Friday fanfare: “Mambo Italiano”

Another gem from Hetty and the Jazzato Band, this the classic “Mambo Italiano,” written by Bob Merrill for Rosemary Clooney, and covered by half the world, from Dean Martin to Carla Boni to Lady Gaga. As with the other Hetty/Jazzato songs, the highlight is the superlative clarinet work by Charly on the clarinet.


4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Captain America: The First Avenger


After a dreadful movie serial in the 1940s, two awful TV movies in the 1970s, and an embarrassingly bad feature film in the 1990s, we finally get a good version of Captain America on screen as Chris Evans nails it. He’s supported by a nifty script, great visuals, superb performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Neal McDonough, plus we get arguably the finest character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Hayley Atwell magnificent Peggy Carter. The great superhero movie rewatch kvells over Captain America: The First Avenger.

An excerpt:

Evans is surrounded by a superlative cast, who all support Cap, but provide excellent characterizations beyond that. Stanley Tucci’s Erskine is a delight, full of so many nice touches—responding to Rogers’s query asking where his German-accented self is from with “Queens,” ruefully saying there’s less Schnapps left than there should be the morning of the test, and so on—but also a subdued passion that matches that of Rogers. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual amazing self, bringing an acid cynicism and snottiness that contrasts nicely with Rogers’s earnestness. (He also gets many of the film’s best lines, delivered with Jones’s expected perfection.) Hugo Weaving, for the second time in this rewatch, has portrayed an iconic comics character with far better talent than I’ve seen him evince in other genre roles (he was one of many reasons why I hated The Matrix, and his Elrond was dreadful). His Shmidt has a calm intelligence and a ruthless practicality that makes him incredibly scary. Sebastian Stan’s Barnes is a solid friend and comrade, his easy camaraderie with Evans’s Rogers showing a deep abiding friendship, a bond that will continue through several more movies. Dominic Cooper’s Stark is his son’s father, as the hints of the elder Stark’s seamier side that we saw in the “gag reel” Tony Stark watched in Iron Man 2 are in full force in the younger version. (Hilariously, Cooper’s Howard Stark is much closer to the 1960s version of Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony was in his two movies.) Neal McDonough’s Dugan is perfect, and I deeply regret that we didn’t get a TV miniseries or a movie or something that was just Dugan, Carter, and the howling commandos continuing to fight the good fight in WWII after Cap stopped Hydra. (As it happens, my favorite episode of the great, underappreciated Agent Carter series is the one McDonough guest stars in as Dugan.) The rest of the Howling Commandos don’t get much to do, but create interesting characters in a very short amount of screen time. (My favorite is Kenneth Choi’s Jim Morita, who whips out his dogtags with practiced frustration when Dugan questions his being freed with the others with a cranky, “I’m from Fresno, ace.”)

what’s new on Patreon


Now is a great time to join my Patreon, because there is a shit-ton of stuff! Just since the last time I blogged a Patreon update, here’s what’s gone up:

  • for $1/month and up: a review of First Man
  • for $2/month and up: 18 new cat pictures
  • for $5/month and up: reviews of Magnum P.I., the ninth season of M*A*S*HClaws, Jodie Whittaker’s premiere episode of Doctor WhoBetter Call Saul, and The Good Place
  • for $7/month and up: weekly excerpts from Mermaid Precinct and “The Midwinter of Our Discontent”
  • for $10/month and up: a vignette featuring Bram Gold
  • for $20/month and up: first drafts of each chapter of Mermaid Precinct as they’ve been finished, as well as the first draft of “Midwinter”

Coming soon are more TV reviews — I want to review Animal Kingdom, seasons 10 and 11 of M*A*S*H, the final three seasons of New Tricks, a look back at The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., more retro Doctor Who reviews, Lodge 49, Preacher, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and more — a review of the movie Animal Kingdom (which the TV show is based on), as well as a look back at the Mission: Impossible movies starring Tom Cruise, and this month’s vignette, which I haven’t figured out what it is yet.

Seriously, now is a great time to get in on my Patreon. You won’t be sorry.


Monday music: “Tu Vuò Fà l’Americano”

“Tu Vuò Fà l’Americano” is a delightful Neopolitan song by Renato Carosone that came out in 1956. It’s a fun little song which basically translates to “You Want to be American,” singing the virtues of the U.S. If you saw the movie adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, there’s a delightful bit with Matt Damon and Jude Law singing the song.

This version is by a contemporary Anglo-Italian jazz quintet called Hetty & the Jazzato Band, and it’s also a delight. I’ve had this song in my head for a few days now, between the members of our Italian dojo coming to visit and Wrenn and I planning our forthcoming trip to Italy.

crazy week ahead


I never did do an irons in the fire update post for October, and I’m not gonna do one now, either, because I’m too busy doing the things in it. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

By year’s end, I have to finish Mermaid Precinct, I have to work on a game tie-in novelette, I have to write another collaborative thriller, I have to write three short stories and an essay, plus my stuff: the weekly superhero movie rewatch, reviews of Short Treks, and stuff on the upcoming third season of Daredevil. Plus the usual stuff on Patreon, including finally catching up on my TV reviews.

This week, I also have two editorial tasks to tackle, I have to figure out which characters in “The Fall of Iaron” will be named after the supporters who paid for it and also give the story a final read-through, and I’ve got a shit-ton of karate stuff to do!

You see it’s time once again for the semi-annual black belt promotion, and this go-round we’ve got folks from both our Italian and Chilean branches coming in to be tested, as well as a mess of people from our own dojo. Tonight there’s a welcome dinner for the out-of-towners, tomorrow is the annual dojo picture (which will be a bit more crowded than usual), and then the promotion itself is Wednesday night, Friday night, and Sunday morning, with a celebration Monday evening.

On top of that, we’ve got a trip to plan. We received a very generous belated wedding gift of a honeymoon trip to Italy, and so Wrenn and I will be spending a lot of November in Rome, Firenze, Siena, and Milano. Wrenn has never been to Italy, and I haven’t been since the early 1990s, so this is gonna be fantastic.

So yeah……


4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Thor


The Norse gods come to the MCU in a movie that not only brings in sword-and-sorcery stuff, but also the biggest showcase yet for S.H.I.E.L.D. The three male leads are amazing, the Destroyer is awesome, and we get a quickie intro to Hawkeye to boot! The great superhero movie rewatch looks at Thor.

An excerpt:

I truly regret that Jack Kirby didn’t live long enough to see this movie, because holy crap did Kenneth Branagh and his cinematographers and set designers do an amazing job of re-creating Kirby’s Asgard. I still remember sitting in the theatre in 2011 and gaping and bouncing in my seat and trying to not squee out loud, as the other theatre-goers would have frowned on that, when we got that opening shot of the realm eternal.

And then the Destroyer showed up and I wanted to squee again. The Destroyer first appeared in 1966 and it’s a classic Kirby creation, a huge metal machine crackling with energy. Few sites are as devastating as the Destroyer spitting fire from its faceplate, and Branagh stunningly re-creates that—with the added bonus of seeing the Destroyer flip itself around in order to repel Sif’s attack. Just brilliant.

from the archives: cosplay, still not consent

This blog entry was made after New York Comic-Con in 2015. It’s even more relevant now in the post-#MeToo and post-Kavanaugh hearings age.

One of the things I loved about New York Comic-Con was that these signs were all over the place (the two pictures show the front and back):

I posted these pictures on Facebook, and was surprised by comments along the lines of: “Makes me very sad that these need to exist at all” and “If people need to be reminded of this it is pathetic absolutely pathetic.”

And these types of comments boggle my mind, because it seems to come with the mindset that these signs being necessary is a new phenomenon. No, they’ve been necessary for as long as there have been conventions, but we’ve only just now in 2015 gotten to the point where it occurred to anyone to put the signs up.

A few years ago, an editor in the field got fired for sexual harassment. This was someone I saw engaging in pretty awful behavior at parties back in 1991 — but it took until the 2010s for him to actually lose his job over it. And that’s just one of millions of examples, which went unreported or unremarked upon, or if they were remarked upon it was to dismiss it as unimportant or an exaggeration or “boys being boys” or some pathetic variant.

The tragedy isn’t that the signs are going up now. The tragedy is that it’s taken this long for them to go up.