February 28, 2009


Received the birth announcement last week for my newest nephew, Declan.

I took one look at the photo and thought, "That kid is all cheeks."

seriously, there's hardly space for the kid's mouth in there

Kids' Letters to President Obama

826 National collected a number of letters written by kids for (then) incoming President Obama and published them in Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama.

The letters continue to roll in, so McSweeny's is publishing some of them on their website.

A first set is up and they are a fun, and sometimes touching, read.

The letter that stuck with me was from 11 year-old Alex from Ann Arbor, MI. The kid shows thoughtfulness that surprised me. In particular, this passage:
Something unique about me is that I'm an honor-roll student with a grade average of 4.0. For fun, I like to climb high into my willow tree and then find a firm branch and sit on it. It is peaceful. Will you have a peaceful place to sit in the White House?
That's a pretty impressive insight and demonstration of self-awareness for a 11 year-old. Or at least it seemed like it for me.

February 26, 2009

Comic Book Movie News

I’m always a little wary of announcements that comic book properties are being adapted into films – especially when the comics in question are superhero books. It’s not much a stretch to take something like History of Violence or Road to Perdition and translate that compelling story to film that will be accepted and generally appreciated.

Make your story about a grown man dressing up like a bat and film makers can start flaying all about. Sometimes the result is an an enjoyable film, other times were left with a train wreck of cinema.

Luckily, the quality and sophistication of films based on superhero comics seems to be trending in the right direction. More solid storytelling and less train wreck. Hopefully that will continue.

Of all the new projects announced by Warner Brother (DC Comics) and Marvel, these are the ones that I are grabbing my initial interest

  • green lanternGREEN LANTERN (release: December 17, 2010) – Green Lantern has always been one of my favorite DC heroes. There will be a direct to DVD animated film starring GL later this year that I am anxious to see, but a live-action flick could be a lot of fun also. I really believe that depending on how Warner Brothers decides to handle Green Lantern in his feature film debut, GL could be Warner’s Iron Man – a character driven sci-fi adventure with a broad appeal.

  • IRON MAN 2 (release: May 7, 2010) – I thought the first film was fantastic action flick that didn’t sacrifice character. All the principles are coming back for the second film. I expect a film as good or better than the first one.

  • THOR (directed by Kenneth Branagh, July 16, 2010), THE FIRST AVENGER: CAPTAIN AMERICA (May 6, 2011), THE AVENGERS (July 15, 2011) – I’m not really interested in these characters/properties, I just think Marvel should be commended on their ambitious approach to bringing their characters to the big screen. They are financing/developing all these movies themselves. They did will with Iron Man and Incredible Hulk, will the trend continue?

  • suicide squad cover artSUICIDE SQUAD (no release set) – WB announced that they’re developing a script based on this DC Comics series that would bring together villains and fallen-heroes for Government-sanctioned missions so dangerous that it may kill them, but that’s it so far. Why I like the idea of this film being made is that it would probably compel DC Comics to start release collections of John Ostrander’s excellent run of the series. (They haven't done that to date) I really don’t care if the movie is any good if the end result is I can pick up some quality comics.

  • Samuel Jackson signed a 9-movie deal with Marvel Studios to play Colonel Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., in a series of Marvel movies that include Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers and its sequels.

    Damn. 9 movies.

    Again, you have to admire Marvel’s ambitious approach to adapting their stable of characters to the silver screen. They lock up Sam Jackson because they plan on creating all of these movies and wanting to build some continuity of character across properties. I really wish DC Comics/WB could pull together a comprehensive plan like that.
  • AT-AT Boom Box

    Uber-cool in so many ways.

    AT-AT Boom Box
    AT-AT Boom Box

    February 25, 2009

    Pirates in Chicago

    Pirate BootyThere’s always something interesting to see at Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, but for the next eight months there will be something especially interesting – booty.

    Pirate booty, that is.

    Between this Friday and late October, The Field Museum will be showcasing the National Geographic's exhibit "Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship". The exhibit is intended to shed light on how pirates operating along the Caribbean trade routes during the 18th century lived, and uses the salvaged remains from The Whydah, a pirate ship found buried under 30 feet of sand with almost all of its items intact, to help with that education.

    The clothing, weapons, tools, and yes – treasure, found on The Whydah make up the majority of the exhibit. There is even a life-sized, partial recreation of The Whydah that visitors can board and walk around on.

    Real Pirates at the Field MuseumTaking in "Real Pirates" at the Field Museum sounds like great fun to me, and I think some other people in my house would agree with that opinion. I don't think it would take much effort to organize an expedition downtown to visit the museum and these pirates. Sure, this exhibit might not have caught my attention as much if Johnny Depp hadn't recently swaggered through two enjoyable (and a tiring third) pirate movies, but now seeing those movies makes it even more fun to visit the museum and see this exhibit. Now I can learn how closely the Pirates of the Caribbean movies reflect real pirate life. I can figure out where they stretched the facts and where they are on point. A little geeky maybe – but can you really be considered geeky when you’re talking pirates?

    I don’t think so. I don't think there's anything geeky about pirates. So I see a trip to the Field Museum in our future.

    February 23, 2009

    5 Things I Think

    With apologizes to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, whose idea I am copying because it’s such a great way for me to put down a bunch of ideas that have been bouncing around in my head without having to expand them into full-formed posts, here are some things I think:

  • As I mentioned before, AMC is running the first two Godfather movies almost every night this month. I haven’t watched either of them all the way through again, but on alternating nights I am catching thirty to sixty minutes of one of the movies.

    Based on these haphazard, scatter-shot viewing, I think I might actually prefer The Godfather over The Godfather II.

    I know the second film might be technically superior and sports a more ambitious story, but there is directness in storytelling to the first film that really appeals to me. Plus, the more I watch the more I enjoy Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone.

  • I’m not entirely certain what to do with the information, but this Harper’s Index for Chicago has a lot of fun and interesting facts.

  • I think Roland Burris should step down immediately. I didn’t think he should have been seated as the US Senator from Illinois in the first place; and if the circumstances surround his initial appointment were suspect, the recent revelations of his activities should remove any doubt as to whether he is fit to serve.

    I want this embarrassment to be over.

  • cover to the Yiddish Policemen's Union book A few Christmases back my brother gave me Team of Rivals as a gift long before it became the fashionable book to read because of current President’s references to the book. Kevin knew of my interest in American history, especial pre-Reconstruction, and Abraham Lincoln.

    Not counting footnotes, appendixes, and annotations, the book checked in around 760 pages (with notes its 915), and took me about 6 months to read while on my train rides to work in the morning.

    I found the story fascinating and was very glad to have read it. But now that I’ve finished that hefty tome and moved on to Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, I find it immensely refreshing to be working through a solid piece of fiction. I had spent so much time wrapped up in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s recounting of history I think I forgot how much fun and absorbing a good novel starring a bunch of made up people can be.

  • I understand the Oscar ceremony producers wanted to mix things up for last night’s show to try and drive up viewership, but I think they dropped the ball on how the re-fitted the “In Memoriam” segment.

    The swooping camera shots the rolled in and out made it nearly impossible to read names at times.

    Maybe it worked for those people viewing the segment on their 56-inch HD televisions at home, but it sure looked for crap on our modest set at home.

    I thought the producers did a disservice to those being honored during this solemn moment of the awards show.
  • February 21, 2009

    That's a Mean Frisbee Thrower

    I don't know what movie this is from (at least I assume it's from a movie), but it might be just about one of the greatest2 minutes of cinema ever produced.

    [via ExtraLife]

    February 20, 2009

    At Least He's Crossing His Legs

    I don’t think Mr. Dithers is wearing any pants in today’s episode of Blondie.

    Blondie for 02.20.2009I guess the stress of not only having Dagwood as your employee but also having to socialize with him is starting to take its toll.

    February 19, 2009

    Waving At Trains

    The other day as I was rushing to catch the train home in the evening, I noticed a father and son standing on the platform. They were there to get on a train – at least not yet. They were checking out all the trains that were currently in Union Station, pointing and talking excitingly to one another about what they saw.

    Suddenly, the train they were standing nearest to began ringing its bell as it slowly started to pull out of the station. The boy, who was probably about seven or eight years old, immediately began waving frantically at the engineer as a huge grin spread across his face.

    That made me wonder – why do we wave at trains as they go rumbling by?

    I’ve been riding a train to and from work for almost nine years now. During that time I have been waved at countless times by countless people while riding on a train. Young and old, male and female; I’ve seen all sorts of people raise their hands and swing them back and forth emphatically as the train I was riding rolled past them. Most of the time I wave back – even though they probably can’t see me behind the heavily tinted windows of Metra’s commuter train cars - because I don’t want their act of friendliness to go unanswered. But I still don’t understand why so many people wave.

    Maybe it’s because people assume train riders are off on some grand adventure? I imagine that the romantic ideal of traveling by train still lingers about inside most people’s conscious, so seeing cars full of faces rumbling past on a track might stir up those emotions. It's why George Bailey explains to Uncle Billy in It’s A Wonderful Life that the three greatest sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles.

    Trains, boats, plans – they represent opportunity for travel and adventure. They are a mode of escape from where ever you are to someplace new and exciting. Trains, plans, and boats hold the promise of something grander. Therefore, winding up and throwing a big sweeping wave when you see people speeding past in a train is probably the natural thing to do. “Hey! Have fun riding that train!”

    The problem is that most of the people behind those faces on the Metra are just exhausted folks like myself; schlepping our way to or from a job, packed into an aging commuter rail car that first went into service during the Eisenhower administration and now smells like stale beer and cabbage. We’re too burned out or tired to think about how fun riding a train might be, and certainly not on a trip to an exciting adventure. For us the train is just a means to an end. We ride a train every day. It’s as mundane but necessary as brushing your teeth.

    Maybe that’s why I don’t wave at trains as they rumble past anymore. Monotonous use has jaded me to their romantic potential. If it has, then I want to figure out how to return to being the kid waving frantically as the train leaves the station. That just seems like more fun.

    February 18, 2009

    Watching Trilogies

    Godfather movie stillAMC has been running the first and second Godfather movies a lot this month. I keep stumbling upon them and getting sucked into the exceptional performances and griping story.

    Even though I manage to tear myself away from the movie, I promise myself that I need to re-watch these exceptional films from start to finish again. It's been too long since I've sat done with these movies.

    I also found it an interesting coincidence that as I was contemplating revisiting The Godfather movie trilogy, I stumbled upon Dan Meth's Trilogy Meter.

    Dan rates his enjoyment of many of the classic movie trilogies. I agree with most of his assessments (though I'd probably rate the Batman films all higher - but I'm slightly more biased there - and would have knocked Die Hard 3 down a few notches) and found thinking about these films, and their relative quality to one another, a fun thing to think about.

    Dan Meth's Movie Trilogy MeterActually, after reading through Dan's ratings I wanted to go back and watch some more of these films. Now I just need to find the time.

    February 17, 2009

    Am I Too Busy Chasing Zebras?

    Today's Pearls Before Swine made me feel like a bad dad.

    Pearl Before Swine 02-17-2009
    I hope I'm not spending too much time worrying about the zebras I'm not killing.

    The Revolution Will Be In Kilts

    Sheldon for 02-15-2009I often find myself having similar thoughts that Gramp expresses in last Sunday's Sheldon. Certainly the shifting world economy and political climate is leveling the power across the globe.

    While I agree with Arthur (the talking duck) that I don't see anyone out there ready to take America's spot on top I don't think he should be worried about some small nation upstart coming out of no where to dominate.

    However, if Arthur is right, then I'm glad that I've been pushing the Scottish heritage of my "McKillip" surname all these years - despite my father objections otherwise.

    Sheldon - The Scottish WarIt should help score me a choice role in the new government.

    Plus, kilts for everyone.

    February 14, 2009

    Blondie and Dagwood: Classic

    This week a number of comic book blogs I read posted articles listing their favorite (or least favorite) comic book couples to celebrate Valentine's Day.

    J. Caleeb at Newsarama was the only poster who not only identified one of the truly great comic couples, but provides an excellent rationale for their greatness.
    dagwood and blondieDagwood and Blondie Bumstead: There’s certainly something to be said for longevity, and the Bumsteads have been together since shortly after my grandparents were born and, while I missed out on the beginnings of their relationship for a few decades, they seem to have achieved a sort of eternal upper-middleclass suburban paradise—unchallenged and unchanging.

    While their status quo might not be the most appealing, I’ve always seen Dagwood as an inspirational figure: Here’s a guy with a terrible hair cut and a slow wit, a man who can’t leave for work without badly hurting a mailman or afford to eat lunch anywhere other than the same crappy diner every day or ever convince his boss to give him a raise, and yet he’s still managed to land Blondie, and end each of his repetitive, boring days in bed next to her, the one strap of her nightgown always falling off her one shoulder provocatively.

    If Dagwood Bumstead can achieve marital bliss with a goddess like Blondie, there’s hope for anyone!

    So true. So true.

    Happy Valentine's Day

    February 13, 2009

    What's In Oklahoma?

    I've never had much of an interest in visiting Oklahoma.

    Until now.

    the main collection
    Nine years ago Kevin Stark convinced the Pauls Valley City Council that not only did the town needed a tourist attraction, but that the perfect attraction would be a toy and action figure museum.

    Wired has a nice little photo essay about it all.

    It's really more of a huge, massive collection than a museum. But its cool none the less. I mean, check out the DC heroes display

    DC heroes stand at the ready
    Maybe I'll have to find my way to Pauls Valley City, OK some time soon.

    February 11, 2009

    There's Nothing Miserable About Chicago

    I’ve told myself a number of times that I wasn’t going to comment on it – but the story keeps popping up and every time it does it’s like a little paper cut on your finger that keeps getting opened up.

    Forbes.com's released a list of "America's 10 Most Miserable Cities" that they compiled using the following criteria: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

    I love ChicagoChicago came in #3 on the list.

    I know I’m responding emotionally to the use of the word “miserable”. If Forbes had used another term like “least desirable” or “challenging” cities to live in, the response might not have been so vehement. But I don’t think that was ever Forbes intention. They chose the word “miserable” so people in those ten cities would register all sorts of reactions, get them talking about Forbes, blah, blah, blah.

    Again, this is why I didn’t want to comment or acknowledge the article. So why am I? Because it just burns me that Forbes continues to publish this sort of irresponsible, faux-science reporting.

    You can’t just pick some criteria, come up with rankings, and then claim that this place or that place is a better or worse place to live. Why you call one town over another your home cannot be reduced to crunching numbers or the scientific method.

    Chicago Sun-Times columnist (one of the few things I like about the Sun-Times) Neil Steinberg sums up my aggravation with Forbes’ article nicely in his column today:
    What the Forbes study overlooks is that Chicago is not populated by Manhattan scribes nor Boulder mountain climbers, but Chicagoans. We are a hearty tribe, made of stronger stuff, and delight in challenges that only seem miserable to those who don't know any better. Calling our city miserable is like an agoraphobic calling baseball awful because it takes place outside. It says a lot more about the complainer than the thing being complained about. We love it here, and pity those whose appreciation of life is so constricted that they fail to see why.
    Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, maybe I can finally start ignoring Forbes’ story and return to enjoying living in (or at least near) Chicago.

    February 10, 2009

    His Name Ain't "Sometimes Cookie Monster"

    snippet from 02-08-09 Sheldon comicMy initial reaction to reading Sunday’s installment of Sheldon was, "No, he must have some of his information wrong. No way they would do that to Cookie Monster."

    But a brief scan through Cookie Monster’s Wikipedia entry backs Sheldon’s statement up – at least the part about Cookie Monster promoting healthy eating. He still eats cookies, but now they are a "sometimes food."

    I always take whatever I read on Wikipedia with a healthy dose of skepticism, but there are enough outside citations to confirm the fact that Cookie Monster has indeed abandoned his pro-cookie agenda.

    This startling revelation makes the Cookie Monster DVD Zoe brought home from the library this past week so much more fun - and important - to watch. The DVD collects classic sketches starring Cookie Monster at his anarchy-producing best; before he became a soul-less tool of the establishment forced into teaching children the sort of responsibility and moderation they should be getting from their parents.

    I would hate for Zoe to grow up thinking Cookie Monster thought cookies are a "sometimes food."

    February 09, 2009

    Jim Lee's Dark Knight

    Alex Sinclair - longtime colorist for most of Jim Lee's comic book work - posted a piece of Jim's art that he had colored over at the gelatometti blog. It's Jim's interpretation of Batman as he appears in last summer's The Dark Knight film.

    Batman from The Dark Knight by Jim Lee
    Jim Lee is one of my favorite comic book artists, and I love the work he does with Batman. It's been a while since I prettied up my blog with some of his artwork, and I thought this was the perfect time to end the drought.

    This is Really Going to Hurt, Isn't It?

    From the Speaker of the House's blog, it's a graph showing job loss for the last three recessions.

    Red=2001, Blue=1991, and Green is the current state of affairs.

    graph of job loss in recent recessions
    I don't like how any of this is trending.

    February 08, 2009

    Top Ten Star Wars Sounds

    Looks like a good Top 10 to me.

    February 06, 2009

    Colossal Waste of Technology

    dude was playing solitaire on his iPhoneSaw a guy on the train this evening playing solitaire on his iPhone.

    Dude, you've got an iPhone, an amazing device that will allow you to do just about anything you want - listen to music, talk to people, watch movies, or surf the web. Plus, there are hundreds of applications you can buy for cheap to run on the iPhone.

    And you're playing solitaire.

    The game that came standard with Windows 3.0 in 1990.

    You do not deserve an iPhone

    February 04, 2009

    31 Days of Oscar

    It's not mystery that I am a fan of classic movies - particularly films from the height of the studio days of the 1940s and 1950s. It's why TCM is probably my favorite cable channel (much to the chagrin of my children).

    To advertise their annual 31 Days of Oscar film celebration, TCM pulled together this promo that's been running on between movies for the last few weeks.

    I absolutely love this promo. Every time I watch the segment it reminds me how much I love watching and discovering old films.

    What I wish I knew was the name of the movie that the scene with Jack Nicholson as sailor out in the snow that pops in at the 1:58 mark. I want to see that movie.

    February 01, 2009

    Watched Iron Man

    Finally watched Iron Man this past Friday and thought it was fantastic. A great action flick and a well crafted film.

    Iron Man the movie dvd artHowever, what impressed me the most about the film was it's ability to tell a entertaining story in a make-believe world convincingly. So convincingly, in fact, that Iron Man won over someone expecting not to like the film.

    My brother-in-law had given me the film for Christmas, but I hadn't found time to sit down and watch it. As January was quickly winding down, I became more antsy to put the DVD in for a proper viewing. So with nothing planned for Friday night, I asked Heather if she wanted to watch the movie with me.

    "Okay," she said, "but you won't be upset if I get up and leave if I don't like it, will you?"

    I told her I would not be upset - I was going to watch Iron Man that night regardless of her interest. We started up the movie.

    When she stuck around to see how Tony would escape the rebels in Afghanistan, I thought she may be hooked. When she would only look away, but not leave the room, when Pepper helped Tony replace the device in his chest that kept the shrapnel away from his heart, I figured she was on her way to enjoying the movie. When she was laughing at the antics of one of Tony's robots I knew she was hooked.

    Two hours later she was sheepishly admitting to me that she had enjoyed Iron Man.

    Iron Man might not have as much armored fighting action as a comic book loving fan like myself would have liked seeing, but it hits the right balance between action, story, and character. That's what will make this film a great movie to watch over and over.