Sunday, December 26, 2010

Justice League of America (1977) d. Sam Peckinpah

I was reading an old issue (146) from Steve Englehart's 1976-1977 run
on Justice League of America. In the letters column, the fans were
submitting JLA casting suggestions, anticipating the soon to be
released Superman: The Movie. Kind of an interesting snapshot into the
hive geek mind of that year. Without further ado, with my choices in

Wonder Woman--Lynda Carter (natch) or Kate Jackson

Gotta go with the real WW here.

Black Canary--Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Lindsay Wagner, Jessica Lange, Barbara Eden, Bernadette Peters, Lynda Day George, Jaclyn Smith, JoAnn Harris, Lynn Harris, Elizabeth Montgomery, or Sally Struthers.

Sally Struthers boggles the mind. For me, Elizabeth Montgomery is the right answer to most questions, but Farrah would have been a perfect Black Canary circa 1976-77. And can I throw in an actress not mentioned in the lettercol (because the JLA audience shouldn't have been watching her grindhouse movies--Gator Bait and the Great Texas Dynamite Chase--to name two)? Claudia Jennings.

The Flash--Lee Majors, Charles Bronson, David Soul, Robert Redford, Ron Ely, Jan-Michael Vincent, Earl Holliman, Eddie Albert (wha?), Peter Nero, and Bruce Jenner.

If he'd have taken the part, you'd have to cast the Mechanic, wouldn't you? If not him, then Lee Majors, although the idea of Police Woman's Earl Holliman taking a shot at Barry Allen is intriguing. Basically, from what I remember of Holliman on PW, Barry would be walking around wearing way too-tight slacks and a shirt open to his navel.

Green Arrow--Lee Majors again, Frank Converse, Jack Klugman (double wha?), Michael Landon, George Peppard, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Charlton Heston, Dan Rowan (yes, of Martin and Rowan's Laugh In) and Cesar Romero (!)

If you got Bronson for the Flash, then I'd go Clint here. If not, I'd have taken The Fall Guy.

Green Lantern--Don Galloway (he was on Ironside. . . yeah, that doesn't help me either), Roger Moore, Robert Conrad, James Caan, Robert Wagner, John Saxon, and Don Meredith.

Oh, lord--this could be turning into the most glorious imaginary movie ever. James Caan as GL? (With a melancholy tip of the cap to Dandy Don).

Aquaman--Mark Spitz, Doug McClure, David Soul, Lloyd Bridges, Beau Bridges (yes Beau, not Jeff), Ron Howard, William Shatner, and Ben Murphy (known for Alias Smith and Jones, but go to his IMDB page and take a look at the premise of Gemini Man, the show he was on in 1976).

I take the cigar out of my mouth long enough to cast Spitz, for some old fashioned stunt casting. The kids love him. On the other hand, they also love Detective Hutchinson. Hmm.

Hawkman--Paul-Michael Glaser, Henry Winkler, and James Caan.

Starsky? I don't see it. But I see the Fonz even less.

The Atom--Jan-Michael Vincent and Henry Winkler.

It's kind of interesting how the names the letter column print show two ways this imaginary film could have gone. The goofy TV route looking back towards William Dozier's Batman series or the as yet nonexistent "realistic" way of portraying superheroes. The idea of a 70s-era take on this makes me giddy.

The Elongated Man--Ken Howard.

Okay, Ken Howard.

Batman--Adam West, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Brolin, Chad Everett, Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Burt Ward.

Gasp! I might have to recast GL.

The column didn't have director suggestions, But for the JLA movie it has has put into my head, I'd be happy with Peckinpah or Don Siegel. And produced by Robert Evans. The only problem is the film would have been a hard R and my memory from 1977 would have been of being babysat while my parents went to see it.

Friday, December 24, 2010


It's become something of a tradition of mine to offer up a bit of fiction for the holiday season. This year might be considered something of a cheat, as it is an installment of MEMORY, the ongoing, online serial project of mine. I choose to think otherwise, however, mainly because I've been so wrapped up with other things it's been an unforgivably long time since I chronicled the adventures of Flavius and Parric. I'm still far too busy with different projects not to mention far too slow a writer, but for today, at least, Flavius and Parric live on. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours!


Flavius leapt, the new sphere emitting a deep peal as he landed upon it. Upward they soared, knocking and jostling for position. Through the chaos of the spheres, Flavius glimpsed the service way, far to his left.

Gritting his teeth, he leapt again, and again. Each jump brought him closer. On his next jump, the sphere rolled, dumping him over. He hit the next sphere awkwardly, and tumbled sideways as it rolled as well. Again and again he fell, unable to regain his balance, until finally he landed and stuck, flat on his back.

Approaching quickly from above came the service way.

"Ach, this is gonna sting..." Flavius grabbed at the support struts underneath the walk an instant before the sphere hit. The impact knocked the air out of him, and for a moment Flavius knew he'd be crushed. The sphere rolled to the side then, and Flavius hooked an arm around the strut before he fell. Heaving a few deep lungfulls of air, he shoved Memory onto the walk, then hoisted himself over the railing onto the service way. His legs quivered warningly. Wiping his face with a sleeve, he scanned the service way for Anacaona, the Empress and the rest. There, far down the service way, amid the cascade of spheres, the orange bulk of Djserka lurched along, followed by the smaller figures of the women.

"Right then. Always the running after and catching up." Flavius stooped to pick up Memory, and suddenly the world twisted, stretched, then snapped back into place.

Flavius found himself lying prone on the walk, Memory beneath him. "What," he managed, climbing back to his feet, "in God's good name was that?"

He tested his limbs cautiously, wary they might break off at the joints or turn to limp strands of rope, but all seemed in order, save for the deep burn of over-exertion. Flavius charged after the others.

The service way grew steeper as he approached the others. It was impossible to see far through all the rising spheres, but Flavius was certain the walk hadn't torn loose from its supports. The Palace of Un-pic Ja'ab was listing.

Anacaona caught sight of him, waving and shouting. Then reality buckled once again. The palace turned inside out, boiling away in a thunderous gale.

As quickly as before, reality snapped back to normal. Flavius stared up into the sobbing face of Anacaona, her tears raining down upon him.

"Oh, Flavius, what's happening? What was that?"

"I donnae ken, Lass, but it cannae be good." Flavius shot a look to the others. "Empress?"

Empress Malinche, scowling imperiously, offered only a terse shake of her head. Even Papantzin's guise of cool confidence had cracked, as she scanned randomly about for a host of perceived threats.

The service way shuddered. A series of rolling booms echoed around them as the Ketza'qua strained against its bonds.

"If I may, there is an egress but a short distance ahead," Djserka said. "At this point, it is my belief the Ketza'qua will cast off its bonds long before we are able to make our way back to the Nexial gaps. The palace will not last much longer, I fear. Our best course would be to vacate."

"Then forward, ya beastie! Move!"

With Djserka in the lead and Flavius in the rear, they fought their way toward the door even as the way grew steeper. The tilt was unmistakable now, nearly ten degrees by Flavius' reckoning. The lifting spheres no longer rose directly past, but rather increasingly angled the same direction they moved. And the flow had slowed as well.

"The way forward is blocked," Djserka announced abruptly. "I cannot force a way through."

Flavius leaned over the rail, but couldn't see beyond Djserka's bulk. The way back, even if they wanted to retreat, was already blocked by coagulating spheres. "I could climb past ya, but I nae want to be skewered by yer spines there."

"It is possible for me to retract my defensive spicules temporarily."

"Then get retracting." Flavius swung himself over the railing, muscling for space against the spheres. "The rest of ya, follow along." Anacaona clutched his arm.

"Flavius... uh, please be careful."

Flavius patted her cheek. "Ah, lass, had ya only offered me that sage advice a week ago."

Flavius gingerly worked his way along the railing, wary of the warty black puckers of retracted spines. This close to the Naga-ed-der, he could smell the creature's astringent odor. Flavius blinked as his eyes watered. Anacaona followed close behind, with the Empress and Papantzin after. As Flavius reached the front, Djserka plucked him over the rail with a long, spindly arm, then helped Flavius pull the rest over.

"Stay close. When I start cutting," he said, "I donnae ken how long the path will stay open--"

"So keep pace or be left behind," finished Empress Malinche impatiently. "Yes. You've said that already."

"Right. But it, ah, bears repeating." Flavius swung Memory in a wide arc, shattering two spheres. Feather-light crystal shards rained down on him. He pushed forward, before the crush of spheres could fill the gap, and slashed again, breaking another. The women followed close behind, but the spheres pressed in quickly, making a tight fit for Djserka.

"I see it!" Flavius shouted, steadily smashing his way forward. "It's only about 20 more feet."

The doorway loomed ahead, a dark slash against the wall.

"Is it opening wider?" asked Anacaona.

"Opening?" Flavius peered forward. The opening was growing wider. And extending up and down the wall as well. "Sweet mer--"

A cascade of debris fell through the opening, smashing through the straining, buckled struts anchoring the end of the service way. "That's nae doorway, that's a break in the palace wall!"

The struts snapped. The service way twisted and bucked against the spheres, dropping from a ten degree rise to a twenty degree drop in rough, jerking fashion. Then it rumbled forward, smashing spheres left and right, through the growing fissure in the wall.

Through the cloud of dust and rubble they rode, through the breached wall, into the shrill night air. The length of service way snagged back inside somewhere, jerking to a stop. The railing collapsed, dumping Flavius, Anacaona, Empress Malinche and Papantzin into open air.

Flavius landed on something hard and metallic. Anacaona landed atop him, as did the Empress and Papantzin. "Get... off!"

Flavius pushed them off, and rose to a kneeling position. "Djserka?" he called.

"Here," Djserka said, lowering himself via thread. "You only fell seven mlara. Any farther and you may have sustained significant injuries."

A burning wej spun out of control in the distance, trailing smoke. Streaks of cuyab flame streaked here and there. Larger plasma beams lanced out from palace gun placements, burning moironteau into shriveled char. Moironteau... moironteau swarmed everywhere. Thousands of them, on the ground, in the air, illuminated by furious eruptions of crimson and emerald throughout the battlefield.

The steel-hard surface beneath them undulated then, and a fierce, rapid clattering in the distance rushed over them and past. It was a familiar clatter, one Flavius had heard before. "Oh, damn me sideways to hell. We're atop the wee beastie."

"Speak sense, Flavius," snapped Empress Malinche.

"I believe, Your Imperial Highness, that he means we currently stand upon a scale of the bound Ketza'qua," Djserka said.

"The Ketza'qua?" the Empress repeated with distaste. "For a servitor creature to debase the Imperial Personage with physical contact..." She shuddered. "No, no this is unacceptable. It will have to be disposed of."

"Oh, Yer Imperial Majesty's got much bigger problems than that just now," Flavius said, standing ready with Memory gripped tightly in both hands.

"The Ketza'qua is breaking free!" cried Anacaona. "It will kill us all!"

"Nae, Lass," Flavius answered, gesturing Memory toward the raging battle. "Yer wee beastie willnae get the chance."

Through the carnage of battle streaked a crimson blur, a serpentine body of scarlet propelled by wings blurred with motion. It raced toward them, its three pair of eyes locked on Flavius, antennae twitching in fury, casting off sparks of pure hatred.

Rapteer had come.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Lists

SF Signal has a two-part Mind Meld with a good many responders to the topic of "The Best Genre-Related Books, Movies And/Or Shows Consumed In 2010."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Back in 2006, Jayme wrote about the Antikythera Mechanism, a complex mechanical device built by the ancient Greeks to make astronomical calculations (I had actually blog scooped him the month before, but that was back before I discovered capital letters).

It's taken four years, but they've finally made a lego version of the mechanism.

The way the video takes the time to show you how the gears interact reminds me of the works of Arthur Ganson, the former artist in residence at MIT.

There's a certain perfection in the synchronization of gears that isn't often explored. A friend of mine and I took a half hour of pausing the video for the Arthur Ganson sculpture "Child Watching Ball" until all the gears made sense.

Of course Arthur Ganson had to make every gear by hand, by twisting wires and spot-welding them gear-tooth by gear-tooth. Cheap plastic lego parts open up the ridiculous mechanical sculpture field to just about anyone.

Painted by pygmies!

The Phantom is one of those wonderful anachronisms, a daily newspaper comic strip. A narrative that has been unfolding without end, and often without direction, since 1936 (and telling the latest iteration of a story supposed to have begun in 1536). Like all comic strips, The Phantom exists suspended in time, with the narrative playing out in a three-panel haiku that proceeds in accordance with the intrinsic temporal logic (or illogic) of the strip.

One of the inevitabilities among the stalwart adventure and soap opera strips that still exist (such as Mark Trail, Judge Parker, Rex Morgan, Mary Worth, Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, Mandrake) is that they are no longer written and drawn by the people who created them. It most cases, those creators are long dead, progenitors of narratives so much longer than anything else out there that they have almost a full century with their basic proto-pulp qualities intact. When they were created, the dailies and Sundays were such a big deal (in an age where every town of any size had several daily newspapers) that the best creators were glamorous figures who made small fortunes — people like Alex Raymond, Milt Caniff, Roy Crane, and Phantom and Mandrake creator Lee Falk. In part because many of the original strips were works for hire controlled by the syndicate, longstanding traditions exist in which the original creators train apprentices who do much of the work, and ultimately take over the strip. At the peak, many of them had full production teams — Roy Crane had a stylebook to enable his minions to properly render the Zip-a-Tone clouds of Buz Sawyer. The current Mandrake artist, Fred Fredericks, took over those duties from his boss in 1966. Imagine being a twentysomething illustrator who finds a gig in some forgotten suburb working as an assistant for one of these sclerotic cartoonists, subtly infiltrating the alternate universe of the strip with a bit of the contemporary Zeitgeist.

As they struggle to survive, the two major remaining syndicates have begun doing the dailies in color and relying on the Web as an alternative distribution medium. This has enabled the dailies to all be in color. The problem is, the colorists do not usually appear to be the same people as those writing and drawing the strip. It is a frequent occurrence for characters to have the wrong hair color, and other amusing continuity busts for the AM radio No-Prize contingent.

In The Phantom, the current auteurs have a practice of occasionally having the original creator, Lee Falk, appear in the strip as a metafictional narrator to provide the synopsis of the latest grapevine plot thread (Falk was always reported to be a bona fide dandy, with signature bowler and cane). Today was such a day, as Falk appeared on the docks of one of his fictional African countries, explaining how The Phantom has just rescued his wife Diana from prison, peaking an epic plot in which the terrorist Chatu (who the Phantom had saved from death by Ebola some years back) blows up an urban center, fakes Diana's death (abducting her just before the explosion), and has her imprisoned in evil Rhodia where her head is shaved by a vicious female warden, while the Phantom, believing her dead, roams the world fighting terrorists with nihilistic fervor in the company of a gorgeous Sikh privateer. It is no surprise that a "for those who came in late" update is needed, when the plot has been unfolding since sometime last year.

The Phantom is more anachronistic than his fellow survivors, because his whole reality his trapped in Lee Falk's 1930s idea of a white man in Africa story—one who lives with a group of magical pygmies, and enforces the law of the jungle. So it is really wonderful when, through the tortured evolution of the strip, Falk ends up today depicted as a black man (one who looks a lot like Kid Creole). Which makes me wonder if one of the young apprentices has engineered a genius paradigm shift to maintain the strip's relevance in the 21st century -- one in which the racial coloring of all the characters are shifted, with a T'Challa-ready Phantom and his minions of pudgy white pygmies.

((See our earlier commentary on the same strip: "The Color Purple (as rendered in black newspaper ink)."))

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I found my thrill

My Twitter feed this morning delivered this insane bit of earnest surreality that only French television could produce: Vladimir Putin playing the piano and singing Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill to a crowd of global celebrities, including plasticized Goldie Hawn, still raunchy Sharon Stone, stoned looking Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Kal Penn, and a muy gordo Gerard Depardieu. Pooty Poot's voice is weirdly roboticized, like some cyborg variation on Tuvan throat singing, which makes sense. About the only thing this clip is missing is a Siberian white tiger on a leash, or in Putin's lap.

I am quite convinced that Leggy Starlitz is behind this, developing material for a new cabaret show for RT5's Saturday night lineup, in which the great Hegelian figures of the 21st century perform pop standards of the postwar era.

((Understand that one of the lodestones of French television is Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde with Patrick Sebastien, kind of French answer to Don Francisco's Sabado Gigante, in which a crowd of French celebrities sit around tables drinking and smoking in evening attire watching weird magic, talking dogs, crooners, and, of course, mimes. The missing ingredient, clearly, is a dark geopolitical edge. Charles Taylor saws Tyra Banks in half!))

In other video news, I am will be reading tonight at the latest installment of Teleportal Readings from Monofonus Press, which livens up the tired format of the literary reading by integrating it with brilliant video art by Scott Gelber and bringing out the performance implicit in the words themselves. The selections of material by the curator, Jess Sauer, are wonderful, as you can see in this piece by poet Dean Young (who, sadly, needs a heart transplant).

Dean Young from Monofonus Press on Vimeo.

I am delighted to be included, especially as a denizen of the ghetto of sf. I will be reading "Nomadology," which appeared last year at Strange Horizons.

Teleportal 2.2

Featuring Chris Nakashima-Brown, Andy Devine,
Eileen Myles, and Ed Hirsch

Videos by Scott Gelber

8pm, Saturday, December 11, 2010

The ND at 501 Studios
5th and Brushy
Austin, TX

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NASA discovers new life

Arsenic-based life. Yes, that's an over-simplification, but still. I've heard theories on chlorine breathers and silicon-based life (made famous by the Horta in Star Trek) and even hydrogen- and methane-breathers, but dang, this is bizarre:
At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don’t have to be like planet Earth.

Two possibilities come immediately to mind: 1) this evolved elsewhere and came to Earth via panspermia, or 2) life evolved on Earth twice, separately. Either way, this implies that at least simple life may be common in the universe. Simply stunning.