Comic Art Friday: Frankenheimer’s castle

Posted February 5, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Cinemania, Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, Teleholics Anonymous, That's Cool!

People who know that I’m a film buff sometimes ask me, “What’s your favorite movie?” Which is, of course, an impossible question to answer. I love many movies for many reasons, and they’re not interchangeable. How does one compare a favorite horror film (Psycho) to a favorite comedy (Blazing Saddles), or the appeal of two markedly different fantasy films (say, The Princess Bride vs. Heavy Metal)? Do I love Die Hard more or less than Double Indemnity? Streets of Fire more or less than Enter the Dragon?

You see the problem.

Anyway…

One night I happened to be parked in front of the television watching yet another of my favorite films, John Frankenheimer’s brilliant crime drama, Ronin. It’s a great piece of entertainment, combining a twisty plot; crackling dialogue; understated performances by a fine cast (including Robert DeNiro’s last truly stellar acting job before he dove headlong into self-parody, apparently permanently); and one of cinema’s all-time great car chase sequences. (Although it has his signature style all over it, many people don’t realize that Ronin was scripted by David Mamet, using the pseudonym Richard Weisz.) It’s also that rare film in which Sean Bean appears but does not die, although he does get booted from the story a third of the way in.

As I was viewing Ronin for the umpteenth time, a thought flashed to mind: “Isn’t there a superhero named Ronin?” Another thought quickly followed the first: “Didn’t Frankenheimer also direct The Birdman of Alcatraz and The Iceman Cometh? Birdman and Iceman are superheroes, too.”

And that’s how Common Elements concepts are born.

Iceman, Birdman, and Ronin, pencils by Val Semeiks

Ronin the superhero — as distinct from Ronin the movie — has actually been embodied by several different characters in the Marvel Comics universe, including Clint Barton (the Avenger better known as Hawkeye) and Eric Brooks (better known as Blade, the vampire hunter). Shown here is the original Ronin, Maya Lopez, who herself is probably more familiar to comics readers under her subsequent costumed identity, Echo. Maya is both one of the more prominent Latina heroines in superhero comics, and one of the genre’s few deaf characters.

Iceman — a.k.a. Robert “Bobby” Drake — is one of the founding members of the X-Men, going all the way back to the debut of the franchise in 1963. Historically, Bobby was the youngest in the original lineup, and was often portrayed by Marvel writers as somewhat immature and impulsive. More recently, Iceman gained publicity for coming out as gay — a revelation questioned by some readers as a retcon, given that Bobby has been romantically involved with numerous female characters over the course of his X-career.

Birdman will be familiar to those of a certain age (ahem…) as star of the fondly remembered 1960s animated TV series, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. Designed by legendary comics artist Alex Toth (also responsible for such characters as Space Ghost and the Herculoids), Birdman is actually Ray Randall, a normal guy who receives an array of superhuman abilities from the Egyptian sun god Ra. He can fly using the powerful wings that erupt from his back, and can also fire beams of solar energy from his hands. Because his gifts derive from the sun, Birdman frequently found himself in dilemmas where the lack of sunlight robbed him of his powers temporarily. He was accompanied on his adventures by a pet eagle named Avenger.

Younger readers know Birdman from his comedic retooling in the late 1990s. In the Cartoon Network series Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, the former superhero is presented as a rather dimwitted defense lawyer, whose client list includes a diverse collection of his fellow Hanna-Barbera characters. Avenger is nowhere to be found in this adaptation, likely due to embarrassment.

Today’s featured artwork — #123 in my Common Elements theme — springs from the potent pencil of veteran comics artist Val Semeiks. This marks Val’s third foray into the world of Common Elements. As is true of both of his previous efforts, this one rocks.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: A thousand points of light

Posted January 29, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

Let’s get straight to the particulars of today’s featured artwork, officially #114 (of, currently, 127) in my Common Elements commission series, shall we?

Orion_Andromeda_Sharpe

On the left is Orion, one of the key players in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos. On the right, that’s Laurel Gand, better known as Andromeda, of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The artist wielding the pencil is Kevin Sharpe — Kevin has drawn dozens of comics for most of the main publishers, but is probably most familiar for his work on G.I. Joe for Image Comics and Army of Darkness for Dynamite Entertainment.

The more astute among you will have recognized that the “common element” uniting our two mighty heroes is the fact that each is named after a constellation — more specifically, a constellation containing a noteworthy nebula. The Orion Nebula (officially Messier 42) is one of the brighter objects of its kind in the night sky, and is clearly visible to the naked eye as the middle “star” in Orion’s “sword.” The Andromeda Nebula (Messier 31), more accurately referred to as the Andromeda Galaxy, is one of our Milky Way galaxy’s closest neighbors in the universe. (“Close” being relative, when discussing cosmic distances.)

As for our own two superpowered stars…

Orion first appeared in New Gods #1 (February 1971). He’s the son of DC’s ultimate villain Darkseid — coming soon to a movie screen near you — but was raised as the adopted child of Darkseid’s opposite number, Izaya the Highfather, as part of a peacemaking infant-swap. (The Highfather’s son, Scott Free, is in turn raised by Darkseid, eventually rebelling against his foster dad and becoming the heroic Mister Miracle.) Under the Highfather’s tutelage, Orion learns to (mostly) control the darker nature he inherited from his natural forebear and conduct himself in a more noble manner. He is often seen zipping about the cosmos in his Astro-Harness, as illustrated here in a sketch cover drawing, also by Kevin Sharpe.

Orion_Sharpe

To be honest, I was never a huge fan of the Fourth World saga. For me, it quickly devolved into a morass of Kirby’s unchecked worst impulses, with way too much weird and crazy simply for the sake of weird craziness. Kirby was a brilliant artist, a dynamic creator of characters and concepts, and one of the greatest visual storytellers who ever put a pencil to paper, but as a writer… yikes. He desperately needed collaborators to edit and wordsmith his scripts. And no one ever should have let the King compose dialogue. Ever. (This might sound like sacrilege to some, but I’m just keeping it 100%. Your Kirby mileage may vary.)

It’s no accident, then, that New Gods was my least favorite of the Fourth World books, because it was the core of the mythos and as such, the place where Kirby most surrendered to his unfettered imagination and purplest prose. I much preferred the two series that tied more closely into the familiar DC superhero universe — Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (where Kirby first began introducing his Fourth World saga when he moved to DC from Marvel) and Mister Miracle. The fourth book in the line, Forever People, could be fun but was impossible to take seriously — Kirby putting words into the mouths of space hippies read just as badly as that phrase sounds.

Orion, though, like almost every character Kirby ever designed, looks awesome.

Andromeda_Sharpe

Andromeda was something of a Jenny-come-lately to the original Legion of Super-Heroes roster. When Supergirl famously died during Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC decided to replace her in the Legion with a character as similar to Kara Zor-El as possible. Thus, Andromeda — another blonde with an almost identical array of powers — was born. Laurel Gand (as did her Legion predecessor Mon-El) hailed from Daxam, a planet colonized by Kryptonians centuries earlier. Unlike her counterpart from Krypton, Andromeda had a vulnerability to lead, with potentially fatal complications arising from lead exposure.

To my mind, Andromeda epitomizes one of the ongoing weaknesses of DC’s editorial philosophy: namely, cloning its top-line characters over and over again. By the Andromeda came along, DC already had one alternate Supergirl in Power Girl, she of the imposing bosom and keyholed costume. Then again, killing the original Supergirl in the first place was a silly stunt that never should have happened.

But I have to admit — Andromeda, though not designed by Jack Kirby, looks awesome.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Royal Air Force

Posted January 22, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

People often ask me, “Where do you come up with all of these ideas for Common Elements commissions?” The truth is that concepts strike me in the most random ways. I’ve literally been driving in the car or watching some non-comic-related program on television when out of the blue comes the thought, “Hey, what if I put [Hero X] and [Heroine Y] together?” Whenever I get one of these ideas, it immediately goes onto the list of Common Elements concepts that I’ve been maintaining for over a decade now, to await its turn to be drawn.

The genesis of today’s featured artwork ties into my other commission theme, Bombshells!, which showcases classic comics heroines (by my arbitrary fiat, a character has to have made her first appearance in or before 1960 to qualify as a Bombshell!) in pinups modeled after vintage aircraft nose art. One day, while brainstorming Bombshells! ideas, it hit me that there was at least one superheroine who shared her code name with a British fighter plane: Spitfire, who first appeared in the 1970s Marvel series The Invaders. Spitfire is too recent a character to use in a Bombshells! commission, but I soon thought of another character who also has a British military aircraft code name: Gauntlet, from the Avengers Initiative storyline of a few years ago.

And just like that, a Common Elements concept is born.

Gauntlet_Spitfire_Bowden

For the benefit of the non-airplane buffs in the audience, here’s a touch of background. The Gauntlet was an open-cockpit biplane used by the Royal Air Force in the 1930s, although a handful were still flying during World War II. The better-known Spitfire came along in the late 1930s, and was an RAF staple well into the 1950s. The Spitfire is notable as the only British fighter whose production run predated, spanned, and continued for years after WWII.

As for our fighter plane namesakes, Spitfire (a.k.a. Lady Jacqueline Falsworth Crichton) gained superhuman speed and healing ability from the combination of a vampire bite and a subsequent blood transfusion from an android — specifically, the original Human Torch. (I know. It sounds crazy. I don’t make this stuff up.) Jacqueline’s father James was the original Union Jack; her brother Brian later took up the mantle. (Writer Roy Thomas had initially planned for Jacqueline to become the second Union Jack, but he and artist Frank Robbins decided that Union Jack’s flag-patterned outfit looked awkward on a female figure. So they created a new identity for Jacqueline, with a simpler costume design.) Spitfire joined the Invaders — a WWII-era superteam led by Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the aforementioned Torch — and a was a key member throughout the series’ 1970s run.

Gauntlet (a.k.a. Joseph Green) turned up following Marvel’s Civil War storyline (coming soon in modified form to a cineplex near you) as a training officer for rookie superheroes. A former Army drill sergeant, he has a massive prosthetic of alien origin permanently attached to his right hand and arm. This robotic appendage provides Green with super-strength and enables him to project a “hand” made of pure energy with powers of its own. (I know. It sounds crazy. I don’t make this stuff up.)

Bringing together our two champions is UK-based comics artist Mike Bowden. I thought it appropriate that a Common Elements starring characters named after British aircraft should be drawn by a British artist. So far as I know, there has never been an RAF plane called the Bowden. But perhaps there should be.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Always be yourself, unless you can be Mary Marvel

Posted January 15, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, Teleholics Anonymous, That's Cool!, Uncategorized

A couple of years ago, I met a talented Canadian artist named Sanya Anwar at a local comics convention. Sanya created this gorgeous Art Nouveau-inspired portrait of one of my favorite heroines: Isis, star of the 1970s TV series The Secrets of Isis. (I probably just landed on some national security watchlist for typing the name “Isis.” You people need to chill.)

Isis_Anwar

At the time Sanya drew the Isis piece, we talked about her doing a companion piece featuring Mary Marvel, the inspiration for the Isis character. Sanya and I revisited that conversation last spring at Big Wow ComicFest. It took a few months for Sanya to work the project into her hectic schedule, but in the end, this beautiful rendition resulted.

Mary Marvel, pencils and inks by Sanya Anwar

Since I first discovered the Marvel Family characters in the early ’70s, I’ve always found the concept of Mary Marvel intriguing. Unlike her brother, the original Captain Marvel, Mary’s accessing the powers of various mythological beings doesn’t transform her into a different person (or, at least, persona — for decades, comics writers couldn’t decide whether Billy Batson and Captain Marvel were separate entities, or just differently aged versions of the same individual). When Mary says “Shazam!” she doesn’t grow older or muscle up. She’s the same sunny-spirited teenager whether she’s Mary Batson or Mary Marvel. The latter just has more amazing abilities.

Which always raised the question in my mind: If you could be Mary Marvel and still be fully and completely Mary Batson, why would you ever not be Mary Marvel? What would be the reason for changing back into your non-powered self, and spending most of your life that way? If I had the option of being Just Plain Me or Superhuman Me, I would opt for Superhuman Me all the time.

The lesson is: Always be yourself.

Unless you can be Mary Marvel.

Then, always be Mary Marvel. (Or Isis. That works, too.)

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: All my Hexes live in Texas

Posted January 8, 2016 by swanshadow
Categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

It occurred to me this morning that I didn’t post a single Comic Art Friday in 2015. For a guy who rarely missed a weekly art post for several years, that’s more than a smidgen embarrassing. I will endeavor to do better in 2016. In fact, with today’s post, I already have.

There’s a long and not always cheerful story behind today’s featured artwork, the 127th entry in my Common Elements commission series.

(For the benefit of those joining us for the first time — or old-timers who’ve simply forgotten, because of my slacker posting habits of the past year — Common Elements is a series of commissioned artworks depicting comics characters who are in most cases unrelated, but who share some unifying feature. The “common element” may be obvious — similar names or superpowers, for example. Sometimes, the connection is so obscure that it requires detailed explanation. Ultimately, the point of Common Elements is to showcase characters that might never be seen together anywhere else, for the pure joy of novelty.)

The Scarlet Witch and Jonah Hex, pencils and inks by Pete Woods

I originally planned this matchup of Western antihero Jonah Hex and longtime Avenger Scarlet Witch (whose probability-altering powers have historically been referred to as “hexes”) to be drawn by legendary comics artist Tony DeZuniga, who co-created Jonah Hex with writer John Albano. Tony was a frequent guest at Bay Area comics conventions, where I got to know him and his wife Tina over the years. The last time I saw Tony in person, I’d mentioned the idea to him, and he and I agreed that I would commission him to draw it the next time our paths crossed at a con.

As sad misfortune would have it, that next meeting never occurred. Tony passed away in May 2012 due to complications from a stroke he suffered about a month earlier.

When I heard the news of Tony’s passing, I resolved to give the assignment to Tony’s good friend and fellow artist Ernie Chan, also a regular at our local cons, and a brilliant artist who’d drawn several pieces for me previously. But less than a week after Tony’s death, Ernie also passed. The world had lost two talented creators, and I’d lost a pair of friendly acquaintances.

As for this Common Elements concept, I shelved it, hoping that eventually an artist would come along who would do something truly special with the idea.

Fast forward three and a half years. Pete Woods, an artist whose work I’ve admired since the DC Comics miniseries Amazons Attack in 2007, opened his commission list briefly in late 2015. I immediately thought of the Hex/Wanda pairing, and knew that Pete’s unique style would be perfect for it. Pete must have agreed, because he accepted the project, then proceeded to nail every aspect like a carpenter on amphetamines. All of the creative notions packed into this drawing — from Hex on horseback, to the Witch’s period-styled costume, to the inquisitive reptile observing the scene — came entirely from Pete’s imagination and pen.

The one item that didn’t come from either Pete or myself is the title: “All My Hexes Live in Texas.” Credit for that clever pun goes to my fellow comic art collector Joshua “Doc” McCoy. Well played, sir.

I still wonder what Tony DeZuniga or Ernie Chan would have drawn, given the same two-character assignment. But I’m convinced that both artists — who were always eager to see the fruit of others’ talents (whenever he saw me with my art portfolio wandering Artists’ Alley, Tony’s second question after “How you been?” was always “What did you get?”) — would have admired the amazingly conceived and rendered scene that Pete Woods crafted.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Now 100% Punkin Chunkin Free!

Posted November 26, 2015 by swanshadow
Categories: Aimless Riffing, Listology, My Home Town, Reminiscing, SwanStuff, Thanksgiving, That's Cool!

Here’s something I’m not thankful for this Thanksgiving: Punkin Chunkin, a staple of my Turkey Day TV viewing, was canceled for the second consecutive year. Some silly folderol about liability or some such foolishness cost the annual event, which involves people hurling pumpkins incredible distances using homemade machines straight out of the Rube Goldberg instruction manual, its venue, and organizers haven’t been able to locate another suitable site.

The bottom line is that some lawyers are making a pot of money arguing, and I’m denied my Punkin Chunkin.

Anyway… I still have plenty else to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day 2015. Therefore, as has been my tradition in this space since 2004, I’ve made an alphabetical list sampling 26 of the thousands of people, places, and things that make my life worth living.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for:

Adele. The British songstress released her first new album in four years this past week, and it’s as lovely and haunting and emotionally riveting as anything she’s done before.

Bruce Lee. My boyhood hero would be celebrating his 75th birthday tomorrow, had he not been taken from us far too soon way back in 1973. Lee was the only movie star whose poster hung on my bedroom wall amid the Star Trek glossies, comic book cutouts, and Runaways album covers throughout my teenage years. Enter the Dragon remains the one film to which I can turn off the sound and voice every line of dialogue. (At least, I used to be able to do that. I haven’t tested myself in a few years.) Rest in peace, Little Dragon.

Clients. Here’s a shout-out to the folks who buy the skills and pay the bills. I’ve worked with and for some really cool people this past year. I hope they — and many others — will continue to hire me. Please.

Dumbarton Bridge. The least famous, and by far the least sexy, of the San Francisco Bay’s crossings, it’s about to become critically important to us because we’re moving within a stone’s throw of its eastern anchorage. The Pirate Queen starts a new job on December 1, and her daily commute will span the Dumbarton. Although, when she’s on it, it will immediately transform into the Smartbarton.

Education. I’m a firm believer that when you stop learning, your brain dies. And you start voting for Donald Trump.

Ferrett Steinmetz. The Ferrett, as he likes to be known, was one of the first bloggers I followed on a regular basis. This year, I got to meet him in person, as he toured the country promoting his first science fiction novel, Flex. Its sequel, The Flux, came out last month.

Grilled lobster tails. If I were writing the menu for my last meal on Earth, I’d start with a few of these, served with Cajun spiced garlic butter. You know you want some.

Houses. For the second year in a row, the Pirate Queen and I find ourselves (for the moment, at least) with two — one we’re moving out of, and another we’re moving into. The new one closed escrow on the Pirate Queen’s birthday. I’m grateful every day to have a roof over my head when so many people have none.

Idina Menzel. Because someone who knows how to say her name correctly should be thankful for the former Mrs. Taye Diggs. We’re seeing her in person Saturday evening in the road company of If/Then. It would probably be too much to ask for her to just throw in a random chorus of “Defying Gravity,” just because I love that song, and her voice on it.

Jessica Jones. I just finished the final episode of Marvel’s latest Netflix series yesterday. As good as I’d hoped the show would be, it exceeded my expectations by a Hell’s Kitchen block. Krysten Ritter, who’d never really impressed me in anything before, absolutely crushes the role of the downbeat ex-superheroine-turned-private-eye. And her chemistry with Mike Colter as the unbreakable Luke Cage flat-out sizzles. I’m already salivating in anticipation of the Cage series.

KM, for being the greatest Daughter any dad could wish for, and to the memory of her mom, KJ, for all of the shared history.

Lucille, the legendary axe of pioneering blues guitarist B.B. King, lost her master this past May. The thrill indeed is gone.

Masterpiece, the PBS vehicle by which Downton Abbey comes to us Yanks. Downton‘s final season premieres here in the States in January. I’m sure going to miss the Crawley clan.

NBA Championship, won this year for the first time in 40 seasons by my beloved Golden State Warriors. Given that they’ve begun the sequel season on a 16-0 run thus far, I have high hopes that the Dubs might bring a second Larry O’Brien Trophy home to the Bay. To Steph, Klay, Draymond, Bogues, Barnes, Iggy, Mo Buckets, Shawn, Festus, and the rest of the dudes in blue (slate on Saturdays): Thanks for all the thrills. You make DubNation proud.

Oysters. Because delicious.

Panama hats. I have a nice one from Goorin Brothers for sunny East Bay days.

Quizzing. Whether it’s my nightly session of LearnedLeague, or my annual trip to Las Vegas for the Trivia Championships of North America (that’s TCONA to you), or teaming up with a couple of buds at the Project READ Trivia Bee (a hard-fought second place this fall, behind the team we narrowly bested to win last year), quizzing is my jam.

Rush. As Geddy Lee once wailed in his inimitable helium-on-steroids voice: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Slippers. Or sleepahs, as we say in Hawaii. Without something on my feet, I might fall down. Nobody wants to see that.

Tsunami Brainz. Did I mention that my improv troupe had a name, at long last? We do, and Tsunami Brainz is it. We’re gearing up for our first show, possibly in January.

Us — the Pirate Queen, the Studio Assistant, and me. I am thankful every day for our little family. I feel the love in the room.

VocalBooth. My gorgeous new-to-me workspace is a Diamond Series Platinum Edition. I’m still getting used to its finer points and tweaking the acoustics, but it’s an amazing place to play.

Waikiki. The Pirate Queen and I spent a week in March in my childhood home, and enjoyed a fantastic time touring, beaching, dining, shopping, and just relaxing. I often forget how much I miss Hawaii until I’m there.

Xi, the Greek letter for which there is no direct equivalent in our Latin alphabet. Not to be confused with the letter chi, which corresponds to our X.

Yukon Outfitters. I own several of their Tactical series carry bags. They make excellent stuff to put your stuff in.

Zillow. When you need to find a new house quickly — as we just experienced such a need — it’s the place to look. I found our new place in a single search session.

As always, friend reader, I am also thankful for you. May you and those you love enjoy a thoughtful and festive Thanksgiving. And stay home tomorrow, for pity’s sake.

A song of LL65

Posted June 23, 2015 by swanshadow
Categories: LearnedLeague, SwanStuff, Trivial Pursuits

The 65th season of LearnedLeague — the Internet’s most auspicious ongoing quiz competition — has concluded. More to the point, LL65 marked my 10th season in the league. So, it’s a good milestone to look backward from, and consider how I did.

In LL65, I placed eighth (of 26) in Rundle A Frontier, my home for the past five seasons. This is my highest finish since I placed seventh in A Central back in LL60, and ties for my third-best standing historically. (I finished first in my rookie Rundle during LL56, and was also eighth in A West in LL57.)

In statistical terms, this felt like a return to form after my disappointing LL64. Although my match play record sagged a bit (10-8-7, after a 13-12-0 LL64), my correct answer percentage rose from a worst-ever .767 to .820, which is on par with my 10-season average of .814. Best of all, I posted my best-ever defensive efficiency score with a .721. I used to play dreadful defense — I had three consecutive seasons of sub-.600 defensive efficiency between LL61 and LL63 — but I decided two seasons ago that I was going to spend more time each match day on my defensive strategy, and the extra thought seems to be paying off.

I thought the questions this season seemed a little bit easier than the last several seasons. This reflected not only in my overall batting average, but in the fact that I scored eight perfect match days this season after only two in LL64. My opponents apparently found the material easier also, as the total number of correct answers posted against me was the highest since LL61.

It’s worth noting, however, that on Match Day 24, the penultimate day of the season, I had my all-time worst single-day regular-season performance with only two questions correct. Let’s take a look at that set of six, and examine why I found them so inscrutable.

Q1. The aggressive, condescending, and arrogant Yankees are the victors at the end of what rowdy and vulgar 1976 film comedy? Okay, that’s not so hard. Add up “rowdy and vulgar,” “1976 film comedy,” and baseball (suggested by the team name Yankees), and there’s only one possible answer: The Bad News Bears, starring Walter Matthau, the insufferable Tatum O’Neal, and future character standout Jackie Earle Haley.

Q2: The jihadist group in northeastern Nigeria known officially as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) is better known internationally by what name, which translates loosely into English as “Western education is forbidden”? This one’s a process of quick elimination born of ignorance. I can only name one jihadist group from Nigeria, and even though I have no idea what Boko Haram means, or what the group’s full official handle might be, I’m going with that.

So far, so good. But here’s where things went downhill.

Q3: El Grito de Dolores, the anniversary of which is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day, was a famous speech calling on the Mexican people to rebel against peninsulares and the Spanish colonial government. Name the Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary who gave this speech on September 16, 1810. Although I know when Mexican Independence Day is (and no, my fellow yanquis, it’s not Cinco de Mayo), I’m not familiar with this speech nor with the priest who uttered it. I put down Junipero Serra, who’s pretty much the only famous Mexican priest I can name, even though I know he had nothing to do with Mexican independence, and I’m reasonably certain that he was dead well before 1810. (A post-quiz check of Wikipedia confirms that Serra died in 1784.) The correct answer is Don Miguel Hidalgo, whose surname is familiar to me only as (a) the fictional Latin American country whose gold mines finance Doc Savage’s exploits, and (b) Viggo Mortensen’s horse in the film of the same name.

Q4: According to the lyrics of Billboard magazine’s No. 1 country song for 2013, “In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit, would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it, so baby you a song, you make me wanna roll my windows down and…” what? By this late stage, my antipathy for all things country is firmly established. It will therefore come as no surprise to you, friend reader, that I’ve never heard this song. The correct conclusion to the lyric in question is “cruise,” which I could never have guessed given a thousand tries, as it doesn’t rhyme with anything in the stanza provided. My answer was “kill myself, because I’m in a country song.” That had not a prayer of being right, but at least accurately represents my feelings.

Q5: The MacArthur, Julia Tuttle, John F. Kennedy, Broad, and Rickenbacker Causeways all span what bay? This was a complete stumper, as none of the names appeared to have any connection to the others, nor any common connection to any body of water that came readily to mind. MacArthur took me immediately to Manila Bay — naturally, since I lived in the Philippines for two years in the mid-1970s, and am familiar with the general’s historic significance in that part of the world. I didn’t remember a MacArthur Causeway in Manila Bay, nor did any of the other names make particular sense in that context (one might think that if Manila Bay was crisscrossed by multiple causeways, at least some of the names would be in Tagalog, or those of Filipino dignitaries), but with no other guess coming to mind, I made Manila Bay my answer. Alas, the correct answer is Biscayne Bay, as any Floridians in the room probably know. Coincidentally, the Pirate Queen had been in Miami just the previous week. Had I only looked at a map of the city while she was there, I might have gotten this one.

Q6: Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Donald Young, Steve Johnson, and Tim Smyczek are among the highest-ranked Americans internationally in what sport? Sports buff though I am, not one of these names rang a bell. I therefore reasoned that the sport in question had to be an obscure one, as well as some individual competition in which Americans might not be the most famous participants. Confident that I would have heard of these gentlemen if they were golfers or figure skaters, I entertained such options as badminton and archery before deciding to go with chess. The correct answer is tennis, which just goes to show you the miserable state of disrepair into which American men’s tennis has fallen over the past few decades.

Good thing that Match Day wasn’t indicative of my entire season. Hopefully, I will get my kicks in LL66 in August.


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