January 31, 2007

Bear Down, Chicago Bears! MP3 Download

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra website has made available a free MP3 download of the late (great) Sir Georg Solti conducting the CSO and Chorus through a rousing rendition of the Chicago Bears fight song back in 1986.


I plan on downloading it tonight at home, adding it to the old iPod, and queuing it up on the stereo this Sunday.

Batman is Coming Back to Chicago

Somehow missed this in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, but Terry Armour dropped the news that Christopher Nolan's production on the next Batman movie, The Dark Knight, will be shooting in Chicago this summer.
It's already shaping up to be a pretty busy 2007 for Chicago's film industry. After Vince Vaughn and company wrap shooting of "Fred Claus" here on Friday, the city gets a break before Universal Pictures brings "The Express" to the Windy City in April for three months of filming. It's the life story of Ernie Davis, the first black college football player to win the Heisman Trophy. Once "The Express" is done, Warner Brothers will be in Chicago for 13 weeks for its next "Batman" project, starring Christian Bale.
I knew that The Dark Knight was going to be filmed this year with plans of a summer 2008 release, but hadn't heard if they were going to use Chicago as a stand-in for Gotham City - like they did for Batman Begins.

Apparently that will be the case once again, which I think is great news. Not only was it fun watching Batman Begins and picking out all the locales that I am familiar with, by having them shoot on location in a real city it gave the film an air of realism and authenticity. Maybe this time I can steal away see some of the filming.

January 30, 2007

Amy Bennett

Artist Amy Bennett's current project involves her taking old model railroad minatures, landscape supplies, and doll house lighting to create a 1:87 scale model neighborhood. This fictious town she has built provides her a realm to develop a series of narrative paintings from. As she says on her website:
My imagination fills each house with history, memories of significant events or moments, traditions, and daily rituals. The act of building models plays a critical role in triggering my imagination to develop images. The model becomes a stage on which to develop the psychological implications of belonging to a particular family, with all of its dramas, struggles and familiar routines.

painting sample from amy bennett's website

I think the results are stunning. The houses, trees, and streets are as much a character in the images she creates as are the people inhabiting them. It's almost haunting. But in a stoic sort of way.

Shuffle in Color

It really isn't newsworthy, and the fact that I'm mentioning it probably paints me as a monstrous Apple-geek, but couldn't help but noticed that Apple started offering the iPod Shuffle in 5 different colors this morning.

ipod shuffle colors

I want a green or blue one. Maybe even orange.

Pretty Girls in Bikinis

The high temperature in Chicago is going to hit about 14° F, with a -5° F wind-chill today. The forecast for the rest of the week indicate that things are going to get much colder.

Whenever we experience the brutal cold like we are getting now, I was think back to a commercial Southwest airlines used to air. It had two guys standing on a street corner waiting for a bus. They are bundled up like Eskimos and it looks absolutely frigid out. One guy is talking about a recent trip he took to Florida. The conversation quickly devolves into them muttering over and over, "pretty girls in bikinis."

So to help us cope with the super-cold weather, here are some "pretty girls in bikinis" complimentary of the recent Miss USA pageant.
Miss USA 2007 Lauren Nelson Sarah French

My iPod's Lifespan

Love my iPod. Don't know what I would do without it. Heather has been having problems with here iPod Mini and we're looking into getting it repaired. Searching around I found the iPod Mechanic website. They reportably do all sorts of iPod repairs. However what I am reading about on some blogs and at the BBB makes we a little wary of sending Heather's pink iPod Mini to them. Maybe we'll just send it to Apple instead.

Regardless, iPod Mechanic does have a fun little calculator on their site that takes repair statistics and will estimate how long your iPod has to "live." I did it yesterday morning and according to the iPod Mechanic Deathclock, Ive got about another year out of my iPod.

ipod deathclock verdict


So around May 2008 my little iPod might kick the digital bucket. At least I can plan ahead. I can already think of a great Father's Day 2008 gift idea.

January 29, 2007

What A Weekend!

This past weekend was one of the more eventful and interesting ones that I've had in quite some while.

Ian made his first Reconciliation on Saturday. (He will be making his first Communion in a few months) The girls and I didn't get to go, because Zoe was sick, but Heather took him Saturday morning for a special service they were doing for the kids in Ian's class. As part of the program Ian got to read one of the readings in front of everyone. Heather, and the parents I've talked to who were there; have told me he did a wonderful job reading. Very loud and clear in his presentation.

Then that night Ian's school had their yearly dinner / auction / gambling fundraiser. Besides a meal, there is a live band, a silent auction, raffle, and simple gambling (blackjack, craps, etc.) - all to help put money into the school endowment fund. This is the second year we have gone and it's a lot of fun. I worked the "Beat The House" table (a dice game that I told everyone was "Craps For Dummies").

(Oh, between Ian's first Reconciliation and going to the fundraiser, Ian and I stole out to the comic book store where I scored a nice stack of comics. Hopefully I'll get to write about some of them in the coming weeks.)

our new sofaWe scored big in the silent auction. Even though we went Saturday night with no intention of buying anything big, we ended up winning two auctions that rewarded us with a beautiful and comfortable leather chair from Carson Pierre Scott and a huge sofa from Crate & Barrel - $2,200 worth of furniture - for $890. It was a steal. And they look fantastic together.

Lucky for us, my sister was free to baby-sit Saturday night. Not sure how Heather and I could have found a way to drop $900 on new furniture we didn't even know we needed if my kid-sister wasn't able to come all the way in from the big city to stay with our kids. She's great.

Though I really felt bad for her after we got home. After sitting with the kids all night, including Zoe, who was battling through a nasty case of diarrhea, when Elizabeth went outside to start her car it just wouldn't turn over. She and I tried to give her car a jump, but the battery on her VW Jetta was the strangest thing I had ever seen. I had successfully given a jump to someone else's car earlier in the week, so I was confident that I knew what I was doing, but my sister's car had me stumped.

Considering that it was past midnight and the snow was beginning to swirl, she decided to sleep over and tackle things in the morning. After she woke up Sunday morning she went outside to at least try starting the car once because calling a garage or whatever. The car's engine turned over without a problem on the first twist of the key. Amazing.

jumper cablesDoesn't make any sense to me. When we were trying at midnight the car had only been sitting idle for about six hours in cold conditions. In the morning it had been sitting for almost 9 hours in sub-freezing temps. Seemed like those conditions would have only made the prospect of the vehicle starting even worse, not improve the situation.

Once my sister was on her way I tried calling my dad to ask him if he could help move the furniture from the school back to our house, but the phone connection kept dying thirty seconds into the call. At first I thought it was his phone, but then with a little investigation I discovered that it was our phone that was causing the problems.

We get our phone service from Comcast along with our high-speed Internet access and cable TV. It's a nice deal, but we're learning that Comcast hasn't reached that "dial tone" reliability that SBC/ATT has spent decades and billions of dollars to achieve. You start having some data problems with the modem and suddenly there is no communications at your house. Luckily we have cell phones, but we still rely on our landline for calling people and receiving calls.

Despite the obstacles with the phone, I did get in touch with my dad and he helped me move the chair and couch into the house. Heather and I thought we would move an old love seat we had in the living room into the basement. Which would give us plenty of space for the new sofa and chair.

Then we could save the love seat for when we finish the basement into a playroom / office / craft area. We quickly learned that the love seat was too large to fit down the basement stairs. So everything stayed in the living room, which now looks like a used furniture showroom. Frustrating? Yes. But I know the love seat is one posting on Craigslist away from moving out the door. We'll get things how we want it.

By Sunday night Zoe was feeling better, the kids were enjoying all the new furniture, and Heather and I were buried under a ton of laundry that had to be done before Monday (damn school uniforms!). It was busy, but it was a good busy and I think we came out ahead on the whole deal.

Superman's Porn Comic

I don't even want to know what put the idea into writer/artist John Byrne's head that made him think it was a good idea to devise a plot that would put Superman and Big Barda in a porn director's studio, but in Action Comics #592 and #593 he did just that.

panel from superman and barda wild ride between the sheets


Rachelle, over at her blog Living Between Wednesdays, break down the whole storyline for us. Funny and disturbing at the same time.

January 26, 2007

Life Imitates Art?

The Las Vegas police department (the real sin city) has put up a recruitment website that seems to draw its inspiration from Frank Miller's comic book series Sin City



How weird is that?

Somebody Is Giving the Bears a Chance

It seems like the only sports writers giving the Bears any sort of chance in the Super Bowl are ones that work in Chicago. Chicago bearsApparently Peyton Manning's mystique and the recent domination of the AFC over the NFC in the Super Bowl and interleague play is making this a no-brainer for many.

However recently I found one national writer who not only lists some reasons why the Bears can win, but it looks like he believes the Bears can win too.

Sports Illustrated writer E.M. Swift give 5 reasons that the Bears can win. I think #4 and #5 are kind weak, but the first three carry some wait. In particular, I like #2
2) The Colts have already played their Super Bowl. Getting past the Patriots ... that was the monkey on Indy's back. Now that that dragon's been slayed, they're going to have an emotional letdown. The Bears, meanwhile, are quietly getting angrier at the lack of respect they've received in the national press and, locally, at being compared to the '85 Bears. There's only one way to stop all that and to validate their season. And it's not as if they're playing the '73 Miami Dolphins. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the Colts lost four of their last seven regular-season games. All four of those losses came on the road, three of them outdoors. The Super Bowl will be played on the road, outdoors, and the Bears, as NFC champions, are the home team.

If the Bears come in with that chip on the shoulder and play defense like they did against the Saints, they have an excellent chance of taking home the Lombardi trophy

National Gorilla Suit Day

Mark your calendars and dust off your suit . . .

national gorilla suit day - january 31

Yes, it's legit. Click on the banner.

Graphic Novels vs. Comic Book Collections

It's a lengthy quote, but I found what Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore had to say about the nature of comic books and graphic novels very interesting and insightful.

… Strictly speaking, SiP trades and pocket books are not graphic novels, they are comic book collections. Maus and Jimmy Corrigan are graphic novels. The Complete Bone is a graphic novel. Cerebus and SiP books are comic book collections containing a wandering, serialized story where the plot is often sublimated in order to explore the character. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a graphic novel, and won Time’s Book of the Year Award. Danger Girl trade paperback #1 is a comic book collection. Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese is a graphic novel, and won the ALA Prinze Award for Book of they Year based on its literary merit. Lost Girls is a graphic novel, The Ultimate Spider-Man Collection is not. This is all just my opinion, of course, but these are the definitions I see rising from the gene pool that is fashioning a new literary genre. However, if you go to a library you will still find all drawn stories under one Dewey number, 741.5… Scrooge McDuck and Maus on the same shelf. It will take time to sort out the details. Also, note that the award winning graphic novels are not coming from the comic book industry, but from publishers like First Second who are assembling a stable of wonderful authors working in more than one medium. These are not creators you will find mentioned in Wizard or Diamond’s Top 100. Which is bothersome, because even at the beginning of this early stage of the Great American Graphic Novel era, the division between comics and the book industry is present. There remains a generation gap between fan boys and the general public that is not bridged, not even by movies or graphic novels. I understand why, but it will be a real pisser if we finally find ourselves in the age of the Great American Graphic Novel and comics are seen as the primordal ocean of out which they crawled. I mean, look, I have to go to conventions in 3 different industries (comics, books, libraries) to promote my work. That fact alone should illustrate the complexity of navigating the future as a graphic novelist. Makes my head hurt.
I've been noticing this separation as well, though haven't been able to summarize as well as Mr. Moore. American Born Chinese wins awards and is lauded by the literary press, while soon to be collected The Escapists is certainly worthy of (and capable of appealing to) a wide audience but might be overlooked because it's six issues bound together as one book would still be a comic book collection. Not a graphic novel.

Moore presents an interesting challenge. To make sure that as graphic novels gain exposure and acceptance that the broader market of comic books aren't left behind. After battling back from an over-expansion and hyper-speculation frenzy in the early nineties that almost bankrupted the entire industry, I hate to see the ultimate demise of good old fashioned comic books be something it helped spawn.

January 25, 2007

300 Preview

CBR has the 90 second sneak peak of the upcoming film 300 that was shown on TV earlier this week during NBC's "Heroes" and Fox's "Prison Break."

Click the screen shot to view the video.

click the Screen shot for the preview video

That's good stuff. Now I just gotta find someone to go with my to see it on March 9th.

Blue Sky Challenge - Star Wars

I've been following the BlueSky Challenges every week since I discovered them last summer. Last week's Wild West one was pretty interesting, the Christmas one was great. Regardless of the topic they always post a lot of great artwork.

I had to post about this week's challenge. The topic is Star Wars

So far I'm digging the work from Jake (he's gotta couple entries). In particular I like his Han Solo

han solo from bluesky challenge

Winter's Bone

I received Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell just this past Christmas. I wasn't considering it next in my lengthy reading list queue, but Heather read it and told me how much she enjoyed the novel. So when I need a new book for my train rides I decided to pick up Woodrell's book.

cover to winter's boneThe plot is pretty basic. In the Ozark mountain region, a 16-year-old girl named Ree Dolly struggles to care for her mentally ill mother and her two young brothers. Before the story in the book begins, Ree's career methamphetamine-cooking father had been recently arrested, posted bail using their house as collateral, and then disappeared. They story picks up when he doesn't appear for his court case and the bondsman comes with news that if poor Jessup doesn't show up - dead or alive - in the next thirty days, the house is going to be repossessed and Ree and her family will be out on the street (or in a cave, as the case may be). Ree sets out to find her dad, but is challenged every step of the way by her extended family - all of whom are in the business of selling crank and more concerned with protecting their business than helping a family member. It's a fairly straight forward mystery with Ree taking on the role of detective.

I had a difficult time getting into this book. The story didn't grab me immediately and there just didn't seem to be any characters I could relate to. And many of them were so seriously flawed that I had a hard time even sympathizing with them. I stuck with it though, and the more I read the more I appreciated and enjoyed the novel. Woodrell displays a unique voice in his writing that I found pleasing. His prose is smooth and deliberate, with an attention to just the right details to bring the essence of a scene to life. The characters might not leave a lasting impression, but we feel in our gut what it was like to be there when that scene was happening. After reading the book I am left with the memory of scene experiences.

Like them or not, we only get inside the head of Ree and understand her as a character, and that's only because the novel is written in first person narrative from her point of view. With the other characters, we only know as much as Ree will tell us and by observing their actions as described to us by Ree. We see them all through the filter of Ree. But considering Woodrell's style of prose and selection of material, I don't think he's interested in the characters as individuals. He wants to explore the idea of family. How it can destroy and save an individual.

This dual nature of family is on perfect display within the pages of Winter's Bone. Ree's father's decision to use the family house to secure bail threatens to make his family homeless. Ree's extended family vehemently counters her attempts at learning the fate of her father. Ree's Uncle Teardrop exemplifies this duality if family in his relationship with Ree. He verbally abuses her and repeating puts her down, but when things get at their worst for Ree he is there to pick her up and protect her from the rest of their family that will not stop. This theme of family is interesting, though not necessarily revelatory. (At least not for me. Your mileage may vary.)

Technically it was a solid novel filled with beautifully written prose. However neither the characters, the story, nor themes explored within ever grabbed my imagination. Winter's Bone is certainly a good book, but not one that I would highly recommending.

January 23, 2007

Who Has a Pirate Kitty?

Emma has an imaginary friend that has done everything. She's gone to Europe, been to the moon, drove a race car, lived in China, personally knows Santa Claus, attended pre-school, high school, been married, had kids, owned every toy ever produced and seen every movie ever released. She's done it all.

To protect her true identity, let's call Emma's imaginary friend "Esmeralda." So that you can begin to appreciate the dynamic nature of Esmeralda's experience consider the following; on Monday Esmeralda might be the same age as Emma, on Wednesday Emma might be babysitting for a younger version of Esmeralda, and on Friday Esmeralda is starting her own business to sell pink things. So is the life for Esmeralda. Hell, for one week in December Esmeralda was a boy.

Last night after dinner Emma was fluttering around me while I cleared dirty dishes off the kitchen table.

"Did you know Esmeralda is a pirate?" Emma asked me.

a pirate cat(Pirates seem to be very popular in our house right now.)

"No, I didn't know that."

"Yep. She's a Pirate Queen and her car is a boat"

"Really? Her car is a boat . . ."

"And she drives around the ocean with her pirate kitty and pirate puppy"

"Wait, she has a pirate kitty? How does that work?"

"Yep. And they bury their treasure in the desert."

And there you go. Once again Esmeralda is out breaking down barriers and preconceived notions of how things should be. Pirate Queens who drive boat-cars, own pirate cats, and bury their treasure in the barren desert. When you think Esmeralda is going to zig, she zags.

I would love to figure out how I could meet Esmeralda. Sometimes I really envy Emma.

Lovie Leaving For Dallas?

Hopefully not, but Tribune sports writer Mike Downey brings up some interesting points in his column today.
lovie smith
1) Bill Parcells resigned his position as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys on Monday

2) Lovie Smith is a Texas boy, through and through

3) Lovie Smith is the lowest paid head coach in the NFL

4) Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is known for buying whatever he wants (regardless of price) if he thinks it will make the team stronger

and finally,

5) Lovie's mother, Mae, once had dream that her son would become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Quite a set of observations by Downey. They paint a disturbing picture for Bears fans like myself who think Lovie Smith has done a wonderful job as head coach and want to see him on the sidelines for many years to come. But it's not something I really want to think about right now. Hopefully Bears GM Jerry Angelo team president Ted Phillips will understand that they've got a good thing going and keep Lovie happy (and paid well) in Chicago.

January 22, 2007

They're Selling the Batmobile

batmobile from the tv showI think it's fairly safe to make the statement that there is no cooler car than the Batmobile. Doesn't matter if you are a fan of Batman or not, you cannot deny the total coolness of Batman's main ride. Regardless of which version you are looking at: the comics, the TV show, the cartoons, or the movie - the Batmobile is the ultimate muscle car and the pennical of street power.

So when one of them is going up for sale, you gotta jump at the chance at owning it. Right?
According to THE SUN (British newspaper), this specific Batmobile (one of four created by George Barris for the 60's TV show) will go on sale on by Coys Auctions on the 27th of February at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London. Coys expects that the car is likely to fetch more than 75.000 BP, which is about 148.000 USD or 115.000 EUROS.
That came from the the Carscoop website. Granted my favorite version of the Batmobile is probably the one created for the 1989 Batman movie by Tim Burton, but the Barris designed machine from the TV show is pretty cool too.

$150,000 American . . . .Hmmmm . . . . I wonder how Heather feels about another mortgage at this stage in our life . . . .

He Might Need a Chocolate Bar Too

i know a guy in Ohio who would kill to own one of these . . .

macgyver toy

That's Love

chicago bears nfc champsDude's wife has labor induced on Friday so that he would be free and clear to attend the NFC Championship game and watch his beloved Chicago Bears pound the Saints.

Sure they're all smiles now, but imagine if the Bears had lost. . .

January 21, 2007

Bears WIN!

chicago bears are in the super bowl - image from Chicago Tribune website

Bears 39 - Saints 14. That's what I am talking about. All week the story was about the New Orleans Saints. About how the football team represented the hopes, dreams, and resilience of the city of New Orleans. About how Drew Brees and Reggie Bush headed up a high-octane offense that the stagnant Bears defense would not be able to contain. About how the Bears chances of winning (which seemed to get slimmer, according to the experts, as the week went on) all came down to the play of Rex Grossman. Hell, everyone at ESPN thought the Bears were going to lose.

screen shot of the ESPN experts pick for the NFL conference title games
But when the game actually got played on Sunday the Bears proved that their 13-3 record and top seed in the NFC playoffs weren't a fluke. The Chicago Bears really are the best team in the NFC this year.

Rex Grossman played well. The offense moved the ball. The defense stopped the other team. It was great game for the good guys. Sure they needed, and got, a good game from Rex, but what won the game for the Bears was great running from Thomas Jones (123 yards, 2 TD) and very Bear-like play from the defense. The Defense gave up more yardage than I would have liked, but they sacked Brees 3 times, intercepted him once, and collected three fumbles. It was the Bear defense we have been looking for the last few weeks.

It started out as a frustrating game. The first two Bears possessions were three-and-outs, and that was followed with three drives that ended with field goals, one of those after they converted on a fourth and yard to make it first and goal on like the four yard line. Despite this the Bears still lead 9 - 0, but I felt like it should have been more and at this early point of the game I was still worried about the Saints offense.

Thomas Jones - my favorite bearBut then behind the running of Thomas Jones the Bears marched 69 yards down the field (all on plays from Jones) and score a touchdown. Things were looking up.

The Saints score a quick touchdown at the end of the half to make it 16 - 7. I was worried about the momentum switching to the Saints side, and my fears were realized when at the beginning of the second half the Bears start off with another 3-and-out effort. The Bears Brad Maynard hit a monster punt, but the Saints quickly cut the gap to 2 points on a huge 88-yard TD catch-and-run from Reggie Bush. It was now 16 – 14 barely in favor of the Bears.

I had made a joke when the Bears were up 16-0 that they could let the Saints score two touchdowns and still cover the point spread. But I didn't actually think that the Bears would let the Saints back in to do just that. Just as that funny feeling was starting to creep into my stomach, the Bears get a safety on a strange play and the game seemed to swing back their way. When Bernard Berrian hauled in that 33-yard TD pass from Grossman I started to let myself believe that the Bears could actually be going to the Super Bowl.

Urlacher holds up the Halas TrophySure enough, fifteen minutes later Lovie Smith was getting dunked with water and they were handing out NFC Championship hats and t-shirts to the players on the Bears' sideline. Thirty minutes later Tony Dorsett is giving Virginia McCaskey the Halas Trophy.

Even now it's a little hard to believe. It's been so long since the Bears have been in this position. I'm sure the build up over the next two weeks will help hammer the notion home that the Bears are in the Super Bowl.

Now I gotta go watch the end of the AFC Championship game to see whom the Bears will face off against. When I started writing this entry the Patriots were leading 21 - 6, but now I see Peyton Manning and the Colts have tied things up 28 - 28 with a little over 11 minutes left in the game.

Exciting stuff.

January 20, 2007

Hillary?

This was the headline from USA Today:
N.Y. Dems cheer Clinton announcement, GOP says, 'We told you so'

CBS News:
Hillary Clinton Opens Trailblazing Run

The New York Times said:
Clinton's Announcement Makes Waves in 2008 Field

The Chicago Tribune headlined:
Hillary Clinton eyes presidency

In fact the Trib article even begins with a most dubious quote from Charlie Cook, a political analyst, "The frontrunner has just stepped on the stage."

I say:
"Who actually likes Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate?"

I mean really. Does anyone actually like her? I liked Bill Clinton, and I can't stand Hillary. Do Democrats really believe that the broader American public would accept Hillary Clinton as their President?

hillary clintonYet an ABC-Washington Post poll showed Clinton leading Obama 41-17 among Democratic-leaning voters.

What the hell is up with that? If I was a Republican thinking about taking a stab at claiming the Oval Office, now that Hillary is in it I would start filling up my war chest, printing up posters, and get my ass in the race for the Republican nomination. The Democrats throwing their support behind Hillary guarantees a loss in my opinion. They would be better off dusting off Al Gore and running him through the ringer. Hillary might play in New York and California, but the rest of the nation is going to look the other way.

January 19, 2007

Adventure Time

This is a cartoon unlike anything I've seen in a long, long time.

Wonderfully trippy.

Chauvel's and Fernandez's Wizard of Oz

David Chauvel has written a comic book adaptation of the L. Frank Baum classic The Wizard of Oz which features the artwork of Enrique Fernandez. The book was originally released in France, where it received the 2005 Grand Prix de La Ville De Lyon Award for Illustration. Just last month it was released in the States after being translated into English.

Enrique doesn't supply any samples of interior artwork from the book in his blog, but based on the cover and some of the other artwork I found at Enrique's site I can soundly say I want to add this version of The Wizard of Oz to my comic collection.

cover to wizard of oz adaptation

Bears vs. Saints

I got one of those funny feelings in my stomach and figure it's being caused by one of three things:

1) The chili I had for lunch
2) The Bears chances against the Saints Sunday in the NFC Championship game
3) Something else that I don't even want to talk about

Considering #2 makes for the best blog entry, let's focus on that one.

new orleans saints helmetSunday afternoon at 2pm the Bears will take the field to play the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game. The Bears and Saints come into the game ranked #1 and #2 in the NFC, so as far as the playoff seeding was concerned this is the match-up we should have expected. However, since the middle of the regular season finding any love for the Bears from anyone outside of the Chicagoland area has been tough. Sportswriters and commentators have been strained to acknowledge the Bears position within the NFC, citing their weak schedule and fluke wins as indicators of a team not as good as their win-loss record would indicate. The erratic play of Rex Grossman hasn't helped the Bears earn any respect from the nation's sports media either.

I think as far as most non-Chicago sports people are concerned, the Bears fizzled in October when they pulled out their improbable win against the Cardinals. Sure the Bears went on to impressive wins on the road against the Giants and the Jets, but I think a lot of people believed Arizona Cardinal's coach Dennis Green's post-game rant regarding the un-beatable-ness of the Chicago Bears. He wasn't ready to crown them in October and since the chinks have shown in the Bears' armor, the rest of the NFL nation has followed Green in being skeptical of this Bears team.

chicago bears logoHeck, even now the Bears are only 2.5 point favorites at home against the Saints. The odds makers can't even give the Bears a lousy field goal advantage when they are playing at home. Sure the Saints have the top ranked offense in the NFC, but the Bears are in Soldier Field. Sheesh.

Though as much as I love the Bears, I can't blame the sports gurus for thinking the way they do. The Bears didn't finish strong in the regular season and they didn't dominate Seattle last Sunday. The Bears certainly have looked very beatable. Certainly by a tough Saints team. What bothered me the most last Sunday was watching Shaun Alexander run all over the Bears defense in the second half. All I could think about was how the tandem of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister might shred the Bears in the NFC title game. And even if they do, Drew Brees is having a fantastic year. What's to stop him from lighting things up like he did against Dallas back in December? Granted the Dallas pass defense isn't as good as the Bears, but still. It scares me a bit.

thomas jones of the Chicago bearsThe Saints defense isn't scary, but they are strong. In fact, New Orleans is a well balanced team on both sides of the ball. Pretty much in the same way Seattle was balanced as well. The difference however is that I think the Saints are playing much better football right now. A lot better than what Seattle was playing. Consequently I get that funny feeling in my stomach when I think about watching the NFC Championship this Sunday.

Sure I believe the Bears can win. Rex doesn't worry me. I think he will be fine now that he's gotten one playoff game victory under his belt. However I hope the Bears deliver with a lot of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson on Sunday. The Bears were at their best last week when they were running the ball against the Seattle defense. New Orleans wasn't particularly strong defending the run this past season, so I hope to see the Bears exploit that for all they can. And if the pundits are right, the Saints are susceptible to giving up big pass plays - something Sexy Rexy excels at making - even though overall they defend the pass fairly well. So give a few long strikes from Rex to quickly get the Bears on top of the Saints on the scoreboard, and then pound the ball down the Saints' throats all afternoon.

And if all else fails, we can send out Robbie Gould. The man is money.

robbie gould kicking the game winner over seattle

Choose Your Own iPod Adventure

CYOA on iPodGiven: Choose Your Adventure Books are cool

Given: iPods are cool

Put them together and its gotta be double-coolness, right? That's what I'm hoping.

The kids behind the recently relaunched Choose Your Own Adventure books have made an iPod-compatiable version of the first CYOA book, The Abominable Snowman, available for free from their website.

I'm going to download it tonight at home and give it a try. Apparently it makes use of the iPod's primitive hyperlinking in the Notes. Hopefully it will work on 4th generation iPod sans color screen / photo support. I'm concerned because the screen shots at the CYOA site show images in the little iPods and I'm worried that the iPod versions of the book will only work on iPod Photo or above. They don't say that is the case in the instructions online, but you never know.

January 18, 2007

I Wanna Stay in the Batcave

On my next trip to Buenos Aires I want to book a night or two Hilton Buenos Aires. In particular, I hope to snag their Batman themed room. They say it's for kids, but come on. . . who are we fooling here?
Hilton Buenos Aires room 538 has been transformed into a genuine Bat Cave. Adjacent to parents’ deluxe room, the Bat Cave has all the elements to make this a Batman fan’s dream come true: Batman sheets, towels, posters, toys, pictures, comics, fancy dresses and accessories. Upon departure, children receive a surprise gift and a Batman certificate.
They also have Batman-themed food in the restaurant. "The Bat Menu features: “The Bruce Wayne Mansion” appetizer (mozzarella sticks and a potato tower), “Batman Ravioli” entrée (black ravioli with spinach and ricotta filling), and “The Cold Captain” dessert (ice cream with chips). " I'm assuming they meant Mr. Freeze with that last one, but I'm willing to let it go.

Screw Disney World. We're going to Buenos Aires.

(via newsarama)

The Five Fists of Science

I don't remember when I first heard about The Five Fists of Science, but I liked the idea immediately.

The Five Fists of ScienceAccording to this book, in 1899 Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla decided to join forces and formed a plan to bring peace to the world. Basically they wanted to create an immediate arms race using a huge mechanical suit that stood four stories tall and carried a monstrous gun. Sell one to every major country, and just like the nuclear arms build-up in the 70's and 80's, the warring nations would be held in check. At least that was the plan until J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, and Andrew Carnegie heard about Tesla's and Twain's grand scheme. Morgan, Edison, and company were in the process of building an office tower that would actually serve as an antenna to summon Lovecraftian monsters from a realm vibrating on a different frequency than Earth's. They don't want world peace; they want to take over the world. Ideals clash, comedy ensues.

With that storyline how could things go wrong? Especially when it was being written by Matt Fraction, a rising star in comic books whose previous books I had really enjoyed. The Annotated Mantooth! was pure lunacy that was funny without being stupid and Last of the Independents was a tightly scripted action caper that was a great read. Plus, though I haven't read any of it yet, I've heard nothing but good things about his book Casanova. So I was surprised at how much I didn't really enjoy The Five Fists of Science.

The set up is great, and that might have been the book's downfall. Maybe Fraction tried to do too much too quickly. He had too many ideas that he tried cramming into too short a book. Either reduce the amount of famous characters from history and off-the-wall ideas that he tried to work into the story or extend the length of the book so there is time to develop character and story. FFofS runs so fast you barely have time to grasp what's going on and who the players are. Scenes ended too quickly. In fact many times I thought I had inadvertently skipped pages because things were reading so oddly for me. If felt like I was missing parts of the story. It was really quite frustrating.

The art doesn't help the book much either. I can tell from the sketches at the back of the book that Steve Sanders has got some major chops when it comes to penciling, but somebody ruined his work with the coloring on this book. I don't have a copy in front of me now, so I can't check, but whoever it was that handled the coloring wasn't doing Mr. Sanders any favors. Pages were too dark and the colors muddy. I can understand trying to give the book a certain color muted or sepia-toned feel to capture the historic setting for the story, but at times I couldn't make out anything that was going on in the book. It was bad.

I had really looked forward to reading this. I had such high expectations. I'm not giving up on Fraction, though. I still think he can deliver a good story. This just one of them.

January 17, 2007

Obama!

Superman and Obama


Found this photo of Senator Barack Obama and had to run with it. Yesterday Sen. Obama took the first formal step for running for President by filing papers to form a presidential exploratory committee. He is expected to make a formal announcment on February 10th on the state of his candidacy. In light of the continued ground swelling of support this guy is receiving, I would be shocked if he didn't make his announcement in the affirmative.

I know that since I started paying attention to him two years ago when he ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate as the Illinois representative I have been nothing but impressed. I've gained additional insight into his views and approach to politics in Washington D.C. by listening to his podcasts.

I like to think that Sen. Obama might be the closest the American public has come to seeing a statemen at the national level in government as opposed to the career politicians the clutter the beltway. He will have my support regardless of whether he decides to run or not.

What To Watch Tonight

foreign correspondent posterI'm gonna want to get my work done at home quickly tonight because at 9pm (CST) Turner Classic Movies will be showing Foreign Correspondent, Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film starring Joel McCrea and Laraine Day.

Back around New Year's Eve when we were visiting Heather's parents, I was home sick while everyone else was at church. I was left home alone, found Foreign Correspondent starting on TCM and decided to watch it. I only made it about an hour into the film, but was immediately captivated with the story and the performance of Joel McCrea.

in particular I was enjoying McCrea's turn as newspaperman Johnny Jones, who get's fingered by the editor of the New York Morning Globe to drop his work as the crime reporter for the paper and travel to Europe as the paper's new foreign correspondent. There Jones takes on the alias of Huntley Haverstock and begins pursuing Dutch diplomat Van Meer for an interview and insight into the growing drumbeat of war in Europe. In his chase of the story, Jones finds himself wrapped up in a growing Nazi conspiracy. He also finds Carol Fisher and British correspondent ffolliott.

I was taken with McCrea's everyman approach to the role and his complete accessibility as a character on the screen. He was almost immediately likable, and I found myself cheering for him from the start. It was a trait I saw him project in his acting again when I watched The More The Merrier a few weeks ago where he co-starred with Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn. I've found that I like watching McCrea. Hopefully tonight I can finish my viewing of Foreign Correspondent.

Here's a nice review of the film, in case you want a little insight into why you shoudl watch it.

January 16, 2007

Hedge vs. Howl

It was an animation weekend for us. Saturday night was a family movie night, so Heather and I decided to make use of the Comcast OnDemand feature and ordered up Over the Hedge, the 2006 computer animation movie from Dreamworks studios. On Sunday night Heather and I took in a Hayao Miyazaki film, Howl's Moving Castle.

Both movies were very good. I enjoyed them both immensely. They both could be considered prime examples of the some of the best animated entertainment coming out of their respective countries (Hedge - America and Howl's - Japan). However, watching these two animated features on back to back nights demonstrated for me how differently these two countries approach animated features and the level at which either are willing to take their crafts.

over the hedge posterOver the Hedge is a funny, lighthearted romp starring a collection of talking animals who discover that a generic suburban sprawl has sprung up around them while they were hibernating over the winter. Their usual sources for forging for food are gone. But thanks to arrival of the Bruce Willis-voiced RJ the raccoon (and his own self-serving objectives) they discover the near limitless opportunities for food that their new human neighbors provide.

Cultures, as it were, clash and comedy ensues.

Apparently the movie was based on a comic strip series. I'm not familiar with the series, so I took the movie on its own merits. The story is simple and serves its purpose of bringing the different groups together and giving the movie a vehicle to move along on. The computer animation is very good. Not better than a Pixar produced film, but still strong enough that you aren't constantly aware that you are watching animation created with computers. However the real treat with Over the Hedge is the excellent voice acting and physical humor.

The actors were well cast in their roles. Particularly Garry Shandling as the over-protective turtle Verne, who serves as the head of the "family" of animals and Wanda Sykes as a brazen skunk named Stella. William Shatner's performance as Ozzie, an opossum who is constantly preaching the benefits of playing dead to his daughter Heather (voiced by singer Avril Lavigne), is subtle but dead-on. Not something you would expect from Captain Kirk. And by this stage in their career Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy have played husband/wife teams so often and have the routine down do well, they come off as naturals as the mother and father porcupines to three youngsters.

over the hedge screen shotWithout the strength of the actors' performances, we either don't care about the little animals on the screen or all we see on the screen is a donkey that sounds like Eddie Murphy. Instead the Dreamworks team pulled together a cast of actors and actresses dedicated to creating a character with their voice that the animators were able to tell their story with. It helps sell the movie and makes an wonderful enjoyable viewing experience.

As I mentioned earlier, the story isn't anything too complex or remarkable. The compelling reason to watch these performances is to experience the humor. Over the Hedge is fast, frantic, and creative in the jokes it delivers and the gags it stages. It was the first movie in a long time that I remember laughing out loud as hard as I did Saturday night. Favorite scene, hands down, comes towards the end of the movie when Hammy (voiced by Steve Carell) is finally allowed to drink a can of pop. The result of adding caffeine to the system of this already ultra-high strong squirrel is hilarious. Over the Hedge is simply a fun, entertaining film that the whole family can enjoy. Kids will laugh at the adventures developing on-screen; adults won't feel insulted with dopey characters and will probably laugh a lot too.

Watching Howl's Movie Castle the next night was like stepping out of sauna and jumping into a snow bank. Yes, the work done on Over the Hedge was very good, but it still pales in comparison to what living animation legend Hayao Miyazaki does in his films.

howl's moving castle posterHowl's Moving Castle is the fourth Miyazaki film I have had the pleasure of watching (fifth if you include Whisper of the Heart, which I've only seen the first hour of), and like with every previous film, he delivers with a moving, enchanting piece of animation that demands you to pay attention and rewards you with an viewing experience unlike any other.

Howl's story is loosely based on a book by British writer Diana Wynne Jones. The main character is Sophie, an eighteen-year-old girl who believes herself too plain for anyone to pay attention to her, and subsequently has resigned herself to working in her mother's hat shop for the rest of her life. A chance meeting with the wizard Howl results in Sophie being put under a curse by the jealous and mean-hearted Witch of the Waste. Now trapped in the body of an old woman, Sophie abandons her family and sets out to find Howl in hopes that he can undue the curse put upon her.

She finds Howl and works as housekeeper to him in his magnificent moving castle, which includes a magical door/portal that can transports the residents of Howl's Castle to one of four locations within the kingdom. There Sophie not only learns the secret of and escapes from her own curse, but she also discovers the mystery behind Howl. Together they end the spells that confine them both, as well as inadvertently bring about the end of the war the grips the generic British country the story takes place in.

What I have always marveled at when watching a Miyazaki film is the lushness of the animation. Nearly everything is still hand-drawn in a Miyazaki movie. Some scenes employee computer animation help, like the animating of Howl's monstrous moving castle, but Miyazaki expertly weaves the computer animation into the hand-drawn and painted backgrounds. Every scene in a Miyazaki film is worthy of being framed and hung on a wall to enjoy continuously. The attention to detail is astounding. From the flutter of a dress while Sophie hangs off the side of a moving trolley car to the reflection of the clouds and birds in crystal clear pools of water in Howl's garden, I want to stop every frame and lose myself in the artistry.

Plus the themes and characters on his movies are never simple or straightforward. His characters have complex motivations - there are no utterly evil or purely good characters in a Miyazaki film. He explores themes of man versus nature, the empowerment and trappings of youth, and the power of family. And his stories always take the main characters (and a few supporting ones) down a path of discovery and change. There is no returning to the status quo at the end of a Miyazaki film. Invariably the protagonist has learned something about them self and grown as a character as a result. This all makes for a rich, rewarding movie experience. And Howl's Moving Castle delivers on all accounts.

scene from howl's moving castleIt is this more sophisticated approach to the use of animation that was so clear to me this weekend as I watched both films practically back to back. U.S. animated films still primarily aim to entertain. They are escapist fantasy where animals talk and sing or toys come to life to have wild adventures. Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks - they all can do a wonderful job at entertaining with animation, but they don't seem to strive for anything more serious. I'll grant Disney has reached a little higher with movies like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and the criminally overlooked The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but ultimately Disney studios can't make it through a film without a big MGM-scale musical number or goofy sidekicks inserted as comedy relief. There's nothing wrong with a musical number or a goofy sidekick (Miyazaki certainly uses a silly sidekick frequently enough), but what about quiet moments in a film where character is revealed or having a scene played out with a refined simplicity? American animation seems to miss this and always goes for the over-the-top displays of storytelling.

Sure there is plenty of uninspired crap that comes of the Japanese animation studios, just like there is crap coming from American studios. It's just that it seems like the Japanese creators are willing to aim higher, to reach up and tell the sort of complex and fulfilling stories through animation that the U.S. will only do as live action. I certainly glad that they do, and that I am starting to find these excellent films that are out there. It will always be a fun time laughing at a solidly built animated movie like Over the Hedge, but it's nice to balance that out with the complex artistry of a film like Howl's Moving Castle.

Wake Up and Read This

Chicago Tribune ran an article in today's edition extoling the benefits of napping and / or getting a solid eight hours of sleep.

sleeping at the deskWhat they have to report isn't anything new. On average, adults today are getting less sleep today than they used to. And it's not a good thing. However, in the American-style, always-on corporate culture, there doesn't seem to be much room - or acceptance - for napping in the middle of the day or giving employees time to rest at home. A loss of productivity is usually met with more software or tech to help people work faster. But that probably is not addressing the issue.

The name of the game these days is increased productivity, and we spend a lot of resources on technology," says Dr. Charles Czeisler, Harvard Medical School's Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine. "But no matter how many gizmos and gadgets you give employees, they're not going to be more efficient if they're not alert.
In other words, all those guys you've got out there with crackberries so they can trade emails at 4am and stay in touch with the customer are probably working with brain activity that is at the "same level of cognitive impairment as if a person were legally drunk."

Fantastic.

I get about six hours a sleep a night, which I know isn't enough (Heather frequently tells me so); but I do employee the power of the afternoon nap. Don't get to take it at work, like some people in the Trib article get to do, I grab a 20 minute power nap on the train ride home. It freshens me up for the evening and provides a clean break from my work day.

January 15, 2007

Pachelbel Rant

It's funny because it's true.

January 14, 2007

Bears Win!

robbie gould after his game winning kick
Didn't particularly like how Shaun Alexander ran all over the Bears defense, but in the end the Bears played a good game and got it done when it counted. It was exciting to watch. I can call it a great game probably because my team ended up on the winning side. Had the Bears lost my opinion would certainly be different.

The Saints will be a formidable opponent next Sunday. The dual threat of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister really scares me. Hopefully the Bears defense can pull it together to plug the huge holes Alexander got in the second half today. The Saints are the only team left with a strong running game left in the playoffs thanks to New England sending San Diego packing this evening. Should the Bears find a way to shut down New Orleans I like their chances against whoever they would meet in the Super Bowl.

January 12, 2007

Bears Begin the Playoffs

Last night while I was getting my hair cut, my barber asked me if I thought the Bears would win on Sunday.

"I don't know," was my reply.

Seattle Seahawks helmetIt wasn't a "don't know" because I believe that you gotta play the games to really know. All the speculation and comparison of players on paper means nothing. I do believe that, but when it comes to the teams I am a fan of, I usually have an opinion on what I think their chances are in a game. I thought Notre Dame's chances against LSU were bad, and I was right. I thought Ohio State's chances against Florida were very good, and I was very wrong. But at least I had opinions going into those games

The Bears chances against Seattle? I have no idea.

While the Bears won more games in the regular season, they weren't too impressive in November and December. They barely won games they should have had an easy time with and looked like a shadow the team that was tearing things up at the beginning of the season. Seattle hasn't been very dominating, and it's not like they were in a demanding division.

The fact that the Bears spanked Seattle back in October? That means nothing to me. The Bears did the same to the Caroline Panthers last season, and the Panthers came into Chicago (after the Bears had a bye) and soundly beat the Bears in Soldiers Field. So past performance guarantees nothing.

Philadelphia is the hot team in the NFC right now. New Orleans is the most balanced and playing the best at the end of the season. Chicago and Seattle? They are just . . . there.

Rex GrossmanI think the Bears defense will show a little more mettle on Sunday than they have in that last few games. They are getting a bunch of players back from injuries, so from a personnel perspective the defense will be at about 95% of what they had when the Bears D was dominating opponents. Hopefully there isn't too much rust on Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, and Todd Johnson come Sunday.

With how Cedric Benson ran in the final few games, and how Thomas Jones has run all season, I know that the Bears running game should be solid. There really aren't any worries there. The Bears should be able to move the ball and chew up the clock.

In the end I guess it comes down to Sexy Rexy. He's the wildcard that prevents me from getting a good feel on this game. I think Rex Grossman is great. I like him as the starter and I'm glad Lovie sticks with him. That being said, the guy drives me crazy as a fan. If I knew now which Rex was going to show up on Sunday - the Grossman who played against Seattle back in October when he threw for 232 yards and 2 TDs or the Grossman who played against Minnesota on 12/3 and ended the game with 1.3 passer rating - then I could tell you if I think the Bears will win or not. So much hinges on the play of Rex. It's maddening.

People have compared Rex to Brett Favre for his ability to rally his team around him and potential for great plays. Plus, how with the flick of his wrist he can throw a game away for his team. Maybe Rex will be as great, or nearly as great, as Favre has been. But the process of finding out can make a Bears fan's stomach turn into a knotted mess.

I don't know if the Bears can win on Sunday, but I do know that I want to tune in and find out.

Random Comic Bits

  • cover to justice league of america #5 From what I've read on the different comic book review sites and blogs, the reaction to the new Justice League of America series has been mixed. And it seems pretty even - half and half - between those who like what writer Brad Meltzer is doing with the team and those who hate his approach.

    I was skeptical after the first issue, but as things have rolled along and the story has played out, I am really enjoying this book. Sure Meltzer didn't hit the ground running with a new team in place and battling some planet level extinction threat, which is what I think most people expected with a book like Justice League of America. Instead Meltzer is spinning a tale that focuses as much on the characters and their interaction with each other as it does on the fisticuffs. Through his storytelling he is able to give the book an epic feel - that the events and scenes in the book are part of a larger DC Universe of action - while still delivering interesting character stories.

    It may not be as fast paced as Grant Morrison's relaunch of the title back in the mid-90s, but it's no less entertaining in my opinion. Meltzer's pacing and tone is unique to any other monthly comic I am reading currently - unique in a good way. So I am always looking forward to the next issue.

  • In Midnighter #3 regular inker Karl Story is missing and is replaced by Joe Phillips. I can't say that I am too familiar with Phillips work - or if I've ever seen a book that he's worked on, though his name does sound familiar. None the less, I was less than thrilled with how he handled Chris Sprouse's pencils.

    I've been a fan of Sprouse's work for a long time. Most notably when he launched Tom Strong with Alan Moore. I think Sprouse was inked by Karl Story then, and has been inked by Story most times I have read comics he has worked on since then. Obviously all that time working together has allowed these two artists to figure out how to work together and deliver top notch artwork.

    I'm not sure if Phillips was rushed through to finish this issue, but many of the pages aren't nearly as good looking as I have come to expect from a title with Chris Sprouse's name on the cover. Characters change in appearance, perspective looks off, and even anatomy looks odd. Midnighter was a title I am growing to enjoy, but this issue let me down in the art department. Hopefully Karl Story can return to the title if Sprouse is remaining on as penciler.

  • On the other hand, a good inker can also elevate the art of a pencil who I didn't think I enjoyed. Don Kramer is the penciler for Detective Comics #827. 'Tec seems to be taking the approach of using rotating artists while Paul Dini is writing the book, which doesn't really bother me at all because Dini is sticking pretty closely to a "done-in-one" approach to his stories. Ever issue is self-contained. No "continued next month."

    Kramer has popped up a few times and I've never been too impressed with his art. He reminds me of Barry Kitson. Technically strong and clean, but ultimately I find the art stiff and lifeless most of the times. The art lacks energy.

    However, in his last few turns on 'Tec he's been joined by inker Wayne Faucher whose skills with the pen help elevate Kramer's pencils. There's still some stiffly posed scenes and odd looking anatomy, but Kramer and Faucher together at least create visuals that allow me to sit back and enjoy Dini's stories and not obsess how much I don't like certain panels or scenes while reading the book.

  • A couple months back an unfinished trailer for this summer's Spider-Man 3 was making the rounds on YouTube and the like. Sony Pictures, who is distributing the summer flick, quickly moved to have the unauthorized video of the web. One of the suspected reasons was that this rough trailer showed more of new arch-villain Venom than Sony wanted to reveal at the time.

    Don't know if Sony still feels that way, but if they do they need to check with Medicom Toys, who are making some officially licensed 12-inch action figures based on the characters in Spider-Man 3. They've got regular Spider-Man, Spider-Man in the black costume, and good old Venom in all his glory. The 12-inch figures are very detailed, so I think any mystery to how Venom is going to look is pretty much shot.



    The first Spider-Man movie was so-so, but I really dug Spider-Man 2. Since then, and after seeing the official trailers for Spider-Man 3, I'm pretty jazzed about this summer's entry in the Spider-Man movie franchise.
  • Cold Shower

    Last night Ian got in and took his shower. He's still a little slow in the shower (he likes to sing and goof around a lot - but come on, kid's still only 7) so the bathroom gets plenty steamy. When he was done I started to fill the tub up to give the girls their bath (to save time and money, we still bathe Emma and Zoe together). I adjusted the water coming out of the faucet to a good temperature for a bath and left the room to let it fill.

    Came back to check on it a few times, when the water reached the level needed for two girls to bathe at the same time I shut the water off and asked Emma and Zoe to come upstairs for their bath. Emma quickly got undressed and used the toilet and started to step into the tub.

    "AAAAH! It's cold!" she shouted.

    "What?"

    "It's really cold," she replied.

    cold showerIt couldn't be cold, I thought. I set the water temperature pretty hot when I turned the water on for the bath. I hadn't actually checked the water since the starting the water to run for the bath, but nobody had been in the bathroom to mess with the faucet handle since I turned things on. I stuck my hand in the tub - the water was ice cold.

    I turned the water on in the sink - cold.

    I ran to another bathroom and tried the water - cold, cold, cold.

    Water in the kitchen sink - freezing cold.

    So I hurry downstairs expecting to find a busted water heater. Figure there will be water all over the floor. Huge mess to clean up. Plenty of stuff that will be ruined because Heather and I have really spent any time since moving in last August getting the basement in order. There is stuff all over the floor.

    Luckily that isn't the case. The water heater is fine. The floor is bone dry. I pull the cover off the front of the heater and see that the pilot light is out.

    At this point I turn and tell Emma, who has followed me through out the house during my investigation and is now standing buck-naked in the basement next to me, "You and Zoe aren't taking a bath tonight."

    "But then we'll have to wear stinky clothes!"

    "No, you'll put on clean, good smelling clothes. You can take your bath tomorrow, after the water heater gets fixed."

    After the kids are all in bed I venture back downstairs to try and relight the pilot. After three attempts at relighting (It would light, but as soon as I let go of the pilot button the flame would go out) I make a call to a service company. They're coming this morning to fix things.

    So that night I washed the dishes using some water I boiled on the stove and this morning I took the coldest shower of my life. Heather said I was crazy, and a little stupid, to take shower in the winter with no hot water, and maybe she's right. But when I'm getting up early in the morning I need that shower to get me started. I can't just "wash up" in a sink. I need the full naked-water-everywhere experience to get the blood flowing.

    Needless to say the arctic like conditions in the shower this morning did a fantastic job of getting the blood flowing. But it's not something I want to do any time soon again. Hopefully the repair is in place when I get home tonight and the hot water will be flowing.

    January 10, 2007

    Bruce Campbell Has Got It

    Bruce Campbell is the coolest.

    How To Make the Perfect Roast Beef

    george burns and gracie allenMy grandpa emailed this to me. I remember watching re-runs of the George Burns and Gracie Allen TV show as a kid and my dad had a few comedy records that featured Burns and Allen doing their act. They were really funny. Burns played the perfect straight guy to Allen's inspired wackiness.

    Gracie Allen's Classic Recipe for Roast Beef

    1 large Roast of beef

    1 small Roast of beef

    Take the two roasts and put them in the oven. When the little one burns, the big one is done.

    Superman Returns Review

    Heather and I watched Superman Returns this past weekend. Not because we wanted to watch it then, but I accidentally purchased it through Comcast's OnDemand feature. (Don't ask.) So we were sorta on the hook.

    Considering how long ago the movie actually came out, by now I've read plenty of reviews and heard plenty of plot spoilers. So the story really wasn't much of a surprise, nor was my expectations for the movie too high. I'd also had time to hear and absorb many of the critiques of the film: Superman's creepy stalking of Lois Lane, Too much Superman-as-Christ imagery and metaphors, Superman comes off as "gay", the movie drags on, etc. Regardless of all that, I still wanted to see the film to judge it for myself. And come on, it's Superman. Who doesn't like a good Superman movie?

    superman returnsAfter finishing watching Superman Returns I had to agree with one of those critiques I had heard. The movie was too long. It was hard for me to determine when the third act actually begins, but it seemed to take for ever to get there. We seemed to wander about in the film for awhile before things got going again for the end of the film. Even then, the film seemed to lack focus as it wound down. It was like director Bryan Singer had all these things he wanted to do, started them, and then was hurrying around to try and wrap them up. It was just a strange end to the film.

    But that's not even my biggest complaint of the movie. Superman Returns was suppose to be the return of the Man of Steel to the silver screen. There hadn't been a Superman movie since the forgettable Superman IV: The Quest for Peace which I have thankfully never wasted my time with. A year and a half ago director Christopher Nolan re-envisioned and re-introduced the movie public to Batman in Batman Begins with monstrous results. He didn't build on anything Tim Burton had done with the first two Batman films. He didn't use anything from what Joel Schumacher did in the last two Batman films. He approached the character from a new perspective.-

    What did Bryan Singer do with Superman Returns. He basically filmed a love letter to Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve.

    I love the first two Superman films. I think they are wonderful movies that capture the magic and power of the character of Superman. Christopher Reeve is Superman for me. But that doesn't mean that I want to see that rehashed again 25 years later.

    Tim Burton's Batman films are excellent. Moody and dark, Burton puts his stamp on the character and realizes his vision of how the Dark Knight should be betrayed on film. However, I loved Batman Begins and Nolan's take on Bruce Wayne and Batman. Just because I enjoyed one version of the character doesn't mean I want to be fed that same version over and over again. Bring me something new. Show me a different way of seeing this character. A good character can stand up to these changing interpretations.

    superman returns logoHowever while I was watching Superman Returns the only thing that grabbed me as new about this version of Superman was that he had a new outfit. Everything else was continuation on the first two Superman films. Even the idea of the Super-baby (Jason White) is playing on events that happened in Superman II. After 25 years the only thing Singer could bring new to the character was different looking long underwear?

    But I didn't hate everything. I thought Brandon Routh was perfectly believable as Clark Kent / Superman. He even seems to channel a little Christopher Reeve at times. Kevin Spacey was fun to watch as Lex Luthor. And Kate Bosworth was fine as Lois Lane.

    The movie is beautifully shot and crafted, and Singer does pull together some fantastic action sequences. The plane rescue in particular was worth at least one viewing of the movie.

    Ultimately though I think Singer's Superman Returns commits the sin of not trying anything new. Don't make the third Superman movie Richard Donner never got to make (let's not get into the Richard Donner / Richard Lester Superman II thing right now), show me how Bryan Singer would interpret the Man of Steel. If that means a shadow of Donner film from 1978, then I suggest Warner Brothers find someone else to oversee the next step in the Superman movie franchise.