Thursday, August 31, 2006 

The Braves: Probably not, but you never know...

I'm off to cover the Braves-Giants game tonight--working on a piece on Smoltz for Choptalk--and if Atlanta can pull out a win, I'm starting to feel good about their chances for at least making a run at the wild card.

I'd always set 2 1/2 as a benchmark--if we were 2 1/2 games out or less at the end of August, I wouldn't pack up the plantation. Best-case scenario, we'll be 3 out, thanks to the Padres' recent hot run. But the rest of the National League is such a crew of nancies--the topic of my upcoming column for the Chicago Sports Review--that anybody who makes a run is right there in the mix. (See the Marlins, who reeled off 9 wins and went from 9 down to 2 down in that time.)

Our pitching, outside of Smoltz, Wickman, Chuck James, and occasionally Hudson, absolutely blows. Fortunately, our bats are some of the best in the league. Now as long as we can score 23 runs a game, we'll be set.

No margin for error now. And the two series against Philly and the Mets this next week are--without hyperbole--the most critical regular-season series Atlanta has played in a decade.

This time next week, we'll have a good idea of whether it's worth watching the rest of the season...or making plans for 2007.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 

Darth Vader: From Overlord To Punk

What is it about Darth Vader that makes everybody wanna take him down a peg or two? I mean, start with this cutie-pie Darth Hello Kitty:

Then move on to Darth Granny:

And finally, check out these vids featuring everyone's favorite Sith lord.

First, we see that in addition to being pure evil, Vader's kind of a jackass.

Next--the Japanese are okay with being Godzilla's bitch, but they're gonna put Vader in his place.

And finally, here's an example of a marriage that's on real solid ground. If I were the lady, I'd dump the dude for his weak writing ("Tonight you DIE!" That was the best you could come up with? Really?) and godawful film editing skills.

Stay classy, Darth. Stay classy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 

Southern Lit--"Through Hell And High Water"

Back when I was in college, my buddy Jay Kasberger (when you find this on Google, email me, Bone!) and I used to while away our dateless evenings—which were few and far between, believe you me—by going to the local Giant food store in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, we’d take full advantage of a poorly-planned store layout that had situated the comic books and bulk foods right next to one another. Bulk foods, for those of you not in the know, were gigantic bins full of pretty much any kind of nonperishable food item you could imagine. But we weren’t interested in the dog food, flour, or birdseed. No, we’d load up Hefty bags full of candy—malted milk balls; yogurt pretzels; Goo Goo Clusters; and pretty much everything ever manufactured in the medium of gummi: gummi worms, gummi fish, even gummi fetuses. We’d load up these sacks, rationalize that we were acting in the tradition of Robin Hood (who’s poorer than a college student?), and go hang next to the Hey Kids! Comics! rack for a couple hours, trolling through X-Men, Teen Titans, Hulk, Avengers, and all the other classics of the age.

Hang on, I’m going somewhere with this.

I treat iTunes the same way I treated that Giant. Sure, I buy plenty of stuff from iTunes. But brother, I download any freakin’ free thing I can get from that place. I’ve gotten more crappy pseudo-electro-lounge-funk tunes and halfwit DOA pilot episodes than you could possibly believe. And when Apple started offering podcasts, well, I could’ve loaded a 60GB video with all the free goods I’ve downloaded.

Which brings me to “Through Hell And High Water,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s 22-part series on two downtown New Orleans hospitals trying to weather Hurricane Katrina. (From Gummi fetuses to iTunes to Katrina. That’s how we roll.) I’d read pieces of the series when it came out in the paper, but it wasn’t until the whole thing came out in a podcast—on iTunes, and hence free—that I downloaded it and began absorbing the entire four-hour saga. And now, on the anniversary of Katrina, at a time when the Bush-administration spin is running fast and furious (The checks are coming, promise!, the president said today, while shills like Sean Hannity claim that that mainstream liberal media glosses over the fact that New Orleans had a better than 95 percent survival rate after the floodwaters hit! Why aren’t we celebrating that, huh?), this story of hospitals left to fend for themselves is a necessary one to know.

It’s a painful read (listen?), because writer Jane O. Hansen accurately delineates how the crisis unfolded through multiple pairs of eyes. The series details the way two hospitals—the well-financed private Tulane facility and the poor, public Charity Hospital—dealt with the ever-escalating threats from Katrina. From the hurricane, to the flood, to the diseased waters, to the roving bands of thugs and snipers, to the desperate attempts at evacuation, this series takes us right into the blood-and-feces-stained halls of the two hospitals. Hansen avoids the easy rich-hospital-bad, poor-hospital-good bias, noting that the way that Tulane’s parent corporation mobilized national resources for the relief effort was a model for future disaster planning. If anybody comes off looking bad, it’s the media for erroneously reporting—twice—that both hospitals were evacuated, even as hundreds of critically ill patients and staff watched those reports on CNN. The government’s incompetence is a given, every bit as expected and as implacable as the rising floodwaters.

I expect “Through Hell and High Water” will become a book—which would be a good thing, because its sole flaw is the fact that there’s not enough backstory here. (Understandable because of the column-inch limitations of the newspaper medium.) I’m not sure it’ll win any awards—alas, heart-wrenching Katrina stories are kind of like redemptive Red Sox stories in October 2004—but it deserves to be read, or heard. And it’s free, so you’ve got no excuse.

Go to the AJC’s “Hell and High Water” website for the iTunes link and photos from the hospitals. It’s another reminder of a national debacle that shouldn’t ever be forgotten.

Monday, August 28, 2006 

Art Blast: RIPPED #1

Here's an in-progress page from RIPPED #1, art by my man Jason Flowers. The scene here is that our boy Fitz has found himself right in the line of fire in Dallas 1963. As you'll see, not everybody gets shot the way they're supposed to.

Oh, and the Tarantino-movie-looking cat who shows up there in the last panel somehow already knows Fitz's name. Hmmm....

Friday, August 11, 2006 

Postcards banner--pass it 'round

Here's a banner for the new Postcards anthology I'm hooked up with...more details forthcoming. Click on the pic itself to go to Postcards central.

Postcards is an anthology of some of comics' greatest creators--and, um, me--composing short stories based on actual postcards from decades ago. It's gonna be a hell of a work.

Thursday, August 10, 2006 

Poker In The Front, Liquor In The Rear

Sorry 'bout that headline.

Anyway, the Chicago Sports Review has my latest column, entitled "Stone Cold Bluff," up now. It's about why poker is NOT a sport...and why that's a good thing.

Go, read.

Monday, August 07, 2006 

Southern (Cali) Lit--Charlie Huston's Six Bad Things

So I'm getting waxed at online poker as I type this--isn't there some kind of human-rights commission that a brother can appeal to when he gets dealt three straight two-seven off-suits?--but here we go with another rambling book review. It starts, as all good book reviews do, with iTunes. Specifically, a podcast I heard on iTunes. Super-specifically, this podcast right here, from Marvel Comics and starring writer Charlie Huston. Huston's writing the revival of Moon Knight, who was created in the 1980s as a goofy-yet-cool Batman knockoff. "Goofy" because even though he's supposed to be this crusader of the night, he prowls the rooftops wearing all white. (After Labor Day, even.) Cool because he's got a backstory where he has multiple secret identities, and depending on the writer, sometimes those secret identities don't even know the other exists.

So anyway, Huston pitched a good game on this podcast, and I checked out his three Moon Knight issues (you should too--damn good stuff.) Then I went looking for his writing that didn't have any pictures--you know, novels. (As he laughed in an email to me afterward, "Moon Knight; it's like the cheap crack I use to reel people into the upmarket stuff.") I picked up Six Bad Things, which I didn't realize until later was the second book in a trilogy. Getting the second book first wasn't quite as dumb as seeing Empire Strikes Back first, or as incomprehensible as seeing Two Towers first, but nonetheless I've kinda spoiled the first book, Caught Stealing, for myself.

It's an acceptable loss. Six Bad Things is a hell of a book, and much of it reminds me of nothing so much as the vastly underrated flick True Romance. Basic plot: Hank Thompson is hiding out in Baja California. Why, we don't know--unless we read Caught Stealing, of course--but the fact that people with strange accents are starting to come around Hank's remote village gets Hank a mite nervous. And when Hank has to go on the run--taking the ill-gotten gains from the first novel with him--well, he kicks off a Jack Bauer/John Constantine-esque wave of death and destruction that sluices around him but manages to drown pretty much everyone near him.

Huston's got a gift for composing the kinds of violent, intricate set pieces that characterized the aforementioned True Romance and other, similar flicks. One small mistake--a missed turn, a missed phone call--leads to problem upon problem, and pretty soon the characters are like that guy on Craigslist who started with a paperclip and ended up with a house--if the house was, you know, full of bloodlusting, crack-jacked Mexicans or something. Scenes in Hank's childhood subdivision and a Vegas stripper's rented house escalate so quickly and so violently (both for the reader and for the characters) that you find yourself stunned at how even the most innocent of situations can, with the wrong individuals involved, turn tragic in a moment's time.

I hate it when plots are spoiled for me, so I won't give you any more details than I already have. Suffice it to say that Huston's book gets the highest possible recommendation from me. You won't learn anything new about the human condition--but you'll learn many new ways it can get snuffed out.

Check out Huston's occasional musings, too, and buy his books--guys like him need to be encouraged. Preferably from a distance, but still.


Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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