Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (08/24/2009 - 08/30/2009)

1. It's getting harder and harder to find stuff to talk about. Almost all playoff races are forgone conclusions except AL Central and the NL Wildcard. But we'll see what I can come up with.

2. Regarding the NL Wildcard, San Francisco took a big loss to Colorado on Monday when, after leading by 3 runs in extra innings, this happened.

3. But the Giants got their revenge on Sunday.

4. As of Sunday the 30th, Tampa Bay Ray Carlos Pena has 37 home runs on the season. He also has just 36 singles on the season. Just thought you'd like to know.

5. This happened last week but I missed it! I figured I still had to link to it though, since everyone loves a good stupid baseball injury.

6. Apparently, Denard Span is itching to be a reliever. Heck, the Twins can use all the help they can get!

7. Some claim this is the greatest play of the season. I'm not so sure...but it was good.

8. Is Milton Bradley now trying to be labeled the most unlikable player in baseball?

9. Sunday was a interesting day for Twins fan. First, Detroit was losing and, thanks to Jason Kubel, the Twins were in line for a win. Then this happened...followed by this. Detroit ended up winning and a Twins loss would really hurt their chances at the division. But thanks to some small ball the Twins retook the lead! (However, anyone who still calls that "Twins baseball" hasn't been watching them this season.) The Twins won and kept pace with Detroit...which was big for them.

10. Oh, and we also saw something on Sunday that hasn't happened in 6 years!

Friday, August 28, 2009

X-amining X-Men #21

"From Whence Comes...Dominus?"
June 1966

Exemplary Editing
by Stan Lee
Extraordinary Editing
by Roy Thomas
Exceptional Art
by Jay Gavin
Exhilarating Inking by Dick Ayers
Exasperating Lettering by Artie Simek

Plot:
On their way to Lucifer's headquarters, the X-Men see a strange beam of light emanating from the top of a mountain. It is a teleportation beam, sending Lucifer the components of Dominus and a group of robots. The X-Men leave Professor X with the plane and try to find a way into Lucifer's mountain base. Along the way, they tussle with a sheriff and his posse, attracted to the scene by the lights and attempting to arrest the X-Men because they heard about Unus and Blob's crimes back east. After fighting off the group, the X-Men are sucked underwater by a massive whirlpool and find themselves in Lucifer's base, where they are quickly captured by his robots. Meanwhile, Lucifer has abducted Professor X. Xavier is unable to penetrate Lucifer's mental shields. Lucifer explains that Dominus is an advanced super-computer constructed by his race capable of projecting a beam that will render all humans on Earth docile and unable to resist their subjugation by Lucifer's race. The robots are the only ones capable of running Dominus effectively. The X-Men escape and make their way to Professor X, who warns them to ignore Dominus and focus on the robots while he manages to telepathically influence Lucifer to order the robots to attack the X-Men recklessly. This gives the X-Men the upper hand and they manage to destroy the robots. With Dominus now useless, Lucifer is banished by his superior to a nameless dimension where neither time nor space exist for his failure, and the superior removes the damaged robots and the useless Dominus from Earth. The X-Men depart, having saved the planet from conquest by a race whose name they don't even know.

Firsts and Other Notables:
Lucifer pops up a few more times after this in other books, and his race gets used every once and a while, but for the most part, this is the last time Lucifer is featured prominently as a villain (incidentally, his race, unnamed in this issue, will eventually be revealed as the Quist in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #5).

A Work in Progress:
The X-Men use a "Go Buggy" after exiting their plane.


Professor X says it's been a decade since his original confrontation with Lucifer. I'm not entirely sure why it took Lucifer ten years to prepare for the arrival, via teleportation, of a super-computer and robots.

Thomas cranks up the angst a bit in this issue when the team begins to fight amongst themselves in the middle of their battle against Lucifer's robots. When they receive Professor X's telepathic order to ignore Dominus in favor of the robots, everyone except Cyclops and Marvel Girl believe the telepathic voice is Lucifer's, trying to trick them into leaving Dominus alone (apparently telepathic voices aren't as distinctive as vocal voices). It goes as far as Cyclops blasting Angel at one point, in order to stop him from damaging Dominus.


The whole notion of a team fighting amongst itself as often as it fights villains was pioneered in Stan Lee early on in "Fantastic Four" but aside from some gentle ribbing amongst themselves, it hadn't really been seen in "X-Men" before this.

Ah, the Silver Age:
Another great Silver Age title.

The X-Men are imprisoned in
a "cosmic-crystalline cube", a prison whose transparency enables the X-Men to see the exact lever they need to pull to release themselves, something Marvel Girl can easily do telekinetically.


Later, Marvel Girl more or less takes Lucifer out of the fight by telekinetically pulling his cape over his head.


Lucifer's plan doesn't make a lot of sense. Last issue he was preparing for the arrival of Dominus and it's helper robots while simultaneously luring the X-Men to him by using Blob and Unus to frame the X-Men. By the time they are captured in this issue, Dominus has arrived and is in place. So why lure the X-Men to him in the first place? And why not just turn Dominus on, instead of capturing Xavier and the X-Men?

And of course, Lucifer monologues the details of his plan to a captive Xavier, telling him exactly what he needs to know to defeat Lucifer.

Build up your vocabulary with Beast: Perspicacity [pur-spi-kas-i-tee], noun: keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.

As in, "on occasion, my snowbound sidekick, your frigidity is equaled only by your perspicacity."

For Sale:
Before handheld video games, there was...


Teebore's Take: Essentially an issue long fight scene reminiscent of parts of the Sentinel issues (the X-Men fighting and captured by robots only to escape their Silver Age-y prison) that seems disconnected from the first part of the story. Remember Unus and the Blob, and how they framed the X-Men? That plot thread goes largely unmentioned here, and as mentioned above, Lucifer's plan in using them to lure the X-Men to him is questionable, at best, now that we know exactly what Dominus does and what Lucifer's ultimate goals are.

Meanwhile, Roy Thomas continues to put his own stamp on the book by continuing to introduce more soap opera elements to the stories (as he did last issue with Cyclops' departure) by having the team fight amongst itself in classic Marvel fashion.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Retro Review: Simpson and Delilah

Or The One Where: Homer becomes a successful executive at the power plant after regrowing his hair.

The Setup: After hearing about a "miracle breakthrough" in hair regrowth, Homer defrauds his company health insurance to pay for the treatment and grow a full head of hair.

Favorite Lines:

TV host: Okay, the capital of North Dakota was named for what German ruler?
Homer: Hitler!
Marge: Hitler, North Dakota?

Homer: And what does my little girl want?
Lisa: An absence of mood swings and some stability in my life.
Homer: Uh... How about a pony?

Karl: You don't belong here. You're a fraud and a phony, and it's only a matter of time until they find you out.
Homer: Gasp! Who told you?
Karl: You did. You told with me with the way you slump your shoulders, the way you talk into your chest, the way you smother yourself in bargain-basement lime-green polyester.


Teebore's Take: This has always been one of my favorite episodes, though I've never been entirely sure why. Homer's mysterious assistant, voiced with vigor by Harvey Fierstein, certainly has something to do with it. Karl, with his inexplicable devotion to Homer, is one my favorite "one shot" characters and Fierstein's performance definitely lifts this episode. Plus, it's an early enjoyable Homer-centric episode that's played relatively straight and manages to be funny without devolving entirely into slapstick buffoonery.

Classic:

A solid Homer episode, and a personal favorite.

Retro Review: Bart Gets An F

Season Twelve was released on DVD last week, but the missus and I are still making our way through season two, so I'll continue on from season one before skipping ahead to twelve.

Right off the bat, Season Two features much improved animation, thanks to a larger budget due to "The Simpsons" first season being a hit for the fledgling Fox network. The summer between the seasons was when "Bartmania" and the overall popularity of the show really took off, in which "Simpsons" merchandise sold like hotcakes and schools banned t-shirts featuring Bart saying he was "an underachiever and proud of it" and other such slogans. This growing popularity also accounts for the first appearance of high profile guest stars (something with which the show has become synonymous nowadays) this season, including Danny DeVito and Dustin Hoffman.

In the wake of that popularity, with the start of this season the show moved from Sunday to Thursday nights and was placed in direct confrontation with "The Cosby Show" and setup to serve as lead-in to "Beverly Hills, 90210". "Cosby" repeatedly posted better rating, but "The Simpsons" would, of course, outlast the older "Cosby Show" in that time slot, and remained on Thursdays nights until it moved back to Sundays for the sixth season.

Or The One Where: Bart tries anything (including studying, being tutored by Martin, and praying for a miracle) to avoid being held back and repeating the fourth grade.

The Setup: After failing yet another test, Bart is told that if he doesn't improve his grades quickly, he'll be forced to repeat the fourth grade.

A Work In Progress: A new opening sequence debuts with this episode. It is 15 seconds shorter than the original one and now features Bart skateboarding through a crowd of supporting characters. Three versions of this opening were animated: the full length one, one running 45 seconds, and another at 25 seconds, giving the shows editors much more flexibility with each episode.

This episode was the third produced for the new season but was chosen to kick off the season because it was a Bart-centric episode and the producers wanted the premiere episode to feature him. The episode lost in terms of ratings to "The Cosby Show" but finished with more overall viewings. As of 2009, it remains the highest-rated episode of "The Simpsons" and was the highest-rated and most-watched Fox program until a Minnesota Vikings playoff game in 1995.

Mayor "Diamond Joe" Quimby makes his first appearance in this episode, and Bill and Marty of KBBL radio, are heard for the first time.

Favorite Lines:

Homer: Marge, could you get me another beer, please. Marge: Just a second, Homer. Lisa has some good news.
Lisa: He doesn't care, Mom.
Homer: Sure I do! I just want to have a beer while I'm caring.

Bart: And, now they're talking about holding me back in the fourth grade if I don't shape up.
Otto: That's it? Hey, relax, man! It could end up being the best thing that ever happened to ya. I got held back in the fourth grade myself, twice! Look at me, man! Now I DRIVE the school bus!

Lisa: I heard you last night, Bart. You prayed for this. Now your prayers have been answered. I'm no theologian; I don't know who or what God is exactly, all I know is He's a force more powerful than Mom and Dad put together, and you owe Him big.



Teebore's Take: For all the talk amongst its critics, especially in the early years, of how crass and disrespectful "The Simpsons" is, and how much of a bad influence it is on kids, Lisa's dicussion with Bart about the nature of God and prayer as seen through the eyes of a child (one of my favorite "Simpsons" quotes) is an early indication of the kind of high-brow philosophical, religious and cultural dialogue the show is capable of having with its audience at the same time it's making a joke about John Hancock signing his name in the snow with his pee. As the years go by, "The Simpsons" will continues to develop and define that balance between low-brow humor and high-brow social commentary that so engages its fans and enrages its critics.

Classic:

Manages to both embrace and repudiate Bart's "underachiever and proud of it" philosophy; a solid start to the second season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting It Wrong Shouldn't Be Alright

You know what really grinds my gears? When baseball umpires make a bad call and neither the umpires nor Major League Baseball seem to care. And it seems to be happening a lot lately.


This season has seen a handful of high-profile, and in some cases game-deciding, blown calls by umpires. Here's one. Here's another. And a third. This one didn't blow the game but, while the ball is clearly caught, the umpire ruled it a dropped ball, thus robbing us of what would otherwise be one of the most spectacular catches of the year. Even Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci has noticed the increase in botched calls, at least in terms of close plays leading to managerial ejections. He says, "through Aug. 11, there were 128 ejections, which at this rate would mean a 14 percent increase from last year" and that, "[t]he big jump is from arguments regarding plays on the bases. Such arguments have led to 33 ejections, already more than such ejections in any of the previous five full seasons."

What bothers me about this trend isn't just the fact that the Minnesota Twins have been, essentially, robbed of arguably two victories as a result of bad umpiring, but that nobody seems to mind that the umpires are just plain wrong.


Last season, after an abundance of poor calls pertaining to home runs, Major League Baseball initiated limited instant replay for boundary calls (disputes over whether or not a potential home run is fair or foul, or a home run or ground rule double). Yet this season, no one seems to care about the rise in obviously-wrong calls. The umpires are simply not held accountable for their poor calls.

Most people argue, in the case of games that get decided by a call that is later determined to have been wrong, that the team that lost should never have put itself in a position where one bad call would affect the outcome of a game. From an individual team standpoint, those people are absolutely right. What I'm saying, though, is that umpires themselves, and to a greater extent baseball as a whole, should want to get the call right for its own sake. Their desire, at all times, should be to get it right as much as possible. If there's a close call at the plate and there's any doubt, in anyone's mind, be it the players involved, the umpire himself, or the managers or coaches, then the umpire should have the ability, and at all times the desire, to review the play in order to ensure they got it right.

As it stands, the manager can come out and argue a close play, but only in extremely rare cases does the umpire change his mind. Usually the manager just gets thrown out.


What's really frustrating is that the absolute first person who should want to make sure the play was called correctly is the umpire. They, of all people, should be pushing for the implementation of instant replay, because it's their job to get it right. Most umpires though, it seems, either don't care or believe that they define reality, such that regardless of what the replay shows, whatever they called is what really happened (this was the case of the home plate umpire in the clip from the Twins/Tigers game).

The other argument people like to use in favor of bad umpiring is "that's the way it's always been", meaning umpires have been blowing calls and not caring since the dawn of baseball. Yeah, well, there was a time when scuffing the ball was "the way it's always been" or a time when having the pitching mound raised higher was "the way it's always been" or a time when everyone rode in horse-drawn wagons instead of cars was "the way it's always been." Just because something has "always" been done a certain way doesn't mean it shouldn't change if a better way comes along.


The fact is, for many years, umpires and Major League Baseball did the best they could with what they had. Bad calls got made, but there wasn't much in the way of technology to rectify that. Nowadays, there are tools available to aid umpires in making their calls. Back in the day, there were no TV baseball viewers, and when games started to be broadcast on television, the broadcasts did little to give audiences at home an advantage over umpires on the fields. But in today's day of hi def flat screen home televisions and DVR recording technology, the average fan watching from home can see close plays better than the umpires. If an untrained fan at home can clearly see something an umpire on the field can't, then we have a problem. It's that simple.


After a bad call cost the Twins a win, manager Ron Gardenhire proposed a system in which the manager of each team has a red flag he can toss whenever he wishes to review a play. Should the review go in his favor, he keeps the flag and can use it again in the game. Should the review uphold the initial call, then he loses that flag. It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best I've heard this far. It's certainly better than the current solution, which, in a sport notorious for fearing progress, ranges from a stubborn refusal to admit there's a problem on the part of the umpires to Major League Baseball shrugging it's shoulders and essentially saying "we're okay with getting it wrong." And it should never be alright to get it wrong.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Purple Redemption

***WARNING: This post contains spoilers for nearly everything. If you haven't read all the Harry Potter books, seen all the Star Wars movies, and watched the Buffy the Vampire television series then you may want to stay away. (Unless you don't care about those things being spoiled.)***

It's official. Brett Favre is a Viking. He even played in Friday's Viking preseason game. It was a surreal experience to say the least. But I'm in favor of the move and here's why:

1. Even at the age of 39-going-on-40 and coming to the team halfway through preseason, Brett Favre is still a better option at quarterback than anything the Vikings have now.

2. It's a gigantic F-U to Packers fans which I can always get behind. Think about it, Packer fans' memory of Super Bowl XXXI is now forever tainted with the thought that it was won by the legendary quarterback who ended playing for the Vikings.

3. Win or lose, there's no denying that at the very least this Vikings season will be entertaining and interesting.

However, there are some people out there who just can't accept Brett Favre as a Viking. They've hated him for so long when he was with the Packers that they refuse to root for him now.
I prefer to think of things this way: Brett Favre was once aligned with an evil empire but is now attempting to redeem himself by fighting on the side that is pure and good. You may think that Brett Favre is beyond redemption, but in fiction there have been much more ridiculous redemption stories.

So, in honor of Brett Favre:

Dr. Bitz's Top 5 Ridiculous Redemptions in Fiction
(That I can think of off the top of my head)

Spike: Spike started out as a villain on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. He ended up being an ally to Buffy and was even in love with her. Spike was also a fan favorite because...I don't know...women thought he was hot because he had an English accent, bad boy appeal, and they wanted to try and change him? Anyway, at the end of series Spike sacrificed himself to save the world. Which sounds like a noble redemption and all, but let's look at the facts.

First of all, Spike was a notorious vampire who killed more humans than we can count, including two slayers. He really seemed to enjoy the killing, too. The only reason he stopped killing people was not out of remorse but because a computer chip was installed in his brain that it prevented him from harming people.
With violence out of the picture, naturally Spike turned to sex. So he tried to get with Buffy, but she rejected him. So what does he do? He attempts to rape her of course. He didn't succeed, but it's still unforgivable.

Anyway, after that he decided to get himself a soul in hopes of an opportunity to knock boots with Sarah Michelle Gellar (which is about 1/10th the lengths your average fanboy would go to just to touch Buffy's boobies).

After being figuratively defanged and obtaining a soul, he hangs around in a basement and is all mopey until Buffy helps him out. Overall, it just seemed a bit far fetched that Buffy would hang around with a former serial killer/attempted rapist. But he apparently found redemption by making the "ultimate sacrifice." In my opinion, killing himself was the least Spike could do for the world. The fact that his death destroyed thousands of super vampires in the process was just an added bonus.

Beast: Alright, before we get started I'm well aware that there's about as many versions of the Beauty and the Beast story as times I've whacked it to lesbian porn. So let's just agree to go with the Disney version. (After all, it was nominated for Best Picture.)

Beast was once human (and a prince) but was kind of a dick. A woman came to his castle on a stormy night asking for shelter but the prince refused to let her in because she was fugly. The elderly woman turned out to be a sorceress and cursed him into a bestial form. But being a shallow dick doesn't mean you're beyond redemption. Refusing the sexual advances of uggos was only the beginning for the Beast.

You see, by becoming a beast the prince also gained all sorts of beastly powers. (Strength, agility, a good singing voice, etc.) But instead of using his new found powers to fight crime like the Ever-lovin' Thing did, he just decided to mope around his castle. Granted, that's pretty much how I spend my days, but I don't have beastly powers that could be used to make the world a better place! (We need to get Uncle Ben on his case.)

And if that wasn't enough, the movie introduces the Beast to us when Belle's father gets lost in the woods and wanders into his castle. And how does the Beast treat this scared and lost traveler who happened upon his abode? He roars and locks the father up in his dungeon for looking at him funny. Real mature.

However, the Beast does let the father go, but only in exchange for Belle because he wants to tap that. (And who wouldn't?)

Basically, the hero of this story (the guy we're supposed to want to be redeemed) is a short tempered, overly aggressive, kidnapping asshole who we can only assume is contemplating rape. (Now, that may be my watching too much Law and Order: SVU talking, but all I'm saying is that when someone kidnaps a woman and keeps them locked in their home, I get suspicious.)

Some people might get teary eyed and choked up when Belle finally professes her love for the Beast. I just think of it as a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Severus Snape: Severus Snape was a Death Eater and a part of the evil Lord Voldemort's dark army. That is, until Voldemort killed Lilly Potter. At that point Snape fought for the good guys.

So, like Brett Favre, Snape left the bad guys and joined the good guys. Favre did it because the bad guys pretty much kicked him out but Favre still wanted to win a Super Bowl. Not necessarily the noblest of reasons to switch sides, but that's nothing compared to Snape.

Snape left Voldemort not because he was against the wanton killing of innocent people. In fact, Snape seemed quite comfortable with that. Snape left Voldemort because he was against the wanton killing of one single woman. A woman he wanted to stick his penis into. That's not noble, that's just being male...and a selfish one at that.

Beyond that, after Voldemort was defeated Snape became a teacher at Hogwarts. When Harry Potter attended the school Snape was a complete dick to him for no other reason than he had hated his dead father (most likely because Harry's dad had given it to Lilly good on a nightly basis). So Severus Snape was evil (and apparently horny) but "redeemed himself" by turning into a petty ass who enjoys bullying children half his age? If that's not self-improvement, I don't know what is!

I'm not saying Dumbledore shouldn't have accepted Snape's help. I'm just saying that Harry giving his child the middle name of Severus is a bit excessive.

(Also, Snape commenting on how Harry's eyes looks like his mother's is super creepy.)

Darth Vader: If you don't know who Darth Vader is then you've been living under a rock. He was a Sith and the right hand man to the emperor of an oppressive galactic government. At the end of the original Star Wars trilogy Darth Vader turns on the Emperor and throws him down a shaft, sacrificing himself in the process. However, before his death there was still time for he and his son, Luke Skywalker, to kiss and makeup...minus the kiss part. Darth Vader then got a proper burial, went to Jedi heaven with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and everyone left happy. Well, everyone except the billions of people who died because of him.

You see, originally Darth Vader was just your above average do-gooder Jedi. Then he had some nightmares about his gal dying. Now, I don't blame him for being worried about losing the uber-hot Natalie Portman, but his solution to the problem was a bit perplexing. He decided the best way to save his wife from dying was to kill many, many people. Including the brutal slaughtering of numerous "younglings".

After his initial slaughter, Darth Vader decided to travel the universe killing as many Jedi (whose pretty much sole purpose in life is to do good works) as he could find. But really, that's nothing compared to what he did after he kidnapped Princess Leia and brought her aboard the Death Star. (He didn't do THAT. She was his daughter you sickos.)

Princess Leia was brought to Grand Moff Tarkin and interrogated for the location of the rebel base. He threatened to destroy her home planet of Alderaan if she didn't talk. Leia then appeared to cooperate with Tarkin. Tarkin destroyed the planet of Alderaan anyway. And what did Darth Vader do about that? Nothing. He just sat idly by and watched, giving his tacit endorsement.

So frankly, it's all nice and everything that Darth Vader decided he loved his son and offed the Emperor, but after being a part of the destruction of a planet inhabited by nearly 2 billion people keeps him far from being redeemed in my book.

Vegeta: If using planetary destruction as a show of force by an oppressive regime is bad, how about planetary destruction for the sheer fun of it? But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

Vegeta was the main villain-turned-hero of the Dragon Ball Z series. Vegeta was one of the last of the Sayins. Sayins were a generally violent race of aliens who enjoyed fighting for the sake of fighting. Goku, the hero of Dragon Ball Z, is also a Sayin. He was sent to Earth to destroy it but thanks to a head injury that didn't happen.

To make an unnecessarily long story short, Vegeta learned of magical orbs on Earth that could grant wishes and thus journeyed to Earth to wish to become immortal. Goku defeated Vegeta, though, before Vegeta could make the wish. Vegeta then retreated and tried to become more powerful in order to defeat Goku but it never really happened. Eventually these adversaries began to respect one another and then became allies and fought together against other powerful beings attempting to destroy the Earth.

That all sounds nice and good, but Vegeta was pretty damned evil to start. He'd kill without discrimination because, basically, if you were so weak that you couldn't fight back then you deserved to die. But Vegeta's greatest atrocity came during his first journey to Earth.

When Vegeta and his cohort Nappa were traveling to Earth they decided to stop by the planet of Arlia. They allowed themselves to be captured there and were brought before an oppressive dictator. They then broke free of their bonds and took out the guards, killed a giant monster, and overthrew the dictator. All the citizens were freed, rejoiced, and hailed Vegeta and Nappa as heroes.

Vegeta and Nappa did all this on a lark. Overthrowing a government was just plain fun for them. You know what else was just plain fun for them? DESTROYING THE ENTIRE PLANET OF ARLIA!

That's right, Vegeta and Nappa left the planet but then stopped just long enough to send a super planet-destroying death ray hurtling towards Arlia. Why did Vegeta and Nappa destroy the entire planet of Arlia? For the hell of it.

Killing billions of people for sheer entertainment is as irredeemable an action as it gets. Goku should have slit Vegeta's throat the first chance he got simply out of principal. Instead Vegeta is hailed as a great warrior and a hero. Not in my book he isn't.

Suddenly, Brett Favre doesn't sound so bad, does he?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (08/17/2009 - 08/23/2009)

1. I suppose we should start with some positivity. Joe Mauer has been awesome. Check out this story.

I'd like to point out this paragraph:

"According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Mauer is one of five American League players to have at least 25 home runs and at least a .380 batting average this late in the season. The others were Ted Williams (1941 and 1957), Joe DiMaggio (1939), Lou Gehrig (1930 and 1936) and Babe Ruth (1931)."

That's a jaw-droppingly crazy list of names for Joe Mauer to be associated with.

2. Thursday's game snapped the Florida Marlins' steak of 15 straight games with at least 10 hits. That's pretty impressive. (Unless those games were all against Twins pitchers, but they weren't.)

3. Drew Stubbs hit his first home run on Thursday and it just so happened to be of the walk-off variety. But, if a walk-off home run is hit but there's no one in the stands to see it, did it really happen?

4. This clip is best watched with the sound off and imagining the Benny Hill song playing as soon as Denard Span's bat hits the ball.

5. I was trying to come up with a pun involving Pujols and jamming the bases or something, but it just didn't work out. But what I really like about this play is the catcher's heads up reaction in just booking it out to second base.

6. Speaking of things you don't see every day, this is the first time a Twins player hit two home runs in the same inning.

7. And this is definitely something you don't see everyday. In fact, the unassisted triple play is more rare than a perfect game. Sunday's was only the second time in baseball history an unassisted triple play ended the game.

8. But if we're talking baseball history, then we MUST reference the Red Sox and the Yankees, right? Friday's Red Sox/Yankees game featured the most runs scored in Red Sox vs. Yankees history. The Red Sox lost that game and that pretty much ended their chances at an American League East championship.

9. Speaking of Red Sox/Yankees, why does Sports Center recap the Yankees/Red Sox game mere minutes after the game ended? Wouldn't you think that anyone watching Sports Center at that time was watching the game? Why don't you give it a half hour.

10. Well, the Twins managed to win 5 of 7 games this week which was just enough to keep them relevant in the AL Central. I'm still not optimistic. Although it should be noted that they won those games without Justin Morneau. Maybe he's been hindering the team? I say the Twins should cut him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A "Big" Cameo

Fans of "The Big Bang Theory", check out this page from Power Girl #4, on sale this week:


Thanks to Brian Cronin at Comics Should Be Good! for the scan.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

X-amining X-Men #20

"I, Lucifer!"
May 1966

Expertly Edited
by Stan Lee
Skillfully Scripted
by Roy Thomas ("another Mighty Marvel Bullpen surprise!")
Perfectly Penciled by Jay Gavin
Ideally Inked by Dick Ayers
Laxly Lettered by Artie Simek

Plot:
Unus and Blob, wearing X-Men uniforms, rob a bank, inciting the public against the X-Men. Meanwhile, Cyclops decides to leave the X-Men in order to find a cure for his optic blasts so that he can declare his feelings Jean while the other X-Men catch a news report of Unus and Blob's robbery. Professor X sends them into action against the pair, warning them that someone is helping out Blob and Unus, but that the same villain is affecting the X-Men's memory so they won't know who it is. That villain is Lucifer, who, after Blob and Unus faced each other in a wrestling match, convinced the pair to frame the X-Men in order to distract them. On his own, Cyclops encounters Blob and Unus robbing an armored car. They manage to convince the crowd that Cyclops is with them, and a mob quickly forms and attacks Cyclops. The other X-Men, save Marvel Girl, arrive and fight off the mob and Blob and Unus, who escape. Meanwhile, Professor X has managed to discover Lucifer's role in the affair, just as Lucifer strikes back against Xavier. Weakened and near-powerless, Professor X tells Marvel Girl of his first encounter with Lucifer and how he lost the use of his legs. The X-Men, including Cyclops, return home and Beast builds a device which blocks Lucifers attack on the Professor. The team departs to confront Lucifer, just as the villain prepares for the time of Dominus.

Firsts and Other Notables: Roy Thomas debuts as the new writer, his first regular superhero work, beginning the first of two runs on the book (the second, with artist Neal Adams, is the more well known run). Known for being a Golden Age aficionado, Thomas is one of the first of a new generation of comic book writers, ones who grew up reading comic books and approach their work from the perspective of a fan. His love of comics and knowledge of past continuity will become apparent in his work.

Lucifer returns, and his revealed to be an advance scout for an alien race, paving the way for Dominus (something which enable them to capture Earth and use it as a stepping stone to other galaxies and universes) and answering to a "Supreme One."

We learn how Professor X became injured: essentially, he was investigating a mysterious walled city some years ago, and discovered its inhabitants were under the control of Lucifer. He led them in a revolt against him and in the ensuing conflict, Lucifer dropped a heavy stone block on Xavier, crippling him. Xavier cites the threat of Lucifer as another reason he formed the X-Men

A Work in Progress:
The new Cerebro is seen for the first time. It's now more computer-like, and can project images of the mutants it detects within range.


The X-Men have a new jet, purchased by Professor X before the Sentinel story and not needed until now.


Beast mentions the ray gun they used on Unus in issue #8 (to amplify his powers such that he could no longer eat or drink through his force field). Professor X worries that he may have since found a way to counteract it.

In fact, Unus has "a hunch" that he's now immune to it. Lucifer is responsible for his immunity, and for giving him the hunch about it.

A caption refers to Iceman as Bobby Blake instead of Bobby Drake.

Call me crazy,but the X-Men probably wouldn't be in this predicament if they hadn't just let Lucifer go last time...


Ah, the Silver Age: All of the money Blob and Unus steals comes in sacks with "$" on them, of course.


Deciding that someone must be behind Unus and Blob's partnership and smear campaign, Professor X probes his memory for who could be behind it, only to find it, as well as the memories of the X-Men is being blocked by the mysterious mastermind, so he decides he must build a Mechanical Memory-Inducer to penetrate their foe's defenses. I'm still confused as to how Professor X's memory is going to help him learn something he doesn't know...

On his own, Cyclops just happens to run into Unus and Blob in the middle of a robbery.

Unus and Blob both smoke while sharing notes over coffee.


Marvel girl uses a "Mental Wave Amplifier" to hear the injured Professor's thoughts, and he later dons a "distorter helmet" to overcome Lucifer's attack.

Professor X investigates a mysterious walled city in Tibet (which Lucifer was using as his original beachhead for the conquest of Earth). Tibet was apparently shorthand for a "far off, exotic place" in the sixties. It's also where Dr. Doom donned his armor for the first time and where Dr. Strange went to find the Ancient One.

Young Love: Cyclops is so in love with Jean, he's decided to leave the team in order to find a cure for his optic blast so they can be together, as he believes he has no right to feel this way about her while his eyes remain a threat.


Later, after Cyclops has returned with the other X-Men, he snaps at Jean and upsets her.


Human/Mutant Relations: Upon seeing Blob and Unus, dressed as X-Men, the public readily believes the X-Men have turned against humanity.


And subsequently, a mob quickly forms.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops: Cyclops is determined to find someone who will cure him of the menace of his eye beams.


Teebore's Take: This issue is dense! There is a ton of story packed into this thing, and it continues into the next issue. Almost every panel is stuffed with either dialogue or narrative captions. Thomas, known today for dusting off old characters and for being something of a continuity buff, begins his first run on the book by bringing back Unus, Blob and Lucifer, and establishing how Professor X got injured. I mentioned it when examining issue #9, but the circumstances of Xavier's injury (randomly stumbling across the advance scout of an alien race and getting hurt fighting him) isn't exactly the stuff of epics, and had very little thematic resonance with the book (one has to wonder what, if anything, Stan Lee had in mind for this story when he introduced Lucifer and linked him to Professor X's origin).

Thomas also does something with this story that he'll do often throughout his first run: despite the presence of three former X-Men villains and a significant chunk of Professor X's origin, this feels very much like a generic Silver Age story. There isn't anything in the plot, neither the villains impersonating the heroes to besmirch their name nor the impending conquest of the planet by aliens, that has anything to do with the themes or style of "X-Men" at this point. It's been suggested that Thomas, a fresh-faced fan working on his first superhero book (and a relatively low selling title at this point), simply told the types of stories he wanted to tell, regardless of whether or not they "fit" for the X-Men. Which isn't to say this issue is bad; just more generic than some other "X-Men" stories.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (08/10/2009 - 08/16/2009)

1. Is it just me or has there been a lot of cycles this year?

2. Some people get stuck on milestones, but when Valdimir Guerrero hit his 399th home run he decided to just go ahead hit his 400th in the same game.

3. White Sox are still in the hunt for the Division and obtained Alex Rios, who was an All Star and is still young. I'd be more upset but the Twins have enough outfielders as it is.

4. Ouch

5. Double ouch

6. Triple ouch

7. As for some updates, David Wright (5) may be out for the rest of the season with a concussion (continuing the Mets epidemic of injuries). Hiroki Kuroda (6) was released from the hospital on Monday but will miss his next start. It sounds like he may come back after that. Ian Kinsler (4) seems to be doing just fine.

8. The Angels did something similar to the Twins a week or two ago. On Sunday, when the Angels faced the Orioles, the Angels ended up winning the game in what at first glance looks like a 17 to 8 blowout. However, the game was much closer that that. It was an extra inning game that just happened to have a 9 run top of the 13th.

9. Well, every year there are teams that look like they in contention after the All Star break but in August they fade and you soon realize that they just don't have what it takes. The Twins are one of those teams. They're still mathematically in the division race, but really, they've got no shot. It's just frustrating by how un-Twins-like this season is. The Twins offense is actually downright decent. But the pitching is so atrocious that no leads are held for more than an inning or two and 5 runs by the Twins offense rarely seems like enough. I'm not sure how the Twins will fix their pitching problem for next season.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Retro Review: Some Enchanted Evening

Or The One Where: Marge and Homer spend an evening out while Bart and Lisa tussle with the Babysitter Bandit.

The Setup: Feeling unappreciated at home, Marge is enraged at Homer until he surprises her with a night out.

A Work In Progress: While it aired as the last episode of the first season, this was the first episode ever produced for the show. When it came back from being animated, the animation was so shoddy the producers arranged to have the premiere of the show pushed back so they could revise it, and instead of the planned debut in the fall, "The Simpsons" first appeared in December with the Christmas episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire." As a result, this episode has some rough edges in places where the original animation conflicts with the revised animation.

Barney's hair is blond in this episode, and Moe's is black instead of gray. Moe was originally voiced in this episode by Christopher Collins before being overdubbed by Hank Azaria. Collins also provided the voice of Mr. Burns in "Homer's Odyssey" (before Harry Shearer took over the role), and was the voice of Cobra Commander and Starscream.

Favorite Lines:

Bart: You know what happens. They find Captain Quick's treasure. All the elves dance around like little green idiots. I puke. The End.
Lisa: Bart, you're just like Chilly, the elf who cannot love.

Bart: We know who you are, Ms. Botz. Or should I say, Ms. Botzcowski. You're the Babysitter Bandit.
Ms. Botz : You're a smart young man, Bart. I hope you're smart enough to keep your mouth shut.
Lisa: He isn't.

Marge: The way I see it, if you've raised three children who can knock out and hog-tie a perfect stranger, you must be doing something right.


Teebore's Take: While the original animation might have been rough, the script is solid, showing from the beginning the writers' ability to blend the traditional sitcom with the zany and outrageous. This is the third episode this season which deals in some part with Marge's anger towards Homer (alongside "Homer's Night Out" and "Life in the Fast Lane"), which suggests that if the writers were out of ideas for a Bart story, a Homer/Marge conflict was their fallback option.

Which is interesting, considering how many plots these days revolve around the idea of "Homer and Marge's marriage is in trouble because of X." While the examples of such plots from the first season aren't nearly as over the top as later examples, it's interesting to note that the Homer/Marge marital conflict episodes have been part of the show's foundation since the beginning. Which isn't meant to excuse the dearth of such (mainly poor) episodes of late; it's merely an interesting observation that even back in the beginning, roughly 25% of the episodes dealt with trouble between Homer and Marge.

Crank Call: Bart calls Moe's looking for Al Coholic and later, Oliver Clothesoff.

Classic:

A solid outing and a template for what's to come, especially impressive for being one of the earliest episodes produced.

And with that, the first season comes to a close. My personal recollection of the first season has always been "crude animation and funny, but not spectacular, episodes." Perhaps my memory does the season a disservice, for while the animation is still rough around the edges, and the episodes are more solid than they are spectacular (in particular, lacking the laugh out loud lines later seasons will be known for), I enjoyed these episodes far more this time around than I have in the past.

Aside from a couple of clunkers, one boring ("Homer's Odyssey"), the other a victim of mis-characterization ("There's No Disgrace Like Home", though it can be excused somewhat for being the first episode written), the episodes settle into a comfortable group ranging from the good ("Call of the Simpsons, "The Telltale Head") to the great ("The Crepes of Wrath", "Krusty Gets Busted"). As a whole, the season is alot closer to what the show will become than I often think.