Saturday, January 23, 2010

So Long, Mr. Parker

As if things couldn't get worse, last Monday, my favorite contemporary author, Robert B. Parker, passed away at age 77.

For those of you out of the loop, Mr. Parker was the creator of the detective character, Spenser, the hero of 37 mystery novels. He was also the creator of the Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall mystery series, as well as a score of other books, but to me the Spenser novels were really special.

Spenser was a tough-as-nails private eye, with a soft side, who was committed to righting wrongs and discovering the truth- even if it meant bending the  rules. The series was set in Boston, so people like me from the area on our trips to the city could picture Spenser just around the corner. If not him, then his faithful other, Susan Silverman, or his pal, the bad-boy gunman Hawk.

Mr. Parker is gone now, so we won't be seeing anymore of Spenser, Hawk or Susan. Fortunately though, his books are still available for those of you who have not discovered the joys of them yet. If you have never read a Robert B. Parker book, go to your local library, or to Amazon, or wherever you get books from, and get his first Spenser novel: The Godwulf Manuscript. Then go on from there. You can thank me later.

I met Mr. Parker once, at a book signing, and he was as charming, funny and as cynical as I had always hoped he would be.

I realize that this post doesn't have the high rate of hilarity that regular readers have come to expect from this blog. I'm sorry, but I really feel like I lost a bunch of friends.

So goodnight Spenser, Susan, Hawk, Pearl, Lt. Quirk, Belson, Vinnie, Jesse, Suit, Sunny, Spike, et all. I fear we will never see your like again.

Rest in peace, Robert B. Parker.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Future is Today!

When I was growing up in the sixties and seventies, we were constantly exposed to the wonders the future held for us. Star Trek showed us hand-held communicators and transporters, The Jetsons promised flying cars that would fold up into a briefcase. There were also the wisecracking robots, like the one featured on Lost in Space, who would be our friend even when our flesh and blood peers had abandoned us.

Now that we are actually living "in the future" a lot of the things science fiction promised us have not been delivered. We still don't have flying cars (at least not at a reasonable price that will fold into a briefcase), and I am still anxiously awaiting a teleporter. We do, however, have a communicator, in the form of cell phones, as well as talking computers, iPhones™, microwave ovens, the Internet, the SlapShot™, and a whole host of other items that we could only dream about years ago. 

One innovation has still evaded us. Until now. For centuries, man has looked for a way to tote our food around, without having to bother with things like plates, knives and forks. Well, thanks to minds greater than ours, this dilemma will soon be a thing of the past. In trolling the web, I discovered a new invention, a wonder for our time. I discovered: THE CRISPYCONE™!

By clicking on the link above, you can see this marvel in action. For those too lazy to check, the Crispycone™ is similar to an ice cream cone, except instead of being sweet, it is more bread-like. This allows you to fill it full of any foodstuff you wish. Scrambled eggs, salads, pizza, stir fry, BBQ- anything you used to slap between two slices of bread or plop on  a plate, you can stuff in a Crispycone™, and be on your way. As the company's catch phrase says, "it's the food you love, in a cone!" The company plans to sell this product pre-filled at convenience stores and the like, as well as empty cones in your grocer's freezer, that you can fill up with your own concoctions. What a boon to mankind this will be! No more dishes to wash! Sleep in a few more minutes, and eat your breakfast in the car! The mind boggles with the possibilities.

The only drawback to this innovation? So far, they seem to be unavailable to the general public, so don't throw out your tableware just yet. Hopefully, this will change soon, and I will get a chance to sample a "taste of the future". For you Luddites out there who find this concept "gross" or "disgusting", remember: That's what they said about corn dogs and fried cheese.

Yes, the future is truly here! 

Now if I could just get a robot friend.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Drawing Conclusions

Perfect Wife and I love shopping at the dollar store. We love it because: A) We're cheap, and B) we find great bargains on stuff we need that we really don't want to fork over a lot of dough for, like toilet paper and dog food for Rocco the Wonder Dog. Don't think that we are treating him poorly by feeding him cheap food. Rocco does not exactly possess an educated palette, and he as just as happy with the cheap stuff as he is with some designer dog food that costs more than our food does.

On our recent trip to the dollar store, I bought myself a few pads of newsprint. I like to sketch on newsprint, but it is, for some reason, really pricey at the art supply store. The pads I got were nothing fancy. They were children's coloring pads, but I don't mind since they were, after all, only a dollar! 

Since these pads were intended for children, the manufacturer of them must have worried that once kids had them in hand, they wouldn't know that they could draw in them. He also must have worried that even if they were aware of the pad's potential for drawing, they would not know how to draw. He must have made the decision to teach them how to draw, himself. Inside the front cover of the pad is the instruction sheet you see here (click on it to see it bigger), titled "Drawing Ideas"

The lessons start on a troubling note. The  child attempting to follow these instructions must first get past a mocking child at the top of the page. "Have fun learning to draw", he sneers at you, as if a loser like you is never going to be able to learn to draw, and you most certainly won't have fun trying. Fortunately for the reader, there is also a dog at the top of the page, encouraging the child  with a confidence-building cry of "WOOF!"

Once we get past these two, we get to the lessons. Since space was limited, the author of this piece had to focus on only four subjects to teach you to draw. He (or she) selected a flower, a butterfly, a fish and a dog's head. I personally think you might want to learn how to draw a few more things than this, but that's just my opinion. Perhaps there is some child out there who will one day make his fortune with a popular comic strip about the wacky adventures of a flower, a butterfly, a fish and a dog's head. The money from merchandising rights alone might be tremendous, given the popularity of flowers, butterflies, fish and dogs' heads.

That sure would show that kid at the top of the page!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bill's Book Nook: What's New with Magoo?

Yes, I know the Christmas Holiday season is behind us at last. Our tree still stands though. This is not really that unusual for me. In my carefree bachelor days, my tree was often still standing around long enough to become my "St. Patrick's Tree". Now that I am married though, I doubt that Perfect Wife will allow the tree to remain much longer. Women are funny about having dead, rotting foliage shedding all over the house.

While it still stands though, and I still feel a nip of the Yuletide spirit. I must tell you about a  gift I received that is a must-have for any fan of classic cartoons and/or Holiday TV specials.

I love the story of "The Christmas Carol". There have certainly been a lot of filmed adaptations, some great (Patrick Stewart, Albert Finney, George C. Scott), and some not-quite-so-swell (The Henry Winkler one, anybody?). My personal favorite though, is "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol", which first  aired in  1962. Before Rudolph and his homeys came along, this show was the very first animated Christmas special! This special, which casts the irascible little nearsighted guy as Ebeneezer Scrooge, is a musical version of the story.

For some reason, this gem has been lost in the Holiday special shuffle nowadays, and is not repeated very often, which is a shame. It really is a delightful special. For those of you living in a cave who have never seen the show, it is thankfully readily available on DVD. Go watch it right now!

While I always liked this production, I could never find out much on the making of it. Neither could author/animator Darrell Van Citters. Unlike me, though, he did something about it. He went out and tracked down as many of the cast and crew as he could find, and assembled a fantastic collection of production artwork from the show. The result is the book, "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special". This wonderful book tells the whole "making of " tale illustrated with all kinds of rare artwork. The behind the scenes stuff is  interesting, but where the book really shines is with the artwork. I am a sucker for original animation art, and the pieces in this book had me  drooling. Especially the background paintings, which I never really paid a lot of attention to before.

As I said earlier, if you are a cartoon fan, this book will make you very happy. You can go to this link and order a copy, then curl up on the couch with it and some Razzleberry Dressing, and spend a couple of hours reliving one of TV's brightest moments.

Maybe it will even inspire your spouse to leave the tree up awhile longer!

(I hope you kids out there like these book reviews I do every now and then. If there's a cartoon book out there you'd like to hear my two cents on, please let me know in the comments.)


Free Shipping On Purchases Over $25 - Limited Time Find your movie at Apple iTunes