Remembering Stan Lee

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Nov 152018

Like most of us, I grew up hearing the voice of Stan Lee, usually associated with Marvel’s spate of Saturday morning cartoons in the 1990s (including the much beloved, and somewhat obscure “Pryde of the X-Men” standalone episode). And now, sadly, that voice is silenced.
Stan Lee died Monday at 95. I’m certainly not the only geek/nerd/aficionado to eulogize him this week, nor likely the most eloquent. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him, after all.
The battle for Lee’s cultural legacy began almost the instant the news of his passing hit the internet. Was he a bombastic, effusive creative genius, or did he play the comics industry’s self-aggrandizing Edison to Kirby and Ditko’s Tesla? That’s a debate for better (or worse) minds than mine. I only admired him from afar.
You absolutely couldn’t mistake Lee’s presence. He had a trademark look - mustache, big glasses, salt and pepper hair, and a constant, toothy grin - than transcended the eras and the changes in fashion. No matter the photo you see of him, no matter the decade, you know immediately that it’s Stan Lee.
What makes him important for me, I think, is this major point: Stan Lee made it OK to be a geek. In a culture now where “geek” is a term whose possession is fought over by all kinds of groups, and where so-called “geek culture” is ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when liking comic books, when talking about superheroes, was something for nerds and outcasts. It got you laughed at, not applauded. I remember those days vividly.
But Stan Lee was an adult who was out there, talking about comic books. He MADE comic books, created the heroes that we loved. Smiling, excited, bright-eyed behind the glasses, Lee personified the kind of ebullience we all felt inside about our nascent, hidden nerdy passions, but he had the courage to let it out. And so could we. Stan Lee made it OK to be a geek.
Without him, literally, the “geek industrial complex” that exists now would never have come into being. Unlike Scott McCloud, comics’ modern apologist, who has tried to argue why the medium should be looked at from an artistic perspective, Lee knew that comics and superheroes were fun. They were entertaining. And they were nothing to be ashamed of.
Stan Lee made it OK to be a geek.
So unfurl that geek flag, today, folks. Do something nerdy for ol’ Stan. It’s what he would have wanted.

 Posted by at 12:56 pm

More Nonsense

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Nov 082018
Today in The Cube:

Here's this week's roundup of pop culture nonsense:

• The CBC’s “Schitt’s Creek” had its fourth season drop on Netflix, and my wife and I gobbled up its 12 episodes like fun-size Snickers. The show follows the Roses, a wealthy family of video store magnates who were robbed blind by their accountant and, with the government coming after them with a mighty tax bill they can’t pay, have to live in the one asset left them, the tiny rural village of Schitt’s Creek, which the family patriarch, played by Eugene Levy, bought his son, David (played by Levy’s son, and the series co-creator, Daniel Levy), as a joke.
This is one of the few newer scripted TV shows that I actually enjoy, and part of it is the writing. The characters have actual story arcs and true character development and growth. By the end of Season 4, the two Rose children, David and Alexis (Annie Murphy), hardly resemble the characters they were in the first season. The acting is also amazing, with Catherine O’Hara turning in performances as matriarch Moira Rose that are as filled with pathos as they are hilarious.
Something else that I enjoy is the fact that where most network sit-coms would take some of the plot complications “Schitt’s Creek” deals with and make them into entire, tiresome season-long themes, “Schitt’s Creek” just deals with them and moves on. Y’know, like real people do. Fantastic show.
• My wife and I have watched the first couple episodes of Amazon Prime’s much-hyped “The Romanoffs” and… it’s okay, I guess? It’s an anthology series, with one episode coming out every week, all loosely tied together by the fact that some of the characters claim some connection to that ill-fated Russian royal family. It’s created by the creator of “Mad Men,” and there are actors from that series who show up, but so far I haven’t seen anything that really keeps my particular attention. It’s well-shot, well-acted, with self-contained episodes that are about interpersonal human dramas of varying kinds. But, in all, it just feels very monotone.
• Netflix recently premiered the costuming for Henry Cavill’s character in the upcoming “The Witcher” series, complete with long whitish wig. Unfortunate comparisons to Legolas followed.
• Also announced lately was that the upcoming season of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” will be its last. Which is perfectly fine with me, since the show hasn’t been up to its usual standard since Season 2. OITNB and “House of Cards” were Netflix’s headlining TV series, and with one sunsetting, and the other being heavily retooled after the Kevin Spacey scandal, it’ll be interesting to see where the service goes from here.
• The long-awaited sandbox cowboy video game epic Red Dead Redemption 2 premiered almost two weeks ago, and my twitter feed was divided into two groups: Those who were playing the game and those who weren’t playing the game and lamented that fact. I haven’t played a video game since about 2014, and only use my PS3 to play Blu-Rays so… that’s all I have to say about it. If you clicked on this article thinking you’d get a review of the game, you got punked.

• I’ve been a fan of spooky and true crime podcasts, my go-to being the powerhouse that is Last Podcast on the Left. However, by complete chance last week I saw a tweet mentioning a podcast called “Ghoul on Ghoul.” Hosted by Pittsburgh-area residents Sarah and Amanda, these ladies plumb the depths of the haunted, the weird and the outre with a characteristically wild sense of humor that’s genuinely hilarious. The first episode I happened to listen to was “Medieval Butt Science” and, believe me, it’s got me wanting to come back for more. A definite recommendation.

 Posted by at 11:40 am

Halloween Wrap-Up!

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Nov 012018

Today in The Cube:

Well, as Charlie Brown once said, another Halloween has come and gone. Like many of you, I start my Spooky Season around July or August, with varying degrees of success.
While I don’t do Halloween as large as I know a lot of you do, there are certain traditions that I make sure I do every year: Watch the 1978 ‘Halloween,’; read or listen to ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’; carve a jack-o-lantern; watch ‘Return of the Living Dead’; and pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters.
I thought I’d do a wrap-up this year of some of the trends and tidings I saw during the 2018 season:

It was the grudge match of grudge matches in my neighborhood this season, between the folks who have Halloween Decorations and the folks who have Harvest Decorations. Halloween Decorations are, of course, the spooky stuff - jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, witches, you name it. Harvest is a bit more… agrarian. Pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, hay bales, and frequently wreaths and, weirdly enough, big, artfully “distressed” wooden signs that say “Harvest!” or “Welcome Harvest!” or “It’s Harvest Time!” on them. Also, happy scarecrows. Lots of 'em.
Sure, you’ll find the odd house that sort of combines the two, likely so they can take down the spooky after the 31st and still keep the harvest up through Thanksgiving.
But by and large, either a house will be a Halloween House, or a Harvest House. And where I live, it’s about 50-50.
For the Halloween houses, the biggest trend in the neighborhood has been “hanging stuff from trees.” Most notably, the most popular of the hanging decorations have been these “wraith” decorations, consisting of a hooded skeleton head with a gauzy, cape-like body. Effective, to be sure, especially when you're walking your dog past the house at 5:30 in the morning.

For whatever reason, I found myself a little nostalgic for the “Clownpocalypse” hysteria that gripped the United States, and a few points international, during the fall of 2016. For those who don’t recall, starting in the south and expanding essentially to the entire United States, there were mushrooming reports of “creepy clowns” made to police and other law enforcement agencies. These clowns were reportedly doing everything form window peeping to chasing people around to perpetrating acts of violence. If you want a fuller reporting, MuckRock produced a fun article that compiles some of the more entertaining incidents reported to police during that time.
Even when it was happening (I was on the crime beat for the local paper at the time and covered a few clown sightings that were reported locally) folks were wondering what was behind it. Were the sightings real? Mass hysteria? Viral marketing for the new version of “IT” that was slated to hit theaters? Even today, we don’t have any answers. And the sightings abruptly stopped being reported after the 2016 election. So… who knows?

I got into listening to what I refer to as “zombie surf rock” this season - basically, think of the kind of instrumental rock that came out of California in the 1960s, mixed with The Monster Mash and the themes from The Addams Family and The Munsters, and you’ve pretty much got it. It’s campy, it’s fun, and it fits my mood for this time of year. I’m particularly interested in a group called “The Ghastly Ones.” Good stuff.

See You Next Week
 Posted by at 10:00 am

Power, Privilege, and Popular Entertainment 2018-03-23 16:39:00

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Mar 232018
Power, Privilege, and Popular Entertainment 2018-03-23 16:39:00

So, following in the steps of several historic developments (*rumps disasterous election, the rise of the far right in the US and Europe, my book release) I decided to spend the Spring of 2017 teaching a class on Comparative Genocide. What can I say? I…

 Posted by at 4:39 pm


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Jan 282018

Hi Blog


new music update

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Jan 112018

I’ve got two upcoming shows and news on the next album in the latest TheMikeDuBose news letter. Sign up via the link on the right!

Find Me Here

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Jan 102018

jasonzeh.comthis too

holiday depression songs!

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Nov 302017

It’s officially the holiday season. Well, if you believe your local big box store, that probably started immediately after Halloween. But we won’t think of them, because it’s almost December…so it’s safe to display and decorate your holiday shrubbery…

memories of music

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Oct 262017
memories of music

As I was driving to work today, I noticed a familiar sticker on the car in front of me. When we hit a stoplight, I was able to confirm that the vehicle in fact did have a sticker from my old band Analog Revolution. This blew me a way a little bit, as w…