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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Blackest Night

This week is what is known in the comic book industry as a skip week. For the holiday or whatever reason, there is no comic book delivery this week. So those in the know who wait for every Wednesday to get their weekly fix. But this week is a little bit different – there is one comic in stores this week - Blackest Night #6.

For the uninitiated, Blackest Night is the newest crossover mini-series event from DC Comics. A Green Lantern story where the dead are coming back and take the living back with them. I’m oversimplifying yes, but it’s not really the story that is the story here.

The story is that this issue of this mini-series brought the fans and readers into the comics shops on a day when it might usually have been deserted. The title, by fan favorite writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis, has taken heat for being overly horrific, a downward spiral into death and just a depressing experience.

Issue #6 is the turning point however, and Johns pulls it off flawlessly. For the hardcore comics readers there are moments of triumph, like when the Flash says while outrunning certain death, "but I'm faster," and also fanboy who'd-win moments like where Aquaman's beloved Mera wonders out loud if Wonder Woman could actually defeat her. This is the good stuff.

Things have looked grim, but now that changes. After all it’s a writing rule that the worst thing that can happen always does – and that real heroes win against impossible odds. Here’s the part where that win begins. Do you have your copy yet? And wait until you see those last two pages...


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nexus Animated

For decades there had been talk of an animated version of Nexus, the amazing science fiction superhero created by Mike Baron and Steve Rude. There was apparently some footage shot that was draped in rumor for years. Now (and for a couple years actually) these infamous few minutes are available in DVD form from Steve Rude Art.

It’s short, mind-bogglingly short, possibly the shortest DVD I own or have ever seen, and yet it is sooo worth it. Padded with additional footage about the creation of the Nexus comic, the animation is stylized with Alex Toth Space Ghost flair and even incorporates sound effects from the cartoon. Honestly, knowing the connection between the characters, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love this.

And you will too, long time fan of Nexus or not, this is hot. I’m ashamed it took me so long to get this. Maybe if enough copies sell, someone will take a hint and make the series. I think I’d rather see Nexus on TV than just about anything else out there. Order your copy here.


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Avenged Sevenfold Drummer Dead



Praised by some as one of the world's best drummers, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan of Avenged Sevenfold was found dead in his home yesterday. No cause of death has been revealed as yet.


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Monday, December 28, 2009

Avatar

Avatar ~ Movie fans have waited a long time for a new film from writer/director James Cameron, and I’m sure many haven’t been disappointed with his newest reputedly $280 million offering Avatar.

This is a good movie, a really good movie, but I think the hype may have killed it for me. I had friends rave when they initially saw the trailer. I read much about the money spent and the effects process involved. I was impressed, yes, but I’m unsure if the product really lives up to the hype. Based on box office (phenomenal, but surely not as phenomenal as the producers might have expected, or wanted), I have to wonder if I’m alone.

The plot has Cameron taking a pseudo-political stance, and its preachy bits are one of the places where he loses me. The human race in 2154 is strip-mining the planet Pandora where the indigenous population is psychically linked to every living thing on their world. A paraplegic takes on the role of one of the genetically created inhabitants to live among them and learn more about them – and eventually leads them against the human oppressors. I’m not giving much away, as predictability is one thing Avatar excels in. That’s not bad though, there’s a lot that makes up for it.

Other nitpicks would be that the deus ex machina at the end is a literal deus ex machina, which is a bit of a letdown. I like to see characters triumph against impossible odds on their own – after all, that’s what makes them heroes. And the prayer scenes almost made me break out in laughter as I was reminded of old kaiju eiga – the way they were chanting I kept waiting for Mothra to show up.

It’s not all bad though, by no means at all really. Visually, Avatar is stunning. The special effects of having actors shine through their CGI forms is mind-boggling. Truly alien constructs display and react as the real actors would and look like their puppet masters flawlessly while maintaining their fantasy forms. The backgrounds like the floating islands are staggering. I wouldn’t recommend not seeing this film in IMAX or 3D – it must be seen in full effect.

This is an outstanding film, a definite must-see for the eye candy alone, but the battle sequences go on much too long and my eyes really started rolling when the it got preachy. It’s no Terminator or Aliens or even Titanic. I’m glad I saw it, but in hindsight, I wish I’d seen Sherlock Holmes Christmas night instead, or maybe even The Squeakquel.


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Avengers Forever Holiday Chat Schedule 2009

From the Avengers Forever website:

The Avengers Forever Chatroom is open for the holidays! Some of us are lucky enough to have a bunch o' time off from work and or school for the holidays so we thought it might be a good time to dust off the chat room and have at it!

That said below is a tentative schedule that includes chat room dates, times and topics. Please feel free to stop on by for some great conversation over the holidays!

New Avengers Chat
Saturday, December 26 @ 8:00 PM (EST)

Mighty Avengers Chat
Sunday, December 27 @ 8:00 PM (EST)

Dark Avengers Chat
Monday, December 28 @ 8:00 PM (EST)

Avengers Volume Three Chat
Tuesday, December 29 @ 8:00 PM (EST)

West Coast Avengers Chat
Wednesday, December 30 @ 8:00 PM (EST)

Enter the Chatroom here!

Hope to see you soon! Happy Holidays! And Avengers Assemble!




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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Comic Fan! #5

Comic Fan! #5 is now available from Main Enterprises.

This Silver Age Tribute Issue is a 156-page monster, perfect bound, featuring articles and art on Nick Cardy, by Sam Gafford, Ramona Fradon by Dennis Kininger, Spider-Man by Nic Carcieri, Superboy by Rob Imes, Captain Marvel by Mike Tuz, Charlton Premiere by Steve Skeates, Ant-Man by Steve Keeter, The Mighty Heroes by Marc Haines, and Harvey Hits, by Rick and Al Limacher.

There are also Stumptown 09 and SPACE 09 con reports by Richard Krausss and Allen Freeman respectively, (with a supplemental SPACE photos section by Lance Boucher and Wade Busby), a massive SPINNER RACK review section of over 30 pages, guest editorial by Robert Sodaro on the passing of John Carbonaro, Sez Me! by Sam Gafford (on the real beginning and end of the silver age), Comic Memories by Larry Tisch, letters section, The Larry Blake Silver Age Portfolio, and reproductions of pages of original comic art by many who helped make the silver age so great.

All this plus covers by Jim Mooney/Dave Farley/Noor Hafizah... Dick Ayers/Marc Haines... Michael Grassia... Terry Pavlet... and interior art by Hal Jones, Dan Taylor, Carl Taylor, Lance Boucher, Al and Rick Limacher, Tony Lorenz, Rob Imes, Tim Temmel, Dave Farley, John Lambert, Larry DuCheney, Kevin Duncan... what a massive book!

Place your orders here!


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pop Culture Poser

Brad Benson, of Brad Benson Hyundai. This guy bugs me. His commercials appear far too frequently on News Jersey 101.5 FM. He does his own commercials, making pop culture references left and right, and trying to be funny, and one would hope (for his sake at least), selling cars.

The thing that bugs me, other than the frequency of the commercials, and his implied agreement with some of the station’s gay-unfriendly hosts (his ad about the pilots who missed their landing is horrendous and irresponsible, and don’t get me started on Dennis and Michele), is that he often gets his pop culture references wrong.

Now it’s one thing for KYW to pronounce Janeanne Garofolo’s name as "Jane-anne Garroh-folloh" or CNN to have commentators at the Michael Jackson memorial who don’t know who Berry Gordy is, but this falls into a whole ‘nother category.

On the surface, Brad Benson saying Susan Boyle was on the British "American Idol" instead of "Britain’s Got Talent," for instance, may seem petty, but look at it this way… Have you ever bought a car? Remember the scary and unreasonable amount of detailed paperwork involved in buying a car? Yeah, that’s a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff to make sure is absolutely right, T’s crossed and I’s dotted.

Do you want a guy who won’t even do a moment’s research on a commercial he’s paying for to handle details on a car you’re paying for? I don’t. I want someone very detail-oriented, someone who won’t make mistakes and just laugh it off. I guess I’m not buying a Hyundai from Brad Benson.


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Jennifer Jones Passes at 90

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Jones passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Nominated for her roles in Duel in the Sun, Since You Went Away and Love Letters among others, she finally won the Best Actress Oscar for The Song of Bernadette.

Throughout her career she also appeared in Beat the Devil, None But the Lovely Heart, To Each His Own and The Towering Inferno. She will be missed.


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Thursday, December 17, 2009

G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ~ I have vague if only peripheral knowledge of G.I. Joe. I know some of the names, what they look like, and the general concept of what it’s all about, but that’s about it. So I went into this flick just about blind with a clean slate.

I’m much more familiar with the 1970s version of the toy line, the one that grew out of the war toys. As I was not allowed to play with dolls I never had my own G.I. Joe with the scruffy beard and the dog tags, but friends and relatives had them, and Saturday mornings were spent watching the minute long exploits (also known as commercials) of the Joe adventure team. It all looked so fun.

The adventure team concept grew out of pop culture’s turn away from war with Viet Nam being such a sore point, so Joe became a superhero rather than a soldier. But the soldier stigma held on and Joe faded. When ?Hasbro? wanted to revive the toy line, and most importantly the product name recognition in the 1980s, they pursued a different tact and concept.

The new G.I. Joe was an anti-terror team of fighting experts, and its number one enemy in terror was the Cobra organization. Not just one generic doll but several individual action figures, notably plastic rather than doll-like, with multiple vehicles, playsets and accessories – that last part didn’t change. And as most toy lines of the 1980s, the new Joe used syndicated animation and later comic books to promote the toy product. Popularity soared, as did the new mythology.

Jump ahead more than two decades where other toy/cartoon creations of that time, like the Transformers, are making big money on the big screen, and you know what comes next, yeah, G.I. Joe the movie. And two things it does have in common with the CGI-heavy Transformers movies are that the action rarely stops to give the viewer time to breathe, and the action also takes place in the dark or too quickly for you to get a good look at what’s going on. I really have to wonder what the point of paying for special effects is when you don’t allow anyone to actually see them. Yeah, this flick is like that.

We’re introduced to characters very quickly, sometimes the assumption is that we should know them, but as I mentioned, I don’t. Heck, I know more about fangirls who dress like the Baroness at comic cons than I do about the Baroness herself. Am I to assume that the film’s inaccessibility means that the movie is not meant for me? Killing off your possible audience is not a good thing, folks, especially if you want to sell toys – and I think it’s a fair assumption you still want to sell toys. After all, what’s a summer blockbuster without toys and/or Happy Meals?


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roy E. Disney Passes Away

Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, and family figurehead of The Walt Disney Company, passed away earlier today from complications of stomach cancer after a year long battle with the illness. He was 79.

Roy was a major influence on the company's renaissance in animation during the 1980s that continues to this day. His commitment to the artform brought it to new heights not only for Disney, but for the film industry as well. he began in the family business in the 1950s and continued his passion and influence to this day. He will be much missed and remembered.


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Winter Songs

If someone were to tell you that Rob Halford of Judas Priest had done a Christmas album your first reaction might be to laugh or suspect it was a joke, right? Well, it’s true, and believe it or not, it’s quite good... dare I say it, the most entertaining holiday selection in more than a few years.

This mix of mostly classic Christmas tunes with some new songs thrown in has that Priest touch and all rock hard, but not in the expected sense. This is metal but accessible and quite pleasant as well as edgy for the holiday season.

“Oh Holy Night” and “We Three Kings” are among the best along with the “What Child Is This” power ballad. Of the new material “I Don’t Care” shines as possibly the holiday hit of the season. I really like this, and this year I’ll be listening to Rob Halford right along side Bing Crosby and John Denver and the Muppets.


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jon and Kate + HATE in Outer Space

It's the Dumpsta Players' annual X-mess show, starring the most dysfunctional family we know! Wouldn't you like to see them leave this planet -- in drag?

"Jon and Kate + HATE In Outer Space"

Wednesday, December 16
10PM doors, 11PM showtime -- sharp!
@ Bob and Barbara's
1509 South Street
Philadelphia, PA
Info: (215) 545-4511
$1.99 cover 21+

http://www.dumpstaplayers.org/
http://www.youtube.com/dumpstaplayers

PETEY VS PATTY PONZIO
KATE VS OCTOMOM
JON VS NUEVA GABOR
HAVE YOU CHECKED THE CHILDREN?

It's the end of the year and it's time to take out the trash! The first to go is Bucks County's two biggest douchebags: Jon and Kate Gosselin and their unfortunate brood.

They might be splitting up, but there's always more money to be made! As they relentlessly rehearse the children at Ponzio's for their last hurrah, "The Regis Philbin Christmas Special," Jon storms out and into the arms of Octomom, who's really an alien. How do you think she had all those kids?

She kidnaps him and takes him to Planet Glamatron, where her leader Nueva Gabor has other plans for Jon. Kate shows up to fight for her money, I mean man. But then they realize that they forgot to feed the children! What about the children? Didn't there used to be eight of them?

Find out in... Jon and Kate Plus HATE In Outer Space!


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Monday, December 14, 2009

Superman Vs. Ultra, On Stage

Saturday night I attended my second and their third installment of “Super Heroes Who Are Super” at Plays and Players. The project features dramatic readings of real comic books, sometimes acted out as well on stage, and was created by Dan Student.

Tonight’s event directed by Ray Roberts comes from 1940’s Action Comics #21. It’s actually a classic Golden Age Superman story which became pivotal decades later in Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron as it features an early appearance of the evil Ultra-Humanite and scientist Terry Curtis who himself would go on to become the reluctant villain Cyclotron. Now, that’s waaay more than you need to know to enjoy the show, but you know me, yes, I’m a comics geek. All you really need to know is – Superman vs. Ultra for the life of an atomic scientist, case closed.

Whereas the last show, “Duel of the Super Heroes,” was done chiefly as a reading with seating arrangements more of a bleachers, this show was more spread out with tables and chairs more cafĂ© style leaving lots of room for the actors to move about for more "superheroic action." Also unlike the last show, there was more acting out rather than reading in this one as one might expect from a Superman story and actor Brian Cowden stands out in the role with deadpan superhero glory.

Props also go to narrator William Combs for his smirks and raised eyebrows in all the appropriate places and to the beautiful evil of Amanda Kerns’ Ultra, who earns all the right hisses and wolf whistles. This was a fun production and I look forward to the next, on February 13th. Be there!


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Disney's A Christmas Carol

Disney’s A Christmas Carol ~ I’m a sucker for Christmas movies. Whether it’s the original Miracle on 34th Street or infamous Mexican Santa Claus from 1959 or It’s a Wonderful Life or Die Hard, I love ‘em. There are those that just put me in the holiday spirit and I have to see them every year, and A Christmas Carol is the granddaddy of them all.

I have seen literally dozens of movie versions of the story, and that’s not counting all the TV sitcoms that have done their own takes, but the absolute finest one is the 1951 version starring the incomparable Alistar Sim as Scrooge. Nobody does it better, and only a few even come close. So when I heard that Disney and Jim Carrey were remaking it in 3-D, I was tentative, and when I saw the previews – I was really turned off. I did not go into this flick with a good feeling.

Jim Carrey stars as Scrooge and as the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present among other things. Actors Cary Elwes and Colin Firth also take multiple roles. It’s an interesting version of the story, if unnecessarily dark and ugly, and far too scary for the kids. The only places it truly falters are where it deviates from the actual story. The only word I have for when it turns into a thrill ride in the third act is horrendous. Why? Is there an actual ride on its way to a theme park near you? That I hated.

There are also bits where Jim Carrey shows off his Jim Carrey-ness and completely takes me out of the movie. But then again, I imagine the beginnings of this project lie with Carrey doing imitations of Alistar Sim for writer/director Robert Zemekis anyway. And speaking of Sim, his crown is still safe. This one isn’t even in the top ten versions of the story.


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Surrogates

Surrogates ~ Imagine a world where you just sit plugged in at home and live vicariously through a robot that does everything for you, as well as everything you’ve ever wanted to do or even dared to think you could. That’s the premise of this comic-based film starring Bruce Willis. And all the robots are good looking and perfect. Insert your own World of Warcraft or internet chatroom joke here. Yep, you never know who you’re really interacting with.

As our story begins with a homicide in a homicide-less world, Surrogates seems an awful lot like I Robot in that it’s really just a police thriller with scifi trappings. Things change quickly however when Willis is forced to solve the crime in his real body as opposed to as his perfect robot surrogate.

There are some really nice and unexpected twists here, and I can see where the director Jonathan Mostow stole some cues from District 9 when it comes to chases scenes. This is a good actioner, and while the ending is telegraphed early on, it’s still done to good effect. Good for a rental, even though it failed quickly in theatres.

And does Bruce Willis have it in his contract that he gets beat up in e very movie he’s in?


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog ~ This was a lot of fun. Yes, it was a bit formulaic when compared to Disney animated features of the last two decades, but that really didn’t matter as I enjoyed myself with this flick – and really, how often can you come out of a theatre and say that?

The songs and soundtrack are a wonderful blend of jazz from the region and era – New Orleans in the 1920s. Yeah, amazing, non-annoying Randy Newman music! And while I thought the stereotypes of the Cajuns might be a bit insensitive there’s nothing left to worry about when it comes to African-Americans. After much rewriting Disney managed to tell this tale of a young black woman of the time without seeming too politically correct. It works, and it works well.

The cast is well chosen, although I have to wonder why Alicia Keyes or Tom Waits weren’t in the studio’s sights. And oh yeah, blink and you’ll miss Oprah Winfrey. The Bride thought it might have some scary moments for the kids, but I don’t think so. Really, there’s nothing here more frightening than anything in Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.

Again, this is a lot of fun, and a terrific return for Disney to traditional animation from computer generated stuff – recommended.


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RIP Gene Barry

Actor Gene Barry passed away Wednesday at the age of 90.

He had leading roles in "The Name of the Game," "Burke's Law," "The Adventurer" and of course also played the title role in "Bat Masterson."

He might also be remembered for his role as Dr. Clayton Forrester in 1953's classic War of the Worlds, and even had a cameo in the Tom Cruise remake a few years back.

Gene Barry was a talented and loved actor of his age and will be missed.


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Old Dogs

Old Dogs ~ One of the cool things about the Disney Cruise is that not only do they have a movie theatre on board, they also have first run movies. That’s how I came to be subjected to Old Dogs. There are two ways I can look at it. Hey, I didn’t have to pay to see it. Or I had to pay the price of the Cruise to see it. Either way, this was torture.

Friends for life (or possibly un-closeted life mates had the script been more clever or progressive) and business partners John Travolta and Robin Williams struggle to take care of the latter’s kids that he just found out about. That’s the thrust of this fiasco that recycles not only old sitcom set-ups but also seemingly all of the bad jokes from all the unmade Grumpy Old Men sequels. Of course, even now, Walter Matthau would’ve pulled it off better, nine years in his grave.

There are at least fragments of Robin Williams’ talent here, maybe for a fleeting moment or two. John Travolta on the other hand is a disaster. It seems that maybe his own recent personal tragedies have affected his acting. And speaking of family, he pretty much employed most of them for this flick. He’s not looking well either, either too much botox or maybe botched plastic surgeries.

Matt Dillon embarrasses himself again, but no more than he did in There’s Something About Mary, a scatological comedy that actually worked as opposed to this one. The late Bernie Mac makes his final film appearance here as some sort of Funkadelic Barney, and if that was all he was, it would have been great – sadly that only lasts for half a minute. He looks bad and this cameo is hardly worth it.

The height difference between Seth Green and the two leads is painful even with a whole raft of short jokes. You know it’s a bad movie when Seth Green out-acts two Oscar nominees. And when Ann Margaret shows up, that clinches it for me – this obviously is a Grumpy Old Men sequel. There are a lot of funny ideas here, it’s just that very few of them actually make it into the movie intact.

And yes, they do kill the dog. The oldest trick in the book, but not even that cliché can save this piece of crap. This movie was truly the lowlight of the Cruise.


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Those Poor Eagles Fans

Perhaps I should reword that title as I’m an Eagles fan too, but perhaps it’s also better to distance myself from the subject this time. Philadelphia Eagles football fans are masochists. On my recent Disney Cruise of the Western Caribbean many pitiful Eagles fans gathered in the Diversions sports bar onboard to watch the Sunday game against the Washington Redskins.

It was quite a event for a people watcher like me who only usually gets to observe one or two family members or friends watch the Eagles. This was a small group of strangers brought together by a common denominator – misery, um, I mean, loyalty to a local sports team.

There were several games being viewed at Diversions that day, a different one on each of many TV screens. The biggest screen, well over ten feet across, and the one with the sound up, was Indianapolis and Houston. This was an exciting game and the one most folks were there to see, and there was much applause, high-fiving and hooting and jumping up and down. The Colts were apparently playing real football. There was much joy and celebration.

As I said, that was a great game, but still the Eagles game had its viewers as well scattered around one silent TV screen. Philadelphia fans had a whole different pattern of behavior. They would punch the furniture, curse under their breath, grab their heads in frustration, and even pull out their own hair. Repeatedly this happened for over two hours.

When the Indianapolis game was over and the Eagles game was at a 24-24 tie with three minutes left, the bar moved it to the big screen. Even in the hope of the fans there was a subtle feeling of desperation. We had been here before. Eventually after a field goal and running out the clock, the Eagles did win. And that’s a good thing, hey, I could watch the Eagles lose at home.


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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fanboys

Fanboys ~ Four Star Wars fans travel cross-country and have adventures on a quest to see Episode 1 before anyone else – the dream of one of them who’s terminally ill. This is a road picture plain and simple, chockfull of wonderful cameos like Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner, Harry Knowles and a particularly hilarious one by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes. Chris Marquette, late of “Joan of Arcadia,” is also good here.

While it’s respectful and infinitely knowledgeable of the genre, unlike previous mockumentaries like Trekkies, it doesn’t seem to know that it’s own title is somewhat derogatory in itself. Behind the scenes horror stories aside, and there are many, this is a fun homage to Star Wars and the entire genre.


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Monday, December 07, 2009

Eric Woolfson Passes Away



Eric Woolfson, co-founder with Alan Parsons of the 1970s and 80s progressive rock group the Alan Parsons Project, died last week of cancer. Rest in peace, man.


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