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Mushroom Soup Labor Day

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We are, like you, taking Labor Day off but only from blogging…and not even from that since I'm writing this. I have deadlines on other writing. Today's involves a very stupid barbarian who loves cheese dip and who'll be wreaking havoc in a twelve-issue series you can read, one issue per month, throughout the year 2015. Formal announcement to come.

The death of Stan Goldberg was not, of course, unexpected to those of you who noticed the word "hospice" in my earlier mention of his stroke. Still, it was jarring because Stan was such a good, sweet person who in terms of his approach to work was everything a cartoonist should be. He worked very hard and even into his eighties, loved what he was doing and was frustrated when he had no assigned work on the board. He and I had once talked of doing a graphic novel together that he'd draw, more or less in the Archie style — stories of dating and relationships in the real world. I'm sorry we never went forward with it.

I'm also sorry Stan didn't make it out to Comic-Con one more time. The National Cartoonists Society gathering last May was held at the Omni in San Diego, one of the hotels that houses people when they attend Comic-Con. Stan was so happy to be there and at one point, he pointed across the street to the big San Diego Convention Center and said, "And I want to go back there for Comic-Con in 2016."

I immediately thought but did not say that his health would not allow it…but then I remembered that not so long ago, it seemed inconceivable that Stan and his wife Pauline would have been well enough to come out to San Diego for the N.C.S. affair — and here he was, standing outside the Omni with me. Sadly, I was right the first time.

Stan Goldberg, R.I.P.

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Veteran comic book artist and colorist Stan Goldberg died earlier this evening, the result of a stroke he suffered two weeks ago. He was 82 and had made a miraculous recovery from an auto accident last year. I saw him and his lovely wife Pauline, who was also recovered from the crash, at the National Cartoonists Society gathering at the end of last May. He was so happy to be back with his friends and fellow cartoonists.

Stan was a cartoonist for most of his life and a more devoted one, you could never find. He was also a charming man who was always willing to talk about his days as Marvel's star colorist or the many decades he spent drawing Archie and other comics in much the same style. The number of pages he produced in his lifetime was staggering.

I wrote about the details of his career in the earlier piece linked above. All I can add here is how much I liked and admired that guy. He was one of the greatest of the greatest generation.

Screener Solution

Bob Bergen (great voice actor and teacher of great voice acting) was the first of several folks to give me the solution to my Too Many Screeners problem: Take them back to the TV Academy. They send them to folks serving in the military, sez Bob. I'm going to do that…and I'll even take them the screeners I got from sources other than the Academy. Betcha they can handle those, too.

Thanks to all who sent in ideas, even the ones who suggested shipping them all to them.

Recommended Reading

Jon Stewart discusses the new movie he directed and the accusation that he's a "self-hating Jew."

I used to hear and not understand that last term. It seemed to me that if someone had self-hatred, that was a problem that didn't have much to do with their religion. They just had very low self-esteem, the way lots of non-Jews have. Then someone told me it doesn't mean that. It denotes, or is supposed to denote, a Jewish person who holds antisemitic beliefs.

Okay, fine. But as the wise scholar Inigo Montoya once said, "I do not think that word means what you think it does." When I've heard the term used, it's used by folks who either think it means what I used to think it meant (i.e., very low self-esteem) or who hurl it at anyone who doesn't support every single action by Israel 110%.

More Blogkeeping

This site was down for several hours this morning. As I mentioned, I've changed hosting companies and there was one misconfiguration that took us offline. The folks at Chunkhost promptly fixed it and if you can read this, all is well.

If you can't read this…well, what I'm about to say won't matter but here's the reason a few people can't read this site on its new server at the moment. There is this thing on the Internet called a DNS. It stands for Domain Name Server. Websites are not really located at addresses that have easy-to-remember names in words, usually ending with ".com" or ".net." They're located at numerical addresses. When you type in or try to go to an address like www.newsfromme.com, your request goes through a Domain Name Server somewhere which translates words into numbers and sends you to the appropriate numbers-only address.

When I moved this site to a new hosting company, its numerical address changed. We sent out the electronic equivalent of a Change of Address card. It goes to all the Domain Name Servers and in this case, told them to change all requests for newsfromme.com from the old numerical address to the new numerical address. If you can read this, your DNS got the message.

However, some Domain Name Servers are slower than others to update and some of them inexplicably revert. That happened with me this morning and it's unrelated to the other problem we had. Time-Warner Cable can't get my e-mail to me promptly and now their Domain Name Server is confused. Sometimes, when I go to my own site this morning, everything is fine and sometimes, it sends me to the old address, which is no longer functional. This should all resolve itself shortly. And like I said, if you're reading this, it doesn't matter. Your DNS is working properly.

Screened Gems

I need some advice here. As a member of the Television Academy and the Writers Guild and a couple of other groups, I am periodically deluged with "screeners" — DVDs of current motion pictures and television programs. They're sent to us free in the hope that we'll vote for these movies and shows when we vote on awards.

There are hundreds of these things piled up and filling boxes in my home. I may even have a few crates of 'em in my public storage locker…and I'll tell you how long I've been getting them. I have at least four boxes of screeners on VHS tapes. I might even have one or two on Beta.

I have not watched all of them, of course. No one who gets screeners in the quantity that I get screeners watches all the screeners they get. You couldn't. But I watch some and, truth be known, a few have perhaps left me more inclined to vote for what I saw for some trophy. At least one or two have left me less disposed.

But I welcome them all and have even done some the honor of placing them on the shelves where I store DVDs that I intentionally purchase and wish to keep in my library. That still, however, leaves a helluva lot that I don't know what to do with.

Some of what's currently on my kitchen table.

Some of what's currently on my kitchen table.

The nature of screeners has changed. When I first began getting them, they were usually accompanied with stern, lawyer-authored letters and warning stickers ordering you to watch them and then destroy them like you were a C.I.A. agent receiving hush-hush top secret instructions which could doom Democracy if they fell into enemy hands. You were threatened with incarceration if you sold them and the death penalty (or worse) if you did anything with them of a bootlegging nature. Your copy, you were warned, was encoded with tracking information that could lead the F.B.I. to you faster than you could say "Efrem Zimbalist, Jr." — that is, if you could even say "Efrem Zimbalist, Jr." I can't.

I never understood two things about those warning letters. One was that why they were so worried about someone bootlegging a DVD of a TV show that could be recorded off the air or a movie that could be rented in two weeks from Netflix. At one point, this perhaps made a wee bit of sense as we sometimes got screeners of films that wouldn't be released on home video for a few months. But the time between a film's theatrical exhibition and its availability on DVD and Blu-Ray has now narrowed to almost nothing. Moreover, the same ominous warnings came on a DVD screener of an episode of Sex in the City that I still had on my TiVo and which would rerun five times the following week on HBO.

I'm against copyright violation but I have to wonder: Has any pirate ever not pirated because he didn't get his copy of the movie free and had to go rent one? Is there really a lot of dough to be made by duping and selling a DVD of two episodes of Pawn Stars? You probably couldn't even pawn the thing.

The other thing that puzzled me was whether the folks who wrote these letters really understood what they were writing. What all the threatening notes and stickers seemed to be saying was this…

We know you didn't ask for this video but we sent it to you anyway and you're in big trouble, fella, if you don't handle it the way we tell you to handle it!

Can I really get arrested for what I do with an unsolicited gift? And is trying to intimidate someone like that a good way to get them to vote for your movie as Best Picture of the Year?

Anyway, the screeners pile up here and I'm trying to figure out what to do with them. I'm not going to go to the trouble to destroy hundreds of DVDs. Too much effort. And I think it's tacky and probably illegal to try and sell them…and besides, there can't be a lot of money to be made there.

Someone I asked suggested I post a list here and offer to mail a few to any readers of this site willing to pay postage. I don't want to spend my time taking and filling orders.

I could just throw them out but that seems either wasteful or like I'm just handing them out to strangers. On trash night, there are people who come by in trucks and go through the garbage bins in this neighborhood, looking for stuff they can use or sell. I guarantee they'd grab these. (I once saw a homeless guy on Hollywood Boulevard set up with a display of screener DVDs for sale.)

Is tossing them out for the trash-rummagers my best option? It may well be. But before I take it, I'm putting the question out for suggestions. Even though those threats from the studio are kinda vacuous and empty, I'd like to not violate the spirit of their silly, unenforceable laws. I also have environmental concerns.

I can't be the only one to have this problem, though few have perhaps allowed the accumulation to reach the magnitude of mine. Is there a practical way to recycle hundreds of DVDs — some in cardboard folders, others in elaborate and expensive special bindings — in a way that the studios bless? Is there some charity that could use them? An agency that ships them to servicemen and women? Anything like that? Drop me a line if you have a great solution.

Today's Video Link

We like Neil Patrick Harris, especially when he's doing big production numbers. Here's a pretty big one he did back in 2013 to kick off the season of Disney trying to see how much money the corporation could wring out of Christmas that year. This, by the way, is not in any way an insult or gesture of disrespect towards that grand holiday and institution. But wishing someone "Happy Holidays" is war…

Good Blogkeeping

Does this blog look any different to you? We've moved. In fact, I've moved all my blogs to a new hosting company, Chunkhost. It should mean more speed for you and it definitely means fewer bucks for me.

So far, I'm really happy with Chunkhost. If you need a company to host your web presence online, go take a look at them. And if you go there through my link and sign up, I get a teensy cut of the action.

Airline Advice

My buddy Joe Brancatelli has some tips on how to avoid long delays at airports. Unfortunately, when I fly, I rarely seem to have much choice of flights or connecting airports…but a lot of this is good to know.

Go Read It!

For a limited time — so don't delay — many articles from the New Yorker archives are online for free reading. Greg Kelly points out to me that you can read Calvin Trillin's 1989 piece on Penn & Teller, for instance.

A Familiar Face

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So the other night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart mentioned environmental protestors and they used a quick news photo of some. You see that guy with the beard? That's Ken Gale, who hosts the program Eco-Logic on WBAI radio in New York. He used to host 'Nuff Said, which was the first (or at least, the most notable in terms of pioneering) radio show devoted to comic books. Ken has two passions — the environment and comic books — which shows you his passion for desperate causes. He's written comics and written about comics and he even hosts panels at comic book conventions. Yes, I'm not the only person who does that.

I did Ken's radio show a few times. When I used to go to New York often, I'd fly in on Sunday in time to check into the hotel, catch a Broadway show that evening, take my date to Ollie's Noodle Shop for dinner and then drag her to this funky radio station in a bad neighborhood while I guested live on Ken's program. He seemed to have a surprisingly large and dedicated audience — they even tuned in when I was on — and he and his co-host Ed Menje were good interviewers. Sorry that went away…and nice to see him again even for a fleeting glimpse over Jon Stewart's shoulder.

Today's Video Link

I miss my old pal Howard Morris, who passed away in 2005. Howie was a great comedic actor who usually worked in support of folks who were louder and bigger so they got more of the attention. Here he is getting his clothes ripped off on a sketch with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on Your Show of Shows. Boy, he was good…

This Just In…

Congressguy Peter King is outraged over the color of Barack Obama's suit. Well, not really. What offends him is the color of the president's skin but it's safer to make it about the suit.

Recommended Reading

Why do airlines cancel flights? According to Amy Cohn, it's not for the reason you'd think; that it will save them money.

Where Goes Comic-Con?

We're going to see a lot of these…articles speculating on whether Comic-Con International will decamp from San Diego and relocate elsewhere. I am cited as a person whose opinion — that Comic-Con will not move — is worthy of some consideration. Let me explain why I think what I think…

It's not that the folks who run Comic-Con would refuse to move if they felt the convention was being harmed by staying put. They clearly like San Diego and the set-up they have there but if they couldn't get the terms and cooperation they need, they'd migrate. I just don't think the folks in San Diego who control the convention center and the connected businesses could possibly be so f'ing stupid that they'd let this thing get away.

Estimates vary on how much loot Comic-Con brings into the local economy. Whatever it is, it's a lot. Comic-Con is by far the largest annual convention to hit the city and even if some of us are a little frugal in our dining, it's a massive cash infusion. If Comic-Con does not do wonders for businesses in San Diego, no convention does and they shouldn't have built that big convention center in the first place, let alone be frantic to expand its size.

Photo by Bruce Guthrie

Photo by Bruce Guthrie

And it isn't just a matter of how much Comic-Con itself energizes the economy there for five days each year. It's that that whole section of town is constructed to cater to conventions. That's why they built the Marriott next door and the Hyatt next door to the Marriott and the Hilton on the other side of the convention center and the other Hilton across from it, etc. It's to service and exploit those who attend whatever's in the convention center and/or at Petco Park. Petco Park alone won't do it, especially when it ain't Baseball Season.

The entire financial Raison d'être of that area began with Comic-Con. Comic-Con is what made San Diego a convention town. Before that, the whole area was bars and strip joints…and tattoo parlors in the Good Ol' Days when the only people who got them were sailors. Downtown S.D. and the area now filled with hotels and the convention center catered to sailors stationed in the area. And when that stopped being a viable industry, along came the convention industry.

Comic-Con is the keystone to that industry. If the city lost that, they wouldn't just lose what Comic-Con brings in. They'd jeopardize their entire rep and momentum as a town that attracts other conventions. So I don't think the city will ever be dumb enough not to give Comic-Con the terms and support it requires.

Ah, but might Comic-Con move in order to get bigger? To expand beyond the capacity of that building in San Diego? I don't think so. For one thing, even a larger convention center might not serve Comic-Con's needs because it wouldn't have the outside support. The Los Angeles Convention Center has more square footage…but it doesn't have all those hotels and restaurants within easy walking distance. It's also a terrible, terrible convention center with a confusing, sprawling layout and awful parking and too many other crowd magnets within a block or two. For reasons I've stated here before, I don't think Las Vegas or Anaheim would work, either. Those are the alternatives.

I could be wrong about the city driving Comic-Con away. San Diego has not always had the sanest governing bodies — Google "Bob Filner" for but one example — but they'd have to be quite mad to lose one of the best things that ever happened to that city. And the only way I see Comic-Con getting bigger is to expand into more of the surrounding city, which is not really an option in L.A., Vegas or Anaheim.

I think…I hope we'll be there for a long, long time. One of these days, I'll write a long post about how my feelings about Comic-Con are changing; how some aspects of it no longer thrill me as they once did and I've found others to take their place. But that'll be a post about me, not the convention. The convention as it is works just fine, right where it is. I don't want to see them screw with it by trying to move it to another city. (Then again, WonderCon did survive the relocation from San Francisco to Anaheim, so…)