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Today we note and mourn the passing of Bernie Wrightson. Wrightson was one of the great horror comics artists, the co-creator of Swamp Thing, frequent collaborator of Stephen King, and influence on two generations of comics artists and readers. He was only 68, and his presence will be missed.
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So someone is paying Elon Musk and SpaceX a lot of money to send two passengers around the Moon. Next year.

I really don't know if this is doable. The rocket has never been tested. The capsule is not human-rated. SpaceX was reported to be behind schedule on getting its first manned capsule to the space station. A week long trip around the Moon, out into deep space, is a lot harder. So I am skeptical this will happen.

And I don't love seeing space travel turned into something only the super-rich can afford.

But...we haven't been back to the Moon in too long. This could be the start of something big. The Moon awaits. Mars awaits. And Musk, for all his big talk, is a visionary. If anyone can really jumpstart the space program, it's him.

There are things brewing. NASA is pushing ahead with the SLS and Orion, though there is a sense that it's alternately going too slow and too fast. Other countries are getting in the act. And while this is a time when there is a lot to worry about, a time to wonder if we are going to get to the stars before we sink back into the mire, I still get a buzz any time I hear that people want to do the impossible.

So here's hoping that before too long, man will orbit the Moon again. And then set sail for the rest of the universe.
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At last, YouTube is complete! Come and hear me talk about Jack Kirby for my synagogue's website.
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There was no way that I would let the death of John Glenn go unremarked. Though I suspect if you read this, you probably are looking at all the coverage and all the obits and that I can't tell you anything you haven't read.

But how can I not mark the end of an era? We lost a great man, a war hero, a brave astronaut, an accomplished politician, and someone whose life was full of achievement. We also lost the last of the seven men chosen to usher the US into the space age. We lost the first nearly fifty years ago, when Gus Grissom died in the terrible Apollo 1 fire. We lost the last today. The first age of space exploration recedes ever more rapidly into the past, even as we continue to hope that these seven men will inspire us to start the next age soon.

There is not much else to say but that one line uttered by Scott Carpenter and repeated ad infinitum today: Godspeed, John Glenn.
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It is harder to be thankful this year than it has been in a long while. But even with our worry, we cannot and should not let that stop for appreciating what and who we have. So I want to offer thanks to everyone online and off who commiserated with me the last two weeks, and for the safe spaces I have found to vent and to fret.

And also thank all the friends who have been there for us of late. And Barack Obama for being a pretty awesome president. And all the people who have been making entertainment that entertains me. And my family. And everyone who actually reads this blog.

May your Thanksgiving be a peaceful and happy one, with the right people and the moments needed to reflect and to recharge. May your "Black Friday" not leaving you screaming at fellow customers or at the people who demand your help. If you are going to ChessieCon, we hope to see you there!

Now, bring on WKRP, Arlo, and Joel Robinson!
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I am ashamed of my country today.

I am scared for the future.

I cannot understand how anyone anywhere would vote for Trump. I cannot understand how any women or minorities would vote for Trump.

I feel lost. And sad. And angry.

But mostly I am ashamed that so many millions of Americans actually think that this clod should be leader of anything.
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On the one hand, it's going to be epic. The two teams with the longest time since winning the title, both very good teams.

On the other hand, it is hard to root for either team. One has a questionable name and a definitely racist logo. The other traded for a player who was suspended for domestic abuse and who has shown no remorse. Real life does have a way these days to make me feel less good about being a sports fan.

Still, I am glad for the long suffering fans in the Cubs half of Chicago. I hope they enjoy it.
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And thus the year on the Jewish calendar 5776 ends, and the year 5777 arrives. May the old year leave with its curses. May the new one arrive with its blessings.
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I know that 24 year olds die often in accidents. It's one of those things that sucks in this rotten world. But it stings more when it's someone that you have followed since his career started and who was, by all accounts, going to be a star for years. He arrived young, had Tommy John surgery, and picked up from where he left off. And now Jose Fernandez is gone.

Condolences to his family, friends, and fans. I can't root for the Marlins this week - not against the Mets - but if they go out and win a few for him, I won't be that upset.
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50 years later, and Star Trek endures. It inspires. It shows its age, it struggles to retain its audience, but it is part of the landscape, alongside Sherlock Holmes and Mickey Mouse and Shakespeare. Not bad for a TV show that barely managed to run three years.

I rewatched the first episode to air today, "The Man Trap." It has some problems, moments of sexism, moments of cheesy effects and plot contrivance, but it holds together well. And there are so many elements already in place, ranging from the sense of shipboard camaraderie to Uhura flirting with Spock (something I somehow missed until the reboot made it more of a thing). I suspect many viewers that first night turned off their sets and never came back. But all the pieces were there and I figure a few even knew it was the start of something big.

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If you like Stephen King, watch it. If you like classic Spielberg films, watch it. If you remember the 80s - especially if you were a teen or tween then - watch it. If you like cheesy but earnest horror films that don't go exactly as you predicted, watch it. If you have eight hours free and feel like watching something scary and creepy and well acted and fun and a bit heart wrenching, watch it. If you have Netflix, watch it.

What I'm saying is that I really liked and think it's worth your time. That is all.
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So for some reason, Dragon*Con created the Dragon Awards. Open to all fans everywhere for voting online. And here are the first winners...

Best Science Fiction Novel

Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm by John C. Wright

Best Fantasy Novel

Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

Now, to be fair, more legitimate talents like Naomi Novik and Sir PTerry and G Willow Wilson also won. But still, this is not a good way to start out. And I bet this will be the sort of thing we see every year, without any sort of controls on voting. Not good.
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I can't say it as well as his friends or family.  I can only say that Gene was an incredible actor, a tremendously funny man, and by all accounts a good person.  He will be missed, and we are saddened that he has left us, a victim of what Sir PTerry called "the embuggerance."  But he leaves behind so much that is so funny, so warm, that we have to laugh even as we cry.

ETA: Almost forgot one of his less popular roles, in The Frisco Kid.  He was perhaps an unlikely choice to play a Polish rabbi, but he did the role justice - maybe he was drawing on his own memories of Old World relatives or neighbors - in one of the few films to come even a little close to getting Judaism right.  No one seems to be mentioning this, and it's not a funny role the way Leo Bloom or Frederick Frankenstein were, but I always liked it.

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There will be a housefilk on Sunday afternoon, August 28 from 2 to 6 pm.[personal profile] ladymondegreen , [personal profile] akawil  and Terry will host. Address is:
317 1st Street
Jersey City, NJ

The apartment is about a 10 minute walk from the PATH station at Grove Street - when leaving the station head left on Newark Ave and then walk to 1st Street and another left there.  Please note, however, that PATH service that day is only from the World Trade Center station and not from 33rd Street.

RSVP by replying to this post.

Hope to see you then!
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Thought some of you might be interested in this announcement from the Jewish Museum:

This fall, the Jewish Museum is giving away art for free. Back Take Me (I’m Yours) on Kickstarter:
Take Me (I’m Yours) offers all visitors the chance to take home an art collection of their own. The Kickstarter platform democratizes the fundraising landscape, enabling supporters at all giving levels to be part of this exciting project. Funds raised through Kickstarter will go towards supporting the replenishment of the hundreds of thousands of art objects, so those backing the campaign will be helping to bring the experience of owning art to even more people.



Jul. 31st, 2016 02:55 pm
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So seven years ago, I didn't care more for the Star Trek reboot.  At the time, I thought I was done with Trek.  The poor reaction to Star Trek Into Darkness reinforced that as I skipped a Trek film for the first time since the 1979 dud came and went.  I really had no enthusiasm for Star Trek Beyond.

Until I saw all the amazingly positive reactions to it.  People were saying that it felt like an episode of the old series.  So I had to see.

And yes.  It was good.  It wasn't the greatest film ever made, but it was a good, solid, fun Star Trek film.  With a fun if occasionally saggy plot.  And great performances, even from Chris Pine, who I hated seven years ago.  It did what a Star Trek film should do.  And did it with amazing heart and love and even a sense of adventure, which we almost never see in the Trek films.

In short, to quote another Star Trek film, we are home.

Between this and the upcoming TV series, it's a good time to be a Trekkie. 
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 Cannot let the passing of Elie Weisel, perhaps the voice of all those who survived the Holocaust, go unnoted.  He was an excellent writer but more than that represented everyone who came from that hell and made a life.  He was 87.  That is more than seventy more years that his tormentors would have given him.  And he made those years matter.

May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.
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 It's rare that I can say I've met a legend.  Bill Cunningham, the longtime fashion and society photographer for the New York Times, was a legend.  He passed away today at age 87.  The obit that the Times wrote explains a lit of what made him a legend.  So does the charming little film Bill Cunningham New York.  But I can tell you what I remember of Bill.

Bill was a charming old gentleman who would come most years to take photos at the Jewish Museum's Purim Ball and Family Hanukkah Party. He would enter the room with a warm smile and desire to get good photos.  Sometimes that meant the photos we directed him to take.  Often that meant the best or most interesting or most unusual photos.  He really didn't care that our events were honoring someone so much as he loved to get that shot of the great Purim mask.  Or the kid in the wonderful outfit.  But he also let us help him.  He never had an agenda.  He had a camera and a notepad and a smile and a handshake.  

Seeing him made us happy.  In part because it meant we'd be in the Times.  But in part because it just meant Bill was here.  Year after year, people asked "is Bill coming?"  They wanted to have this singular man take their photos.

I would occasionally see him on the street, just walking or riding along on the bike he'd bounce from event to event on, sometimes in a blue rain slicker.  He was indefatigable until the end, a presence in New York and someone that everyone loved.

Bill, we will miss you next February when the Purim Ball rolls around and you are not there.  I don't know what the Times will do to fill in the void left on the Evenings Hours page and elsewhere in the Styles section.  But you will never be replaced.

Rest well, Bill.
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Tomorrow, the Mets are likely to sign a player named Jose Reyes.  Reyes was arrested for domestic abuse and was suspended for two months. He is a free man mainly because his wife didn't press charges, but it seems clear that he is an abuser.

I hate this.  I don't want him on my team.  I don't want him in baseball.  He has done nothing to show that he's learned anything or changed.  So I am in this odd place now.  I cannot root against the Mets.  There is no way I can do that.  But I really won't feel that badly if they continue to struggle while he is on the team.  And I might abandon my Mets cap for a while.

Am I being a moralist?  Probably.  But sometimes I get that way.  Especially when it comes to things like abuse, and institutionalized sexism. 
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 I suspect that nearly a day after the death of Muhammad Ali, I could add anything that hasn't been said and said better by everyone from Pres. Obama on down.

So I will just note that he was one of those people who was always part of the landscape for me, who was still fighting when I was a kid, who was always on TV and kidding with Howard Cosell and showing up in cartoons and being, well, Ali.  He was the most famous man alive for a time, and he earned that.  He was part of a sport I want to see fade away, he was part of controversies I think I would have not been happy with had I been alive in 1967, and he was still someone I respect and even admire.  The world is a sadder place today but we are better having had him to challenge us and thrill us and inspire us.
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Or tell someone you know with PR experience that there is an opening in the communications office of the Jewish Museum.
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 Greetings from the con suite.  Been having a blast in the LARP as usual.  The filk room was more packed than any I have ever seen at a gencon.  Everything is amazing. 

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Darwyn Cooke, comic book writer and artist, died today at the too-young age of 53 from cancer.  He was, by my reckoning, a special and amazing talent who loved what he did and had a gift for faces, layouts, and retro design.  He did the opening montage for Batman Beyond, and spent years working with Bruce Timm on Batman: The Animated Series.  He then made the jump to comics, where he wrote and drew the wonderful Spirit comic, helped redefine Catwoman, and gave us one of the few worthwhile Before Watchmen stories.  And his adaptations of four of Richard Stark's Parker novels were incredible.  No artist was better at capturing the past in all its glory.

I didn't love everything he wrote, but when he was doing the art, even the lesser stories were full of magic, style, and a love of the craft.  He was slated to help with a new series from DC bringing together the classic action heroes of Hanna Barbera, but that is now not to be.  It would have been wonderful.

Rest well, Darwyn, and thanks for everything. 
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A few things on this Friday.

1. Passover begins tonight.  As we are having a nice crowd for seder, I am quite looking forward to it.  If you celebrate, may I wish you a happy and kosher holiday!  And happy Earth Day to the rest of you.

2. I was not the biggest Prince fan, but his place in music history and pop culture was huge and he will be missed.  Where did I know him best from?  Batman '89.  Specially, this scene.  It was a great combination of actor, music and moment, and even if Prince's Batman-inspired album was not great, this song was.  RIP, sir.

3. Wanted to let the world - or at least the world that reads this - know that we will be at Balticon on Memorial Day weekend and then Conterpoint on July 4th weekend.  The former has become one of my favorite cons, and I will once again be joining the 2-day long LARP, this time with a Star Wars theme and me as some sort of pirate!  And the latter is of course the Northeast Floating Filkcon and always fun.
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And what a fun time it was. Spent two days seeing a bit of the city with [personal profile] ladymondegreen as our tour guide, with trips to Casa Loma and the Royal Ontario Museum and a bit of walking about the Yonge-Eglinton neighborhood, where we stayed.  Had some interesting chats with a barista who was curious about filk and a cabbie with classical training as an actor in NYC.

Then it was on to FilkOntario, which was just a lot of fun and generally relaxing.  Batya's Interfilk concert was amazing, Mark Bernstein's Filk Hall of Fame acceptance speech was moving (and his concert was great), and the music was up to its usual standards.  Special shout-outs to Leslie Hudson and the Faithful Sidekicks. I don't know when we will get back to FKO again, since most years it's too close to Passover, but I hope we can manage it again someday.  It was great to see familiar faces as always and great to start making new friends.

Insight of the weekend: filk fandom is slow to buy its albums digitally.  But the performers are fine with that.  In fact, it's cheaper for them and easier.  So if you there is a filk album you like and it's available online, buy it that way.  

And now on towards Passover!!

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