Thursday, December 31, 2009
But through it all, I've had my family. My wife and my daughter are always there for me. They are the ones I rely on, the ones for whom I live and work. Watching my daughter grow daily is a thrill for me beyond anything else I can imagine. Seeing her change before my very eyes is more than I could ever have hoped for in becoming a father. My wife is fulfilling her life's dream of being a mother and it is a role for which she is perfectly suited. Every day that I am with them is a day of joy and a reason to celebrate.
Happy New Year!
Monday, December 28, 2009
The PlayStation 3 is a complete entertainment machine. Those who think of it as simply a videogame console are seriously underestimating its value. The PlayStation 3 is a Blu-Ray player and an upconverting DVD player. That means that it not only plays high definition Blu-Ray discs, but also takes normal DVD's and converts them into a format more easily viewable on high definition televisions, making them look even better than they do on normal TV's. I didn't buy a hard copy of "Watchmen" until we had the PS3, and I was right to wait. The Blu-Ray is as close to watching it at the IMAX theater as one can get and still get up to go to the bathroom whenever one needs to. We've rented a number of Blu-Ray movies from Netflix and wow, does it ever make a difference. When we are able to get a bigger HDTV, I doubt we'll ever go to the movies again. You can't beat the seats of our living room sofa, and when you add the open-flame oil popcorn popper that my wife bought me for Christmas, we won't be missing a thing by staying home. Plus, no one talks during the movie! Heck, we'll be saving a load of money even if we buy the Blu-Ray of every movie that we would normally go out to see.
The PS3 also connects wirelessly to your home computer network and herein lay one of its greatest values to us: As Netflix subscribers we can use our existing Netflix account at no additional charge to instantly view several thousand Netflix programs, some in high definition. They have movies, and best yet, episodes of many of our favorite television shows in HD, like "Lost" and "Star Trek." We can watch any episode of those shows in seconds on our television in HD just by clicking a few times. We've been using that to watch the fifth season of "Lost" on Tuesday nights and we have it timed so that if we now watch two episodes every Tuesday night, we'll be ready for the new season on February 2.
We also use the PS3 as a videogame system, though not to play the typical fare that most people would expect. As a family Christmas gift, we bought Rock Band 2 and for the past two days, we have been playing the heck out of it. Sera sings into the microphone (though we don't plug it in) while Magi plays bass, my niece Theresa plays drums, and I play guitar. We're not great, but it sure is fun!
I don't know what the future holds for home entertainment, but I bet it looks a lot like Sony's PlayStation 3.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
After the quiz I spent two more days talking about it and most did exactly the same today if not worse. I reached a few who doubled their scores, but for the most part, my extra effort went for nothing. When I reprinted the quiz, I changed the numbers and that was all the modifications I made. A kid turned his in and said, "When can I re-take that first quiz?"
And the next time I point to a horizontal or vertical line and ask what kind of line it is, and I get the answer, "Straight," I'm going nuclear. No Child Left Behind can kiss mine. That isn't my fault. How in blazes can 13- and 14-year olds not know what vertical and horizontal mean, especially after a week of instruction???
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In the 1970s, Star Trek made a big comeback in syndication. Daily reruns allowed those of us in Mrs. Burkholder's third grade class to discover Star Trek's imaginitive adventure and to recreate it in pretend play. We used to take the cardboard backs of our notebooks and draw phasers and communicators on them. Then we would cut them out with scissors and use them as props on the playground at recess. We were even more excited when the cartoon began that fall, as if it had given us license to create our own Star Trek adventures. We loved the fights, the ray guns, and the action of Star Trek. We didn't get that the point of science fiction was to create allegory and parables from which to learn, but the show gave us plenty of excitement nonetheless.
My brother and I, on one of our trips to our grandparents' house, received matching Mego action figures of Kirk and Spock, and together we had many adventures on distant planets. I don't know how many times we re-enacted "Amok Time," but it counted in the hundreds. We also got one of the first trade paperbacks when we found the Enterprise Logs in a bookstore. The trade reprinted the old Gold Key Star Trek series. We read that thing dog-eared.For Christmas in 1976, Jeff and I got matching phaser pistols from our father. They were the coolest toys for the time. When you pressed the trigger, it made a chirping sound, which was more like a communicator than a phaser, but we didn't care. The phasers were also projectors that, using a cutout that you slid over the lens, projected a picture of a ship on the wall. I remember they took a nine-volt battery in the handles for the sound, and two double A's in the back for the light. My dad probably regretted getting us noise-making toys for Christmas, but the phaser remains one of my favorite toys of childhood. When I moved in with him a month later, Star Trek was still in reruns and I was lucky enough to find a book from the library, called The Making of Star Trek, by Stephen Whitfield. My dog ate the cover of the paperback so we had to buy the book, but I sure didn't regret it. I was able to check off all the episodes of Star Trek that I had yet to see. We only had a black and white TV, but it didn't matter. I knew what color everybody wore! In my spare time, I created my own starship based on some of the production drawings in the book. I crewed the ship with superheroes, so that made for some interesting daydreams, to be sure. It wasn't until later that I started to get the deeper meaning behind the show, but that time would come. And that understanding only reinforced my love for this show.
More to come.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
As the next decade progressed, DC, Marvel, and even Disney kept putting out audio dramas. Stories like "Superman Lives!" as well as the "Complete Knightfall Saga," along with the Rocketeer were all adapted to audio dramas. Later on, we would even see one for "Kingdom Come." But the real fun came in 1994, when the theatrical version of "The Shadow" was released.
As I wrote about here and here, I loved the Shadow, on radio, in the movies, and in the pulps. But when the Alec Baldwin version came out, the radio shows made a huge comeback. A company called Radio Spirits started releasing audio cassettes and CDs of the old radio shows and I bought several sets of them. Then with the advent of the mp3 file format and the Internet, old-time radio was everywhere. Streaming sites popped up, and suddenly the world of old-time radio was no longer restricted to small gatherings with tape exchanges. Suddenly you could buy hundreds of episodes of long-forgotten shows on CD for pennies and listen to them on a computer.
When the deluge began, I started doing research on this. My limited exposure to War of the Worlds, the Lone Ranger, the Shadow, and Superman, suddenly expanded. I started listening to Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello, The Saint, The Whistler, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Dragnet, Gunsmoke, The Green Hornet, and more. I found books on the subject, and read the history. The more I learned, the more I loved it. I started making connections
One of Jack Benny's supporting cast was lecherous bandleader Phil Harris, a bawdy southerner who constantly kept Benny, whom he called "Jackson," on his toes. The first time I heard the voice, I just about jumped out of my chair. It was Baloo the Bear from Disney's "The Jungle Book!" Not only was the voice the same, but the character was very much the same, a jazzy, hedonistic fun-loving guy who could sing scat. Amazing! Then, when listening to another episode, the unmistakable tones of Mel Blanc appeared in a voice similar to Speedy Gonzales. Then it hit me. The mice in "The Mouse that Jack Built," a 1959 Warner Brothers cartoon, were the characters from this same Jack Benny radio program! When I saw the cartoon as a kid, I had no idea that Jack Benny was a radio star! On the Fred Allen show, I caught Foghorn Leghorn in the form of Senator Claghorn. Then the floodgates came open. Many cartoons, whether on television or feature films, featured radio performers of old, many doing the same characters or voices that they were famous for decades before.
It wasn't only voices and characters that were brought back for cartoons. When Mr. Whoopee's closet would open on Tennessee Tuxedo and everything would fall out, I thought it was hilarious. Imagine my surprise when I was listening to Fibber McGee and Molly from decades before and heard the same thing happen!
Just this past year I was rummaging through stuff in my basement and found cassette recordings of a role-playing game session from 1988. As I thought more about it this past week, I realized just what we were doing. The gamemaster describes the action and plays the part of the characters not portrayed by the players. The players describe their action verbally and act out their characters' roles, often using voices not their own. We're not dressing up and acting things out (like LARPers do), but we are doing radio drama. There are a few static images and figures on a map to keep track of where everyone is, but otherwise everything is done by voice and description. They called radio "The Theater of the Mind." I think it's still alive and well. It's just taken a new form.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The bright side of it is that I get to drink Mountain Dew mixed with orange juice and not feel guilty about calories. I've been catching up on TV watching and DVDs that I've been saving, including the DVD set for the 1973 Star Trek cartoon, which I dearly loved as a kid but seldom got to watch. Twenty-two episodes were made, and I bet I haven't seen half of them! It was a big hit with Mrs. Burkholder's third graders in the fall of that year, and when we went out for recess I always got to play Captain Kirk. Why? For the same reason Bruce Hartman always got to be Batman when we were the Super Friends. For a reason that only third graders could invent. Because my name is Jim.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
In his previous book, Brown paints an opening scene with a dead man in the center of a round room with clues. This book features an amputated hand in the center of a round room with clues. In his previous book, Brown describes in detail the symbolism in the art and architecture of Rome. In this one he describes in detail the symbolism in the art and architecture of Washington, D.C. In his previous book there was a secret society called Opus Dei operating to protect secrets. In this book there is a society with secrets (the freemasons) operating to protect secrets. In his previous book, Brown describes a singularly focused villain, steeped in ritual and obsessed with his target. In this book, there is a singularly focused villain, steeped in ritual and obsessed...Okay, do you get the point yet?
This book WAS The DaVinci Code. It is so similar in structure and plot, that Brown refers specifically to the familiar beats of his previous work whenever (and it happens often) his hero, Robert Langdon encounters identical situations. I could almost hear Dan Brown, as Chris Farley saying, "Remember that part in the DaVinci Code where Langdon does X? That was awesome. I think I'll do it again."
I admit that there's only so many ways you can go with a hero with such a limited scope of expertise, and that just means perhaps it's time to write about something else. If you liked The DaVinci Code, you should like this book. But only if you enjoy reading books twice.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I liked the show well enough. It's just that I'd seen it before. The premise is simple: There are stargates that go to various places and planets and people on Earth have figured out how they work...mostly. The stargate in this show is on a planet that has unique properties seemingly designed to operate the mysterious "ninth chevron." I'm guessing that the other eight have been solved in previous incarnations of the show. Young Eli Wallace, a normal civilian video gamer, solves a puzzle in a game. Of course, it turns out to be the key to an alien code that the smartest guys on Earth couldn't figure out, so they embedded it in a video game to find someone smarter than they are. Eli is recruited to join the Stargate folks on the alien planet in exchange for health care for his mother. If that doesn't say something about our health care system, I don't know what does. This is just a little bit like "The Last Starfighter." Eli is played by a previously undiscovered clone of Jonah Hill, because he is most definitely a Jonah Hill character. He is the awkward smart guy with no confidence, formerly known as the comic relief.
Eli finds himself on the alien planet, consulting with Dr. Smith--I mean, Dr. Rush. Dr. Rush is the scientific genius who twists the stargate experiment to his own ends and no one knows whose side he is on. I fully expect he will call someone a "bubble-headed boobie" before all is said and done. Dr. Rush is also a retread of Baltar, from the newer version of Battlestar Galactica, with his hairstyle, sideburns, and British accent.
The stargate experiment is interrupted by an alien attack. It's probably not relevant who is attacking, but it is critical to the plot that the planet is attacked, and so it is. Dr. Rush is ordered to set the Stargate to return the people on the base to Earth, but he decides to push forward and sets the Stargate to go to wherever the ninth chevron is supposed to take them. So, the ragtag assembly of military personnel, scientists, politicians, and bureaucrats escape into the Stargate and end up on an ancient space ship. The ship is travelling at faster-than-light speeds, and in short order our heroes find that they are several galaxies away from Earth on a course away from it. And their doctor is dead. It's too bad they couldn't have borrowed an Emergency Medical Hologram as long as they were borrowing "Star Trek: Voyager"'s (formerly "Lost in Space's) plot anyway.
The story is told in clips alternating between the present and flashbacks to the past, not unlike "Lost." The only difference is that the flashbacks on this show serve no other purpose than to tell us where the characters came from. They do not, upon first viewing, reveal anything about the characters that would advance the plot.
I'm going to watch this show because a few of the characters intrigued me, even though we've met before. I'll be interested to see if they move further away from their archetypical doppelgangers or closer to them as the plot advances and the characters grow.
I am not naive enough to think that borrowing doesn't occur between television shows. I guess, though, that I am too familiar with the source material and too cynical because I recognize the source of so many plot structures and character types. I hope more episodes will change my mind about it because the real "Lost" doesn't start until January.
Friday, October 16, 2009
But the cutest thing ever happened this morning on our way to daycare, when in the midst of a classical rendition of "Old McDonald," out came this gem, from the musical stylings of Nathan Fillion:
"Stand back, everyone! Nothing here to see..."
Magi looked at me and asked, "Did you hear that?"
I admitted that I was lost in thought and my inner filter had been turned on. "No, what?"
"Sera, sing that again."
From the back comes the tiny, sweet voice: "Stand back, everyone! Nothing here to see..." I laughed. Magi laughed. Sera, not knowing what was funny, laughed with us.
My daughter loves her "Captain Hammer Song," as she calls it. We play the soundtrack to "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog" whenever we're on a trip that's longer than an hour and I admit, I enjoy belting out Captain Hammer's signature piece. I didn't realize she had been listening that carefully, but now I'll have to make sure I'm leaving out the juicier parts of the soundtrack. I really don't need my three-year old going to daycare finishing her cute little song with the exclamation, "Balls!"
Friday, October 09, 2009
I'm crushed over the end of the Detroit Tigers' season this year. The Tigers had a seven-game lead on September 6, and the Minnesota Twins caught them on the 161st game of the season. They remained tied through the last game and had to play a 163rd game on Tuesday, which the Twins won in extra innings, 6-5. The Tigers finished second to the Twins for the third time in four years on the final day of the regular season. It's something to behold, reading fan reaction to the end of the Tigers' season. Words like "collapse" and "choke" dominate the message boards and blogs. But when it comes to actually understanding how baseball works, you have to have a basic understanding of mathematics, which most sports fans apparently don't. Math is hard.
To win a division of Major League Baseball, a team has to win more games than the other teams in the division. It doesn't matter if the games are won and lost in April or October, because they all count the same. I keep reading about how Miguel Cabrera was drunk on the morning of a big game with the White Sox during that final weekend. I don't question that his state of mind was the reason he went 0-for-11 for the series with the White Sox, but I do question that it was a big game. They're all big games. Angry fans are writing that the Tigers went 11-16 after September 6, which was the date of their biggest lead over the Twins. They fail to mention, however, that they were coming off a six-game winning streak in which they swept both the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays. When you take a look at the normal split of September/October, the Tigers were 17-16, above .500. But some people never let facts get in the way of a good story. Math is hard.
To really look at the season objectively, all we have to do is take a good look at July. In July, the Tigers went 10-14, losing no fewer than six games by scoring only one solitary run in each. In five consecutive contests, the Tigers lost by a score of 2-1 in four games. Five relievers from the bullpen lost games in that month. Not only were our starters not getting any run support, but our bullpen couldn't hold leads and we couldn't score late in games when they did get run support. One could easily argue that the season was lost more in July than October, but it would be lost on the media and angry fans. Why? Math is hard.
If the Tigers had won any one game that they lost during the season, there wouldn't even have been a one-game playoff in the Metrodome. Any one misplay gets fielded cleanly leading to a loss, or any swing and miss on a hanging curveball that a batter should have knocked out of the park for a walkoff win and the whole season could have a different complexion. It didn't come down to the last game, last series, or last anything of the season. In a 162-game regular season, any one loss turned into a win would have given the Tigers the divison title. But there are some people who just can't see past the heartbreak of that final week. Why? Because math is hard.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
The third shoe dropped when we disconnected DirecTV, because they used a clause in the contract to instantly withdraw all the money owed (including a $200 early disconnect fee) directly from our checking account. That caused checks to bounce and more fun to occur. Then the fourth shoe dropped when dealing with the water bill.
Apparently being 30 days late on a $33.00 monthly bill is cause to shut off the water without notice. Then you are required to pay $45 to have them come turn it back on after work hours and pay a $100 deposit to have your service reinstated. When I went to pay the bill the next morning in cash and the eventual return of the deposit was in question, I was asked if I wanted to see a supervisor. When the supervisor arrived, I was told in polite words that I was a liar and that the water company doesn't operate like that. After a quick check of computer records confirmed that I had already undergone this exact process when we had our house built and that I was in fact right, she explained that when I overreacted to the phrase "Everyone has their story," that she was misinterpreted. I asked for the other interpretation of "Everyone has their story," and it was not forthcoming. When I talked to her supervisor, an apology was made. I calmly explained that if they were not the only game in town I would gladly dig a well by hand before I used a drop of their water.
The fifth shoe dropped this weekend when I got a low-grade fever on Friday afternoon that persisted throughout the weekend. Despite the fact that I had already bought my ticket, I was not able to go to the last Tigers game of the regular season because Swine Flu is going around my school and I could be contagious.
The sixth shoe dropped today. Since we disconnected our landline because we no longer need it, American Electric Power did not inform us that they were going to cut down all the trees behind our house. Apparently they are entitled to a 15-foot easement on either side of the center of the power pole that is 15 feet inside our property line. So, they are able to come 30 feet onto our property without our knowledge or consent and today cut down all the trees that blocked our view of the train that has been parked on the "dead" tracks behind our house. We are left with this splendid view out of our back windows:
Where there was once lush foliage blocking our view of the train, now we have a white metal canvass featuring a spray-painted mural of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television. I'm sure Sera can identify all of the letters right now, and will be able to read the words before the train is moved.
I really need something to go right. And for insects to stop wearing shoes. Six is too many.
My favorite part, though, is where the guy from the think tank says he's not so sure about that. I wonder if he's ever had to try to think in a metaphorical tank with 30 kids ranging in age from 13-14 years old. I'd be willing to bet that it's easier with 15 from the same group!
Monday, September 07, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
10. Wolverine now has feathers for claws.
9. Howard the Duck and Donald Duck revealed as longlost cousins.
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp now hosts of “It’s a Small World” ride.
7. Every blogger in the universe coins phrase, “Mouse of Ideas” simultaneously.
6. The Starjammers are the new Pirates of the Caribbean.
5. Super-Goof now known as Spider-Goof.
4. Mickey’s Clubhouse now has a Danger Room.
3. Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire is the newest Disney princess.
2. “Beauty and the Beast” has to be recolored to make the Beast blue.
1. “Steamboat Willie Lumpkin.” ‘Nuff said.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I have different sets of friends, as Facebook recently reminded me. I have Tigers fan friends, I have high school friends, I have gamer friends, and I have coworker friends. There's very little crossover. The only thing these people have in common is knowing me, but none of them really sees the whole picture unless they read my blog! It's not often that I would discuss comics with one of my colleagues, and I sure don't mention roleplaying games to my Tigers fan friends. I'd be kicked out of the club! But this blog is the one place I can go and feel free to write about whatever I want--well, subject to review by my employer, so there are certain topics I avoid. I don't have an editor to tell me what to do. I don't have a publisher who can reject my ideas. I don't have advertisers that I have to worry about offending. I don't care how many readers I have or where they come from. I answer to no one here but myself, and I have to tell you that it's a great feeling of freedom.
While sitting here stewing over what to write about for the next 500 posts, I realized just how much there remains to write. I just realized that I have never written much about old-time radio shows (OTR), which I dearly love. There are a thousand movies to review. I started thinking about Fast Times at Ridgemont High the other day and watched it again. The opening credits scene is like one big flashback of high school for me. I've never written about Gargoyles, a cartoon from the 90s that I think stands out as an animated show that has adult appeal. I mean, there's a convention attended by thousands in its honor every year. I could write 50 blog posts about my junior year in high school, from 1981-1982. It was a year that defined who I would grow up to be. I wrote recently about music, and it made me realize how much it meant to me. Wait until you see my freshman band picture with me and my tuba. I haven't written about the Tigers this year at all on my blog. They're really having a good season, but you couldn't tell it by reading their website's message board or the comments in the Free Press site. And I have thousands of family photos to go through now, and the memories they bring, some good and some bad.
The next time I start writing about the weather, I guess I'll have to revisit this post!
Friday, August 21, 2009
My classes seem pretty good, although large. We lost a half-time math teacher to a transfer, and they just decided to split his classes between the remaining two 8th grade math teachers. We have constantly heard throughout my 12 years at this school that we do everything according to best practices. It's the reason we lost our block scheduling and team teaching, which coincided with us getting our prep time cut in half along with a reduction in staff. It's the reason we went to trimesters instead of semesters, which coincided with another reduction in staff. And now we face increased class sizes, which everyone knows is the best practice when teaching children. Now I don't have a problem with any of these cost-cutting moves. Our economy is in bad shape, the worst in the state. What offends me is how we are told such obvious falsehoods. These are not best practices for teaching middle school children, but unfortunately they are necessary at this point. Please just don't candy coat why we have to do this. We're adults, and unlike Tom Cruise's character in "A Few Good Men," we can handle the truth.
Well, I guess that catches everything up for a whole week! It's been busy, and I've been too exhausted to write. It was so good to see my colleagues back at work. We had fun Monday catching up and exchanging reading and movie lists. I borrowed the first season of True Blood on DVD from Traci the Twilight Lover, and I look forward to watching it.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Yeah, this was the way I grew up on Green Lantern...or not. DC is shrinking their already dwindling market AGAIN with a level of violence that will not fly with good parents or teachers who like their jobs. I can't show this crap in my classroom as a way of introducing even 14-year olds to one of my favorite characters. And there's no way I'll show this to my daughter. They blew it again as far as I'm concerned.
I'm going to go at this school year head-on. I've not been satisfied with my results lately, and it's time to try something different. I'm going to throw my textbook out the window. It's a useful tool to provide problems for the students to practice, but the textbook we have been using is written far higer than our students' literacy level. Its content also assumes knowledge that is most definitely not in evidence. So I am going to shake things up. As I understand it, we are to begin a cookie-cutter checklist this year that supposedly keeps all teachers of the same grade level on the same page at the same time. I'm not going to participate unless I am told to directly by my supervisors. I won't be insubordinate, but if I have my way my students won't start messing with variables and equations until I am absolutely confident that they can manipulate whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percents with grade-level competence or better.
I'm tired of hearing the old argument that they'll get practice with computation as we move along. They surely don't. You can't practice what you don't know how to do. I am going to administer direct supervised learning of those basic skills for the first three or four weeks of school. How can I justify that? For the past five years we have been directed to spend the first month of school reviewing for our high-stakes standardized test. Well, this year the test is only given in the spring so I figure I have that month to take care of it. Computation is Indiana math standard 8.2 and I am going to beat the holy crap out of it until my kids' first move when confronted with a problem is no longer to reach for a calculator. It's not going to be all drill, athough I'm tired of hearing that drill doesn't work. It does. We've got some new technology in the classroom, including a buzzer system that lets kids ring in like they're playing Jeopardy. I'm going to use competition, games, and teacher-created activities to bring these kids up to speed.
They're going to calculate 15% and 20% tips mentally. They're going to make change from a cash drawer. They're going to figure out discounts and sales tax. They're going to develop a list of prime numbers up to 250 and be able to break down any composite number into its prime factors. When they're done with that, they're going to be able to tell whether a fraction is fully simplified by whether the top and bottom of the fraction are mutually prime. They're going to figure out, given a speed and remaining distance in a trip, how much longer they have to travel at that speed. And they're going to do it mentally! They're going to use the Pythagorean theorem to find hypotenuses to the nearest whole number in their heads. My kids will be able to read a frakking ruler, unlike my kids in years past.
I'm tired of trying to teach kids who can't reliably multiply 8 X 7 in their heads how to solve multi-step equations because someone who hasn't evaluated my students tells me it's the day that it has to be done. These kids are not stupid, but we are if we keep doing things the way we have been.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
If you're headed to the Chicago Comic-Con this weekend, look out for the $5 trade paperbacks. Lots and lots of dealers had softcovers and hardcovers alike for just five bucks! The ones who didn't have them out for that price marked them to half price or buy one-get one free. There was a little air of desperation as the convention started out very slow. By noon, however, the hall was teeming with activity and dealers seemed to calm down.
My five dollar choices:
Showcase Presents Metal Men
Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes #3
Thor Visionaries-Walt Simonson
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (Wieringo art, had to do it)
Nightwing: Renegade (Hester/Parks art, once again had to do it)
Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #1 hardcover
Dynamo 5 Post Nuclear Family
Amazing Spider-Girl #1
PVP Books 1-4 (love Scott Kurtz)
Ultimate Spider-Man Collecion en Espanol (my Hispanic kids are going to love me for that one)
X-Men First Class--Tomorrow's Brightest
Number of the Beast (Sprouse art, had to do it)
If you're a fan of J. Scott Campbell, I got two sketchbooks from him and walked right up to him to have him sign them. No line!
My niece, Theresa, had her sketchbook and some colored pieces of art with her, and received very positive reviews from artists in Artist Alley, and even one job offer! Special thanks to Paul Sizer, for taking a lot of time to describe the ins and outs of the self-publishing business.
Sera loved watching people in their costumes, especially the Star Wars stormtroopers. She wanted to say hi to them and give them high fives, which is high praise for her. I guess we can't let her watch Star Wars now because all of her new friends die, whether by blaster or one big explosion.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Harry, Ron, and Hermione face the dangers of torture murder in their lives DAILY and have wielded deadly weapons as a matter of course since they were 11 years old. And the NY Times is worried that they're setting a bad example for children by drinking butterbeer?
Monday, July 27, 2009
When summer school began, it was explained--twice--by two different people, including the summer school principal--that the law states that you cannot miss more than eight hours of summer school. If you miss eight hours and one minute, you cannot pass. Period. End of story. Whatever you do miss has to be made up with a teacher licensed to teach the subject you are taking, but you cannot miss more than eight hours. Very simple, right? Wrong. Here's how the conversation went today when a student missed her second day:
Me: "Student X missed again today. That's too bad, because now she's missed nine hours and she can't pass."
Them: "But she made up that first day."
Me: "You have to make up any missed time, but you can't miss more than eight hours."
Them: "But she made up that first day."
Me: "It doesn't matter. The law says you can't pass after you've missed eight hours, no matter how much time you make up. She has missed nine."
Them: "But she made up that first day."
Me: "You're not listening. This is the law, not a personal decision. You can't get a credit if you miss more than eight hours."
Them: "But she made up that first day."
Me: "It's not like a counter that resets when you make up time. It accumulates, and when it exceeds eight hours, you fail."
Them: "But she made up that first day."
If anyone out there thinks teaching is easy, this is the mentality we have to deal with day in and day out. I've had enough. Time tomorrow to give a final and be done for 19 days of vacation. After this summer, I could use it.
Friday, July 24, 2009
When Stevie Nicks' first solo album, "Bella Donna," came out in 1981 I was a junior in high school, having the greatest year of my young life, and some of my friends had it on 8-track and played it in their cars. I recognized her voice immediately, but it was hard to reconcile her light, dolce vocals on "Dreams" with the hard-driving "Edge of Seventeen," which remains one of my two favorite songs (I hover back and forth between that and the Eagles' "Hotel California.")
When "The Wild Heart," her second solo effort was released in 1983, I listened to it for the first time on Christmas break from my freshman year in college. I had just gotten a strong message in the form of my grades that I actually had to work in college and couldn't coast through schoolwork like I had in high school, when my focus was more on sports. I sat in the dark, listening, waiting for a friend to come pick me up so we could go out to a bar in search of college girls who would be on break like us. I had become enough of a fan of Stevie Nicks that I had sought out hers and Lindsey Buckingham's "Buckingham Nicks" on vinyl at a local discount record store. I still have it, and it has still never officially been released on CD. One of these days I will have to get one of those USB turntables and transfer it to my computer so I can have it on my iPod.
By the time "Rock a Little", Stevie's third album came out in the winter of 1985, my then-fiancee bought it for me for my 21st birthday. I was a college junior, well on my way through my math program, and looking forward to graduating in just a year and a half. I didn't really care for the synthesized drums that pervaded the album, but I still loved her songwriting.
1987 brought "Tango in the Night" from Fleetwood Mac, which was the first CD I ever bought. My mother and stepfather had bought me a Sylvania CD player for a college graduation present for the princely sum of $300. It had a remote control and everything! I still have that wonderful old machine, and I think I will hook it up today to our surround sound receiver because our last DVD player pooped out and I don't think I'll replace it until we buy a PlayStation3 for Christmas. I remember reading about the album in Rolling Stone magazine while tanning on Bronco Beach (the south bank of Goldsworth Valley Pond) at Western Michigan University, and anxiously awaiting its release. Do you remember caring about music that much? It seems strange now.
The title of this post is a long time in being addressed, I know, but the stuff I just wrote goes to put it in perspective. I was listening to my iPod the other day while riding my bike in the neighborhood after watching some TV specials on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and I decided to listen to "The Other Side of the Mirror." I probably hadn't listened to that album since the early 1990s. Like the previous Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac albums I mentioned, I remember well the first time I heard it. It's funny how memory works. Anyway, the first time I listened to "Mirror" was July, 1989. I had been substitute teaching for two years, while working at Pizza Hut and a local ice cream place called The High Wheeler, working 60-70 hours per week and making less than $11,000 a year. My fiancee and I had waited to get married until one of us had a job in our field, but didn't want to wait any longer. We set a date and were about to have the wedding when I got my first full-time teaching job! My first contract was for $19,900 a year and I thought I was going to be rich! My two roommates and good friends had just moved out of the apartment we had shared for two years and my fiancee had moved in new furniture that she had saved for while living with her parents. I had cleaned the place up and I was relaxing on July 20th while watching anniversary specials about the first moon landing. I was feeling on top of the world, finally starting my career in earnest, preparing for a new life in a new town in a new state with a new wife.
So as I was riding my bike, listening to this album and reflecting on the first time I heard it, I thought to myself what a weird coincidence it was (or was it?) that I was listening to the same album almost 20 years to the day of the first time I listened to it, and that it had been on the 20th anniversary of the moon landing, which was one of my first memories. The day I listened to that album for the first time serves as a nearly perfect line of symmetry between the parts of my journey into adulthood that I actually remember and the rest of my life as I've lived it since then. I guess the last 20 years have truly been the other side of the mirror.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"But where do new WEDNESDAY COMICS fans go next? Will anyoneIn this, I absolutely agree. I would buy everything DC puts out if the stories and art of their regular titles matched those or even approached those of their Wednesday Comics. Today's comics are so mired in retro-continuity and crossover events, a "civilian" (as John Byrne describes non-fans) would walk into a comic book store and not be able to find a single DC title that remotely resembles what we fans are going crazy over in Wednesday Comics. DC is successfully turning their franchise into a niche industry appealing only to that dwindling number of fans who still buy their monthly comics. As I noted here, their products are only currently made to appeal to the smallest minority of fans, when brilliant work like Wednesday Comics could lead to new readers and new customers, there's unfortunately nothing there for them to buy when they dare to walk in the local comics shop for the first time. They'll take a look at DC Zombies--sorry, Blackest Night, and walk right back out of the store.
intrigued by, say, the Flash or Green Lantern strips find anything remotely
similar, besides the costumes, in THE FLASH - REBIRTH or BLACKEST NIGHT?
Theoretically, WEDNESDAY COMICS should be making more than just WEDNESDAY COMICS fans. It should be making DC fans, or what's the point in exposing them to a host of DC characters? But DC's superhero comics don't publish any material like you find in WEDNESDAY COMICS! Innovative concept aside, and the deserved pride of producing it, what long term benefit does the project even bring the company?"
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Anyone want a previously viewed copy of the first version of "Serenity," by chance?
Update--I just read that this version of the director's cut comes with a $10 coupon for the ultimate edition to be released later, so if you're considering doing what I'm doing, I just wanted to make you aware that the inferior version won't be worthless.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
"I'm not a comic book villain, Potter. Do you seriously think I would explain my master stroke to you if there were even the slightest possibility you could affect the outcome? I triggered it 35 minutes ago."
Thursday, July 16, 2009
In the second episode of the "Adventures of Superman," "The Haunted Lighthouse," Jimmy Olsen vacations on Moose Island, an island off the coast of Maine, where he visits his Aunt Louisa. Jimmy explores the island and hears a woman's ghostly voice crying out that she is drowning. Jimmy encounters a stranger named Mac who tells him to go get his cousin Chris because they have something to load. When Jimmy gives Chris the message, Chris is enraged at Jimmy, accusing him of spying. His aunt calms things down and encourages him to forget about the encounter.
A couple of interesting things about this episode: Superman allows a man to simply fall to his death by sidestepping an attack that would not have harmed him. I'm not quite sure how this fits Superman's current code against killing, but I thought it was based on the idea that life is sacred. This must have been more of the 1930s Superman, who routinely did such things.