August 31, 2007

Our Spider the Maverick Architect

Spider #1Last Sunday morning it was my turn to get up with the kids so Heather could sleep in. When I yanked up the blinds covering one of the windows in the family room, I was surprised to see a monstrous spiderweb suspended in front of the glass.

The web was huge. It was attached to the fire place chimney on one side, and presumably the roof and the ground on the other side. I’m still not sure how the spider built it. The web seemed to be floating a foot and half away from our house – supported only by the webs connection to the chimney.

The spider was sitting in the middle of the web – and he was as big as you would expect based on the size of the web. I grab our digital camera and rushed outside to snap some pictures.

Spider #4I was kinda wild. I could walk around three sides of the web. I took photos on the front, back, and one side of the web. It’s kind hard to see the web against the light color of our house, but it was large.

While photographing the spider, I saw a fly become ensnared in the web and watched the spider pounce. It is remarkable how fast that spider moved. In a fraction of a second it was on the fly and began covering it in silk. I tried filming a little digital video, but I couldn’t get it focused fast enough. He was moving fast.

The next day the web was completely gone. It was like the spider and his web had never been there.

A few days later we found the spider again on a new web. This time he had suspended the web from our gutters, anchoring the web to the ground by attaching it to a single stone. However, the stone wasn't strong enough to counter the upward pull of the webbing, so the stone ended up being suspended about a foot in the air gently twirling about. It made the whole web a tab more precarious to traverse, but our spider didn't seem to mind.

August 30, 2007

Is That My Uncle?

A couple of weeks ago we were watching TV at home when a commerical for the new game called Boogie for the Wii came on. While the little pink dude in his Saturday Night Fever suit spun around the screen, Emma said that the dancing cartoon character reminded her of one of her uncles.

Can you guess which one?

They Blew It Up!

screen shots of when the gotham general hospital was being explodedI watched the live video feed FOX-Chicago was providing of yesterday's The Dark Knight stunt.

Or at least I tried to watch it. I had to keep flipping back and forth a bit while I was working on some things and fielding some calls from people. I missed the beginning of the explosion, but I did catch the majority of the demolition. It was pretty interesting watching it happen live. Though I expect it will be much more impressive once they edit the film, add some sound effects, and maybe pump of the visuals a little.

If you weren't watching the live feed yesterday, FOX-Chicago has an edited video piece that cuts right to the good stuff - when things start splodin' up.

Bears vs Browns Tonight

chicago bears logoI know it's only pre-season football, and the fourth and final game at that, but I'm still interested in watching a little of tonight's Chicago Bears - Cleveland Browns match-up.

First, I can't pass up a Bears-Browns game. Heather and her family are from Ohio, and most of them are Browns fans, including Heather. She's enjoys watching football - pro and college - so when our teams meet it's always a fun time. Ian and the girls aren't quite sure which team to pull for, but it's always clear in the house that Mom's yelling for the Browns and Dad's yelling for the Bears

browns helmetSecond, I'd figure Brady Quinn will get a considerable amount of playing time tonight. The fourth game of the NFL pre-season is usually reserved for rookies and third-stringers. It's their chance to prove to the coaches that they deserve a spot on the roster. I don't think the first team plays at all in the final pre-season game.

Being a Notre Dame fan, and fan of Quinn, I'd like to see how he is handling himself with the Browns. I know he's only been with the team a few weeks after his contract holdout, but the boy certainly has got talent. When you consider the other options at QB for the Browns, I expect him to be starting for Cleveland sometime this season. Seeing how we won't get many Cleveland games here in Chicago, this might be one of my only chances this year to see Quinn gun-slinging on the gridiron.

Kick-off is shortly after 7pm (central).

August 29, 2007

Reasons to Avoid Wisconsin #43

Two drunk dudes figure out how they can both drive a truck at the same time while a third drunk guy sits in the back.
Marshfield News-Herald

ABBOTSFORD -- Two Dorchester men were arrested for operating the same vehicle while intoxicated in the Abbotsford area.

Harvey J. Miller, 43, who has no legs, was steering the 1985 Chevrolet truck from the driver's seat while Edwin H. Marzinske, 55, operated the brake and gas pedals, according to the Colby/Abbotsford Police report.

They were headed northbound on Hiline Avenue in Abbotsford when police pulled them over at 2:40 a.m. Aug. 18.

Miller admitted he was too drunk to drive but argued he wasn't operating the vehicle because he couldn't push the pedals. Miller was issued a citation for a third drunk driving offense, while Marzinske was cited for a second. Both men were also cited for operating after revocation.

A third drunk man in the vehicle walked himself home after the incident.

New iPods on the Horizon?

copy of press invite for apple event on 9.4.2007The speculation that Steve Jobs is about to unveil the next generation of iPods - presumably with widescreen video and an Apple OS like the recently launched iPhone - gained a whole new life when the invite pictured on the right went out to the press recently.

It seems like the right time for a new product launch. Christmas is just around the corner, the current iPod is looking a little tired from a product life-cycle standpoint, and new-look iPod would help bring the design in line with the iPhone, iPod Shuffle, MacBook, and new iMac with their shining aluminum cases plus possibly provide some of the great interface innovations that Apple introduced with the iPhone.

Then again, Steve could be getting ready to let everyone know that prices of songs are being dropped from $.99 to $.90. We will just have to all wait and see.

The Dark Knight Movie News

If everything goes as planned, they will be blowing up the old Brach Candy factory today. Over the past few days production crews have transformed the front of the building to look like Gotham General Hospital.
picture of brach candy company turned into gotham general hospital
HollywoodChicago.com has received different reports on the scale of the stunt. Either they plan to implode the entire building or they will just be blowing out the front of the building. Either way, with the recent open casting call seeking amputee extras to portray hospital patients, this has the markings of a spectacular stunt for the new movie. Looks like director Christopher Nolan is using every last penny of his expanded budget for The Dark Knight

I also found a slew of photos from this past weekend's filming of a memorial service that will take place during the movie. Lots of shots of Gotham police officers, vehicles, etc. all lined up formally and marching down LaSalle street in downtown Chicago. There are some good photos of Christohper Nolan discussing scenes with the crew, and plenty of photos of Gary Oldman as Lt. Jim Gordon. Also a few shots of Anthony Michael Hall (who plays a television news reporter) and Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent).

Update: the local FOX affiliate is practically giving us a live video feed of the Gotham General Hospital explosion.

August 28, 2007

The Geek Hierarchy

snippet from the geek hierarchyThe Geek Hierarchy has been established and it possesses the strength of law within certain circles.

Being a comic book fan of more than just superhero comics and a Sci-Fi Literature fan, I consider myself pretty far up the chain.

Those poor Furries though. They don't even get respect from Klingons getting married.

[via]

Building My Grandpa's Legacy

This past Sunday we celebrated my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary (and my grandfather’s 90th birthday). Heather made the cake, the party was in the restaurant at the senior living residence that my grandparents moved into about a year ago, and all of their children and all but one grandchild was in attendance in addition to plenty of other well-wishers. (Oh, and all of the great-grandchildren – my kids – were there too)

grandma and grandpa mckillip at their 65th wedding anniversaryAchieving 65 years of anything, let alone marriage, is always a reason for celebration. And my grandparents deserve all the congratulations and respect paid to them for showing that with dedication, solid work, and a little good health (they’re both in their 90s), couples can stay together for the long haul.
Afterwards, when I was thinking about what my grandparents had accomplished, I realized two things.

First, that it looks like I am blessed with some good genes. Three of my four grandparents are still living and relatively good health. All are in the 90’s, and though they are showing their age, they still remain active and as mentally sharp as ever. The fourth grandparent, my grandfather on my mother’s side, died of a heart attach when he was in his 50’s. But from what I’ve been told, he refused to visit doctors and may have ignored early signs of the impending attack, missteps that I do not plan on repeating. So with a little luck and proper care, I could be looking at a long and active life.

My second revelation was how much I have looked to and modeled my behavior as a husband on my grandfather. My parents separated when I was in second grade, received their divorce when I was in fourth grade. Since then my father has burned through two more marriages and my mom recently ended her second marriage. I may seek my parents counsel from time to time, but to say that I don’t consider them a reputable source for marriage advice might be an understatement.

But as a child growing up much of your behaviour and skills are learned from watching your parents. How they treat you flips around to influence how you raise your own children. How they interact with their parents (your grandparents) teaches you how you should treat them as they get older. But without my mom and dad married and living together, I didn’t have that sort of husband-to-wife role model growing up. Sure I observed my father with his two subsequent wives, but I put little stock in those relationships. First, those women weren’t my mother, so I to a certain extent I cared little about what went on with my father’s relationship with them. Callous, but true. Second, these next two marriages lasted three years and nine years respectively. Even counting my dad’s marriage to my mom, he hasn’t been married for more than nine years to any one woman. I’ve got twelve under my belt already and feel pretty happy about it too.

So who does that leave me to watch and emulate? My uncles? Sure, but that sort of interaction was limited. I don’t see my uncles every day. I don’t spend extended amounts of time with my uncles and their families. Plus, they are my dad’s brothers or brothers-in-law, my mom’s brother or brothers-in-law. They didn’t provide the direct linage that my grandfather presented. Plus, my grandparents seemed to be around all the time when I was young, doing stuff with my brother, sister, and I. Here was a man who was my dad’s dad, the man who raised my dad from a little boy, the man who tried to teach and prepare my dad to enter the world and raise his own family. Consciously or not, I started watching how this man treated his wife and what sort of relationship he maintained with her.

Granted, I wasn’t getting the full immersion that I would by living with a father and mother still married, but it was the best situation that presented itself. I realize now that I have spent my life observing my grandfather’s behaviour towards my grandmother; how they argued, how he dotted on her, how he complimented her, and I’ve been filing these observations away in order to model my own behavior towards my wife. Who knows what went on when I wasn’t around, but from what I’ve seen over the years of my grandparents they present a solid model of a happy married couple.

Sure, by the time I was old enough to start really watching and understanding what was going on my grandparents were already in their 60’s, and certain methods of human interaction work better at different times in a person’s life, but that just gave me a target to aim for. If I wanted to be happy like my grandparents seemed in their 60’s, then I needed to figure out how to get there from where I was now. Retro-fit and adapt what I saw a 70-year-old doing to make it work as a 20-year-old and then start scaling things upward as I got older.

Four GenerationsI’ve worked in some of my own twists and customizations, of course, but I’d like to think the core of the plan is all Richard McKillip. I’m taking his base and working from that. Hopefully I’ve interpreted things correctly, because I know now that the plan might get me to sixty-five years.

If my theory proves itself out, and someday I find myself celebrating 65 years of marriage to Heather, it will be too late to thank my grandpa for helping me establish my formula for marital success. But that might not be the point, and 65 years of marriage might not be the only measure of martial success. Rather, I should be working to set the new example for Ian and any future grandchildren that may come along the way. Only then will I have really achieved the success of my grandfather.

August 27, 2007

The Art of Willy Pogany

Last week the Hollywood Animation Archive posted some pieces from Willy Pogany's book, The Art of Drawing. I wasn't aware of Pogany before discovering him on this blog. But based on the praise the Hollywood Animation Archive has for his talents and samples of his sketches like these, I would love to see some of his finished work.

pogany sketches pogany sketches
I am in awe of people who can create images like that with nothing more than a pencil and paper.

In Hindsight

If I knew then what I knew now, when my mom called me Thursday night to inform me that she had lost power but that the battery-back up on her sump pump was chugging along fine (albeit with only 6 hours of charge time) I would have hung up the phone and driven out to her house.

But I didn't because she told me she thought everything would be fine.

I shouldn't have trusted her answer.

Her basement is a mess.

Not a nasty, nasty, but enough damage that it makes me mad knowing I could have reduced the damage to nearly nothing if I had made 30-minute drive north to my mom's house that Thursday.

Instead I'm lugging 150 pounds of soaked carpeting up the stairs and into her garage for drying and contemplating how many children's books will have to be thrown away and what can be saved.

August 26, 2007

High-Beam Road Rage

headlightsMaybe I'm old fashioned, but what happened to the common driving courtesy that stipulates that a driver should turn off his high-beams when approaching a car going the other way?

I was driving home very late tonight after cleaning out my mom's flooded basement and had to drive along some roads that run along side a forest preserve and then a golf course - so it gets pretty dark.

I was giving my fingers blisters flicking my high-beams on or off as I see approaching vehicles, until I realized that these other drivers were not giving me the same courtesy. Apparently no one else cared that they were blinding me with their damn headlights.

I thought everyone was taught to turn off high-beams when other cars are driving towards you? (and let's not even talk about the half-wits who drive up behind you with their high-beams a blazin' . . .)

Actually, everyone probably still is taught the high-beam rule, it's just that few people bother to remember these types of driving protocols anymore. Not much room for courtesy for other drivers in a "me-first" society.

August 25, 2007

Malki! vs ComicCon

I am a huge fan of the Wondermark comic strip by David Malki! (He uses the explanation point in his name, I'm not that excited to talk about the guy.)

At the most recent San Diego Comic Con, Malki! decided to answer the question, "Who's better, me or Comic Con?" The resulting documentary is a blast.

August 24, 2007

Superman Doomsday

Warner Brothers have two new video clips out to promote this autumn's direct-to-DVD release of Superman Doomsday - the animated adaptation of the "Death of Superman" storyline that ran through the comic books back in the early-90's.

Bruce Timm said it was going to be more intense and more mature than what he had done with the DC animated shows he had created for television, and theses two clips bare that out. Good looking stuff.

superman doomsday
The DVD will be available September 18th. It will be going on my birthday/Christmas list.

Chicks

I'll never understand them . . .


Kelsey Miller (left) celebrates with last year's winner Bethany Wittenauer after being crowned Miss Amboy on Thursday in Amboy, Ill. The town, about 110 miles west of Chicago, is holding its annual Depot Days. (Sauk Valley Newspapers photo by Philip Marruffo / August 23, 2007)

Happy Birthday Big Mac!

Hey, it's a little late, but everyone should wish Mcdonald's Big Mac a "Happy Birthday" today. The sandwhich was first introduced 40 years ago today.

big mac
I know it's fast food and Mcdonald's and all, but I love 'em. If I had known about the birthday earlier I would have gotten one for lunch to celebrate.

Enough of the Rain Already

Even though we have not been hit particularly hard where we live in Aurora, I’ve had enough of the rain. It’s been raining nearly every day for over a week now. I was able to get out and cut the grass last Saturday morning – when it wasn’t raining – but that is the only non-raining time I can remember at my house in the last nine days.

Things have been nastiest this week.

Our house sits up on higher elevation and has a good sump pump, but with the volume of rain that has been coming down since Sunday I still find myself walking down in to the basement ever few hours when I’m at home. I’ve even got up in the middle of the night and ventured down to stand over the sump cover and stair at it. Just to make certain no water is seeping in to ruin our new basement.

farm in findlay Ohio surrounded by flood watersRain and basements have not been good to our family this week. Heather’s mom and dad live in Findlay, OH, which made national news when the Blanchard River crested at 18 feet – 7 feet above floor stage. While watching helicopter-shot video footage of downtown Findlay covered in deep water – Heather tried to get in touch with her parents without much early luck. Eventually, though, she did reach her mom and learned that they were alright, just busy cleaning up their basement. They took in about two and half feet of water in their basement, but only because the circuit breaker that the sump pump was on tripped and they didn’t notice until water had started filling up the basement.

It doesn’t sound like they lost too much to the water, though they will have to wait and see what damage was done to the chest freezer, washer, dryer, and spare refrigerator that they run down in the basement. Hopefully the appliances dry out fine and are still operational. Otherwise I don’t know where I will go to sneak beer when I visit for family get togethers.

Last night I received a call from my mother. She lives up in Wheaton, about a 30 minute drive from our house. She has had some problems with basement flooding in the past, mainly because the house was built with a deep basement on land that extends over an underground lake and is a stone’s throw from a protected wetland marsh. She has two sump pumps – one of which is connected to a battery backup with 6 hours of juice.

flooding in downtown findlay ohioShe called at 8:30 last night to inform me that they had lost power out by her house and that she had begun the countdown on her six hours of battery life for the back-up sump. I told her to give me a call if there were problems, then went downstairs to check my basement again. When I didn’t receive any phone calls from her overnight and none early in the morning, I figured that power had been restored and the sumps were being pumped.

But that was not to be.

I returned to me office from some morning meetings to find all manner of phone messages from Heather. My mom had been in contact with her. Power had not been restored and she was looking for a generator to hook her sump pumps up to (Understandably, there were none to be found in Wheaton). Heather, being a right resourceful lass, had found one of the last gas-powered generators available at an Aurora-based rental center and had them load it into the back of our mini-van.

The plan then became for me to kick out of work early so I could transport the generator up to my mom’s house to start clearing her basement. However, when I called to discuss my intentions with my mom, I learned that her next-door neighbor had power – the only house on the entire block – so they were stringing extension cords from his house to her house so that they could power up the sump pump.

I will still need to go up and check on my mom and her basement, but now at least I know something is being done about getting the water out. I might just have to help with cleaning some things up.

Two out of three parental units have experienced flooding problems this week. Lucky for my dad that he lives in a condo on a slab – no basement. No fears of water in the basement, he just has to worry about tornado warnings at the DuPage court house.

But if we can just get through tonight, then the outlook for the next four days look good. No rain, plenty of sunshine, but with temperatures slowly building back up into the 90s. Sure, it might become miserably hot, but at least the rain will have stopped.

[Pictures are of flooding in Findlay, OH]

Go Get 'Em Tiger!

robin's booty patrol
Chew on that, Wertham.

August 22, 2007

3:10 To Yuma

I no longer operate under the delusional expectation that I will get to see a film that looks interesting in a theater. So let's jump past me making some statement here about wanting to see 3:10 to Yuma after it debuts on September 7th and go right to the announcement of my plan to add this film starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale to my "Movies To Watch" list.

screen shot from 3:10 to YumaCrowe and Bale in a cowboy movie - sounds fantastic. Add in a little of Peter Fonda and big showdown in a beat-up western town and we have the makings for a perfectly entertaining cowboy film.

How Has This Cereal Not Shown Up In My House?

disney princess cereal
Emma and Zoe would love it if Heather came home from Dominick's with Disney Princess cereal in among her groceries - if only so they could "ooh" and "ahh" over the box.

August 21, 2007

Mr. Freeze Creator Dies

mr freeze and batmanI consider myself pretty well versed in Batman trivia and lore, but every once and a while I discover there is still plenty more to learn.

Take for example the news that Max Hodge, veteran TV writer, passed away at the age of 91 late last week. He wrote for a slew of shows in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, including Mission: Impossible, Ironside, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, The Waltons and CHiPs. But he had a strong connection to Batman mythology as well.

As a brief writer for the Adam West-helmed Batman campy TV show, he took a little used villain from the comic books – Mr. Zero – and turned him into the freezer-suit wearing arch-villain Mr. Freeze who relied as much on sub-zero temperatures to commit his crimes as he did to keep himself alive. The re-imagined Mr. Freeze jumped back into the pages of comic books where he has remained one of Batman’s more popular foils.

If Only I Could Print Them

Dorky - maybe. But I like the montage of Notre Dame football tickets that I found on a Notre Dame football blog. Gets me excited for the start of the upcoming season.

notre dame tickets

Making Roads Safer in Illinois

Yesterday Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed into law new teen driving rules that will hopefully not only make the road safer for teens, but also everyone else sharing the road with these teens.

The new rules, which go into effect January 1, 2008, include a nine-month learner's permit period, lengthier passenger restrictions and extended night-driving limits for teens. The Chicago Tribune provided a nice graphic showing how restrictions on teen driving will change in Illinois, which I've included in my post.

I think these new regulations are smart legislation. Not only does it force kids to spend more time learning how to drive a car before venturing out on their own, but it also makes parents even more responsible for young drivers. Although I consider it a sad commentary on our society when parental involvement has to be legislated, if that's what it takes to make for safer teen drivers than I'm all for it.

Visual You Probably Don't Want at This Time in the Morning

Or any time, probably.

I loved the headline though.
British dwarf's penis gets stuck to hoover

EDINBURGH (AFP) - A dwarf performer at the Edinburgh fringe festival had to be rushed to hospital after his penis got stuck to a vacuum cleaner during an act that went horribly awry.
If you want more details, read the full story.

August 20, 2007

Mark Waid Is Too Good

Mark Waid is doing it again. He’s making it difficult for me to not pick up a new comic on a tight comic buying budget. Back at the beginning of the year it was the new The Brave and The Bold series. With a rotating cast of heroes from the DC Universe and fun, adventurous tone to the stories, it was a title that I was really interested in. Luckily I didn’t have to make the decision on whether to add it to my pull list or not. Ian, who enjoys reading comics but not any one comic in particular, was taken with Waid’s story and George Perez’s art. The Brave and The Bold was the first comic that Ian repeatedly asked about purchasing and following the story from issue to issue. Because I was already buying him one comic whenever we went to the store together, I added TBaTB to my pull list so he wouldn’t have to worry about missing an issue. Now I just read his copy of the book and it fit into nicely into the comic budget.

Michael turner illustration of the flashBut then The Flash #231 came along.

Issue #231 marks the return of Mark Waid to chronicle the exploits of DC’s Scarlet Speedster, a character he made a name for himself writing back in the early 1990’s.

Now I’ve always been a fan of the Flash, but have never read his comics. When I doodled in the margins of my notebooks in high school and college, the Flash was frequently one of my subjects. The simplicity of his costume design, and the colors used, make him a visually iconic character. I liked trying to capture that iconic nature using my own pencil.

But in addition to enjoying the design of the Flash, I grew to like the character through his non-comic book representations. Namely, the 1990’s TV show starring John Wesley Shipp and Flash’s inclusion in the Justice League animated series that ran on Cartoon Network for a number of years.

flash dvd box artI’m probably one of 100 people who purchased The Flash TV show DVD boxed set when it debuted on store shelves back in 2006. The show was a solid superhero-starring TV production built in the shadow of Tim Burton’s stellar Batman film that captured the fun of the Flash without falling into camp. Plus, the show is a fantastic time capsule of early 90’s pop culture and fashion.

And I loved the everyman jokester that the Flash was characterized as on the animated show. He provided the audiences a grounding from which they could approach all the mythic figures in the Justice League.

So with my new growing interest in the Flash over the years and Waid’s highly trumpeted return to the character, I decided to pick up issue #231 when I was at Graham Crackers Comics this weekend (It was their “Comic of the Week”) to see how Flash’s solo book would treat me.

cover to Flash 231And Waid did it again. This first issue was great. We are reintroduced to Wally West (the Flash), his wife Linda, and their twins. Waid doesn’t concern himself (or the reader) with slogging into the mire of what’s been going on with the Flash character for the last 12 months (and from what I’ve read online, I wouldn’t want him to), he just worries about the here and now – giving us just enough history to understand the main characters. It’s pitch perfect writing.

What also sang true for me was what appears to be Waid’s approach to the Flash’s story this time around – family. More specifically, that they are a family fighting crime together as a unit (the character of the Flash has always been about family – but that’s an essay for another time). Wally and Linda have decided that it is best that the twins – who have inherited superpowers from their Daddy - be trained in the “family business” as it were, and have donned their own costumed personas as they prepare to help their dad fight crime.

Twenty-two pages later Waid has established the West clan as the first true superhero family in the DC Universe. Waid casts the Wests in the tradition of Marvel’s Fantastic Four – another title Waid wrote to great critical and fan praise - and by the end of the issue #231 I was eager to reading more about all four of the Wests, not just Wally. I want to see how the kids' training will go, how Wally will manage being a dad fighting crime, how he will handle having his kids next to him risking their lives to save others. Topics that are ripe for good storytelling.

So damn you Mark Waid for being such a good writer and making me care about the characters so much so quickly. I hadn't planned on picking up an new comics right now. In fact, I had been cutting titles from my pull list at the comic shop. But considering the recent cuts, I think I can find a spot in my monthly comic reading rotation for what’s looking like could be another memorable Mark Waid run on The Flash.

One of Those Days

boy peeingEver have one of those days where you have to keep going to the bathroom, over and over and over and over - even though you aren't drinking?

I hate those days.

I'm having one today.

It makes getting work done a whole lot more difficult. At least if I was drinking beer all day the continual trips to the bathroom would make sense. Multiple trips to the potty while sober isn't a whole lot of fun.

August 17, 2007

The Dark Knight Photos

Some new photos from next summer's The Dark Knight popped up online last night. Lots of shots of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, including some in a surprising well-lit Batcave. There also some great looks at Heath Ledger as the Joker - including one of Batman apparently interrogating the Clown Prince of Crime.

You can see them here and here, but I posted two of my favorites below.

batman against the gotham - chicago - skyline
bruce wayne and alfred in the batcave

2008 is going to be awesome.

August 16, 2007

How The Mighty Have Been Pushed Out

Allan Holtz, host of the blog Stripper's Guide, compares the Sunday comics sections of the past with those of today. It's not pretty.

side by side comparison of comic pages from different eras
How newspaper editors treat something as original and lasting as comic strips will always frustrate me.

Your Superhero Questions Answered

Question #56: Is it difficult for superheroes to use the bathroom in those goofy pajamas they insist on jumping around in when they fight crime?

Answer: It's really not as challenging as you would think. You just need to make sure you've got someone watching your back.

Green Lantern going pee - photo copyright the New York Times - used without permission

[via]

And Who Doesn't Like an Elvis Movie?

Elvis in black leatherToday is the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. There will never, ever, be another performer like him.

As part of the their annual "Summer Under the Stars" marathon where each day of the month of August showcases the films of one actor or actress, Turner Classic Movies is running all Elvis from 5am to well past midnight.

I'll miss most of the films because I'm sitting at the office, but I should be able to catch most of my favorite, and arguably best, Elvis movie - Viva Las Vegas.

Not only does the film have the best songs of an Elvis movie, but it's got Ann-Margret. Wowza!

If you don't check out an Elvis film tonight - and who doesn't enjoy an Elvis movie - then come back tomorrow for Maureen O'Hara, Saturday for Spencer Tracey, or Sunday for Errol Flynn. There's bound be a classic film to appeal to you from that bunch.

August 15, 2007

Comics and My Health

For the past five days I've been up in Wisconsin on a short vacation with the family. No email, no computer, no nothing. Total family time. When we got back this afternoon I got caught up with the usual blogs while Zoe napped, Ian and Emma played outside, and Heather rested. In particular I was interested in seeing what news - if any- had come out of Wizard World Chicago.

cover to the first issue of spider-man ff mini-seriesScrolling through the headlines, I found myself doing a double take when I saw the title: "MIKE WIERINGO PASSES AWAY AT 44"

I thought that couldn't be right. I hadn't heard about Wieringo being sick. I've been reading his blog for years. I just finished reading his Spider-man / Fantasitc Four mini-series. That headline must be wrong. But sure enough, Mike Wieringo had died from a sudden heart attack Sunday afternoon.

Wieringo had a style of art that was just fun to look at. Smooth lines and expressive features made his art represent for me the fun, carefree side of comics. I was aware of his work for a long time, but became a real fan while reading his creator-owned property Tellos back in the late 90's. In fact, the only reason I bought this most recent Spider-man / Fantastic Four mini-series was because Wieringo was drawing it. Every few years I like to read a Spider-man tale, so when I learned Wieringo would be handling pencils on this one, I knew I had found my book.

True to having Wieringo's name on the cover, I wasn't dissapointed with the contents inside. This Spider-man/FF team up was a fun comic. A light, goofy, over-the-top superhero yarn that delivers solid entertainment. Props to writer Jeff Parker as well for hitting the right dynamic between Peter Parker and the Fantastic Four.

When I showed Heather the story about Wieringo's sudden passing she said one thing to me, "I don't need you dying suddenly of a heart attack at 44. Get yourself to the doctor and get all the tests."

She's right too. I might only be 34, but it's been years since I've seen a doctor. I don't know anything about Mike Wieringo's family history or medical review schedule, but I know from reading his blog that he didn't expect to be stricken by a heart attack any time soon. Maybe a good way to remember an artist whose work I have enjoyed so much over the years is to take steps to decrease the possibility that I suffer the same fate.

Mike Wieringo might have been doing everything right when this tragedy struck, but I'm not doing everything I could. If not for myself, I owe it to Heather, Ian, Emma, and Zoe - the people who I just spent the last 5 days having a lot of fun with - to make sure I am taking care of my health.

August 11, 2007

DC: New Frontier Trailer

Darwyn Cooke is favorite comic book creator of mine. I've loved the work he's done with Batman, I am enjoying his take on The Spirit, and I thought DC: New Frontier was fantastic.

From the looks of this trailer for next spring's DVD release of Justice League: New Frontier - the animated adaptation of Cooke's comic - I think I'm really going to enjoy that project as well.

August 10, 2007

Stormtroopers In Love

Not sure what to make of it, but I think it's fantastic.

Red and Jonny are are married artists who live in Ontario, Canada. They like to take pictures of themselves running around in Stormtrooper helmets.

Wild stuff.

red and jonny in stormtrooper helmets
I also really like this photo - from their Country Stormtrooper set.

Your F@#K Yeah! Moment of the Week

This is almost as good as the Grandpa who killed a leopard with his bare hands - almost.
CHESHIRE, Conn. - A woman killed a raccoon with her bare hands Thursday when the animal attacked a young boy. Officials with Cheshire animal control say the woman was walking in the woods around 11 a.m. with a group of children when the animal bit the 5-year-old son of a friend.

She pulled the raccoon off the child, told the children to run home and strangled the animal, authorities said.

"She had the presence of mind to choke it," animal control officer April Leiler told the Record-Journal of Meriden. "She is one tough lady."

The carcass was taken to a state laboratory in Hartford where it tested positive for rabies.

The woman and the boy are undergoing rabies treatment. Their names have not been released.

August 09, 2007

Fun With Shakespeare

Starting with the nugget of trivia that William Shakespeare contributed nearly 1,700 words to the English language, cartoonist Dave Kellett has been turning out some funny strips this week in Sheldon.

Sheldon comic from 08.08.2007Start reading them from the beginning.

August 08, 2007

Batman: Strange Apparitions

cover art to Batman Strange Apparitions trade paperbackBatman: Strange Apparitions could very well be the best Batman story ever.

Steve Englehart's and Len Wein's stories are fantastic. Englehart in particular captures what I consider the perfect Batman interpretation - a strong, driven man capable of accomplishing anything he sets his mind to, but still sociable and approachable as a person. (you be surprised at how much Batman has been turned into a anti-social jerk in the comics over the last ten years)

Englehart handles the top tier villains in the stories in iconic fashion. Penguin, Hugo Strange, and the Joker are dead on and perfectly in character during their appearances in this book. Englehart also writes stories that sit right on the dividing line of the goofy superhero stories of the 60’s and the darker, more serious themed books of the 80’s, but not wallowing in the socially relevant storylines that many books of the 70’s made as their bread and butter. Basically, he's hitting the superhero sweet spot as far as I'm concerned. Action and melodrama perfectly blended together and delivered at a pace that keeps you turning the page.

However it's Marshall Rogers art that seals this as my favorite Batman collection of all time. The first two stories are handled by Walt Simonson, an artist who I really enjoy, and I found them perfectly entertaining. It's when Rogers joins the title to tackle Englehart's and Wein's scripts that the stories pop and crackle with more energy than I can ever remember experiencing in a superhero book.

Marshall's character designs fit the stories perfectly, his page layouts are creative - explosive or subdued as the story dictates, and I love how he works sound effects into his art. He used the letters in the word "SLAM" to form the door Batman has just flung open. "SKREECH" forms the smoke coming off the tires to the vehicle fleeing from the scene. These small things make the story jump from the page.

It used to be that if I wanted someone to understand why I love Batman so much I would point them in the direction of Frank Miller’s Batman work. Either Batman: The Dark Knight Returns or Batman: Year One. I might also point to some of the stories from the 70’s showcase the Detective taking on Ra’s al Ghul. But now I think I will point them to Batman: Strange Apparitions first. Then they can read those other books.

Comic Strip You Make the Call

Which version of the comic strip is funnier?

The original Blondie comic from yesterday. . .

Blondie comic from 08.07.2007Or this re-mixed version from Issac Cates that includes an edited third panel that matches up with where Issac, myself and a lot of other readers thought the creators of this strip were going based on how Elmo and Blondie are positioned, their dialogue, Elmo's finger, etc. in panels #1 and #2.


I think the second one is funnier.

Crude? Sure. But it makes more sense then "dirt." What kid wants dirt in their room?

August 07, 2007

New iMacs

The new iMacs, just announced today, aren't just pretty with their single-sheet aluminum cases and glass cover, but they've got serious power under the hood.

Intel Core 2 Duo processors, 20- and 24-inch widescreen displays, 250 GB to 320 GB of storage standard depending on model, and of course the SuperDrive which allows you to play/burn CDs and DVDs
new iMacI want one.

Countries of Baseball

Pretty cool idea. Represent MLB fan allegiances as countries within North America.

But there's no way the White Sox country is as far west as this map would indicate. I'd shot their boundary down south more than out west.

countries of baseball

Time To Start Serving the Pork Chops in Big Mac Boxes

This was an interesting news story in the Chicago Tribune today:
Marketing Tricks Tots' Taste Buds

ronald mcdonald and kidsBy LINDSEY TANNER | AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO - Anything made by McDonald's tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids if it was wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand or unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.
Besides going into more detail about the study, the article also touches on how these findings provide fuel to the debate on marketing/advertising targeted to children.

I know despite Heather's and my best efforts, McDonald's has a near strangle hold on our kids' attention. If we mention going out to eat, I don't think they ever suggest anything other than McDonald's (wait, take that back, Emma will push for pizza quite a bit). But I'd like to think that Heather and I are teaching Ian, Emma, and Zoe the importance of substance over style, and with age and a little wisdom they will not turn into slaves to the McDonald's marketing machine.

August 06, 2007

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

Discovered a fascinating website today - the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is a project of the larger Los Angeles chapter of The International Animated Film Society. The society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the art of animation. The Animation Archive endeavors to digitize as much classic illustration and animation as it can find to insure this great work is available for decades to come.

I think I'll find something cool every time I visit. Take the scanned and published retelling of "The Night Before Christmas" by Golden Book illustrator, Sheilah Beckett from a 1945 issue of Coronet magazine the site posted recently.

scanned image from ASIFAIt hard to find books with this sort of rich illustration today. I can't wait to see what else there is to discover on the site.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Team Up

Former Led Zeppelin front man and rock legend Robert Plant has cut an album with bluegrass star Alison Krauss. It will be released in October.

Pairing Plant and Krauss together is not something I expected, but as producer T Bone Burnett points out in the article, Plant can handle a wide range of material. Basically, the guy can flat out sing. Plant might have lead one of the biggest rock bands of all time, but he had a voice that could pretty much do anything. Just listen to the Zeppelin catalog and you will hear all sorts of songs - rock, blues, reggae, country, pop - you name it, Zeppelin gave it a try and Plant could sing it.

I'll be curious to see how this is received and what sort of art these two singers produce.

Maybe You Won't Buy It, But You Know You Want To Watch It

Come on. If you were a kid in the early 1980's, you know you'd want to watch a few episodes again. Just to See Brainy Smurf be an ass and watch all the male Smurfs hang on every word of Smurfette.

smurfs dvd box artwork
The Smurfs Season 1, Volume 1 hits shelves on December 4.

August 05, 2007

My Tattooed Ladies

For both Ian's birthday party a week ago and Emma's party this past weekend, Heather scored some Disney themed temporary tattoo's for the kids. Pirates of the Caribbean for the Ian, Disney Princesses for Emma.

Ian had a larger crew at his party, so the tattoos pretty much got used up. But Emma's party was smaller in scale, which left us with some surplus tattoos. The temptation was too much for Emma and Zoe, and they decked themselves out in the remaining tattoos. They looked like they joined the merchant marines. I can only imagine what the priest thought when we he saw are little tattooed ladies leading the way when we brought the gifts up at mass this morning.

Make sure you click through to see the large sizes of these photos.
Emma and her TattoosZoe and her Tattoos
Oh,and Zoe put a tattoo on each of her feet too. They didn't hold up to well in the bath this evening, so I didn't get photos of that.

August 03, 2007

Cubs in First Place

derrick lee of the chicago cubsConsidering how the Chicago Cubs were playing back in April and May, seeing them in first place of the Central Division was not something I planned on seeing this summer. Yet that's where they sit now, even after losing to the Philly's yesterday 10-6.

The Cubs have been the hottest team in baseball since Sweet Lou Piniella blew up during a game back at the beginning of June. Since then they have been nearly unstoppable. Honestly, I didn't start paying attention to the Cubs again until mid-July, so disgusted was I with their play during the first two months of the season. I forgot exactly when I noticed that the Cubs were playing well and moving up the standings, but I think it was after Zambrano won his tenth game and was working on becoming the National League's first 11-game winner.

I know this may make me sound like a fair-weather fan, but the Cubs appeared so inept in May that I didn't feel like ruining my free time watching/listening to the Cubs lose again. I watch them plenty when they are middling team, floundering around .500. But that's not a concern now. They are playing well and generating excitement.

Starting today the Cubs face a strong challenge as the NL-leading New York Mets come to Wrigley. If the Cubs can take 2 of 3 from the Mets, I think it will put the Cubs in good position as they march into the last two months of the season.

I Always Wondered What "424100 Paper and Paper Products" Looked Like

An artist has completed the arduous task of illustrating the more than 300 categories from the IRS' Schedule C Principal Business or Professional Activity Codes Table.

Some seem to make sense, some seem random, but overall I think they are fantastic.

August 02, 2007

What Could Have Been

If I had only thought of this 12 years ago Heather and my wedding could have been so much more interesting.

people who got married in st. louis as superheroesNot to say that I thought there was anything wrong with our wedding, Heather. There wasn't. It was perfect. I'm just say some superhero costumes might have made it even better.

New Favorite Game

picture of the type of nerf dart tag game ian got for his birthdayFor Ian’s birthday my Dad gave him Nerf Dart Tag. The game is basically laser tag but with Nerf darts. The set came with two guns, vests, goggles, and because my Dad picked the toy up from a Toys R’ Us store, an extra 40 darts and two carrying bags. It’s a great setup for Ian and me to escape into the basement to shot Nerf darts at each other.

Having the basement finished but still relatively free of furniture means that we have our own little arena downstairs. I set up some boxes and propped up an old baby crib mattress to create walls to hide behind, and we’ve been jumping around shooting at each other ever since. I can’t fit into the vest, so the ground rules are that Ian only needs to hit me somewhere above the waist to score points.

What surprised me the first time I played with Ian was how worked up I got diving around the basement trading dart shots with the boy. I worked up a good sweat. I also earned myself a nasty rug burn on my elbow sliding around a barrier to get off another shot at Ian.

Its great fun though, and easily my favorite gift that Ian received for his birthday.