Remembering Robin Williams

Like a lot of people, I heard about Robin Williams’ passing last night. As it happened my dad, who just moved out here to New York on Sunday, was sitting here as there was a special report breaking in on a Jeopardy rerun with the sad story. Thinking about it, this seems strangely appropriate because one of my fondest memories of the comedian involved driving around with my dad.

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When I was younger, as I’ve said many times, my dad introduced me to the world of 70s and 80s comedies like Caddyshack, Blues Brothers, Fletch and the like. But the comedy education carried over into the world of stand-up records, specifically Robin Williams’ A Night At The Met record. The experience was so surreal. Not only was it hilarious and opened my eyes to even more of this man’s talents, but was also a cool grown-up moment where he shared this thing from the adult world with me.

But my love of Williams and his films goes much deeper than that. I had a vague understanding of Mork & Mindy from childhood when that era of TV was a lot more accessible in reruns, but by the time I could really understand entertainment he was everywhere. I don’t remember seeing Good Morning Vietnam, but my folks had it on tape and parts of it just live in my brain. Between that and Dead Poets Society, he solidified himself as an actor who could handle mile-a-second comedy in addition to intense dramatic emotions.

As a child of the 80s and 90s he was everywhere thanks to Aladdin, Hook, Toys (so weird), Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, The Birdcage, Jack and Flubber and on and on and on. Even if you didn’t see some of those movies, they were so ubiquitous that you couldn’t help but for what seemed like a solid picture of this man, but clearly there was a lot more going on, a darkness that seems unfortunately common when it comes to incredibly funny people.

That darkness came to light with the underrated dark comedy Death To Smoochy and thrillers like Insomnia, One Hour Photo and The Final CutGood Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come also took some of those similar turns and came out during my most intense theater-going period. Some people weren’t down for this change in tone for the comedian, but I thought he pulled off these parts incredibly well. Many of these movies really stuck with me, even though I’ve only seen most of them once.

I’m not nearly as familiar with his more recent work, but I still feel a very strong connection to this Williams and the entertainment he created during my formative years. He was always there and he was always funny, even if the content might not have been what I was looking for personally. I’m sad to hear he’s gone and even sadder that he might have taken his own life, especially after making so many people happy for so many years.

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Casting Internets

This is from before the season finale, but I think it still holds true. Courtney Enlow over at Pajiba completely nails the problem with How I Met Your Mother: the creators seem as obsessed with Ted and Robin as Ted is. Also, I completely agree with her inability to really let the show go because we both love these characters so much. Sigh.

This is also pretty old at this point, but I finally got around to reading Robin Williams’ tribute to Jonathan Winters from The New York Times is a really great read.

Brian Collins’ Horror Movie A Day review of Rob Zombie’s Lords Of Salem actually makes me kinda want to watch that movie, something I’ve never said in my life.

Do yourself a favor and read my buddy Alex Kropinak‘s look back at the very first What The-?! he did for Marvel.com.

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I like Fall Out Boy and I like artist Dave Perillo, so the two coming together in the form of this Perillo-created FOB poster is fun.

While on the subject of FOB, Andy Greene’s Rolling Stone article about what went on between their last album and Save Rock And Roll was pretty fascinating.

Ron Marz is a whole heckuva lot busier than I am and on a completely different level as a writer, but there’s a lot I can relate to in his “day in the life” piece for CBR as a comic writer.

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Man, I have got to see Miami Connection. Not sure if I want to buy the film from Drafthouse without seeing it, but these packs are awfully tempting.

Mental Floss took a walk down memory lane by digging up memories of the Nickelodeon time capsule buried back in 1992 supposed to be dug up in 50 years. I wonder what comic book is in there.

I’ve often wondered what the collaboration between Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis would have sounded like. Rolling Stone says Paul McCartney was also possibly going to be involved. That might not sound super exciting, but then think about how Paul’s weirdness would have bounced off and been morphed by those guys. Epic.

Bloody Disgusting says a new Gremlins movie might be in the works. I like this news quite a bit.

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Hey, speaking of Chris Columbus (he wrote Gremlins) has anyone read his House Of Secrets book? He says it’s the thematic cousin of Goonies in this THR interview which definitely sounds intriguing.

I just read that Alton Brown‘s going to have a podcast on Nerdist Network. This is very good news.

Finally, this is pretty heavy, but if you’ve ever felt depressed, you can probably relate to the most recent Hyperbole And A Half post. It’s long, but it’s really well done too.

Casting Internets

Pretty sure my buddy Sean T. Collins perfectly encapsulated what made me love He-Man as a kid and look at it sideways as an adult over on Vorpalizer.

I think I plugged Alex Kropinak’s excellent new blog already, but I’ve actually had time to read it. Dig his posts about What The?!, Twisted ToyFare Theater and his love of Marvel Legends.

 

I can’t accurately describe how freaking excited and nostalgic I was when I saw this trailer for Capcom’s upcoming DuckTales Remastered. I adored that game as a kid — it’s easily in my all time top ten — and have had a blast playing it here and there as an adult too. Adding to the excitement is that fact that my daughter is an in-the-works DuckTales fan!

That Patton Oswalt has a lot of interesting stuff to say, as he did in this Esquire interview with Scott Raab.

Not a fan of his movies, but I love that Rob Zombie plays and headlines giant music festivals just to hang out with his musician friends. That’s why I go to NYCC. Well, that and the freelance. (via Rolling Stone)

I still have no idea what Dub Step is supposed to be, but I was a big fan of Fatboy Slim/Norman Cook/Pizza Man back in the day, so it’s cool to see him getting some recognition for being at the forefront of electronic dance music by way of this Rolling Stone interview. I’m glad they stopped calling it electronica, but all the other names are dumb too.

Recalling 1993 sounds like a really interesting project. Head to any pay phone in NYC, dial 1-855-FOR-1993 and hear someone specific to that area telling you about the place you’re standing back in 1993.

Here’s hoping they can get Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back for the new Vacation movie. They don’t need to have huge roles, but it would be nice to see them together in something other than a commercial for pants. (via THR)

Casting Internets

If you want to see what I’ve been working on lately, head on over to my author page on CBR. I talked to Paul Pope and John McLaughlin and also did another installment of my collectible column Toying Around!justin aclin's star wars comic

My pal, one time boss and all around rad dude Justin Aclin talked about writing a Star Wars OGN for Dark Horse over on his blog. As you  might expect, I’m super proud of him and super jealous at the same time.

Karen Burger leaving Vertigo is pretty huge when you think about all the amazing series’ she helped foster. Good luck to her! (via The Mary Sue)

Everyone interested in comics and comic production should read Jim Zub’s breakdown of costs and profits for such books. Then he wrote about digital comics. Eye-opening stuff.

I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere when I first read it. I’m very excited about the BBC radioplay version that will include James McAvoy, Anthony Head, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christopher Lee! (via Hypable)phil noto 70s storm

I love Phil Noto‘s series of original art pieces that are supposed to be photos from Hank Pym’s collection. Dig this Storm he posted.

Esquire scored an interview with June Diane Raphael, the wonderfully funny co-host of one of my favorite podcasts How Did This Get Made and a  recurring player on the equally wonderful New Girl.experiencing nirvanaI’m pretty curious about Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt’s e-book about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana in Europe in 1989. $5 isn’t too steep, but is it only available on the iPad? That’s no good. (via Rolling Stone)

Billy Corgan talked to Rolling Stone about my first ever Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Rolling Stone talked to Jimmy Page about his days in the Yardbirds. I’m sure I knew most of this stuff from Hammer of the Gods, but it was still a nice read.

Speaking of music, I discovered The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” by way of a cover and fell in love with it. This Guardian story about the song’s origins are pretty interesting.

Whoa, this skateboarding video posted over on One Cool Thing A Day is AMAZING. Tricks you’ve never seen before, guaranteed.

I hope you’re enjoying 25 days of Doctor Who goodness over on the BBC’s Adventure Calendar.

I’m pretty excited about Comedy Central giving shows to Nick Kroll, Amy Schumer and Anthony Jeselnik. Here’s hoping I’ll actually know when they’re on. (via THR)

Speaking of funny people, Louis CK answered the Proust Questionnaire over at Vanity Fair.

Lastly, I’m grown to really love Judd Apatow’s movies. I always liked them, but as I get a little older I can relate to the truth and honesty in them a lot more. As such, I’m very excited for This Is 40, though I have no idea when I will see it. Until then, I’m happy reading interviews about him and Leslie Mann from The Chicago Tribune.

ARL3: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland By Patton Oswalt (2011)

I have very mixed, split-down-the-middle feelings about Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. Without going through and counting the pages, I think I liked exactly half of this book. It’s kind of a mixed bag of autobiography, faux greeting card explanations, epic poetry and comic stories all written by actor, comedian and long time book fan Oswalt. I’m a big fan of his stand-up, his ultra geeky character on King of Queens and the movie roles I’ve seen him in like the lead voice in Ratatouille and Young Adult.

When it came to this under-200-page book I got from the library for work purposes (I might be working on a list of Oswalt’s geekier non-stand up moments in the future), it didn’t take a long time to read and I’m not perturbed by the parts that I didn’t like, I just skipped or skimmed them. The parts I was drawn to were the autobiographical sections. Oswalt talks about the movie theater he worked at as a kid, how books and music influenced him, how his opinions on his crazy uncle changed over time, how different comedians dealt with their crafts and one terrible week he spent in Canada. My favorite part of the book was the title section in which Oswalt labels many of his fellow geeks, artists and angry young men as either a Zombie, a Spaceship or a Wasteland and how that relates to music, sci-fi and other artistic endeavors. It’s honestly brilliant, solid, well thought out and the kind of thing that everyone who considers themselves a geek should check out.

I was less interested in the epic poem he wrote about his Dungeons & Dragons character, the multiple pages of notes written regarding the punching up of a comedy screenplay or the explanations of fake greeting card artwork. There were definitely funny moments to these portions, but I didn’t want to read that when I wanted to find out more about Oswalt as a person. It wasn’t really fair of me because I was comparing my expectations to the actual product and down that path leads ruin. Oswalt even points out in the intro that the book is a hodgepodge and it really is.

At the end of the day, it only took me a few days to read this book, so my complaints are miniscule in comparison to the enjoyment I did get out of the book in a fairly short amount of time. If nothing else, it makes me like Oswalt all the more and hope that he takes the time to sit down and write more whether that’s a fictional story or an autobiographical one, I’ll be there to check it out. Essentially, ZSW is like a Patton Oswalt writing appetizer. You get an idea of what he can do in various styles and formats and probably have a good idea of what else you’d like to read of him in those styles and formats.

Ambitious Reading List III

 

Long before I finished Please Kill Me, I was working on creating my next Ambitious Reading List. As I said at the end of that review, I’m a big fan of this much-smaller version of my larger to-read pile. Helps me stay focused while also keeping my interest not only in reading, but in crossing one book off the list and moving on to the next. Most of the books in this pile are newer to that pile, but there are a few that have been sitting around for a while too.

From the top, I picked up Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity at a flea market out of sheer interest based on the Matt Damon movies. I can’t keep the straight, but I’m curious to see how this book compares to the movies as well as an audiobook version of The Bourne Legacy that we finished recently and will review soon. I’ve also got an Elmore Leonard book called Riding The Rap in there. I bought this for $2 at a used book store based solely on Leonard’s name. Love that dude’s books. After that is Hunger Games, which my wife read and liked. My last ARL got in the way of me reading this over the summer, so I included it this time. I hope to compare it to the movie somewhere down the line too.

I actually started reading Michael Chabon’s Manhood For Amateurs around the time our daughter was born, or maybe just before. It’s a great book of essays I’m looking forward to finishing. I’ve been living a lie with Wizard of Oz, keeping it on my shelf since high school without every reading the whole thing. I plan on remedying that and also telling a pretty great story about the signature I have in that book. After that it’s Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland which I got from the library for a list I was working on before my pal Rob Bricken moved from Topless Robot to io9. I have no idea where that list will lie, but that’s the first book on the pile I’m reading because I’m lousy at getting books back on time.

From there I’ve got the illustrated version of the unfilmed Harlan Ellison script based on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot,Marc Eliot’s book about Cary Grant which I got because George Hamilton made him sound really interesting in his book and Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Geoffry Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. I read parts of the original in college, but could barely get through it, man.

I got Raiders! thanks to a PR email letting me know about this book about the guys that made the 80s Raiders of the Lost Ark fan film. Then I’ve got It Happened In Manhattan, an oral history about the Big Apple by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer and finally Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel adaptation of Studs Terkel’s classic look at careers, jobs and Americans Working. As you can see, it’s another eclectic mix. I’m pretty jazzed to be adding a few different formats (screenplays, essays, graphic novels) and also think that this one might go a little bit quicker than the previous one, assuming I still have time to read. The next few months are going to be pretty busy/crazy.

Ambitious Reading List: Born Standing Up By Steve Martin (2007)

As I’m nearing the end of this Ambitious Reading List, I find myself looking forward to the next one and have even started assembling that stack. The problem with that is that I want to burn through the four books I have left with a quickness. While I did return to Devil In The White City and am working my way through it, I started getting a little antsy and wanted some immediate gratification, so I grabbed Steve Martin’s 207 page Born Standing Up and read it in a few days. And you know what? I got exactly that.

The first time I read Crime and Punishment, I was in high school and someone in the class said they wanted to know what happened to Raskolnikov after he was SPOILER imprisoned and the teacher responded that the book would need a new title then. He went on to make the point that stories need to have a focus. Raskolnikov’s story could go on until he died, but Dostoevsky was telling the story of Crime and Punishment, not Crime and Punishment and Whatever Happens After That Until He Dies. Steve Martin took a very similar approach to Born Standing Up. This is not a complete history of the man from birth to the stage, through movies and on to his current turn as a concert banjo player, it’s just about his life and performing career up to the point when he left stand up in the late 70s/early 80s.

I appreciate that kind of focus and while I would definitely be interested in reading another biography about more of his film work and recent endeavors, this book does a great job of telling what feels like a complete tale with beginning, middle and end, something Martin says he liked to bring to every one of his performances. The only real problem I had with Laurie Lindeen’s Petal Pushers was that it didn’t feel like a complete story because she glossed over the break up of the band. I did not have similar problems with this book.

One problem I thought I would have is that I wasn’t sure how serious Martin would be. His comedy lies in the realm of the absurd, so I wasn’t quite sure. Many years ago I borrowed Leslie Nielson’s supposed autobiography The Naked Truth from the library in hopes of learning more about a comedy icon I held in great esteem only to discover a few pages in that it was all a joke, one that I wasn’t in on or expecting. Though I had heard good things about this book, I did have the nagging feeling it might not be as honest as I wanted it to be. Again, that wasn’t a problem.

Martin offers a poignant, honest, real memoir here that not only proves that anyone who works hard can have a chance at making it, but also presents show business in a very truthful light (it ain’t all great). It sounds cliche, but this book really does have it all, ti can make you laugh and cry and really think about life. It’s refreshing to see someone who achieved such huge success — at the time he was the most comedian of all time between ticket and album sales — look back on his life and give a balanced account of what he did and went through. If you’re a fan of Martin’s stand-up and films or the real life portrayal of the life of comedians expressed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, do yourself a favor and read this book.

With Born Standing Up out of the way that leave me to finish Devil In The White City and then read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and Please Kill Me which I plan on reading in that order. Devil is one of those weird books that I enjoy reading while I’m reading it, but once I put it down it’s almost like a mind wipe and I don’t want to jump right back in, a feeling that grows the longer between reading sessions. I’m dedicated to getting back into it the rest of this week and deciding once and for all if I’ll keep on with it.