June 29, 2005

The Batman Handbook

Yes, someone wrote a handbook on how to become Batman. It covers everything from how to throw a Batarang to how to make a Batsuit. I need to own this book just in case this Hubbard One thing doesn't work out.

I Want Some Of These

I could have a lot of uses, and fun, with a pack of these cards

I'm Going Back To Work

I made the decision last night and finalized the deed this morning. I'm headed back to work on July 11th.

The company is Hubbard One, which according to their website, "is a premiere provider of client and business development technology solutions for leading law firms." Essentially they have packages of software - mostly web-based - that they sell to the largest law firms in the country. As part of this they also design, develop, and even host many of these firms’ websites, extranets, and intranets. It web consulting for law firms, basically.

I will be functioning as a Project Manager for them. Taking the handoff from the account executive once a deal is inked with a firm. I'll be overseeing and guiding the design, development and rollout of different websites. It's what I did for Apartments.com when I wasn't trying to squeeze in time as a Product Manager.

I'm really excited about joining Hubbard One. The people I've met there while interviewing are great. The office space is cool and they're located downtown about four blocks east of Apartments.com - literary, making commuting a breeze. Most importantly the type of work I’ll be doing looks to be both exciting and challenging. Best of all, I'll be working on all sorts of different sites, with all sorts of different clients. I won't be chained to one site and it's limited sphere of active users.

Another nice little perk that comes with joining Hubbard One is that I will be entering the same marketplace – in a manner of speaking - as the one my sister and father work in. As I mentioned earlier, Hubbard One services the largest law firms in the country with its products. Thompson West owns Hubbard One, which is a monster in the legal industry. While I won't be practicing law like my sister, or judging over it like my father, I might be able to bring something to the family gathering conversations when Elizabeth and my Dad start talking shop. At least now the three of us are playing on the same field.

Now that the job has been secured and the start date is about a week and a half away, I can sit back and enjoy a little more time off at home. Then it will be back to the grind, but at a company that I don't think will grind me down.

June 28, 2005

You Know Who This Blog Doesn't Talk About Enough?

Indiana Jones.

Please, the guy is fantastic. Obtainer of rare antiquities. Nazi buster. Fedora wearer.

The man does so much.

My days without a job are numbered - I'll be back working again soon. This means I'll have less time when I'm at home for sitting around reading and watching movies. So I'm trying to make it a point to watch some of the Indiana Jones movies I have on DVD. I've watched all the extras - they were wonderful. Now I want to get back in and watch the films.

I've also been checking around to see what the web has to offer regarding Dr. Jones. There is an official site run by Lucasfilm, of course. But the better site, in my opinoin is TheRaider.net. Plenty of news and info about the movies.

Indiana Jones is pure fun.

Decisions, Decisions

Yesterday I received an offer. I also received renewed interest from a company that I had been talking to and really liked, but they had been dragging their feet. Today, I learn I'm the top candidate at yet another company, but the hiring manager's boss wants him to interview more people.

What to do. What to do.

If back in April I knew things were going to play out like this, I would have told Jerry that I'd walk earlier than I did from Apartments.com and enjoy the early summer at home.

June 26, 2005

Ronald Reagan?

Heather just came up and told me that Ronald Reagan was voted the Greatest American as part of the Discovery Channel's little voting contest. He narrowly beat out Abraham Lincoln by something like .4% percent.

She also filled me in on who made the top ten. I don't remember the order, but Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in it.

Now I know that this typing of voting show is nothing more than a popularity contest voted on people who probably slept through most of their history and civics classes, but come on! Reagan and number one! Lincoln at number two! Please!

Even if you were sitting in the back of every history class you ever attended drawing Led Zeppelin symbols all over the outside of you Trapper Keeper, I think you would have picked up somewhere along the way of how influential and important Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (a top fiver himself) were to America. How could you not put them ahead of a guy who's hardly been dead two years and out of office twenty. There is no historical perspective to put someone like Reagan in the top spot. (And for that matter there is no historical perspective to make Clinton, W, or Oprah top ten vote getters.)

Personally, if they had asked me, I'd have put Benjamin Franklin at number one. No other person did more to make this country what is than Franklin did. He was the true architect of America. It was through his work that America survived through the first years of its existence and was allowed to grow into the world power that it is today. No other single person did more to make America great than Benjamin Franklin did. That's why he is the Greatest American in my book.

Reagan - bah!

As soon as I can find a full published list of how the voting turned out I will link to it so we can all see the folly of this little contest.

Gerald McBoing Boing

Now this is reaching back pretty far for me, but I even remember a little - I think - of the old Gerald McBoing Boing cartoon. It was based on a story developed by Dr. Seuss about a young boy who only communicated by using sound effects. The original was quite good.

Cookie Jar Entertainment is bring Gerald back into animated film by developing a series for Cartoon Network. They have a short clip of the cartoon on their website.


I doubt it will be as good as the original. Cookie Jar focuses on making "edutainment" cartoons where teaching a lesson is as important as entertaining with a cartoon. Which is good in it's place, but not sure how it will work with poor old McBoing Boing.

June 24, 2005

Le Building

Le Building This is hilarious. You have to watch it.

What little dialogue occurs in this 2-minute animated short film is in French - I think, but it doesn't matter. The humor speaks for itself.

This is a very well designed, well animated, and very funny piece of film by Marco Nguyen, Pierre Perifel, Xavier Ramonede, Olivier Staphylas, and Remi Zaarour. You really should watch it - but only if you have a broadband connection. It is a rather large video file.

Everbody Is Gonna Be Kung-Fu Fighting

karate guysThis past week Ian started a karate class sponsored by the park district. When Heather was going through the different activity options for Ian to participate in this summer, he didn't show much interest in baseball or soccer, though he did perk up at golf. In the end though, he was most interested in taking karate. So that is what Heather signed him up for, plus two sessions of swim lessons. Boy’s gotta know how to swim.

The first karate class was this past Wednesday and he came back very jazzed up over the whole experience. I was afraid that he was going in expecting Power Ranger action and was certain to be let down when he learned that karate wasn't about kicking some guy's ass. Apparently I was wrong.

The approach that is taken in this program is to get kids familiar with the basics of karate and also teach them some sound self-defense skills that young children - unfortunately - need to possess in our increasingly threatening world. Ian came back that first night already versed in how to fend off someone who might be trying to take him against his will. With a few more classes he might be ready for his first test and move up to a yellow belt.

One of the things I'm looking to see is if Ian takes to the mental aspects of the martial arts. Though I’m not well versed in the mental and emotional side of the martial arts (surely you can comment on this Ed), I think Ian could benefit greatly from the values of respect, self-control, and self-discipline that to my understanding are core to many of the martial arts. Ian is a boy who is easily frustrated and can be short on patience - even for a 6-year old. While Heather and I are vigilante in trying to teach him better control, I am interested in seeing how the study of karate might also help Ian.

Plus, I want to see my little guy break some wood in half with his bare hand.

It’s only been one class and there are many more to go, but I think this will be a great experience for everyone.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

elle macphersonSupermodel Macpherson, Partner Separate

Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson and partner Arpad Busson announced Friday that they are separating.

Every heterosexual male can look back and point at one actress, singer or model who he was just totally in love with during those early teenage years when girls became the prime interest in their lives.

For me, that was without a doubt Elle Macpherson. She's wasn't nicknamed "The Body" for nothing. Six-feet of the most exquisite female form on the planet - and most of that was legs. When I was thirteen or fourteen she was everywhere - commercials, magazines, the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

Those teenaged days of infatuiation are gone, of course. I learned long ago that I wasn't going to get Elle. But that's okay. I've got Heather now. She might come in at just under six feet, but I think she beats Elle on leg length.

This Is Cool

I just don't know about driving it in the Chicago River

robotic dolphin
This photo provided by Wired Nextfest shows Rob Innes skimming across the Chicago River in a bionic dolphin Thursday, June 23, 2005, to call attention to Nextfest, a futuristic technology show opening this weekend in Chicago. The dolphin, a submersible developed by Innespace, can power two people to 40 m.p.h. on the surface and 20 m.p.h. below. (AP Photo/Wired Nextfest, Brian Kersey)

June 23, 2005

Stop Doing This To Me DC Comics

DC Comics makes the coolest action figures based on comic book characters around. The quality and detail in design and production is nearly unparalleled in the toy market. While I don't collect figures a whole lot, I do pick up figures here and there that DC Comics puts out. What DC has been doing over the last few years is creating different lines of figures based on popular storylines in their comic books. I've got a classic looking Captain Marvel figure from the Kingdom Come story and a great Commissioner Gordon from the Batman: Hush line. Though not based on a particular storyline, DC is also doing a First Appearance line where they recreate the character as a figure based on what they looked like the first time they appeared in a comic. That's where my wonderfully cheesy-looking Nightwing figure came from.

Last month I talked about a new line that will come out this winter. It's called Unmasked and features some great sculpts for Batman and Joker. I lamented about how hard DC is making it for me to resist picking up more and more figures. Now comes the announcement of another line: Batman: Knightfall. This line of figures is based on a multi-part story that ran in the early 90's and saw Batman have his back broken by Bane but then battle back to ultimately defeat Bane and reclaim the mantle of the Bat from his stand-in who had perverted the image of the Batman. It was a great story.

The figures DC is launching this line with are equally as impressive.

Knightfall Figures Group


I love Nightwing, but wonder how many Nightwing figures I actually need. The one being offered in this line falls between the early 80's version I already have and the modern version I also own. But I can't deny the coolness of the mid-90's Nightwing design.

I also love the Azrael as Batman figure and the Tengu Batman figure. Even though the Az-Bat character was pretty unlikable, the costume design was great. It so perfectly encapsulated the extreme approach to vigilante-style heroes that seemed so popular at the time in other comics in the early 90s. The Knightfall story explored this grim and lethal approach to justice, and showed why Batman could never fulfill his calling to fight crime that way - despite where some people thought the Batman character needed to go to remain relevant in the current climate.

The Tengu figure is the disguise Bruce Wayne took when he trained himself back into fighting shape after healing his broken back. I've got plenty of Batman figures, but this would be nice variation on a theme.

Will I eventually pick these up? I don’t know. Probably not. I have to draw a line somewhere, and I feel like if I start buying these figures I’m starting down a slope of more and more figures. Something I don’t think our budget, and my dresser where I display these figures, can handle it.

Good News For Me

Married men earn more if wives do the chores.
Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives stay at home doing the housework, according to a report Wednesday from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research
But I don't like the chances of married guys in Australia in getting those premium wages.

Australian men told to do more housework.

My Grandpa Could Have Done This Too

And with one arm tied behind his back . . .

Grandfather kills leopard with his hands
A 73-year-old Kenyan grandfather reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it, authorities said Wednesday.

June 22, 2005

Superman / Shazam: First Thunder

This fall Judd Winick writes the story of the first time Superman and Captain Marvel met. It's a four-issue mini-series titled First Thunder.

I actually like Captain Marvel more than Superman. Think the concept is just flat out cooler; young boy shouts "Shazam!" and turns into a hulking hero who can fly, but he still retains the innocence of a young boy. Having the two heroes together with a story by Winick and with art from Josh Middleton makes this a hard to pass up comic. Now the big decision will be whether to pick up the inidvidual issues or wait for the collection.

Superman/Shazam: FIRST THUNDER #1

Search Is Back

I've brought back the ability to search on the site again. I never got to implement the Yahoo! search widget and Google has been indexing me fairly well, so I just slapped it back up. You'll find the ability to seach Brendanmckillip.com in the left hand column of the blog pages and at the bottom of other pages.

It's In The Hands Of The States Now

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a flag-burning amendment today, and the measure seems well positioned to get approved by the Senate as well.

Hopefully the individual U.S. States will have the presence of mind to vote against this amendment to the Constitution and not supply the Federal government with a way to limit our freedom of speech. Two-thirds of the States' legislatures most approve the amendment before it goes into effect.

I like Rep. Jerrold Nadler's (D-N.Y.) comment in the article. "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."

Supporters of the amendment say that the approval of this amendment is a reflection of the deepened sense of patriotism that has developed since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I would counter-argue that a patriot would understand what this country stands for and what freedoms we value. The flag is just a symbol for those - it's a piece of cloth on a stick. You can attack the symbol and clearly make a statement, but that doesn't mean you have destroyed the freedoms it represents. Drop this silly, and potentially harmful, amendment now.

June 21, 2005

Billy Corgan Is Cool

billy corganBilly Corgan is cool. I loved the Smashing Pumpkins. I enjoyed Zwan. I'm looking forward to picking up "TheFutureEmbrace," Corgan's solo album that hits stores today. What I've heard of the album sounds wonderful, and it looks like music critic Gret Kot certainly agrees with me.

I think he's cool because he's the WXRT Chicago Cubs special correspondent on the morning show with Lin Brehmer.

I think he's cool because he wants to make his music, his way, and give it to the people the way he wants.

I think he's cool because he takes out full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune like this (1.5 mb pdf) where he not only celebrates Chicago but also announces his intention to reunite the Smashing Pumpkins.

Which Side Are You On?

In today's Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller tackles one of the great fundamental American cultural divides.

No, not whether you're a Beatles fan or Elvis fan. (I'm Elvis, by the way)

Are you a Superman person or a Batman person.

While she picks what I think is the wrong side to be on (e.g. Superman), she does a nice job of boiling down what it is that makes these two characters the ying and yang of superheroes.
superman vs batman"Superman fans are much more interested in what's innate, in genetics, in the destiny that twines in the barber pole of our DNA. Batman fans, on the other hand, are obsessed with self-creation and identity formation.

The essence of Superman's appeal: How to live with your gifts? But with Batman, the question is: How to transcend your origins?

Superman is about being; Batman is about becoming."
So which side are you on?

Building A Bear

build a bearFor being in my sister's wedding (the same sister who went screaming from our house on Sunday after babysitting for the weekend), Ian, Emma, and Zoe all received gift certificates at Build-A-Bear. A neat little idea of a store where you can come in, choose what type of stuffed animal you want, stuff it, and dress it up any way you want.

A couple of weeks ago, during a trip to the Fox Valley Mall to pick up some other things, Ian, Emma and I scoped out the place to get a feel for what it would be like when we came back with our gift certificates. This was at the beginning of June and Build-A-Bear had just introduced a Batman costume you could dress you bear up in. Ian thought it was great (I thought it was pretty neat too) and he declared that was what he wanted to get when we came back to build a bear. Emma was just flat out excited with the idea of getting to dress a bear up however she wanted. After watching some of the customers there that day going through the process of building their bear, I decided that I definitely wanted to be able to take the kids while I was home and off of work. I figured we could have more fun during the week building our bears then cramming the activity in on a weekend.

This morning Heather and I decided it was a good day for a Build-A-Bear field trip, so we herded the clan eastward to the mall. We hit the doors at 10:05 am and were the first customers in. Ian and Emma picked out their bears - Ian's a chocolate brown, Emma's pure white, while Heather and I decided Zoe needed a stuffed monkey.

Heather and I had expected prices to be ridiculous, so we had already prepped the kids that we would have to be careful about how much we could buy. However, we were both surprised at how reasonable the pricing actually was. By picking the lower end bears - which are still good quality toys - it freed the kids to have some fun putting sounds inside their bears and getting the costumes they wanted. So bears (and monkey) were filled with a noisemaker, stuffed with help from the kids, and clothes were picked out, with no real fear of over-exceeding our gift certificate budget.

Ian and I found the Batman costume, but hanging right next to it was a Spiderman outfit. After some tense moments of decision-making by Ian, he had a chance of heart and went with the wall crawler costume instead. He seems very pleased with what he picked. He named his bear Spider Bear and Ian is already having a lot of fun with his new toy.

build a bear storeEmma knew as soon as we walked into the store this morning what she wanted - a bear dressed like a ballerina. So when the clerk helping assemble Emma's bear asked what name Emma wanted to give her bear, she responded swiftly and emphatically, "Ballerina Bear." We found the perfect outfit to match the name Emma gave her bear - all pink and frilly with the greatest little ballerina shoes you've ever seen. Heather thinks the shoes make the outfit.

Zoe just had a good time walking around the store re-arranging all the clothing that she could reach. Mom and Dad had fun picking out her monkey's outfit (pink princess pajamas).

After the building and the dressing, all that was left was to make some "birth" certificates for the kids' creations, box 'em up, and we were out the door with new stuffed toys that really didn't cost much more than any other premium stuffed animal. But we certainly had more fun by getting to build the bears ourselves. This is quite a scheme these guys have cooked up.

So it's not enough that we have to thank my sister and brother-in-law for doing such a great job watching our kids over the weekend, now we have to thank them for this wonderful gift as well. Because Elizabeth and Patrick didn't just give toys to our kids; by giving us the gift certificates to go to Build-A-Bear, they gave Heather and I a fun morning with our kids as well.

Dial-Up Is On Its Deathbed

Dial-Up Internet Going the Way of Rotary Phones - New York Times
Ms. Phillips is among the seven million Americans expected to drop their slow Internet connections this year for high-speed lines, which are as much as 100 times as fast and are always on. As recently as six months ago, a majority of Americans were using dial-up connections at home. In the first quarter of this year, broadband connections for the first time overtook dial-up.

Except for my Dad, who seems insistent on staying with AOL until the day they go out of business.

June 20, 2005

What A Weekend - The Big Post

It’s been an eventful last few days.

Friday Heather and I loaded up the car, left the kids in the hands of my sister and her newly christened husband, and headed for the Land of Cleves, to partake in the mind-numbing spectacle of our ten-year college reunion.

I’ve never been a big fan of reunions. I stay in touch with the people I want to, and see them when I can. Call me anti-social – I don’t care. Paying $50 for buffet style - buffet style! - dinner and to learn that the vast majority of my classmates from the John Carroll University class of 1995 feel the same as I do about reunions, is not my idea of a good time. I go because Heather really likes attending the reunions and she certainly has fun seeing everyone that she has been trading phone calls, emails, or letters with over the last five years. So I’m glad she has a good time.

The weekend did afford me some fun, despite the rather depressing reunion party. Heather and I got to stay with some great friends in Cleveland. Not only did Tom and Aimee open their house to us, they let us roll in at nearly midnight on Friday and didn’t bat an eye. Getting out of Chicago on Friday was a bitch. Not only did we have to contend with rush hour traffic, but also it was a Friday and there is some nasty construction on the south end of I-294 – the main route by which we usually try exiting Illinois through. It took us over two hours to get to the Illinois / Indiana border. It should only take about one hour. Illinois has I-294 so ripped up and Indiana has I-80 so ripped up, I need to seriously figure out a better way to make it down and around Gary, IN when we go out to visit Heather’s parents this summer. There is no way I want to sit through all that again.

But I digress.

Tom and Aimee have a fantastic house on the west side of Cleveland, and it’s going to be even better when Tom completes the deck he was working on this past weekend. Heather and I also got to meet their young daughter, who is simply a doll. A real joy. Tom and Aimee are the perfect hosts. I hope we can reciprocate for them in the future, and hopefully make it out for another visit again some time.

On Saturday I got to throw back a few beers with one of the guys I used to work at American Cybercasting Corporation with back in the mid-90s. If I have any goofy work stories to tell, they all come from my time at ACC. It was good to talk to Rick and learn more about what he’s doing and how his family is doing as well. We also tried to fill in the blanks on what our fellow former ACC’ers are doing now. We were able to fill in most of the blanks – at least for the people we were interested in – and forgot about the rest when the buffalo wings arrived. Maybe next time Ed, Sam, and Rich can join us.

Upon returning home Sunday night, it was apparent that our children had sufficiently kicked my sister’s ass. Heather and I weren’t in the house more than five minutes when Elizabeth threw down the spatula, declared dinner “cooked,” and spit out a hurried “you can feed you kids tonight” as she sprinted for the door. Apparently she had already packed all her things in her car so that she could make a speedy getaway.

Good for you Ian, Emma, and Zoe.

Because Heather and I were traveling back from Cleveland on Sunday, we postponed our Father’s Day celebrations until Monday. So this morning Ian, Emma, and Zoe surprised me in bed with monkey bread and gifts, after letting me sleep in until the luxurious hour of 8 am. My gifts from the kids had a decided Star Wars theme. They got me the first volume of Clone Wars cartoons from Cartoon Network on DVD, and two more Star Wars figures to add to my collection. Ian’s already watched more of the DVD than I have (there are some interesting extras I’m looking forward to), but I’ll get me chance.

After breakfast, we all went miniature golfing at Smuggler’s Cove. I can’t tell if Ian’s getting better the more we go. It’s really hard to tell. It’s always fun though. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go again a couple times this summer. I really enjoy playing.

Tonight Heather made a cake using the cake pan set Ian, Emma, and Zoe had gotten her for Mother’s Day. The cake set allows her to construct a dome cake with ice cream inside. It was quite good.

To cap things off, I was able to secure some more interviews for this week. So not only will I be headed back up to Discover to talk about a Project Manager position on Friday, but on Thursday I’ll be meeting with some people at Orbitz.com that have taken an interest in me as well. With things still cooking at HubbardOne and ShopLocal.com, I’m feeling real good about future employment.

I don't particularly Like doing super long posts like this, because I feel like I'm leaving a lot of fun stuff out. When I write long like this it seems like I just trying to shove in all the high level details so they can be recorded. With as much as I wanted to talk about from the last four days, I wanted to get stuff written down now before other things come up that I want to write about. If anything particularly interesting occurs to me, I'll revisit, but for now I leave you with the big post.

It's Going To Be A Star Wars Christmas

And I want a Darth Vader nutcracker.

vader nutcracker

For The Batman Fanatics

batmanFor the Batman fans out there, I'd like to point you to the New York Times movie section. Once again the Times puts together a great all-one page surrounding a movie. This time they've got the reviews of all the Batman movies, dating back to 1989's Batman by Tim Burton. They've got trailers, articles, slideshows - it's great. My favorite part was a slideshow narrated by the chief movie critic for the Times, Manohla Dargis. She traces the evolution of the Batman from comics to the silver screen. It’s really quite good.

Star Wars And Geek Culture

Sci-Fi author Neal Stephenson has some interesting insights on Star Wars and how it reflects American culture. Read his op-ed piece from the New York Times to see why thinks that the Star Wars trilogy - at least the latest one - says about society's dependence, love, and hatred of geeks.

June 16, 2005

Where's Padme?

An open letter to Darth Vader
Dear Mr. Vader,

I understand you've had a rough spring. What with you turning to the dark side of the Force and all, and ending up in that big black suit after being burned to a crisp in a lava pit. I can understand your anger.

However, as much as this might cause you additional pain, I feel I need to help set things straight for you. Your new boss, the Emperor, told you that you pregnant wife Padme had died at your hand. At the time this might have seemed un-necessarily cruel to those of us who witnessed this lie, but now knowing the full truth I can understand why the Emperor said what he did.

See, he was only trying to protect you. Padme isn't dead. She's doing quite well. The Emperor realized that Padme had quickly moved on when your relationship with her had fallen apart and he didn't want to see you hurt any more by learning her new profession.

But I believe in the truth. It is what will eventually set you free.

Sorry to have to deliver such bad news, but I know you'll be able to take this information and make something positive out of it.

Sincerely,

A friend

June 15, 2005

Jim Lee Weighs In On Batman Begins

batman beginsJim Lee, one of my favorite comic book creators and artist on this summer's All-Star Batman and Robin comic with writer Frank Miller (my other favorite comic book creator), saw an early screening of Batman Begins but didn't get to write about it until today.

In his lengthy write-up he states:
"Batman Begins is an entertaining, dazzling action movie which singlehandedly puts the Ooopmh back into the franchise yet manages to serve up a captivating, haunting tale of a man and his search to exorcise his personal demons."
I am so jazzed about seeing this film

I'd Like To Read This Book

The fabulous Bruce Campbell has a new book out: "Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way."

I'd like to read that book. It looks like a lot of fun.

bruce campbell

Practicing Safe Blogging

New story: Warning: Your clever little blog could get you fired - Yahoo! News

It is because of some of the trouble people have gotten into when blogging about work that you won't see me talking about my job or the people I work with when I'm employeed by a company.

Now once I leave the company, that's a different story. . .

Superman: Secret Identity

A couple of months ago the comic book shop that I buy all my comics at had a sale on graphic novels - specifically graphic novels published by DC Comics. I took the advantage of the sale to stock up on a bunch of books and while I’m home without a job I’m making my way through them. What I’m learning is that I picked a bunch of great books to read. Case in point, Superman: Secret Identity by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Stuart Immonen.

superman secret identityThe book was originally published as four separate issues, but I was reading the collected trade paperback. It’s how I prefer to read most limited run series now days. I feel it makes for a better reading experience.

Secret Identity starts with the high concept of a boy living in real-world Kansas, where Superman is just a character in comics and cartoons, and given the name Clark Kent by his parent because they thought it would be fun, starts exhibiting powers like the real Man of Steel. On one level, that is what Busiek writes about then as his story; how a person in the real world would deal and cope with powers that everyone else thought could only exist in fantasy.

However, Busiek drops in another layer to his story – one that is more satisfying for a reader in my opinion. He uses the premise of Superman powers joined with a regular man to explore how we deal with certain stages of our life and the secret identities we build for ourselves that allow us to find our way.

I mentioned that Secret Identity was originally published as four books. Each issue, besides being a chapter in the larger story, is also set during a critical stage in a person’s life cycle. Chapter one is puberty/coming of age in high school. Chapter two focuses on finding your place in society and life as a young adult. Chapter three is about the beginning a family. Chapter four is about realizing your own mortality and the reflection on a life lived.

Obviously this is more than just some super powered guy in a cape busting the ass of some high-powered baddie. Busiek is taking on some weighty material and uses Superman as his medium. What makes the whole novel work is the narrative voice Busiek developed. The story is told by Clark, through actual scenes and excerpts from the journal he keeps via an old manual typewriter. Busiek grounds the character and the story by using Clark’s “voice” as the storyteller.

No I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that exceptional work of artist Stuart Immonen. For this project Immonen modified how he worked on a book – handling all art chores himself. And instead of inking his pencils, he scanned his pencil artwork into the computer and then colored them using a color scheme inspired by old 1950’s print advertising. It makes for some of the most stunning artwork I have seen in a long time. The pages are simply beautiful.

But Immonen’s art isn’t great for the book because it’s beautiful, it’s great because he also gives the incredible situations credible grounding in the real world with his scene designs, detailed panel constructions, and expressive characters. Immonen is equally the reason for this book’s success as is Busiek’s writing.

I’m always on the look out for comics that I can recommend to others so that they can understand why I love the art form so much. Usually I stay away from comics starring superheroes to avoid people’s preconceived notions about what modern comics have to offer. But in this case I am making an exception. Superman: Secret Identity is just too good not to recommend to everyone. It’s an intelligent, thought-provoking novel that also entertains.

Miller and Lee at Wizard World

For the most part I have stayed away from comic book conventions. Even when one of the nation's biggest ones is held every year right in Chicago. However, this year I might be persuaded to attend Wizard World Chicago and suffer through the bad costumes and non-comic book related activities just to see two of my favorite comic book creators. Yesterday it was announced that Frank Miller and Jim Lee would be the co-guests of honor this year.

Frank Miller AND Jim Lee? That's almost too much to handle. I can hardly think of two other creators I'd wait in line for two hours to meet. This would be fantastic.

June 14, 2005

Summer Footwear Problem Solved

As many of you may already know, I think it is morally wrong for a man to expose his feet in public by wearing sandals. Sure sandals or flip-flops are fine for the beach or in the shower - but keep them off the sidewalk or inside Barnes & Noble. I don't want to see you're ugly-ass man toes while I'm trying enjoy my day.

Now, I understand the allure of the sandal. Especially when temps are hitting the 90 mark here in Chicago. You want your feet to breathe. Hell I want my feet to breathe. This past week while we suffered through some unseasonable hot weather for the beginning of June, my dogs were barking when I crammed them into socks and sneakers. Ian looked so relaxed in his Teen Titan sandals I almost considered buying myself a pair. Then I looked down at my own feet a realized that a 6-year old's feet are a lot different looking than a 32-year old's feet, and I wasn't about the subject the fair citizens of my neighborhood to my podiatric problems. Luckily I have found a solution.

my new shoeWith a little of the money that I had earned selling off some old comics on eBay, I purchased the Extreme Sport Shoe from Lands' End. This little number is all mesh on top to let the foot breathe, has a neoprene/mesh sock to keep your foot in place, and still looks like a regular running shoe. A-ha!

The shoes arrived yesterday and I've gotten to wear them around a bit already. Very comfortable. My feet don't sweat, my toes can catch the breeze, and I don't have to think about putting on socks before going outside. Plus, the shoes have drainage holes of a sort so when they get wet the water just pours right through them. Sweet!

This is going to be a good summer.

Funny Joke

A good friend, Celi, emailed this to me today (apparently right before posting it to her own blog). Very funny.
A woman's husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she had stayed by his bedside every single day.

One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer. As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, "I've just realized something.

You have been with me all through the bad times; When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side... You know what?"

"What dear?" She gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth.

He replied, "I think you're bad luck, get the fuck away from me.

June 13, 2005

Dad, I've Found You The Perfect Gift

Imagine teaching Ian to play chess with this set.

drinking chess set


You can buy it today for only $9.99.

Batman's Got Milk

Posted just because I want to . . .

batman milk smile

June 12, 2005

Batman In The News

batmanBatman Begins opens this Wednesday, and while the hype isn't nearly as big as that for Revenger of the Sith - Batman's exposure in the media has been building. Two recent media impressions of note are a surprisingly good article in Sunday's (6/12) Chicago Tribune titled, "The Bat is back" and the recent announcement that The New York Post will be giving away a free special edition Batman comic book in its papers on Monday, June 13th.

In Web Behrens Chicago Tribune article, he goes to great lengths to show how the version of the Dark Knight that will be presented on the silver screen this summer is finally representing the Batman as he was originally intended and how true Batman fans envision him as. Behrens also does a nice job of listing some classic Batman comic collections that would help someone new to the Caped Crusader get good picture of the power of the character.

My favorite quote from the article comes from Bill Savage, faculty member of Northwestern University's English department, who said, "the range of representations of Batman shows the power of the character to be multifaceted." Which is what I've always loved about Batman. You can camp him up in a TV show. Play him as a simple superhero like in the Superfriends cartoons. Make him a detective. Make him an adventurer. You can do anything with the character. Ultimately though it does always come back the main concept of the Dark Knight though. Batman is a man reacting to the chaos and uncertainty of the world that was taught to him as a young boy when his parents were gunned down almost randomly, and his attempts at forcing order. That's always the best Batman, and it sounds like that is the Batman Christopher Nolan is about to deliver in Batman Begins this week.

Yoda Origami

Here's a link to instructions on how to fold paper and make it look like Yoda.

Kevin, I expect you to have one of these ready for me next time I see you.

yoda origami


(found on BoingBoing)

Joe Morgan Smokes Crack

While upstairs helping Ian take his bath tonight, I had the Cubs - Red Sox game on ESPN playing in the background. It was then that I heard Joe Morgan blabbering on about how great a loss it was to the Cubs with the subtraction of Sammy Sose and Moises Alou from the team. He couldn't stop talking about how much he missed seeing Sammy sprint out to right field to start off the game. How the Cubs had replaced these players, but "you can't replace superstars."

Who is this guy? What is he smoking?

If a Cubs game isn't as exciting for Mr. Morgan because he isn't seeing an aging ego-manic sprint into the outfield, I feel sorry for him. If think most Cubs fans would agree that they prefer the team now with Sammy gone. Sure Sammy was great in his day. But when you have a player who is clearly in the twilight of his career and being a disruptive force within a team, you need to get rid of him. Alou, though he hadn't dramatically displayed these traits, he wasn't too far from becoming Sammy-like in his demeanor.

The new Cubs announcers might not be much to talk about, but at least they are more coherent than the dribble that Morgan is spitting out on ESPN.

June 11, 2005

SpudTrooper

Darth Tater finally has someone to watch his back . . . SpudTrooper.

spudtrooper


SpudTrooper comes with a mashing-gun to turn any potato who apposes him into a nice side dish.

You can pre-order the SpudTrooper at ShopStarWars.com

June 10, 2005

The Futureheads

Thank you Chicagoist for bringing The Futureheads to my attention. The Futureheads is an English rock/power pop band in the mold of XTC with a little bit of the Ramones thrown in. They sound fantastic. Just visit their site and you'll automatically get a taste of what they sound like.

Their albums are available on Amazon, but I' going to try and see if any of their stuff is available in iTunes.

If Wives Were Boogers, I'd Still pick Heather

Apologizes to my brother, Kevin, whom I stole the idea for the title of this blog entry from. Heather told me not use it, but I thought it was just too funny not to. I’m not worried about her killing me for it – at least not today. See, today Heather and I are celebrating ten years of wedded bliss.

For me, wedding anniversaries are personal matters. Something that is only celebrated by the individuals involved. Because the date, the event, whatever the anniversary is of – it’s only special to the people intimately connected to it. In the case of a wedding anniversary – the two people who got married. Sure the moms and dads, maybe the brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles might be interested too. But the real celebration is reserved, in my opinion, for the two people who got married.

So why am I writing about our anniversary on my blog? Because I wanted to make an exception to my own rule. Being married for 10 years is something to talk about and celebrate publicly. I think it’s fantastic that Heather and I have been married for a decade and have know each other even longer. I want everyone to know about it. What’s interesting is that it really hasn’t felt like ten years. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve felt the passage of time. Our wedding seems a long time ago. Just not ten years ago.

Heather and I aren’t planning any large celebration for this anniversary, mostly because I am out of work. I am planning on getting her something really nice – something that says, “It’s been wonderful being married to you for the last ten years and I’m looking forward to the next forty.” But when the decision was made to leave Apartments.com when I did, we put all big purchases on hold. So as soon as I land the next big job, I’m running out to Walmart to pick Heather up those rubber rain boots she’s being dying to have.

So tonight we’re keeping things simple. Heather took the kids out to Blockbuster to pick out a movie. Then later tonight they’ll eat dinner while I grill up some steaks for the two of us. Then while Ian and Emma (and if we’re lucky, Zoe) watch Scooby-Doo take on another rubber-suited monster, Heather and I will enjoy a dinner by ourselves and one hopefully absent of comments like, “take the fork out of your hair, you need to eat with that!”

So despite our low-key festivities, we will be celebrating ten year of marriage in our own simple way. It’s been a very good ten years. There have been some ups and some downs, but she and I have always pulled through by sticking together and by knowing all situations are temporary. Things will change – and usually for the better. I don’t subscribe to the notion that there is one perfect person out there for everyone, but I think I came pretty damn close to picking that perfect person for me. Besides being a great wife and a wonderful mother to our children, she has always been and will always be my closest friend. I can’t think of a better way of going through life then having your best friend always at your side. Plus, she makes a mean apple pie.

Happy anniversary, Heather. I love you.

Homeownership Tip #23

When you find a dead rabbit in the basement window-well on the south side of your house on Tuesday - remove it immediately. Don't get lazy and think it's fine for the rabbit to sit for two days, to be picked up on Thursday afternoon so it can go immediately into the trash for pickup Friday morning.

A dead animal, 90-degree heat, and a little forgetfulness means that you're outside at 10 o'clock Thursday night - when it's still 85 degrees with 95% humidity - fishing a carcas squirming full of maggots out of a three-foot hole to drop into a tiny little garbage bag.

That's my advice to you.

June 09, 2005

Sleeper: A Crooked Line

a crooked lineBetween looking for a job and having Emma, Zoe (and now Ian) running around the house, I haven’t found a lot of time to just sit down and read. The 40-minute train ride into and out of the city every day was perfect for that. Consequently my finished book rate has gone down dramatically.

However, I was able to recently finish Sleeper: A Crooked Line, the third collection of the comic book series from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. Sleeper is a finite run comic series of 24 monthly issues that are being collected in four, six-issue trade paperbacks – which I have the first three of. The fourth collection has not come out yet, because the final issue was just published at the end of May. I expect the final trade collection to hit comic shops in early to late fall.

The story is fairly simple. Holden Carver’s life as a deep undercover agent with a superpower terrorist organization was difficult enough when his handler – and the only man who knew Carver’s true intentions – dropped into a deep coma with apparently no signs of recovery. A Crooked Line picks up from the startling revelation from the end of book two, All False Moves, that completely turns Carver’s life upside down.

Brubaker writes a wonderful espionage story; one where you are pulling for both the bad guys and the good guys, and sometimes you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. Brubaker keeps the story moving with plenty of believable twists and interesting characters. He also gives the reader just enough so that we feel like we know everything that is going on, but when actually we are figuring things out along with Carver. It makes for very addictive reading.

Sean Phillips’ artwork is exceptional. His dark, sometimes heavy, linework wonderfully compliments Brubaker’s story. Phillips is as adept at illustrating a big action sequence as he is creating a moody and atmospheric scene of dirty meetings conducted in a grungy bar. These two are the perfect fit for this wonderful story.

Now that we are three-quarters through the story, and Brubaker ends A Crooked Line with the setup for what will undoubtedly be a fantastic and bloody finish, I can’t wait for the final book. I will not only make it a point to buy the collection the day it comes out, but also find time to read it immediately.

June 08, 2005

More Star Wars Crap I Want

First, Target will be carrying Revenge of the Sith glasses that come with an action figure. What interests me in these is that the design of the glass is similar to the glasses that Burger King put out back in the early 80's when the original trilogy was playing.

There are glasses with General Grevious, a clone trooper, and Obi-Wan Kenobi - that I've seen. There might be more.

sith glass


Then M&M is still trying to ride their M-pire concept for everything it's worth. They will be putting out figure two-packs of M&M's dressed up like characters from the movies. My favorite two pairings:

mpire sotrmtrooper and vader
Stormtrooper and Darth Vader

mprie han solo and boba fett
Han Solo and Boba Fett


There are also some fun M-pire figures with Anakin and Luke and Leia.

What can I say, I'm a Star Wars slut.

What I'm Learning While At Home

1) Emma is good at coming up with drinking games.
Emma: When I drink this, everyone say, "whippa, flippa!!"

Emma drinks.

Heather / Brendan: WHIPPA! FLIPPA!

Repeat.
2) There is a reason the city of Aurora limits the number of garage sales to two a year. They are trying to protect the sanity of the husbands to the wives who want to have these damn things. Sure the money might be good, but can you really put a price on my sanity.

3) I found a new Spanish soap opera to watch: Siete Mujeres

siete mujeres


I love those costumes. The production values on this show is out of this world. It's fantastic. Just wish I could understand what the hell they are talking about.

4) When you're out of work during the summertime, you can go to the pool whenever you want. And when you want to save money when you go to the pool because you are out of work, you can go after 4pm and get a discount rate.

ian

emma

zoe


I've got some more great pictures of the kids enjoying the warm weather outside, I hope to get them up on the site soon.

Unemployment: Week Three

What a difference a day can make.

Before yesterday, I was on the verge of starting to get worried about the job situation. In the last few weeks of my search for a new career, Leapfrog Online had turned me down for the Director of Operations role - even after a number of interviews and checking my references. Then I had what I felt was a really bad interview with CompTIA for a product manager role. Plus, one company I was still talking with, ShopLocal.com, wasn’t returning any of my phone calls. To cap things off, I wasn't catching any new solid leads on jobs.

Now, I wasn't panicking, but I did find myself dwelling on the situation more and more over the past weekend and it was really bringing me down With Ian now off for the summer, everyone was going to be at home and I could feel the urgency to find something starting to mount. As Heather predicted weeks ago, with Ian home and the job search moving into mid-June, my stress levels would start climbing. That would be bad for everyone at our house.

Then came Tuesday. Had what I felt was a very strong afternoon of interviews with HubbardOne about joining their company as a web project manager. It would be doing essentially the second half of what I had to do when I was the product manager for Apartments.com. Actually, as I have talked to more people and looked at what is out there, I've learned that for the past five years Apts.com was expecting me to do two jobs at once. They wanted me to be a traditional product manager - scoping out the direction of the site and its products, and at the same time work as an executive producer/project manager to ensure that the websites were being built and maintained properly. Other companies don't put those two jobs together - they keep them separate. Mostly because the project manager portion quickly dominates all of your time and you have little time to dedicate to product management. But so it goes. There's nothing I can do about that now. As I'm conducting my search for a new job, I'm looking for product management OR project management positions. I don't want to fall into that same Apts.com trap again.

Anyway, I digress. The HubbardOne interviews went well - I think. Don't want to be too cocky. Like I said, the role there would be nearly identical to what I had to do while wearing my project manager hat at Apts.com. But instead of working on the same site all the time, I would be working on a number of different sites and projects. That sounds fantastic to me, and hopefully I conveyed that excitment and interest to everyone I talked to yesterday at HubbardOne.

Next, I get an email from my contact at ShopLocal.com apologizing for not returning my calls - she'd been swamped - but promised to get in contact with me soon. This I found encouraging. ShopLocal.com is another fantastic opportunity in my opinion. Definitely a job I would love to land. As long as they haven't said "no" to me, I still feel like I can convince them to hire me.

Then, while I'm downtown interviewing with HubbardOne, I get two calls for new interviews. One with Discover Financial and one with Office Max. Those meetings are later this week and early next, but the fact that I was getting the calls renewed my waning confidence that my resume alone could generate job leads. Again, both positions are ones that are very interesting.

So now I feel like I've got things cooking again with plenty of opportunities out there for me. Hopefully I can land one of these great jobs and make everything feel a bit more stable again.

One Step Closer To Real Superheroes

Japanese engineers have developed a robot suit that can augment the strength of the person wearing it. This is stuff straight out of American comic books and Japanese Manga.

robot suit


Probably the most famous example of a human enhanced by robotics in the comic books would be Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

iron man


In a couple of years, we could all be Tony Stark. How cool is that. What would Nicolas Cage have to say about that?

June 07, 2005

Try and Try Again - For What?

After the horrible response to Loonatics in just a preview form, WB has revamped the show once again as Loonatics Unleashed.

loonatics unleashed
"Loonatics Unleashed", an all-new action packed, comedy-adventure series set seven hundred years in the future, stars an ensemble cast of six superheroes who are descendants of the Looney Tunes. Series will debut on Kids' WB! in fall 2005. (L to R): Lexi Bunny, Rev Runner, Tech E. Coyote, Ace Bunny, Danger Duck, Spaz B. Wilde.


The designs are toned down a bit and WB seems to have softened the approach of the show as well. I'll stand be my comments I made when I learned about the original Loonatics: The original Looney Tunes shorts are classics that stand the test of the time and entertain regardless of whether you are 9 or 99. They're as funny now as they were in the 1950s. There isn't a need to "bring them into the new millenium." The Looney Tunes cartoons will work in any millenium because they are funny.

As If More Proof Was Necessary

PETA had protestors dress up like pieces of meat wrapped up for sale at the grocery store to make their point that eating meat is like cannibalism. Thus solidifying PETA's title as the craziest special interest group in the history of the world.

peta is crazy

June 06, 2005

It's Gonna Be In the 90's Here This Week

What better way to stay cool than with ice cream treats from Star Wars

lightsaber pops

vader ice cream


And how fitting is it that Vader has sour cherry eyes?

On a side note: It's now been a week since I saw Revenge of the Sith. Why haven't I seen it again? Time's a wastin' people. Heather has to get out and see this film too ya know - and I have to escort her. It wasn't a problem getting out for Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, with Episode I Heather was pregnant with Ian (e.g. no baby-sitter needed) and with Episode II she was pregnant with Emma (e.g. only needed a baby-sitter for one three-year old kid).

Now we need someone to wrangle our almost-six-year old, almost-three-year old, and fifteen-month old angels for three hours. It's harder than it sounds.

Hmmm . . . Liquorice

women in liquorice clothes


I have to say, clothes created from iquorice sure beat hats made out of meat any day.

Ain't It The Truth

the buckets


Summer vacation for Ian starts today. And I'm still home without a job. This is going to be rough.

June 05, 2005

The Cubs Are Fighting Back

CubsI know I was one of the people who had partially given up on the Cubs this season. With the rash of injuries, most notably to the starting pitching, that the team has been stricken in the first two months of the season, I had resigned myself to not expecting much from the Cubs this season. Sure I'd still watch the games, but I figured they'd end up in the middle of the division at or below .500.

Well, after a 6 - 1 West Coast, where the Cubs took 3 of 4 from the NL-West division leading San Diego Padres I'm starting to think the Cubs might still have a chance. I'm still not sure if they can catch the St. Louis Cardinals, but at least now it looks like they have the fire in them to make a try at it. At the very least, if they keep playing like this they will definitely have a good shot at the wild card berth come playoff time.

But here I am talking playoffs and it's the beginning of June. There still a lot of baseball left to play. And I guess that's why I'm getting excited about the Cubs's chances again. If the Cubs can beat up the Padres in San Diego with as many guys on the DL as they've got, imagine what can happen when some of those guys start coming back healthy. And even if they don't, the guys fillin' in are doing a hell of a job.

June 04, 2005

Who's Free Early Morning on June 15th?

Do you want to see Batman Begins in an IMAX theater AND see the Batmobile from the campy 60's TV show with me?

Navy Pier IMAX Theatre, 700 East Grand, is celebrating its “super-hero” sized release of Batman Begins: The IMAX Experience with a series of special events, including a midnight screening of the film on Wednesday, June 15 at 12:01 a.m. (late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning) and a public display of the original Batmobile in Navy Pier’s Gateway Park on Wednesday, June 15 from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.


Come on. I know there are some Batman fans out there reading this blog. It's our duty to attend this event.

batmobilebatman begins

June 03, 2005

The Only T-Shirt I Want

vader t-shirt
Darth Vader trimming a topiary tree in the shape of the Death Star

Song of the Cripple Alien

This was linked to from BoingBoing about a week ago, but I didn't get to watch it until recently. The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. What's most disturbing is that this show was produced in earnest as a serious program.

June 02, 2005

Clapton Is God

I think a nice way to unwind from the two-day garage sale extravagance Heather has planned will be to plop myself in front of the TV Saturday night. High on my list of things to watch if I do veg in front of the TV:

GREAT PERFORMANCES: ERIC CLAPTON'S CROSSROADS GUITAR FESTIVAL
Saturday, June 4 at 9 pm (cst) on PBS-WTTW

eric claptonIn the summer of 2004, a spectacular gathering of musicians from across the guitar world performed together on one concert stage, as the culminating event of Eric Clapton's three-day Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas. Great Performances presents highlights from the all-day concert at the Cotton Bowl featuring a once-in-a-lifetime showcase of guitar luminaries such as Carlos Santana, Joe Walsh, and J.J. Cale. Hear bluesmen Robert Cray, Buddy Guy and B.B. King, plus James Taylor, country superstar Vince Gill and many others.

Leave the Office Early Day

All of you still in the work force, I thought I should let you know that today is National Leave the Office Early Day. So cut out early this afternoon and, if you live in Chicago, enjoy the fantastic weather we are having this week.

National Leave the Office Early Day is the brainchild of Laura Stack, who believes so passionately about U.S. workers taking their lives back from the office that she wrote a book about it. She also has some great simple suggestions to help you make the change and start getting out of the office and back home at a reasonable time.

June 01, 2005

Garage Sale

Well before I became unemployed, Heather had talked about having a garage sale this summer. So this Friday and Saturday, starting at 9am both days, we'll be having a huge garage sale. Lots of children's clothes - and I mean lots. Plus a mess of other interesting things.

We were going to advertise in the newspapers, but Heather discovered why the newspaper's classified advertising revenue is consistently going down. Not only were the prices higher than what she thought was appropriate, but she missed the insertion dates. She figured why mess around with all that when sites like Craigslist will let you post for free and whenever you want. In fact, that's where you find one of our garage sale advertisements.

So if you out in the Aurora / Naperville area this Friday or Saturday stop by and see if there's anything you want. Ian's college education depends on it.

Ewan McGregor Gets All The Luck

First he gets to portray Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars films, he gets to fall in love with Nicole Kidman, he gets to ride around the world on a motorcycle, and now he gets to dance with this girl in a London stage production of "Guys and Dolls."

ewan mcgregor