Category: Brainiac On Banjo

Brainiac On Banjo: To Ramona

Brainiac On Banjo: To Ramona

I’ve heard you say many times that you’re better than no one and no one is better than you. If you really believe that you know you have nothing to win and nothing to lose, from fixtures and forces and friends your sorrow does stem that hype you and type you, making you feel that you gotta be just like them. “To Ramona,” written by Bob Dylan

Back in the post-WWII days when 10 cent comics cost a mere 10 cents, there were but a handful of ongoing superheroes, all of them were published by DC Comics, and each had a very distinctive look. Not the razor-sharp nearly photogenic linework of artists like Curt Swan and Carmine Infantino, but highly stylized and not quite real-world: Wayne Boring’s Superman, Dick Sprang’s Batman and Robin, Russ Andru’s Wonder Woman, George Papp (and, briefly, Jack Kirby’s) Green Arrow, and Ramona Fradon’s Aquaman. They maintained and advanced the standard for comics’ most enduring characters.

Of course, this was seven decades ago. Time seems to move on and, now, the last of these famous artists has left the building. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: To Ramona”

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s Good News Week!

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s Good News Week!

The American bookstore landscape is rebounding with a significant increase in bookstores, including the expansion of Barnes & Noble, which plans to open fifty new stores in 2024. This revival is not expected to harm well-managed independent bookstores. An old bank in Chicago’s Wicker Park is being transformed into one such Barnes & Noble, indicating a trend towards creating more intimate, theme-focused bookstores and promoting the fundamental act of reading.

Brainiac On Banjo: Our Revolutionary Rock God

Brainiac On Banjo: Our Revolutionary Rock God

The place was the scene of some kind of horrible crime; another postal worker had lost his mind. Couldn’t stand the tension, lost his pension, afraid of growing old out in the cold, no one to hold. As he did his stalking, that Glock did his talking, he settled the score up and down the floor. SWAT team sniper caught him at the door. The mailman put in a fresh clip, turned and slipped through a crack in the universe. “A Crack in the Universe” written by Wayne Kramer.

If America had only one musical Mecca — and we have about a dozen — that one place would be Detroit, Michigan.

Among the many talents who get their start or made their bones in Detroit, in politically-correct alphabetical order (more or less): Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, George Clinton, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Bootsy Collins, Alice Coltrane, Alice Cooper, Marshall Crenshaw, Eminem, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Glenn Frey, Marvin Gaye, Grand Funk Railroad, Bill Haley, John Lee Hooker, Tommy James and the Shondells, Yusef Lateef, Little Willie John, Martha and the Vandellas, MC5, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Phil Ochs, Parliament-Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, Iggy Pop, Suzi Quatro, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Bob Seger, Del Shannon, Patti Smith, Edwin Starr, The Stooges, The Supremes, The Temptations, Sippie Wallace, The White Stripes, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Jackie Wilson, Stevie Wonder…

The MC5. Photo by Leni Sinclair

…to name but a very, very few. I could triple this list without looking at the internet; the total would run longer than the entire roll-call for The Avengers. If there’s anybody above with whom you might not be familiar — that’s why we’ve got search engines. It’s worth the effort.

I’m not going to play the “who’s best / who’s most important game” because it’s childish, stupid, deceiving and totally irrelevant. My guess is that your AI-based streaming service devotes an incredible percentage of its playlists on these Detroit performers. But I will note the efforts of Wayne Kramer, frontman for the revolutionary hard-rock group The MC5. Their stuff was to the point, it encouraged not only awareness but action, and by today’s standards some of the least woke stuff engraved in wax since “Barnacle Bill.” Don’t mention this to the MAGA Party; it’ll destroy their tiny little minds.

Ahh, screw it. Tell them anyway. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Our Revolutionary Rock God”

Brainiac On Banjo: Deep Fakes Ghosting On An Open Liar

Brainiac On Banjo: Deep Fakes Ghosting On An Open Liar

I’m a substitute for another guy. I look pretty tall but my heels are high. The simple things you see are all complicated. I look bloody young, but I’m just back dated. — “Substitute,” written by Pete Townshend.

Is artificial intelligence a good thing or a bad thing?

Perhaps you’ve noticed a recent upsurge in pro-AI marketing and advertising. Damn near very web browser is now toting their AI capabilities, joining a hell of a lot of other software manufacturers in their braggadocio. I’m not just talking about computers: if you think about it every microchip is a computer. Your car is a computer. Your smart-television is a computer. Robots of all sorts are computers, and it seems like every damn one of them have started bragging about their artificial intelligence.

Unlike commercials for gambling apps or alcohol products, there’s no disclaimer at the bottom of AI product ads suggesting you to not use their product for fraud or for theft of intellectual property or for defaming your fellow human beings.

The morass of software developers, or, to be specific, their marketing departments have started screaming about the virtues of something we have been using for decades but, now, can be deployed for grand theft… to steal even your work. So, they want to distract us from their dark side the way gun manufacturers con us about the need for assault rifles on a hunting excursion. You can never tell when a pack of godless communists might be hiding behind that wounded doe. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Deep Fakes Ghosting On An Open Liar”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?

Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?

Is he strong? Listen bud, he’s got radioactive blood. Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead. Hey, there goes the Spider-Man! “Spider-Man” written by Bob Harris and Paul Francis Webster.

As is our want, my dear friend and editor Bob Harrison asked me if I had read this year’s version of Ultimate Spider-Man #1. I said I hadn’t, and I felt the last thing this particular Earth needs is still another Spider-Man book. Bob is a family man without sufficient time to debate me on this; he knows my position on this sort of thing because it’s his job to read my stuff here at Pop Culture Squad, so his simply said “Well, you should. It’s very good, and Jonathan Hickman wrote it.”

Bob’s never steered me wrong and, yes, I really like Hickman’s stuff. I haven’t read all that much of it lately as I haven’t followed the sundry X-Mens since they became, much like Russian nesting dolls, the first comic book franchise to spawn its own massively incestuous comic book franchise. That was around 1983. Had I been more observant, I might have had a similar reaction to The Killing Joke.

Like the word “unique,” the word “ultimate” is an absolute. One thing cannot be more ultimate than another. Ultimate is the top of the peak, and grammatically speaking there isn’t room up there for another. Yet we’ve had more Ultimate Spider-Man #1s in the past few years than we’ve had Doctor Strange #1s in the past few weeks. Is this new Ultimate even Ultimater? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap

Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap


I’m sick and tired of sitting back listening to all of your claptrap. If you could get me to take the rap, I guarantee you’d leave me with a backslap. “Angry,” written by Paul McCartney and Eric Stewart.

Claptrap— Idiotic Parodies of Iconic Films, by Desmond Devlin and Tom Richmond, published by Deadline Demon Publishing and available from the artist. If you’re looking to use up some credit card points, sorry: as of this writing, Amazon is sold out.

Like many mischievous baby boomers, I learned how to mischief from my addiction to Mad Magazine. I discovered Mad in my sister’s comics pile. The first issue I found was Mad #40, July 1958 (I was seven years old) and by the time #41 came out my subscription copy was delivered to the family mailbox. I don’t recall how I conned my parents into that subscription, but I presume I was so damn obnoxious they mailed off the check just to shut me up. This became my time-honored technique for everything.

I learned a lot from Mad — for example, how to pronounce “idiot.” The magazine affirmed my most obnoxious tendencies. It sanctioned and encouraged my more whimsical aggressions and did a great deal to make me the mannish geriatric boy I am today. I remain quite grateful to “the usual gang of idiots.”

But if there was one thing that bothered me about Mad, it was their movie parodies. Not that I didn’t enjoy them — hell yes I did! — but by the time each issue came out they were pretty dated. One of the hidden rules of parody: timeliness is funny. Now I can add to this another hidden rule: so is timelessness.

Eventually, Mad Magazine went the way of all flesh and right into reprints. It had grown a bit dusty and needed some new energy, and despite a massive boost from new editor Bill Morrison (of Bongo/Simpsons/Futurama fame) the powers that were running Warner Bros. that week plugged the cash flow. In terms of that wonderfully juvenile ability to shove establishment faces into their own fecal matter, Mad had been eclipsed by Beavis and Butt-head, The Simpsons, South Park, various HBO comedy specials, and the MAD TV show that was more-or-less based on Mad. Well, as George Harrison intoned, all things must pass. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap”

Brainiac On Banjo: What Goes Around…

I kicked the blankets on the floor. Turned my pillow upside down. I never never did before, ‘bause I was tossin’ and turnin’, turnin’ and tossin’,a-tossin’ and turnin’ all night. “Tossin’ and Turnin'” written by Malou Rene, Richard A Ziegler, and Ritchie Adams.

Back in 1961, John Kennedy was President, Wagon Train, Bonanza and Gunsmoke were America’s top three television shows, the year’s top three tunes were “Tossin’ and Turnin'” by Bobby Lewis, “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline, and “Michael” (no relation) by The Highwaymen, and Don Martin was covering Mad Magazine with a tale of its time and ours. Ahhh, great days.

Please have yourself a very aspirational 2024. Work hard at it. Save the world.

It’s the only place we’ve got.

Brainiac On Banjo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Super-Heroes!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Super-Heroes!

I tip-toe down the street, smile at everyone I meet. But suddenly a scream smashes through my dream. Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an asylum. – “How Sweet To Be An Idiot,” written by Neil Innes

I think there are few, if any, major heroic fantasy characters that have received less respect over the past eight decades than Aquaman. Well, this ain’t gonna win me any friends, but to me that makes perfect sense.

This is not to say that the fish man didn’t have a lot of great stories. With artists like Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, and Jim Aparo, some swell writers, and an uninterrupted run (more or less) of 82 years, there’s a reason he’s still in the water. But let’s face it: Aquaman was created as just another bland rip-off of the Sub-Mariner, and at that one of many. In fact, Subby’s creator Bill Everett also created two other water-bound heroes, Hydroman and The Fin, as well as a third with the Sub-Mariner spin-off Namora.

Aquaman was no Sub-Mariner. For one thing, he was a nice guy. For another, he talked to fish and ordered them to do his bidding. His enemies were largely lame, and his costume looked like he escaped from an undersea disco.

For all these efforts, DC’s fishy super-friend has been severely and continuously mocked. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim created a series of really funny bumpers featuring the guy, and any number of folks have had their photos taken while engaging in deep mockery. Aquaman has been the butt of much teevee humor ever since the Boomers started getting work in the writers’ rooms. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Super-Heroes!”

Brainiac On Banjo: Oh, Sure, It’s For The Children!

Brainiac On Banjo: Oh, Sure, It’s For The Children!

Sex and drugs and rock and roll is all my brain and body need. Sex and drugs and rock and roll are very good indeed. “Sex and drugs and rock and roll,” written by Ian Dury and Chaz Janke.

Whenever somebody advocates for the restriction of personal freedoms in the name of the children — It’s for the children! — I utter “bullshit!” These self-righteous self-appointed snobs, elitists and holy-holies advocate against what they consider moral, according to their Dickensian upbringing and just how big and how wide that pole is that they keep up their own asses.

The latest is only the latest because of the proliferation legal establishments where normal humans can drown away their money without having to understand the nuances of decentralized cryptocurrency. According to The Guardian a couple days ago under the headline ‘We’re Killing the Youth of America’: Calls Grow For Crackdown on US Gambling, according to executive director of New Jersey’s Council on Compulsive Gambling Felicia Grondin, “There’s a lot of kids that are gambling.”

No shit, Sherlock.

And kids are speeding, drinking booze, shooting guns, and watching The Three Stooges. I’ll bet even Ms. Grondin did some of that before she was twenty-one. Or eighteen, as the case may be.

Personally, I do not possess the gambling gene. I have been to casinos exactly twice, and that was because each had a great barbecue restaurant. I won exactly enough to pay for dinner each time, and I haven’t been inside of one in nearly twenty years. I don’t have a dog in this race, except a lust to silence the Brain Police. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Oh, Sure, It’s For The Children!”

Brainiac On Banjo: A Million Pounds of Bond

Brainiac On Banjo: A Million Pounds of Bond

Diamonds are forever. Hold one up and then caress it, touch it, stroke it and undress it. I can see every part. Nothing hides in the heart to hurt me. “Diamonds Are Forever,” written by John Barry and Don Black.

Generally speaking, I’m not interested in “reality” television. It’s not really reality, and when I want reality from my ol’ cathode ray tube I’ll watch the news until I decide what I really should be doing is updating my will.

There are exceptions. A thousand years ago, I watched Ice Road Truckers because the contestants were as ludicrous as the concept of hauling many tons of stuff across frozen-over lakes that, under the weight of same, could kill the aspirants and — more important — destroy their swag. Much more recently, I’ve been enjoying the challenges of James May, of car wrecking fame, as he ridicules modern manhood by attempting even more ludicrous but somewhat more useful DIY projects. However, these shows (Man Lab is the best, Toy Stories and The Reassembler are almost as entertaining) are built, by James May, to revolve around James May, who is clever, honest, committed and wonderfully sardonic. He’s a mere 60 years old, but probably looks a bit older because he’s spent decades working next to Jeremy Clarkson. He’s also done a number of food-oriented shows and has lunched with Gordon Ramsay, consuming bull penis and rotten shark. Funny stuff. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A Million Pounds of Bond”