August 31, 2006

Fantastic Four Cartoon Debuts

fantastic four posterThis Saturday at 7pm (central) a new cartoon debuts on Cartoon Network, but you wouldn't know it from looking at their website. Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes is the latest animated incarnation of one of Marvel Comics flagship titles and is set for a limited run on the CN this fall.

I'm not much of a Marvel comics fan. I find some of their characters interesting, but not enough to read any of their comics. However, after reading through this interview with the creators of the series and seeing some of the model sheets being used for the show, I would like to take a peek at Fantastic Four. They certainly are using a very modern design for the characters, and from the sounds of the interview, with the overall design of the show. It might be a lot of fun.

August 30, 2006

Brent Pops The Question

PVP is wonderful online comic strip that I have been reading for years. I not only enjoy creator Scott Kurtz's style of art, but his sense of humor which shines in the series.

Yesterday Brent Sienna asked long time girlfriend Jade Fontaine to marry him. The response was not exactly what he was expecting.

pvp comic from 8/29

Luckily, today's strip indicates that things might not be as bad as they seem for poor Brent.

An Open Letter to Elevator #1

Dear Elevator #1,

I know I have only been here a couple of weeks, and maybe it isn't my place to bring this up, but I really feel an obligation to say something.

I understand that moving people up and down three, four, even seven floors at a time can be a lot of work. And it's not that you have to do it just once a day. You have to repeatedly go up and down, open your doors and close your doors, with nary a rest in between trips. I'm sure it's exhausting and causes you to work up quite a sweat - or whatever it is you elevators do. However, I really think you need to consider stronger deodorants or more frequent cleaning. This is probably as hard for me to say as it is for you to hear, but Elevator #1 you suffer from some very bad body order.

At first I thought that maybe I had entered the elevator right after a person with bad body order had gotten off. But over the course of the last few weeks, as I continue to notice that pungent, ripe aroma whenever I ride in your car, I have come to the conclusion that the smell originates from you.

The office building we are in is very old, and I am sure you are nearly as old as it. So I thought maybe it was simply age that gave you your distinctive fragrance. Unfortunately, I haven't encountered the same aroma experience when taking Elevator #2 or Elevator #3 on my trips to the fourth or fifth floor. In fact, they smell down right pleasant. The problem is uniquely your's, my poorly scented friend.

Not being an elevator, I don't know what sort of deodorizing options are available to you, but I really hope that you begin exploring them. And not just for the benefit of your riders, though that would be greatly appreciated. You should really do it for yourself.

A fresh smelling elevator car will mean no more "Stink-evator" or "Taking the stinky train up to 5" comments from riders. No more people waving you off when your doors open on the ground floor. No more awkward looks and uncomfortable moments between riders in your car as they endure the smell during their elevator ride.

Riders will come back to Elevator #1. You will feel good about your job and the riders will feel good about Elevator #1. Trust me. A week of smelling fresh and inviting will make you feel great.

Like I said, I hated to be the one to tell you about this, but I felt it is the right thing to do.

Brendan McKillip

iPod + Colbert

Stephen Colbert, the definer of all Truthiness, is having a green screen contest where individuals are suppose to take a thirty second spot of Colbert jumping around with a lightsaber in front of a green screen and edit it up how they like.

You can find some of the entries all over YouTube. Most have him fighting other characters from Star Wars or even bears. I found what I thought was a more original take, and a well done one at that - and not just because I belong to the Cult of Mac.

August 28, 2006

Wishing for More Classic Star Wars Move Artwork

As much as I loved the Star Wars movies as I first saw them in the theater as a kid, I've always supported George Lucas' right to go back and continue to tinker with the original trilogy. It's his movie, his art - and if the technology at the time didn't exist that allowed him to fully realize on screen what he saw in his imagination, then I think he reserves the right to go back and make changes until he is happy with his film. (Though I believe he ruins Han Solo's character with his re-edit of the Greedo - Solo cantina scene, but that's a discussion for another blog)

I own the remastered, re-edited, "definitive" original triology on DVD that came out two years ago and love it. I've watched it a number of times, and Ian loves watching them as well. While I know they aren't the versions I necessary feel in love with as a kid, they still capture the magic and excitement of the original Star Wars trilogy for me. In some cases I enjoy the movie more because the picture has been cleaned up so well. When it was announced a number of months ago that Lucasfilm would be releasing the original theatrical versions of the films on DVD I paid little attention to the news. While I know there is a vocal contigent of Star Wars fans who have been clamoring for the original theatrical films on DVD, I didn't see much need for them. I liked what I already had.

However, I recently saw what the DVD menu screens will look like for these original theatrical releases and I admit that I am a bit jealous. Of course I would never base my purchase of a DVD on something as negligible as the menu screens, but I do lament that I will not get to enjoy the classic artwork that the producers of the DVD have elected to use. They are taking images from the original movie posters to create these menues. How cool is this.

star wars dvd menu

I love the artwork that was used in the original Star Wars movies. Back in the late 70s and early 80s when these movies were hitting theaters, movie posters were still hand-created pieces of art - usually produced by one or more different artists who were asked to interupt the film with pen, ink, and paint. The result in many cases are fantastic pieces of pop-art with a sense of style and energy. Today movie posters are digital composites of images from the film and actors. Rarely is that same style or energy found in these modern Photoshoped movie posters.

When Lucasfilm released the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD, they updated the artwork for the cover of the DVDs and the screen menues to fit with the new trilogy. It made sense from a marketing standpoint, but I was disappointed to lose those classic poster images that I always associated with these films from my youth. (It's why I still hang on to the old VHS tape versions of the film I bought back when I was in high school, the crumbling sleeves of which feature those classic movie poster artwork) Lucasfilm did use the original movie poster art on the actual DVD, but it wasn't quite the same. What fan of the original Star Wars would love to see this screen when working through the DVD menues:

star wars dvd menu number 2

And these are just the menues for Star Wars. I can't wait to see what they've done for The Empire Strikes Back, whose artwork I loved almost as much as Star Wars.

Great Line Art

While doing an art project with the kids at home last week, the girls convinced Heather to do some drawings of her own. My favorite: Heather's rendering of our three children in stick-figure form.

If you have spent any time with out kids, or have seen more than a few pictures of them on this website, then you'll know that she has perfectly captured their likeness.

As much as you can with a stick-figure drawing.

I think the artwork might have been thrown away while purging the house of clutter before we hosted a birthday brunch party this weekend, but I did get this photo of Heather's handiwork.

Heather's Impression of the Kids

August 26, 2006

The Grandpa Picture

The kids are always making up games to play. Ian's games usually feature Bionicles or Star Wars and involve us rushing off to attack some evildoers. Emma's tend to be more calm and social in nature. For example, the other day Emma decided that she was going to pretend to be a girl going to school to participate in Show and Tell. I would be a student in her class that she was going to "tell" me about what she brought to show and Heather would be the teacher.

What did Emma decide to bring to her imaginary class for Show and Tell? A doll? A book? Bumper, our cat?

Nope. She brought a 5x7 photo of my father that he gave to us on Father's Day. He had gotten a number of copies of the photo as part of his church publishing a parishoner directory. My brother, my sister, and I all got copies of the photo.

Emma seemed to think it would be the perfect item to bring to school and share with her class.

Grandpa Picture and Emma

To stay in character, I made sure to ask Emma questions about her item. I questioned her about where she got the picture ("the store"), who was in the picture ("my grandpa"), and where does he work ("over that way in a building way bigger than our hallway"), and what does her grandpa do ("he decides if you should go to jail or not")?

Of course, everyone else saw how much fun Emma was having with Grandpa's picture and wanted in on the action. Take a look at the Flickr slide show I put together of photos from our exciting evening with "The Grandpa Picture."

August 25, 2006

Rejuveniles and Lifespans

Earlier this week I talked about a new book - and newly termed concept - Rejuveniles. Basically, adults who refuse "to give up childish things they never stopped loving."

I proudly call myself a Rejuvenile.

Anyway, the author of the book, Christopher Noxon, made a post to his blog today that I found particularly interesting. It has to do with Rejuveniles and lifespans. Here's a quote:
Adults today can expect to live a full 30 years longer than they could a hundred years ago. Notwithstanding an anvil from the sky, environmental collapse or nuclear catastrophe, our lives appear to keep getting longer. Futurists quoted in a story on rejuveniles by Orange County Register reporter Jane Haas this week said some of today’s babies will live to be 125.

With the endpoint so far off in the distance, it’s no wonder so many of us are choosing to stay in formation and reject pressures to plunge into the permanent. Our increased lifespans have led developmental psychologists to rethink textbook lifestage categories, proposing that adulthood doesn’t even begin until 40 and that people between 55-75 are best described as “middle aged.” According to this new developmental thinking, you’re not “elderly” until you hit 95.
That certainly makes sense to me.

Three of my four grandparents are still alive and all moving into their 90s. So I like my chances of living a long, productive life. So there's still plenty of time to play with Star Wars Lego toys.

My mother is in her late 50s and my dad, the cutting edge of Baby Boomers, turns the big 6-0 this November. I certainly don't consider my parent's elderly. In fact, some of the behavior would suggest mid-life crisis. (Please, Mom, did you really need the tatoo there?)

And I'm 33, still watch cartoons, and walk around in ratty shorts and t-shirt on the weekend - even when I go run errands. No need to rush into the black socks with sandals until I hit at least 60.

Good Movie Viewing Weekend

All through the month of August Turner Classic Movies has beening running their "Summer Under the Stars" event. Evey day they showcase a classic movie star by running a number of their memorable films.

This weekend TCM has lined up some great stars to help finish off August with a bang.

photo of Jimmy Stewart taken from TCM websiteToday (8/25) it's the movies of Jimmy Stewart
Saturday (8/26) it's the movies of Cary Grant
Sunday (8/27) it's the movies of John Wayne

The rest of the month star's are Hedy Lamarr, Ingrid Bergman, Sidney Poitier, and Barbara Stanwyck. Other than Poitier, I'm not too famaliar or excited with those movie stars. I love watching Stewart, Grant, and Wayne movies. Hopefully I will be able to convince eveyone else at home that there are other things than cartoons and reality TV shows to watch this weekend.

They're Taking My Chicago Away From Me!

First Federated renamed Marshall Field's to Macy's, then CVS renamed all the Osco Drug stores, and then 7-11 bought all the White Hen Pantries (with plans to rename them later). Now today it was announced that the owner of Carson Pierre Scott is closing the downtown State Street store.

photo of Carson Pirie Scott's State Street store taken from Chicago Tribune websiteNow granted, I haven't shopped at Carson's since . . . er, I can't remember ever shopping at any Carson Pirie Scott store, let alone the State Street store, but that doesn't mean I'm not a little disappointed to hear this news. Sure the store's sales numbers have been steadily declining and people just don't shop at department stores like they used to. This still doesn't mean I hate to see these stores go. State Street was about the big flagship department stores - especially Marshall Field's and Carson Pirie Scott's. It's what gave that part of the city its character. Now those two big stores will be dramatically changing and taking that part of Chicago history with them. Marshall Field's just won't be the same with a big Macy's name plastered out front and the building Carson's is currently in will probably become something other than a department store. Blah!

I think what bothers me most about the news concerning Carson's closing, plus that of the CVS and 7-11 takeovers, is that it reinforces something I head legendary writer Studs Terkel say after Federated Department Stores announced they were shelving the Marshall Field's name. Terkel talked about how having something like Marshall Field's becoming Macy's steals some of Chicago's uniqueness away from the city. As more national chains move in to Chicago, as more local chains (like Marshall Fields, Osco, and White Hen) are taken over by national brands, Chicago becomes less Chicago-like to a certain extent. Chicago becomes more and more like any other big city in the U.S.

I know a city is define by more than the restaurants, stores, and businesses that are located here; but the disappearance of these business affects the city's personality none the less. I don't think anyone living here wants Chicago to become a smaller version of New York City.

August 24, 2006

Superhero Alphabet

Ape Lad is a cartoonist who has been doing a number of illustration exercises lately. He give himself one hour to illustrate the alphabet using one simple image for each letter of the alphabet. First it was just the alphabet, then it was with a monster theme. Today it's superheroes.

the superhero alphabet

While I posted the superhero alphabet here and I get a little geeky enjoyment from seeing the alphabet rendered in hero profiles, I really think I like the monster alphabet better. Maybe if there was time to color the superhero images I would like them better.

He's also making the monster images available on t-shirts. That's pretty cool.

For Better is Better Than Most

elly and john pattersonOver at Editor & Publisher, Dave Astor put together a strong argument that Lynn Johnston's comic strip For Better or For Worse could be the best comic strip ever. He's responding to a recent comic survey run by the Wichita Eagle in Kansas that had For Better or For Worse finish second to Pickles as the favorite strip currently being published.

While I don't know if I agree with his argument that FBOFW is the "best ever" or for that matter, I don't think you can ever really call any piece of art or literature the "best ever," I would certainly agree that pound for pound FBOFW is probably the strongest strip being produced today and has earned it's spot as one of the great strips of all time. My basis for this statement, pretty much all the reasons that Astor's makes in his article: Humor that is as much character driven as it is situational or gag, strong story lines with emotional resonance to the reader, and great art.

I'll admit that I haven't always been a fan of the strip. While I have continued to read FBOFW through out my entire life, during my teenaged years I thought it was sappy and boring. I was drawn more to the wit of Calvin and Hobbes and the pure insanity of The Far Side. But in testament to Lynn's amazing storytelling abilities, I kept coming back to read that "sappy" comic all those years. Eventually with time and experience I have grown to appreciate and love just how brilliant Lynn has been, and continues to be, in her cartooning. By allowing her characters to grown and change, it has allowed FBOFW to never get stale. The character's growth provides her with compelling stories to tell, and she has done so with great skill and artwork. I am a faithful reader.

There are rumors that she will end the series soon. Elly, Lynn's cartoon alter-ego, has retired and is contemplating moving into a smaller house with her husband John. These characters are obviously moving into the twilight of their life and are getting ready to leave the trapping of work behind to enjoy each other's company and watch their children and grandchildren grow. Does that mean Lynn will do the same? Possibly. And she has certainly earned the right to do so. However, I hope that she continues on for a few more years so that we can all enjoy her wonderful storytelling.

August 23, 2006

Broadband Is Back

We're all set up at home with broadband again, so Heather and I can start sharing great photos like this one.

The Children

Hmmm . . . GreaseFreak

The only website you need to consult if you work downtown and are running out to grab a bit to eat. The owner of travels the fast food joints of Chicago and rates the best Chicago-style fast food staples; italian beef, hot dogs, turkey clubs, burgers, italian subs, chili, and gyros. He even includes photos. iamge

Cool Ryan Benjamin Artwork

I run on hot and cold on Ryan Benjamin artwork, but I think this triptych posted to the Sun of Gelatometti blog looks fantastic. The pencil artwork features some of the main hard-assses from the DC Comics and Wildstorm universes - including Batman and Midnighter. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of Nightwing in with this group.

Dick Grayson might smile and joke around a lot, but when push comes to shove Nightwing can be as calculating and cold-blooded as Batman ever is.

ryan benjamin artowrk from Sun of Gelatometti blog

August 22, 2006

DC Comics Coming This November

DC Comics really wants to kick me in the wallet this November. They have got a bunch of great comics coming out that are going to be hard to leave on the shelf.

batman spirit coverBatman / The Spirit: I have been looking forward to this collaboration between Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke since it was announced a year ago. Loeb and Cooke will share the writing duties (Cooke is suppose to be launching his own "The Spirit" book at DC next year which he will write and draw.)

Not only will the comic team up two great heroes, but the story looks to bring together plenty of Batman's and the Spirit's supporting cast. Catwoman, P'Gell, the Joker, Commissioner Dolan and more. Regardless of how my comic spending shakes out in November, I know I will make room for this book.

superman confidential coverA new Superman series launches in November that sounds interesting. Superman Confidential aims to tell stories from key moments in the history of Superman. Up first is a 6-part story written by Darwyn Cooke (I sense a trend) with art from Tim Sale. Can't go wrong with that creative duo.

However, it's clear that this book will be a series of multi-part story arcs. I expect DC will collect the stories in trade paperbacks down the road. I'll probably wait for the collections and pick and choose the stories that seem like they would be fun to read. I love a good Superman story, but only once and a while. The character really doesn't interest me enough to read him month in and month out. Still, I think Superman Confidential looks like it would make a great source to cherry-pick Superman stories when I want one.

Also new in November is the Midnighter solo series written by Garth Ennis with art by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. Another collection of great comic talent. I'm not sold how much I am interested in reading solo tales starring the Midnighter.midnighter cover I liked the character within the larger Authority team dynamic, so I am willing to give this a try on the relative strength of the character as he's been written before and the talents of Ennis, Sprouse, and Story. My concern is that Midnighter will come off as a second-rate Batman. Costume similarities aside, there is quite a difference between Batman and Midnighter, if care is taken to pay attention to what makes the Midnighter unique.

I'll probably pick up Midnighter when it launches, but the title will be heavily scrutinized under my six-issue probation rule. Essentially, I give a title six issues to prove its can provide a consistent level of entertainment to cost ratio. If the book delivers, then it earns a spot on my pull list until my yearly audit of titles. It's all very formal.

There are also three trade paperbacks scheduled for release in November that have me interested. (Technically there are four, but it's a forgone conclusion that I'll pick up the Fables trade that comes out in November.) I don't think I can purchase all three, but I would like to.

cover to new teen titans terra incognitoDC Comics probably should have published the printing of New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito last year, before they released the new printing of "The Judas Contract" this past spring. The events of "The Judas Contract" follow those of "Terra Incognito", but the schedule is what it is.

I enjoyed "The Judas Contract" enough that I would like to read more of what Marv Wolfman and George Perez were doing with this wildly popular teenaged superhero series back in the mid-80s. Thanks to the heavy pop-culture references Wolfman used in the original series, reading issues of the New Teen Titans from "The Judas Contract" and "Terra Incognito" era is like getting a little time capsule in a comic.

shazam coverAnother great look into comic book history will be found in the Showcase Presents Shazam Vol. 1. The Showcase series of comics from DC usually collects thirty issues worth of comics into one omnibus volume. The book is published without color and on non-glossy paper, but these printing decisions help keep the cost of the book down. This book will be 560 pages worth of Captain Marvel goodness for only $16.99. That's three cents a page. It will be hard to beat that.

Being a Captain Marvel fan, I would love to get a chance to read these tales from the early 70's from creators like Denny O'Neil, Elliot Maggin, C.C. Beck, and Dave Cockrum. I won't miss the color at all. The classic artists had a great clean and clear pencil style that made their artwork and storytelling abilities shine with or without color. I have all the Jack Kirby Fourth World collections in black and white and love them. I've flipped through some of the other Showcase collections in the store and think they look great. I'll be looking for the Shazam collection when it comes out at the end of November / beginning of December.

cover to sachs and violensPeter David's and George Perez's Sachs and Violens mini-series also gets collected and released in November. I don't know a whole lot about this series, but do know I have heard a lot about the book. Sachs and Violens is one of those comics that always has a buzz about it. Apparently the book caused a stir when it debuted back in the early 90s. Whether that was good or bad, I don't know. But ever since I got back into reading comics right about the same time the book was original published,Sachs and Violens has been a title I was curious about. I'll probably make an effort to try and learn more about the series before deciding if this is a trade I want to pick up.

Lots of new comics to consider, plus the one I already read on a monthly basis. This is going to be tough.

August 21, 2006

I'm A Rejuvenile

Many evenings while sitting on the floor watching Cartoon Network or one of my animation collections on DVD after the kids have all gone to bed, I wonder - is that what my Dad was like at 33? The same thoughts cross my mind when I go to the comic book store or talk to Ian about Star Wars. Is this what a grown man should be doing?

I often think that even though I am a "grownup" with all the responsibilities and trappings of a man who has been gainfully professional employed and married for over 11 years, has three kids, and owns a house (living up to the responsibilities fairly well too, I think), I don't fell like an adult. I still love watching cartoons. Comics are my passion. I think I've bought more Star Wars action figures from this last trilogy of films than I ever owned as a kid from the original trilogy. I go out of my way to buy Hostess Cupcakes from time to time.

It just doesn't seem like adult, big-person types of things to be doing when you're in your thirties.

cover to rejuveniles bookTurns out I'm not alone in finding fun and enjoyment in activities and interests historically assigned to children. Christopher Noxon has written a book about the phenomenon and titled both the breed of adult and his book, "Rejuveniles."

I took this from the author's website:
"It’s hard to imagine adults in previous eras so unashamedly indulging their inner children. But these are not the adults of twenty years ago. They constitute a new breed of adult, identified by a commitment to remain playful, energetic and fun in the face of adult responsibilities. Whether buying cars marketed to consumers half their age, dressing in baby-doll fashions or bonding over games like Twister or stick ball, this new band of grownups refuses to give up childish things they never stopped loving, or else revels in things they were denied or never got around to as children. Most have busy lives and adult responsibilities. Many have children of their own. They are not stunted adolescents. They are something new: rejuveniles."
I guess I'm a rejuvenile. Sounds good to me.

If you also consider yourself a rejuvenile, I strongly recommend you visit Noxon's website. Not only are there excerpts from the book, but he's got a huge collection of links in the Playground section for everything from professional kickball organization websites to retro toy sites. Plus, he also includes a great rejuvenile Hall of Fame and keeps up with a fun blog.

I learned about the book through a blog I read regularly (a comic book-related blog, actually), after reading through Noxon's own blog a bit I found a great feature on Noxon and his book that was run recently in the Chicago Tribune. In the article, Noxon defines the difference between being "childish" and "childlike."
"Childish means being self-centered and easily manipulated and shortsighted," he said. "Childlike is the ability to appreciate the new and not give in to that mechanized adult approach. I think it's really important for anyone who feels a rejuvenile tendency to figure out what is productive and enriching in their adult lives and what is really kind of destructive and infantilizing."
I certainly can relate to that. When I do find myself questioning whether a grown man should still be figuring how to get to the comic book shop ever week or sitting down to watch - and enjoy - cartoons with his kids, I remind myself that these activities really make me happy. I genuinely enjoy buying and reading comics. I find more enjoyment from a 90-minute animated film than from a week's worth of television programming. Even if I can't imagine my Dad sitting down to watch Superman: The Animated Series when there isn't a kid within fifty feet of the television, doesn't mean I shouldn't.

I hope to be reading Noxon's book soon.

August 18, 2006

He Was Trapped - Trapped In Heaven

From the Associated Press, found on the
KENOSHA, Wis. -- A 21-year-old man was trapped in a tank of chocolate for about two hours early Friday, police said.

Capt. Randy Berner said the worker said he got into the tank at the Debelis Corp. to unplug it and became trapped waist deep in the chocolate.

"It was pretty thick. It was virtually like quicksand," Berner said, and co-workers, police and firefighters were not able to get him out until the chocolate could be thinned out.

"It's the first time I've ever heard of anything like this," the police captain said.

The worker said his ankles were sore after the incident, and he was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, Berner said.
Hmmmm . . . tank full of chocolate.

Here Come the Irish

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated arrived yesterday, and much to my enjoyment Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski, and Travis Thomas were on the cover. Sports Illustrated is picking the Fighting Irish as the pre-season #2 team in the country and predict that in January Brady Quinn and the boys will be facing off with Troy Smith and Buckeyes from Ohio State. It's going to be a repeat of last year's Fiesta Bowl, but this time with National Championship implications. Sports Illustrated has Ohio State as the number one team in the land.

Notre Dame on the cover of Sports Illustrated 2006 College Football Preview issue

Ohio State on the cover of Sports Illustrated 2006 College Football Preview issueNow if Notre Dame is only ranked #2, how did they get the cover? Si decided not to play favorites and did 6 regional covers. Each cover feature one of the six top ten teams according to SI editors. Being in the Chicago area, we got the Notre Dame one. Had we still been living in Cleveland, we most certainly would have gotten the cover featuring Troy Smith and the Buckeyes and I would have been calling my dad to pick up and send me a copy of the Notre Dame cover.

I certainly love the Irish's chances of being in the National Title game this season. Head Coach Charlie Weis complete revitalized the team last season - especially the offense, and behind Quinn's arm the Irish made a fantastic run in '05. The team struggled against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, but mostly that was the fault of an Irish defense that struggled to support Notre Dame's high-caliber offense, let alone stand up to the power of Ohio State.

SI points out that with another year under Weis' tutelage, Quinn and the offense has the potential to be nearly unstoppable this season. The litmus test for Notre Dame's National Championship dreams will be how far the defense has come in the last year. Hopefully, having 10 starters back for the defense translates into a solid unit that ensures the offense doesn't have to carry the entire team this year. I certainly am going to love watching them make their run.

Besides Notre Dame as a pre-season favorite, what's also going to make this college football season fun is Ian's emerging interest in football and season where both Ohio State and Notre Dame are consider two of the premiere teams in the country.

Ian's interest in football has been growing over the last few years, albeit slowly. It's not like he can escape it in our house. I am a huge football fan, as is Heather. Though I tend to be the more fanatical of the two of us. Saturdays and Sundays are all about what football games I can watch. So it's only natural that Ian takes some interest in the game. If only to understand what it is his dad is always ranting about from August until February.

This year, however, his interest seems to be jumping into high gear. The catalyst? The NFL Shop catalog that appeared in the mail earlier this week. The kid has been pouring over it constantly. He shows me all the crazy stuff that the NFL slaps team logos on (Clothes hanger? You can get hangers with a NFL team logo on it. Madness!) and has started asking lots of questions about NFL teams and college teams. Like, besides the Bears, which teams do I like? How does a college team get to be a NFL team? Hell, just yesterday Ian was asking Heather if there were any football games on TV he could watch. When Heather told him that there weren't any games on, he settled for Jimmy Neutron instead.

eIt's fun feeding Ian answers to his football questions and sharing my love of the game with him. Maybe he will grow to enjoy the game as much as I do. It would be a blast to have someone else to talk about football with in the house.

Speaking of which, considering Heather's almost cultish devotion to all things Buckeyes, having Ohio State and Notre Dame being picked as top teams in NCAA this season means the war at home won't be just one day (like last year's Fiesta Bowl), but all season. We will both be expecting our teams to win and continue their march to a January 8th showdown in Glendale, AZ. I know Heather and I will have plenty of fun with the situation and make the most of the trash talking everything weekend and checking the standings every Tuesday. Once Ian catches on to the situation, I'm sure he will join into the fray. Now I just need to convince him that a good Irish Catholic boy growing up in Chicago always, always, pulls for the Fighting Irish.

August 17, 2006

I Think I'm Gonna Need That Wiper Now

About three months ago, while traveling down the tollway during a light rain storm, the driver side window wiper snapped off and flew off my car.

It didn't surprise me. The wiper had been broken on the Neon for about a year or two. Something (or someone) had fallen on it while the car was parked on the street in front of our old house, causing a crack in the arm. Periodically the wiper arm would become dislocated while swishing back and forth and I would have to pull over and snap it back into place. I never really gave it much thought. The wiper continued to work fine - as long as it was snapped into place properly. The Neon was really only used by me to get to the train station so I let it slide.

After the wiper arm completely snapped off and skidded over the top of the car on the tollway, I figured I would have to get things fixed. Again, because the Neon is only really needed to get me to and from the train station, I didn't feel any pressure to address the problem. Sure, since May some of the trips in the Neon have been touch and go as I struggled to stare through the rain drops clinging to my windshield or leaning over to peer out the clear passenger side of the glass. But I haven't run into any major problems yet. Yet.

Today I was checking out WGN's Tom Skillings weather forecast for this afternoon and the weekend. He's warning that there is a lot of rain coming to the Chicagoland area this weekend - starting this evening. In fact, he says that it could be the heaviest rainfall days of the summer. Taking a look at the radar shot for this afternoon, his predictions might hold up.

If that rain hits the Aurora area around 6pm, I could be in for a difficult drive home. I guess I should have taken care of that wiper arm a few month back.

Batman: Son of the Demon

ra's al ghulRa’s al Ghul - hands down, the best Batman villain ever. They used him in Batman Begins, but de-mystified him as part of the “grounded in reality” approach Nolan and the rest of the crew took with the Dark Knight. Even with this revision to the character, he was still a formidable opponent for Batman and made for a great foil in Batman’s return to film.

In the comics Ra’s is even a greater threat. Ra’s al Ghul is a super eco-terrorist of sorts. He’s hell bent on returning the Earth to a simplified, more rugged state; one where 60% of the Earth’s human population has been wiped from the planet so nature can reign supreme. With his Lazarus Pit which can restore him to life whenever he is mortally wounded and his daughter Talia by his side, he is forever making plans for returning the Earth to a more primitive state.

As I discussed a year ago in this space, what I love about Ra’s is that “he matches Batman not only in physical skill, but also intellectually.” He’s not just a crazy in a goofy costume killing people. He has power, knowledge, and skills accumulated over hundreds of years that make him the Batman’s greatest overall challenge. And because of his global concerns, a Ra’s plot isn’t focused just on poisoning Gotham City’s water supply. His schemes are grander, which means a Batman comic featuring Ra’s as the antagonist will always be an epic global-trotting adventure.

scene from batman son of the demonDC Comics recently republished one of the greatest of the Batman / Ra’s stories. Originally published back in the late 80’s Batman: Son of the Demon was significant for a number of reasons. One, it was one of DC Comics first forays into the original graphic novel with a major character and more mature themes. Two, the story not only showed Batman/Bruce Wayne taking Talia to the . . . ahem . . . “marriage bed,” but also fathering a child with Talia.

Ever since this book by writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jerry Bingham saw print, there has been much debate as to whether this story was canonical to Batman lore. The Batman group editor at the time, Denny O’Neil, said that Son of the Demon didn’t actually happen. For a long time DC retro-fitted the book into their Elseworld series of comics that re-envisioned classic characters in places and times that may or may not exist (i.e. the Justice League in the Wild West, Batman hunting Jack the Ripper, etc.).

However, recently Grant Morrison took over the scribing duties for Batman and his first storyline is titled "Batman and Son," which is suppose to expand upon the events in Son of the Demon. To coincide with Morrison’s first story, DC re-released Batman: Son of the Demon in a second printing. This second printing was priced more cheaply than the original and always loving a good Ra’s al Ghul story, I had to pick it up.

In Son of the Demon, Batman finds himself allying with Ra’s to track down a madman, Qayin, who had murdered a prominent scientist back in Gotham and, as it turns out, also murdered Ra’s wife (Talia’s mother) many years ago. With a common goal, the two men join forces in hunting down Qayin. Along the way Batman and Talia consummate their love and put a little bun in the oven.

batman son of the demon coverBarr’s perfectly captures the characters of Ra’s and Talia, keeping them in tune with the wonderful work Denny O’Neil had done with creating these characters in the late 70’s. Barr’s Batman is the classic mid-80’s version that came out of the O’Neil / Neal Adam reboot for the character in the 70’s - a Batman who is confident, poised and always in control. Barr’s Batman is not the overly paranoid and hyper-prepared version that has been written over the last 10 years. He’s more human.

Overall, the story is plotted very smoothly, hitting all the right beats at the right time and delivering with big action when needed and quite moments when required. Barr pulls off the epic adventure feel that a good Ra’s story demands.

I did take some exception to how Barr had Batman behave once it was learned Talia was carrying his child. I don’t believe Batman would become quite so reckless and single-minded in focus, but I overlook that aspect to enjoy the overall tale. The character of Qayin was also handled in a ham-fisted manner. He appeared to be evil simply for evil sake. Qayin never really developed into a believable threat. Sure he was out there killing people and scheming to start World War III, but it came off as more plot devices to move the story and get us back to the Batman / Ra’s al Ghul / Talia dynamic. Qayin’s actions didn’t seem to originate from his character.

I don’t recall ever seeing Jerry Bingham’s art before, but I’m glad that I discovered it now. He has a classic Neal Adam / Don Newton / José Luis García-López style that works perfectly with the Barr’s script. Bingham draws a lean, powerful, almost regal, Batman that strikes a profile that you would associate with a character who has the nickname of "The Dark Knight." I think Bingham colored the book as well, which he does with a muted tone that services the story wonderfully. The art alone is worth the price of the book.

bingham batman from son of the demon(Interesting tangent: This printing of Son of the Demon includes a pin-up of Batman by Bingham that I have admired for years. It’s an iconic version of the Batman half in the shadows, half in the light, holding onto his belt and looking down in deep contemplation. I used to have a keychain that featured Bingham’s rendering of Batman, but I lost the keychain - and the keys on it - over seven years ago. I always thought the picture was drawn by Neal Adams, but apparently I was incorrect. It was Bingham who created this classic rendering of my favorite character.)

Last year I read (and recommended) Batman: Tales of the Demon as a great source for some Ra’s al Ghul stories. While it still is a great source, the book is actually a collection of many different Ra’s stories – not all of them are complete. If you want to really dive in and get a full Ra’s education I would highly recommend not on Tales of the Demon, but Son of the Demon as well.

August 16, 2006

Character Actor Bruno Kirby Dies

I heard on the radio this morning that Bruno Kirby passed away on Monday. Kirby was only 57 years old, but had been recently diagnosed with leukemia. According to the actor’s wife, he died from complications of the disease.

Bruno KirbyKirby was one of these most recognizable, and I think likable, character actors to work in TV and film over the last twenty years. His distinctive voice and solid acting skills made him a great addition to any cast. What I admire about Kirby was his ability to play dramatic and comedic roles with equal skill and professionalism. Whether it was as the young Clemenza in The Godfather Part II or Billy Crystal’s friend in City Slickers or When Harry Met Sally, Kirby always delivered with his character.

I particularly enjoyed his role in a frequently overlooked comedy from the early 90’s, The Freshman. Starring Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando, Kirby played Brando’s grown nephew and sort of right hand man who find’s Broderick’s character and pulls him into Brando’s character’s scheme.

The FreshmanIf you haven’t seen The Freshman, than you are denying yourself a great movie viewing experience. The film features wonderful performances by Broderick and Brando, along with Kirby and other great character actors, Jon Polito and Kenneth Welsh. It’s an honestly funny movie without being campy or silly that entertains every time you view it. I really need to add it to my DVD collection, if for no other reason than to have another Kirby performance to enjoy over and over.

August 15, 2006

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall Artwork

fables 1001 artwork from vess and kalutaFables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall is the first hardcover comic I have ever pre-ordered. I did it for two reasons. One, even as a hardcover it's only priced at $19.99. Most of the trade paperback comic collections I buy are priced at $14 to $17. $20 for a hardback. Not a problem. Two, I am a huge fan of the Fables series. I've gushed about the series here a number of times. I devour the collections when they come out and eagerly anticipate the next collection. The premise of the series is wonderful, the writing is fabulous, and the artwork is to die for. Writer Bill Willingham hasn't let me down yet.

This fall Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall will hit shelves will more Fables-story goodness and a laundry list of stellar comic art talent inside. Just like in a similar fable of old, Snow White is forced to tell a number of stories to stay alive after being captured. Her stories reveal the orgins and histories of many of the Fables characters we have gotten to know in the regular series. While the entire book was written by Willingham, each individual story will be illustrated by a different artist.

Turns out two great artists, Charles Vess and Michael Kaluta, are teaming up together for a story. I have enjoyed both of these artists on their own - esspeically Kaluta - and seeing them together should be a treat. Irene Gallo has some insight into how these two artists are working together and it is fascinating to observe.

Not only do I love the behind the scene peak into how the artists are collaborating, but it gets me even more excited about seeing the book when it comes out.

The Postings Will Begin Again Soon

Been a little sluggish with the posts recently. There are a number of reasons really.

1) Just moved into a new house. There is plenty to do there. Every night I am putting something away or putting something together to help make our new house our home. Plus, there is all the other regular house work that needs to be done.

2) Turns out AT&T doesn’t have DSL service in the neighborhood we moved into. I don’t know why it took them a month to figure this out. Or why I had to repeatedly call and become increasing belligerent until they revealed this to me, but it is what it is. Just as well, Comcast Cable has an offer right now where if you sign up for digital cable, phone service, and broadband service you get everything for $99 a month. $33 a month for each service.

Sure, $33 a month for cable broadband is a lot more than the $17 we were paying for DSL Pro. But when everything is bundled together, we end up breaking even and maybe even saving a few bucks each month. Not a bad plan.

Unfortunately a lot of people thought the same thing. So Heather and I have to wait until later next week for the phone and internet service to be installed (we already have cable service from Comcast). So until the services are up and running, we are dragging along with 56k dial-up service.

Holy crap is that slow! It took me almost 30 minutes to post the small birthday post for Emma on Saturday. It was painful. And it’s not only the slowness that is so painful. Access to the web is become so critical to everything that Heather and I do; having to dial in to connect as opposed to the “always on” nature of broadband is maddening. We can just pop-on the computer to get quick directions or check where a store might be. There’s no 1-minute quick post to the blog. Heather and I haven’t updated the podcasts we listen to in weeks. With dial-up, you have to plan your time on the Internet. It’s very inconvenient.

It’s another reason why Heather and my blogs have been quiet recently.

3) I quit my job with Hubbard One and took a new position with a new company. Always the glutton for punishing myself, I figured “Moving into a new house? I should find myself a new job too.”

I had been unhappy with Hubbard One for quite some time. I never took to the consulting / services aspect of the job. Too much sales and too much juggling of client relationships / objectives with Hubbard’s business objectives. Billable time, utilization rates, “face time” with clients, detailed bills for clients – I just wasn’t having any fun with my job. It was stressing me out and making my life lousy. However, I loved the people I worked with. The people I worked with at Hubbard were probably some of the smartest, funniest, and easy to get a long with group I have ever encountered. If I could have done something different and stay at Hubbard, I might have considered it, but I am also happy with my new choice.
I’ve taken a Product Manager position with Equity Residential. Equity is the nation’s largest owner/operator/developer of multifamily housing (apartments). They also do a brisk business in condos and corporate housing.

I knew Equity from my time at as a Product Manager. Equity was (probably still is) largest advertiser on the site. I had worked with them directly in developing some applications and processes to help both sides do their business better. Now I will work for Equity, helping them update and maintain the website, plus work on plenty of other internal applications.

I am very excited about my new role with Equity. Not only is it in an industry that I am familiar with (multi-family), but the culture of the group I will be working with fits perfectly with where I want to be right now. They are a dedicated group that is pushing forward with new web technology, but also understand how to properly balance work and life together. Plus, their offices are super close to the train station downtown. I’ll still have my 40 minute train ride, but it is a considerably shorter walk to and from the office downtown.

Oh, and did I mention that my pay is shooting up almost 9%? While Heather and I didn’t buy a new house that was outside of what we could afford, getting this job with a consider pay increase is going to make the new mortgage a lot more comfortable to live with. So I’m pretty excited all around.

So in wrapping up at Hubbard and getting ready at Equity, there hasn’t been much time to write. But things will settle down and the posts will start flowing again. It’s just a matter of time.

August 12, 2006

Happy Birthday Emma!

Emma turns 4-years old today. She's officially a big girl now. No more sippy cups. Pre-school this fall. She's on her way.

There is plenty to love about Emma. Her larger than life smile. How she enjoys watching Superman and Batman cartoons with me more than her brother. That she wants to take bike rides constantly. How she could sit on a swing all day if allowed. How she wants to help me in everything that I do. Her unique sense of fashion. It's all good. There are some challenges to being Emma's dad, but the good things easily out-weigh the bad. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I love you very much Emma. I hope you have a wonderful birthday.


August 08, 2006

Samuel L. Jackson May Be Calling Soon

I just played with the best movie-promotional game ever. EVER!

In a few weeks the destined-for-cult-greatness Samuel L. Jackson movie, Snakes On A Plane, hits theaters. The movie already has a rabid online following and it hasn’t even been screened yet. And why not? Samuel Jackson stuck on a plane full of snakes. How could you go wrong?

As if the movie didn’t have enough viral/alternative marketing mojo working already, New Line went ahead and created a fantastic tool where you can personalize a phone message talking about the movie to be sent to anyone you want. Best part – the message is delivered by the man himself - Samuel L. Jackson.

I’ve already scheduled two. I might do more. One of them was so funny I nearly spit my Coke all over my computer screen.

This is going to be great.

snakes on a plane with Samuel L jackson

August 07, 2006

Post-Move Blues

Now that the euphoria of finally being in our larger house has worn off, the exhausting task of unpacking everything and making the house our home is settling in. Heather has done a knock-out job in the kitchen and the bathrooms. The kids’ rooms are in fairly good condition, as is the office and bathrooms. I’m falling down a bit in getting the washer and dryer properly hooked up (things are a bit jerry-rigged right now) and the TV hasn’t been properly setup for playing DVDs – a major concern for a family of three kids who like to take in a show before naps or while Heather is making dinner.

moving boxesNow that we’re all back from our trip out to Ohio to retrieve Ian from Grandma and Papa camp and visit with Heather’s family, I think we can set our full attention at stabilizing things. I certainly have some lofty objectives that need to be met by the end of the week.

Besides unpacking boxes, Heather and I are noticing all the little things that will need addressing in our new house. First, the kitchen sink; when we started washing dishes in it we realized that it’s almost too shallow to be productive as a cleaning area. If we want to be able to effectively get through the volume of dirty dishes and pans that this family produces on a daily basis, then we are going to need something more substantial. The same goes for the dishwasher. When I took a look at it when viewing the house back in June, it looks large enough. However, when we’ve started putting dishes in there I realized that the layout of the inside just isn’t conducive to the types of dishes we want to clean in it. I really miss our old dishwasher.

Here I thought I first big upgrade would be to install a storm door on the front of the house, but it’s looking more and more like we might swap out the sink and dishwasher for something more fitting for a family of five.

Other aggravations:

DSL Service – AT&T still hasn’t activated it at our new house. When I called back at the beginning of July to transfer phone and DSL service, they gave me a phone call back saying that there were problems testing our new line for DSL service. AT&T didn’t say the new line didn’t have DSL service – they were having trouble getting a response to the test. The customer service rep told me sometimes you would have to wait until after the phone number had officially been transferred to the new residence before DSL could be established. Well our phone service was turned on seven days ago and still no DSL service. The last time I talked to the customer service rep they had give this date (8/7) as the when they would know whether or not we could have DSL at this house. If we could have DSL! That’s not even to set things up. Just to figure out if we can have DSL service.


Bees – they seem to be getting into our house and we don’t know how or where. The day after we moved in Heather found a dead bee near the door. big beeWe just chalked it up to the bee flying in when the movers had all the doors open. Same thing when we found a second dead bee. Well there has been about three more bee sighting since then. Always one at a time.

Why are the bees in our house? Where are they coming from? We’re not leaving doors open. Why only one at a time? Is there a nest inside the attic (the walls – ack!) and they are sending out one bee at a time to find safe passage? It’s disturbing.

Manuals – our previous owners didn’t leave a single one. I’ve got nothing about the refrigerator, furnace, water heater, dishwasher, or the gas grill he left on the deck. Not having the grill one bugs me the most. The grill has a hard line into the house’s natural gas line. Never having owned or operated a gas grill, I would like to have something to reference if I had any questions. Same goes for the refrigerator. It’s a side-by-side with a little ice and water dispenser in the freezer door. I’d like to see if I can disable the water or ice dispensers easily so our kids are splattering ice and water all over the hardwood floors. Maybe the previous owners just hid them really well. I’ll keep looking.

August 02, 2006

The Dark Knight Has A Clown Prince

Batman logoAfter the huge success of Batman Begins a sequel was certain. Rumors have swirled about the next movie concerning everything from the title, the villains, and who would star.

For the most part I have ignored all the rumors. I knew there would be another Batman film. I knew Christopher Nolan would be back behind the camera and that Christian Bale would be under the cape and cowl, along with Michael Caine (Alfred) and Gary Oldman (Lt. Jim Gordon). That these men had all signed contracts to do three Batman films has been widely reported. So that's all I would believe until I heard otherwise about a second Nolan-helmed Batman project.

Earlier this week (while I was busy moving), we finally got some solid Batman movie news. Warner Brothers announced that Heath Ledger has signed on to portray the Joker in the new Batman film - The Dark Knight.

Whether this is good or bad, I don't know. Ledger has certainly proven that he's got acting chops. I think the choice of Ledger is an indication that the Joker in The Dark Knight might be dramatically different from Jack Nicolson's Joker in the Tim Burton's Batman back in 1989. Mostly though I am happy to hear talk about a new Batman movie. I thought Christopher Nolan did a wonderful job of bringing Batman back the silver screen and I thoroughly look forward to seeing him continuing to work with the character. With this small announcement I know the next movie is in the works and it will only be a matter of time before it hits the theaters.

The Great McKillip Move - Final Post

I’m a few days late with the Great McKillip Move update this week because we finally made the move on Monday. The whole thing. One day. No overnight storage. Move out and move in all in under 8 hours. It was a marathon day.

Last Tuesday, because Heather and I were not going to attend the closing for the sale of our house on Spicebush, we went to our attorney’s office to sign the paper work required so he could handle the entire close for us. It was then that we realized that the closing for our purchase on Yellow Stone would be occurring at 1pm – not 3pm like we had been assuming. This difference of two hours meant that it would possible for us to do a same day move.

Originally, when we thought we wouldn’t be closing until three in the afternoon, it was going to cost us more to have the movers sitting around waiting for us to get ownership of the new house than it would have been to pay for overnight storage. But with the closings being closer together, it became possible for us to move our and move in on the same day. It made it a little tight Monday morning finishing the loading of the truck, locking up Spicebush, and running over to the 1pm closing (we were 10 minutes late in fact); but in the end it worked out fantastically. Not only did we get everything moved in one day, with all Tuesday to relax and start the arduous task of unpacking everything, but the guys from Advanced Moving beat their estimate.

Moving companies typically require you pay with cash or a bank check. We had gotten a bank check for a couple hundred dollars less than the estimate and planned on making up the difference in cash. Advanced worked so efficiently that the bank check more than covered the final bill – they even got a late start because of bad directions and they still came in under their estimate. In fact, Advanced Moving needs to cut us a refund amount totally the difference between the final bill and our bank check. That’s a good thing.

Overall, Heather and I were really pleased with the service from Advanced. The guys worked hard – even in the 100 degree heat, were very friendly, and too good care of our things. I would recommend them to anyone looking for movers in the Chicagoland area.

The Contractor Odyssey didn’t end on Saturday. Sunday morning at 9am, two guys and some ladders showed up at our door ready to replace the fascia wood on the house. I sent them home because Saturday afternoon, when the buyers came by for a walk-through I thought we had agreed to compensate them with cash to fix the fascia wood on their own. However, I started getting phone calls from my attorney Monday morning from the closing and learned that the buyers would rather have the work completed. They didn’t want the money.


So I had to call back Al and let him know that the work is back on. However, now there are some stipulations to how things are going to be handled. I actually gave the money to pay for Al’s work to my attorney, who is holding it in escrow. Al has until the fifteenth of August to complete the work, at which point my attorney will pay Al. If Al doesn’t complete the work by the fifteenth, the buys can get their own estimates to replace the wood, and payment will come out of the escrow account.

I’m really hoping that Al can get it done. (When I talked to him yesterday he said he had already talked to the buyer and scheduled the work to be completed this week – like I haven’t heard that before) I’d prefer to just pay him and be over with things. If we have to go with someone else, then there will be wrangling over fair estimates, money, blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to deal with that. We are out of Spicebush and I am ready to move on.

Enough of the old, on to the new.

The new house is great. So roomy and with all sorts of great places to store things. We’ve got a real wood-burning fireplace with gas starter. We’ve got a great office upstairs that will double as a guest room now that we have the futon in there. Plus, we’ve shed the old computer desk I slapped together eight years ago and we’re now using this classic solid oak desk my Dad restored himself something like 35 years ago. It’s a wonderful piece of furniture, and I’m so glad to have it and be able to use it.

The master bedroom is about 25% bigger than our last place, plus we have a huge walk-in closet and mater bathroom with duel sinks. Very nice.

All the bedrooms (and office) upstairs have quality ceiling fans. The downstairs has beautiful hardwood flooring throughout the foyer and kitchen. The kitchen is roughly twice the size of our previous home, with maybe three times the storage space. Heather is very happy.

We’ve got a great deck and lots of yard space (though the previous owners didn’t take great care of the grass – we’ve got a lot of weeds to kill off). The previous owners even left their gas grill, I think, because it runs on natural gas from a hard line running from the house. I’ve never been a gas grill sort of guy, I love my Weber, but I might just have to give this thing a try.

On of the best perks about the new house is something not even in the house. The subdivision we life in has its own clubhouse and pool. We got our pool keys at closing. This is so cool. We live in a community with our own pool. Heather and the kids can go swimming whenever they want. I can take the kids swimming after work in the evening for an hour or so. And it won’t be a huge hassle or drive or anything - the pool is almost close enough to walk. This is going to be great.

Over all the move went smoothly and we are all very excited about settling into our new home. There is plenty of work to be done now, but it’s going to be good work. It’s going to be about making this new house into our home. The Great McKillip Move was a success.