October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

In case you don't make it over to our neck of the woods, here's a picture Emma took last night of Heather and I trying out our costumes.

I think I pull off the angry duck pirate look quite nicely.

October 30, 2009

The Great Talker

Pretty much from the moment I met Heather I knew she was a talker. While I would be overwhelmed by it initially, I have grown comfortable with her gift for gab. In fact, I like to sometimes joke that she can carry the conversation for both of us.

So it was only natural that our children might inherit Heather's talkative streak. Ian certainly has. He can – and will – talk your ear off on whatever book he’s just read or video game he’s played or cartoon he’s recently watched. He rivals his mother in his ability to fill up dead air with his ideas, observations, and questions.

Emma tends to follow after me - the silent type. She can, like me, get on a roll from time to time and talk you up and down the room, but she tends to keep to herself most of the time. Though she may loosen up when she’s really comfortable.

And then there's Zoe.

Even though she is the youngest person in the house, she has already outpaced Heather and Ian in the ability to speak at length about everything without taking a break for air.

She is a mini-marvel of gab.

It wears me out just listening to her. I can't imagine having the energy to keep your jaw moving that much and still have the reserves to run around outside with friends, color 400 pieces of paper, write three songs, construct paper towel Halloween costumes for your stuffed animals, and recreate a small town out blocks and Littlest Pet Shop toys in the basement. It's no wonder that out of everyone in our house, she falls asleep the quickest and sleeps the longest.

And that’s her in Kindergarten. What's going to happen when she's 15 and has ten times the amount of things to talk about? She might end up carrying the conversation for the whole family.

It's Coming

I know everyone is talking Autumn, Halloween and all, but I am already thinking past that to the real fun season.

You know it's just around the corner.

October 29, 2009

More Halloween Comics

Even though I'm not much of a Halloween fan, I still enjoy the themed artwork/comics the holiday can inspire.

Following on yesterday's post on Chris Ware's Halloween cover for The New Yorker, today I've got a splendarific comic from Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson.

I can so relate to what goes on in this comic.

via [The Beat].

October 28, 2009

Chris Ware Covers Halloween

Chris Ware did a wonderful cover for this week's issue of The New Yorker

He also contributed a comic inside that is equally well done.

Maybe They Let Him Ride on the Team Bus

Is Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh on the Chicago Bears’ payroll?

I ask because for years the guy has seemed hard pressed to write anything negative about the team. If he does, it is something weak like, "The Bears need to work harder at establishing their running game early."


Instead, we get what usually reads like fluff pieces that started from a Bears press release. For instance, over the last two weeks we have gotten articles from Haugh that:
1) Defend the Bears’ decision to extend quarterback Jay Cutler’s contract
2) Defend the play calling of Ron Turner
3) Defend the job Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith is doing.
Now the first article I don’t have much beef with. Cutler has been impressive. Why not lock him up.

But the other two? Especially when you consider that both articles were written after the Atlanta and Cincinnati games where the Bears looks woefully unprepared and poorly coached.

It's like he's watching a different team then the rest of us.

It’s because of him that I actually spend very little time reading about the Bears in the Chicago Tribune. For all the grief Chicago South Siders have given the Trib for being too easy on the Chicago Cubs when the newspaper owner the team, I think the Trib gives the Bears a much easier time overall.

October 27, 2009

5 Things I Think

  • Don’t tell Heather, but the only reason I will stop and watch Project Runway with her is to see Heidi Klum.

  • I think the use of the term "truly" has reached an over-saturation point. It shows up everywhere. In people’s speech. In their writing. And it doesn’t make sense to me.

    Do you have to say, "I am truly happy for this development?" Isn't the fact that you are expressing your happiness over the event proof of your sincerity? Throwing in the "truly" seem redundant and a little silly. I don't think anyone would declare themselves "falsely happy."

  • Does Orin Hatch really believe that of all the things that Congress and the President should be focused on right now, the NCAA’s Bowl Championship Series football program belongs on that list?

    I mean really. Health care, war, limp economy, and the BCS?

  • I think the whole zombie thing is pretty well played out now. Time to put the zombies away and bring back pirates or ninjas as the pop culture meme of the moment.

  • I think the clean, minimalist designs of Andy Awesome’s desktop images are mighty nice.

    His Pac-Man image is on my desktop now, though I plan to switch in the Batman & Robin or the fruit desktop.
  • October 25, 2009

    Kid Quote of the Week

    - Ian, giving CVS a new name

    Now All I Need Is a Motorcycle

    Then I would have a reason to buy me one of these:

    October 23, 2009

    When Will The Music Start?

    Ian asked me the other day when the radio station in Chicago that plays 24/7 with Christmas music makes the switch. He wanted to make sure to avoid listening to Christmas music until December 1. Apparently he doesn't believe you should listen to Christmas music until the month of December actually starts.

    I didn't know the answer but thought I might learn it on their website.

    All I found there was this, a counter for how many days until Christmas.

    As to answering the question of when 93.9 will make the switch, that is anybody's guess. History's shown that the station will flip the Christmas switch at a moment notice. I'm just advising Ian to stay away from that radio station until December.

    Actually, my advise to Ian will be to avoid that station all the time and only listen to it from 12/1 through 12/25. The rest of the time they play crap.

    Who Doesn't Love Football in the Mud

    Time may have tampered with my memory, but the way I remember things is that when I was in third or fourth grade I asked my mom if I could play football and she was adamantly against it. Feared I would be crippled or blinded or victim to some other horrible physical tragedy. So I stuck with soccer and learned you could hit people almost as hard as in football, and you didn’t have any of those pads getting in the way.

    Anyway, because of my experiences as a child and my love of the game of football, I knew that if Ian (or Emma or Zoe for that matter) ever expressed an interest in playing organized football I would be 100% behind them.

    So I was excited this past summer when Ian came to Heather and me to announce his plans on playing for his school’s football team. They have a 5th/6th grade team and a 7th/8th grade team which play against teams from other nearby Catholic grade schools.

    We signed him up, geared him up, and I’ve had a wonderful time watching him play out one of my unrealized childhood dreams.

    (The others childhood dreams being turning our house completely upside down so that the ceilings became the floors and my mom installing a fully functioning McDonald’s kitchen in our house from which she would prepare all meals in perfect McDonald’s fashion.)

    If this first football season wasn't enough to make me envious of Ian’s football career, last night – the last practice of the season before Saturday’s final game of the season – sealed the deal.

    It had been raining all day. Their practice fields were soaked and muddy. It was the last practice of the season.

    This is how he arrived home:

    And that was after the practice jersey and helmet had come off.

    I don’t know if the kid knows how good he’s got it.

    October 22, 2009

    Almost Like Someone Was Planning It

    I was re-watching the Tim Burton directed Batman Returns last week when a thought occurred to me. If you look at the arch of Batman films that have been released since 1989’s Batman (also directed by Burton) through last year’s Christopher Nolan helmed The Dark Knight, they follow the same evolution in character depiction that the Batman comics have moved through over the years.

    When the Batman character debuted in 1939 in Detective Comics #27, he was partially modeled after the pulp heroes and vigilantes that were popular of the day. Bob Kane and Bill Finger drew inspiration from The Shadow and The Spider, characters who hunted criminals as much as they protected the innocent. Like these pulp heroes, Batman was sinister and brooding, and not at all averse to letting the bad guy die. In these early Batman comics, Batman wouldn’t purposely kill the villain outright, but at the same time he wouldn’t try and save the villain.

    This characterization of Batman is similar to what you see in the Batman films directed by Tim Burton – Batman and Batman Returns. Batman is a defender of good, but he drifts into amoral territory when it comes to handling the villains. This most notably happens in the second film, Batman Returns. In that film, Batman is seen using the jet exhaust from the Batmobile to set a fire-breathing thug aflame, makes no attempt to prevent the Penguin from crashing through a roof window and dropping to his ultimate death, and even attaches a ticking time bomb to a muscle-bound heavy before tossing him into a tunnel just prior to explosion.

    This is not behavior modern day audiences would normally associate with Batman, but it’s actually not that far off from how he was behaving in the late 30’s and early 40’s when he originally debuted. The first two films reflect that.

    Just like the arrival of Dr. Wertham and his cronies dramatically changed the comic book landscape in the 1950s, the arrival of director Joel Schumacher to the Bat-franchise dramatically changed the caped crusader on the silver screen in the middle 1990s.

    To try and protect itself from the comic book witch hunts of the 1950s, DC comics made Batman friendlier and less threatening. The colors became brighter, the stories became tamer, and there was certainly no killing – by anyone, villain or hero. The new nice-nice version of Batman hit its zenith in the mid 1960’s with the arrival of the uber-campfest of the Batman television show; which the comic books instantly set out to emulate. What started out as a happier, less threatening Batman ended up with day-glow backgrounds and a “chummy” Dynamic Duo that was more slap-stick than sinister.

    Schumacher took over the Bat-films with Batman Forever, which is more light-hearted and action-fueled than the earlier Burton films. While less brooding that the first two films, Batman Forever still stops itself from going too far into playing up the “comical” in comic books. It was restraint that wasn’t shown in the debut of one of the most hated films of the 1990’s, Batman & Robin.

    Batman & Robin, Schumacher’s second Bat-film, is the modern day interpretation of the campy 1960’s Batman television show – but without any of the sense of fun. Over the top sets, ridiculous storylines, and general silliness abound. The only thing missing was the onscreen “Biffs” and “Pows” for when Batman and Robin smacked the bad guys.

    Understandably, interest in Batman comics plummeted when the Batman television show closed shop and the campy Batman fad faded. With the show to fuel the fad, fans of Batman the character had little interest in seeing a campy parody of the hero they loved. Similarly, the release of Batman & Robin had the effectively killed any interest in making a new Batman film, let alone a comic book-based movie, for some time.

    This brings us to the third and modern era of Batman. Christopher Nolan comes along to breathe new life into the Batman movie franchise, and calls upon for inspiration from the comics the resurrected Batman from his campy comic book persona.

    Artist Neal Adams and writer Denny O’Neil reasserted Batman’s grittier, pulp hero roots when they started spinning Batman stories for DC Comics in the mid-1970’s; and Frank Miller further refined the character as a noir, street-level hero with his work on Batman in two works: Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. These comic creators, along with other working in the 70’s and 80’s, not only redefined Batman, but also introduced the idea that superheroes could be used to tell sophisticated, multi-layered stories.

    It is the works of Neal Adam, Denny O’Neal, and Frank Miller that Christopher Nolan was often quoted as saying were the inspiration for his take on the character and guided his approach to crafting Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Just like in Batman: Year One, Nolan’s Batman has a tenuous relationship with the Gotham Police force. Batman is considered almost an urban myth, which only a few people – like Commissioner Gordon – know more about. Batman is back to being dark and brooding in his war on crime.

    The Dark Knight came this close to being nominated for an Academy Award for outstanding movie of the year. The amount of critical praise lauded on the film demonstrated that now critics and audiences are ready to accept superheroes as more than just kid stuff, much the same way Frank Miller’s Return of the Dark Knight did in 1986.

    So where do things go from here?

    I know the popular thought is to have Christopher Nolan back to make a third Batman film. However, I think Warner Brothers should stick with the pattern that they have, for one reason or another, fallen into. Namely, a director gets two shots at the Dark Knight and then moves on. Burton had his two, Schumacher had two, and now Nolan has completed his pair of Batman movies. These three directors have, knowingly or not, traced in broad strokes the development arch of the Batman character over the last 70 years. Time to let a new director put his or her interpretation on film. Either draw inspiration from other in-between periods of Batman’s history or create something new.

    October 20, 2009

    5 Things I Think

  • I thought this was unintentionally funny and this was intentionally hysterical

  • Try as I might to not get wrapped up in the H1N1 news, I think it's starting to taint my ability to think rationally.

    I'm in the middle of a particularly nasty head cold – and I know it's just a head cold – but that didn't stop me worrying on the first few days if I didn't have H1N1. Even though I have no fever, chills, aches, or any other symptom of the flu, I couldn't help but wonder if I should be sequestering myself away from the kids.

    All I've got is a running nose.

  • I think no matter how many times I do it, I will never get a ceiling painted in a way I am satisfied with.

    Why is painting the ceiling so difficult?

  • Okay, now I don't think I’m happy for Kyle Orton any more. The Bears were supposed to be the 6-0 team. Not the Broncos.

  • I think there is something gratifying and calmly about writing with a good pencil. Not those crappy mechanical pencils or cheapo quasi-wood #2s. I'm talking about a quality pencil made from real cedar wood encasing dense graphite. You can feel the lines being put to the paper with the slightest scratching noise. It feels so much more natural and true then writing with a pen or typing on a keyboard. It's almost cathartic.
  • October 19, 2009

    So Very Frustrating

    It was an exciting – yet ultimately horribly disappointing – weekend of football.

    First up was Ian’s football game on Saturday. Two evenly matched team played their best football of the season. And with time running out, and Ian’s team behind on the scoreboard, the Hillmen managed to drive the ball down to their opponent’s 5 yard line.

    With literally 3 seconds left to the game, on fourth down none-the-less, the Hillmen attempted a pass into the endzone which missed the out-stretched arms of our tight-end by the smallest of margins.

    The disappoint in the outcome was offset – at least for the 5th and 6th grade boys on Ian’s team – by the arrival of cup cakes to celebrate a teammates birthday. The parents had to pick themselves off the floor.

    And the last second near-hits played out for my again in the Notre Dame – USC game and the Bears – Atlanta game. End of the game drives that failed to deliver a much needed touchdown.

    Granted, both the Fighting Irish and the Bears had opportunities to prevent themselves from being put into such a precarious position.

    Notre Dame allowed UCS to score touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half. If the ND defense could have mustered one stop during that span the outcome of the game could have been wildly different.

    The Bears continually shot themselves in the foot Sunday night with turnovers, dumb penalties, and stupid plays. Too many men on the field for a punt return? A 61-yard kick-off return after tying up the game? Orlando Pace’s pre-snap lunge across the line? Who’s coaching these guys?

    Of all the games, the Bears game was the most frustrating to watch. There is no reason for them to not win that game.

    In fact, Tim Souers’ duncehelemt perfectly encapsulates how the Chicago Bears played last night.

    October 17, 2009

    This Is How To Advertise

    And there's more fun at the website. Mr. Talking Badger is there.

    October 16, 2009

    I Loves the Intertubes

    And there's a whole bunch more lampooning the balloon kid here

    8 Places

    Laura MacNeil, from Budget Travel on CNN, posted a story arguing for the 8 places every American should see.
    1. Sears Tower
    2. Graceland
    3. Yellowstone National Park
    4. Gettysburg
    5. NY Harbor
    6. Ebenezer Baptist Church
    7. Monticello
    8. Pearl Harbor
    Certainly, I think the list has plenty of reasons to be debated and questioned. No Grand Canyon or Mt. Rushmore?

    But I like the list because I've been to more of the places on the list than I was expecting. I've been to #1, #4, and #7.

    October 15, 2009

    Have You Heard About The Blackhawks?

    The Chicago Bears and Chicago Blackhawks have filmed some joint TV commercials to promote both teams. Apparently the idea sprang from the mind of Blackhawks Senior Vice President of Business Operations Jay Blunk, who head a factoid that 92 percent of NHL fans are also NFL fans.

    I found the story quaint and mildly interesting until I reached the end of the article where I stumbled into this quote:

    "I remember writing the word 'Bears' and circling it," Blunk told the (Chicago) Tribune. "The Blackhawks are an up-and-coming brand, on the move. But the Chicago Bears are an iconic international brand."

    The Blackhawks are an "up-and-coming" brand? They are one of the "Original 6" NHL teams, with one of the most recognizable jersey/logo in all of professional sports. I don't know how you call that "up-and-coming"

    I guess a comment like that is proof that Blackhawks President John McDonough, the man who made the Chicago Cubs the biggest sports name in Chicago, brought a bunch of his marketing cronies along with him to spin their sports marketing magic.Sports knowledge be damned. What's the team's Q Score?

    October 13, 2009

    5 Things I Think

  • Having parents who are dating ( and not each other) is one of the most hysterical and frustrating things ever.

  • It took us a few years, but I think Heather and I finally found a great apple orchard.

    Heinz Orchard, just outside of Libertyville, IL, is a no frills orchard. They’re all about the apples and the experience of picking your own apples.

    No petting zoos, corn mazes, or carnival rides.

    We filled up 2.5 pecks of apples and now look forward to a few weeks of homemade apple sauce, apple pies, sautéed apples, and anything else Heather can figure out how to use apples.

  • I’m happy for Kyle Orton and glad he's having success. I was always a fan of his when he was with the Bears, and I guess I’m still a fan of his now that he’s with the Broncos. I’m glad to see that the trade is working out for him too. (At least so far)

  • Ketchup flavored potato chips? Do people actually eat these?

    Someone made a comment about them and I thought it was a joke. But apparently they are real and a bunch of different companies produce them: ketchup flavored chips

  • I think it’s brilliant that Dark Horse is making the entire Charles Vess art book Drawing Down The Moon: The Art of Charles Vess available for preview.

    What better way to lure people in and drive up interest in an artbook than letting people see the whole book online. You get teased with page after page of gorgeous Vess art, but it’s all stuck on your computer screen. Buy the book and see every page in full printed glory.
  • October 12, 2009

    Nate Must Have a Tiny Bat

    It sure sounds like Nate's friend Francis dropped a funny double entendre at the end of Sunday's edition of Big Nate.

    I wonder how the traditionally tight-assed syndicate censors let that one through? They were probably distracted with the lengthy and detailed baseball analogy that Nate weaved in the panels leading up to the punchline.

    October 11, 2009

    Kid Quote of the Week

    "All that's good about the Irish is they invented Lucky Charms!"
    - Ian, proving to me that I still have a lot to teach my children.

    October 09, 2009

    Me and Orson Welles

    While I am apprehensive to say I am looking forward to a movie starring Zac Efron, I can't deny that Me and Orson Welles looks interesting. At the very least it would be to see more of what looks like Christian McKay doing an outstanding job of channeling the ghost of a young Orson Welles.

    October 08, 2009

    More Proof the People are Idiots

    I'm not sure what frustrates me more about these survey results.

    The fact that drivers don't think writing messages on a tiny screen with a teeny-tiny keyboard doesn't impact their ability to drive or the fact that people are doing all of these other things when driving.

    The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions

    Looks about right to me:


    October 07, 2009

    Multiple Readings

    When I was younger I would often read multiple books at a time. Sometimes it was out of necessity, like when I was in college majoring in English and taking multiple classes that dealt with studying novels I might be reading Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray, one of the novels by J.M. Coetzee, and All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy all at the same time. Other times it was because there was a book that I wanted to read for my own enjoyment while I was also reading school assigned books.

    Regardless of the reason for having  multiple bookmarks nearby, I wouldn't actually be reading all of the books at the same time. I would be reading one for awhile, put it down. Pick up one of the other books, read that for a day. A sort of cycle through the books.

    Ian does the same thing. I see him with two or three books going at the same time. He leaves them in different rooms of the house so he always has something to read nearby.

    Recently, however, he taken this practice to the next level. He is now laying out 4 magazine in a 2x2 square on his floor and will read all 4 magazines at the same time. He works his way top to bottom, left to right, reading all pages in all four magazines, then turning the pages and repeating the process.

    If he's already reading multiple novels at one time and is figuring out how to read 4 magazines simultaneous at age 10, I have to think that by the time he's 20 he will be reading four book simultaneously.

    October 04, 2009

    Kid Quote of the Week

    "Move out of the way, Mr. Kissy-face."
    Zoe, asking me to make room for her so she could clean her dinner dishes from the table while also delivering some unsolicited commentary on her impressions of my behavior towards her mother that evening.

    October 03, 2009

    Don't Even Look at the Peanuts!

    Isn't that the truth. Sheldon brings up something that I have often wondered about. When did peanut become the most deadliest food on the planet?

    Growing up I was aware that some people were allergic to peanuts - and that it could be dangerous for them - but we were all still going about our day same as the next guy. If you were allergic to a certain food, you took the necessary precautions.

    But now it seems like everywhere you turn there are warnings about the possible existence of peanuts like there mere mention of them will bring a person to their knees.

    Are that many people really allergic to peanuts or is it an over reaction by companies that are trying to cover every inch of their ass from any potential lawsuit?

    October 02, 2009

    Why You Gotta Mess With Our Kringle?

    Ever since Heather and I spent a weekend in Racine, WI and discovered the Danish-goodness of the kringle, ordering and enjoying kringle from O&H Bakery has quickly become a holiday tradition in our home.

    We order 4 kringle to arrive just before Thanksgiving. Eat one Thanksgiving morning while the kids and I watched the Macy’s parade on TV, and the remaining three would go into the deep freezer to be thawed and devoured on Christmas morning, New Year’s Day, and special occasion to be named later.

    We always order 4 because that was how O&H structured their shipping. It cost as much to ship one kringle as it did to ship 4. It made economical sense. (And provided an excuse to have more of the heavenly flakey pastry in the house)

    This past week Heather and I received emails from O&H advertising (among other things) their new $9.95 shipping. This intrigued Heather and me because we both knew that shipping used to be around $12 for 4 kringle.

    Could O&H Bakery really have lowered prices for shipping? Would we be saving on our order this year?

    What we learned when we visited the O&H Bakery website was that they had restructured their shipping plan altogether. Shipping did start at only $9.95, but that was for orders between $0 and $50. Gone was the structure of by number of kringle ordered. Probably, I suspect, because O&H is now selling more than just kringle through their website and wanted a shipping plan that reflected this.
    Heather thought that are order last year for 4 kringle had come in around $50.

    Again, would we still benefit from the new shipping structure?

    I checked.

    Sure enough, last year’s order was exactly $50 for 2 almond kringle, 1 cream cheese kringle, and 1 cherry cheese kringle. We were charged $11.50 for shipping.

    We still couldn’t believe that the company would actually be lowering prices. Companies just don’t do that. That cost had to have been moved over somewhere else; and we quickly discovered where it was – in the price of the kringle itself.

    Prices for all kringles had gone up to a flat $14.95 regardless of flavor. O&H used to have a tiered pricing system for the kringle. Basic flavors like almond went for $12, more unique ones like cherry cheese went for $13, and specialty/seasonal flavors were in the $14-15 range. O&H flattened the price of the kringle to offset the change in shipping structure. They’d still be making their money – and probably even more.

    In the end it means we’re probably going to go from ordering 4 kringle to ordering 3. An order of 3 kringle will be $44.85, and will keep us in the first tier for shipping, bring our total to $54.80.

    If we stuck with our traditional order of 4 kringle, it would cost us $59.80, which then puts us in the next tier up for shipping ($13.95) and would bring our grand total to $73.75.

    That’s starting to get pretty pricey for some danish. Even ones as fabulous as the ones from O&H Bakery.

    The increase in costs is especially depressing when you consider our first mail order with O&H Bakery, back in 2004, cost us a total of $45.55. That was 4 kringle (3 at $7.95 a piece, 1 at $9.95) and included shipping.

    5 years and O&H have nearly doubled their prices for a kringle.

    We’ve talked about switching to other kringle, but we’ve tried other kringle and none of it measures up to O&H. Heather is threatening to drive up to Racine, WI to buy straight from the bakery – she assumes the prices per kringle will be cheaper. I think the amount of gas and time consumed during the 200 mile round-trip drive will eat up any savings.

    I guess the plus side to all this is that we will be . . . Wait. What the hell am I saying. There’s no plus side to this. We want our damn kringle and we’re mad that price increase will either cause us to decrease our order or pay more out of pocket for the delicious taste of kringle on Thanksgiving morning.

    What can I say, kringle is like crack for my family. We’re irreconcilably addicted and pissed that the cost of getting our fix has gone up.