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» 2009 » March

Monthly ArchiveMarch 2009

Media 31 Mar 2009 06:39 am

Oven lovin’

Continuing the dual-blog crossover on weird commercials, here’s the latest from Quizno’s, which implies an … ahem! … inappropriate relationship between man and oven.

And as if that’s not bad enough, here’s another version that leaves even less to the imagination:
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Books & Media 29 Mar 2009 06:45 pm

Wacky Packs revisited


A fun part of my childhood was collecting Topps trading cards. While I was marginally into baseball cards, I really preferred the non-sports variety, such as the Planet of the Apes TV series set, Star Wars, and — most of all — Wacky Packages. Abrams Books has captured the fun of this last set in the appropriately titled Wacky Packages, a 240-page collection of the first seven sets in the product-parody sticker series.

The book is filled with vintage product knock-offs: Minute Lice (Minute Rice), Pure Hex (Purex) Bleach, Hipton (Lipton) Tea Bags: The “Hippy” Tea, Fruit of the Tomb (Loom) T-shirts, and many, many more.

An introduction by Pulitzer-Prize winning artist/writer Art Spiegelman (Maus) puts Wacky Packs in the proper historical context: Topps made ‘em to make money, and Spiegelman and some of his underground-comix friends pitched ideas that were quickly generated and expertly designed.
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Commentary 27 Mar 2009 06:52 pm

Urban legend infiltrates State Street business

Here is my print column from March 26:

Our daughter called at 9:30 p.m. last Thursday to warn us about Wal-Mart.

She was studying at a friend’s house when she received this text message: “Police are asking all women not to go to Walmart (sic). 3 women will be shot due to a gang initiation. This is no joke pass it on.”

So she did. Apparently, lots of other folks did, too, judging by newspaper reports. Police in Alliance stepped up patrols on West State Street, and Canton cops did the same at their Wal-Mart locations.

While I appreciated the warning, I didn’t give it a lot of credence, since it sounded like the stuff of urban legend. A quick trip to, the closest thing to an official urban legend Web site, revealed similar gang initiation threats attached to various national retailers in most states. Details differ, from alleged purse snatchings and rapes in North Carolina to body burnings in Texas.
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Books & Commentary 25 Mar 2009 09:44 pm

Quotable Bard


My AP English students are reading Hamlet. I envy them their first encounter with one of my favorite works. Reading it again, I am struck by how many lines have entered into common usage. In the first two acts alone, I noticed these (and I’m sure I missed at least a few more):

“Frailty, thy name is woman.”

“Give every man thy ear, but few thou voice.”

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
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Media 24 Mar 2009 09:06 pm

Tune a fish

This McDonald’s commercial is freaky weird. I hated it at first, but it’s grown on me. Don’t you love that we live in a world where technology makes it possible for us to duck commercials, yet we still feel compelled to share them on YouTube and on blogs?

The only thing that would make this even better is if the guy who walks in the garage with the power tool would drill the talking fish when he hears it sing. Seems like a perfectly sensible response to me.

Movies 23 Mar 2009 08:43 pm

‘Blade Runner’ redux


I honestly can’t remember if I ever saw Blade Runner in a theater. I have always been in awe of the movie, which I trace back to the Marvel Comics adaptation by writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson. (Other artists also worked on the adaptation, but it’s Al’s overwhelming finishes that unite the piece and tie it into classic sci-fi like Flash Gordon.) But whether I read this before or after seeing the movie, or whether I first saw the film on an early VHS release, I don’t know. Suffice to say it made a major impact on me — my first exposure to film noir (although I didn’t know it at the time), my first exposure to a more grungy style of future than I had encountered in more antiseptic science-fiction films and novels and comics of earlier years. And, of course, Harrison Ford is terrific as the Blade Runner, assigned the task of tracking down murderous replicants (androids) who have made their way illegally to Earth.

It’s taken me nine months to get around to watching Blade Runner: The Final Cut, the latest iteration of the film on DVD. This one’s touted as the cut that most closely matches director Ridley Scott’s vision. I don’t consider the following to be anything like a review of the new cut; just some random impressions.
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Comic books 22 Mar 2009 05:32 pm

The first Savior


Frankly, I’m weary of deconstructivist readings of superheroes. The idea, which gained traction in the ’80s with Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, has been repeated ad nauseum in dozens of lesser titles, making me wonder why creators who obviously find “straight” super heroics so restricting, juvenile and dull continue to write and illustrate them.

Happily, The Life and Times of Savior 28 #1 isn’t one of those books. It’s very much a skewed look at superheroes, specifically the patriotic breed such as Captain America, but it’s done with such skill and good grace that it brings something fresh to the table.

That’s not surprising, considering the writer is J.M. DeMatteis. According to interviews I’ve read with him, Savior 28 grew out of an unused Captain America plotline he developed years earlier. Indeed, Savior 28 has much in common with Cap, but I also see some Superman and Phantom in his pedigree, the former because of the cape and superpowers, the latter because of the idea that he is one in a failed line of super guys.
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Commentary 19 Mar 2009 05:37 pm

White flag in the war on drugs

Below is my print column from March 19, 2009, as published in The Alliance Review.

Is America’s “war on drugs” over?

If it isn’t, should it be?

These are important questions in light of continued violence in Mexico and along the southern border, where our country’s addiction to various narcotics-inspired pleasures takes a bloody toll.

According to the March 6 edition of The Economist, some 6,268 people died in Mexico last year in skirmishes between drug cartels and law enforcement. News reports are rife with stories of beheadings, shootings in restaurants, and Red Cross workers — whose only crime is helping the injured — blown apart by booby-trapped bodies on streets and sidewalks.

If the “war on drugs” still exists, then by any sensible person’s standards, we are losing. Americans continue to receive pleasure from
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Comic books & Commentary 17 Mar 2009 10:35 pm

Lights, camera, Action Comics


The economy still sucks, but nothing keeps a good superhero down. The big comic-book news of the weekend was the sale of a copy of Action Comics #1 for $317,200. It’s like one of those rags-to-riches stories that you always dream of in collectibles, but which seldom happens: The book’s previous owner bought it for less than a buck, then cashed it in for the big payday. The book went from wimpy Clark Kent to godlike Superman with one click of the Internet auction button.

Commentary 17 Mar 2009 10:18 pm

Truth in advertising

My wife had foot surgery last week at Mercy Medical Center, a nice facility with skilled people. I had to laugh about a sign in the post-op department, however, that said the facility’s goal was to provide “Very Good” patient care. I’m so used to businesses exaggerating mission statements that I was surprised Mercy was satisfied with “very good.” I was expecting “excellent” or “superior” patient care as the goal. Nothing wrong with “very good,” though. And our experience there was, indeed, very good.

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