Monday, March 29, 2010

more shade and james robinson and avengers

I just wanted to say a couple of more words on James Robinson and Starman and the Shade character. The Shade as presented in the Starman saga was British. I always thought a young(Avengers age) Patrick Macnee would make a great Shade. Shade wore a top hat instead of a bowler hat and carried a cane at times instead of an umbrella. Macnee for all his stylishness has a coolness and even a dark side that would be great in the Shade character.

Another similarity between the Avengers and the Starman Robinson comics was that they could take place anywhere in time and space. Yes, London and Opal City were the major cities featured. But the stories could go into outer space, time travel, magic and psychic themes, explore movie themes. So they were both very imaginative. Robinson recently revealed that he is working on a Shade series. I hope it comes into fruition. And soon. But I would also like to see Jack Knight back in the DC universe with his cosmic rod.

And yesterday was the yearly anniversary of the Avengers first episode on American tv. It was the cybernauts and I found a clip of this episode on youtube. There was a martial arts fight scene between Mrs Peel and a woman black belt that is included in the clip. Some of the Japanese terms are incorrect or mispronounced, but I found the scene still riveting. So from March 28th, 1966, Thursday night, ABC tv(it took the time slot from Ben Casey) at 10pm here is that seminal fight scene. See, we can travel through time as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A beloved comic book series and a fundraising update

Starman is my favorite all-time comic book. The character has been around since the late 1930's, debuting shortly after Superman and Batman. But that was Ted Knight, the first Starman. The recent series started in 1994 and ran into 2000. 80 issues. And it featured Jack Knight, the son of the original Starman, Ted. Jack is the reluctant hero, who only assumes the mantle of hero when his brother David is killed. His growing into the role of Starman in his own way is a fascinating journey. When he is not being the superhero, he runs a collectibles shop and hangs out with his dad, who has retired from superheroing to pursue his science.

The entire series was written by James Robinson, who did the screenplay for the movie "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" among others. His writing is excellent and entertainingly quirky. An example, two killers holding hostages discussing which of the Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe films is the best. The entire 80 issues is like a novel. There are seeds of very important themes in the first issues that come to fruition during the last issues. At the end of the last issue, Robinson thanked the loyal fans for allowing him to "tell and finish his story". Robinson is currently back in comics doing the current Superman arc about Kryptonians released when the bottle of Kandor is finally enlarged. The entire series highlights aesthetics, discussions of collectibles, art, film that are a treasure. As much as I am happy that Mr Robinson is back in comics and doing Superman, I hope one day he'll return to Starman, or at least bring him somehow into the Superman world.

Jack's relationship with his father is a crucial part of the series. His father is able to pass on his experience as Starman to Jack. In one of the early issues, he tells Jack there is no need to go looking for the weirdness. That it will find him. And it does . Repeatedly. Father-son relationships can be very complex. And I saw some of my relationship with my own father in Jack Knight's relationship to his. In another one of the early episodes Ted the father reveals the reason he named his son Jack was that it was a heroes name. It brought tears to my eyes. I had lost my father to cancer in '94 shortly before the series came out. And I found out at the funeral that he had named me after Jackie Robinson. A coincidence.

Another coincidence. Emma Peel of the Avengers has the maiden name Knight. I hoped maybe in the future it might be revealed that the Jack Knight starman and Mr Peel might be related and even have an adventure together. Another coincidence.
The sound editor for the color Emma Peel episodes was named Jack Knight.

For a more detailed history of the series, there is a pretty complete wikopedia entry
Jack Knight-Starman .

I have quite a lot of the Starman collectibles. A pin, a watch, several t-shirts, a poster, some action figures of Jack, his father, and the Shade. Which brings me to one of the most entertaining characters in the series. The Shade is an immortal who weilds a dark shadow energy. He can create constructs out of it much like Green lantern can with his ring. But the Shade's power comes from darkness. He lives in Starman's Opal City. He is neither purely hero or villain . Although as the series evolves he becomes more heroic. Recently Robinson did a one shot Starman issues, an issue 81 for Starman collectors, as a part of the Blackest Night story arc currently going in DC comics. And it was a wonderful and nostalgic return to Opal City for Starman fans. And it featured the Shade.

It seems when I am about to move Starman comes up. In 1995 I was moving from a place with friends in Campbell. I had bought the first couple of Starman issues and then did not collect the next issues. I wound up going all over to comic book shops and completing the collection. And now during my current move, I discovered that they have issued the series in hardcover Omnibus form. So I am collecting the hardcovers. The entire series is available in graphic novel form. Which is a lot cheaper than the hardcover editions. But I am a collector so I'm getting the Omnibus editions. The most recent comes out tomorrow. And I'll pick it up at Atlantis Fantasy World when I am in Santa Cruz Saturday. I have the entire run in comic book form, as well as in graphic novels, and now the hardcover. And I keep on hoping that Mr Robinson will someday return to Jack Knight and the Shade.

Fundraiser update: We've collected over $1,000. So I have been able to pay the pre-op visits off. So $3,000 to go. Remember for donations of $20 or more a free dvd of my music. See fundraider dvd
. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

another fundraising update and More.......

.So far the fundraiser has raised over a thousand, so thank you very much. Tomorrow I am going to pay off the pre-op stuff, which in retrospect, was quite expensive. Again, for those who would like more information on that, please read the previous blog entitled "More Fundraising".

Anyway, later this month are a couple of important dates for me around my favorite all-time television show, “The Avengers”. I will be in Sebastopol for the Robert Nadeau/Mary Heiny workshop, but this Saturday March 20th will be the 42nd anniversary of Diana Rigg’s last live episode’s airing on network television. I believe that was aired on a Wednesday night, early, at 7:30 am. In the previous 2 seasons the show aired late, at 10pm. I remember after the show ended, I went into my room and cried. I found out later that after that last episode was filmed, Patrick Macnee went into his dressing room and cried.

The show was way ahead of its time. It dealt with things that were just not addressed in that time. How a woman could be strong and at the same time feminine. How a show could be overtly off-beat and at the same time about sexuality without any outward sex. How a show could be about the England of the mid to late ‘60’s and at the same time be placed anywhere in time and space. Very surreal and at the same time quite quirky. Very special.
I addressed some of these in a story I wrote where Mrs Peel and I share an adventure:
Mrs Peel Adventure

The second date is March 28, which will be the 44th anniversary of the show’s initial airing on ABC tv. So both dates are in March, and the end before the beginning. The later episodes are okay, but they do not measure up to the Diana Rigg episodes. I was horrified to
learn that the Avengers dvds are no longer available through A & E. Hopefully that will be remedied in the future.

One of the things about Mrs Peel was her wardrobe. She wore very stylish miniskirts and trouser outfits. For her fight scenes she initially in her first series wore black leather, a look pioneered by her predecessor, Honor Blackman. In the later color episodes she wore stylish jump suits that were named “Emma Peelers”. The black leather seemed to give the character an edge. There was the sense that this was a glamourous, educated woman who in no way could be labeled “nice”. And that was a source of appeal to me.

The following is a youtube video with one of my favorite fight scenes:

Monday, March 08, 2010

more fundraising

I came across this photo the other day. It was taken in Fair Oaks. My friend Dianna led a group of us in a session where we got to cut with a Japanese blade. The others were veterans. I believe it was my second or third time doing this. The point of this is that I was doing this essentially with one eye. At that time(October of 2008) I had cataracts in my left eye that allowed some light in and yet everything was essentially a blur from that side. There were a couple of incidents driving that led me to the conclusion that I needed to get the problem corrected with surgery. You can compensate for not being able to see out of one eye. But one eye can focus on what is essentially half a field of vision. So when you are focusing on one, you are neglecting the other half. So on November 4th(which was election day, coincidentally), I had the surgery done. You can read the details in an earlier blog dated November 5th, 2008 surgery blog .

It has been over a year since the surgery. The good news is that my left eye for distance is actually better than my right(formerly my strong eye). And it is a different world when you have a full field of vision. Colors are brighter. Shapes, spaces are more dimensionally full. So my life has been much richer this last period.
The not so good news is that my insurance does not look like it is going to cover the surgery. I switched carriers to get cheaper rates and at that time I was told that an eventual surgery would be covered. But the condition was pre-existing to the time I switched companies, so the present company is currently refusing to pay the surgeon.

I tend not to pay myself a whole lot through the dojo. But I do get benefits through the dojo, one being health insurance and medical benefits. So what this means is that the current situation puts an economic strain on the dojo during what is a very slow period. With a pre-op visit and surgery, the amount due is around $4,000. My sister loaned me the amount to cover the surgery, so the length of time needed to pay the entire bill has been extended. But it must be paid.

Aikido instructors tend to not have great health care. My friend Mary Heiny was fortunate to have the support around her to have her recent hip replacement surgery covered. In my case the amount due is not in that league. A couple of us have tossed around possible vehicles for a fundraiser. Some years past Linda Holiday sensei had a dojo cookbook to raise money for her Santa Cruz dojo. My thought along those lines is to use the holidaze dvd for that purpose. You can check the whole thing out at dvd fundraiser . Now the webpage is very self explanatory. For any donation of $20 or more, you get a dvd. That means 200 donations and the whole thing is covered. There is a button where you can do the whole thing through paypal. Dvds are available in the dojo office, or, if you e-mail me an address, I will mail it to you.

Now this is a touchy thing for me because this concerns outwardly my interest in music. Which is for me a very private thing. Even before the fundraiser I gave some copies to some friends who were very encouraging. A couple of them were very close friends of Chet Baker(whose music I study very closely). And it is very difficult to be objective about oneself. It is very difficult for me to record and listen to myself. I feel the music is good, stands on its own merits apart from the fundraiser angle, and reflects mainly someone who is in the process of developping and growing. Which is all any of us can really do when we undertake anything. And I think visually the piece "Blade Horn & Wolf" is very engaging. I found out that James Gauer, who shot the piece, has studied film professionally.

So please check out the above link to the dojo website and also the dvd. Seth Spitzer has done a wonderful job on the page, and has put excerpts from youtube for the pieces on the dvd. The following piece was done immediately after the surgery. I am wearing shades to protect the eye: