October 31, 2007

Ruining A Good Thing

It's a well documented fact that Heather and I love the Christmas music. It's practically all we play in the car, in the house, on our iPods, from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve. Over the years we've pulled together a pretty extensive collection of songs we enjoy listening to. I have the entire collection on my iPod - roughly 16 hours of music. Everything from Bing Crosby to U2, Charley Pride to Diana Krall, Captain Kangaroo to Glen Miller. It's not a huge collection, but it gets us through the hoidays nicely.

wlit christmas music ticker countdownEvery once in a while we all jump back on the radio to deliver our Christmas tunes. Here in Chicago there is a station that goes 24 hours of Christmas music starting in November and runs through December 25th - WLIT 93.9.

It seems like every year that switch over to the holiday format a little earlier and earlier in November. This year I had read a rumor somewhere that the station even had a countdown ticker on their website. So this evening I checked their site out to see if the rumor was true.

Sure enough, there on the homepage was a ticker. That is a screen shot over on the right when I snagged it around 8:45pm. According to the countdown, there are roughly 9 days left until its all Perry Como and Peggy Lee for The Lite.

That means 93.9 will start in with the Christmas music November 10. My Dad's birthday - which I hardly associate with Thanksgiving, let alone Christmas - is November 12th, two days after The Lite's go-live for Holiday tunes date.

I know stores move the Christmas shopping season up earlier and earlier to try and capture more sales, but Christmas music? How does having Christmas music help 93.9 in mid-November? If anyone, even Christmas hard-cores like Heather and I, started listending to that station on November 10 we'd be sick of Christmas music by the end of the month.

It just doesn't make sense.

Happy Halloween

Pretty Witch - Borrowed this image from The Johnny Bacardi Show blog and modified just a bit
I'll be heading home early from work this evening to take the kids out trick-or-treating while Heather stays at the house to hand out candy. I'm looking forward to taking the kids around the neighborhood. The weather will be good and all three of the kids are really excited about the holiday.

Last night we carved two pumpkins. One with a traditional face, the other using my drill to put a bunch of holes all around the pumpkin. It creates a great lighting effect. Ian thought the holey pumpkin looks like a disco ball, and he's probably right. I just think it looks pretty neat.

Interestingly, we spent $0 on costumes this year - a first. In the past Heather has either made the kids' costumes by hand or found deals on eBay. This year, however, the kids all decided (on their own, no less) that they wanted to dress up using items that we already had around the house. Zoe - Scooby-Doo using a costume that was bought a few years back. Emma - a Princess using dress-up clothes she and Zoe have received as Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, etc. Ian - a solider using my Dad's old army shirt that I have, some green pants, and a toy rifle from the toy box.

I can certainly get into celebrating Halloween on the cheap. Plus, I think their decision to throw together costumes indicates that the kids are more focused on having fun than on what they wear. "Just get me any old costume so I can get out there and grab me some candy!" I like that.

I'm still not a big Halloween celebrator, but its hard not to get caught up a little in the kids' excitement over the costumes, the decorations, and the trick-or-treating. The allure of the holiday for Ian, Emma, and Zoe will probably wane over the years, so I should enjoy their excitement now.

October 30, 2007

Only One Can Be The Champ . . . Until Tomorrow

The Superest is the brainchild of artists Kevin Cornell and Matthew Sutter. The premise is simple - come up with a hero whose power cancels out the other guy's hero.

My favorite (though he was defeated by The Taste Burglar):
The deep friar
Start with the first hero and watch the battle rage.

Where The Year Has Gone

I thought today's Wondermark perfectly captured my thoughts regarding the how quickly 2007 has gone by.

wondermark comic for 10-30-2007
Although I think I've got a handle on the poopin' where I sleep thing.

October 29, 2007

It's Just Not Their Year

Bears lost 16 - 7 to the Detroit Lions. There were plenty of reasons why they had to win this game if they wanted to have a respectable season - least of which so I could hold my head high when I see Heather's brother at Christmas.

But they lost, and I watched the entire game. What I walked away with Sunday afternoon is that it is time for Bears fans to reset their expectations on the season. The Bears aren't going back to the Super Bowl. Hell, it will be a minor miracle if they make the playoffs - as wild card team.

urlacher leaving the field with his arthritic back after losing to the LionsI'm not going to write off last season as a fluke. I think Lovie Smith's success in Chicago as a head coach is apparent from the progress his teams made in his first three seasons. The Bears can be a better team than we all saw on Sunday. I think bad offseason decisions regarding coaching staff personal, a litany of injuries, and some questionable talent evaluation have resulted in the current incarnation of the Chicago Bears stinking up the NFL.

The Bears might come of their bye week rested and refocused; and put together an impressive run of games to close out the second half of the season. However, my guess is that the rest of 2007 will play out like an extended exhibition season for the Bears; third in the NFC North and floating somewhere around .500.

So I am readying myself for some disappointing football from here on out. There will be moments of brilliance and excitement, but in the end I will be as many “L”s as “W”s.

Oh, and that Cedric Benson will continue to have no grasp of reality and will not be the starter in 2008.

October 27, 2007

Bears HAVE To Win Tomorrow

bears versus lionsThe talk around town last week was that the Bears had to win against Philly if they wanted any hope of making the playoffs this season. Thanks to Brian Griese the Bears walked away with the victory.

This week the talk was about the importance of winning in order to pull their record up to .500 for the season before their bye week. 4-4 with the second half of the season still to go would position the team much better than 3-5.

What I think is also very important is for the Bears to get a another NFC North Division win and show the Lions that the team they faced a month ago in Detroit is not the real 2007 Chicago Bears.

Victories and the playoffs are great, but putting the Lions back in their place is even better.

If the Bears get swept by the Lions I don't know how I will be able to show my face to my Detroit-living brother-in-law this Christmas.

October 26, 2007

Best News Headline Ever

Editors dream of the day when they are given the opportunity to write the sort of big headline that everyone remembers. The headlines can't all be "Dewey Defeats Truman", but this one is no less memorable. The editor should be proud.
Flaming Squirrel Ignites Car in Bayonne

A kamikaze squirrel fell from the sky and detonated a Bayonne woman's car yesterday, police said today.
You can read the whole story at NJ.com. But let's be honest, you really only need the headline to learn everything you need to know.

It's All About Timing

The Comics Oughta Be Fun! blog shows how Bruce Wayne has not only mastered the art of timing, but how he has successfully translated that power to thwarting crime.

batman is all about timingPlease, this one panel doesn't do the joke justice. Read the whole thing.

The Dark Knight Teaser Poster?

After this image turned up on composer Mel Wesson's website (Wesson is collaborating with Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard on the movie’s score), a lot of people think so.

potential dark knight teaser poster
If it is, then I think the poster is a disappointing first promo for the movie. It's boring.

October 25, 2007

Teen Titan: Year One Preview

page two from teen titan year oneI've been reading about this project on artist Karl Kerschl's blog for some time, and yesterday he posted the first three pages of the fist issue of the up coming Teen Titans: Year One mini-series.

As with Kerschl's snippets he's shared in the past, this three page preview only strengths my interest even more in the book. I don't know much about series writer Amy Wolfram other than she's been writing for TV shows for years - and a lot of them for the stellar Teen Titans animated show that ran on Cartoon Network. But I figure a writer from the animated Teen Titans teamed with the exceptional talent of Mr. Kerschl will translate into a fantastic comic book story.

I probably won't pick up the individual issues, but I'll be there for the collected trade.

Rare Bill Watterson Art

Before claiming his spot in comic strip history as the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, Bill Watterson drew cartoons for the school newspaper The Kenyon Collegian and for the yearbook at Kenyon College in Ohio.

A classmate of Watterson's has provided scans of these early works so that they can be viewed online.

bill watterson college comic scan
Most of the comics are topically not only for the time that they were created (1979-1980) but also the place (Kenyon College), so don't expect the sort of "Ha-Ha's" you get from reading a Calvin & Hobbes installment.

In enjoy them for getting a glimpse into the development of an artist. The Watterson Style is there, but it's clearly looser and less refined. And while I might not understand the joke, it's clear his wry sense of humor was already soundly in place.

And There's Something Wrong With This?

I want to know who the killjoy was who turned these poor girls in.
CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian barmaid has been fined for crushing beer cans between her bare breasts while an off-duty colleague has been fined for hanging spoons from her friend's nipples, police said Wednesday.
ADVERTISEMENT

Police in Western Australia said the 31-year old barmaid pleaded guilty in the local magistrate's court to twice exposing her breasts to patrons at the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra, south of the state capital, Perth.

The woman "is alleged to have also crushed beer cans between her breasts during one of the offences," in breach of hotel licensing laws, police from the Peel district of Western Australia said in a statement.

The barmaid and the hotel manager were both fined A$1,000 ($900), while an off-duty barmaid was fined A$500 for helping to hang spoons from the woman's nipples, police said.

"It sends a clear message to all licensees in Peel that we will not tolerate this type of behavior in our licensed premises," local police superintendent David Parkinson said.

October 24, 2007

A Metaphor for Something

I'm sure of it.

Click on the image to see what I mean.

guys getting punched in the face

Hmmm. . . . Deli Creations

I know that the amount of wasteful packaging that goes into this product is probably a sin against the environment and the amount of sodium (around 1400mg) per sandwich is probably a sin against my body, but I don't care. I loves me the Oscar Meyer Deli Creations.

All the fixin's for good-sized sandwich that you put together yourself and then warm up nicely in the microwave without the bread getting soggy. Heather buys them for me every once and a while. She calls them "Adult Lunchables".

Oscar Mayer makes five different kinds. I've had three of them: Turkey Monterey, Honey Ham & Swiss, and Steakhouse Cheddar. My favorite so far has probably been the Turkey Monterey.

October 23, 2007

Unicorn versus Motorcycle

Emma and Zoe play with each other a lot. Being big sister that she is, Emma tries to dictate the rule of play most times, but Zoe is getting better about standing up for herself. None the less, Heather and I always keep one ear tuned in when the girls are playing so that we can mediate if needed.

This is what I was expecting to do the other night when Emma explained to Zoe:
“Let’s race where I am the unicorn and you are the motorcycle.”

I expected Zoe to bristle at the suggestion. A motorcycle over a unicorn? What 3-year old girl picks that?

But Zoe surprised me with an emphatic “Oh, yeah!” and the two girls raced down the hallway. Emma neighing how I guess she imagines a unicorn neighs, and Zoe making the sound of a motorcycle.

Later races included a unicorn against a race car, pony versus mouse, and cat versus dog; with the appropriate sound effects provided each time.

Unicorns versus motorcycles - who knew that's what captures the imagination of 3 and 5-year old girls.

October 22, 2007

Bears Beat Eagles

I spent Sunday afternoon buried in the physical manifestation of my life – our basement – primarily trying to bring order to the storage area, with a little clean up of the living area thrown in on the side. I made progress, but as is usually the case, I was left with the numbing resignation that more work is needed and the stinging self-critique that my efforts were less than focused and efficient.

Because I haven’t hooked the cable up down in the basement, I listened to the Chicago Bears game on the radio (which in terms of maintaining any semblance of a “focused and efficient” work effort was probably best). I enjoy the work Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer do on the games, in particular Thayer’s critique of the team’s in-game performance. He isn’t afraid to let us know when he thinks players aren’t giving it their all or the efforts are sloppy.

bears defense actually stops runner from gaining yardsSo while I moved boxes of Christmas decorations around and constructed heavy duty shelving, I listened to Jeff Joniak describe the action in Philadelphia. I was shocked when Robbie Gould missed a 39-yard field goal. I was glad to hear that the Bears’ defense seemed to be keeping the Eagles out of the end zone, but I was frustrated with the Bears inability to find the endzone themselves - even when they had the ball on the 1-yard line. And the Bears’ running game? Joniak did a spectacular job in describing that ineptitude. That off-season Thomas Jones trade now looks like a colossal mistake.

As the afternoon wore on, and six o’clock approached, the Eagles went up 16-12 when Donovan McNabb finally connected with a receiver for a touchdown. A quick three-and-out by the Bears meant the Eagles had the ball with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. A loss, I assumed, was assured for the Bears. The offense had failed to cross the goal line all day, why would they start now, I reasoned. At which point Heather announced that dinner was ready, so I shut off the radio and the lights, and went up to eat with everyone.

Brian Griese celebrates winning td throw against the eaglesAbout two minutes into dinner I stood up and told Heather that when I turned the game off downstairs the Bears were losing by four points with less than two minutes in the game. I had assumed a loss, but that I wanted to be sure. I excused myself from the table, walked into the family room, and turned on the TV just in time to see Brian Griese connecting with Bernard Berrian. The clock was ticking, the Bears didn’t have any timeouts, but Griese was moving the team down the field. A quick hit to Devin Hester and my shouting bring Heather and the kids into the room to see what Dad is cheering about. And then Griese finds Mushin Muhammad in the endzone with nine seconds remaining – nine seconds – and the Bears have the lead, 19 – 16, and eventually the victory.

Watching a little of the local evening news that night, the sportscasters seemed more enamored with the Bears performance than I did. I was excited that the Bears had won, but after listing to the game all afternoon on the radio there wasn’t a whole lot to be proud of from my perspective. From what I heard, the Bears defense did a lot of bending but didn’t break and the foot of Gould kept things close before Griese could engine his drive. Certainly, the Bears kept Philly in check, but it hardly sounded like NFC Championship-worthy football.

So while the Bears come home with a victory earned on the road in a hostile stadium, the team has another test this weekend. They have to show that their defeat at the hands of the Detroit Lions three weeks ago was not a reflection of what sort of team the 2007 Bears actually are.

October 19, 2007

National Chocolate Cupcake Day

chocolate cupcakeHow'd I miss this?

Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day

I need a damn cupcake to celebrate with.

Or, maybe I can spend time reading over this blog dedicated to the cupcake.

No. I need a cupcake.

Heather?

Update: Heather made cupcakes!!

Today's Moment of Zen

Fall colors give way to a new dusting of snow at the Sundance Ski Resort northeast of Provo, Utah, Thursday Oct. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/George Frey)<br />

October 18, 2007

Nightwing's New Creative Team

In January 2008 a new creative team will be taking over Nightwing. Gone will be writer Marv Wolfman and the seemingly revolving door of artists who have inhabited the book during Wolfman’s run. In their place will be writer Peter Tomasi and artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair.

cover art for nightwing 140 - tomasi, morales, and bair first issueI know Morales and Bair from their work on Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, and enjoyed their art quite a bit. I welcome them on Nightwing. Hopefully Morales and Bair will be able to consistently deliver on art month in and month out.

My only exposure to Tomasi’s writing is the little known Light Brigade miniseries he and artist Peter Snejbjerg produced for DC Comics back in 2004. I loved that mini-series, but it was a cross between horror story and World War II action comic. Very entertaining, but it doesn’t give me insight into how he might handle one of my favorite comic book characters.

However, in his interview with the Comic Book Resources website, Tomasi says all the right things, in my opinion as a Nightwing fan, in regards to taking over the helm of Nightwing. In particular, Tomasi is one of the few writers to acknowledge the genre-spanning possibility of the Dick Grayson/Nightwing character. Like Batman, Nightwing can fit in all sorts of stories – high adventure, sci-fi, detective, horror, thriller – hell, even romance. At his core, Nightwing is just a man in a suit. No super powers, no god-like abilities, no reality-warping weapons. He’s just a man and his wits against the world. That sort of character should be able to play anywhere.

Since Chuck Dixon left the character (mostly adventure with a little crime on the side) many years ago, Nightwing has been handled unevenly in his solo book. With each subsequent writer I hope that entertaining Nightwing stories will be delivered, but in the end I usually end up dropping the title from my reading list. Current writer Marv Wolfman has kept me with Nightwing, but I did come close to cutting the book loose on one or two occasions. But hope springs eternal with a new creative team set to take over, so I’ll be sticking around to see what Tomasi has up his writing sleeve.

October 17, 2007

Why The Internet Was Created

So that the Pocket Protector Museum would have a place to live.

samples of the pocket protectors
John Pojman Sr., a chemistry professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, has built an online museum dedicated to the pocket protector.

I've never owned one, nor do I want to own one, but just knowing that someone has taken the time to organize and build a Pocket Protector Museum with over 530 samples of this geek fashion accessory makes me smile. It is a glorious thing.

October 16, 2007

Lovin' The Land of the Cleves

Go Tribe!In my thirty-five short years, I’ve lived in two major metropolitan areas: Chicago and Cleveland

Being in Chicago is great and I know economically Cleveland is still struggling to regain some of what it had in the past, but I can’t help but notice some compelling reasons for becoming a Clevelander again.

One: Cleveland Indians – The teams current run against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS reminds me of the great string of Indians teams from 1995 through 2000 that coincided with when Heather and I were living in Cleveland. There was so much excitement in the city when those late-1990’s Indians teams were winning division crowns and going to World Series. It was a fantastic time to be in Cleveland. During the playoffs, and especially during their two World Series appearances, I had this sense that every house in Cleveland had a TV tuned to the game. When something big would happen I swear I could hear a roar go up across the city. I miss that kind of excitement.

I’m still a fan of the Tribe because of my time in Cleveland, and I’m watching and pulling for them to pull it out against the Red Sox.

polish boyTwo: Polish Boy sandwiches – this combination of sausage topped with barbecue sauce, French fries, and cole slaw piled high in a thick roll has to be eaten to be appreciated. It is a one of a kind taste that I have never been able to locate anywhere other than in Cleveland, and I miss it something fierce. The need to taste one of these belly-busting sandwiches again is almost reason enough to justify a trip to Cleveland.

Three: Dick Goddard – People talk about the Power of Skilling here in Chicago. But WGN’s weather dude Tom Skilling can't hold a barometer to Dick Goddard when it comes to pure weatherman charisma. The Cult of Goddard is amazing.

Four: Cleveland Browns – QB Derek Anderson seems to be answer for the team right now, leading the team to three straight home wins and they’ve got Brady Quinn waiting in the wings. The Browns have struggled since returning in 1999, but it certainly seems like they are an exciting group to watch now.
Cleveland Browns
Wish I could say the same thing about the Bears, whose defense looked like a high school squad on Sunday against the Vikings. Chicago loves the Bears, but I never experienced a town being in love with a pro team like the relationship native Clevelanders have with the Browns. It really is like a religion.

Five: Dennis Kucinich – Yes, I think this perennial Presidential candidate pretender is a goofy little elf with a personality flakier than Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, but the dude knows how to do two things right.

First, He knows how to poke fun at himself. Just take a look at his appearance on last night’s Colbert Report. That was funny

Second, he knows how to land himself a wife. I don’t know how a munchkin like Kucinich convinces a woman nearly twenty-five years younger – and about eight inches taller – to put on a marriage band, but he did. And I’ve got to give the guy credit.

Sure, you don’t have to be in Cleveland to marvel at the Kucinich wackiness, I just think it would help. At the very least the local news coverage would bring another surreal layer to enjoying the Kucinich mystique.

October 15, 2007

Best American Comics 2006 - A Review

While my personal collection of comics contains stories of all sorts – crime, slice of life, action, romance, auto-biographical, historical fiction, the majority of the comic books I read star super heroes. It’s not a conscious decision, more the circumstance of familiarity and availability. I know more about super hero books and books featuring super heroes are easier to find/buy, so that’s where I gravitate. I’m always up for the lesser-known independent or small press comics; but it is difficult to learn about their existence. Despite these barriers, I always try to make an effort to search out some indie or alternative comics each year to read and I almost always find them enjoyable. In the end I’m looking for quality. If that’s with super heroes or small press, it doesn’t matter to me.

cover to the best American comics 2006However, thanks to Houghton Mifflin, my search is now a little easier. In 2006 Houghton Mifflin added The Best American Comics to their The Best American annual series of books. The Best American series gathers together the best, or at least a representative best, of a kind of literature for the previous year into one collection. Houghton Mifflin publishes the collections of the best American poetry, best nonrequired reading, best short story fiction, and now, the best American comics. The inaugural edition of the comic entry into The Best American series is guest edited by Harvey Pekar, one of the most influential voices in the alt-comic scene, and includes comics from 30 different creators. Heather bought the book for me as a Christmas present last year and I just got around to reading it this fall.

The stories in this collection provided a refreshing change from the super hero fare I had been ingesting most of the summer. There were names I recognized, like Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Alison Bechel, Jamie Hernandez, and Joe Sacco, but most of the creators were new to me. All of the comics were new to me. The comics run in topic from light-hearted super hero parody in “The Amazing Life of Onion Jack” to deadly seriousness in “Nakedness and Power”, which addresses the evils of an economy – and by extension a society – with its root in oil. In between all of this there are simple, slice of life fun comics, thought-provoking artistic works, and flat out funny gags.

Of course, there is a fair share of navel gazing. Sometimes it’s handled well, like in Jonathan Bennett’s so-sad it’s funny “Dance With The Ventures” – which even with its navel gazing still delivers a real story - and other times it’s painfully dull, like in the sleep-inducing “Missing” by Jessica Abel. But that is something I expect when I’m picking up a book or collection that features comics not cut from the major publishers. A little navel gazing can be enjoyable to read.

“Thirteen Cats of My Childhood”, by Jesse Reklaw, I found surprisingly enjoyable. Going in I expected plenty of childhood angst played out over some contrived structure of cat ownership. Instead Reklaw delivers a touching story about growing up – structured around the different cats he owned – but not nearly in the too artsy-for-it’s-own-good execution that I was expecting. His art work is light and fun, which infuses his story and characters with real life but retaining a layer of artifice that allows the reader to enjoy the story. I also loved Joe Sacco’s “Complacency Kills”, which he created while being the first cartoonist embedded within a U.S. military unit in Iraq. Sacco’s work is very powerful.

There are no super hero comics provided here. I don’t know if that’s because editor Pekar didn’t feel any super hero stories were worthy, didn’t think the publisher could spare the space to include a twenty two-page comic, or simply didn’t think a comic starring people in tights with super powers could rise up to be declared one of the “Best American Comics of 2006.” Hopefully it wasn’t that last reason. I’d like to think that Pekar evaluated the works that were submitted fairly and chose what he believed to be a fair representation of the best that comics have to offer. Though, after reading Heidi Macdonald’s review of The Best American Comics 2007, edited by Chris Ware – not Harvey Pekar, I fear that might not be the case. If Heidi’s review is to be believed, the 2007 edition is nearly all navel gazing with nary any storytelling to be found. At least Pekar provided some good fiction in his class of 2006 comics.

If that is the case, and the make-up of the Best American Comics anthology will vary greatly each year based on the guest editor’s whims, then I might not be able to rely on the Best American Comics annual publication to give me a small-press/ independent comic fix. I enjoyed the mix that Harvey Pekar brought to the collection. It felt like the comics Pekar included under his editing provided a balanced and entertaining look at the best of what comics have to offer an educated reader. I would gladly purchase the book regularly if I was confident that cross section each year would be as representative as the 2006 edition. But that’s okay. I’ve made it this long without the benefit of this book; I can certainly live without it in the future. While I can’t say what the future holds for the series, I still highly recommend the 2006 edition of The Best American Comics to anyone interested in getting a taste of what makes comics such an exciting form of literature.

October 12, 2007

Al Gore: Nobel Peace Prize Co-winner

al goreIt was announced this morning that former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change jointly won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to raise awareness and combat man-made global warming.

Certainly, Gore has been on a tear for the last two years. Between documentaries, books, and other appearances, it was hard to go more than a few weeks without Gore popping up somewhere talking about how we are damaging the Earth. The Nobel committee got it right when they said, "He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

I applaud his efforts and congratulate him on his award, though I think winning the Nobel Peace Prize will end any ideas he had about running for President in 2008. Why put yourself through that sort of meat grinder when you are finding success campaigning for a cause you are passionate about.

October 11, 2007

Today's Moment of Zen

today's moment of zen
Can you feel it?

October 10, 2007

Is Autumn Finally Here?

37 days after the unofficial end of Summer (Labor Day)

17 days after the official start of Autumn (September 23)

10 days into the month of October

The weather in Chicago finally seems to match the season and this comic book cover.

disney autumn adventures comic book cover

Ain't It The Truth

Sheldon for 10.10.07
[click the image to bigify it or visit the Sheldon website]

October 09, 2007

Optimus Prime Is Calling

optimus primeTo hype the release of the Transformers movie on DVD, the movie company has launched a little application where you can have Autobot leader Optimus Prime call anyone you want.

Tons of fun. Answer a bunch of questions and then preview the completed message before having Optimus dial up your friend.

I put one together for Ian, but then discovered at the end of the submission process that I don't get to schedule the call. So Optimus Prime might be calling our house for Ian while he is still at school. Hopefully the answering machine will record the message.

October 08, 2007

Bears Beat Packers

dez clark scoring the winning tdBrett Favre and the Pack were 4-0, the game was in Lambeau Field, and the previous week the Bears had looked like a team totally lost on the football field. I wasn’t expecting much Sunday night, and that’s what the Bears delivered in the first quarter of the game. No offense what so ever and, save the two turnovers created by Charles Tillman, the Packers were moving the ball however they wanted.

Then the Bears appeared to wake up and realize that despite all the injuries and bad play from some of their positions, they are still a very talented team. They started creating more turnovers on defense and then capitalizing on them on offense. Quarterback Brian Griese threw to Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. Cedric Benson actually started running around and through a few tacklers (though still not nearly enough). And before I knew it the Bears had battled back to take a 27 – 20 lead with a little over two minutes left in the game.

It was pretty amazing.

By that point my confidence in the Bears was starting to strengthen again. So even as Favre started moving the Packers down the field with lots of little underneath junk, I wasn’t getting too concerned about the outcome of the game. I could feel that it was the Bears to win and that they would prevail when the clock hit 0:00.

brad maynard recovered his own puntSure enough, thanks to a timely interception by Brandon McGowan in the endzone with time expiring, the Bears came out on top. It wasn’t championship-caliber football, but it was winning football. And at this point of the season, that’s all I think we can ask for.

So here’s hoping the Bears have found their groove again. An error-free offense with a strong defense that will start toughening up even more each week as players overcome their injuries. The Bears still need a lot more out of the running game, so

October 06, 2007

Where's the Frost?

This makes me sick.

october weather forecast
We're gonna be running our air conditioning in October. That's just wrong. If I want to be wearing shorts and t-shirts in October, I'll move to San Diego. This is Chicago. We are suppose to have seasons. I want my damn cold weather.

October 05, 2007

Parade (With Fireworks)

New York magazine’s Vulture blog has a five-page excerpt from Parade (With Fireworks). It's a new comic book mini-series created by Mike Cavallero, and published by Image Comics.

excerpt from parade with fireworks
This preview sells me on the book. I hope to pick up the collected series when Image publishes it.

DVD's for BVD's

Dad, you've worked a long time as lawyer and judge in DuPage County. What the hell's going on? Policemen of the year hiding DVD's in their pants at Costco?
A Wheaton police officer who was named Officer of the Year in 2006 will appear in court next week with his career in jeopardy after being charged with stealing DVDs costing $85 from a Naperville Costco.

Naperville police arrested Thomas M. Wilson, 35, of the 27W000 block of Washington Street, Winfield, last month and charged him with misdemeanor retail theft after he was accused of putting a four-pack of DVDs in his pants and walking out of the store without paying on Sept. 2, said Naperville police Cmdr. Dave Hoffman.

After a security officer confronted Wilson in the parking lot, he fled on foot and was later seen driving away in a car, Hoffman said. Wilson turned himself in to authorities Sept. 9 and posted a $100 cash bond.
Found this story in today's Chicago Tribune.

Some Friday Afternoon Reviews

I used to review on this blog practically everything I read, but I’ve sort of fallen out of practice of doing so. This is my attempt to return to that practice.

Crossing California by Adam Langer – I stumbled upon a review of this novelist’s first book in the Chicago Tribune Book section almost a year ago and thought the it sounded like an interesting read. Then I found the book on sale for $5 at a book store that was going out of business. It was a well spent $5.

cover to crossing californiaLanger’s novel is set between November 1979 and January 1981 in the West Rogers Park area of Chicago. There he follows the lives of a few characters who are struggling to figure out who they are and what their place is in the world. The title of the book comes from California Avenue, which splits West Rogers Park in half and also provides the dividing line between the “haves” and the “have nots” of the mostly-Jewish neighborhood. West of California is for the upper-middle class, well-to-do families and serves as the desired destination for those living East of California.

Langer structures his novel as a series of vignettes, rotating around to feature different characters, or collection of characters, each time. This way we not only see one specific character’s view of how events unfolded, but later we gain insight into how others saw those same events. It makes for a fun and interesting read. While we are given a less traditional narrative, there is enough continuity built between the vignettes that the larger story becomes apparent.

The stories are full of cultural references, and at times rely on them to make the point of the vignette. Given the timeframe the story takes place in and my own age, I had a passing familiarity to most of what Langer’s characters were referring to. Even though some references escaped my knowledge, it didn’t prevent my enjoyment of the novel. Langer doesn’t rely on the setting to find the voice of the novel. Rather it is the characters’ lives, and the honest handling of them in this book that makes it so enjoyable. Langer deftly handles switches between light-hearted moments and scenes of more gravity with grace and wit, which fully sells the reality of the fiction.

As in real life, a journey of discovery never really ends, so we aren’t provided a clean wrap up at the end of Crossing California. However, we do see how these characters have changed, what they have learned about themselves, and can imagine where they might go next. Langer’s characters are engaging and his writing is smooth, although slightly over-wrought at times. A recommend read.

Animal Man (book 1) by writer Grant Morrison and pencilers Chas Truog and Doug Hazelwood – There are certain comic books or series that are held with higher regard within comic book reading circles. Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man is one of those series. Not only did his work on the book make a name for newcomer Morrison, his work challenged and pushed comic book writing into a whole new area.

cover to animal man book oneMorrison was a virtual unknown – at least to American comic book readers – when the Scottish writer was given the opportunity by DC Comics to launch a new title here in the States. The main character of the series was Buddy Baker, Animal Man, whose super power was the ability to absorb the abilities and skills from nearby animals. The character wasn’t currently being used and DC wanted to see what this young writer from the UK could do with him.

Morrison transformed Buddy into a super hero concerned as much with animal rights as he is with saving the world. Originally conceived as a four-issue mini-series, DC convinced Morrison to stay on and develop the book into an ongoing series – which he did. This first Animal Man trade paperback collects the first nine issues of what became a historic comic book run.

The first four issues in the trade read like a four-issue mini-series that was planned to have a definite end. The story is simple and straight forward. We get introduced to Buddy, his powers, and his family. The plot of the story involved Animal Man uncovering immoral testing on animals being conducted by scientists struggling to find a cure for the HIV virus (these comics were written back in 1988). Everything is nicely wrapped up at the end of issue four. However, in issue number five, “The Coyote Bible”, Morrison tells a story that lays down some of the basic themes and concepts the series eventually explores.

What might seem like a story about a man going out into the desert to kill some wolf-demon who he believes is the source of all suffering in the world, really is the beginnings of a post-modern exploration of the relationship between artistic creator and their creation.

Morrison has to detour a bit to incorporate aspects of the “Invasion” mega-cross over DC was had running through all of their titles, but by the end of this first book he is working in more hints as to where he plans on taking the series.

I was already a fan of Morrison’s before reading Animal Man, but it was fascinating to go back and see where he had come from. Already Morrison was displaying a great knack for dialogue and trippy storylines. But he keeps the metaphysical nicely in check against the narrative, and still spins entertaining comic book yarns. I’ve read enough essays and reports on the significance of Morrison’s run on Animal Man to know that I wanted to experience it for myself, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite as much as I am so far.

I expected to be impressed with the post-modernism of the writing, not wowed with the straightforward entertainment of the book. Now I am anxiously looking forward to picking up books two and three so that I can continue exploring Morrison’s vision.

Is That Fat Lady Warming Up?

Cubs - diamondbacks finalI went to bed last night after the Cubs' half of the fifth inning. Alfonso Soriano had got on base with a little blooper single, but that was followed by a parade of three Cubs hitters who failed to do anything. Fly-outs by Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee, then Aramis Ramirez strikes out.

1-2-3 and the Cubs left another man on base and still trailed 6 - 2. It was 11pm and I had had enough. I stayed up for the whole game Wednesday night and didn't feel like losing more sleep over a team that looked like they were already sleeping on the field.

Checking the scores and reports this morning, I realized I didn't miss much. Anothe Cubs loss. 8-4.

Now the Cubs are down two games to nothing, and have to pull out a three-game win streak in order to keep their penant hopes alive. Maybe the hometown cookin' will help, but my confidence is a shaken.

October 04, 2007

I'll Be Watching Ohio State This Saturday

Earlier this week I noticed that ABC was scheduled to air 2 different college football games Saturday night: #4 Ohio State vs. #24 Purdue and Notre Dame vs UCLA

notre dame logoI'm the Notre Dame fan, Heather is the Ohio State fan. And regardless of how well these teams are playing, we like to watch their games. Usually the games are on at different times or at least on different stations, so we flip back and forth. But that wouldn’t be possible this time. Obviously, only one of the games would be carried on the ABC affiliate here in Chicago.

When I thought about possibility of the hapless Irish being televised in Chicago over Ohio State I could already hear Heather’s complaints.

ohio state logo“Who wants to watch Notre Dame get the tar beat out of them when they could be watching a real team play football?! Do they really think everyone in Chicago loves Notre Dame?!”

Then I stumbled on this map, which outlines the planned ABC coverage of the game. Looks like the vast majority of the nation will be watching the Buckeyes take on the Boilermakers.

abc coverage map for primetime saturday college football
No worries Heather. You get to see your Buckeyes. I really didn’t want to see the Irish get the tar beat out of them again this Saturday anyway.

The Wisdom of Batman

Adam West's Batman from the 1960's TV show was one of the smartest and most thoughtful people ever. Want proof? Read through this collection of quotes that feature Batman lecturing Burt Ward's Robin.

Some of my favorites:

adam west and burt ward as batman and robinRobin: "You can't get away from Batman that easy!"
Batman: "Easily."
Robin: "Easily."
Batman: "Good grammar is essential, Robin."
Robin: "Thank you."
Batman: "You're welcome."

Batman: "Robin, you haven't fastened your safety bat-belt."
Robin: "We're only going a couple of blocks."
Batman: "It won't be long until you are old enough to get a driver's license, Robin, and you'll be able to drive the Batmobile and other vehicles. Remember, motorist safety."
Robin: "Gosh, Batman, when you put it that way.."

Bruce: "Most Americans don't realize what we owe to the ancient Incas. Very few appreciate they gave us the white potato and many varieties of Indian corn."
Dick: "Now whenever I eat mashed potatos, I for one will think of the Incas."

He even lectured on international political policy.

Batman: "Nobody wants war."
Robin: "Gee, Batman. Belgravia's such a small country. We'd beat them in a few hours."
Batman: "Yes, and then we'd have to support them for years."

Batman was noble and wise.

Me And My Bad Habits

I don’t remember this specifically, but I’ve been told that when my brother and I were young we used to preach to my dad about the dangers of smoking. He was a long time smoker. Started in college I think. Maybe even as early as high school. And even though my dad had taken up running like everyone else in the late 70’s, he still hadn’t kicked the smoking habit. Eventually though, sometime around his 40th birthday, he snubbed out his final cigarette. He’s had more money and a better smelling car ever since.

I have a bad habit of my own that the kids have finally caught on to. Not nearly as dangerous as smoking, but probably not too healthy for me either. Now I fear that I, like my father before me, am about to become the target of my children’s crusade to end my addiction.

wad of paperI chew paper – eat it sometimes too. Usually it’s ripping the smallest piece of a paper napkin off at the end of the meal and chewing on the paper for the next hour or so. Like other people with gum, I’ll spit the paper out into a garbage can later. Chewing paper has been a habit for me for many, many years. I remember tearing off corners of paper to chew on in class back in the third grade. On a dare in fourth grade I shoved something like ten straw paper wrappers in my mouth and ate them. I chew paper instead of gum.

Heather thinks my paper chewing is disgusting, and she might be right. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’m tearing the paper and putting it into my mouth. It’s a subconscious habit. But really, if you didn’t know of my habit or see me rip off the scrap of paper you might think I was chewing gum. This, I guess, is how I am able to feed my addiction without facing the scorn of others. However, I don’t work the small bit of paper in my mouth anywhere near as much as most people grind their jaw with a stick of Wrigley. So I still believe paper chewing is less obnoxious than gum chewing.

Last night, however, I was playing with Emma and Zoe after dinner. They noticed something blue inside my mouth when I was talking – it was the small bit of the blue paper napkin I had popped in after dinner. I tried telling them it was the small blue alien that lived in my head and traveled down into my mouth after dinner to pick the extra food out of my teeth.

They didn’t buy it.

emma and zoeI explained that it was blue worm – but I didn’t even believe that lie, and the girls could tell. No dice. And they weren’t going to let the topic drop. Their curiosity was sufficiently piqued.

So I gave in and explained that it was a small piece of paper that I was chewing like gum. I admitted that it was a bad habit, one that I hadn’t been able to stop. Emma scolded me and reminded me that it wasn’t good to have bad habits. From that point on the girls found plenty of opportunities to talk about my bad habit and tell me that I should stop eating paper.

Knowing how Emma and Zoe can latch on to an idea and run with it seemingly indefinitely, I fear that I might be hearing about the inherent grossness of eating paper from my two daughters for the foreseeable future. I might have to become more covert in my paper chewing. Or maybe, heaven forbid, figure out how to stop all together.

October 03, 2007

Parenthood

That's what this photo makes me think of.

alex brown photography photo used without permission
[found via this blog who found this photographers website]

KidsWB No More

The CW network announced today that starting in the fall of 2008 the network’s Saturday morning programming will be out-sourced to 4Kids, which already does the kids’ programming for FOX Saturday morning shows. This means that the KidsWB is getting shut down and will be no more.

4Kids LogoConsidering that the KidsWB has drawn their animation inspiration heavily from Warner Brothers studios and DC Comics (Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Batman, Superman, Legion of Superheroes), I’ve always been a fan of most of the shows aired on KidsWB. They always provided something I wanted to watch Saturday mornings before college football kicked off.

Ian, Emma, and Zoe have also become fans of the KidsWB because of the before mentioned shows and because of programs like the new interpretations of Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry, both of which can be found on KidsWB.

kidswb logoSo I was disappointed to hear this news. I’ve never paid much attention to 4Kids, but after looking at their website it appears they run a bunch of re-heated anime and cartoons based on video games. Not very inspiring.

I don’t know what this change means for the future of shows currently on KidsWB. The shows are popular (KidsWB is the second highest watched Saturday morning block of programming for kids) so I’d hate to see them canceled out-right. But considering the situation I don’t see why 4Kids wouldn’t cram their own programming in.

Figuring Out What Ails Him

I’ve noticed recently that my brother-in-law appears to be out of sorts. Whether its emails to my sister admitting his fears of suburban life or angry comments left on my blog, he just doesn’t seem like the happy-go-lucky guy I know.

At first I thought that being part of the McKillip family and our devilishly good looks, razor sharp wit, and affinity for cake, had started to wear him down. My sister and Patrick have been married for 12 or 13 years now. A lesser man than Patrick would have cracked long ago in the presence of my sister's glow for that many years.

But then this morning I think I stumbled up on the real reason for Patrick's apparent malaise.

final AL standingsYep, his beloved White Sox really didn’t deliver this year. Meanwhile, what are the McKillip Family-endorsed Chicago Cubs doing right now?


Cubs Win!
That's right, they won their division and are back in the post season.

Maybe next season. But look on the bright side of the situation, with TBS’ goofy-ass scheduling, you can get plenty of good sleep over the next few nights while us Cubs fans stay up late to watch Piniella and the boys beat down the Diamondbacks.

October 02, 2007

is That Dempsy?

a dog dressed as darth vader
Elizabeth, I found the pet costume you can buy to embarrass your dog with this Halloween.

Tuesday's Rant

Heather says that my views on over-weight people can be too negative, possibly even discriminatory. While I will admit that I give no quarter to fat people complaining about squeezing into public places or the food at McDonald’s, I don’t think I’m discriminatory. However, my stance isn’t going to soften when I read reports like this:
Obesity may push U.S. health costs above Europe: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly twice as many U.S. adults are obese compared to European, a key factor leading Americans to suffer more often from cancer, diabetes and other chronic ailments, a study released on Tuesday found.

Treatment of these and other chronic diseases adds between $100 billion and $150 billion to the annual health care tab in the United States, according to the report comparing U.S. and European health published online in the journal Health Affairs.

The United States spends significantly more per capita than any European country on health care, about $2 trillion annually, or 16 percent of the gross domestic product. While the big discrepancy has been linked to higher U.S. prices for medical treatment, the report said a sicker population may also be a factor.

"We expected to see differences between disease prevalence in the United States and Europe, but the extent of the differences is surprising," said Ken Thorpe, professor of public health at Emory University and a study co-author. "It is possible that we spend more on health care because we are, indeed, less healthy."
So you will excuse me if I don’t feel compassion for the growing – pun intended – segment of the U.S. population that by their own chosen lazy lifestyle is contributing to skyrocketing cost of health care which makes my daily fight to make ends meet more difficult.

Star Wars Circus Posters

Always looking for a way to cash in, LucasFilm has commissioned a new version of the famous "circus" style one-sheet poster from 1978 that promoted the very first Star Wars but instead celebrates The Revenge of the Sith.

the two star wars poster side-by-side
Regardless of LucasFilm's motives, I think both of these posters look great and would look even better hanging up in our office or in our recently finished basement.

You can only buy it at StarWarsShop.com

October 01, 2007

Ricky Williams in a Bear Uniform?

ricky williamsIt's being reported today that Ricky William has applied for reinstatement to the NFL following his lengthy suspension for violating the NFL drug policy four times.

Sure the guy enjoys a little doobage from time to time, but he also knows how to pick up yardage running with a football.

The Bears could do a lot worse - and are right now - than making a grab for Ricky if the NFL let's him back in. Of course Miami would have to give up their rights to Ricky, but I'm sure a deal could be hammered out.

Don't Event Want To Talk About It

urlacher reacts to the Bears play against Detroit
The second half of the game made me sick - literally. My fever-induced sleep meant I missed much of the collapse in the fourth quarter.

The offensive line can't block, the running backs can't run, the quarterbacks throw to the other team, and the defense is starting players they just signed last week. I don't see how this can get worse.

Oh, that's right, how about playing the red hot Green Bay Packers - at Lambeau Field - on Sunday Night Football this upcoming weekend.

Fantastic.