December 30, 2002

So since I have my blog to spout off in now, I thought I’d share some year end thoughts. This being December 30th and all – sitting on the cusp of the New Year.

Pretty eventful year, mostly because of the arrival of my second child. Discovered that the second baby is easier - probably because there are fewer surprises. You go into the endeavor know from the start just how little sleep there will be. Sure having a very active 3-year old through an interesting twist to the equation, but over all I think Heather and I rolled with the new addition pretty well.

Of course, the new arrival got Heather and I motivated to make some much needed improvements to our house. Hence a newly painted kitchen and redecorated bedrooms for the boy and the baby girl. We’re finally putting more of a personal stamp on the house.

Got to start kicking it at home with a new iMac computer in the early spring. It’s one of the new flat-panel Macs that look like half a basketball with a screen floating on top. The computer is fantastic and has allowed Heather and I to do some neat stuff, along with stay better in touch with friends and family. The new iMac also came in very handy when we got our digital camera this fall. The Kodak DX4330 – super camera. I can’t recommend it enough. Its not an expensive high-end model, but isn’t a cheapo $100 model. It’s modestly priced and gives you all kinds of great features and picture resolutions. Email to 8x10, plus short video pieces.

One of the real fun things that I did this year was keep track of the major novels and graphic novels / trade paperbacks that I’ve read. It gives me the opportunity to look back and see what I’ve really enjoyed and what was a waste of my time.

This is what I read from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2002 (in no particular order. in case of a comic, the writer is listed first, the artist second)

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by David Eggers
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Charbon
The Complete Copybook Tales, by Torres and Levens
Sandman: Season of Mists, by Neil Gaiman and various
Hopeless Savages, by Jan Van Meter and Christine Norrie
Critical Space, by Greg Rucka
You Shall Know Our Velocity, by David Eggers
JLA: Superpower, by John Arcudi and Scot Eaton
LOTR: The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Farwell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood, by Greg Rucka and Ty Templeton
Jonny Double, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
American Tabloid, by James Ellroy
Sin City, by Frank Miller (story and art)

Using a 5-point scale (5 being the best) I’ve ranked what I read this year. The items getting 5 stars: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and American Tabloid.

Three very different types of fiction, but all superior works of art.

AHWOSG was a fantastically funny and poignant piece of art that challenged and entertained me. I read Eggers second novel which was published this fall (You Shall Know Our Velocity). His second book was entertaining and retained the unique Eggers’ voice that I enjoy so much, but I felt the novel retread on many of the themes Eggers took on in AHWOSG (i.e. grief, loss of a loved one, general 20,30-something angst at figuring out the world) but didn’t bring anything new.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Charbon is just a wonderfully written, finely craft piece of fiction. Charbon creates wonderfully complex characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. Plus, Charbon has masterful command of the English language. His descriptions jump of the page and he has a way of conveying emotion through words that is amazing.

American Tabloid was just balls to the wall romp through the 1950s and early 60s. The Mob, The CIA, the FBI, Howard Hughes, and the Kennedy’s all intertwined in a wickedly entertaining alternative history of America. I could read this book 50 more times and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time.

Sin City comes in close with a 4.5. Sin City is actually the first Sin City yarn that Frank Miller ever spun. I never read it though. I’ve read everything Sin City since this one – and loved everyone. Heather got it for me for Christmas and I had to start reading it immediately. Having not read the other 5 plus Sin City books recently, I have to say the first one is the best of the bunch. There is an energy to it that I don’t remember in the other Sin City tales.

Biggest disappointment: probably a tie between Snow Crash and The Hobbit.

Snow Crash was lent to me by a friend. It’s a book cast in the Cyber-punk genre I guess. It was entertaining mostly for the elaborate fictional world the author created his characters and story to exist in. Unfortunately he didn’t spend much time with the characters in the story. I found the book rather flat and overall simplistic from a literary standpoint.

The same could be said for The Hobbit. I know that the book was originally intended as a children’s book, but I guess thought there was still some complex themes interwoven with the straightforward narrative. I was wrong.

Oh – and Samwise McGee is one of the most annoying characters ever created in fiction. That guy just grated on my nerves all through the Fellowship and the Two Towers. All his pooh-poohing over what to pact and what to eat and where to sleep and his vaguely homosexual worship of Frodo just had me wishing the guy would get eaten by something of fall of a cliff.

That’s it for novels for know. Maybe if I get some time I can talk about the comics I’ve enjoyed in 2002.
Heather's surprise party came off pretty well. She was surprised - always a good thing when planning one of these things. However, the biggest surprise wasn't the party itself, but rather that her Mom and Dad came in from Ohio, along with her sister and 3 nieces from Columbus, OH. That was the big surprise and the one that brought the big tears of happiness.

The party was mostly family - a few neighbors and friends, but overall well attended.

I need to send out a big "THANK YOU" to my Mom, Dad, Brother and Sister - who helped get all the food and drink together and deliver it to our house at the appropriate time. Not sure how I could have done that on my own. Mom, you know how to feed a party! Another big "THANK YOU" to Leanne (the sister from Ohio) for bringing the cake. It just wouldn't have been a birthday without one.

Heather got some nice stuff - especially my Father and Maryanne (who also won the award for Most Awkward Looking Couple). Unfortunately the sleek leather coat I got Heather is the wrong size. Even in a large the length of the sleeves are painfully too short for her. We'll have to go back and see if we can’t find something that fits her better.

December 26, 2002

So, another Christmas has come and gone. Overall, I think it was Ian's best one yet. His anticipation and involvement were the highest they have ever been. He really got into the whole Christmas experience - mostly the presents - but the singing and celebrations too. A couple times over the last few weeks I've got him singing his own renditions of Jingle Bells or Holly Jolly Christmas. Its been a lot of fun.

Emma was her usuall smiling self through it all. She really seems to enjoy the toys she got from Santa and others. Though she seems to have taken a liking to her brother's Rescue Heroes items - this could cause trouble down the road.

For me, December 25th capped off 7 busy days. We went to Ohio to visit Heather's family. A day of travel (7 hours in the van), a day at my Mother-in-Law's family Christmas (50 plus people - the zenith of noise and confusion - partially contained chaos), a day for Heather's immediate family christmas (9 grandkids - all 7 and under - plus grandparents, parents and one nanny - all packed into Ed and Pat's house - less controlled chaos), a day of travel (7 more hours in the van), a day of partial rest, a day of prepartion for Christmas, and finally Christmas.

Sitting on the train at 7:30 am this morning was a relief.

All in all it was fun though. Got some nice gifts (got some odd gifts). Sometimes I just wonder what goes through people's head when it comes to Christmas shopping.

Next up: Heather's 30th Birthday.
Yahoo! News - Pregnant Midge Doll Yanked From Wal-Mart

More proof that the country is full of idiots and common sense is a rare commodity.

Maybe a pregnant Barbie doll is a bit much, but please, to claim that it promotes teenage pregnancy is ridiculous. Midge, the pregnant doll in question, is “married.” The manufactures of the Barbie line have made this clear for over a decade. She’s married and has a son. She serves the role of Barbie’s married friend, to go along with Barbie’s other demographic-generated friends (black, Asian, Hispanic, etc.).

What is an 8-year old girl supposed to get out of this doll, Sabrina Fagan of Phildelphia, PA? How about that she should wait until she is married to have children – just like Midge has done.

Sabrina, how about you stay out of KB Toys and shop somewhere with people who share your low capacity for common sense - I suggest Wal-Mart.

December 19, 2002

THE RETURN OF JONES AND SON

This is interesting. Harrison Ford bugged Spielberg and Lucas to do another Indy film. Not that I'm complaining - I love the Indiana Jones movies and Harrison Ford in the role of Indy.

My only concern - The film will be set in the 1950s and will have a "supernatural" spin to the story. I think its pretty clear from looking at the first three Indy movies that series is at its best when the Jones are fightin' Nazis. I understand the need to move the film's setting into the 1950s (we're all getting older) and there won't be any Nazis to fight then, I just hope they give us something a bit more compelling then The Temple of Doom.
I'm having one of those zero motivation days. Sitting at work - its about 10:50am - and I don't want to be doing anything.

Phone's ringing - caller ID says its the annoying sales rep from the mapping vendor we don't want to do business with - let her roll into voice mail.

We're getting ready to go to Ohio with the kids for Christmas visit with Heather's family. It’s going to be an interesting ride. Emma doesn't take too kindly to car driving and Ian doesn't take too kindly to Emma crying. Hopefully we can make the trip in under 8 hours - it should only take us 5 hours.

This has to be one the most stressful Christmas holidays that I have experienced so far. Between shopping, work, Heather's birthday, and my own personality peculiarities, I'm surprised I haven't dropped from exhaustion. Every inch of my body aches, the tendonitis in my wrist is flaring, and I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Despite all this my desire to get everything done and my own personality peculiarities prevent me from resting at all.

I can't wait until 2003.

On a completely unrelated topic . . .

Really enjoyed the new Detective Comics (#777). I knew I was going to enjoy the writing - Ed Brubaker is the new scribe, and I have really enjoyed his work on Batman. He brings a solid, crime/detective storytelling background to his work. Much better suited for a title called Detective Comics. What I was a little more concerned about was the art. The new artist on 'Tec, Tommy Castillo, was an unknown to me. I knew that he had come from a Dungeons & Dragons type comic, but other than that I knew nothing. Saw a couple preview pages on 'Tec 777 a few months ago and wasn't tremendously impressed. The art seemed a little B-level, not quite the A-level stuff you'd expect DC to put on a top title like Detective Comics.

However, after finishing the book the other night, Castillo had won me over. His art was moody and gritty - meshing very well with the type of detective yarn Brubaker is spinning. You could almost see Castillo getting more confident and comfortable with the characters and page composition as the story progressed. I really am looking forward to next issue. Overall, it was a pleasant surprise.

Now I can't wait to crack open Gotham Central. Here Brubaker shares scripting credit with Greg Rucka (another personal favorite when it comes to crime fiction) on a title that focuses on the police officers in Gotham City and how they try to fight crime and keep the peace in a city full of colorful super-villains and masked vigilante prowling the night. It’s gotten great reviews and I've flipped through my copy of it. Art looks fantastic and perfectly suited for the type of book Gotham Central - just haven't had the time to read it.

December 17, 2002

Yahoo! News - Drunken Elephants Kill Six

The story is sad - 4 of the 6 were children - but how can you resist this classic headline?

December 16, 2002

The Trentonian

This is only funny because of the how the note was signed, "Me, him and the other kid who was really scared and didn’t want to take your baby Jesus and the whole time all he did was say stuff like you’re going to hell, this isn’t right, stop."

December 11, 2002

Yahoo! News - Vicar tells kids Santa and Rudolph are dead

Now this is just plain out mean. You know that there are kids out in the audience, why would you even joke about saying something like this?

I hope this guy gets a whole thing of coal this Christmas.

December 06, 2002

This is why some people should not be allowed to breed.

"When this 19-year-old West Philadelphia man decided to commit armed robbery, he chose to hit the same KFC store where he was working.

He didn't wear a mask. He didn't sport a disguise. He didn't try to hide his face."

Philadelphia Daily News | 12/05/2002 | He has redefined term 'dumb Bell'

December 03, 2002

The snow outside is pretty though.
Its a fuckin' BLAST FURNACE in our office this morning. Seriously, its gotta be 80-85 degrees in here. The other side of the floor is in the mid-60s. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Working downtown in an old, rehabbed, office building first built in the 1920s is fun and all - until the turn of the century heating kicks in and completely makes things unbearable.

This is going to be a long day.

December 02, 2002

Four day holiday weekend - I'm wiped.

Thanksgiving was good. Got to see some of my family that lives up in Minnesota - always a good thing. Dinner was good. A fun time was had by all.

On Friday I had to to help my mother with her 'pre-move' activities. My mother and step-father are making what's refered to as a local move (i.e. staying within 100 mile radius), which means they have to pay movers by the hour. So Mom and John rounded up as many of the children as they could and had them over on Friday to move the books, pictures, lamps and small items. Don't have to pay the kids. Just give 'em lunch and a piece of furniture you can't use in your new house. It wouldn't have been so bad if that was all I was doing. Of course at the same time I lugging stuff from the old house to the new house, I'm stuck in the middle of a feud between my mother and sister. Plus it was cold. Not a fun morning at all.

The afternoon got much better. At home Ian and I dragged out the Christmas tree and set it up. That boy is very excited for Christmas. He and I decorated the whole tree and got some other decorations up through out the house. (lights outside came later) The crowning moment was Saturday morning when he and I set the Christmas train up to run around the base of the tree. That boy loves trains. He's been glued to it ever since.

Over all we went 0 to 60 in the Christmas department in about 20 seconds flat. House is decorated, music is playing, and Heather and I are warming up the VCR to play one of the 30 plus Christmas shows we have on tape. All the Rankin/Bass classic stuff - Rudolph, Year Without A Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Coming To Town, plus a lot of more obscure Rankin/Bass material and other Holiday flicks (White Christmas, Bishop's Wife, etc.). Of course we keep our eyes on the Family Channel and their '25 Days of Christmas' programming to see if anything else looks interesting.