Wednesday, July 29, 2009


There seems to be a movement in this country by some delusional paranoids (called birthers) to prove that President Obama was not born in America and is therefore not eligible to be President. I don't like to get political here very often, but this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Question policy, words, actions, and it's all fair game. But for crying out loud, there was a birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser, a local newspaper. I suppose that was faked? That was some forward thinking by the Obamas to put a birth announcement in a newspaper in another country so that their foreign-born son could someday be President.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


From the Much Ado About Nothing Department comes an article from the New York Times's health section, railing against the alcohol consumption in the new Harry Potter movie. It raises the question of whether or not butterbeer is alcholic, and I have to laugh. The kids in these movies (and books) consume potions that alter the structure of their very bodies when they drink Polyjuice Potion! Felix Felicis is the ultimate doping solution, and in the same movie they are expected to produce a Draught of Living Death!

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


I am toast. My patience is gone, and I am ready to be done with summer school.

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

The Other Side of the Mirror

If I haven't mentioned this before, I am a huge Stevie Nicks fan. My fandom dates back to an Elias Bros. Big Boy restaurant in January, 1977 when my dad and I were having dinner after seeing King Kong, which was a weird thrill all on its own, and worthy of a later blog post. No one else in his third wife's family wanted to see it, so he and I went by ourselves. Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" was on the jukebox next to the booth. Big Boy used to have little jukebox selection boxes in each booth in their restaurants. It was really fun when you were a kid. Anyway, I loved the song and when my aunt bought "Rumours" on cassette later that year, I listened to it over and over and over again. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting in my grandma's living room with headphones on, reading comics and listening to "Rumours." Stevie Nicks had written and sung lead on three songson the album (remember when we called them albums?): "Dreams" (my favorite), "I Don't Want to Know," and "Gold Dust Woman."

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

Interesting Point on Wednesday Comics

Steven Grant, in his Permanent Damage column, brings up a very interesting point:
"But where do new WEDNESDAY COMICS fans go next? Will anyone
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?"

In 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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Comics II

Okay, is it wrong that I'm excited today? It's Wednesday and that means new comics. I don't buy many anymore but what I do buy, I really enjoy.

I have really enjoyed DC's Wednesday Comics (wordless preview at right) so far, thanks to a recommendation by KC Ryan. It's in newspaper format and does cost a bit, but having full-page comics, advancing the story one page per week is kind of fun, and reminds me of the Sunday Prince Valiant strips of my youth. The first page of this 12-page story appeared full size in USA today two weeks ago, and the rest of it, as it is published, is available on I especially like the Metal Men story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, one of my all-time favorites. There is a Batman feature, as well as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Metamorpho, and Teen Titans. It's almost like the late 60s until you get into Kamandi, plus The Demon & Catwoman (?). Good stuff!

Then, the one I've been waiting for: Invincible #64. As much as I criticize DC for their apparent bloodlust in their comics, Invincible is ten times as violent as anything DC has ever published. The difference is, Robert Kirkman created and owns Invincible, and he can do whatever he wants with the character without tarnishing my childhood memories. At the end of #63, Mark (Invincible) Grayson has just suffered a major personal loss. He has been beaten. He has multiple compound fractures, and is barely conscious. Then he comes up with a great line: "I don't care how strong you are. I don't care how fast you are. I can see the don't live to see tomorrow." Chapter 4 of "Conquest" should be great! If you don't read this book, start with the first trade paperback, or better yet, the Ultimate Collections, and don't stop until you're caught up. This is seriously good stuff. I'm talking about Judas Contract quality. If you were reading comics in those days, you probably remember when that 1984 Teen Titans annual was going to come out and you couldn't wait to find out what happened. This is just like that for me. Check out the power of these pencils from artist Ryan Ottley's deviantart page:

Who knew that comics could be fun again?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Watchmen Dilemma

What to do, what to do? I want to have Watchmen available to see in my home immediately, but I don't want to shell out the money multiple times when each new, exclusive version of the movie is released on DVD, Blu-Ray, et. al. and be left with a disc that I no longer want. The "ultimate" edition of the film is supposed to be released around the holidays, intercut with the "Tales of the Black Freighter" animated video, and clocking in at around 3.5 hours, with documentaries and motion comics and presumably everything else involved with the movie. For the "director's cut" being released today, which is still longer than the theatrical release, I understand that the Blu-Ray has a special commentary feature with picture-in-picture commentary, which sounds really cool. The only problem is that I don't have a Blu-Ray player, nor do I plan on buying one before Christmas, when we are thinking of getting a Playstation 3. So, when I received the email from Fandango suggesting that I download the movie on iTunes, the solution presented itself. In the short term, I can download the movie to my video iPod and plug it into my TV to view. Magi hasn't even seen it yet, so it will be immediately viewable. Then I simply have to wait until we have the correct player for the "ultimate" Watchmen home-viewing experience, and hopefully have the equipment to support that experience. And the best part is that I won't have an annoying, inferior disc taking up space in my video cabinet.

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

The Moon Isn't the Only Place with Reduced Gravity

I wish comic book artists would look at real women once in a while. If you rotate the image 90 degrees clockwise, it's fine. But since it appears she's on her shoulders...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hot Serial

In the late 70s, I used to watch a show on WGTU channel 29 called "Hot Serial." Shown at 11:00 each night, "Hot Serial" featured a nightly chapter in an old movie serial, like Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, or Radar Men from the Moon, featuring Commando Cody. It was a great show to watch when you only had a 9" black and white television, since the serials were filmed in black and white anyway! The titles for the syndicated program always started with a bowl of steaming cereal suspended by wires, flying around the screen.

I received a set of Flash Gordon serials that I had purchased for my dad, and I'm watching them now, thinking back to when we lived in my grandparents' basement. Good times, hot serial.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Separated at Birth?

On the left, Draco Malfoy. On the right, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias.

"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."

He's the Best There is at What He Does...

...But what he does is not costume design. The latest results are in from Project Rooftop's Wolverine project, and I have to say that these results underwhelmed me. I mean, this is Wolverine. Why in the world does he need kneepads and elbow pads, not to mention an underlit chest plate? Half of the designs make him look like a half-baked samurai and the other half like a commando. One of them is simply a retread of Sabertooth's costume from the 90s. Oh, well. I still like the project.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"The Haunted Lighthouse"

Spoilers follow.

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.

Later that night, Jimmy sees the lamp in the lighthouse lit, despite the fact that it's supposedly been shut down for 20 years. Being the good reporter, he investigates. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, Chris is following him. As Jimmy tries to open the door of the lighthouse, Chris throws a knife into the door, over Jimmy's shoulder. Chris threatens Jimmy, who goes back to his room. In his room, he finds a note from his aunt, asking for his help. Jimmy's cousin finds him knocking at the door to his aunt's empty room and leads him outside. Aunt Louisa surprises them and sends them back to their rooms.

Jimmy calls Clark Kent, back at the Daily Planet, and tells him to come right away. The call is disconnected, and Clark takes to the skies through the window of the storage closet. Arriving at the door of Aunt Louisa's house in his guise as Clark Kent, he runs into Jimmy, who tells him the whole story. Jimmy leads Clark to a cave, where they find the tide coming in. Kent clearly suspects something as fog starts rolling in. As Jimmy goes back to the house, Clark changes to Superman and flies out to a Coast Guard boat where he enlists the commander to help.
Meanwhile, cousin Alice brings Jimmy a note from Aunt Louisa which makes Jimmy go to her aid. He makes his way into the cave, followed by Chris and Mac, who he spots too late. They knock Jimmy out and turn a hidden lever, trapping Jimmy behind bars in the cave. He comes to, but can't escape as the tide is rolling in. He then hears the voice again.

Back at the house, the horn of the Coast Guard cutter is heard. Mac and Chris leave with a gun, hoping to hold them off. Back on the cutter, Superman spots Chris and hears Jimmy. He rushes to his aid, bending the steel bars aside. As they exit the cave, Mac tries to kill them by pushing a large rock down, then tries to stab Superman with a knife. Mac finally tried to crush Superman's head with a large rock, but Superman sidesteps, and Mac misses, him, falling to his death off the cliff.

Superman explains to Jimmy what's really going on as Jimmy compares a note written by Aunt Louisa to an old recipe she had sent him and finds out that the Aunt Louisa he had met was an imposter! The real Aunt Louisa is freed from the lighthouse, and captures the imposter, now revealed as Mrs. Carmody, her former housekeeper. Chris is brought in by the Coast Guard, and the smuggling operation is revealed to the Coast Guard by Clark Kent, as he joins them in the house. Then the secret of the drowning crier is revealed has Aunt Louisa's parrot, who's been shut outside all the time. A good laugh is had by all. Well, all except Mac.

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.
This episode is also narrated by Superman/Clark Kent. I don't remember that being a common device in this series, but we'll have to see as we go through more episodes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summertime Goodness

In my pursuit of finding the good things about living here in northern Indiana, I noticed a good one to write about today. Volcano Pizza makes really good pizza in Elkhart. I would put a link here, but you wouldn't believe how many local businesses don't even have a web presence. Volcano is famous locally for their summertime tent sale, which they only have for a couple of days each year. All they sell are Italian sausage sandwiches. They consist of flat Italian sausage patties cooked to perfection with grilled onions and green peppers on fresh bakery rolls. They're about five bucks apiece, but as you can see, there's no shortage of people who show up to buy them every year in the parking lot behind their restaurant! They set up tables and chairs under the tent, and you can enjoy your food with your neighbors right then and there. Can you guess what I had for lunch?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Church Signs

Here's another instant classic!

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A Great Day

How do you define a great day? I had one this weekend, and it was one of the greatest days I’ve ever had. What made it great? A little background first:

Every year my teacher friends and I plan a trip to Comerica Park to see the Tigers play. This began in 2000 when my good friend Dana suggested that we go visit the Tigers’ new park. I had lost most of my interest in baseball following the 1994 strike and hadn’t been to a game since the 1993 ALCS. We saw the Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-1 on June 10, 2000, and saw a very rare feat: Mark McGwire stole second base! I loved Comerica Park. Compared to the new Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular Field), which was a bland, grey bandbox of a stadium, Comerica was an amusement park for baseball fans. We returned in 2001 to see the Tigers and Cubs (Cubs won 10-6), in 2002, 2003 (Bonderman’s second career victory during the worst season in Tigers history), 2004 against the Yankees (Tigers lost 5-3, but Pudge Rodriguez went 3-for-4 at the plate), and then in 2005 we started expanding our operation.

Magi and I had taken our friends’ kids to a game on Father’s Day 2005 to see newly-acquired Placido Polanco hit a walkoff home run against the San Francisco Giants, and while I was at the stadium I asked about group ticket sales. I was able to get 15 tickets to a Yankees game on July 2, and we made a weekend of it. I saw Bonderman beat Randy Johnson on Friday night, backed by home runs by Chris Shelton, Polanco, and Magglio Ordonez (in his first game back after hernia surgery). Bonderman went the distance, scattering eight hits and two runs over nine innings. The Tigers lost the next two games, but we all had fun sitting down by the Tigers’ dugout. I went back for Sunday’s game, too, seeing the whole series against the Yankees that season. The best game, though, was on September 11, when my teacher friends and I went by ourselves and sat right behind the first base dugout against the Royals. I was able to get this picture of John McDonald from on top of the first base dugout:
There were only 20,559 fans in the stands if you believe the official attendance. I think there were really only about 10,000 to be honest. The Tigers won 14-4 and made me very happy.

In 2006, it was literally a whole new ballgame. I went to nine regular-season games that year, seeing the Tigers play the Yankees (another group outing), Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Orioles, and the Royals, including the last game of the season, when the Tigers lost the division title. But when I did get to see all four home games in the ALDS and ALCS AND the first game of the World Series because of the schedule change brought about because of that last regular-season loss, all was forgiven.

Once Sera came into our lives, our excursions to baseball games dwindled somewhat, but now we still make it to at least one game every year. I went to a Tigers-White Sox makeup game with my friend Doug on April 25, 2007, and Sera’s first Tigers game was in August, just four short months after we brought her home. I honestly remember nothing about the game except that the Tigers lost, but I do remember taking her to the gift shop because she was restless and I remember not caring as much about the game as I did her enjoyment of the experience…as it should be.

We took Sera to another game the following year, on June 28, and that was my only Tigers game for the year. It was memorable because of Miguel Cabrera’s theatrical walkoff double in the bottom of the ninth, but what really sticks in my mind is Sera’s enjoyment of the postgame fireworks.

So what made Saturday such a great day?

First, we had our annual teacher outing to Detroit planned and two people backed out. That freed up two tickets, so Magi and Sera could go. After I got the first night of at least eight hours of sleep since my dad got really sick, I was rested and ready to go. We loaded up the car and headed to my friend Dana’s house. First, though, we stopped at Charlie’s Butcher Block in Elkhart for some food, since we hadn’t yet eaten breakfast. Their full sandwich menu was available, so I got us a couple of their subs, as well as some lobster bisque pasta for Magi and fruit salad for Sera. The lobster bisque pasta may have been an unusual choice at 9:00 AM, but it was delicious, as were the subs.

Dave was already there when we got to Dana’s house and I gave them a walkie-talkie so we could chat on the road if we wanted to. We got on the toll road and took off. About two hours later, we stopped at a rest area, used the rest room, got cinnamon rolls, and got back on the road. About a half hour later, we arrived at the Dundee, Michigan Cabela’s. This was my fifth Cabela’s store visit in ten days, and the Dundee store is tops. First, it’s huge, and the selection is far better than the other ones, especially for the clothes I need. I’ll remember that next time. Since all of my clothes shopping is done for the year, I pretty much just looked around happily, planning for next year when I’ve (hopefully) gone down another size.

Then we arrived at Dana’s friend Steve’s house in Ann Arbor. Steve is a great guy and always goes on our outings with us. Sera had, of course, fallen asleep in the car about two miles before we got to his house, so we planned a late lunch in Ann Arbor before we planned to make the last leg of our trip to Detroit. Ann Arbor has lots of great restaurants, but it really has a wonderful attraction in Zingerman’s. Zingerman’s is a world-famous deli with high-quality meats, cheeses, and breads. Magi knew about the place even when she lived in New Orleans. Well, Zingerman’s also has a restaurant along the highway called Zingerman’s Roadhouse and we’ve talked about going there for some time. We were not sorry we did. We were seated outdoors in their covered section, within sight of their HUGE barbeque grill and smoker. We could see that they were taking slabs of meat off the grill that were at least two feet long. Our mouths collectively started watering. Our waitress carefully described the menu and the chef in great detail, and even brought us some pulled pork to sample with each of the three sauces they use. We had a sumptuous, fantastic meal. I had the pulled pork sandwich with their zesty tomato BBQ sauce, with fried sweet potatoes. Wow! Steve surprised us by very generously picking up the check. Dana surprised us even more by paying for the baseball tickets. It’s nice to have good friends like this!

We arrived in Detroit right on time, finding our usual parking lot and making our way to the mosaic tile Tigers logo on the third base side of the stadium. We had our annual picture taken, and went right inside, hardly even waiting in line. We received complimentary Detroit Stars Negro League caps, as the Negro Leagues were being honored that night. We quickly found our seats in section 122, and settled in.

I got to the gift shop just before the game started, picking up a new Tigers T-shirt for Sera and a new insulated lunch bag for myself. My old one literally fell apart this summer. I really wanted to pick up a Brandon Inge All-Star jersey and some other shirts, but the largest size they had available was XXL. It just gave me more motivation to keep losing weight. I got out of the gift shop for less than $40 (a record) and got back to my seat before the National Anthem was even played.

It was a good game. Brandon Inge came up with a clutch RBI single and made a spectacular diving play at third base, and Miguel Cabrera hit a majestic opposite field home run in the 9th to pull the Tigers to within a run, but they ended up losing 5-4.
During the game Sera had seen a vendor with cotton candy and had asked for some, and we promised to get her some the next time he came around, but he never did. We even asked the other vendors to send him our way for a guaranteed sale, but after four innings of waiting she began to get impatient. I finally got up and found a kiosk that was selling it, and wouldn’t you know it, just as I arrived back at our seats before the top of the fifth inning, the vendor was just getting to our section! The fireworks show was not quite as impressive as last year’s, but Sera enjoyed it nonetheless.

After we dropped Dana and Dave back at Steve’s place in Ann Arbor, where they spent the night, Sera dropped off to sleep. Magi and I got to spend a very quiet three hours together, chatting the night away in the car, which is an amount of time we never get to spend together (awake) without Sera being the focus of our attention. I think this was my favorite part of the night. We had time to relax, listen to music on our iPod, and to reflect on our lives together and our wonderful, wonderful daughter. We got home at around 2:30 in the morning, exhausted, but very happy for having each other, our generous friends, and a great, great day.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just Cut My Frakking Heart Out

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Ride Like the Wind

10.77 miles in 42 minutes, 10 seconds this morning for an average of 15.3 miles per hour. All on five hours of sleep! I think I'll have breakfast and take a nap.

One Year Later

Here's our annual family picture together at Comerica Park, compared to last year's picture. One of us has grown in that time, and two of us have not. Can you tell who's who?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Go Tigers!

My daughter and I are excited to be at Comerica Park!
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Why Not DC?

The reason I don't read most DC comics can be summed up with this one page. Too bad it's missing what Superboy did to Pantha and Damage.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Blue Popsicles

When I was almost four years old, one of my earliest memories was of watching Saturday morning cartoons with my dad. He was working third shift at the G.W. Bliss factory in Hastings, Michigan, and he slept most of the hours that I was awake. The one time I got to see him during daylight hours was when he came home on Saturday morning and we watched cartoons together. 1968 was a particularly good year for cartoons, and we watched them side-by-side while eating Kool-Pops. I always had a preference for the blue ones, and strangely enough my daughter prefers them too, without any urging from me.

Everything these days reminds me of my dad.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wednesday Comics

Comic books, I wish I could quit you!

Why is it that comics come out on Wednesdays now? In my college days when I first discovered an actual comic book store (Fanfare Comics and Cards--now called
Fanfare Sports & Entertainment in Kalamazoo, Michigan) new comics came out on Fridays. My then-girlfriend and I would get on a bus at Western Michigan University's campus for $0.75 and make our way across town, where we would load up our weekly take, trek all the way back for another six bits and pore over what we had bought. It was a great end-of-the-week ritual.

Now that new comics come out on Wednesdays, I have to worry about whether or not I can even get to the comic book store before something is going to sell out. My weeknights during the regular school year are pretty tied up in spending time with my daughter and I often can't make it into town until the weekend. I don't buy that many monthly comics now, and the number has decreased steadily over the years partly because when I miss out on an issue because of its selling out, I just drop the series and either wait for the trade paperback (if I liked it) or just forget it altogether (if I didn't like it enough).
When I was in college and had a little disposable income and comics were only $0.65 each, I bought virtually every Marvel and DC title published, as well as some early independents, like First Comics' "Jon Sable, Freelance" and "Badger," along with Comico's "Elementals." Now, with the state of comics the way it is, here's what I'm buying:

Kurt Busiek's Astro City

This is my favorite comic book series of all time. It's a self-contained universe, characters who die stay dead, and the perspective changes from story to story. Sometimes stories are told by bystanders, sometimes from the viewpoint of the heroes, and other times from the vantage point of the villains. Everyone has a say in how they see the world. The "Confession" storyline, probably my favorite, tells the story from the perspective of a boy sidekick as a normal kid comes to the big city in hopes of seeing some superhero action. He becomes Altar Boy, sidekick to the dark crimefighter The Confessor, and not only learns about his mentor, but also of a vast conspiracy to invade the Earth and a plot to get the world's superheroes out of the way.

Batman and Robin

I'm not thrilled with the direction that the Batman comics have taken with Dick Grayson being the new Batman (again) but with the team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman) behind the wheel, I'm willing to go along for the ride for a while. So far, we're getting to see some good stuff, like a flying Batmobile (it's about time!) and there's an interesting dynamic to this dynamic duo as Robin is the dark, brooding character and Batman is trying to lighten him up. I'll follow this one at least through the first story arc to see where it goes.


I could write for pages on this book, and someday I will. It is hands-down, the best superhero book on the market right now. It's the story of Mark Grayson, the seemingly normal son of the world's foremost superhero, as he discovers his powers and embarks on his own career as a superhero. Read this one from the beginning, either through the trade paperbacks or the hardcover collections (which I prefer) because writer Robert Kirkman weaves twists and turns that will leave you stunned and you don't want to miss any of it. I bought this series from the first issue and sold the first 10 for around $150 on eBay. And it is that good!


If you like crime comics, this one's for you. I bought this initially because of the character's superficial similiarity to my RPG character, Domino, but what lay inside blew me away. It's the story of a villain in the witness protection program who can't stay away from the action of the super world. It's almost like a Richard Stark's Parker novel with superpowers.

Top Ten

Top Ten is the story of the 10th precinct, a police station in a world where superpowers have proliferated to the point of critical mass. Everyone has superpowers, origins, costumes, and the whole schtick. Think of it as Hill Street Blues in the superpowered world. Alan Moore wrote the initial "season" with Gene Ha art, and the new season is written by Zander Cannon with Gene's art on the first few issues.

Well, that's it. I am down to five monthly titles after all these years. They're good titles and only one of them is bogged down in universe-spanning continuity with danger of crossover contamination. Give them a try if you are really wanting something good to read and you can't quite quit comics.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"Superman on Earth"

"Come with us now on a far journey, a journey that takes us millions of miles from the Earth, where many years ago the planet Krypton burned like a green star in the endless heavens. Here, civilization was far advanced, and had brought forth a race of supermen, men and women like ourselves but advanced to the absolute peak of human perfection."--From the opening of "Superman on Earth."

"Superman on Earth" was the first episode in "The Adventures of Superman." In this introductory episode, we meet Jor-El, a scientist who warns the council of the planet Krypton of its impending doom. Packing his son Kal-El into an experimental model rocket to escape the planet's destruction, Jor-El and his wife Lara face Krypton's doom together.

Eben (pronounced "ee-behn")and Sarah Kent, out on a drive, witness the crash of the infant's rocket and rescue him from the burning wreckage. As Clark grows older, he finds himself different from other kids and questions his strength, speed, and other special abilities that no one else his age seems to have. Sarah tells the 12-year old Clark of how they found him, and he seems to understand. A visual montage later and grey-haired Ma and Pa Kent are getting ready to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their adoption of Clark, when Pa has a heart attack and dies. Ma sees Clark off at the Smallville bus depot. She explains that the costume she made for him are made from the blankets he was wrapped in the day they found him and Clark is off to Metropolis.

Clark Kent takes a job at the Daily Planet so that he can be alerted to emergencies that need his attention. He tries to meet curmudgeonly Perry White, the editor of the great metropolitan newspaper, but White is too busy to talk to him. Unphased, Kent makes his way out through a broom closet, along a ledge and through White's window. As he enters the office, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen get a lead on a story of a man hanging from a dirigible 1,000 feet in the air. Clark suggests that if he gets the exclusive story, White should give him a job. White agrees, thinking him crazy, and Kent makes his first storeroom costume change and takeoff. After Superman saves the man and Kent gets his exclusive (and job), Lois asks him how he got there so fast and got the exclusive story. Clark smiles and says, "Maybe I'm a superman."

When I was in junior high and lived with my dad, I used to come home every day from school and run next door to my grandma's house. There, at 4:00 I would open a can of pork & beans or Franco-American spaghetti, eat it cold, and watch this show. My dad would come over when he got home from work and I would tell him about the episode I'd watched and he would tell me about watching the show when he was young. It started on television when he was nine years old, and my grandparents had one of the first televisions in the area. The show became something we had in common, as this was just before the first Christopher Reeve movie came out. I even bought the book Superman Serial to Cereal by Gary Grossman because I was so interested in the show. There's a list of episodes in the back and I used to mark them off once I'd seen them. I saw this episode only once and it was much later than I'd seen the rest. It was very exciting to see the origin of Superman on TV. Of course, we've all seen various versions a dozen times since in various video incarnations, but this was the first. I bought my dad the entire series on DVD over the past few years, and now I have it to enjoy all over again after 30 years. Good stuff, good memories.

Am I Tired?

Yes, I guess you could say that I'm tired. Before we left on our trip, I bought two pairs of New Balance 622 cross trainer shoes to go with my other pair of 622's. I now have a white pair, a brown pair, and a black pair. This morning when I dressed in the dark so as not to wake up Magi, I inadvertently put on two differently-colored shoes. I did not even notice until I walked into my classroom. They feel exactly the same on my feet, but they sure don't look the same in the light of day. I've heard of people wearing mismatched socks, but I never thought I would wear mismatched shoes.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Home At Last

3,765 miles and nine days later, we are home from Utah and saying goodbye to my late father. I have to go to work tomorrow and I could use a week off.

Special thanks go to Magi's nephew, Bret, who went with us and saw to many of Sera's needs from the back seat on this long journey.

The sheer volume of family photos and my dad's personal stuff will take weeks to blog through, but I'm looking forward to it as part of the healing process. My father was...unique, to say the least.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Vail, Colorado is way prettier than anywhere in Wyoming.
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The very crack of dawn in Panguitch, Utah.

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