Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 44: Can I Skip the Book and Just Watch the Movie?

Episode 44 Website CoverIt’s literally a literary episode of Pop Culture Affidavit as Professor Alan from the Relatively Geekly Network (Shortbox Showcase, Quarter Bin Podcast) joins me to talk about books and movies; specifically, adaptation. We get into what makes a good adaptation, what makes a bad adaptation, talk about movies based on books that we love and hate, and even discuss what books we’d like to see and not see made into films (with a little tangent conversation about television).

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 36: Celebrate Freedom! Read a Banned Book.

Episode 36 CoverIt’s National Banned Books Week and this time out I take a quick look at censorship, challenged and banned books, challenged and banned comics, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and why and how censorship of this sort still exists.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Here are some links and resources that I mentioned in the episode:

Banned Books Week’s Official Website

The American Library Association’s Banned Books Weeks Website

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 29

IC 29 CoverOne hundred years ago, the world went to war.  After living through the war, a German soldier and writer named Erich Maria Remarque took his experiences and wrote them into a novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.  In this episode, I take a break from the Vietnam War and look back at Remarque’s World War I novel, giving it a full synopsis and review, then taking a look at two movie versions, and spending time on the poetry and songs of the First World War Era.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 29 direct link


Here’s some of the media (videos, songs, poetry, etc.) that I use or mention in the episode. (more…)

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 14

The Things They CarriedAfter a year in The ‘Nam, I take a break to review and discuss Tim O’Brien’s 1990 novel, The Things They Carried, which is a seminal work in Vietnam War literature.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 14 direct link

Furthermore, here is a link to the New York Times article I reference at one point:  “A Storyteller for the War That Won’t End”

And here is the YouTube video that I referenced in the episode, which is part of a series of interviews with O’Brien …

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 21 — A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Episode 21 CoverThis time out, I present to you Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” a literary selection appropriate to the season.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And for your convenience, I have included the raw audio of Dylan Thomas’s reading:  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Merry Christmas!

Amazin’ Baseball

Mazer CoverUsually when I write posts for this blog, I’ve recently read, watched, or listened to whatever I am writing about; however, I haven’t done my homework this time, choosing instead to set aside the movie I was going to write about and take a few hundred words to talk about Bill Mazer, who passed away earlier today.

Mazer, if you are unfamiliar with him, was a longtime New York sports journalist and commentator, one of the early guard of sports radio hosts, and was a mainstay on WNEW (Channel 5, now WNYW, the New York City Fox affiliate) during the 1980s, kind of the same way that George Michael was a Washington, D.C. mainstay with his “Sports Machine” highlights.  The New York Times has an excellent obituary of Mazer that I highly recommend reading, as I was struck by the extent and longevity of his career.

To be honest, I wasn’t that familiar with Mazer or his career, as I was too young to watch him on television and have only had a passing interest in sports radio (and only then it’s to listen to the occasional game).  But for the last twenty-three years I have had a signed copy of Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book on my bookshelf, and when I saw the obituary in the Times, I immediately pulled it off the bookshelf and will be reading it again for the first time since my Uncle Michael and Aunt Clare gave it to me for my thirteenth birthday.

The title page of my copy of Bill Mazer's Amazin' Baseball Book, signed by the author for my thirteenth birthday.

The title page of my copy of Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book, signed by the author for my thirteenth birthday.

As noted in my post about the 1988 Mets, when I was in the latter part of elementary school and through most of junior high school, I was a rabid baseball fan.  I’m still a huge Mets fan, but this was a time in my life when I was the encyclopedic sort of fan, the type of kid who read or watched everything about baseball that he could get his hands on and who enjoyed the most minute, trivial details about the history of the game (ironically, however, I found Ken Burns’s Baseball boring but I may give that a re-watch at some point).  Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book was the perfect gift, as it is both a memoir of his life and career in relation to the game along with page upon page of facts and stories about the history of the game itself.  The facts are presented in Q&A format with all sorts of tidbits, such as:


Don Drysdale.

It was questions like these (and their answers) that had me flipping back and forth through the book and poring over every page with my friend Tom in the back of his mom’s Ford Taurus on the way to Shea Stadium, and I think what’s always drawn me to shows and books about sports history, especially baseball history, even if my interest in the subject has waned from time to time, replaced with film, comic books, or whatever other part of popular culture I was obsessing over.  Mazer himself, in the introduction to his book, talks about being a fact-o-phile, a proto-Schwab, the type of guy who could rarely, if ever, be stumped.   In fact, the Times obituary sums it up perfectly:

Mr. Mazer’s boyhood idol, Van Lingle Mungo, became the title of a song by the singer, pianist and songwriter Dave Frishberg, consisting entirely of old-time ballplayers’ names. Mungo, who died in 1985, won 120 games and lost 115 with the Dodgers and the Giants, and he led the National League in strikeouts with 238 in 1936. It’s a fair guess that the Amazin’ would have known those statistics without having to look them up.

I’m a fan of experts like that, guys who have extensive knowledge and are experts on topics.  I have always liked having an answer to almost every question and even though it’s becoming a bit passe for people in my field to want to be considered “experts” on anything, I still enjoy just knowing stuff.  I’m sure my fellow sports fans and comics podcasters know exactly how I feel.

But as interesting as all of the facts, figures, and stories contained in Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book are, his passing also reminds me of how many of those in his generation are passing away.  Mazer grew up in Brooklyn during the golden age of the Dodgers’ tenure at Ebbets Field, an era that I’ve only read about in books or heard about in stories that older relatives, like uncles and grandfathers would tell years ago at family functions.  For my money, if I could go back to any era of baseball, it would be the late 1960s so I could see the 1969 Mets, but I remember sitting at many an extended family barbecue listening to Grandpa Panarese talk to my Uncle Brian about the Giants, the Yankees, and whatever other sports stories they had.

While I think it’s out of print, you can find used copies of Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book on Amazon and I recommend picking it up.  It’s truly a trip back in time, one that I’m looking forward to taking again.

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 2 — We All Float Down Here (or, Why I Hate Clowns)

In the second episode of the Pop Culture Affidavit podcast, I take a look at Stephen King’s It, both the 1986 novel as well as the 1990 TV movie starring Tim Curry as the evil Pennywise The Clown.  It’s a Halloween treat that will remind you why demonic clowns dwelling in sewers will make you swear off the circus forever.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And, for your viewing enjoyment, here is a scene from the TV movie version of It:

Avant Garde in the Final Frontier

When I look at what my son likes to watch on television and what he likes to play with, I am amazed at how similar we are.  Now, I don’t have a photographic memory from when I was 3-1/2–most memories from that age come in flashes and spurts–but right now he is really into superheroes and Curious George.  I am sure that we’ll have years of superhero awesomeness in our house (and that’s a whole other entry), and Curious George is definitely another topic for another day as well, although I do remember that when I was young I had several of those books that I read and decorated with stickers that told everyone that it belonged to TOM.

But he’s also really interested in space travel and when he first showed interest in it I was excited but I wasn’t sure exactly how to encourage that curiosity about space.  You know, beyond watching space shuttle launches on YouTube and a set of space-themed flash cards my wife found in the dollar bin at Target.  I mean, it’s a bit too early to get him into Star Wars because even that type of violence might be a little much for a kid who gets a little scared when watching Scooby-Doo (besides, I don’t remember seeing Star Wars for the first time until I was about four or five).  And while I’m sure that I will get around to The Saga, I was hard-pressed to find something until I was hanging out in the library at work and came across National Geographic’s Picture Atlas of Our Universe.

With a futuristic-looking spaceship on the cover, Our Universe is one of those library books that when I was in junior high I would check out at least a few times a year in order to pore over its pages, taking in every artist’s rendition and satellite image.  The edition I had in my hands on was from 1992, so it was later than the one I used to check out of the library but still accessible to even a very little kid and still awesome to me.

That space ship on the cover is sort of our guide through the universe, as the book’s narrative takes us on a tour through all of the planets of the solar system including Pluto (and I don’t buy that “Pluto’s not a planet” crap anyway), and beyond.  The beyond includes stars, asteroids, comets, other galaxies and the history of space travel as well as the possibilities for the future.

The title page, which leads to …

Open the book and the title flies at you kind of how the opening credits of Superman do.  But what makes this even more awesome on some level than seeing “Richard Donner” streak across a screen is that Our Universe does the title flight over the course of two spreads with the words nearly off the page on the second spread.  That, and it’s in Avant Garde and Avant Garde is just awesomeness in itself.

After an introduction, we learn about how ancient civilizations viewed the cosmos as well as how our modern scientific theories come to fruition through scientists such as Newton and Galileo.  it’s an encyclopedia’s worth of information being written in a pretty tight narrative that your average and elementary and junior high kid would understand and probably enjoy.  The examples rely on both scientific models and artist’s conceptions, something that’s carried throughout.