Author: Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo: Who Dis?

Brainiac On Banjo: Who Dis?

Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who, who? — From “Who Are You” written by Pete Townshend. Of The Who.

Truth be told, I don’t think there’s a single person who’s been cast as the lead in Doctor Who whose work in that role I have not enjoyed. Double-negative much?

The writing, howsoever, is another thing. And before you overstimulate your hackles, I am in awe of the writing on this season’s run thus far. I am also aware of the controversy that surrounds this season, but I am hardly in awe of the incredible stupidity and hatred within all too many of those in the ethersphere who pound on keyboards with anger from the safety of their internet-given anonymity.

(That by-line you see on everything I write? That’s not simply my ego shouting at you; that’s also my sense of responsibility that I’m shoving in your face.)

The previous Doctor was a woman and the little bitty incel community (if, indeed, living alone in your mother’s basement makes you part of a “community”) completely lost their minds. Their petty, hate-filled minds only can handle binary decisions: man or woman, war or peace, conservative or Communist. They cannot process anything in between. They are so black-and-white even Ayn Rand would tell them to grow up.

Some blame it on their religion, as if hatred of those who don’t smoke the same brand of cigarettes as you matters in any way. If your Supreme Being is a hater, exactly what is it about him that you find so goddamned supreme? And, yes, I said “him” specifically.

But actor Jodie Whittaker and the rest of her talented cast deserved better scripts. Sure, I’ve lived through worse writing, but many of the stories during her run seemed illogical, unhappy and unending. There were a number of good villains, but that has been the case in the most poorly written seasons as well. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Who Dis?”

As Is: Maybe The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow…

As Is: Maybe The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow…

And the judge looked down at me and said, For getting smart, boy, gonna give you more than a lifetime. Murder in my heart for the judge. I’ve got murder in my heart for the judge — From “Murder in My Heart For The Judge,” as written by Donald J. Stevenson and Jerry A. Miller Jr. and presently performed by America’s best known felon.

I just had to make a difficult choice. Should I write about the final episode of Star Trek: Discovery under the “Brainiac On Banjo” banner, or should I write about how America’s treacherous ex-president finally got his comeuppance after 77 years of blustering, conning, extortion, lying, cheating and stealing under my even more political “As Is” rant? Bet you figured that out already.

I can always comment on boldly going where artificial intelligence has gone before. I should celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel, the forthcoming possibility that soon I will never feel the need to comment on the greatest criminal (and skankiest biped) in American history.

Coincidentally, I learned about the verdict coming in from one of the biggest Star Trek fans I know, and I happen to know one hell of a lot of them. I was resting and playing with Adriane’s cat Artemis while listening to music — Artie prefers Warren Zevon — when I received a phone call from comics writer/editor/legend Mindy Newell. She informed me the jury was coming in with the verdicts. “WTF,” I replied, albeit non-initialisticly. “They’ve been deliberating for only about a dozen hours!” “Nonetheless…” Mindy wisely replied.

So I fired up my monitor, hooked myself up to several real news services, and sat back to enjoy the show. As everybody who’s watched juries on television knows, such brief deliberations rarely inure to the benefit of the accused. So my happy-adrenaline started pumping madly like one of Harold Hamm’s oil wells.

And I was not disappointed. Everybody had their scorecard up on the screen. Even Fanduel is unaccustomed to displaying a loss of 34 – 0. The jury of Donald Trump’s peers — but, clearly, these folks were deliberative, focused, and honest so they hardly were Emperor Trump’s “peers” — were goddamned clear in their message. Continue reading “As Is: Maybe The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow…”

Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?

Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?

They push you to the ground. You’re lying in the mud. They bite your neck, and they drink your blood. You’re lying there alone, trying to catch your breath, trying to cancel your appointment with the angel of death. — From Lesbian Vampyres From Outer Space, by The Scary Bitches.

In conversation earlier this week, I was asked if I could list all of the comics event series that are going on right now. I thought for a second, came up with two, realized there’s more, and then I let out a quiet “No. No, I cannot.”

Okay. I’ve bitched and moaned about the Comics Event Trap before and those feelings haven’t changed — events are not events when everything is an event, damnit! However, the fact that I am of an honest persuasion begs me to admit there is one such series going on right now that I not only remember, but I actually like.

It’s called “Blood Hunt,” it’s from Marvel, and it’s all about a massive vampire assault on this here planet. You might think that alone would turn me off — the whole global monster-takeover thing has been done to death, be it zombies, werewolves, vampires, or MAGA. In each (save for the last) the outcome is predetermined. Eventually, humans get their planet back.

But Blood Hunt seems to avoid other aspects of the Comics Event Trap that annoy me all the way to my keyboard. I say “seems” because we’re about a month into it and, like all of us in the commercial pop culture racket, there’s always the opportunity to screw the pooch. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Mike’s To-Do List!

Brainiac On Banjo: Mike’s To-Do List!

Well, I’ve been down to the river, I washed away my sins. Well, every day’s a nice, clean slate, for me to fuck it up again. Yeah, I’ll probably fuck it up again. — from “Do It Again”, written by John Shanks and Sheryl Crow.

I decided I should make a “To Do” list. I ain’t getting any younger and I ration out my brain power, so this seems like a good idea. So I’ll do just that, you know, instead of writing a real column this week.

To do:

Reread the first nine issues of the current JSA miniseries, just in case DC decides to finish publishing it before I die.

Ask Bill Sienkiewicz if the British government contacted him about doing over King Charles’ official portrait.

Do some genetic research. I am convinced that the lunch cook at Riverdale High School, Miss Beazley, is closely related to Popeye, the Sailor Man. Possibly separated at birth.

Check and see if Trump died yet.

Write a hopefully not-too-long piece about what an unbelievably great cartoonist Dick Briefer had been.

Order our Deadpool & Wolverine tickets.

Offer to comp Marty Scorsese on the Deadpool & Wolverine tickets. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Mike’s To-Do List!”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Worm Turns!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Worm Turns!

“I’m the air you breathe, food you eat, friends your greet in the sullen street,” from The Changeling, written by Jim Morrison.

If you’re a regular reader of Brainiac On Banjo, you might be aware of my affection for the computing products sold by Apple. Those buggers brought ease of use, intuition, logic, and a common interface to personal computing, advertising their stuff as “for the rest of us.”

On Super Bowl XVIII Sunday, 1984, Apple advertised their new Macintosh computers with a Ridley Scott commercial they paid to run only once, although the spot received a great deal of free play in news items and on talk shows. The theme was copped from George Orwell’s novel 1984, but it was a response to 1984 with an athlete destroying the soul-sucking machinery that was controlling the masses. Back then, computers did not control our lives the way they do now.

That was then.

Sadly, “artificial intelligence” is not as dangerous as the artificially intelligent. Programmers seem to be associating only with other programmers, creating things they can brag about over a beer. For a decade now Apple, the people who made computing personal and who coined that phrase have produced a growing amount of crappy whiz-bang and dysfunctional hoohah, both in its hardware and its software.

Apple upgrades their operating systems about every 10 weeks, but I no longer approach computing wide-eyed and eager to try the new stuff they’re giving me. Now my first thought is “what did these assholes break this time?” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Worm Turns!”

Brainiac On Banjo: Let’s Stumble In The Jungle

Brainiac On Banjo: Let’s Stumble In The Jungle

“Walking through forests of palm tree apartments. Scoff at the monkeys who live in their dark tents. Down by the waterhole, drunk every Friday, eating their nuts, saving their raisins for Sunday. Lions and tigers who wait in the shadows; they’re fast but they’re lazy, and sleep in green meadows.” From “Bungle in the Jungle,” written by Chip Taylor, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Trevor Smith, Stig Anderson, Kamaal Fareed, Malik Taylor, Pras Michel, Forte, Benny Andersson, and Bjoern K Ulvaeus.

Let me start this week’s disquisition with an apology. A friend of mine sent me the above piece of art which he copped off the internet. He did not know who the artist was, but it so directly relates to my experiences as a comic book fan that I’m using it anyway, with sincere apologizes to its creator. It’s fantastic, it’s right on the money, and it directly addresses one of my major four-color bugaboos.

Outside of the obvious, which is clearly seen in the above purloined artwork, I never understood the massive appeal of jungle girl comics. By and large, these stories were exquisitely drawn but horribly overwritten. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of room to do brilliant heroic jungle action stories, and usually there was a male companion/savior involved. The late 40s / early 50s were like that. I guess women in four-color or full color needed saviors back then.

Only a handful of jungle heroes had “legs” — that is, the ability to successfully endure in their own title for a long period of time. There were a lot jungle women, mostly white, all in terrific shape and clothed in barnstorming costumes. Mind you, they all wore more than, say, Tarzan, but they wore it better.

These women were immortalized by a plethora of terrific artists such as Matt Baker, Frank Frazetta, Bill Everett, Bob Powell, George Evans, Lou Fine, Mort Meskin, Ralph Mayo, and Maurice Whitman… to name but a few. Clearly, these casting decisions made everybody quite happy. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Let’s Stumble In The Jungle”

As Is: What Goes Around Seems Here Forever

As Is: What Goes Around Seems Here Forever

“But now it’s just another show and you leave ’em laughing when you go. And if you care, don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away.” From Both Sides Now, written by Joni Mitchell

For at least six decades I have held to a position that seems to be unsupported by anybody else I know. You’d think that would be controversial, but, amazingly, not a single person has raised any objections to my basic philosophy thus far. That’s pretty unusual.

The ante seems to have gone up; so, now that we’re about halfway into this decade, let’s see if there’s any blowback. Yeah, I know, tossing a hand grenade and then throwing my body on top of it seems like a counterproductive means of persuasion — but one’s reality is only the property of the possessor. I think I first expressed this in print in the Chicago Seed, a radical newspaper, back around 1971 and I’ve said it a lot ever since, so you might have heard me say this before.

I am a big-ass believer in freedom of religion. Therefore, I am a big-ass believer in freedom from religion: you can’t practice your beliefs if mine stand in your way, and vice versa. This is why I only go to Chick-fil-A on Sundays.

Therefore, and this is where the ice gets thinner, I am and long have been opposed to a Muslim state and I am equally opposed to a Jewish state. I’m also opposed to a Christian state, and lately fighting the Christian Nationalist bigots and liars has become my raison d’être.

Yeah, I know. That pretty much puts me on the other side of — at the very least — a majority of my fellow citizens. 28% of Americans classify themselves as religious “nones.” 17% of them identify as atheist, 20% as agnostic and 63% as “nothing in particular.” (Source: C Mandler, CBS News, January 24, 2024  — quoting Pew Research). I note these numbers continue to be on the upswing, and that is a cause for hope.

So, I don’t have a horse in any Middle East war. Sorry, folks. I carry the torch for freedom of religion.

Unless you’re paying rent to a native tribal council, I do not want to hear the hypocritical “but my great-grandparents used to live there” argument. Not unless you’re willing to hand me the deed to one of the Egyptian pyramids that my ancestors helped build. This is America and all white people came from somewhere else.

I also believe, with equal devotion, in freedom of expression. If you morally object to something, you have a right to share, promote and defend your beliefs, and you have the right to gather with others who have the same opinions. This is why I am strongly opposed — and greatly repulsed — by the actions taken this part week at Columbia University, the University of Southern California and other so-called ramparts of knowledge. People who do not like either “side” of the Gaza/Israel War have every right to say so. People are getting killed, and those who object to that have an obligation to say so.

This does not mean I support in any way, in any manner, in any shape, Benjamin Netanyahu and his dwindling group of followers. Nor do I support Hamas, the Taliban, Yisrael Beiteinu, Boko Haram, Hizballah, Shas, the current rulers of Iran, the Likud Party, Hobby Lobby, and similar ultra-extremist religious terrorist organizations. If I declined to mention your favorite hate group, that is because, in my heart of hearts, I feel real estate in the etherverse is limited.

Oh, yeah. One thing more. Despite my Joni Mitchell quote above, I do not believe in “there are two sides to every story” bullshit. Thanks to Celeste Van Dorp, one of my most influential high school teachers, I firmly believe in multiple causation. There are lots and lots of reasons for damn near everything.

Sadly, not all reasons are good reasons.

Brainiac On Banjo: History Never Ends, But…

Brainiac On Banjo: History Never Ends, But…

“Trina wears her wampum beads, she fills her drawing book with line. Sewing lace on widow’s weeds, and filigree on leaf and vine.” from Ladies of the Canyon,” written by Joni Mitchell in tribute to Trina Robbins in 1970.

Much has been written about the passing of Trina Robbins, and I stand behind every syllable I’ve read. I will not be joining that informative chorus, but instead I will be discussing one of her final works, Dauntless Dames: High-Heeled Heroes of the Comics, published less than eight months ago.

This remarkably oversized tome, roughly the size of a tabloid newspaper, is from Fantagraphics Books’ Sunday Press imprint. Trina had a co-conspirator on this one, strip historian, connoisseur and Sunday Press honcho Peter Maresca. It is a true gem.

As the title suggests, Dauntless Dames puts the spotlight on a wide-variety of adventure comic strips that star women. Many, such as Tarpé Mills’ Miss Fury, Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr and Jackie Ormes’ Torchy Brown (later revived as Heartbeats) were produced by women — and women cartoonists were hardly a common sight before the Vietnam War. Male cartoonists who employed women heroes include Frank Godwin’s Connie, Russell Stamm’s Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, Bob Oksner’s Miss Cairo Jones, and Jack Sparling’s Claire Voyant… not to be confused with the current drag performer of the same name. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: History Never Ends, But…”

Brainiac On Banjo: Dues For Artificial Intelligence

Brainiac On Banjo: Dues For Artificial Intelligence

“And now you dare to look me in the eye. Those crocodile tears are what you cry. It’s a genuine problem, you won’t try to work it out at all, you just pass it by.” Substitute, written by Pete Townshend

Image created by Jay Vollmar for The Washington Post

I’m about to ask a serious question that should, and eventually will, become central to the artificial intelligence story. It has to do with the conflation of reality and the effluvia of computer-created content.

First, I need to report the backstory that generated my concerns. It’s a tough story revolving around one of the societal taboos that most certainly should be taboo — but it’s not the actions of the perpetrator with which I take issue. This is a closed case: the criminal pleaded guilty and was sentenced.

This is a discussion topic, not an analysis of disgusting acts that the defendant says he committed. I’m discussing a point that rests at a legal and a moral juncture, at least in my mind. Here’s the news story, as reported in The Guardian last Friday.

CONTENT WARNING –  A text version of a news report concerning images of child abuse follows.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Dues For Artificial Intelligence”