Welcome! This is my personal blog, where I chat about whatever takes my fancy, reminisce about comics, Old Time Radio, and science-fiction fandoms, review what I feel like reviewing, and so on. It also archives scans of some of the fanzines with which I've been involved.
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

So Can You Tell ...

Ed Curtis and friends in the early 1950s
... what Dad is holding in this photo? And what's hanging from his pocket? Just read the previous post. I bet you can figure it out.


Ed Curtis, aka Dad

William Edgar Curtis in office, Roberts Hall, Spring 1941
His doctorate involved a study of food location by bats and owls; a Google check turns up citation after citation for "Curtis, 1952." That'd be him. He also wrote a book I was startled to find recently in Amazon listings: The Learning Game. It was published in October 1974 - but by "published" I mean mimeographed by Mom. Print run was 100. But there it was on Amazon (though not actually available). Here's his preface to that volume, designed as a guide to college students:

Most books have prefaces. I do not know why.

Few persons read them. When they do, they rarely get better set for the reading of the book that is being prefaced. Sometimes I read a preface pretending that I am a scholar and should proceed through the book in an orderly manner. When I do this, I usually lose interest in the book before I get started with the main reading.

Ed Curtis in the 1930s
The usual preface (at least my impression of them) seems to assume that the reader has already read the book! "In chapter four, I take the concept of depriphasiality seriously to task." But I do not know what that is because I have not read chapter four yet.

There is no preface in this book.

In the process of going through a number of family photos recently, I came across a lovely batch of photos of dad - photos I don't think I'd seen before. He was born December 11, 1917, and died June 15, 1975. He was a pioneering researcher in echolocation in bats, a hobby painter, and an associate professor of biology at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. And I miss him. Love you, Dad!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Captain Marvel Was in Rare Good Humor

I try to keep an eye out for Turner Classic Movies' broadcasts of The Good Humor Man so I can remind comic-book fans that this is a farce that, oddly, involves comic books. Though many of the brief summaries you'll find online and in reference books fail to note it, the existence of Fawcett's Captain Marvel comic books is a sort of subplot. For example, Leonard Maltin gives the 1950 film (79 minutes) two and a half stars, but he only has room enough to note it's a "Broad slapstick comedy about ice-cream vendor Carson, who stumbles into a crime ring. Written by Frank Tashlin." And he's correct, of course. But. Whereas Jack Carson's Biff is the amiable and well-meaning (if not quite bright) Good Humor Man of the title, he's also the adult overseeing the neighborhood's "Captain Marvel Club." And it's the kids of the club who unite to lend a hand at the stunt-packed climax.

There are many points of interest for the trivia-minded. First, of course, is that Fawcett actually produced a comic book that consists of a tale by Otto Binder in which Captain Marvel flies to Columbia Pictures so as to act as technical advisor for the Captain Marvel Club sequences. Second, though the word "Shazam!" is unspoken in the film itself, the club's code words are "niatpac levram," and the kids use them as a call to arms. Third, though the serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel was a Republic film in 1941, it is Columbia Pictures that produced this film - but stuntman Dave Sharpe was on hand for both, stunting as Captain Marvel in 1941 and as one of the bad guys in this film. Fourth, though Tashlin wrote the script for Columbia, the original story appeared in The Saturday Evening Post - and it was by Roy Huggins. Perhaps, indeed, Columbia made this film because it had already brought Huggins to Hollywood to adapt his The Double Take  to movies as I Love Trouble. (Of course, he later went on to create and oversee such comedy-tinged successes as Maverick, The Rockford Files, and Alias Smith and Jones.)

While The Good Humor Man is neither subtle nor a comedic masterpiece, then, you might want to catch it the next time TCM offers it. Which will be, come to think of it, tonight at 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time. (Oh, and why do I say Captain Marvel is in rare Good Humor? Because the movie is not available on DVD - which means your best way to catch it is when TCM offers it.)


Steven Moffat sets an example for pop-culture heroes, no spoilers

At least, I hope I won't give away anything, in case readers haven't yet had a chance to see Doctor Who 6:7, "A Good Man Goes to War." And, note, I have yet to go back to rewatch the Moffat DW oeuvre: 1:9-10 ("The Empty Child," "The Doctor Dances"), 2:4 ("The Girl in the Fireplace"), 3:10 ("Blink"), 4:8-9 ("Silence in the Library," "Forest of the Dead"), all 5, and all 6. Topping it all off, of course, is that none of us has seen what Moffat will do in the second half of the sixth season.

But here is The Thing: A tedious trend in serialized pop culture is that somehow people who are married can't be heroic. Or interesting enough to care about. A character, once introduced as single, must stay single - or, if married, be returned to a single state, as is "normal" for that character. I'll accept that Reed and Sue Richards may be an exception - but even there, I think it's because Sue began as invisible and has pretty much remained that way. A married couple as equal partners, equally heroic, equally interesting, equally loving ... The "mainstream" serial pop-culture world not only does not have this as its norm, it rarely has it at all. Heck, the primary super-heroic family success story that springs to mind is The Incredibles, but that was conceived as a post-heroic-turns-heroic adventure - and, additionally, it was also pretty much a one-off.

But Moffat? He seems to specialize in giving viewers a world in which mothers and fathers - even some of the bad guys - act heroically and lovingly on behalf of their children. And a world in which the children are important, and abandonment is catastrophic. And in which marriage is not a boring end to adventure and heroics and edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers. Admittedly, Moffat must have had at least some of the story arc of Amy and Rory planned long in advance - but what a change it has been for the series, which has not had such Companions in any other arc since its inception in 1963!

And why haven't more creators realized that the story possibilities are increased, not lessened, when there is a family at its center? Why must they kill the baby, break up the couple, drive one of the couple insane, make one of the characters a cipher or villain, or otherwise confine their stories to a "normal" state of focus on One Single Hero, bravely facing adventures alone? Swiss Family Robinson showed readers in 1812 that a story could have a strong family as a major element and still be popular. (But, then, Johann Wyss was not setting up a series designed to spin off stories for decades.) There are a few comic-book writers who have avoided the routine of couple destruction; we should treasure them. But their stories aren't the norm.

Kudos to Steven Moffat - and to Doctor Who. I can hardly wait until "late summer," when BBC America promises Season Six will continue. (Keeping hope alive that, as at the start of Season Six, America will get to see episodes on the same day they air in England.)


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

54 Years Ago ...

Don Thompson
I pretty much summed up the day a while ago but I recently uncovered this photo and thought it'd be appropriate to post it today. I took it just before Don left to continue his hitchhiking toward the oxymoronically named Grand Valley, where he was spending the summer after his sophomore year at Penn State. I've always liked the fact that I was such a poor photographer that I (in the form of my shadow) shared the picture with him.


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