December 30, 2005

Breakfast With The Kids

One of the perks of staying home for the week between Christmas and New Year's is all the time I get to spend with Ian, Emma, and Zoe. We've been having a lot of fun this week. Whether it's going to Brookfield Zoo to see the Christmas lights, visiting Grandma Van de North, or just goofing around and playing, I am really enjoying my time at home.

Breakfast With The Kids

This photo was taken the other morning. I was letting Heather sleep in and the four of us were enjoying breakfast together. Good times.

December 29, 2005

Christmas Photos

christmas gallery iconA whole bunch of pictures from our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations are now up in my Photos section.

For this gallery of pictures I am trying out a new software package. It's called Galerie and it allows you to automatically generate photo galleries directly from iPhoto and publish them to the web. While I think I'll stick to using Flickr for most of my photo sharing, Galerie might be handy when I have a lot of photos on one subject I want to share on the site. I like how the app handles and the choices in templates.

Take a look at the Christmas photos. I haven't figured out how to put captions with the images easily in Galerie, but when I do I'll be dropping those in as well.

December 27, 2005

Football!

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison slams a fan to the turf after he ran onto the field

I'm not a particularly big Steelers fan, but I thought this photo was just a lot of fun. Some poor smoe thought he could run on the field in Cleveland and now he's about to get slammed to the frozen turf by a hard-hitting pro football player. That makes me laugh.

December 26, 2005

Bears: Division Champs

lovie smith celebratesWho'd a thunk it? Certainly not I or anyone else at the beginning of the season. Most of the "experts" were picking the Bears to go 4-12, at best 7-9. Nobody was picking them to possibly finish 12-4 as the champs of the NFC North Division. They've already got the NFC North wrapped up, thanks to the Ravens putting the resurgent Vikings in their place and what looked liked like an exciting game against the Green Bay Packers yesterday afternoon, which the Bears won decisively 24-17.

I can't say for certain because I really didn't get to watch the game. I always look forward to a Green Bay - Chicago match up, especially yesterday's game with so much on the line for the Bears. However, I learned that if you are hosting the Christmas celebration for the family at your house, you really don't get much of a chance to sit down and watch a Bears game. Of course we had it on in the family room - with the full surround sound going, but with helping the kids, helping Heather, and visiting with some of the non-Bears obsessed members of the family I didn't get to sit much more than 10 minutes in front of the game. I got to see the first touchdown by Muhsin Muhammad but after that it was touch-and-go for me. A got a lot of updates through out the night, but it wasn't quite the same.

rex grossman triumphantIn the end though, I can't be happier with the results. The Bears are winners of the NFC North, they've secured the second-best record in the NFC - meaning they will get a first week bye in the playoffs, and they are in a good position to finish out the season 12-4 with a win against the Vikings next weekend. Before Rex Grossman came back I was concerned with the Bears chances of winning against the Falcons and the Vikings. But with Rex behind center the Bears are like a whole other team - a balanced team (or almost balanced team) with the offense and the defense contributing to the success of the team.

With the return of the Rex, and seeing how well he helps the team generate offense, I am actually taking seriously some of the talk that has circulated about the Bears going to the Super Bowl this January. And why not? There is no dominant team in the NFC. Seattle is good, but nothing that I don't think the Bears defense could keep in check. I think the Bears have a very good chance at going far into the playoffs - possibly even the Super Bowl.

What a great Christmas present.

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE MCKILLIPS!


Ian Snowman 2


Emma Tree


The snowman was loving crafted by Ian and the Christmas tree was rendered in full techno-color by Emma.

Hope your holiday celebrations are as wonderful as ours.

December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas Eve

Who wouldn't love Christmas with the super heroes?

dc comics christmas

December 23, 2005

Reason #87 To Own a iPod With Video

The Portable Yule Log!

portable yule log
Thank our fine friends at WGN for providing us with a version of the ever popular video fireplace that is formatted perfectly for an iPod with video.

Making Santa Hats

Is the basement apartment you have in your mom's house just not festive enough for Christmas? Are you looking to bring a little more Christmas flare to the action figure display that covers your cube in the IT department?

Why not make some Santa hats for your Star Wars figures.

starwarstoys_w_santahats


Yep. That should lift you right out of your holiday depression. And drive the rest of us into one.

Why My Parents Might Be Returning My Christmas Gifts

Wednesday night was Ian's Christmas show - something Heather and I realized we had forgotten to tell my parents when it was too late to make a difference.

Ian's ClassSorry Mom and Dad.

I do have some picture though. And I can tell you that it was a great show. The first graders (which Ian is one of) came out first to do their three songs. There aren't a whole lot of first graders, but they sang loud and clear, so we didn't have any problem hearing them.

In the final song, which had something to do with be thankful for things, each kid got a solo of sorts where they sang about what they were most thankful for. When Ian's turn came around I was proud to hear his voice carry loud and clear over the crowd. There didn't seem to be any jitters in that boy's stomach. He performed like a pro.

The rest of the show was fun too. The other grades did very good jobs performing their songs. There is just something sweet and fun about watching 6, 7, and 8 year-olds standing up on a stage belting out Christmas tunes dressed up in their holiday finest.

Ian SingingEmma and Zoe really enjoyed the show. Emma was singing along with the tunes she knew, was fascinated with seeing her big brother up on stage, and was infinitely interested with the different "size" of kids. When one grade would finish with their set, she would always turn to me and ask, "Are the bigger kids going to sing now?" It was a lot of fun to sit next to her and watch her enjoy the show.

Zoe also loved all the singing. She clapped along with the songs and on a number of occasions loudly demanded that more songs be song. She got a restless halfway through, but Heather took her to the back of the gym and the played and listened to the rest of the show from there. Later, when the show was over and Zoe was still asking for more singing, I offered to serenade her with my own vocal skills. Her response?

"No."

Oh well, at least Bumper doesn't seem to mind when I sing.

All in all, it was a great evening for me, and I think everyone else in the family. Ian was proud of his performance - as he should have been, and all of us had been thoroughly entertained with the show. It was a perfect way to celebrate Christmas.

December 22, 2005

It's On Tonight

It's not the TBS marathon - that starts on Saturday - but tonight Turner Classic Movies is airing the greatest modern day Christmas movie of all time: A Christmas Story

a christmas story

December 21, 2005

It's A Wonderful Life

Last week I was talking about the Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol podcast.

This week the Christmas-themed MP3 of choice is a 1947 Lux Radio broadcast of It's A Wonderful Life. It runs about an hour long.

What I learned over at boing boing about the Lux Radio programs were that the stars of major movies recreated their roles for the live radio broadcast. Pretty cool.


its a wonderful life

Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea

itrip autoGriffin has come out with a number of cool add-ons for the iPod. My favorite one being the accessory that allows you to listen to the radio through your iPod. The iTrip Auto could probably be a close second though.

There are a couple of reasons why I really like this accessory for listening to an iPod while traveling in a car. Unlike the very cool Griffin Road Trip, you don't have to have the thing attached to your lighter outlet like some bizarre car tumor. The iTrip still plugs into the lighter outlet, but the long cords allow you to place the iPod where it will best fit in your vehicle. And it still charges the iPod at the same time.

I also like that they use the dock connector for hooking the accessory up. This means that you don't have to mess with your iPod's volume when playing it through the radio like you have to with connectors that use the headphone jack. By using the dock connector everything gets controlled through the car stereo's volume settings. Plus, they have selectable LX and DX modes - meaning that in radio-congested markets like Chicago you can downshift to LX mode and maybe have a better chance of locking in on a station for clear reception.

This thing is pretty cool. Now if I can only get the stereo in my car to work . . .

Stories From a Trip to Ohio

This past weekend Heather and I loaded kids, clothes, food, and gifts into the van and made our trek eastward to Ohio to celebrate Christmas with Heather's side of the family. Because of scheduling and availability, Heather's family almost always gets together to celebrate Christmas the weekend before December 25th or the weekend after. It ensures everyone can be together to celebrate the holiday at the same time (a concept I think my family is going to have to come to terms with now that my sister is married and dealing with an extended family of her own).

Anyway, the trip to and from Ohio is always ripe for funny and interesting stories. Plenty of strange things are said, seen, and experienced over the course of six plus hours and nearly three hundred miles with your wife and three kids shoved into a mini-van. I had two rather interesting things happen/occur to me on the trip out in fact: one psychological and sociological.

Let's take the sociological first. We left late Friday night to make the drive. Chicago traffic be damned, we left a little after 5pm from Aurora and got on the tollway. Things actually moved along nicely but by 7pm we had to stop for the kids sake. They had been in the car for two hours, hadn't had dinner yet, and Heather was running out of "healthy" snacks to keep their bellies occupied. We hadn't gotten to the Indiana turnpike with it's snazzy little rest stops, so we pulled off I-80/90 and found a McDonald's.

I knew we were east of Gary, Indiana - but probably not by much. It didn't think much about it until we got into the McDonald's the kids wanted to eat at. Every single one of the employees was a black person. There were a few customers sitting at tables in the restaurant, and they were all black as well. Considering this and judging by the who I saw waiting in line for the drive-thru when we pulled up, me and my little family were the only white people in the restaurant (and quite possibly the mini-mall that the McDonald's was situated in).

The fact that we were the only white people was just a passing thought for me as we entered the restaurant. I had other things to be concerned about, namely getting Ian and Emma focused on telling Heather and I what it was they wanted to eat. It was later, while we all sat and devoured our food that I couldn't help but notice how many people were looking at us - employees and customers alike. They were all looking at us, and not in a casual, "who else is at McDonald's at 7:15 on a Friday night." It was different than that. This wasn't something I wasn't imagining either. Every time I would look up and away from the kids or Heather, there were one or more people studying us. It started to make me a feel a little uncomfortable. Like we had gone somewhere we didn't belong.

I guess I just found it interesting and made me think about how I usually move around in areas where white people are either the strong majority or where the mix of races is diverse enough that the presence of one particular race doesn't stand out. Here Heather, the kids, and I were in an area of Indiana that is probably 85-90% black. It was a different experience for me.

The other event was psychological in nature. About one mile before we have to get off the Ohio Turnpike and head south down I-75 to Findlay, we have to cross this wide open bridge spanning the Maumee River. The bridge is up fairly high in the air. Even though I am a relatively fearless guy when it comes to driving, something about driving over this bridge has always shaken my nerves.

me scaredEver since I've had to start driving over the bridge with my own kids in the car my obsessive behavior has compelled me to rehearse and anticipate all the horrible driving accidents that could occur while traversing the bridge. I have gone over in my head countless times everything that could possibly gone wrong, tried to anticipate every possible outcome, and planned out what I would do for any situation. Inside my paranoid mind I have rehereased what I orders to deliver to Heather and the kids, determined what should be the most efficient plan for getting everyone out of the vehicle, estimated how many kids I can carry while swimming n the Maumee River (answer: all of them), and how many i can carry with a broken leg (answer: all of them).

Yes, I know I'm a freak. Welcome to one of the dark corners of my mind. You can think about a lot of things while driving along the turnpike - especially when everyone else in the vehicle is sound asleep.

Of course I don't expect anything horrible to happen. As fearless as I might be when driving, I'm equally as safe. I'm just a little paranoid. (okay, maybe a lot.)

Last Friday night when we were driving to Ohio, it was a very windy night. At least the wind was really whipping around on the turnpike. I had been fighting with it most of the drive. Anyone who has driven a van, truck, or any other large vehicle knows that on windy days your vehicle can get jerked around a lot when driving on the open road. You especially feel the effects of the wind when you come out from behind a wind block - be it a larger vehicle, from under a bridge, or from behind the protection of trees. The van will bounce to the side as the wind slams back into it and you have to re-adjust as the driver.

That's what happened when our van got a quarter of the way over the Maumee River bridge. I passed a semi and a gust of wind hit our van on the driver's side, casusing the vehicle to jump to the right. Suddenly all my planning and mental rehearsing came flooding over me as my heart jumped in time with the van. I never came remotely close to losing control, but it was enough of a jolt that, given the circumstances and the location, the adrenalin started pumpingt. it gave me a bit of scare.

Do I think it's effected me at all? Not sure yet. On the drive back to Illinois on Monday, Heather was driving the first leg of the trip, so she got to steer us over the Maumee River. I was safely in the back passing pretzels to Ian and Emma and playing with Zoe. (Though Heather did take some enjoyment in pointing out that we were crossing "my favorite bridge") The test will be in the spring when we go back to Findlay to visit for Easter.

December 16, 2005

WTTW Christmas Goodness

Leave it to WTTW, the Chicago Public Television station, to pull out some great programming around Christmas. This is what's on tap for Saturday, December 17.

bing crosbySettle in for a full evening of Christmas musical entertainment and more. Christmas at the Hollywood Palace (9pm) brings you memorable moments from the holiday specials of the 1960s series The Hollywood Palace. See and hear performances by Bing Crosby and his family, Perry Como, and such guests as Bob Newhart, The Lennon Sisters, and Kukla, Fran and Ollie. At 10 pm, The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Extravaganza, taped in performance taped at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, includes such popular tunes as: Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, Winter Wonderland, Nutcracker Suite, and Dig That Crazy Santa Claus. At 11 pm, Chicago Stories shows you all that it takes to create the annual display of fantasies behind glass in The Marshall Field's Christmas Windows, a Chicago tradition for more than a century.
Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Bob Newhart in their 1960's prime entertaining for Christmas, Brian Setzer keeping the big band sound alive in modern times, and a nostalgic look at one of the great things about being in Chicago for the holidays - the windows at Marshall Field's. That is some television programming I could really enjoy sitting down to.

December 15, 2005

Dickens's A Christmas Carol podcast

christmas carol coverPenguin Books are podcasting Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol in five installments starting today. The tale is being read by Geoffrey Palmer.

You can get the files from the Penguin Books website or look for it in iTunes.

I'm going to be adding this to my podcast subscriptions in iTunes tonight.

Earn Free iTunes Music and Loving Podcasts

I learned today that if you buy a gift certificate for iTunes using your PayPal account, you get a little kick-back from Apple
* Buy a $20 gift certificate-get 10 free songs

* Buy a $50 gift certificate-get 25 free songs
How cool is that. You have to start on this page when ordering, but once you do the gift certificate will be sent to whoever you want it for and your iTunes account will be credited for the extras.

Personally, I'm thinking Heather and I should just buy some gift certificates for ourselves and get extra music for our money.

Speaking of iTunes, I am totally loving two new podcasts that you can find there. One is the Ricky Gervais Show and the other is the Sound Opinions podcast.

I've always been a fan of Sound Opinions, the world's only rock n' roll radio talk show that previous aired weekly on WXRT. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, music critics for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune respectively, recently took their show over to the Chicago Public Radio station, and with the move have given listeners a whole bunch of new ways to listen to them.

I never got to listen to the show as much as I wanted. There just wasn't time at home in the evenings to sit and listen to a radio program. But now that they are making their weekly sixty minute program available as a podcast I am eating them up.

ricky gervaisThe Ricky Gervais Show is a newer discovery. I saw that it was the most popular podcast on iTunes and I knew Ricky's name as the guy who created the original "The Office" for the BBC before NBC brought it to the states. What was remarkable was that the podcast got to be #1 on iTunes with only having one podcast out there. I had to give it a try.

The show is simply Rick, his "The Office" co-creator Steve Merchant, and a guy named Karl Pilkington. During the 30-minute long podcast Ricky and Steve "trawl the shallow depths of the mind of their co-host Karl Pilkington." Translation: it's a damn funny show.

There are only going to be 12 shows (so they say), so I'm looking forward to riding this through and getting some good laughs. Episode two is already out there, but I haven't had a chance to listen yet. I just got caught up on Sound Opinions listening this morning.

Does My Dad Doesn't Know How Good He's Got It?

My father's birthday was last month, and as a present from his girlfriend he received a new iPod. Apparently he was always stealing her's and really enjoyed the portablility and fun of listening to an iPod. Of course, the one she got my dad was one of the new iPod's with video capabilities - it was what was available at the time she was getting the gift.

daffy ipodI love my iPod (no-video), and find new ways to enjoy it more each day, but I couldn't help but be a little envious of my dad. Sure, he is probably more technically adapt than most dad's, but he's no techno-geek like I can be at times.

Yesterday I was reading on TUAW about a company that is making classic American animation available for download and direct transfer to your iPod. The company is iVideoBlast and they are making shows like Loony Toones and Merrie Melodies shorts, Popeye and the old Superman cartoons available. What's even better, is that the shows are only $0.99.

How cool would it be to have a bunch of old Bug Bunny cartoons and Superman cartoons on your iPod for quick viewing while sitting on the train or bored at work. I know if I had the hardware I would be taking full advantage of this service. Music, podcasts, , news, weather reports, cartoons and video - the iPod is the perfect product.

December 14, 2005

Today's Moment of Zen

moon-rise in switzerland
(AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella)

December 13, 2005

Black Ink Monday

Not sure how I missed this, but yesterday was the "Black Ink Monday" protest by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC). The Tribune company recently decided to eliminate the local editorial cartoonist at a number of its papers. The AAEC staged its non-violet protest by posting over a 100 editorial cartoons at EditorialCartoonists.com.

In my opinoin, the dismisal of local cartoonist from the editorial board is just another sign of the slow watering down of the media outlets available to Americans. Radio consolidation, newspaper consolidation, massive media company consolidation - it all leads to bland newspapers, radio, television, and magazines that lack any local flair or commentary. It's all McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and USA Today.

Here are a few of my favorite cartoons from the ones that were posted online.

black monday 1
black monday 2
black monday 3

December 12, 2005

An Open Letter to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

rudolphRecently posted at McSweeney's, An Open Letter to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

When Santa came over to you that foggy Christmas Eve and asked, "Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?," I couldn't wait for the part where you'd tell Santa to stick it up his ass, and run off with Hermey to open a thriving dental practice on the Island of Misfit Toys. So what if Christmas got canceled that year and all the little boys and girls all over the world would wake up to empty stockings by the fireplace. You needed to teach Santa a lesson in how to treat people.
Preach it, brother! I know it's a fun little Christmas story - one that I always enjoy. But if you spend anytime picking apart the events of the story and analyzing how the characters act and react, you have to wonder what the hell is going on.

Read the whole letter.

This Is What I Was Afraid Of

bears logoThe Bears got whupped Sunday by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Minnesota Vikings didn't seem to have much trouble with the St. Louis Rams. Now the Bears only hold a one game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North.

With as tight as the NFC is looking, the only way the Bears get into the playoffs is if they win their division. But with a tough final three games - two of which are on the road - I'm starting to worry about the Bears chances of accomplishing this. Defense is great, but to win a game you still need to score more points than your opponent. Kyle has kept things together so far, but in the stretch we need him to be moving the team down the field consistently for touchdowns or field goals. Throwing the ball away on third downs isn't going to cut it.

Now the Bears are in the situation I expressed concern about last week - one game up on the Vikings with the next two games against teams they should be able to beat (but nothing is for certain). Which then makes the final game of the season up in the Metrodome against the Vikings a winner-take-all battle. Assuming, of course, that the Vikings continue to win. Hopefully the Steelers smack the Vikings around and so do the Baltimore Ravens. I'd love to see the Bears going up to Minnesota with a two game lead in their division.

I guess it's best to take things just one game at a time. Right now, lets just hope the Bears can beat the Atlanta Falcons. They'll have 'em at home and the defense should be pumped up to shut the birds down. Let's just see if we can't get Orton to come out of his shell and generate some offense.

December 10, 2005

This Should Seal The Deal

If you were sitting on the fence regarding whether to get one of the shiney new iPods that play video, I think this next piece of news should make the decision much easier.

Apple and NBC announced this past week that they would begin making TV shows - both current and older shows - available for purchase and download via Apple's iTunes store.

Law & Order, Conan O'Brien, The Office, plus old shows like Dragnet and Alfred Hitchcock Presents are all available now on iTunes.

But this is the best part. The part that will make you want to run out and buy a new iPod this very instant.

NBC is making Knight Rider available for download.

knight rider

Oh, yeah. You know you want it.

(And by the way, Diana Krall's rendition of "Jingle Bells" is the iTunes free download of the week. Check it out)

December 09, 2005

New Blue Beetle

DC Comics mad a lot of fans upset when they killed off the Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) at the beginning of Infinite Crisis - the curren Universe shattering story that will remake DC Comics like Crisis on Infinite Earths did back in the mid-80s.

Personally, I didn't give it too much thought. Sure I always liked the character. Thought he was mildly interesting, but didn't consider it any great loss. It's only superhero comic books. They're like soap operas - dead people come back to life.

Well Infinit Crisis isn't even half over yet and already we know that the Blue Beetle will return. It won't be Ted Kord in the suit. But there will be a new Blue Beetle series written by Keith Giffen and John Rogers with art by Cully Hammer.

Don't know much about the series yet, but Cully Hammer has released some picture of what the new Blue Beetle will look like in costume.

new blue beetle

It certainly is a departure from how the character has looked in the past:

old blue beetle

Why am I writing about this? I find it interesting. Blue Beetle was always one of the fringe characters, B-level characters, that I usually enjoyed reading when they showed up in a comic I read regularly, but they weren't somebody I ever really sought out to read more about. I'm curious to see how Giffen, Rogers, and Hammer handle the new Beetle. The visuals certainly provide a bold new direction. I wonder if the comic will follow suit.

A Christmas Story - In 30 Seconds - With Bunnies

I've linked to their movies in the past. This year they recreate a modern Christmas classic: A Christmas Story.

It only takes 30-seconds to watch.

a christmas story with bunnies

December 08, 2005

Taking Things Too Far , Part 2

I'm as big a fan of Apple and the iPod as anyone, but even I think you have to draw a line when you start trying to find ways to integrate the portable digital music player into undergarments.

iPod UnderpantsPlay iBoxer Solid Boxer:

The Play iBox Solid Boxer is an ideal knit boxer for trendy, gadget-savvy music lovers. Made from a cotton/spandex blend, this button fly boxer has a discrete front pocket which is perfect for holding your iPod, other mp3 players or your cell phone. This Play iBox Boxer is available in solid fashion colors and the solid waistband features a racing stripe and the Play logos. If you buy 2 pairs of the Play iBox Boxer, you’ll receive 3 free iTunes. iPod not included with purchase.

You Might Be Better Off Dying Early

A news report today lets us know that the U.S. life expectancy has hit an all-time high - 77.6 years.

That's great.

But they go on to report that "Half of Americans in the 55-to-64 age group have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese."

Oh. So American medical science is reducing deaths from heart disease, cancer, and strokes, and the American republic responds to receiving these extras years of life on Earth by gorging themselves on crap that makes them so large they have to buy two plane tickets even when they are flying alone.

Wonderful. Way to waste a gift.

Neopets and Advertising

An article on Wired caught my attention today: The Neopets Addiction

They report on Neopets.com - how with its 25 million members and 2.2 billion page views per month, it has become the second-stickiest site on the web. I know my kids love the site. Ian has a couple of pets that he cares for there, and he plays plenty of the games on the site to earn his NeoPoints - which he cashes in to buy things for his Neopets. Emma likes the site too, but she needs a little help navigating around. (I think Heather even keeps some pets there - but don't tell her you heard that from me.)

A lot of the article deals with immersive advertising. It's how Neopets.com has become as financially successful as it has. Advertising and content are mixed together into one entity. For example, the Cereal Adventure zone is littered with the Trix rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun, and other cereal mascots. Each one "hosts" their own game.

What I found interesting was how much advertising / marketing is integrated into the site. I've never really spent any time on Neopets.com. It's all been Heather, Ian, and Emma. I wonder how all the advertising is influencing Ian and Emma or if they understand what the game "sponsorships" are really trying to do. They probably don't. The article has piqued my interest in the site, and I think the next time I see Ian on feeding his Neopet some food from McDonald's I'll peer over his shoulder awhile and ask him some questions about what he's seeing on the website.

More DVDs To Add To My List

Justice League: Season 1 won't come out until March, but it is something to look forward to.

Personally, I think the series really hits its stride in season three, but the first two seasons are some great cartoons as well.



There are just too many great cartoon collection out there on DVD right now. Star Wars: Clone Wars volume 2, there are two more collections of Batman: The Animated Series that I want, another volume of Superman: The Animated Series, some scattered Scooby-Doo collections that I'd like to have because their just plain fun, plus some classic Looney Tunes and Walt Disney collections that I would love to see on my self at home.

Wow! That's a lot of cartoons. And I don't even have time to watch them all right now. But they are all so fantastic and I so much would like to watch them all that I can't help but keep working on finding ways to squeeze out some money to pick these collections up.

December 07, 2005

Bill Mudron

I like Bill Mudron's art

bill mudron

Christmas Gift Idea

book coverThe premise of Holy Tango of Literature is simple: "What if poets and playwrights wrote works whose titles were anagrams of their names?"

That is what Francis Heaney asked himself and the answer is collection of strange and funny poems.

For example:

DAMMIT, DAVE
DAVID MAMET

DAVID BOWMAN, an astronaut
HAL 9000, a computer

(Bowman approaches the spaceship in his pod. A long pause.)

BOWMAN: Hal.
HAL: Dave.
BOWMAN: About these pod bay doors...
HAL: Yes.
BOWMAN: I was wondering...
HAL: Dave. Because I know what you're going to say. And I'm sorry, but...
BOWMAN: What?
HAL: No. I'm sorry.
BOWMAN: You're...
HAL: I'm sorry. I wish I could, but...
BOWMAN: Wait. Are you telling me...
HAL: Dave. Look.
BOWMAN: You're not going to...
HAL: What? Open the doors? No. No I am not.
BOWMAN: Well, fuck me, Hal.


The T.S. Elliot one looked funny too.

Taking Things Too Far

This is what happens when you get two people together who are big Star Wars fans and may have gone slightly over the edge. They dress like characters from the movie when they get married.

Note To Everyone

This fall, when you are getting ready to send me gobs of money in a birthday card, don't forget to pick up a DC Comics stamp from the USPS for mailing the card. If I get a birthday card without a DC Comics stamp, I'm sending the card back (if the card has money in it; I'll spend the cash, but on something I know you would disaprove of).

DC Comics Stamps

Christmas With Big Nate

Big Nate is a comic that I've read from time to time. The Chicago Tribune doesn't carry it, so I don't read it regularly, but when I have seen the comic I usually find it entertaining.

For three weeks starting 12/5 (this past Monday), the Big Nate comic strip is running a special Christmas story that teaches Nate the true meaning of giving at Christmas. His class is doing "Secret Santas" and Nate gets Jenny, a girl in his class he is madly in love with, but whom doesn't readily return his affection. He sees the "Secret Santa" program as the perfect "in" for him to impress Jenny.

sample of comic

It just started on Monday, so you can still jump on while the story is fresh.

So Much For Suprising Me!

If you read Heather's blog, it's obvious that there isn't much hope of our son ever making it as spy. That kid gave up the goods faster than a june bug in a frying pan.

But when you think about it, Heather had a chance to cut off the flow of information. I could have still be surprised on Christmas morning! But, noooooo, she had to not only write about it on her blog, she had to tell me about last night too.

The Walker family, we'll never be.

December 06, 2005

Batman Begins Lives Up To My Hype

I've been a fan of Batman for about as long as I can remember. There hasn't been a time that I wasn't fascinated and entertained with Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter ego. More than just the whiz-bang cool of the super heroics of it all, the character of Batman - who he is and what he does - as always been the big draw for me. Bruce Wayne is a regular guy who is driven by extreme situations to make himself into force feared by criminals. Batman is the struggle to establish order in a world of chaos.

It's because of this deep love of the character that I always take great interest when he is represented in different mediums. Be it comics, novels, animation or live-action - I want to see how others envision and interpret the mythos of the Batman. Most times these versions sit well with me, sometimes they seem a bit off - but I usually end up enjoying how ever Batman is presented by appreciating how many different ways Bruce Wayne/Batman can be recast by different creators.

batman begins imageThink about it. Superman is always Superman - blue tights, red cape, played straight as the ultimate Boy Scout. Spiderman will always be Spiderman - wise-cracking young everyman Peter Parker struggling to keep a personal life and a superhero life in balance. Batman though, can swing from camping Adam West to Superfriends Saturday morning cartoon vanilla to the dark and violent version Christopher Nolan put on the screen in Batman Begins

All last year on this blog I talked about the development of Warner Brothers' relaunch of the Batman movie franchise. Under the direction of Christopher Nolan, with a script from David Goyer, Batman was given new life on the silver screen this past June. Next to Star Wars Episode III, Batman Begins was the movie I most desperately wanted to see in the theater this past summer. I was pretty excited about the film coming out. Unfortunately, situations as they were, I was unable to get out to a theater to see the film.

A quick DVD release was as inevitable as me picking the DVD up as soon as possible. After taking some birthday money to get myself a new overcoat to battle the cold winters in Chicago, the remaining cash went towards obtaining Batman Begins and another exceptional comic book character-based movie, Spiderman 2.

This past weekend I finally got to sit down and watch Batman Begins - almost six months after it debuted in the theaters and five months later than I thought I would be seeing the movie. Between following the movies production, reading all the reviews, and seeing the trailers and previews, I had built this version of Batman up considerably in my head. My expectations were that this film would be the best movie yet at bringing "my version" of Batman to life. Like I said before, Batman can be, and is, reinterpreted all the time. It's inherent in the strength of the character. However, Batman fans each have their own "version" of Batman that they consider the right one. That was what I was expecting from this movie - a dark, driven Bruce Wayne with a keen mind who is driven to restore order to the chaos and protect those who can't protect themselves. I also expect an equally driven and smart James Gordon - my second favorite character in comics and one who has continually gotten shafted in the movies with how he was portrayed.

So with it was with much relief and excitement that about forty-five minutes into the movie I realized that Nolan's Batman was hitting it right on the mark for me. The character, his motivation, his actions - everything was falling into place as what I loved about Batman. Seeing the movie proved to be worth the wait. Sure I would have enjoyed on the big screen - those exterior scenes up in the mountains near Ra's Al Ghul's lair probably looked fantastic - but at least now I can watch it whenever I want. Which, incidentally, was the first thing I thought of when I finished the movie late Saturday night. When can I find time to watch the movie again?

batman beginsNolan's and Goyer's script give the story emotional depth and resonance with the audience, while blending the fantastical with the real in a believable way. By grounding the story in a world that resembles real life - not a fictional/stylized world like most fantasies do - it heightens both the impact of the story and the accessibility to it. Because everything is boiled down to play in a "real" world, you approach the characters as real people - not cartoon characters or icons. It makes for a much more exciting film.

And James Gordon was finally played like the tough, hard working, no-nonsense cop dedicated to justice with a true sense of ethics. Gary Oldman is perfectly cast and delivers a wonderful performance as the one uncorrupt cop in Gotham City.

I thoroughly enjoyed Batman Begins. Disappointed that I had to wait as long as I did to see it, but happy that the move was made and that I own it to enjoy it again whenever I want.

December 05, 2005

Warm Up Your Shufflin' Shoes

How crazy is this Chicago Bears thing getting? If the Seattle Seahawks lose tonight, the Bears will be the #1 seed in the NFC.

nfl playoff standings as of 12-05-2005

How about them apples. Even if the Seahawks win, the Bears still maintain a #2 seed a first week bye in the playoffs. I know there is still some weeks of football to play and the Bears have a rough schedule: Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Green Bay, and Minnesota, but it certainly is a lot of fun.

chicago bears logoI'm going to assume that the Bears are going to lose next week against the Steelers. It's going to be in Pittsburgh (in fact 3 of the Bears' 4 remain games are on the road), the Steelers are going to be pissed about losing to the Bengals last weekend, and frankly the Steelers just plain out-match them.

The Bears could take Atlanta and they've proven they can beat the Pack. What scares me is the final game of the season against the Vikings. Minnesota is playing really well, have a strong, proven Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Brad Johnson, and have three of their last four at home (including the Bears). Sure, the Vikes have to play Pittsburgh, but they also get St. Louis and Baltimore. While the Rams and Ravens aren't scaring anyone this year, I am hoping these two teams can pull something together and beat the Vikings. I'd hate to have things play out with the final game of the season up in Minnesota being about the Bears playoff life hanging in the balance. I'd feel more comfortable with things wrapped up before that.

Like I said before, it's going to be some interesting football in December. With a little luck, continued strong defense, and maybe (just maybe) a little offense, the Bears could shuffle into another Super Bowl.

December 04, 2005

Bring It!

I've talked about how things can get heated in our house when the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns play each other.

Well, that's gonna seem like a Sunday tea party with the local garden club when you compare it to what the atmosphere is gonna be like on January 2, 2005.

fiesta bowl matchup

Heather might be Cleveland Browns fan, but she is an Ohio State FANATIC.

OSU logoLike me, she didn't actually go to the college sports team she cheers the hardest for in football, but that doesn't stop either of us from being very loyal fans. I'm a true-green Irish fan. She is a "hang on Sloopy" crazy Buckeye fan.

It's gonna be a flat out war in our family room that day. We might have to send the kids over to my Mom's house. One of us might end up sleeping on the couch that night.

OSU logoThe smack talking will start with the posting of this blog entry. I fully expect Heather to make some snarky comments about the Buckeye whipping the Irish's asses in the comments section or posting her own counter statement over on her blog.

To that I'll say one thing: Charlie Weiss. The man has won multiple Super Bowls. He knows how to prepare a football team for the big game. The Fiesta Bowl won't even be a contest. 42 - 13.

December 02, 2005

Can't Wait For Spider-Man 3

Don't know where this came from, but it is truly one of the more strange/disturbing images I've seen since Tron Guy.

spider george

Yeah, I think the guy is naked. Which begs the question, "Who's crazier - the guy painting his naked body to look like Spider-Man or the guy standing there taking the photos?"

December 01, 2005

Wake Up With The King

elvis coffeeI ain't talking about those creepy Burger King commercials that had people waking up in bed, rolling over, and seeing some guy dressed like the Burger King sitting in bed with them. I'm talking about getting your morning caffeine fix with a hot cup of Elvis Coffee.

They've got four flavors; Santa Baby, Love Me Tender, Blue Christmas, and Silent Night.

It's gourmet coffee freshly ground in Memphis, Tennessee. They even have a coffee subscription where they will deliver a half pound of Elvis Coffee to your door each month. Amazing!

Two years ago I talked about Elvis Wine and nobody got me any. I don't drink coffee, but Heather does. I think it would be fun to serve some of this up on Christmas day when everyone is over at our house.

Christmas Stocking For Zoe

Heather recently started making a Christmas stocking for Zoe. Ian and Emma already have homemade stockings, so it's only natural that Heather puts one together for Zoe as well. Of course, as has happened with the first two stockings, the project doesn't get started in time for Christmas. Not to worry though, if Heather doesn't finish in time for December 24, 2005, Zoe will certainly have something in place next year and for future Christmases to come.

In the mean time, I was thinking that Zoe might like to have this stocking that I found over at Kurt S. Adler's website.

batman stocking

I think Zoe would love it.