Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Come Blow Your Horn – Remembering Sinatra

When you make a visit to Comic Book Jones you are greeted by comics, collectibles, wonderful and friendly people, and more often than you might realize…

By Frank Sinatra

I can’t count all the times I have walked through those doors and had my ears graced by the man known as Old Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, The Voice, or (my favorite) Mr. S.

It’s hard to believe that Sinatra has been gone for sixteen years this month because not a day goes by that I don’t run across him in some way. And so have you, whether you know it or not. Frank has so influenced popular music that he continues to shape musical tastes to this day. Just ask Michael Buble. Ask Harry Connick Jr. Ask Paul Mccartney!

No less a publication than Rolling Stone has this to say about the Great Man:

“Baritone Frank Sinatra was indisputably the 20th century’s greatest singer of popular song…”

Rolling STONE!

Sinatra, like Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth was a game changer. His personalization of lyric and phrasing has become the Rosetta Stone for modern vocalists.

Sinatra conquered every level of the entertainment business in a career that spanned sixty years. Aside from his remarkable recording career, Sinatra was a key figure in outing Vegas on the map. Along with his Rat Pack (Martin, Davis and Bishop), Mr. S defined cool for generations.

As if that was not enough Sinatra was an academy award winning dramatic actor with a filmography of over 50 films including classics like “From Here To Eternity”, “The Man With The Golden Arm” and “The Manchurian Candidate”.

No less a personage that the immortal Gene Kelly stated that a young Sinatra was the best dancing student he ever coached.
There was literally nothing in the entertainment world that Sinatra couldn’t do.

Back to his recording career. If you have ever listened to a concept album by any artist (That is an album with a central theme) , you can thank Sinatra. While recording for the Capital label Sinatra, along with Woodie Guthrie invented the concept album. His 1955 album “In The Wee Small Hours “ inspired other artists to create concept albums. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” anyone?

Of course Frank’s off hours exploits were legendary, filled with booze, broads and bar room brawls. But the lesser known Sinatra helped financially strapped and even terminally ill people whom he never really knew. Among them the legendary heavy weight champion Joe Lewis. Sinatra built schools and encouraged young artists. He was mercurial with wide mood swings. He got up off the deck when his singing career crashed in the early 1950’s with his performance in “From Here To Eternity”. He said great things and very stupid things.

Sinatra was completely and utterly human. We shall NOT see his like again.

Come Blow Your Horn!

That’s 30…Pally!


Monday, March 10, 2014

What If?

The thing I love the most about our shared hobby is not the comic books, or the TV shows, or the movies. It isn’t the games or novels or related APPS.

It’s the people.

I may be biased but I really believe that the people who gravitate towards comic books and all the things that go with them are pretty special. For the most part our fellow collectors are kind, compassionate and intelligent.

There is a strong element of humanism that runs through our community.

There is one other quality that the community shares. Almost everyone of you is a “What if?” and a “maybe someday” personality. You see the world in much broader strokes than the average person. Life is more that just those things that directly impact your immediate existence. You are question askers!

What IF a man could fly?

What IF we travel from the inner mind to the Outer Limits?

What might happen a long time ago, in a Galaxy far away?

Can we REALLY make a small side trip to the Twilight Zone?

And so on…you are all so full of wonder. It is why so many of us try our hand at creating things. It may be a comic, or a blog, or a pod cast. We write, draw, sculpt, build, create…

And wonder.

The best thing we create are all the wonderful friendships.

We look over the next hill and wonder every day about our place in the Cosmos.

(You KNEW I was going here didn’t you?)

Last night on FOX in PRIME TIME the sequel to the classic Carl Sagan hosted series COSMOS made it’s debut. Hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, author, and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Cosmos, A Space Time Odyssey asks a LOT of questions. More importantly it prompts US to ask a lot of questions.

Like the original series, Cosmos is set to air thirteen episodes. And like the original, this new Cosmos will not only explore deep space. It will explore the heart , soul and endlessly questioning nature of humanity.

The first words of the first episode come from Car Sagan, in his own voice. He reminds us that “The Cosmos is all there ever was and all there ever will be”

At one point in the early part of the premiere episode Tyson points out that while we will need our imaginations to take this journey of the mind, we will also need science, because the reality of the Cosmos is so much more than anything we could ever imagine.

The opening episode takes us from the Big Bang, to 16th Century Europe to beyond the Universe and into the Multiverse. We revisit the Cosmic Calendar which compresses the existence of the Cosmos to a single calendar year. We, you and I….everyone we have ever heard about…all the wars…all the science…all the literature…EVERYTHING in the human condition took place in the last few seconds of the last day on the Cosmic Calendar .

Pretty humbling. But, as Carl once said, WE are the way for the Cosmos to know itself.

The Cosmos would be a pretty poor place if there were no one to bear witness…to wonder at it all.

The thing that stuck most powerfully for me from this first episode is a story that Tyson tells about how, as a young teenager Carl Sagan reached out to him, as he did with many young people. Sagan invited him to his laboratory and spent the day with him. Sagan, who was the face of science at the time and very famous felt that it was important to connect with young people. To give of his time and pass along his own sense of wonder.

It almost makes me think Sagan collected comic books. As Tyson observed, he learned more than what sort of scientist he wanted to be. He learned about the sort of person he wanted to be.

Watch Cosmos. Wonder at it and keep asking questions.

That’s 30!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

DCUO Three Years In

DC Universe Online has just hit it’s third anniversary! DCUO as it is known to it’s many players it THE superhero MMORPG. City of Heroes recently shut it’s doors after a long run so if you are looking for a Superhero MMO fix you can’t do better than this FREE TO PLAY offering.

Here are the nuts and bolts :

• Available on PC, PS3 and PS4 as a digital download
• Eleven Million registered players
• Based on the DC Universe BEFORE the New 52

I’ve been playing this game since it’s launch and let me tell you, there have been MANY changes. The game is totally immersive and highly customizable. You can choose from a litany of Powers, gear styles (in the thousands), alignment (Hero or Villain), and roles (Damage dealer, Healer, Tank or Controller).

Each character can have his own personal lair/hideout, specialized armories, crafting abilities and of course LOOK. I’ve seen a lot of Wonder Women, Supermen, Batmen and even X-Men, Caps and Spidermen. BUT the vast majority of players create their own distinctive looks. There is no end to the possibilities and imagination of the players regarding their look.

There are more missions than I can count but they encompass everything from Solos to Duos, Four man alerts and , Eight man raids. Your missions take place in Gotham, Metropolis, Central City, The Wastelands and most recently MOGO.

The most current trilogy being played out is War of The Light which centers on the entire spectrum of all the Lantern Corps. Part one has just released. Concurrent with fight for the light are plans to release a Wonder Woman based trilogy and one centering around the New Gods.

There is no lack of content to keep you engaged!

As a player you can remain a free agent or join one of the many “leagues” that have sprung up in the game. The initial leveling process is solo based so you might want to wait until you reach level 30 to join a league.

Character creation is a breeze and very easy. When you first start the game you are asked to choose a mentor from among the iconic DC Heroes and Villains depending on your alignment. From there character creation is as simple or intricate as YOU want it to be.

Once you have reached level 30 by completing your mentor missions the real game begins. From this point you can take part in RAIDS and advanced content. Though if you remain F2P you will need to buy DLC packs for much of this content. Should you reach level 30 and like the game I would heartily recommend subscribing to the Legendary tier which is about $10 a month but includes all of the download content and many other perks, such as an unlimited cash cap, free lair and free armory.

If you prefer you can opt for PREMIUM status which only requires a total of $5 spent on mini transactions at anytime while you are playing. Once you have spent $% your Premium status is permanent.

However you want to play (F2P, Premium or Legendary) DCUO is a must try for any Superhero fan. There are even leagues out there that are heavy into the role playing and comic book connections.

As to game play, combat is real time and fast paced. Unlike many other MMOS this is not a turn based game. Your reaction time and skills play a big part in how successful you are in game. Gear and skill points are second to YOUR skill!

Three years in, DCUO continues to grow and grow BETTER. But new comers don’t get left behind. Unlike many other MMOS a new player can catch up to the highest levels within the first month or two of starting. The progression path encourages players to reach top tier very quickly.

Go on. Give it a try. It’s free after all. AND if you are on the Playstation look me up! My in game character is MUN EL and I’ll be happy to show you the ropes!

Now I gotta get back! Brainiac is acting up again and needs a beat down!!

That’s 30!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

For Carl

Happy New Year all! I’ve been gone for a bit but that hiatus is now officially over!
So where do I start in this brand spanking new 2014? Why with a look back of course.
As a child, young man and dad, I was always fascinated by speculative fiction, known to most of you as SCI-FI. The Outer Limits. Twilight Zone, Adventures Of Superman and of course Star Trek were all sources of wonder for me…
Science Fiction novels and short stories were considered a separate, and not quite legit form of literature. But authors like Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury regularly took me to far off worlds of ideas and adventure.
Oh and comic books too…Mystery In Space, Strange Adventures, Challengers of The Unknown and The Fantastic Four were firmly entrenched in the realm of Science Fiction.

There was not quite as much speculative fiction in the 60’s and 70’s as there is today but it was rich and inspiring.

And then there was real life!

We had Mercury, Gemini and Apollo! Man on the Moon!!!

There was Voyager and Mariner and a Space Shuttle program…

The prototype was fittingly named “Enterprise”…

We were all looking forward…and we had a guide.

His name was Carl Sagan.

Carl was one of the great minds of the last half of the twentieth century. He was a key member of the development teams for the Mariner and Voyager Programs. Carl was also:

• Was one of the first scientists to warn of Global Warming likening it to Venus’ atmospheric conditions, of extreme heat due to a greenhouse effect that he, himself had discovered.
• Theorized the existence of water oceans on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This was later confirmed.
• Proved the existence of organic matter throughout the Solar System.
• Pioneered SETI, The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

And then there was the 1980 PBS TV Mini Series…Cosmos. The complete title, which most people tend to forget, was “Cosmos –A Personal Voyage”.

A Personal Voyage…

It certainly was for me and for millions of others who went along for the ride on Carl’s Starship Of The Imagination. In it, for thirteen episodes, Dr. Sagan took viewers on a trip through time and space. We examined the origins of the Universe and our own Origins. We explored the ancient library of Alexandria and glimpsed a possible future where technology outstripped our wisdom.
We learned that mankind occupies only the last minute of the last day of December on the Cosmic Calendar…we just got here.
And we also learned from Carl that…”we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself”.

For all of his intellect and accomplishments, Sagan still possessed a great sense of wonder that was childlike and infectious. He was always looking around the next corner , or over the next hill…and he made us want to look too.

Carl was absolutely certain that life was not only possible outside the confines of out planet, but that the Cosmos was absolutely teeming with life. In recent years there have been clues that Carl was right. Although SETI has yet to discover a signal from a technological civilization, we have only been scanning for a few decades with limited technology…and as someone once observed, “It’s a big ass sky”.

Carl once observed that we have only dipped our toes in the shores of the cosmic ocean and that the water seems inviting.
Even the TITLES of the episodes were filled with wonder:

"The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean"
"One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue"
“The Edge Of Forever”
“Who Speaks For Earth?”

Titles filled with promise, curiosity and wonder.

Cosmos was Science…but not fiction. It was the philosophy of science and a cautionary tale.
Today , some thirty plus years after it’s production, much of the science in Cosmos has been updated. But the wonder remains and keeps it fresh.

In fact Cosmos, so resonates in the popular imagination that a sequel series Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey is set to make it’s debut this year. It will be hosted by Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and is co produced by Carl’s widow Ann Druyan and Seth Macfarlane (yes THAT Seth MacFarlane).

I suspect that this new Cosmos will also be filled with Carl’s sense wonder as we collectively dip some more toes into the cosmic ocean.

That’s 30.