Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sharon Sakai

Sharon and Stan Sakai at Comic-Con 2011 (photo via Fantagraphics)

Yesterday, the Internet delivered some very sad news -- Sharon Sakai, wife of Stan Sakai (creator of "Usagi Yojimbo") had passed away after a long and difficult illness.

I should make a caveat here -- I didn't really know Sharon, and in fact I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I can't recall meeting her, though it is very likely that I did at some point, probably out at the San Diego Comicon, back when I used to go there, and my not remembering has more to do with a sixty year-old's spotty-in-places memory. And although I consider Stan a friend, and I would go so far to say a good one, he and I have not really spent a lot of time together, given that we live on different coasts.


… from what I can piece  together, both from what I know personally (mostly through my dealings with Stan) and everything which had been said online by people who DO know the Sakais, a few concepts seem quite clear:

-- Sharon was a great person, beloved by all who knew her, and

-- Stan is too, and

-- Stan, in these last couple of years when Sharon was struggling to deal with this awful illness, has shown himself to be the kind of person that the rest of us should aspire to be -- steadfast and loving in the most trying of circumstances. I am in awe.

My sincerest condolences to Stan and his family. -- PL

Here's a link to a piece at about Sharon's passing:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Train song

I had decided -- while I was out and about doing errands today -- that it would be worthwhile to try to get my truck inspected, as the sticker was due to expire at the end of this month, which isn't far off (I only noticed this a few days ago). Fortunately, the Honda dealer on King Street wasn't too busy, and it was all done in about forty-five minutes.

While the process was happening, I decided to use the time to get a little exercise, and walked down the train tracks behind the dealership toward the center of town. I started walking by a long line of parked, rusty rail cars… and as I was walking past the third or fourth one, I heard this brief metallic low KLONK sound… followed shortly by another… and another… the wheels on the car next to me ever so SSSLLLLOWWWLLLLY started to turn, in tiny increments. I realized the train was starting up, gathering speed very slowly, as an unseen engine somewhere down the tracks ahead of me began pulling on this line of train cars. As they started to have tension put on their various connecting parts, there came a series of KLONKS and CLANKS and so forth, as large metal parts met, all echoing down the line of empty train cars. It was actually kind of beautiful... almost a piece of music. -- PL

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review of "Snowpiercer"

Some months ago, I started to read of rumors about Chirs Evans -- up-and-coming star of the two "Captain America" movies of recent vintage -- possibly giving up acting. It seemed an odd thing, on the face of it -- he's a very talented young guy, getting famous, and seemingly on the cusp of true stardom.

But tonight I watched "Snowpiercer", a new movie starring Chris Evans, just released on Blu-Ray, and I think I may understand now why he might want to quit the biz… because if he takes on many more roles in junk like this, he just might not be able to deal with the embarrassment in the future. (John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris, also wasted in this movie, do nothing to enhance their reputations… but maybe they each needed to pay off some bills or something.)

"Snowpiercer" is ostensibly a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale about Earth in the not-too-distant future, when the release of some global warming-fighting chemical in the atmosphere has reduced the temperature of the planet to the point where (we are told) ALL LIFE HAS CEASED TO EXIST!!!

Now, that would make for a short movie, right? (Oh, if only…!)

What the text frame which sets up this scenario near the beginning of the movie ACTUALLY means is that all life except for a bunch of people (and, as we come to find out, somehow -- and it's never explained exactly how, and probably for good reason -- some cows and chickens and a whole aquarium full of exotic sea life) on a train has ceased to exist. This train has somehow been running non-stop for close to two decades, on non-maintained tracks with no resupply, through the icy, frozen wilderness which is all that is left of our world, occasionally running at high speed into solid ice barriers and smashing through them with no damage. (Yes, it's "Super Train".)

Chris Evans is the hero whose name I have already forgotten, even though I just finished watching the movie fifteen minutes ago. He's one of the ragtag bunch of losers in the tail section of the train, who are abused by the rich fat cats in the front part of the train and their stormtrooper-like flunkies… and as the movie begins, he's about to lead a rebellion and storm to the head of the train.

What follows is a violent and increasingly absurd -- and not in a good way -- series of battles as the tail-enders make their bloody way toward the head of the train. One gets the feeling that some grand social commentary is being attempted, but the filmmakers simply don't have the skill set with which to accomplish such a thing, and it gets lost amongst the increasingly ridiculous characters, dialogue, settings and action. There was exactly ONE moment which I thought was kind of clever and showed a glimmer of what might have been a really exciting action movie without all the stupid beyond suspension-of-disbelief setup -- a brief fight sequence as the train barrels through a dark tunnel. 

The rest of it is brain-grindingly inane and pointless. Please, if you don't want to have that horrible feeling of "I could have done so many other things with the one hundred and twenty-six minutes I just wasted on this nonsense!", steer clear of "Snowpiercer". -- PL

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Meanwhile, back at stately Wayne rumor..." is one of my favorite sites for information about upcoming movies based on comic books -- it's one of the sites I go to just about every day. It's generally a well-crafted site, but occasionally some goofy error will show up, such as the one you can see in my screen grab of part of this bit on the highly-anticipated "Batman vs. Superman" movie.

I believe that "the rumored Wayne Rumor" should actually be "the rumored Wayne Manor". Hard to believe this post has been up for almost two days and this obvious mistake hasn't yet been spotted and corrected. -- PL

Friday, September 26, 2014

More turkeys!

As I was coming down our driveway today, I was delighted to see another flock of wild turkeys making their way across our lawn. I took some photos and later counted seventeen of these regal birds in one of the images, so this might be the same group Jeannine saw last week. Here's my favorite shot of the bunch. -- PL

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I was driving home today around 1:15PM, coming down Route 91 out of Brattleboro, Vermont. Just a few miles south of Brattleboro, on the east side of the divided highway (the side you take to go north) there is a relatively new, spiffy visitor's center. I was coming up on it as I headed south on the opposite side of the highway, and -- as I passed the entrance to the facility -- out of the corner of my eye I saw a large, furry black lump squirming its way under the highway guardrail just a few yards away from that entrance.

A bear!

I was tempted to slow down and pull over, get my camera out and see if I could get a few decent photos, but figured that by the time I'd safely done that, I'd be pretty far past the bear, and it would probably have already completed its trek across the highway and gone off into the woods (barring its getting hit by one of the many fast-moving vehicles, of course).

So I just slowed down a bit, and kept my eye on it in my rearview mirror. Sure enough, in less than ten seconds the bruin had ambled/run across both sides of the highway and made it safely into the trees.

Pretty cool. -- PL

P.S. The photo illustrating this post is, of course, NOT the one I saw today -- it's a bear I saw on a bicycle ride last August in Northampton.