Author: Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo: New York, Naked

“It trails me and it tails me down to Central Park. Even after dark, New York is my home. New York is calling me, and now I find the city never sleeps… it’s my state of mind.” New York Is My Home, written by Dion Di Mucci, Scott Kempner, and Mike Acquilina, 2016

Like many pop culture enthusiasts – we used to be called “fans” before cosplay became a big deal — my “top ten favorite movies” list runs a bit heavy. I recently took to creating an actual written-down list and, as of this typing, this effort has engorged to 66 films. I’m sure it will lengthen.

Among those works on film to which I am most endeared is a 1948 flick called “The Naked City,” directed by Jules Dassin and starring Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, and Dorothy Hart. Despite its title, this brilliant and authentic action movie is not the least bit salacious. It most certainly is naked, in the sense that The Naked City is the most poignant portrait of New York City I have seen.

This is the New York City of legend, filmed on location. Well, 80% of it was filmed on location, and that certainly fits the definition of unique. No other movie had so much Manhattan footage, and the performers and crew were not limited to the types of cover shots we are used to seeing on shows like N.Y.P.D. Blue.

We are thrust into the real, heroic city of legend that is no longer with us, but unlike Camelot or Brigadoon this place was real and that is the stuff of this movie. It was the town many of our ancestors first saw when they came to America, the portal to a new world that offered the promise of fair play, opportunity, equality, and democracy. Those values may be fading rapidly as well, but that’s for another time.

As much as I love the work of Damon Runyon, the New York City seen in this movie is the real thing. There are no singing and dancing gangsters in this production. You can almost smell the sidewalk hot dogs, the sweat of the workers, and the stench of the tenements on a hot summer day — The Naked City was filmed in the very, very hot summer of 1947, and it shows.

Long gone are the Manhattan elevated trains and the Essex Street Market, the old Staten Island Ferry terminal and the real Penn Station, the ramshackle and often dangerous subdivided apartment buildings for those who dream, and the mom-n-pop stores that met their needs. Big-box chain stores and franchise fast food were almost unheard of. It was America’s portal to the rest of the world and, more important, it was the portal from the rest of the world.

The movie most certainly suffers from some of the constraints and attitudes of its time. There’s plenty of white ethnic diversity, and that’s about it. New York City is and always been a lot more than that, but in 1948 I suspect a lot of people wondered why they ever would be interested in seeing a movie about a bunch of Irish, Italians, and Ashkenazi… let alone about New Yorkers. The Naked City does not portray a lot of high falutin’ swells living in the vertical gated communities that line Central Park; this is the people of New York whose heads would explode at the thought of paying today’s $3,500 a month rent.

The original The Naked City movie, later remade as several television series and movies, is a breathtaking, highly detailed and emotionally appropriate record of the city that defined America. It is a 96-minute time machine that nails down the roots of our cultural heritage.

It’s also a damn good cop movie.

The Naked City is on HBO Max and, better still, the 23-minute Criterion documentary Uncovering The Naked City is there as well, although I do not know how long either will be streaming from that venue. Talk about Brigadoon… Of course, both are available from Criterion on home video and on the Criterion Channel. I say “better still” because The Naked City is shown on TCM with some regularity but the documentary is a mere seventeen months old and not quite as accessible. It’s a love letter to both the movie and to the city that made it… and, of course, to the people who made it as well.

As they said in this movie and its subsequent adaptations, “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” This has been the best of them.

The author dedicates this column to Howard V. Chaykin, the source of several of those eight million stories.

As Is: Guns and Covid, for Fun and Profit

If you see me walking down the street / And I start to cry each time we meet / Walk on by, walk on by. — “Walk on By,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, 1964.

Here’s one of the reasons why I’m not completely opposed to handgun ownership.

You’re at the supermarket, and you’re wearing your mask. Yeah, I know, lots of people have been vaccinated, including your writer, but according to a scientific study I just made up those that refuse the jab tend to be the same ones who won’t wear a mask. Even if you’re two weeks past your second shot, the issue of your ability to pick Covid up and pass it along to those selfish schmucks who won’t do the right thing remains, as of this posting, unsettled. There are indications that the vaccines provide some benefit in this regard and that’s swell, but until Doctor Fauci, Doctor Fine and Doctor Howard tell us otherwise, it is polite to protect others, even the inconsiderate assholes.

Fun fact: with so many Q-morons refusing to get the jab, we are not going to achieve herd immunity. Well, maybe I’m wrong, and drinking bleach and shoving an ultra-violet lamp up your ass does work after all – I’m told it’s quite a buzz – but I have yet to read of any studies confirming that.

O.K. So you’re masked in the supermarket, remember? And some maskless dickhead is blocking the aisle while loudly mocking your completely unAmerican passion for consideration. You ask him, politely, to get the hell out of the way. He responds by mocking your snowflakeness and insisting he has a constitutional right to not wear a mask because it infringes on his freedom.

You respond — well, I respond — “Where in the constitution does it say you have the right to kill strangers?” After he tells you the 600,000 deaths is Deep State bullshit, you respond — well, I respond — “Perhaps we can agree that the constitution at least implies you have the right to self-defense?”

I know you can’t have more than 100% of anything, but I am absolutely certain that at least 155% of Q-morons will agree with that statement. So you (well, certainly I) respond: “So you agree that, out of self-defense, I can fucking shoot you, right?”

And then you look this fool right in the eye and you reach around to the back of your belt and make a gentle pulling motion.

At this point, nine out of ten Q-morons will get out of your way. Make certain your shirt is pulled out from behind your belt, and just walk on by.

Well, unless you’re Black and the Q-moron is a White cop. Do not take unnecessary risks. Statistics matter.

That’s it for today, folks! Don’t forget to tip the waitstaff, and praise the lord and pass the ammunition and we’ll all stay free.

Happy 420. We’ve Still Got A Long Way To Go

“Please don’t waste your energy on me my friend / cause we still got a long way to go / We’ll meet again someday / but right now just go away / ‘cause I still got a long way to go.” Michael Bruce, Long Way To Go, 1971

Happy 420, a holiday that, I dare say, gets happier each year.

In the past six months, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota and Virginia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. That means as of this writing, its use is legal for adults in 16 states, the “District” of Columbia, and Guam – not to mention Canada, Mexico, and a rapidly increasing number of industrial nations.

Another 20 states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana and most of those are entertaining complete legalization. More than two-thirds of all Americans support legalization, and this cuts across both political parties and those who identify as liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian, and Anglo-Saxon.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, we spend nearly four billion dollars each and every year enforcing the existing marijuana laws. 45% of all inmates in federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses (source: Federal Bureau of Prisons). 1.5 million people are arrested each year for drug-related offenses and over 500,000 are behind bars (source: The Economist). We are spending in excess of twenty billion dollars keeping these miscreants behind bars each and every year.

Of course, a highly disproportionate number of weed inmates are not white men and certainly not white men who are “of a certain age.” It bears noting that a young person with a prison record is extremely likely to be marginalized throughout his or her “career,” and, thus, is equally likely to be a financial burden on society. This should go without saying, but if it did, then it wouldn’t be an issue.

You’d think there would be more productive ways to spend our tax dollars, including (but not limited to) reducing taxes.

But if you did, you wouldn’t be President Joe Biden. He’s opposed to national legalization efforts, and his schedule has been tied up firing some of his staff members who have admitted to prior weed use. This liberal icon has been very busy putting our money where his mouth is. It should be noted that Joe Biden, like his legal predecessor and like this writer, does not consume alcohol.

Of course, there are people who are opposed to legalization. There are the usual religious totalitarians who are convinced their invisible hoary thunderer gets angry every time anybody receives any enjoyment out of life. There also are the self-appointed moral monitors who believe Reefer Madness was a documentary.

And, of course, there’s the prison-for-profit racket, a gaggle of soulless entrepreneurs and investors who are all too happy to feel your pain all the way to their bank.

I firmly believe in the original conservative philosophy that demands we “mind our own business.” Here’s a fun fact: when Benjamin Franklin designed the very first American coin, one side states “Mind Your Business” and the other side declares “We Are One.”

I think we would do well by remembering those two phrases, particularly during these difficult times when our nation and its values are under armed attack by those Anglo-Saxon separatists.

Or… maybe… let’s legalize marijuana just to save the money and to free resources that actually will inure to the benefit of our society. Old school Republicans — who seem to have been purged from the party that carries their name — should embrace this idea just to kick big government in its big ass.

Of course, there are other ways to celebrate 420. Personally, I’m partying down at my local vaccine clinic and getting my second jab. I’m told I will likely get sick for a couple of days, and I appreciate the wisdom of the “but it beats getting Covid” mantra.

Hey… party on, Mike!

And have a safe, healthy, and amusing 420. After what we’ve all been through, we deserve it.

Bicycle Day – Our Celebration of Innovation

“I want to ride my bicycle / I want to ride my bike / I want to ride my bicycle / I want to ride it where I like.” Freddie Mercury, Bicycle Race, 1978

Happy Bicycle Day!

Okay, outside of a mawful of ancient hippies (ahem), there aren’t a hell of a lot of people who know about Bicycle Day, and I suspect some who have heard of it couldn’t care less. How’s that for seducing you into reading further?

Tomorrow’s holiday, 420, is better known these days with the legalization of adult recreational cannabis sweeping the nation. There’s a lot I can say about that, and I probably will — tomorrow. As I said, today is Bicycle Day. First things first.

 

Way back in 1938, a Swiss scientist named Albert Hoffman synthesized a respiratory and circulatory stimulant named lysergic acid diethylamide, or as it is more popularly known, LSD. He then put it aside for five years. Evidently his employer, Sandoz (a great name, since abandoned), really wasn’t concerned about return on investment. Dr. Hoffman rediscovered his chemical creation during the height of World War II and he promptly did what anybody who was stuck in the middle of the second war to end all wars would do — he ingested the stuff. Evidently, that wasn’t his plan; he said some of it sort of spilled on him while he was re-synthesizing. Or, as The Fugs said, “it crawled into my hand, honest.” I don’t know why Hoffman was covering his ass, as nobody had invented a test for LSD use at the time.

About an hour later, Dr. Hoffman felt very restless and slightly dizzy. “At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed… I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away,” Albert revealed in 1980.

Three days later, Hoffman tried it again, this time most certainly on purpose, and he did so at the lab. He was taken home to sleep it off – on a bicycle! This bicycle ride taken during the first intentional LSD trip by its creator first was celebrated in 1985 as Bicycle Day at Northern Illinois University. Thanks to Covid, I am sitting at home in the Atlantic Northeast and not on a bicycle riding through the streets of DeKalb — as if I’d ever done that in the past.

LSD’s potential as a treatment for depression and other serious mental health conditions has been well considered for about 70 years. Lately, the concept of using various psychedelic drugs (including mushrooms) as treatment has undergone serious reconsideration, and the medicinal use of such substances is being renewed in several states. Recreational use is also under consideration; evidently, while cannabis is not the gateway drug President Biden and other science-deniers claim it is, legalization of recreational marijuana may very well be. Nonetheless, some very hopeful and positive results with respect to depression and sundry mental health conditions have been reported.

(I am assuming “mental health conditions” remains the politically correct way of referring to it this week. I don’t know; the American Psychiatric Association can’t update its DSM-5 fast enough.)

I admire Dr. Hoffman’s reaction to his own experiment. Mind you, experimenting on yourself in a non-clinical setting might not be the smartest move you could make. To quote the great Johnny Knoxville, “Hey, kids, don’t try this at home!”

If you find yourself without two-wheeled transport today, there is another way to celebrate the holiday. Drew Carey, of television and stand-up comedy fame, has been doing a truly terrific free-form rock and roll show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage every Friday for several years now, and tonight — yeah, it’s Monday, not Friday — Carey is broadcasting a special Bicycle Day tribute to psychedelic rock on SiriusXM channel 21 today from 10 pm to midnight EDT.

Leave it to Drew Carey to come up with the on-target way of celebrating Bicycle Day, a day of invention, innovation, introspection, and independence.

As for the use of psychedelic drugs in the 21st century — hey, folks, it’s a brave new world.

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

With Kong v Godzilla lighting up movie theaters real and virtual, it’s time to revisit that wonderful phenomenon, our gorilla-laden comic books.

The big apes have been a cultural force since staples started to bend and popcorn started to pop. I’m sure there have been thousands of doctoral theses written explaining why people are so attracted to our simian brethren, but I am certain about one thing: in the 1950s and 1960s, when you slapped a gorilla on the cover, you sold comic books.

By the time the Comics Code came into being, publishers were trying to cater to their horror-story-loving audience by deploying these colossus of sinew and fur as the Big Bad. Fine. But, just as those horror comics before them, things started to get kind of weird – particularly at DC Comics, and then, particularly when editor Julius Schwartz was involved. Here are six stunning examples of the form, each completely lacking in the type of realism that readers of the time demanded.

6. Tomahawk. As we began to realize the whole cowboys-and-Indians thing was exploitative, inaccurate and bigoted, Tomahawk — one of DC’s longer-lasting features — switched from chasing native Americans to protecting America from the evil British. It’s nice to see that by this time Tomahawk and his Rangers opened their ranks to the people they conquered. Obviously, when you’re taking on a gorilla so huge King Kong would cross his legs in shame you need all the help you can get.

5. Strange Adventures. I haven’t counted, but it’s possible that this particular s-f title had more gorilla covers than the Planet of the Apes. This one is my favorite, as it explains exactly why reading is, indeed, fundamental. I should point out that the covers to this Julie Schwartz title were by and large quite compelling. So compelling, in fact, that the actual stories rarely matched their impact.

4. Judge Dredd. The big ape thing was not just an American thing, to be sure, but in the world of Judge Dredd having a big ape Judge was just another day in Mega-City One. In fact, I’d say it was about as surprising as the sun coming up. Note that this guy is called “Judge Heston,” in tribute to the astronaut who inspired one of Jack Kirby’s best covers. Take a closer look and you will see the name “Heston” was engraved on the badge by, evidently, someone who’s penmanship was lacking in an opposable thumb. Evidently, Judge Heston had a thing for doing Batman-like poses.

3. Bizarro Titano. If all you know of Bizarro is the current not-well-defined Solomon Grundy pastiche, you’re missing out on “Tales of the Bizarro World,” one of the most unusual, bizarre, and clever volumes in the greater Superboy oeuvre. The original Bizarro was manufactured by a malfunctioning duplicator ray that was shined upon the Boy of Steel. Bizarro wasn’t an ape, but he sold comics during the JFK administration as though he was. Before long, there were Bizarros made of all the members of the Superman family and many of the members of the DCU at the time… not to mention a Bizarro Marilyn Monroe hanging out with a Bizarro-President Kennedy. God, those were good times. It wasn’t too long before Superman’s simian foe Titano got his own Bizarro doppelgänger. Fair is fair. Which leads me to…

2. The Real Titano. Talk about upping the ante: Not only was Titano a truly great ape, but he had Kryptonite rays beaming out of his eyes. This made Superman’s day all the more difficult. Like the original Superboy Bizarro story, Titano’s initial appearance ended quite nicely and in a laudable, humane fashion. But, as noted above, later somebody found that Bizarro duplicator ray. I loved this story, and I even remember where I was when I first read it

1. Grodd. There’s no contest (in my feeble brain, at least) that Gorilla Grodd is the most impressive ape in all comics gorilladom. He is one of the most evil of all the DC villains. He’s got one of the best backstories in all bad guy history, and his world (Gorilla City; I would have given it a more impressive name) is fully developed, fascinating, and fodder for many a good subsequent story. Grodd looked great in The Flash comics, and he looks even better on The Flash television series. In fact, he’s one of the three reasons I still watch that show. I don’t think he’s in next year’s movie (the one with several Batmans), but I’d hardly be surprised if he shows up. Just as long as you’re not sitting behind him at the theater.

Honorable Mention. There were plenty of gorilla covers in the pulp days. This particular one deserves notice because the name of the magazine is Zeppelin Stories and, therefore, the stories therein are built around zeppelins. Those things were to biplanes what King Kong is to Detective Chimp. So, yeah, that’s a gorilla hanging from the ladder hanging from the gasbag, which is why the story is called… “The Gorilla of the Gas Bags.”

I swear, if there’s just one more comic book in me and I can find the right publisher, it will have an absolute killer gorilla cover.

Thanks to my pal Marc Alan Fishman for unknowingly yielding me his snark space.

Brainiac On Banjo #110: With This Ring…

Brainiac On Banjo #110: With This Ring…

It’s gone away from me / The thrill is gone baby / The thrill is gone away from me / Although, I’ll still live on / But so lonely I’ll be / The thrill is gone – The Thrill Is Gone, Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, 1951

Today, as we currently reckon time, is the day DC Comics launches a brand-new Green Lantern title. Have they done this previously? I mean, previously in 2021. I know it’s only early April, but every week they do not introduce a new Green Lantern title, or at least a new Green Lantern, seems to me to be a rare week indeed.

I’m not complaining about this new series. I haven’t read it. I haven’t even decided not to read it, but, as the song goes, the thrill is gone.

I clearly remember buying the first silver age Green Lantern in late July of 1959. I was a week shy of nine years old, and new superhero launches were very few and quite far between. I took to it as though it were a barbecue beef sammich. A rocket crashes (I’m telling you the short version) and inside the rocket is a dying alien. His ring — his ring! — sought out the nearest fearless person worthy of herohood and found a test pilot named Hal Jordon. Go figger; a handsome white American dude. He said “OK, fine, you’re worthy. Put on this ring and go figure it out. I’m dying here.”

It was really cool. The artwork, storytelling, and design work were stellar, and the new guy could do anything as long as he wasn’t using that ring on anything yellow. Yellow? Do you know how much stuff out there is yellow? For crying out loud, yellow and green are next to each other on the color wheel! Yet the stories were so compelling I accepted that, just the way I accepted his tedious, time-consuming oath. I eagerly followed the three Showcase issues, I was pleased to see he was in the original Justice League of America six months later, and then I was thrilled that he got his own series — all within 10 months!

In no more than a few years, Green Lantern’s bosses thought there should be a standby GL just in case Hal meets the same fate as his predecessor. Guy Gardiner wasn’t around all that much, but he was there when he was needed.

Several years after that, the little blue men with the Dr. Zorba haircuts decided the neighborhood needed still another backup Green Lantern. It was nice to see, John Stewart, a Black man get the gig, a very rare thing for 1971. But I got to thinking…

The little blue men, who took to calling themselves the Guardians of the Universe (the other Guardians have a tree), had divided all of the universe into 3600 sectors (that number later doubled; after all, the universe is ever-expanding). Each sector had its own Green Lantern. OK, initially that was really cool because most of the other GLs did not appear to be humanoid, and such diversity was not so fully embraced in the comics of the time. Hal, and Guy, and John all worked in Sector 2814 and by now all three were full-timers.

Why does Earth get three while every place else only gets one? There’s something really unfair about that.

Kyle Rayner became still another Earthman Green Lantern. That’s four from the same sector. In the ensuing years Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and now Keli Quintela became part of this overwhelmingly Earthish group of heroes. Even the original-original Green Lantern, Alan Scott from the 1940s, got retconned into this horde, and others in history have popped up from time to time. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein is or was or will be a greenie as well.

Is Anya Savenlovich still a Lantern? Probably; in comics, nobody ever disappears forever. Does anybody remember Charlie Vicker? I think he grew up to be Ryan Reynolds. And then there’s Donna Parker, and I think Jennifer-Lynn Hayden, a.k.a. Jade — Alan Scott’s kid — is back on the scene along with her father’s increased exposure in the DC universe du jour.

I won’t go into the Green Lantern who appeared in last month’s Zack Marathon. That wasn’t a comic book, and if it was supposed to be it never would have been published.

To be fair, I don’t mind the GLs from those thrilling days of yesteryear. History goes back a bit, and it makes sense that the ones from the 20th century were not the first. But I’m not as certain about all those many Green Lanterns from the “future” that lurk around every corner.

The whole Green Lantern concept is no longer special, but, then again, I’m no longer nine years old, my behavior notwithstanding. Soon there will be as many Green Lanterns as there were Elvis impersonators — and Green Lanterns have a much longer shelf-life. Of course, now somebody is going to come up with an Elvis Presley Green Lantern, but I doubt AT&T will pony up the licensing fees.

You may very well be a Green Lantern. If so, please don’t take this personally — I’d take the gig too, if offered. But my power ring wouldn’t work on anything gray.

Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me

Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me

Don’t you ever miss your house in the country, and your hot little mamma too? Don’t you better get a shot from the doctor, for what the Road Ladies do to you? – Frank Zappa, Road Ladies, 1970

I was just 21¼ years old. Old enough to know better. And, well, I did know better.

I had started on the radio about two years earlier, doing freeform “underground” shows overnights on Chicago FM stations. Back in those days, FM wasn’t on most car radios and station owners bought them just so that their competitors could not. At that time, nobody made money on overnight FM except for those slots that were purchased — brokered — by churches, far-right-wing political howlers, and foreign-language shows. That is, nobody made money until we came along.

In short order, my peers warned the 19-year-old me that, from time to time, women would call the studio in the middle of the night and make it clear that a personal appearance need not involve guitars and amplifiers. Remember, this was during that hallowed time between the invention of the birth control pill and the onset of HIV, and it was a wonderful period to be a 19 year old with Y chromosomes that screamed louder than a pack of shock-jocks.

My peers pointed out that these ladies had never seen me, and that I had never seen them. All they knew was I was on radio which, admittedly, can be an intimate experience at 3 in the morning. According to my instructors, other than an hour’s pleasure nothing good could come out of such parlances… and quite often there’s a world of hurt around the corner.

Yeah. Right. I was pushing 20 and I was full of three things… one of which being myself.

I had just started at a station in Evanston, Chicago’s northern neighbor and their studio was along the Chicago River about two miles from the fabled “L” trains. As is wont to happen, one night my car broke down in their parking lot and I had to choose between a long walk or an even longer wait for repair. I was three hours into my five-hour shift and I knew that walk would be annoying. I mentioned my situation on the air. At three in the morning. Sadly, my “Uh-Oh Sense” declined to stop me. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me”

Weird Scenes #124: Smoke on the Rotter

Weird Scenes #124: Smoke on the Rotter

“Just ‘cause somebody can’t handle anything don’t mean we have to pay for their pain / Nicotine, caffeine, chainsaws and guns gotta, make your own regulations / Psychedelic mushrooms good for your mind. If you’re ready to use ‘em, then ya outta try ‘em / How did freedom mess up your life? Decide for yourself what’s wrong and what’s right.” Mojo Nixon, Legalize It!, 1985

Yeah, I’m gonna bray about weed again… and I’m gonna launch my first verbal attack on our present president. You know, Joe Biden. Nice guy, but…

As you read this, dozens if not hundreds of White House staffers have been “suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use,” according to the Daily Beast. Five such staffers have been fired already.

Well, that’s liberalism for you.

Personally, I would be inclined to think that any potential White House staffers who haven’t smoked weed – first or second hand – or haven’t tried an edible or had a medical condition that warrants such use has been living under a rock and therefore has been too isolated to function properly in the job.

Or, perhaps, that cat is simply lying. This might very well be the point. If you’re working at the White House lying is pretty much in the job description.

According to the Daily Beast article, “For the FBI, an applicant can’t have used marijuana in the past three years; at the NSA, it’s only one. The White House … (states) that as long as past use was ‘limited’ and the candidate wasn’t pursuing a position that required a security clearance, past use may be excused.”

But if you’ve toked around a bit, for whatever reason, at any time, the Biden White House thinks you are a security risk. You can put away as much alcohol as you want, but if you’re doing your job and you don’t use politically incorrect language, they’re completely fine that you won’t blab our secrets to Putin.

This is not the matter of following a law that can’t get through the RepubilQan filibuster. As we have seen during the previous administration, the president has the final word on who gets a security clearance.

Let us also note that Joe Biden has appointed Dr. Rahul Gupta as his Drug Czar, a.k.a. the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Gupta was public health commissioner in West Virginia from 2015 to 2018. He ripped apart that state’s needle exchange program, showing a lack of concern about HIV and hepatitis. This is the moral position known as “Shoot up and die, creep!”

By the way, West Virginia is a national leader in drug overdose deaths, so maybe his policy wasn’t exactly a “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you” kind of moment. According to Filter Magazine “West Virginia also had the highest rate of hepatitis C infections in 2015. Today, West Virginia is experiencing multiple HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks.” Continue reading “Weird Scenes #124: Smoke on the Rotter”

Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month

Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month

Thanks to several decades of following Trina Robbins’ research, I’ve been a Tarpé Mills fan since… well, probably since dinosaurs started making oil.

Mills is best known as the creator/writer/artist of the costumed newspaper comic strip hero Miss Fury (1941 – 1949), which, for the record, debuted six months before Wonder Woman. But prior to that, she worked for a variety of neophyte comic book publishers, creating such features as Diana Deane / White Goddess (1936), Devil’s Dust, The Cat Man, Daredevil Barry Finn (1939), and The Purple Zombie (1940). It is this latter creation that now brings my fingers to the keyboard.

In addition to my affection for Mills’ work, I have a serious thing for stories that are insanely weird and bizarre. The Purple Zombie was so weird it makes Herbie The Fat Fury look like Mark Trail.

Here’s the short version: a pair of scientists come up with a way to create zombies, but one is an evil scientist and the other wants it to be used for the betterment of humanity. Zombies For Peace! Right on! The bad guy does not kill the good guy, although he does try. He gets killed in the process and P.Z. divines the good guy as his master. So, the good guy drafts P.Z. into joining the 1940 anti-fascist movement which, at the time, was pretty much limited to fighting Nazis and the Spanish civil war. By the way, in Spain the American antifa was called “The Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month”

Brainiac On Banjo #107: This Is It! The Knight of Knights!

Brainiac On Banjo #107: This Is It! The Knight of Knights!

“Overture, curtains, lights / This is it, the night of nights / No more rehearsing and nursing a part / We know every part by heart / Overture, curtains, lights / This is it, you’ll hit the heights / And oh what heights we’ll hit / On with the show this is it / Tonight what heights we’ll hit / On with the show this is it.” This Is It, Theme from The Bugs Bunny Show, 1960, by Jerry Livingston and Mack David

Oh, boy! Those of you who have been waiting with bated breath to see Zack Snyder’s “version” of the “original” Justice League movie can thank your lucky stars for the Covid quarantine. Otherwise, it might be difficult to find 242 consecutive minutes to watch the thing uninterrupted… although your bladder might have other ideas.

In the spirit of that observation, the question is “Is Zack Snyder’s “version” of the “original” Justice League movie worth the additional bladder control?

Snyder: No, really! Look! Up in the sky!

You might have seen this production by now. Seeing that I’m writing this yesterday and I was Covided out of any screening, I have not. I probably will – for several nonsensical reasons. First is that I like Darkseid and even the mandatory guest appearance of the Joker doesn’t countermand that. Second, someday I’ll see humans once again and I like offering an informed opinion. Third, I remind myself that even in the worst possible case I do slow down at Gaper’s Blocks to see the accident that has reduced my life to still another challenge of bladder control.

I have read several reviews from those who were so committed to their jobs they risked life and limb to see a screening. I figure that’s the least I can do. I know it’s the least I’m going to do. Many note that this movie follows nicely in Snyder’s DC chain of duels, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Well, that’s nice but in my book, it’s hardly a compliment. There are things I like about Man of Steel, but neither are good movies according to my personal taste. I came to the opinion after watching Watchmen – also directed by Zack Snyder – that superhero movies are best directed by people who seem to enjoy the superhero milieu.

This is the man who, after making Watchmen, said “if Superman really existed, he’d grab all the world leaders together in a room and say, ‘Behave or I’ll kill you.’” Yup, Zack misses the point of the whole thing.

I have read even more reviews that state, quite early on, this is a movie superior to the version that escaped to the theaters a few years ago. Again, to me, this is not praise. Offhand, I can only think of two movies I’ve seen that are worse than Justice League – The Release Cut, and those are Skidoo and Myra Breckenridge.

Please note I did not say Plan Nine From Outer Space. That was a more enjoyable experience than Justice League – The Release Cut. Not only did I want my money back, but I also wanted them to pay me for my time, my gasoline, and my popcorn. To be fair, the popcorn was far better than this insult to my DNA.

By and large, those reviewers who did not compare Snyder’s marathon to its disgusting predecessor thought the movie to be… okay. Not great, not horrible. “Okay” is a word commonly used in summing up many of the DCU films of the past decade or so.

I am concerned that Leonard Cohen’s Halleluiah was deployed as a theme song within the film. Yeah, that’s gotta be the feel-good tune of the 20th century. Perhaps suicide hotlines should be alerted for a potential upsurge in business.

OK. Now that I’ve got all that out of my system, I’m ready to see Zack Snyder’s “version” of the “original” Justice League movie with a propped-open mind. If it’s at least as good as the 1997 movie, I’ll be… vaguely content. As Mel Brooks sang, “Hope for the best…”