April 30, 2008

Typical Dinner Conversation

We were having smoked sausage as part of our dinner this evening when Ian found a red spot in his sausage.

“I think I found where they shot the pig,” he proclaimed with the slightest hint of disgust in his voice.

“Not really,” I corrected. “First, to make sausage they grind up the meat and pack it into a sausage casing. All that grinding up would hide how they might have killed the pig. Second, they don’t shoot pigs to make sausage or bacon.”

Apparently unsatisified with my answer, Ian pressed on.

Another Ian Self-Portrait“Oh, so they stab ‘em?”

“No, they don’t stab them and they don’t shot them. They kill the pigs another way.”

Ian continued to search for an answer. “How do they kill them?”

“You know, this really isn’t dinner conversation,” I said to cut Ian off while scenes from The Jungle ran through my head.

But now Zoe joined the conversation.

“Will you tell us after dinner?”

I caved. "Sure, I tell you after dinner." There’s something to look forward to, I thought, explaining how pigs are slaughtered in mass.

I figured the topic was closed for the time being, but then Ian provided this little nugget.

“Well, I bet they don’t kill the pigs with food poisoning.”

I almost choked on my bite of sausage. The image of killing a pen of pigs with poisoned food was too funny. Food poisoning is certainly a unique idea, but not too healthy of an option if you plan to eat the animal.

But I had to hand it to Ian for continuing to look for an answer when his first two ideas where shot down. Between gasps of air as I tried to catch my breath from laughter, I assured Ian that livestock was not killed with food posioning.

And, thankfully, was the end of our discussion on the slaughter techniques used on pigs.

The Genius of Paul Coker, Jr.

The Illustration Art blog has a post that makes an excellent argument for why Paul Coker, Jr. is one of the great illustrators of the 20th (and 21st) century.
Besides countless magazines and greeting cards, you might recognize Paul Coker's style from the Rankin-Bass Christmas TV specials. He worked on designing the characters from almost all of those fantastic holiday shows.

April 29, 2008

The Brain and the Nature of Memory

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review this morning where noted neuroscientist John J. Medina was interviewed. The preview that drew me into the story touted it as an article on how to unlock ways to think smarter and be more productive. I found little useful information related to that topic. But while I didn’t necessarily find clues to thinking smarter, what I did learn was no less fascinating.

Instead, Medina spends most of the time talking about how the brain works and responds to external influences. Medina prefaces nearly all of his answers in the interview with the disclaimer that the scientific community still knows very little about how the brain works. The brain is an almost unfathomably complex organ. However, the knowledge base surrounding the study of the brain is always growing, and there are things we know today that can help shape how we use and treat our brain.

Take the impact of stress on the brain as an example. He explains that the human brain was designed to handle stress in short bursts – like the ancestral man faced with the threat of a mountain lion. Either he is going to be devoured or he is going to escape to live another day. Either way the threat spans a short timeframe - mere minutes. These 60-second stress events can happen a number of times in one day and the human brain (and body) is no worse for wear. The problem develops when stress becomes your common companion.

As Medina states:
Nowadays, our stresses are measured not in moments with mountain lions, but in hours, days, and sometimes months, as we deal with hectic workplaces, screaming toddlers, bad marriages, money problems. Our bodies aren’t built for that. If you have the tiger at your doorstep for years, then all kinds of internal mechanisms break down, from sleep rhythms to specific parts of the immune system.
The negative impact of constant stress on the human body seems like common sense, but I’d never seen this warning presented in such a manner. Certainly not in relationship to how stress plays on the brain’s functions. The idea resonated more deeply with me when framed around the different stress events of historical man and modern man. Not only have we created a modern society that is destructive to our planet, but also we’ve shaped an existence that breaks out bodies down. It would seem all around we are asking our world and our bodies to do things nature never intended.

But that wasn’t the only interesting point I found in the article. Later Medina talks about the nature of memory and the brain.
Brain research is pretty clear on this point. Bona fide recorded memory is a very rare thing on this planet. The reason is that the brain isn’t interested in reality; it’s interested in survival. So it will change the perception of reality to stay in the survival mode. Unfortunately, many people still believe that the brain is a lot like a recording device—that learning something is like pushing the “record” button and remembering is simply pushing “playback.” In the real world of the brain, however, that metaphor is an anachronism. The fact is that the actual moment of learning—the moment of fixing a memory—is so complex that we have little understanding of what happens in our brains in those first fleeting seconds.
“The brain isn’t interested in reality.” It’s why two people can witness or experience the same event and when asked to recall and explain what happened they both provide different stories and both believe their own version of events to be true. The brain isn’t necessarily interested in storing the facts of an event; it is concerned with storing the truth of the moment as perceived by the brain.

Truth and fact are not always the same. It bothers me how these terms are so often used interchangeably. A fact is undeniable. Trees are plants. This desk is brown. A minute is a unit of time equal to 1/60th of an hour. A truth, however, is an interpretation of fact. It is how our brain stores and recalls the facts that it absorbs. Medina notes a person’s emotional or physical state plays heavy into how a memory is stored, and that the best way to accurately and completely retrieve that memory is to recreate the environment of the original memory-creating event.

For example, not only will being sad influence how your brain stores the memory of your reality at that moment; but by recreating a similar sad feeling later you present the best case scenario for full recall of that memory - flawed or biased as it may be.

That’s not only fascinating biology, but it is interesting philosophy as well. If you assume that the brain is incapable of honest factual memory storage and that the “reality” retained in the brain is a distortion/interpretation of events filtered through the physical/emotional/temporal external influences on the brain, then it is amazing that people are able to connect and communicate at all. Humans are already hampered by the limitations of language in the transference of ideas from one to another, but if you add in the individual’s unique memory experience it raises the barriers to communication.

If we assume that an individual’s understanding of their world – their version of “reality” – is based on the total collective of stored experiences and events in their brain and that those stored experiences and events are not undeniable experiences and events but have been tampered and adjusted by the individual’s physical/emotional state before being committed to memory, then there can not be a true transference of ideas between individuals because each will be approaching the other from within their own reality. Where is the common ground? There can be no real shared experiences. How can an individual know that those around him comprehend his ideas in the same way he comprehends them? That they are experiencing the same things he is experiencing?

I could ramble on and on, but I won't. I know men far smarter than I have contemplated these questions and attempted to answer them in much more compelling ways that I have stumbled through here. Hell, I’m pretty sure I have some of their books in my basement right now from back in my college days. Regardless, it sure is fun to consider these questions – and it is something I haven’t done in a long, long time. I’m glad I stumbled upon this article.

That’s One Angry Chess Player

Ian has often expressed an interest in chess. We’ve tried to teach him at home a bit and we’ve suggested the chess club at school (he resisted), but as of yet he is a very amateur player. However, if he ever did seriously study the game, I can see him reacting not unlike this fine lad.

angry chess player[via]

April 26, 2008

Halo and Sprocket, Vol.2

halo and sprocket coverA number of years ago I discovered Halo and Sprocket, a very funny comic created by Kerry Callen. After four memorable issues, it was collected into a trade paperback and then . . . nothing. No more Halo and Sprocket.

I was disapointed that the series seemed to end, but then figured Callen had told the stories he wanted to tell with Halo, Sprocket and Katie - the angel, robot, and young women who share an apartment together and through which Callen explores philosophy, logic, faith, and the oddities of everyday life.

So I was very suprised to learn that a second volume of Halo and Sprocket, called Natural Creatures is slated to hit stores this July. Kerry supplies a short preview on his newly created blog. From what I read, Kerry still delivers a funny story.

I can't wait to pick up Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures

April 25, 2008

Where Ian and I Both Learn Something

Yesterday, for the first time, Ian came with me to work as part of the national “Bring Your Daughter or Son to Work Day.” He has visited me at work in the past, but that was usually because his mom or his grandma had brought him downtown for lunch. Just an hour or two and then back to the suburbs. BYDSTW day was him spending the whole day where I work.

On Our Way to WorkEven though the company I work for now puts together an extensive, well planned, yet fun day for the kids that does an excellent job of demonstrating what a work day can be like (unlike my days at Classified Ventures/Apartments.com, where they would repeatedly announce that the company was not participating in the program and would not allow any parents to bring their children to work for the day. Of all the companies I have worked for, I always found CV/Apartments.com to be the least family friendly of my corporate overlords), I was still a little worried about bringing Ian to work with me.

I knew he would have fun doing the activities planned and learning about what sort of work gets done in other departments. What worried me was when I would have him to myself late in the afternoon. That’s when I would have to reveal to him that my job is anything but glamorous. I manage people and the work that they do, I mitigate, I plan, I document – how can that possibly be made interesting for an 8-year-old? Hell, most days I’m not too excited about it myself.

Yet there he was Thursday afternoon, after a morning of learning all the steps involved in purchasing a multi-million dollar rental community thanks to the Tax and Treasury department, grilling some adult employees about the career choices, and spending some time in our health club (all of which he was excitedly talking my ear off about), telling me he thought my job was cool after I showed him some of the things that I do and explained what my responsibilities were.

Another Ian Self-PortraitAnd it wasn’t a brush-off sort of “cool” that he threw out there so that we could move on to another topic, like firing up MLB.com to see if the Cubs were beating the Rockies (which we did eventually). He told me a few more times that evening, even after I tucked him in for bed, that not only had he had a great time coming with me to work that day, but he really though what I did seemed like a neat job.

It’s not that I am worried about impressing my 8-year-old son with the work that I do, but in a small way it was relief to hear my son validate –so to speak – that I didn’t have a completely lame job. No parent wants their child to be embarrassed or ashamed because of their mom’s or dad’s profession – and by no means did I expect Ian to be either of those after he visited me yesterday and received a better insight into my job. But somewhere deep in the darkest corners of my mind, I still harbor those little kernels of doubt and dread. So his small measure of positive response showed me that at least for now I’m not letting him down.

New The Dark Knight Poster

The Dark Knight viral marketing game marches on, and though I am trying to participate in this second phase, I just can’t find the time. For the most part I’m still playing a spectator.

None the less, developments in the game point to the imminent release of something in 3 days (speculation is a new movie trailer).

its all part of the plan
But in the meantime the game has revealed a new movie poster that I think is quite awesome.

New Dark Knight movie poster

Guillermo del Toro Will Direct The Hobbit

the hobbit cover artworkI’ve been reading the rumors for months that Hellboy (1 and 2) and Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro would helm film adaptation of The Hobbit. So this really doesn’t surprise me. It’s nice to see a good rumor actually pan out.

What is interesting about the timing of this news was that earlier this week Ian was asking me if the same people who made the Lord of The Rings movies would make a film version of The Hobbit. See, Ian read Tolkien’s first Middle Earth fantasy novel this past winter. He checked an unabridged version out of his school library on his own – no prodding or suggesting from me – and enjoyed the book a lot.

I haven’t let him watch Peter Jackson’s master The Lord of the Rings films yet. One, I think he’s a little too young for some of the action. Two, I’d rather him read the book first. But I know he is interested in seeing those movies. He knows the films are suppose to be really good, so I think he figures a movie made based on The Hobbit – which he’s read and didn’t encounter anything too frightening in – would be right up his alley. And he might be right.

The Variety story speculates that the two Hobbit films might debut in 2011 and 2012. Peter Jackson is going to executive produce the movies, and is expected to contribute to the screenplay – just as he did on the LOTR films, with del Toro directing both films back-to-back in New Zealand. No word on whether or not any of the characters that appeared in both The Hobbit and the LOTR books will be portrayed in The Hobbit as the same actors from the LOTR movies (i.e. Ian McKellen as Gandalf), but I’m sure that news will be coming along shortly.

I think the cobination of Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro should make for some great films that will fit in nicely with the original LOTR movies.

April 23, 2008

Cubs Win #10,000

Cubs logoThe pitching didn't help them tonight - Rich Hill looked less than stellar and Kerry Wood gave up a 2-out single followed by a 2-out triple to lose the save the opportunity - but the Cubs offesnse continued to roll as the beat the Colorado Rockies in 10 innings, 7-6, to win the franchise's 10,000th game.

The Cubs are only the second MLB team to reach such a milestone (The New York/San Francisco Giants are the other). Of course 10,000 victories don't mean a whole lot when you haven't won a World Series in 100 years.

Let's hope the winning ways continue through the spring and summer and late into the fall. I'd love to see the same year that the Cubs hit the 10,000 win milestone be the same year they win a penant and a World Series ring.

My Cuss-O-Meter Score

I find this suprising.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

April 22, 2008

Arthur Hornblow, Jr.

After reading the short profile that TCM put together for Arthur Hornblow, Jr., I find him to be a fasinating fellow - at least as far as his skill for producing great films and fostering exceptional talent during the golden age of movies is concerned.

arthur hornblow, jr.I'm going to make my best effort to catch at least parts of the films TCM will be airing tonight to honor this legend in film making.

April 21, 2008

Crappy Ad Campaign Annoys Me

The current "run of site" advertising for Chicago's Union Station is for Cottonelle.

There have been some creative station-wide ad campaigns where one company plasters its message on every available non-moving space inside of the downtown train station, but Cottonelle's offering certainly isn't one of them. It took me a week to realize that what they had covered the support poles with was supposed to make it look like stacked rolls of toliet paper. I thought they had forgotten to install the ads and we were finally seeing the original poles again.

Local blog Chicagoist provides a snap shot of the most innane of the indoor billboards that the toliet paper giant assults the commuters with each day.

cottonelle ad
Some of the other gems are "We shine where the sun don't" and some other little chestnut about men sitting on their thrones.

It's all just so dumb.

April 20, 2008

The Kika Lounge

I don't know what it is exactly, but I've decided to make my kids watch it every day.

It will be my own little psychology experiment.


April 19, 2008

The Big Hurt Is Crying Again

And this is why the White Sox turned this guy loose a few years back after 16 seasons. He can be a cry-baby.
TORONTO - Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas was livid Saturday after getting benched in favor of Matt Stairs and being told by manager John Gibbons he can expect further cuts to his playing time.
Thomas thinks management is trying to wiggle out of a $10 million option for 2009 that will come his way if the Big Hurt makes 350 plate appearance in 2008. But the guy is hitting .167 this season and the Blue Jay's skipper says he's looking to spark a lethargic offense..

Dude. You're stinking things up. It's not about your contract, you're just horrible right now. Shut up and take it like a man. Though you never seemed to do that when you were in Chicago, don't know why it would start now.

04/20 Update: The Blue Jays cut Thomas today. That's rich.

April 18, 2008

How Well Do You Know Your McKillips?

It was my turn to clean the bathroom, but before I did I had to snap this photo.

Can you guess which side is mine and which is Heather's?

the bathroom sink
Even without the girly stuff to give it a way, the difference between the two sides our our shared bathroom sink is reflective of our personal styles.

Me, the anal retentive everything in it's place sort of guy. Her, the relaxed let things be as the are sort of gal.

I guess opposites do attract.

April 17, 2008

Batman Gotham Knight Trailer

So much coolness.

April 16, 2008

Jason Bourne and Car Chases

After watching and enjoying the Bourne Identity back in January, Heather worked on borrowing the final two movies in the Bourne movie trilogy this spring from our library. Her efforts (and mad intra-Library reserve skills) were fruitful. We were able to watch the Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum within a few weeks of each other.

the bourne supremacyLooking back on all three films, I prefer Paul Greengrass’ work on the second two films over Doug Liman’s direction of the introductory Bourne Identity. Liman made a smart, exciting action film, but Greengrass’ engrossing hand-held camera work brought a sense of intimacy and immediacy to the story of Supremacy and Ultimatum that really make these the standout films in the series. (Not to mention Greengrass’ inventive interweaving of the stories from Supremacy and Ultimatum) Bourne Identity was a great movie to watch, but Greengrass’ Bourne films were movies that I wanted to watch over and over.

(A quick tangent: even as much as I enjoyed Supremacy and Ultimatum, they still can’t convince me Bourne is better than Bond. Bourne is great, but Bond still holds the edge with his overall coolness factor)

One thing sticks with me after watching the Bourne films; the car chase at the end of Supremacy.

I’ve watched my fair share of chase scenes over the years. Seen plenty of fantastically shot sequences with completely mind blowing stunts and plenty of “how the hell did they do that!” moments, but I can’t imagine any chase scene topping what was achieved on the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy.

the bourne ultimatumGranted, I’ve never seen Bullitt, which is suppose to have the granddaddy of all car chase scenes, so maybe my praise isn’t fully informed. What I do know is that Jason Bourne in a stolen taxi cab against the Moscow police and paid killer provided me with more suspense, intensity and action than I’ve ever encountered in a chase on screen, plus the chase actually served a purpose in the story.

Bourne darting in and out of city buses and leaving a wake of twisted metal wasn’t put in the film just because they could; it provides insight into his character and a metaphor for his overall journey through the film. Sure, putting the camera inside the car and seeing Bourne bounce around as vehicles smash was an exciting new movie watching experience for me, but action without purpose can have a short shelf life and fail to keep my attention.

Through-out the entire film Bourne is on the run, chased by authorities who misunderstand his motive, while at the same time pursued by a killer trying to wipe out Bourne because of his past. At the same time, Bourne is struggling to leave the life of murder that he led before, but that those pursuing him make it difficult to do. At the end of chase we see Bourne walking up the ramp out of the underground tunnel where the final scenes took place. He is walking into the light, away from the darkness and the smashed vehicle holding his final pursuer clinging to the final gasps of life. I remember that imagine impressing on me the significance of the scene; Bourne turning his back on the underground, covert activities and killing of his former life, and conscience decision to live a new life in the light.

scene from bourne supremacyIn fact, the events at the end of the Moscow chase are even more poignant when compared to the similarly ending New York City chase scene in The Bourne Ultimatum. The Moscow chase concludes with a dead assassin, and that is directly because of Bourne’s actions. At the end of the New York City chase the CIA assassin is not dead, but in a condition where Bourne could easily finish the job but doesn’t. His evolution as a character is apparent. He is building off the experiences of his past and holding to the decisions that he makes about what sort of person he wants to be.

Even after the shock value of the car crashes and stunts subside, the overall impact of that scene to define Bourne will remain as an important part of his story. That’s what makes this car chase and nearly all of the other action in the Bourne movies so fantastic. They contribute to either define the character or tell the story. No over-the-top stunt or spectacular fight sequence is done in the films just because the film makers could. That’s intelligent action movie making, and I’m glad director Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass have lent their talents to this film genre.

April 15, 2008

No Shit, Sherlock

It's what I've been saying for a few years now.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Baby boomers say they are worried about achieving a comfortable retirement, but a new study suggests Generation X is even more pessimistic.

More than two-thirds of Americans aged 27 to 42 don't think they will ever be able to stop working, according to a survey published jointly on Monday by Scottrade and BetterInvesting.

In contrast, 64 percent of respondents aged 55 to 64 said they could retire and not worry, even though this group is much closer to retirement age.
The researchers stated that so-called Gen Xer's are entering a 'retirement perfect storm' where we have certain expectations, we're not able to save like we know we need to, and the future of Social Security is bleak (and that's the optimistic viewpoint).

The best quote - and most fitting statement on how my generation views the prospect of Social Security - comes at the end of the article.
. . . Scottrade and BetterInvesting found that Generation X doesn't appear to be counting on the money.

"It's a black hole to them," said Moloney.

April 14, 2008

Heather, We Need Some of These

bowl and spoon
Uncommon Goods sells them.

TOON Books

I think this is a fantastic idea.

otto's orange dayArt Spiegelman's wife, Francoise Mouly - an accomplished artist in her own right and art editor for the New Yorker magazine- has started a new imprint called TOON Books that aims to published comics uniquely tailored to young readers.
TOON Books are the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up. Each book in the collection is just right for reading to the youngest child but perhaps more remarkable: this is the first collection ever designed to offer newly-emerging readers comics they can read themselves. Each TOON book has been vetted by educators to ensure that the language and the narratives will nurture young minds. Our books feature original stories and characters created by veteran children’s book authors, renowned cartoonists and new talents, all applying their extraordinary skills to fascinate young children with clearly told tales that will welcome them to the magic of reading.
Studies over the last few years have shown that not only can comic books help increase literacy rates, comics are a superb gateway drug for getting kids interested in reading in general.

benny and pennyAll the computers and cutting edge teaching techniques are great, but if child (and by extension, an adult) doesn't enjoy or at least appreciate the benefits of reading, their educational advancement is doomed to stall. It's why Heather and I have always read all sorts of books with our kids daily, and it's why I am always quick to share comics with Ian, Emma, and Zoe. I applaud TOON books' efforts and hope they are able to get copies of their books into the hands of children and their parents.

April 13, 2008

Flight of the Conchords

I caught the end of a Flight of the Conchords special on TV a couple of months ago and thought they were hysterical.

I was watching a few of spots they had on YouTube and wanted to share

April 12, 2008

Steampunck Star Wars - Again

A little over a year ago I thought this was a cool Steampunk twist on the Star Wars characters.

But what Sillof has done is even better.

Sillof Star Wars Steampunk

April 11, 2008

Rediscovering Breyfogle

One of the benefits of not buying any new monthly comics is that it frees me up to spend time re-visiting my comic collection. I started buying/reading/collecting comics regularly in 1991, in the aftermath of Tim Burton's Batman movie blockbuster, the debut of the Flash television show, and reading a copy of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns that my brother inexplicably brought home on day. I stopped my regular visits to the comic shop this past January. That's seventeen years of continual comic book buying spanning dozens of different titles. Not an extraordinary feat by no means, but it does provide me with plenty to read through.

cover to batman 462I've started my trip back through my collection by going to the very earliest Batman comics that I own. I have some older comics from the 60's and 70's, and few from the 80's which I've read over the last few months, but I am just now getting to the issues of Detective Comics and Batman that I was buying December/January of my senior year of high school. This means I'm re-discovering how much I enjoyed the artwork of Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle on the Batman titles.

Yesterday I finished reading Batman #464, the final part of a three part story title "Spirit Of The Beast" by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. Grant and Breyfogle were a hugely popular creative team on Batman in the late 1908's to mid 1990s. They started out on ‘Tec, moved to Batman, and eventually launched a new Batman title, Shadow of the Bat, before going to separate projects.

"Spirit Of The Beast" showcases Grant's propensity for creating interesting characters, his use of mythology/philosophy/mysticism in his storylines, and a Batman character who is driven but still mentally balanced. What starts out as a routine investigation into a robbery/murder quickly takes Batman out of Gotham and into the desert outside of Las Vegas. On the trail of stolen American Indian shaman artifacts, he finds an ancient blind shaman named Black Wolf and the dog that helps him. Eventually Batman is wrapped up in an Indian conflict hundreds of years old and which threatens to kill dozens of innocent people in the present.

cover to batman 463The story moves quickly and efficiently, with just the right mix of action, detective work, character moments, and comedy relief. On paper the "Spirit Of The Beast" is simply a solid, Batman tale from start to finish. That I appreciate every time. What makes the story more than just a good story is Norm Breyfogle's dynamic pencils.

Breyfogle always brought buckets of energy to his work on Batman. There are no stilted staging of scenes or lackluster layouts. A Breyfogle page is a page in motion. Even when it's just a shot of Batman with arm raised commanding some ne'er-do-wells to give up, the page crackles with excitement. His Batman can be demonic looking at time, but in a stylized way that still retains his humanity. And Breyfogle's art certainly doesn't demonize the character. On the contrary, I think Breyfogle's depiction gets at the essence of why Bruce Wayne chose the Bat as inspiration for his costume – to strike fear into the cowardly lot of criminals he would fight against every night. When appropriate for the story, Breyfogle draws the Batman how the criminals probably see him – as threatening force of vengeance. A demonic deliverer of justice.

I had forgotten that reading a comic drawn by Norm Breyfogle means never being bored. Now that I'm back at the beginning of my comic collection, I'm a little more excited about moving forward through time with the books. There is plenty more Breyfogle to be found and I'm anxious to read those issues again.

Classic Cubbie T-Shirt

Son and Heir Apparel is a Chicago-based online retailer selling vintage-inspired sports clothing. Most of the offerings are for the Cubs, Sox, and Bears, but they have a few items for the Brewers and some of those teams out East. And on the homepage it looks like they've got plans to add even more teams.

My favorite is this one announcing the popular double-play combination for the Chicago Cubs back in the early 90's.

Every Single One of Their Husbands Is An Alcoholic

these fine ladies don't like the hooch

April 10, 2008


With so many great comics online, I’m wondering if I ever need to go back to a comic book store or open a newspaper Comic section again.

My most recent find is Kiskaloo, by Chris Sanders.

Chris Sanders is an illustrator/animator who worked at Disney for many years, culminating in his work as writer/director/animator/all around idea guy for the Lilo & Stitch film. Taking a look at his site and his influence on that film is obvious.

Kiskaloo is a (relatively) weekly comic about Sesi and her pet cat (who has no name as of yet). It is wonderfully drawn, quirky strip in the same vein of Calvin & Hobbes.

KiskalooYou should really check it out.

I Can Be Indiana Jones

cover art for the Indiana Jones HandbookA week or so ago posted the cover to the upcoming book, The Indiana Jones Handbook: The Complete Adventurer's Guide. Based on the title and cover art alone I thought that the book would be fun to own. Heather and the kids got me The Pirate Code Guidelines for my birthday last year and I have had a lot of fun reading that Pirates of the Caribbean inspired faux How-To manual. Figure I liked Indiana Jones even more than Jack Sparrow, so how could I go wrong with this new book.

Today I found some previews of the book’s interiors and now think that this Indy handbook might just be all sorts of fantastic.
how to get untiedhow to throw a punch

Plus, the book will even tell you how to handle your voodoo doll.
Resist the urge to destroy your own voodoo doll. Simply pack it carefully in a sack with sand to cushion it for the journey home, and get it back to the lab for analysis. Pack needles separately.

April 09, 2008

Keeping Me On My Toes

While I was doing the dishes this evening, Zoe kept coming into the kitchen to share secrets with me and give me all sorts of directions.

My favorite line:
"In 4 minutes it will be 8 minutes until it's time for you to be done.

Unless you finish sooner."
That's Zoe. Always challenging you. Even in her directions she like to work in some mental gymnastics.

Thankfully, I did finish in under 12 minutes. Heaven knows what would have happened if I had gone over my allotted time.

April 08, 2008

Aw, Frankie

I know these are just production stills and a whole lot will happen post-production to visually bring things together, but I don't know if I like what I'm seeing.

This doesn't look like The Spirit movie Will Eisner would have made.

production still from The SpiritJust because it worked for Sin City, doesn't mean it will work for The Spirit.

Where I Complain About Social Security . . . Again

I haven’t had an opportunity to rant about this in a long time.

While reading up on President Bush’s efforts to stymie House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for another economic stimulus package (and I can’t believe I’m saying it – but I sorta back W on that one) on the New York Times website, I found this graphic depicting the solvency of Medicare and Social Security.

medicare and social security solvency chart
Doesn’t that just warm your heart?

Medicare will be bankrupt in 11 years, S.S. in roughly 32 years.

If I’m reading the chart correctly, it looks like both government programs have had money problems in the past but managed to shore up the funds somehow. Which is good and all, but how many times can these programs be propped back up before they just fall apart?

I’d so much prefer to fund my own retirement.

I Know My Robots

Name That Robot
Created by OnePlusYou

There are a few I guessed on, but most of the robots did look familiar.

April 07, 2008

Next Stop: NYC Fashion Week

Emma's toliet paper dressA while back Heather and I nicknamed Emma “Miss. Arts & Crafts”. If it involved coloring, cutting, gluing, sewing, painting, or in any way taking bit of other things and making something new – Emma was interested in it.

Emma took the definition of the title Miss. Arts & Crafts to a whole new level this weekend when we discovered she had crafted – using only toilet paper and scotch tape – a new dress for one of her dolls.

And the dress not only fit well, but had some interesting detailing.

The pictures don’t really do it justice. You have to see it to understand and appreciate the time and energy Emma spent piecing this garment together on the floor of her bedroom Saturday morning.

If I was a less pragmatic man, I would already be whisking her off to the nearest art academy to begin her studies in earnest. As it is, I will wait to see how things develop over the next year or two before enrolling her in the American Academy of Art.

Tarzan Wants to be Spider-Man?

The Ogilvy & Mather ad agency created a campaign in Chile for Duende Azul Costumes. The ads feature one well-known hero (i.e. Tarzan), wearing the costume of another well known hero (i.e. Spider-Man) with the slogan, “Become the One You’ve Always Dreamed Of”.

tarzan as spidermanThe Ads of the World website has three of the images from the campaign: Spider-Man as Superman, Tarzan as Spider-Man, and the oddest of the bunch, Mr. Fantastic as Batman.

While I think the concept is interesting and could be a lot of fun, I think the execution is a little off. It took me a while (and some reading through the comments) to understand that high concept that Ogilvy & Mather was aiming for – one hero dreams about being another hero, so he rents a costume from Duende Azul.

Where this ad campaign falls flat is communicating that message. You have to do a considerable amount of mental gymnastics to connect the dots in these photos. Figure out that the reason Spider-Man is in the jungle with a monkey on his back is because it's not really Spider-Man. It's Tarzan dressed like Spider-Man. And if you can make that connection, then you have to make the deeper connection that Tarzan got his Spidey suit from Duende Azul.

That's a lot to figure out for someone like me who eats up superhero and pop-culture stuff, I don't want to think about how a regular advertising consuming Joe and Jane is going to fair.

Regardless, I think the artwork they commission for the campaign looks great.

No Chance Now

Every once and a while Ian talks about some day having a TV for his bedroom, and every time the topic comes up Heather is emphatic in her stance on that subject: there will be no TV’s in the kids’ bedroom.

Sure, it may sound slightly hypocritical in as much that Heather and I have a TV in our bedroom, but we are adults and know (hopefully) how to handle things better. Heather strongly believes that TVs, computers, or gaming systems in a kid’s bedroom is detrimental to developing the family dynamic. And I agree with her.

kids watching tvA group of people don’t learn how to function together as a family if they are always escaping back to their own rooms to watch whatever they want or burn hours away online. If there is only one (or maybe two) communal TV, then everyone is forced to work together to figure out what’s going to be watched when. Kids learn communication skills, negotiation skills (maybe some fighting skills), and in general learn about their brothers and sisters.

So if his parents' preconceived notion of the negative effects of a bedroom television wasn’t enough to put the kibosh on Ian’s personal TV dream, the recent findings by researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health will certain provide the nail in that coffin.

Their study found that teens who had a television set in their bedroom, on average, poorer diet and exercise habits and lower grades in school than those without one.

So as I see it, having a TV in your room not only shuts you off from your family, it also makes you dumber and fat.

Yep. That TV in your room idea just whimpered and died Ian. Sorry.

April 05, 2008

Star Wars Marathon

Even though I already own all the movies and can watch them whenever I want, there is something appealing about a Star Wars Marathon on TV. Even if the network is Spike.

The TV promo for the marathon, which started last night, is pretty cool. I like seeing all six movies worked in together like that.

April 04, 2008

Kitty Sandwich

Ha! Someone is gonna eat the kitty. That's great.

kitty sandwich
And there are more here.

April 03, 2008

Square of Sky

For 36 days in a row, Canadian designer Michael Surtees has been taking a photo of the same part of sky outside of his New York apartment.

He’s been uploading the individual images to Flickr. When he groups them all together in their own set they create this image – which I find very soothing.

pictures of the sky

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

I think it’s safe to say that you just can’t keep DC characters from having animated TV shows. No sooner does The Batman and Legion of Super Heroes close shop then Cartoon Network announces that Batman: The Brave and the Bold will be joining their Friday night lineup.

The new series, whose guest stars include Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and many others, will be “equal doses of comedy and high stakes” according to CN. Episodes will be thirty minutes long.

batman - the brave and the bold
I'm looking forward to it.

Who Doesn’t Have 13 Minutes to Spare?

The Journal of Sexual Medicine gave a whole bunch of husbands in America a little more ammo - as it were.
A survey of sex therapists concluded the optimal amount of time for sexual intercourse was 3 to 13 minutes. The findings, to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, strike at the notion that endurance is the key to a great sex life.
Read the rest of the story.

The Employee Song

I'll be humming it all day.

April 02, 2008

Own a Little Chicago History

This is crazy cool.

CAA platesI was reading through the Cubby-Blue blog, and his post today Tim Souers passes along an interesting story and information on how anyone can obtain some obscure (if tangential) Cubs memorabilia.

Apparently when William Wrigley purchased the Cubs back in the 1920’s, he was looking for a new logo to adorn his team with. At the time he belonged to the Chicago Athletic Association, one of Chicago’s oldest private social clubs. The CAA used a red "C" surrounded by a blue circle as its logo. Wrigley liked the look of the logo, so he decided to adopt it for his ballclub.

Fast forward almost ninety years. The CAA shuts its doors for the final time, and little store called POSH bought up the club’s remaining china and silver. What makes this notable is that the china is marked with the CAA logo – the same logo (more or less) that the Cubs use today.

POSH is selling everything they obtained from the CAA, so here’s a chance to own not only some Chicago history, but a little Chicago Cub history as well.

Today's Get Fuzzy

Get Fuzzy for 04.02.08

"Dilbert & Sullivan" made me laugh.

Photo Fun Time

First up, any idea what warning this sign is intended to convey?

ominous warning
I have some ideas, but I'm almost too afraid to mention them.

Second, we all know Ted Turner is a bit unbalanced. But does he have to wear something that freakish on his upper lip and remove all doubt on his mental state.

ted turner's goofy moustacheI mean really, who allows hair shaped like that to remain on their face voluntarily?

April 01, 2008

Jim Gordon Caught Me

As I mentioned the other day, I'm really having fun with this The Dark Knight marketing campaign / game even if I can't full participate.

clown travel agency partially completed scavenger huntThe big event today was finding out what the Clown Travel Agency site had in store for us. Turns out that this morning a clue could be found by clicking on the manila folder on the site, which then took you to a list of cities around the world. Slowly the throughout the day, an address and an additional clue would pop-up in each city. The first person to get to that location in each city could claim the prize - a bowling ball with a phone number etched into the side and a cell phone to call that number. For those guys, the game will become even more involved, I'm sure.

There was no time for me to try for the clues during the workday, but this evening I checked back into the Clown Travel Agency site to see how things turned out. Apparently after all prizes had been claimed in all cities, the site opened up to another clue. We were given a password and directed to the Acme Security Systems website, at a sub-directory called "delos".

the GCPD has captured meOnce there I entered my name, email, and cell phone number. Almost immediately my phone started ringing. Upon answering I was greeted with an automated message requesting the voice password. When I delivered it, the screen on my computer changed and Lt. Jim Gordon lets me know that I've been caught. I can either play along with the Gotham PD ('cause they've got all my info now), or I can face a pile of charges (which are flashing on my screen). In either case, he will be in touch with me later.

Fun stuff. My participation in the Joker scavenger hunts has been limited, but I feel like I am in the thick of things with the Harvey Dent campaign and now this GCPD turn to the game. With only a little over two months to go before the release of The Dark Knight, I imagine things will start moving pretty fast.

That’s “Hedy”!

Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Month for April is Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy LamarrFor as much as I love classic films and through all the time I’ve spent watching TCM, I still know very little about this famous actress. In fact, when I hear Ms. Lamarr’s name I think of Harvey Korman’s character from Blazing Saddles, Hedley Lamarr, not anything related to the golden age of movie making.

While reading through the Star of the Month profile, I thought I had never seen a film featuring Ms. Lamarr until I was reviewing the list of films TCM will be using to showcase the actress this month. I recalled that about a year ago I caught most of Boom Town starring Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Lamarr’s role is very small, so it’s probably why I didn’t immediately remember her role in the movie. Loved the film though.

I also learned that Ms. Lamarr wasn’t all about looking fantastic on the silver screen; she co-invented a form of frequency hoping that was too mechanically advanced to implement when she and composer George Antheil submitted the idea as a patent in 1941, but which was used in the 1960s by the U.S. Military. Fasinating.Harvey Korman as Hedley Lamarr

Anyway, I think I owe it to Ms. Lamarr and her film legacy to acquaint myself better with her filmography. Though I don’t think I will ever be able to purge from my head the Pavlovian response in the form of Korman’s voice whenever her name is mentioned.

This Looks Like Fun

Al Jaffee Fold-In Fun

The New York Times produced a tribute to Al Jaffee by taking some the fold-in artwork he created for Mad magazine and recreating them in Flash.

jaffee fold-inI think the results are spectacular.