Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Shazam! ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post


Sorry if yours is one of the many blogs I visit regularly but have not visited much, if at all, for the past few days. Just not feeling well lately. Among other things, I have an occasional flare-up of gout (Yes, gout! It doesn't only exist in old movies!), and it's been bothering me for several days. And by the way, gout has often been described as a "rich man's disease," but folks, I've got it, so that's not a very appropriate name for it.

Anyway...

Today's "Comical Wednesday" post is actually aimed more at those of you who don't follow comics. The comic book cover at the top of this post is Whiz Comics #22, from 1941. The most prominent character in that title was the original Captain Marvel, who was a boy named Billy Batson that received magic powers and an adult persona by saying the word "Shazam!" Shazam, by the way, was the name of the ancient wizard that bestowed these powers upon young Billy.

Now, why did I say "the original Captain Marvel?"

Captain Marvel debuted at the very beginning of 1940. He was one of a handful of superheroes that DC Comics attempted to sue out of existence. They (DC) claimed that the Captain was ripping off their own hero, Superman, who premiered in 1938. "The original Captain Marvel" even outsold Superman for a time.

The court battle dragged on for many years, and at one point Fawcett Comics (who published Captain Marvel's multiple titles and spin-offs) was prevailing, and at other times DC seemed to have the legal edge... Finally, due as much to falling comic book sales as to anything else, Fawcett stopped publishing comics altogether and promised DC they would never bring the Captain back.

That was in 1953.

By 1968, a company once known (in the 1940s) as Timely Comics had been calling itself Marvel Comics for about eight years. They decided that it was only natural that they revive the "Captain Marvel" name. They did so, and trademarked the character.


Less than two years later, they changed Captain Marvel's costume. 


In 1972, DC Comics , of all people -- well, not really "people" -- announced that they were bringing back the original Captain Marvel. They'd made an arrangement with Fawcett and were licensing the rights to good ol' Cap, y'see. (They eventually bought the character outright.)

The problem was, DC was able to write new stories about Captain Marvel, reprint old stories about Captain Marvel, and even call him Captain Marvel, but because Marvel Comics now owned the trademark to Captain Marvel, they couldn't call him Captain Marvel on the cover of his own book!

So they named the comic book after his magic word, "Shazam," instead.

Notice, if you will, the cover of Shazam! #2, below. Underneath the title is the phrase "the original Captain Marvel." I've heard two versions of why those words are there. The first version is that DC paid Marvel some undisclosed sum to use that phrase on their covers, but eventually decided it wasn't worth the money and stopped doing it. The other version is that DC did it without permission, until Marvel told them to cut the shit cease and desist. Regardless of why they stopped doing it, issue #14 was the last one to feature "the original Captain Marvel" on the cover. After that, the words were replaced by "The World's Mightiest Mortal."



In 1974, the original Captain Marvel made his way to television. Once again, they couldn't call the program Captain Marvel, so it became Shazam!


That damned word "Shazam" became more and more associated with the character of Captain Marvel, so much so that non-comic readers (mainly) thought that the character's actual name was Shazam. But DC was stuck with the word because Marvel Comics has had several different characters calling themselves Captain Marvel over the years -- the latest one is shown below -- so they'll obviously never abandon the copyright! (And frankly, who can blame them?)


DC has launched several series featuring "the original Captain Marvel" over the years. However, the character has never been anywhere near as popular as he was in the Golden Age, so relatively recently, DC threw up their non-existent hands and re-named the S.O.B. Shazam.


Now, this is the "Shazam" logo!


It's the confusion I mentioned earlier that caused non-comic readers to see this logo...


...which is actually the logo of another DC superhero, the Flash...


...and point to the Flash's logo on t-shirts, or wherever, saying "Shazam!"

In fact, speaking of confusion, about twenty to twenty-five years ago, I used to wear the t-shirt pictured below, featuring characters from a comic called Bone, written & drawn by Jeff Smith...


And non-comic readers would point at it and say "Casper!"

Meaning this idiot!


You non-comic types are so cute.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Kinda/Sorta Personal "Short Shorts" Post


1. The above photo is of that little fifth pocket that's in most pairs of jeans. You know, that weird little pocket-in-a-pocket. But do you know what it's called, and why it's there?

Back in the late 1800s, most men carried a pocket watch, and they usually kept it in either their waistcoat pockets, or their vest pockets. Well, when hard-working cowboys did that -- and keep in mind that there were a lot of cowboys back then, as opposed to now -- the watches tended to get broken. The Levi Strauss company, makers of -- duh! -- Levi's jeans, created that extra pocket specifically for pocket watches, and called it, predictably, a "watch pocket".

Nowadays, not a lot of people carry pocket watches, preferring a wristwatch if they have a watch at all. (I don't. I just use my cell phone when I want to know the time.)

So, what do I use my watch pocket for?

I use my watch pocket to hold a tiny bottle of nitroglycerin tablets, which I've carried with me almost every day since my heart attack four years ago.


What do you use yours for?

*  *  *  *  *


2. And speaking of cell phones, which I was, kinda/sorta...

The above photo of a cell phone looks very much like my own cell phone. In fact, the above photo looks exactly like my cell phone. Same brand, same model, etc.

I've had a few people -- mostly people working for AT&T -- suggest that I upgrade to a better -- in other words, pricier -- model. I'd rather not. I like the one I have.

The only thing about this model that I don't like is that whenever I text or compose an email, I have to hit each key a specified amount of time to get a specific letter. You know the drill, right? Hit the "2" key once for "A", twice for "B", and so on. And if I want to get two letters that are on the same key, I have to pause for a bit so the phone will "know" that I want an "A" (one tap) followed by a "B" (two taps) instead of a "C" (one tap plus two taps equals three taps)! Sheesh!!!

Therefore, words like "baby," "moon," "definition," "sidebar," "money," "ended," "about," "high," and many, many more like those are a nightmare to write!

In fact, the word "nightmare" is a nightmare, too!

So, I always have to proofread my texts and emails to make sure I've paused long enough, otherwise I'll have results like the day I went to add the name "Mark Murphy" to my address book, and hit the "7" key twice, too quickly, when I wanted an "R" and a "P," and came up with "Mark Mushy".

As it happened, when I told Mark about the mistake, he asked me to keep it that way. He has a strange sense of humor. He and I get along well, as you may have guessed.

*  *  *  *  *

3. I'm not really expecting any comments on this post, despite the fact that I asked a question in #1. (Usually when I do that, the question gets ignored.) Having said that, a post which I expect nobody to comment about is invariably the type of post which gets, like, eight million comments! We'll see.

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Tar and Cement"


I've stated elsewhere that (and I'm quoting from myself, here) "I 'became aware' of the music playing on AM radio during the years 1962 and 1963, when I was roughly six years old. I say 'roughly' because I didn't turn six until very late 1962, namely, November."

Close to twenty years ago, not long after I first started using the internet, I decided to look for a song I remembered from my childhood. I use the word "remembered" very loosely. I couldn't recall what year the song was released, but I was pretty sure that it hit the airwaves sometime during the early 1960s, maybe even before the Beatles arrived in America.

The biggest obstacles to my search were the facts that:
  • I didn't know the title of the song.
  • I didn't know who sang it.
  • I couldn't even remember more than a few random words from it!
Not a hell of a lot to go on, right? My faded memories told me that one line was "I can see it all so clearly now."

Needless to say, as far as my search went, I was what they call "S.O.L."!

Several years later -- "several" being more than ten -- I tried again, and I have no idea what I did differently, but this time I found the damned song!

As it happens, I was off by a few years regarding the song's approximate year of release. "Tar and Cement", sung by Verdelle Smith, came out in 1966, and just barely made it onto the Top 40 in the USA, reaching #38. However, it climbed all the way to #1 in Australia.


Here's the song, for those of you who want to see if it was really worth all the fuss... and right below the embedded video are the lyrics, if you want to follow along!



The town I came from was quiet and small
We played in the meadows where the grass grew so tall
In summer the lilacs would grow everywhere
The laughter of children would float in the air

 And I can see it all so clearly now
Still going on
Yes, I can see it oh so clearly now
 Though all of it's gone

 As I grew older I had to roam
Far from my family, far from my home
Into the city, where lives can be spent
Lost in the shadows of tar and cement.
Into the city where I had my eye
On all the pleasures that money can buy

And every night I'd sit alone and learn
What loneliness meant
Up in my rented room above a world
Of tar and cement.

Each day I'd wake up and look at the sky
Think of the meadows where I used to lie
Then I'd remember all of that's gone
You're in the city, you better push on
Get what you came for, before it's too late
Get what you came for, the meadows can wait.

So every night I'd sit alone and learn
What loneliness meant
Up in my rented room above a world
Of tar and cement.


Many years later, tired at last
I headed for home to look for my past
I looked for the meadows, there wasn't a trace
Six lanes of highway had taken their place
Where were the lilacs and all that they meant
Nothing but acres of tar and cement.

Yet I can see it there so clearly now
Where has it gone?
Yes I can see it there so clearly now
Where has it gone?

Where are the meadows? (tar and cement)
Where are the lilacs? (tar and cement)
And where is the tall grass? (tar and cement)
The laughter of children? (tar and cement)
Nothing but acres (tar and cement)
Acres and acres (tar and cement)

Typically, I wasn't content to stop there. I did a little research on Ms. Smith. And I must admit that I did said research with a bit of trepidation, because as all of my regular readers know, it usually happens that whenever I wonder "Whatever happened to So-and-So?" I discover that the person in question is dead, or worse, I find out very soon afterwards that the person just died.

Well, there wasn't a lot of information regarding Verdelle Smith on the internet back then, nor now, but at least I can say that, as of this writing, she is alive, thankfully!

Verdelle Smith, born in Florida and raised in New Jersey, now lives in Brooklyn. She left the music business shortly after recording "Tar and Cement". One good thing about the internet is that there's always new material being added, so now, there is this interview with Verdelle Smith available!

I also found another version of the song, this time in French, a version which came out the same year. It was called "La maison où j'ai grandi" and sung by a young lady with whom I was unfamiliar, named Françoise Hardy.

Françoise Hardy sometime during the 1960s.

And here, just for the sake of comparison, is Ms. Hardy's version:


Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to delve a little deeper and see whether or not she, too, was still living. I'm happy to say that as of today, she's still with us!

\

As it turns out, the very first version of the song was performed by an Italian singer, songwriter, actor, director, comedian, and TV host named Adriano Celentano! Celentano, a huge star in Italy, is sometimes referred to by the Italians as "Molleggiato" (the flexible one), and was influenced by both Elvis Presley (and 1950s rock'n'roll in general) and Jerry Lewis!


The original version of the song that became "Tar and Cement" in America was "Il ragazzo della via Gluck" (which translates as "The boy from Gluck Street", not the best title for a song in my opinion, but hey...). Celentano wrote the music, while Luciano Beretta and Miki Del Prete wrote the lyrics, but Celentano evidently had a hand in writing the lyrics because they include several references to Celentano's own life and career. "Il ragazzo della via Gluck" came out in 1966, as did the two versions I mentioned earlier.

In the years since, the song has been covered by many artists, in many different languages. The lyrics for the American version were written by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance.

Here's the original Italian version:


I finally worked up the courage to see if Adriano Celentano was also still alive, and once again, I'm pleased to say that he is! He just turned eighty years old on January 6th, and by the way, he's been married to actress, singer, and television producer Claudia Mori since 1964!


Well, fellow babies, I'm almost done. I just want to share two more videos with you. The first is Françoise Hardy's version of "Il ragazzo della via Gluck" itself, in the original Italian:


And I'm going to conclude with the following song, recorded in the 1970s by Adriano Celentano, "Prisencolinensinainciusol!" Yep, that's the right title. "Prisencolinensinainciusol" consists of Adriano spouting gibberish imitating how English sounds to... well, to people who don't speak English! Give it a listen, won't you?


So, to Verdelle Smith, Françoise Hardy, and Adriano Celentano, all I can say is "Stay healthy!"

And thanks for your time!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

REQUIEM ~~ Reprinted from 11/14/2009


There'll be no "Comical Wednesday" entry this week (and maybe not next week). Instead, something a little different. I thought I'd post a little poem I once wrote about a lost love. I can be brief when I want to be!

REQUIEM

Her name evoked sweetness, exotic delight,
Our love against logic was found.
We burned like a skyrocket, lighting the night,
Till we sputtered and crashed to the ground.

It didn't end badly, yet didn't end well.
She's a part of me still. This I own.
And I fight being thrust toward my personal Hell,
As I sleep with a ghost, all alone.

And thanks for your time.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

I'm NOT Lovin' It! ~~ A "David'Z RantZ" and "Short Shorts" Post


1. The McDonald's in my home town recently installed self-order kiosks so you can order your food without having to deal with counter people. Well, I happen to like dealing with counter people. (That way, if they fail to say "Thank you" I can tell them that they should appreciate me because I could have gone to Burger King or Wendy's.) I was concerned that the addition of these kiosks would mean that counter help could be all but eliminated. (I figured it might be a corporate backlash against all those people demonstrating for a $15 minimum wage from McD's.) But supposedly, that's just not true, as described in detail here. Well, goody for McDonald's. I still won't use these kiosks.

2. I finally got to see The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the guy who took a restaurant run by two brothers (named Dick and "Mac" McDonald) and turned it into a thriving franchise. It's quite a fascinating story, although it plays fast and loose with some of the details, as almost all Hollywood biographies do. I'd recommend it. It's interesting to watch Kroc start as sort of an underdog and end up being kind of a prick. (Excuse the expression.)

3. Every McDonald's I'm aware of has two drive-through lanes, so I assume that's the case pretty much everywhere. Anyway, they have two lanes, which gives customers the impression that they're getting served twice as quickly. But there's only one cashier taking the orders from both lines. So the company is fooling you into thinking you're getting faster service while making their drive-through cashiers work twice as hard.

Thanks for your time.

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