Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, May 06, 2006
      ( 5/06/2006 09:25:00 AM ) Bill S.  

WEEKEND PET PIC – "Hot damn, we're goin' to the Dog Park!"

(Featured in this photo: Kyan Pup and Ziggy Stardust.)

NOTE: As usual, if you wanna see more dogg blogging, check out the weekly "Carnival of the Dogs" at Mickey's Musings. And for a broader array of companion animals, there's Modulator's "Friday Ark."
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Friday, May 05, 2006
      ( 5/05/2006 07:50:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"I HAVE NO USE FOR AN IDIOT WHO CAN'T EVEN STEAM FISH PROPERLY!" – Reading one of the newer Iron Wok Jan! books (#14) from DrMaster Publications recently, I noted a variation on a scene that hadn't appeared in the last few volumes of Shinji Saijyo's tongue-in-cheek manga series. In a cooking contest 'tween our arrogant chef hero and a technosavvy lady competitor, Jan flashes back to his brutal tutelage at the hands of his grandfather Kaiichiro, whose idea of teaching the young cooking student how to best steam fish is thrust the kid's hand into the still-hot entrée. Later, during a televised cooking contest, French/Chinese Celine Yang also has a brief flashback as she recalls watching her zaftig mama working at the stove.

When I wrote about the first volumes of this series, I noted that one of the series' big themes appeared to be a contrast between teaching and rearing styles: ultra-competitive Jan, who sees every cooking project as an opportunity to best an opponent, was raised and taught by an abusive elder; Kiriko Gobancho, the EE-cup granddaughter of Gobancho Restaurant's owner, comes from a more supportive family background and thus sees cooking as an opportunity to share her love of cookery. (From Celine's flashback, it seems clear that she also was raised in a positive environment.) But over time, this core contrast has been largely pushed aside in favor of cartoonish cooking competition.

I've enjoyed the series' contests, even as they grow more outlandish by the volume: in fourteen, for instance, Jan, Celine & Kiriko are tricked into participating in a cook-off against a "fruity" French chef while wearing pig suits. But without an ongoing acknowledgement of the characters' underpinnings, all this huffing and posturing can grow rather rote. I don't see Jan ever fully "maturing" as a cook – he's much too entertaining being an ass – but it's good to see Saijyo remembering how his character(s) got to be that way . . .
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Thursday, May 04, 2006
      ( 5/04/2006 01:53:00 PM ) Bill S.  

WAX-Y BUILD-UP – Apparently, my earlier lamentation re: the death of Tokyopop's Kindaichi Case Files packagings was premature. After a longish wait (last volume in the series, Playing the Fool, came out in November '05), a thick new mystery, House of Wax (not, one hopes, to be confused with the recent Paris Hilton-blighted remake) hit my local Border's this week. I'm happy.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006
      ( 5/03/2006 11:02:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"SOMETHING'S HAD TO HAVE CHANGED" – With issue #2 of Boom!'s War of the Worlds: Second Wave, there's a major presentational shift from bright color comic in the first issue (which covered a tragic event in the first wave of Martian attacks) to muted gray tones in the second. Don't know if this change was financially or thematically inspired, but it adds an atmospheric overlay to the story: if the first attack was a Technicolor sci-fi action flick with the good guys triumphing, wave two is darker.

As a result, the first thing scripter Michael Alan Nelson shows in the second issue is a flashback which reveals that the marriage tragically cut short during the first attack wasn't as solid as we initially might've thought. When we return to present day, our apparent widower is traveling on the road to nowhere with his trucker brother Duke. The second wave of Martian attacks has commenced, but the two men are divided as to what they mean. Duke believes the attack is a futile final gesture by invasion stragglers too stupid to know they've been defeated by the Mighty Earth Germ. Miles (and we) know differently, of course.

This second installment's higher on dread than it is action sequences, and Chee's shaded b-&-w art enhances this. Even those moments where the tripod-stalking alien machinery menaces our two brothers appear muted in comparison to the sight of a flying fire truck (like we saw in issue one). The hero who missed his chance at sticking it to the alien invaders responsible for the death of his wife now spends his time running for cover and cowering. In this – and the creepy sewer scenes that end the new ish – Second Wave comes off closer to the recent dour Spielberg WotW adaptation than I first expected . . .
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      ( 5/03/2006 09:33:00 AM ) Bill S.  

A LARRY KING KINDA MOMENT – Recently learned that A&W Cream Soda is caffeinated, while their Root Beer is caffeine-free. Does that seem backwards to you?
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006
      ( 5/02/2006 05:07:00 AM ) Bill S.  

CARRIED OUT OF THE ROOM – Recalling how nervous Jon Stewart came across on the night after his big weekend in the politico media spotlight, I was fairly curious as to how Stephen Colbert was gonna return from his gig at the White House Correspondent Dinner. Of course, he continued to play things in character, acting totally oblivious about any of the ripples his appearance might've caused – which strikes me as precisely the right comic note to take. A half hour earlier on The Daily Show, Jon observed that Colbert had done exactly what he does on his show – and gave his fellow comedian a verbal pat on the back for his performance. The cap to another minor (but admittedly entertaining) media flap . . .
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Monday, May 01, 2006
      ( 5/01/2006 04:05:00 PM ) Bill S.  

CONDOLENCES – Wasn't doing a lot of net surfing this weekend (and most likely will be limited in such activities this whole week), so I only just read today of the unexpected death of Matt Zoller Seitz's wife Jennifer. Matt's blog, The House Next Door, is a fairly new one to me (first found about it via a James Wolcott post about The Sopranos), but it's quickly become a regular must-visit for me for its smart teevee criticism and reader comments. Still, it's plenty damn sobering to see someone you've just started to know on the web suddenly experience an awful blow like this . . .
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Sunday, April 30, 2006
      ( 4/30/2006 03:25:00 PM ) Bill S.  

KEEP ON RANTIN' IN THE FREE WORLD – Have listened to a couple of tracks of Neil Young's Living With War, and, as expected, it's as lyrically and sonically as subtle as a flying mallet. But perhaps subtlety is overrated when you have writers who apparently still think that the ref to a "thousand points of light" in "Rockin' In the Free World" was meant as a paean to Bush Elder . . .
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      ( 4/30/2006 01:03:00 PM ) Bill S.  

REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS – Lots of discussion this weekend about Stephen Colbert's appearance before the annual White House Correspondent Association Dinner (for a decent round-up of the talk, check out the always-scrupulous Moderate Voice). As expected, most of the reaction goes down expected party lines, but watching it here and here, it struck me that Colbert's material wasn't much different from what he does on The Colbert Report. As with the show, the funniest lines are frequently the ones with the most circuitous set-ups (as when he talks about polling numbers and a two-thirds empty glass in his speech).

I don't watch Colbert's show as often as I do The Daily Show, for two basic reasons: first run is on too late for a guy who has to get up at 5:30 on most workdays and the one-note nature of his (admittedly well-played) right-wing caricature wears thin for me on a night-by-night basis. I laugh when I watch his show, but I suspect I'd do so less frequently if I watched it daily. Still, knowing the heavily ironic creation that is Teevee Pundit Steve, I have to wonder: what were people expecting when they heard that the guy was doin' this gig? Did they think he'd bring a different character than the one he's built his name on? Perhaps he'd come as the gay teacher from Strangers With Candy?

Getting riled up over Colbert's performance strikes me as rather like getting offended because someone made a joke about your penis size at a Friar's Club Roast . . .

UPDATE: Dorian, who pops up in the Comments section below, also weighs in on the performance.
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      ( 4/30/2006 09:32:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"AND WE'RE GONNA RAISE . . . A FAM-IL-LEE. . ." – A small bit that caught me off guard watching the most recent Big Love on VoD this morning: In it, Alby (Matt Ross), the sinister son/lieutenant of Harry Dean Stanton's Roman Grant, is driving through the night on a nefarious mission. Playing in the car is Eydie Gorme's "Blame It on the Bosa Nova," and we assume that Alby's listening to a kitschy oldies' radio station. He stops at a food shoppe where he picks up two bags of groceries and a young man. When he starts the Buick again, the Eydie Gorme song continues playing, and we realize that Alby isn't listening to the radio – this creepy guy has a recording of "Bosa Nova" in his car! Rather like the moment in Diva when you learn that Dominique Pinon, the scary nihilistic punk who's always listening to an ear piece, isn't playing punk or speed metal or anything like that – but instead has been doing his dirty deeds to accordian music . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

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