Sunday, May 10, 2015

Book Review: YOU CAN'T FIGHT CRAZY



YOU CAN'T FIGHT CRAZY is a collection of "Get Fuzzy" comic strips that ran in newspapers from Apr. 24, 2011 – July 14, 2012. "Get Fuzzy" usually includes a couple of longer running storylines and several week-long storylines. THE FUZZY BUNCH isn't any different in that regard to any other "Get Fuzzy" collection. A few of the storylines in this collection include Bucky writing his autobiography, Bucky invented a variety of fish-flavored junk and snack foods, and Bucky trying to harness the powers of a dead bat to become Batcat. Unlike many of the previous collections, this book focuses on just Rob, Bucky, and Satchel although a few other characters do make appearances. There's also the introduction of a completely new character, Astral Bob. Astral Bob is a cat who reads horoscopes. "Get Fuzzy" is usually at its best when it focuses on just Rob, Bucky, and Satchel. While still funny, YOU CAN'T FIGHT CRAZY isn't as hilarious as other "Get Fuzzy" collections are. For instance, the previous "Get Fuzzy" collection, THE FUZZY BUNCH, was a collection on par with the collections from the earlier years of the comic strip. YOU CAN'T FIGHT CRAZY doesn't quite live up to that level. Overall, YOU CAN'T FIGHT CRAZY is a decent collection of "Get Fuzzy" strips, but it's not quite on the same level as many of the other collections.

Book Review: PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN



A collection of the comic strips of the same name, PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN is about an eccentric and precocious little girl named Phoebe. One day while skipping rocks across a pond, Phoebe hits a unicorn in the face. This incident results in the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, to become best friends. Marigold shares in the adventures of Phoebe's life. Marigold is real, but no one is very impressed with her because of a magical "Shield of Boringness" that keeps people from being overwhelmed by her natural splendor. Although written from a young female perspective, PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN is a comic collection that both male and female readers or any age can enjoy. Although often compared to "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Peanuts", PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN is only similar to those strips because it revolves around a child and that, like those other strips, it contains some humor that can only be appreciated by adults.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: WELCOME TO LIFE AFTER EDEN



WELCOME TO LIFE AFTER EDEN is a collection of the one-panel strips “After Eden.” “After Eden” is a one-panel comic strip created by Dan Lietha for Answers in Genesis. The comics are pithy, often humorous, and sometimes serious examination of life and the world from a Biblical and creationist point of view. The comics in the book are from 1999-2003. Before each chapter, there is a short essay/not from the author. WELCOME TO LIFE AFTER EDEN would make a great resource for anyone looking for some illustrated pieces of humor for a church newsletter or bulletin.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Reflection on James Best

This morning the first bit of news I learned saddened me:   James Best had died last night (Monday, April 6, 2015). Like many who grew up during the early 1980s, I had first became acquainted with Best through The Dukes of Hazzard where he played the dimwitted, but lovable sheriff of Hazzard County, Rosco P. Coltrane.  Occasionally I would see Best in an old episode of television (The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Andy Griffith Show, etc.) or see him in a movie (Hooper) and would think, “There’s good old Rosco.”

 I also remember when I was in college and was studying everything I could about the film industry. During that time, I read interviews and biographies by every actor and director I had the slightest interest in. Many of those interviews and Q&A’s with stars would recommend that if a person wanted to work as an actor in Hollywood, they should take an acting class. I remember on more than one occasion that the interviewee recommended that people take the acting course taught by James Best. I didn’t realize it at the time (although I should have), but apparently, Mr. Best taught the best acting for the camera class in L.A. and he influenced an entire generation of stars including Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Teri Garr, Lindsay Wagner, and Farrah Fawcett.

Last June I had the opportunity to spend a couple days with Mr. Best (I wasn’t close enough to call him Jimmie) and his lovely wife Dorothy when they came to Greenville, IL for a couple days during Greenville’s  annual summer car show. Over the past years I’ve had the privilege and the opportunity to work with a variety of talent as they have come to town for speaking engagements and appearances. Each experience has been memorable and every person I’ve met has been unique. James Best is probably the biggest celebrity I’ve met, and out of them all, he has (so far) been the most down-to-Earth and fun-loving.

I met Mr. Best and Dorothy on a Friday night during a special one-man show he performed at the Globe Theater. The show ran well over two hours and it was a fascinating evening. Mr. Best talked about his life, his time in the military, how he got into show business, and he told many stories about the famous people he worked with in film and in television. The show concluded with a Q&A. I remember him saying that the reason he was able to work so much (he acted in 83 movies and over 600 episodes of television) was because he was willing to do whatever it took and that he took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself. For instance, he explained how he used death scenes to give himself a few minutes more in front of the camera or how he would add a few additional lines on a tv show or perform some improved scenes in the background of a movie all to get a little more time in front of the camera.

I spent the next morning with Mr. Best and Dorothy at breakfast before his long day of greeting fans and signing autographs at the car show. For me, that breakfast was the highlight of my experience with James Best.  Mr. Best & Dorothy shared with me a lot about their lives.  They told me about L.A.in the 1960s and how it used to be one of the best cities in the country, how it changed in the late 1970s, and how that it’s so different now that it’s like another world that isn’t fit for children to be raised in. They lamented about some of the changes in the industry and the lack of wholesome family entertainment.  They shared with me that, although out of the limelight, neither one of them could get rid of the acting bug (they had just finished a production of On Golden Pond earlier that year) and encouraged my own endeavors with the local theatre organization I was a part.

After breakfast that day, I took Mr. Best and Dorothy to their booth and spent the day serving them: helping them sell their merchandise, keeping the lines of people moving in an orderly fashion, getting them water, etc. It was pretty much like any other typical day at a car show or convention. At the end of the day I took Mr. Best and his wife back to their hotel and that is where I made my farewell.

I only spent two days with James Best. During those two days, I saw how kind he was to people. I learned about his generosity (for instance, when he taught classes in Mississppi, he gave up part of his salary in arrangement for hiring students to work on the films he acted in during that time) and his love for animals and nature. He was just as good-natured and fun-loving in real-life as the famous sheriff he played on tv with a zest for life that inspired those around him. Although many of his performances will live on through the magic of film, they can’t compare to the man who brought those performances to life. Rest in peace, James Best.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: STINKY CECIL IN OPERATION POND RESCUE



STINKY CECIL IN OPERATION POND RESCUE is a graphic novel written especially for kids that follows Stinky Cecil, a toad who lives in a small pond, and his friends as they attempt to stop a new highway from bulldozing their home.  In addition to Cecil there's Jeremy the worm, RayRay the lizard, Reggie a fly who only lives five days and then is born again, and Jeff the hamster. Although Cecil is the title character, Jeff is the coolest as he lives in a tree with an elevator and has his own remote-controlled car that he drives around in. The friends do everything they can to try to stop the bulldozers including appealing to their arch-enemy the hawk. I really enjoyed STINKY CECIL IN OPERATION POND RESCUE. The story was fun and entertaining and included several layers of humor. The art was playful and the overall message of the story was much more subtle than it usually is in children's books. Overall, it's a great children's graphic novel.