchi (KAMEN RIDER V3) in interview segments with directors from their respective series. But the most amazing segment is the discussion between Noboru Tsuburaya and Shotaro Ishinomori. When these two express their mutual admiration and shake hands, it's perhaps even more impressive than the team-up between the two fictional heroes. It's a moment that seems even more important today than it did at the time, and one which can never be duplicated now that both gentlemen have passed away.

ULTRAMAN VS. KAMEN RIDER came out through Bandai/Emotion Video back in the day, and because of how much things have changed since 1993, I am doubtful we'll be seeing it on legal disc anytime soon. But nothing can erase the memories it created, for it's probably one of the biggest reasons I've been following Japanese superheroes ever since.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oh, If Only This Were True...

Amazing World of DC Comics #13 (October 1976) is billed as the "Incredible Unpredictable Issue". In practice, this means that the 13th issue of DC's in-house fanzine has some contents that would be right at home for April Fool's Day. Except, you know, in October. Hmmm...

Anyway, one of the features in this issues is "Short Circuits" by Michael Uslan. This is a parody of DC's coming attractions column dubbed "Direct Currents". Unfortunately, most of the humor in "Short Circuits" does not rise above the level of feeble. Sorry, Mr. Uslan, you've done a lot of great things in your career, but this isn't one of them.

However, I don't bring this up to kick Michael Uslan, but rather to spotlight the one bit I genuinely liked. And that bit is this :

Starting with the September issue [of The Brave And The Bold], Batman will team up with all the wonderful characters of Looney Tunes. Bob Haney reports that in his blockbuster "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow", Batman and Sgt. Rock team up with Pepe LaPew to track down Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam to Argentina, where they discover the two are really Hitler and Martin Borman in disguise.

I will pay whatever it takes to build a time machine to make this story happen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Onda

I added the "life" tag to this blog the other day, but I really didn't dream I'd be writing this entry...

When I was little, I used to call my older sister Rhonda, "Onda". She thought that was really cute. But then, I was her little brother, and almost everything I did was adorable to her.

Rhonda was my half-sister, and sixteen years my senior. She had moved out by the time I became aware of my surroundings. I really didn't see her that much as I was growing up, and honestly, didn't see her that much afterward either. It was hard to think of her as my sister in the way that Amy, my younger sister, is my sister. It was different. But I still loved her all the same.

I learned this morning that Rhonda had become very sick, but for reasons of her own, she hadn't wanted us to know (she lived in Texas). Her boyfriend called to tell us that she had gone into a coma. This evening, I learned that she was gone. In 24 hours, I've gone from not knowing anything about her illness to having to say goodbye. It's hard.

I love you, Onda. I wish I could hug you and tell you that one more time.

Chris & Rhonda Elam, December 1973

Christopher & Rhonda Elam, December 1973

Saturday, September 12, 2009


When I decided to apply myself to this little enterprise in January, I thought, "If I get 100 entries up this year, that will be good." Well, here we are in September, and despite a few setbacks along the way, I've already made it to that magical number of 100. Not bad.

My most recent setback was that my computer contracted a rather nasty virus, and I had to have the hard drive replaced. That meant starting essentially from scratch, and the process is still an ongoing one. I've chosen to look at this more as an opportunity than an inconvenience. I didn't lose any of my vital work, which was the most important thing. Some programs might not be replaceable for the moment, but that's a small sacrifice. I needed a sense of renewal, and a chance to either leave behind or discard some stuff that was no longer working for me. Maybe this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

There may be some adjustments to this blog's contents in the coming weeks. My growing dissatisfaction with LiveJournal is causing me to rethink my approach to my writing. The old ways were fine, but I am feeling it might be time for a shake-up. There may be more personal, real life content included here, as I ease away from the daily posting ritual I practiced on the journal for years. I'm not sure just yet how I'll handle that. Time will tell, I guess.

For me, the most exciting part of this blog reaching 100 entries is the volume of stuff that I want to discuss that I haven't yet. I don't think I've even mentioned Hiroshi Miyauchi until just now. I haven't gushed over my favorite Batman story of all time. There's been no dialogue about how I can like musical acts as diverse as Blue Oyster Cult, Devo, and Waylon Jennings. There's so much in my big ol' wonderful world that I suspect I will not be lacking in craziness to share for a long, long time.

I hope you'll continue to follow along on my mad journey, wherever it leads.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

All-Star Interviews

Hi folks. Things have been a bit hectic here at OWARI HQ and I've been too buried under pressing matters to compose a proper post for this blog. We'll talk more about that next time, but meanwhile, let's look at something fun.

One of my favorite comic book series of all time is the Justice Society strip which ran in the 1970s incarnation of All-Star Comics and later in Adventure Comics. I caught it at just the right time in my development, and it's not too far-fetched to say that it was and is a strong influence on much of what I have read and written in the intervening years. I should review it one day. For now, we'll read about it.

The following interviews were conducted by Roy Thomas and originally appeared (as noted) in the pages of Alter Ego Vol. 3 #14. They have since also turned up in Roy's All-Star Companion Vol.3, a worthy book in a worthy series that I highly recommend.

The 1970s Justice Society Revival-All-Starring the Original Cast!

Sad to say, Mr. Estrada has passed away since his interview. Just another reminder why it's important to record the experiences of the old pros before they leave us forever.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bat Eater

Bat Eater

Following on the heels of Conehead, here we have Bat Eater. Bat Eater was another member of my Secret Society. It took me awhile to even remember his name, to be honest. Fortunately, I had given my grandmother a few of my "books" back in the day, and I ended up getting them back when she passed away. So thanks to the foresight of Maw Maw Elam in saving those little treasures, I can assure you that this cat was, in fact, named "Bat Eater".

Now as far as why he was named that, I'm not sure. He has fangs, but I don't know if he was meant to be a vampire or not. Possibly, he was meant to be a science-created vampire...or something. Anyway, I don't think he drank blood. Did he acquire his powers from eating bats? You know, at six years old, that might have made perfect sense.

(There is also the fact that one of the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes was named "Matter-Eater Lad". Influence? No idea...)

Bat Eater's outfit has been tweaked somewhat for the 21st century. Mostly, I gave him blue accents instead of making him all black. The glider wings are also blue, but a darker shade. Instead of the standard letters on his chest, I gave him an insignia that keeps with his theme without just being a straight copy of Batman's.

Will you be seeing more latter-day renderings of my old characters? Oh, I'd say that's a pretty safe bet.