January 31, 2008

Can Our House Be Saved?

This is my first time being a parent, so everything is a learning experience. But I was hoping if the more seasoned parents – the ones who have already made it through the young, developmental years and still retain a honest memory of what that time was like – could answer a question for me.

Do all children destroy the house they are living in?

We’ve only been at our current home about 17 months. The house was in very good condition when we moved in. However, if I use the observed events of the last 6 month to form a prediction of the future, I begin to think that sometime in the next two years Heather and I will be standing in a pile of rubble.

For your consideration, what our kids have done in the last six months:
  • Pulled the door off the entertainment center
  • Pulled off the front of a kitchen drawer
  • Pulled out portions of the edging in the yard
  • Shattered the side mirror on the passenger side of our van (whoops, that was Heather)
  • Pulled off part of a toilet paper holder in a bathroom
  • Stained the carpet in the family room
  • Pulled off the window crank on the driver’s side in the Neon (whoops, that was me)
  • Marked up the wall in the newly renovated basement
  • Yanked down the towel rod in a bathroom
  • Not to mention the tremendous wear on the walls and floors through-out the entire house.
Somebody please tell me that this happens in other families and that at some point the destruction will stop. Heather and I want to have nice things again.

Star Wars - Disney Mash-Ups

I am totally digging what this artist is doing when he combines characters and images from Disney with Star Wars.

Goof Maul
There are lots more to see on his site.

Pin-Up Cartoon Playing Cards

These vintage pin-up cartoon playing cards are just fun to look at.

pin-up cartoon playing card
See the whole set.

January 30, 2008

Codehunters

Thought this was pretty neat. It's called Codehunters - a short animated film from the UK.

January 29, 2008

The Snub

I didn't watch any of the President's State of the Union Address. I was stuck in Hinsdale because the train I was riding on hit a car. So I missed the big news that came out of the speech.

Nothing about what the President said, it was Obama and Hilary who have everyone talking thing morning.

Obama snubs Hilary at SOTU
Obama was standing next to new BFF Senator Ted Kennedy. Teddy leaned over to greet Hilary, but Obama cooly turned his back to Mrs. Clinton and never acknowledged her.

Some are calling it childish or proof that the man running a campaign on a theme of unity is nothing but a fake. While some other commentators have pointed out that Hilary didn't seem to seek out Obama at the SOTU either. So maybe the blame of incivility goes both ways.

Frankly, I think it's fantastic. Dude doesn't like Hilary right now because of the nasty nasties being thrown back and forth, and decides he just isn't up to being civil with her at that moment. Doesn't make him a bad guy, just human.

January 28, 2008

LEGO Turns 50

Today marked the 50th anniversary of LEGO.

I read plenty of tributes to this company and its amazing toys, but my favorite was this time elapsed video of an editor from Boing Boing Gadgets assembling the "Ultimate Collectors Millennium Falcon" LEGO set - the largest set sold to date by LEGO.


Seeing this monster of a set put together puts me in awe of the LEGO masters who designed the "Ultimate Collectors Millennium Falcon" LEGO set in the first place.

What Have I Done?

ian - making a faceI don't know if it was a momentarily lapse of parental judgment or the fluctuating barometric pressure's effect on my brain, but last night not only did I explained to Ian what a 'wet willy' is (ya know, lick you finger and stick in some poor sap's unsuspecting ear) but I also demonstrated how to administer one.

I've already had to stop him from trying his new learned prank on his mother and sister.

I am afraid to think of what sort of havoc I have unleashed upon his classroom.

Then again, if a dad can't teach his son how to make a little disruptive fun, then what's the point of having a son?

January 26, 2008

Loch Ness in Tokyo Bay

To promote the premiere of The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep in Japan, a giant Loch Ness hologram was created for Tokyo Bay. Using some well timed water fountains/sprays, night-time visitors to the bay experience the emergence of the legendary Loch Ness monster.

hologram loch ness monster in actionThe pictures are pretty cool, but what really looks wild is the video of the beast's performance.

January 25, 2008

To Fight or Not To Fight

I was going to write a pithy little post about how I was arguing with Heather last night on whether we should fight more in light of the recently reported findings that couple who fight live longer.
Spouses Who Fight Live Longer
A good argument with your spouse could be just what the doctor ordered.

Preliminary results from a survey of married couples suggest that disputing husbands and wives who hold in their anger die earlier than expressive couples.
But while finding the article on LiveScience so I could link to it, I found this other article on LiveScience from March 2006
Marital Spats Raise Risk of Heart Attack
Fighting with the one you love can leave you broken-hearted, a feeling that now appears to be more than just figurative.

Marital spats and dominating behavior are related to hardening of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. Clogged arteries raise the risk of a heart attack.

So now I don't know what to do.

How does confusion affect longevity?

Review: Bane of the Demon

Batman: Bane of the Demon is a four-issue mini-series originally published in 1998. The series was written with usual bombast style by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by one of my favorite Batman pencilers, Graham Nolan.

Bane of the Demon cover to issue #1Now the only time Batman shows up is on the cover to the fourth issue, but because the story stars two of Batman’s biggest foes: Ra’s al Ghul and Bane, Bat’s get’s his name in the title. No problem. Ra’s is my favorite Batman villain to read about, and in the hands of the men who created the character, Bane can be interesting as well.

Quick Batman comic book history lesson: back in the mid-to-late 1990’s, the Batman books jumped from one big event story to another. It started with "Knighfall", where the villain, Bane, broke Batman's back, and led up to "No Man's Land", which chronicled Gotham City being sealed off by the Federal government only to have the city re-opened on January 1, 2000. Two of the event stories that occured during that time were called "Contagion", which had Gotham City being over-run by a horrific plague, and "Legacy", which featured Ra’s al Ghul’s attempt to wipe out the majority of the world’s population.

Bane of the Demon served to tie together some minor storylines between events in Contagion and Legacy. Problem was that the "Contagion" and "Legacy" storylines played out in 1996. Bane of the Demon wasn’t published until 1998. (Don’t know what happened in the editor’s office to create that publishing gaff.)

Bane of the Demon cover to issue #2The plot is straight forward. While trying to determine who his father was; Bane crosses paths with Talia, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul. Talia captures Bane and brings him before her father, who recognizes the advantages of having someone with the skill and power of Bane within his organization. There are some attempts at double-crosses, plenty of action, a little hint at sex, and in the end Bane emerges as Ra’s right-hand man and personal bodyguard.

I still remember enough about "Contagion" and "Legacy" to pick up on the plot points this mini-series was intended to tie together, and frankly I really don’t see the necessity in publishing a story to explain these minor points. I’d rather just take the four issues as their own story and not as some continuity tool. The story is still fun to read if you’ve never heard of "Contagion" and "Legacy."

The book is classic Dixon. Each issue opens with an action sequence already in progress. That is followed by some character building scenes, another big action sequence, and it all leads up to a cliffhanger. While it may see formulaic, Dixon works the formula with great skill. He had been employing this formula before Bane of the Demon, and he still uses it today. The formula flat out works as a way to structure an adventure comic. And as long as he is accompanied by an equally skilled artist, the reader is treated to a solid and fulfilling 22 pages of entertainment.

cover to Detective Comics 0 - an example of Graham Nolan's regal BatmanLuckily for us, the artist paired up with Dixon on Bane of the Demon is Graham Nolan. I can’t recall right now, but Nolan may have been on his way out of the Bat books around 1998. (He’s currently the artist for The Phantom and Rex Morgan comic strips) Nolan’s art is clean and classic in presentation. His work is very much in the same style as artists like Eduardo Barreto and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. What I particularly enjoyed about Nolan’s run on Detective Comics back in the 90’s was his depiction of Batman. Nolan’s Batman had a physical presence that was powerful without being bulky. When Nolan draws Batman, he puts the "knight" in the Dark Knight. His Batman is power and confident.

As I mentioned early, there is no Batman in the pages of Bane of the Demon, but that really doesn’t matter. Nolan does a wonderful job with all of the other characters to provide a fitting visual compliment to Dixon’s story. The action sequences are skillfully choreographed, the panel constructions are done for the best dramatic effect, and his Talia looks like a woman men would gladly die for.

Bane of the Demon is not great art, but it is great pop art. A fun, fast-past adventure story told and illustrated with skill and flair.

Can’t wait to see what other comics are waiting for me in the basement.

Anthony Bourdain on Sound Opinions

I didn't really know about Anthony Bourdain until I saw an episode of his show, No Reservations, on the Travel Channel when he visited Cleveland, OH and hung out with underground comic creator Harvey Pekar, but since that episode I've been mildly fascinated with the guy.

Anthony BourdainI like his warped sense of humor, his presence on the screen, and his up-front approach to whatever it is he's doing. Where ever Bourdain shows up, I find myself being entertained.

That's why I am looking forward to his appearance on Sound Opinions this weekend. Sound Opinions is a weekly radio talk show program hosted by Chicago music critics/writers Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune) and Jim DeRogatis (Chicago Sun-Times) that I've been listening to for years.

I used to listen to the show live when it aired on WXRT Monday nights, and since it moved to public radio and Saturday nights (station list), I dutifully download and listen to the podcast every Monday. I don't always agree with Kot's and DeRogatis' opinions, but I am always entertained. Add Bourdain's out-spoken voice to the mix and I expect a knock-out of a show.

I highly recommend listening to Kot and DeRogatis, and with Anthony Bourdain thrown in for this episode, this Saturday's Sound Opinoins show could be a perfect time to jump in and give them a try.

January 24, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig at announcement of the title for the next James Bond movieIt was announced today that Quantum of Solace will be the name of the 22nd James Bond film set to premiere this November 7th.

The title comes from a short story Ian Fleming included in the "For Your Eyes Only" James Bond anthology. So there is some significance to the title.

Never the less, even if Fleming did use the title in a Bond story, it seems like an odd title for a movie. Quantum of Solace doesn't really roll of the tongue smoothly. Sure, as the producers of the film point out, the title references "what happened to Bond and what is happening in the film", but I still think it's a clunky name for James Bond movie.

Despite the clunky name, I'm looking forward to another Daniel Craig-starring Bond flick.

My Weather Report

I thought I detected a slight nip in the air this morning.

Weather Snapshot for 01.24.2008

January 23, 2008

Machete

Try and tell me this isn't the greatest movie ever: Machete

"He gets all the women!"

The Exhaust Burger

Mankind's pursuit of knowledge and mastery of the world has led us here. - to the Exhaust Burger.

exhaust burger
Yes, it's real.

Though you can't get one for yourself - yet. It was created by a team for Designboom's "Dining in 2015" design competition.

Some Alex Ross Comic Cover Art

After initially loving Alex Ross' work, I had cooled on his style over the last few years. He seemed to be cranking out the same old photo-realistic paintings for comc covers and (few) interiors.

But with the cover artwork for April's Batman #676 and Superman #675 Alex appears to have put a little more "art" into his artwork. He seems less concerned with depicting the heroes as the might actual exist in the real word, but rather conveying an essence of the character.

Alex Ross cover to BATMAN #676Alex Ross cover to SUPERMAN #675
I don't think the art is great for a comic book cover, but they are fine looking paintings.

January 22, 2008

Farmer's Daughter

It was an actual humor comic book series from the mid-1950's.

farmer's daughter #1I saw it here today and the premise and the art made me laugh.

Heath Ledger Found Dead

Heath Ledger, whose was nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain and plays the Joker to Christian Bale's Batman in the this summer's The Dark Knight, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in a New York City apartment owned by actress Mary-Kate Olsen this afternoon around 2:30pm central time.

It's kinda hard to tell, but it looks like The Dark Knight will be the last film Heath worked on. It doesn't look like he was working on, or had finished, any other film projects.

Which means seeing him in this summer's The Dark Knight is going to be a little unsettling. Like watching Brandon Lee in The Crow.

I wonder how Warner Brothers will handle the marketing of the film in light of these tragic events. So far the Joker (i.e. Heath's image) has played heavily into the marketing campaigns.

Review: The Bourne Identity

For the last few years I heard all about how great the Bourne movies are supposed to be - intelligent action movies that balance character and plot while delivering an entertaining spy thriller that a James Bond movie used to aspire to. This weekend I finally had the opportunity to see if all this praise was true. On Sunday night Heather and I sat down and watched The Bourne Identity, the first of the three Bourne movies that have been released to date.

the bourne identity(A quick tangent: Heather borrowed the movie from our library. In the last three years our public library has dramatically increased the number of DVD titles that they have available. So much that they even purchase multiple copies of some new releases. What’s even better is that our library has an online reservation system which can be used for books, movies, pretty much anything that you can borrow for the library. Slap you name on a book or movie that you want to borrow, and when your turn comes up the library staff sets it aside and you receive an automated phone call letting you know you that your item is there to be picked up. For movies it’s sorta like a low-rent Netflix, except the movies are absolutely free. Heather works the lists like a pro and we’ve been getting some great movies to watch - Thank You For Smoking, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 300.)

Being a long time James Bond fan and considering the amount of comparisons others have made between the Bond and Bourne franchises, I watched with The Bourne Identity with a critical eye. I knew that one of the reasons that the producers behind the Bond movies re-launched and re-imagined the 007 with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale was because of the success and positive response to The Bourne Identity/ Supremacy. I absolutely loved Casino Royale, so I was anxious to see how Bourne matched up.

True to the hype, The Bourne Identity delivered with a solid character driven story that mixed in action at all the right times to keep things moving and exciting. I thought Matt Damon did an excellent job bring to life a man who can remember nothing of his life before waking up on a fishing boat but inhabiting a body that remembers everything about being the U.S. Governments ultimate Black Ops agent.

The choreography for the fight scenes was top notch. Fast, furious, and just stylized enough that the fights still seem real (no wire-fu in this movie). Bourne gets cut. Bourne gets bloody. Bourne walks with a limp after taking a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. Great stuff.

Overall I really enjoyed the film and look forward to the kinetic / frantic filming director Paul Greengrass brought to the second and third installments to the trilogy (Doug Liman directed The Bourne Identity). Heather already has our name on The Bourne Supremacy. We will probably get to watch it in the next few weeks.

But how does Jason Bourne match up with James Bond?

bond and bourneI will still take Bond over Bourne. I didn’t think it’s fair to compare any of the 20 Bond films that came before Casino Royale and Daniel Craig to the Bourne movies. Those 007 films are such different types of movies. They are over-the-top escapism full of puffed up villains, magnificent gadgets, and beautiful women. Casino Royale brought the Bond franchise out of the clouds and down to earth, giving movie goers a version of 007 that could conceivably exist in the real world (much like Jason Bourne).

When I hold Casino Royale up against The Bourne Identity, 007 wins out because despite the grounding and scaling back, Bond still provides a sense of coolness that Bourne fails to achieve. Bourne has two more movies to prove me wrong, but that coolness factor is an intangible that will be difficult to capture with a character that is brooding over his lost memory. I appreciate the depth and complexity of character and story that the Bourne movies will offer, but when it comes to super-agent action movies, I want a healthy dose of coolness layered throughout. That’s were Bond delivers and that’s why I’m excited to see how Bond 22 turns out this November.

January 21, 2008

Get Firefox

It's old and kinda stupid, but it makes me laugh. Especially the Internet Explorer icon.

Hot Wheels Version of the 1966 Batmobile

This Spring Hot Wheels will be releasing a 1:18 scale version of the Batmobile from the 1960's Batman TV show. You can pre-order this classic car at TimeandSpaceToys.com.
1966 batmobile
The show might have been campy as hell, but the version of the Batmobile the show used was the coolest.

January 18, 2008

Review: Gentlemen of the Road

Gentlemen of the Road is why I am so enamored with writer Michael Chabon. He understands that genre fiction does not have to be bad fiction or throw-away fiction. That you can take the trappings of a story genre – detective, horror, crime – and use it to build artfully constructed literature that is also fun to read. Chabon’s romp through genre fiction seems like a mission of his since finishing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It’s all he seems to, but I’m glad that he is.

Whether it’s been editing anthologies of genre stories published by McSweeney’s or producing works of his own that rely on a particular genre for their framework (Summerland – children’s fantasy, The Final Solution: A Story of Detection - Sherlock Holmes/detective, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union: A Novel – crime), Chabon has spent the last five years starting low in a genre and building it up into something bigger.

cover to gentlemen of the roadWhich brings me to Gentlemen of the Road. Published just this past fall, this short novel is an adventure set in Kingdom of Arran around AD 950. It stars two horse thieves/con-men. An African Jew named Amram, who is a giant of a man who brandishes a Norse battle axe named “Mother Defiler” and a Frankish Jew named Zelikman, who appears more like a 1st Century goth-doctor. Dressed entirely in black, with ghost-white skin, Zelikman is the moody physician to Amram’s thoughtful strongman.

The plot is simple. Through some interesting turn of events, Amram and Zelikman become part of a rebellion to return a displaced prince to throne of his kingdom. Along the way they meet a cast of strange characters and even run into to a few Vikings.

I found the initial reading of the novel slightly difficult. Not because of the story or the writing – Chabon is at his usual artful self. Rather, it felt like there were odd jumps between chapters. Like there was something missing with the continuity from chapter to chapter. It was only after finishing the book that I learned that Gentlemen of the Road was originally serialized in the New York Times in the spring of 2007. Each chapter was written to stand on its own. Obviously the full fifteen parts add up to a larger story, but when you write a piece to be serialized over a number of weeks you have to consider the fact that readers may miss an installment. Therefore the individual chapters have to function as a complete entity of their own.

Despite this awkwardness between chapters, Chabon’s novel shines at reveling in the genre – historical adventure – like the works of Alexandre Dumas or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories; but still demonstrates Chabon talent for crafting engaging prose and extending beyond the trappings of the genre. Among the sword fights, horse stealing, painted elephants, and copious amounts of blood-letting, Chabon deftly weaves in exploration of his characters and their motivations.

In typical Chabon fashion, the characters of focus are on a search to understand or come to terms with their identity. Amram, Zelikman, even the prince they are assisting, all question or struggle to understand how they fit in the world that they find themselves. At the end of the novel the characters have arrived at some answers, some new questions have been uncovered, and life moves on.

Keeping true to the genre and time period of the story, Chabon works in some of the most archaic terminology; which does make the book a challenging read at times. So I wouldn’t recommend this book for the first time Michael Chabon reader. For that I would point to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay or Summerland. Then, if you are the adventurous type, Gentlemen of the Road would be a great place to go.

January 17, 2008

The Bear's Make Their First Silk Purse . . .

From this season's Sow's Ear.

A snapshot from the Chicago Bears email newsletter.

screen shot of article on the chicago passing attack promo
Read all about the magic.

I'm sure these stats will at some point be used as proof that the Bears don't need to make any changes at the Quarterback position during the off-season.

While I would love to see Rexy come back and lead the team, I think for him to succeed he needs to be challenged. Don't just go handing him the starting job. In order for him to be challenged he needs someone other than broken-down Brian Griese looking over his shoulder.

Kyle "Neckbeard" Orton might give Rexy a run for his money, but for it to be a real contest I would think the Bears would need two viable starters in camp this summer. Rexy, Neckbeard, and . . . I don't know right now.

There Is a Poet Inside

Ian and his classmates wrote didactic cinquains (a short, un-rhymed poem of twenty-two syllables, five lines of 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllables respectively).

This was Ian's composition, which I found to be very eloquent.
Snow
gently falling
snowballs flying everywhere
soft, comfy, cold, smooth
sparkling

It's Still Stealing If It's Only $10

I was making a quick review of my American Express account this morning when I saw a recent charge that didn’t make sense. It was for something called “VALLJRSX VALL-JRSX” and they were charging me $9.59


Buying stuff online in the past has meant that every once in a while I’ve had companies put in some strange descriptions, but this went beyond that. The detailed description said that the charge was for “Internet Downloads.” I couldn’t recall paying to download anything from the Internet on 1/9/08 or any time the in the days leading up to the ninth. Post-Christmas Heather and I pretty much go into hibernation with our credit cards. If I had used my card for to pay for a download I would have remembered.

So I ran VALLJRSX VALL-JRSX through Google to see what would turn up.

Turns out our friends at VALLJRSX (or VALL-JRSX, VIN DESIGN, VIN-DESIGN, PARADISE WEB, PARADISEWEB, or E NAT – depending on the day of the scam) are running through a mess of American Express card accounts trying to sneak out little charges that people won’t notice. $8, $9, or $10 charges have been popping up on people’s statements since the middle of December. The company name might be different, but the address is the same and the charge is always for Internet Downloads.

The dslreports.com website forum has a lengthy report on this company, and their practices of stealing money in small amounts. According to the site, the company seems to be targeting AmEx accounts. But I’m sure that if they got a hold of other accounts they would work the fraud there as well.

I called American Express to report the fraud. The AmEx people were quick to fix things, including issuing me a new card that will be overnighted to me at no charge.

A little $10 charge like this can be easily over-looked (which I know this company is banking on), so I’m glad I caught it when I did.

January 16, 2008

Sara Bareilles

Did you know that MTV and VH1 still show music videos?

They do - at 6am.

I sometimes flip over to watch videos while grabbing a bite to eat for breakfast in the morning. It 's not always good music, but every once and a while I stumbled onto something I like.

It was on VH1 that I first noticed Sara Bareilles and her single "Love Song."

She's got a seriously awesome voice and the tune has a near perfect pop hook that stays with me for a long time. Plus, I'm a sucker for a piano player with a pretty face.

Now That Looks Like an Indiana Jones Movie

The photos from the Vanity Fair story were nice, but this recently released still shot is more of what I expect from an Indiana Jones flick.

Ray Winstone, Shia LaBeouf, and Harrison Ford in a scene from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Heather Takes An Apprentice

Could this be the making of another Dessert Maven in my house?

zoe puts the finishing touches on her ice cream pieI hope so.

Looking forward to tasting Zoe's first home-made dessert tonight.

January 15, 2008

Babies in Buckets And Other Half-Truths

Everyone is familiar with how inquisitive young children are. They ask questions about everything. It’s how they learn about the world.

questions, questions, questionsIan, Emma, and Zoe are no different. They are continually quizzing Heather and I about why people on TV are doing this or that, how does something work, or how certain things are made. With an 8, 5, and 3-year-old in the house, life is a never ending Q/A session.

The problem is I don’t like giving straight answers if I don’t have to. One of my more popular answers to how things are made (be it “What makes red paint ‘red’?” or “How do airplanes fly?”) is “magic.” Of course, as a result of Heather’s vocal protests the kids now immediately dismiss “magic” as a truthful answer and demand a more detailed explanation. So, I’ve become more creative in my responses.

Like a couple of weeks ago when I was sharing some old photographs I found at my mother’s. One of the pictures was of my brother at age 2. He had crawled into a bucket and sat down with a wry little smile so that it looked like he was waiting for someone to come along and carry him away like water from a well. It’s a cute picture. Everyone who sees it likes it.

When I showed Emma the picture she asked why the baby was in the bucket. I explained to her that back when I was a little kid parents had to go to the store to buy their children. Instead of going to the hospital, a mom and a dad would go to Target and there would be a bunch of babies sitting in buckets waiting to be taken home. Find the baby in the bucket you liked, pick him up, and off you went.

I explained further that this picture was of her Uncle Kevin on the day Grandpa and Nana had brought him back from the store. They had set him down in the backyard, and before taking him out of the bucket, had snapped a few photographs.

Emma!My mom, sister, and few others that were in the room with Emma and me while I delivered my “baby in the bucket” story had a good laugh at the joke - including Ian and Emma. However, a few weeks later I realized that Emma might not have caught on that what I said was actually a joke.

I had assumed that because we had explained to Emma on different occasions that babies grew inside a mother’s belly before the baby came out and because Emma had talked plenty about this same subject, that she understood my baby-in-a-bucket comments to be a joke. But then at dinner last week, completely out of the blue, Emma starts talking about “back when babies came in buckets.” From the look in her eye I could tell that she believed what I had said.

Of course I quickly corrected her, explaining that I had been making a joke when I said babies were delivered in buckets. She seemed to understand, and didn’t seem worse for the wear. However, it did make me think about my responsibilities as a parent. That maybe I should make a concerted effort to address the questions and queries that my children pose to me in as straightforward and factual manner as is within my intellectual capacity. I owe it not only to their broader education, but to their preparation on becoming a responsible adult.

But let’s be realistic. That’s not going to happen. I enjoy making up answers to their questions too much. Sure, I eventually come around to explaining how things really are, but I think everyone – including the kids – has fun with my made-up answers.

Land of Idiots

Here's some proof that the United States of America is a country sliding backwards into insanity.

First, a 61-year-old man sentenced to 10 years in prison for cutting down 500 trees because the blocked his view of the Las Vegas Strip.

Illegal? From the story I read it sounds like it. Worth 10 years in prison? I hardly think so.

Second, this is what one of his neighbors had to say:
"If he was cutting trees, was he going to cut people next?" said Richard Cancellier, 73, who came to Hoffman's sentencing Monday with several neighbors.


Yes, Mr. Canceliier, tree cutting is the gateway to murder. That's why this country is struggling to end its epidemic of former lumberjack mass murderers.

January 14, 2008

Solo vs. Jones

I thought the Shatner vs. Shatner vs. Shatner question was the poll to end all polls, but the ExtraLife website came up with an even better one.

han solo vs indiana jonesI think the answer is obvious. Solo might play dirty and have a blaster, but Indiana just doesn't know how to lose. Jones comes out on top.

More The Dark Knight News

I love the hints to the overall story that director Christopher Nolan drops in this short article published by the Los Angeles Times about this summer's The Dark Knight.

Notably:
"Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film," says Christopher Nolan, the director of the acclaimed franchise-rejuvenating 2005 film "Batman Begins," who returns with Christian Bale again playing the caped crusader. "The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film -- he's got no story arc, he's just a force of nature tearing through. Heath has given an amazing performance in the role, it's really extraordinary."
The character of Batman, and his supporting cast, can be - and have been - interpreted and portrayed hundreds of different ways in all forms of medium. I've enjoyed some and I've hated some, but I've always found experiencing and exploring these other interpretations fascinating.

What has got me so high on Nolan and his film incarnations of Batman is how closely Nolan's view of the Batman universe matches my own. Nolan's take on the supporting cast, Batman's motivations, how everything and everyone fits together; they all map so nicely to how I see those same characters and relationships. But because I haven't created a Batman story like Nolan has, I count the days until Nolan's next chapter in the Batman saga is released.

January 12, 2008

Football Weather

Personally, I think every post-season football game should be played in conditions like they had up in Green Bay today.

photo from the Green Bay - Seattle playoff game

January 11, 2008

A Post About a Bunch of Random Things Related to Comics

  • In today's Wondermark email, David Malki mentions (and links) to a 10-foot jam comic he contributed to while attending the most recent Small Press Expo.

    You should go read it. Because of the comics size, it takes a while to load in. But after it does, the experience of reading is worth the wait. It starts with a man thinking about a key and the comic ends up 44 panels later is insane.

    Read it.


  • If I ever open my own comic book store, I want it too look like this inside:

    photo of the inside of The Secret Headquarters - a comic book store in California
    The photo above is of the interior to The Secret Headquarters, a comic book shop in Los Angeles, CA.


  • I've already started to dip into my comic collection now that I've stopped buy new books each week.

    First up: the box of The Shadow comics I bought on eBay two or three years ago. I purchased 40+ comics for around $15. The lot is made up mostly of The Shadow Strikes - a late 80's / early 90's incarnation of the character published by DC Comics, with a few other odd DC Shadow comics thrown in.

    About a year ago I read the 4-issue The Shadow mini-series from 1985 written and drawn by Howard Chaykin that came in the lot. Instead of leaving the character in the 1930's, Chaykin moved the Shadow into contemporary times.

    I absolutely hated the comic. I like Chaykin, but his modern Shadow did not work. The Shadow, like Soc Savage or The Phantom, are really characters of the time they were created in - reflections of that moment in history really - and should be left in that time period when new stories are written for the characters. Luckliy I only paid about $1.50 for the entire 4-issue story.

    cover to the Shadow Strikes #8But that brings me back to The Shadow Strikes. It was launched in 1989 by DC Comics and featured Gerard Jones handling the writing chores and Eduardo Barreto illustrating (and, coincidentily, Anthony Tollin on colors, who is now the man behind all the great Shadow and Doc Savage reprints through his Nostalgia Ventures publishing company) great adventure stories of the Shadow set in the late 1930's.

    I've only read a few of issues of The Shadow Strikes. While I have enjoyed Gerard Jones stories, what has struck me is how perfect Eduardo Barreto's style is suited for The Shadow. I've seen Barreto's work before in other comics and always enjoyed it, but his character design, linework, and backgrounds perfectly capture the Shadow's world of the 1930's. He has a simple, classic approach to his art that just seems to click with crime and noir type stories.

    When I learned that Barreto's had illustrated the first few The Shadow Strikes that I had read, I did a quick flip through the remaining issues that had come in the lot I bought. It looks like Barreto was able to remain consistently on the title, which means I'm in store for some great looking Shadow comics for a while.
  • January 10, 2008

    Do Pretty Girls Fart?

    I already knew the answer to this question, but it was nice to see the boys from Mythbusters put this myth to a scientific test.

    36 Pints Later

    LifeSource is the non-profit organization that handles blood donations in the Chicagoland area. Ever since a previous employer of mine held a company blood drive back in October 2000 I've been regularly donating blood at a downtown LifeSource center.

    lifesource logoI like donating blood. It's simple (I usually get to watch some unbelievably cheesy movie or Oprah when I donate at the Thompson Center) and it helps me feel like I am doing something to help others. Plus, I really think it contributes to my own health. Giving up a pint of my blood forces my body to make new blood. I like to think some nasty old toxins or germs go out with the old blood. I'm flushing things out a bit, if you will.

    This month LifeSource launched a new website for its donors. Besides allowing donors to manage their profile and schedule donation appointments, from 2008 going forward the site will begin tracking the vitals that are collected/calculated at each donation event (body temperature, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc). Plus, they have a complete history of every blood donation. Even all the way back to my first donation in 2000.

    Is was through this donation history feature that I learned just how much blood I've given up over the last seven years. The total to date: 36 pints! That's roughly 4.5 gallons of blood.

    To put that in perspective, an average sized adult human has approximately 1.5 gallons of blood coursing through his body. Which means, in a manner of speaking, I have flushed out the complete volume of my body's blood supply three times.

    I find that remarkable.

    gallons of milk on a store shelfWhat also put 4.5 gallons of blood in perspective for me is that I know from first hand experience what 4 gallons of a liquid looks like. Heather and the kids go through about 4 gallons of milk a week. To understand just how much blood I've donated, I just need to look in the fridge the day Heather returns from grocery shopping. That's a lot of liquid.

    I don't really feel a sense of pride in knowing I've donated 4.5 gallons of blood, more astonishment. Astonishment that I've given up so much blood. One pint doesn't look like a whole lot in that little bag. The donation process- the actual needle in the arm stuff - only takes about ten to fifteen minutes. I never would have thought that all those little visits could add up to something so large.

    Ain't It The Truth

    Non Sequitur for 01-10-08

    January 09, 2008

    I Hope He Got a Reduced Rate

    When I saw the headline, I couldn't let this one go without commenting.
    WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees. Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

    "I was dumfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper Wednesday.

    The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.
    Who do you think requested the divorce?

    Him, after learning that his wife worked as a prostitute?

    Her, after learning her husband of 14 years was frequenting brothels?

    I think these two should stick together. Look at everything they have in common. He likes prostitutes, she is one. Seems like a match made in heaven to me.

    January 08, 2008

    Happy Birthday Elvis

    Nixon and Elvis

    Hope you are having a good time celebrating.

    January 07, 2008

    Review: Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality

    cover to Doctor 13Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality, by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang, was originally published in serial format as a back-up story part in DC Comics’ eight-issue Tales of the Unexpected miniseries. It stars Doctor 13, a character who hasn’t been seen much since the old Phantom Stranger comics of the 1970’s, who is devote skeptic and paranormal investigator. By way of some extraordinary means (i.e. plot devices), Doctor 13 is thrown together with a collection of the DC Comics’ most obscure characters in order to thwart the destruction of their universe.

    Doctor 13 is joined by his daughter, Traci, Captain Fear, leader of a ghost flying pirate ship, Genius Jones, a kid who has read every book in existence, Anthro, a cave-boy who speaks modern French, I…Vampire, a very ‘80s vampire, Infectious Lass, a minor member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the ghost of General J.E.B. Stuart from the “Haunted Tank” stories of the ‘60s, and the leader of the Primate Patrol, a talking Nazi gorilla. As motley a crew as I’ve ever encountered in comics.

    One its surface, Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality, is a fun adventure comic making the most of its eccentric cast of characters. The story moves as quickly as the one-liners and goofy situations. There is no drippy melodrama and hang-wringing angst. Azzarello and Chiang are having too much fun reveling in the fun you can have with a character who’s only superpower is to make other people sick (Infectious Lass) or an over-sexed pirate ghost. For these creators, the story is at first a celebration of the bizarre and goofy in comic books.

    However, as the involvement of the mysterious antagonists to the tale, the Architects, is revealed, the story develops a second – and decidedly more meta-fictional – level.

    The Architects appear and state that they need to re-build the fictional universe Doctor 13 and his crew inhabit so that their universe can remain relevant and interesting, and only contain those characters deemed worthy or necessary for achieving this newly architected relevancy.

    This motive is a clear analogy for the superhero comic book publishers’ practice of re-inventing their comic book universe every decade or so. They eliminate characters that the editorial team believes are no longer needed and re-start keystone characters (i.e. Superman, Batman, etc) to keep them “fresh” and in line with the newly imagined Universe.

    panel scan from Doctor 13 featuring Dr. 13, Traci, and Infectious LassWith the arrival of the Architects (reported to represent comic writers Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid), Doctor 13 and his bunch become the conduit for Azzarello and Chiang to provide their editorial on these universe re-writing events and editorial-driven character deaths. Team Doctor 13’s (if you will) fight against the Architects is a plea to leave these oddball characters alone. Just because a character might not fit in the newly constructed universe (and how a character like Infectious Lass is beyond me) doesn’t mean they have to be killed off. Just leave them alone, and when their time for a story comes along they will be ready.

    Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality was one of my favorite comic book reads of 2007, mostly because I could appreciate and enjoy the story on both levels. Azzarello handles the team cleverly and writes some laugh-out-loud scenes. Chiang’s artwork is clean and expressive. It was fun from start to finish.

    However, I have to wonder if a non-comic book aficionado would enjoy the book as much as I. The third act is fairly over-whelmed with the struggle against the Architects, their re-working of reality, and the analogies to how the comic book industry is run. But I could be wrong. Someone not familiar with DC’s and Marvel’s love of the reality re-writing event stories just might not take the metaphor of the Architects as deep as DC/Marvel reader would. They would understand the struggle for existence against the threat of non-existence, even in a fictional aspect.

    In the end, highly recommended.

    Reign of the Superman in 30 Seconds

    Chris's Invincible Super-Blog held the second annual 30 Second Recap contest, and announced the winner yesterday night.

    The 30 Second Recap contest asks anyone willing to give it a shot to create a comic strip recap of a famous comic book storyline that can be read in 30-seconds or less.

    This year's winner is Tom Foss of the Fortress of Soliloquy who did a totally awesome re-telling of the Reign of the Supermen story (the epic which followed the Death of Superman storyline in the comics).

    reign of the superman in 30 seconds
    You may have to be a comic book geek to appreciate the humor, so trust me when I tell you that Foss did an excellent job.

    January 06, 2008

    Pulp Sunday

    I'm a big fan of old pulp stories like The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Spider. So, naturally I quickly became a fan of Francesco Francavilla's blog, Pulp Sunday.

    Francesco, a comic book artist and illustrator, has a main website full of his fantastic art, but so far I've only really explored his Pulp Sunday blog. Each Sunday he posts a link to an old radio show starring a classic pulp hero (mostly The Shadow lately), and then supplies some of his own artwork to illustrate the story.

    logo for Pulp Sunday blogI think his art is great. It really does a fine job of capturing the mood and style of the old pulp tales. And I like have an old pulp hero radio program picked out and recommended for listening. I plan on making a visit to Pulp Sunday part of my routine every Sunday night.

    January 04, 2008

    Indiana Jones in Vanity Fair

    Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) graces the cover of Vanity Fair this month. Inside there is a lengthy feature written by Jim Windolf that discusses the film tangentially, but spends most of its time on George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford. How they make their movies, how they work, and how they eventually came to film a fourth Indiana Jones movie.

    There are also some nice on set photos by Annie Leibovitz.

    vanity fair coverThe article doesn't go into many details on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though there is a quasi-spoiler on page four of the online version of the article. One aspect of the new film that I learned about and thought was interesting was the lengths Lucas and Spielberg were going to re-capture the look, tone, and pace of the original movies.

    Spielberg had his cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, sit and watch the original three films to gain a sense of the lighting, composition, and framing of the film. Lucas and Spielberg said that they don't want to modernize Indy. They realize that Indy cannot be Jason Bourne, so don't shoot and edit the film that way. Kamisnski's and Spielberg's challenge is to channel the work of now retired Douglas Slocombe, who filmed the first three Indy films for Spielberg, but still bring their current talents to the picture.

    Could this retro approach to filming hurt the movie for tapping into an audience raised on the Bourne, Matrix, and re-launched Batman films? Maybe. The attempt to recapture the past look of Indy for the new Indy also runs the risk of making Indy 4 nothing more that a quaint nostalgic trip for people closer to my age who grew up reveling in the big screen adventures of Dr. Jones; further locking the film out of appealing to a wider audience.

    However I have faith in Lucas' and Spielberg's combined movie-making talents. These two artists know how to make films that audiences love to go watch - and watch over and over again. While Indy 4 may have the same tone of the first three films, I'm confident that Harrison Ford and Co. will come through with a big screen adventure worthy of the Indiana Jones name.

    Then again, that might just be the nostalgia talking already.

    January 03, 2008

    Kung-Fu Election

    Looking to kill time while waiting at home for the Iowa Caucus results to be tabulated?

    Play a littl Kung-Fu Election.

    Pick you candidate and then fight the other candidates - TO THE DEATH!

    Best of Bootie 2007

    Let me make a confession. I think mash-ups – whether songs, video, or a combination of both – are a ton of fun. When handled with the right amounts of style, craft, and flair, these creative combinations result in completely new works of art.

    Last January I discovered the Best of Bootie collection. Each year producers Adrian & the Mysterious D select what they believe to be the best musical mash-ups created over the past 12 months. The mix them all together and post them online for free downloading by the masses.

    The 2006 collection had some wild mixes that I love to listen to. Sexy Peek-A-Boo (Justin Timberlake vs. Siouxsie & the Banshees), Crazy Logic (Gnarls Barkley vs. Supertramp vs. Rockwell), Don't Hold Back, Sweet Jane (Chemical Brothers vs. Velvet Underground vs. U2 vs. Sugababes vs. MARRS), Sweet Sovereign (Lady Sovereign vs. Eurythmics vs. Shiny Grey), and my favorite - Tricky Sandman (Run-DMC vs. Metallica).

    Best of Bootie 2007 CD CoverThe Best of Bootie 2007 collection was made available yesterday and I’ve already downloaded it to give a spin. This year’s selections feature some match-ups I never would have imagined: Galvanize The Empire (Chemical Brothers vs. John Williams’ score from Star Wars) and Passenger Fever (Peggy Lee vs. Iggy Pop). Both are fantastic.

    After just one run through the Best of Bootie 2007, the songs that stand out for me are: Tender Umbrella (Rihanna vs. General Public), More Than On Point (House of Pain vs. Boston), Love Comes Running Up That Hill Gently (Placebo vs. Pet Shop Boys vs. Kate Bush), Walkin' Out Yo Girlfriend (Unk vs. Avril Lavigne vs. Toni Basil), Detox (Amy Winehouse vs. Britney Spears), and the biggest rock sub-genre bending mash - Illiterate City (Jackson 5 vs. Guns N' Roses)

    Biggest disappointment: Sympathy For Teen Spirit (Rolling Stones vs. Queen vs. Nirvana). Simply put, even if you are mixing in Queen and Nirvana, you don’t try messing with the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil, one of the finest rock songs of all time.

    January 02, 2008

    Another Dark Knight Trailer

    Another The Dark Knight trailer already?

    I'm afraid so - and it makes the movie look even cooler than the last one.


    Although, this one is pretty cool too.

    It's a Start

    I'm not much for New Year's Resolutions, but if I were, I might draw some inspiration from this list:

    60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For

    Teen Titan: Year One Cover

    This is the cover to the upcoming third issue of Teen Titans: Year One.

    This, plus the preview of the first issue I saw and some interviews with the creators I read mean I adds up to me anxiously waiting for DC to collect this mini-series into a trade.
    cover to teen titans: year one number 3

    January 01, 2008

    Happy 2008

    Happy New YearHeather and I didn't stay up late to ring in the new year. We had driven home from Ohio that day, so that evening we were pretty wiped out. Just hung out on the couch and watched some of the silly television coverage of New Year's Eve. My favorite: Telemundo