Monday, December 31, 2007


I mentioned in my comments to Mike the other day, when talking about my new iPod, that I use for doing downloads. There was a number of reasons why I chose this route to go.

First, the downloads are in MP3 format without any controlling file like iTunes does. So, I can use the download on any MP3 player I chose as it is a standard format. Also, I can put it on as many devices as I like (iTunes controls the number of computers their downloads can reside on to five boxes maximum). I liked the portability aspect.

Second, the price was right. I started out getting 50 free downloads for signing up. Then I could chose my own monthly price level: $9.95 for 25 downloads, $14.95 for 50 downloads, $19.95 for 75 downloads. That seemed like a nice counterpoint to 99 cents per song. Yeah, I'm frugal. The only downside: when your month clicks over, your remaining downloads do not rollover. So, you must use or lose.

Third, eMusic does remember what you've downloaded previously. And as long as your account remains active, you can re-download those songs you downloaded before without any additional cost. So if you accidentally delete the file, you can get it back quick. I like that too.

One negative about eMusic is that it is not supported by the four major record labels. So, you are not likely to find the latest and greatest releases from Sony, Warner, BMG, etc. here. What you will find is a lot of independent label stuff and a lot of older material from smaller labels of the 50's, 60's and 70's. That works well for me - as right now I am filling in holes in the 60's and such for my music library.

I've already eaten up my 50 free downloads and the 50 a month for my first month (I roll over again on the 15th). In the meantime, I'm going through my Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits making my list for the future. I'm only in the middle of the C's and I already have 80 tunes on my to-pull list. I think this will be a nice source for me for quite a few months to come.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Comics in December pt. 10

Countdown to Adventure #5 - Okay, first a misleading cover (not a good sign). Animal Man gets most of the focus in the lead this issue as he makes an attempt to cleanse the plague from San Diego. Some nice character moments in the story, but the ending was pretty telegraphed. So, that'll leave it up to a depowered Starfire to figure out how to fix things - most likely with Adam Strange's help - over the next few issues. The Forerunner back-up seemed very disjointed for some reason, and it only served the purpose to show how much of a tough character she's supposed to be. Yawn. I'm thinking the lead and back-up will collide by the end of issue 7 (just a hunch).

Countdown Arena #4 - this final issue of the mini-series spotlights the battle of the Supermen. While a good battle, it doesn't solve much. One ends up dead, one ends up fleeing so he can come back later (in Final Crisis) with an army, and one ends up in Monarch's army by default. Oh, and Monarch dukes it out with his 51 dopplegangers - the Captain Atoms of the multiverse. Amazing how quickly he takes them all out. This whole mini-series was sort of a fan-boy dream - pitting different versions of characters in battle to see who would be top dog. Kind of like those "x versus y" threads that end up on message boards. Something to consider for a few seconds but in the end pointless. Much like this mini-series. Ah well.

Teen Titans Go! #50 - the animated Titans team hits a milestone number, and starts out with an awesome jam-cover by Todd Nauck. Inside, the story is simple but it tells a lesson - one that Private Hive never seemed to get the first time around from Robin. Robin learns something too and puts in motion some plans that should give the writers of the book more concepts to work with in future issues. I like that. We get a glimpse of some "familiar" characters that'll be new to this Titans-verse as well - again hopefully folks who get touched upon in future issues.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Comics in December pt. 9

Another huge week - seems the companies are pushing out the items before 2007 ends. So, here's another trio reviewed from yesterday's pick-up:

JSA Classified #33 - this is the second part of the Green Lantern (Alan Scott) holiday tale. In the last issue, Vandal Savage taunted GL by stealing GL's powers and "resurrecting" GL's daughter Jade through the lifeforce of a small girl. Anyone who knows classic heroes knows how this one would end, as did I, but the writer was going for the emotional tug to reach that end. It didn't quite ring as true to me as it should have. Ah well.

Teen Titans #54 - finally the end of the "Titans of Tomorrow...Today" storyline. Man, was this all drawn out. Yeah, I know, this is the age of the trade paperback so stories often get pulled out to four parts. But this one did not benefit from that. At least the art by Eddy Barrows and company (the book had three pencillers total and four inkers, but it was pretty seamless through out) was okay.

Countdown to Final Crisis #18 - we haven't seen him since he vanished at the end of Identity Crisisbut now, finally, we learn where Ray Palmer went and what he's been up to. The entire issue is devoted to this and the story makes perfect sense all the way around. Kudos. If you're a fan of the silver age Atom, this is a must-read issue (oh, and that cliffhanger ending will want you to read next issue too). The villain two-page origin in the back is of Dr. Light who is the catalyst of all the Identity Crisis events too - so that is rather fitting to put his story in this issue as well.

Friday, December 28, 2007

6000 and Counting!

For Christmas, both my wife and I got iPod classic 80 gig models. After we got our son the iPod Nano for his birthday in October, we thought they were very cool and wanted ones for ourselves. Now we have them.

Now, to be fair, I have been preparing for this for a few months now. A number of years back I had already made CDs with MP3 files of songs from 1972 to 1983 (one CD per year with songs burned from my CD collection in radio-quality format allowing for a couple hundred per CD). So, I had a nice start to building my iTune library on my laptop computer.

The next step took a bit longer - which was going through all the rest of the CDs in the house and importing those as well. This included a number of years worth of free music CDs that came as part of a magazine called CMJ New Music Monthly which I had subscribed to since January of 1995; each issue came with a CD sampler with 20 or so songs on it of various types.

So, I've now brought in songs ranging from 1960 to today, for a grand total of over 6000 songs. Whew! The artists range from Aaliyah to ZZ Top with many varied performers inbetween. Genres from rock to pop, R&B to country, jazz to ska are represented. I even have holiday tunes, separated to their own play-list for easy access next year.

Needless to say, I love my iPod. Being able to listen to music at night just before bed takes me back to my youth - of lying in the dark with the headphones on listening to the radio. I put the iPod on shuffle and it's just like the radio days gone by. Only difference - the headphones aren't those giant clucky ones that looked like two Princess Leia hair-buns on your ears. LOL.

I love being able to carry my music wherever I go too. For a gift, I also got a car-converter that allows me to tune into my radio and play my iPod while it charges. That'll come in handy for long car trips.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Finally Read - JLA: Earth-2

Thanks to the local Hickory library, I was able to read another graphic novel that I previously had not read. This time it was JLA: Earth-2 - written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely.

Now, there were a couple reasons why I had not picked this up before. When it first came out, it came out at a $25 hardcover. I'm sorry, but I could not justify shelling out the cash for a first-time comic in hardcover. Nope, no way. It came out a few years later in paperback, but by then the creative teams on JLA had changed a bit so the story would have been out of place to read. Still, even for $15 I was not springing for it. Luckily, with the library, it was free.

The second reason is that it was part of Morrison's run. Now, I'm not one of those folks who think he was the second-coming to the League. His run, in my opinion, was good but not that great. I've been reading the League non-stop since the 70's - plus I've read all the early days stuff too - and Grant's stuff just doesn't do it for me.

As for this story, it started out okay. Earth-2 is a telling of a tale of an alternate Earth where evil triumphs mostly over good. This has been done before, in the JLA comics way back in the 60's with Earth-3 as well as in other forms of sci-fi - like Star Trek's mirror-universe, for example. So, the concept wasn't that original. Again, some of the story elements in this tale were interesting - but the story started to fall apart as the end quickly approached. I definitely did not like the conclusion - that the JLA would just throw their hands in the air and let things go back to how they were with the Crime Syndicate running things as they always had on their world.

So, for me, I was glad to have not spent a cent on this story. That would have been a penny too much for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wild for Wings

This morning, my son and I had a special outing. First, we hit the local GameSpot and Best Buy stores to spend a little of the cash we got for Christmas on some new games. Second, though, was a lunch stop to one of our favorite restaurants here in town - Buffalo Wild Wings.

It seems that on weekdays from 11am until 2pm, they have a special. All you can eat wings and buffalo chips (potato disks-like-fries) for $9.99 per person. So, we decided to go for some good eating. They started us out each with a dozen wings. Okay, no problem there. Usually when we go he and I split an order of 18 wings - nine apiece. So, eating three more was no issue. After the first round, we decided to get a bit more. They bring the additional ones out six at a time. So, we each got another six.

Well, I managed to get eaten my seventeenth wing before I was full. My twelve-year old son, who was so sure he could keep up, got full after his fifteenth. So much for the kid besting the old man (for now...).

It was a nice father-son bonding moment on our vacation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Comics in December pt. 8

Batman and the Outsiders #3 - despite a misleading cover (four of the seven figures on the cover do not appear in the issue in action), this was a solid issue. Chuck Dixon, the writer, is shaping this book up nicely as a new must-read title. I've enjoyed the first three issues enough to permanently add it to my pull list.

Justice League of America #16 - this issue wasn't so hot for me. The lead tale, behind another midleading cover of sorts, was really a prelude to another upcoming mini-series. I was hoping for more meat with the Tangent Universe characters, but this issue was not it. The back-up tale was so-so; I didn't like the art much.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #9 - another good, done-in-one read. This comic continues to expand nicely on the animated LSH universe from the cartoons. Great art too.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I am hoping that everyone has a safe, wonderful Christmas - whether you're home nestled all warm with your family or travelling across state/country to visit the ones you love.

For us, we've had two of our three Christmas celebrations so far.

The first was on Saturday. We drove 2 1/2 hours each way to visit my parents and brother for the day. While the visit was short, we did have time for two meals together, some exchanging of gifts, and a chance to just sit and talk.

The second was for our immediate household of three last night. After a wonderful dinner made by my wife, we went to the 9pm Christmas Vigil at the church. When we got home, it was time to open a few presents - that way our 12 year old wouldn't have us up at the crack of dawn to see what was under the tree. That was a lot of fun.

This afternoon, it is a short drive twenty minutes to my inlaws' house. There we'll do dinner and a few more presents.

So take time today and this holiday season to remember what is important to you. Spend that time with family and good friends.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Changing Plans

Well, our holiday plans shifted a bit last week due to some unexpected auto expenses and a vetinary experience with our youngest dog. Actually, it was the later that did it - we could not board her for a week after she had to spend four nights at the vet due to some intestinal issues. So, we're sticking closer to home for the holidays.

We turned our weekend trip to my parents' house into a day-trip yesterday. 2 1/2 hour drive each way (left 8am and home by 9pm) but we had a good time. It had been a number of months since we saw my folks. Did lunch, gift exchange, socializing and dinner. My in-laws came by to walk our dogs mid-day which helped make that period a little more bearable for the four-legged family members.

I ended up getting Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End on DVD as a gift along with some spending money. Most likely I'll use the later to pick up some CDs of music after Christmas.

Our trip to Atlanta next week has been put off, unfortunately. My in-laws will bring the gifts down to the neices and nephews there though.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Haven't Missed TV

With the Writers' Strike continuing and the usual holiday rerun-fest, I haven't turned on the TV in days. Sure, I taped Best Year Ever last Friday night and watched it Saturday, but that's about it. I even have the taped finale of America's Most Smartest Model sitting on the DVR since Sunday night - but I have yet to actually blip-blip-blip through it. I have to wonder - will this break really break me from regular TV watching again? We'll see.

Now, granted, Monday night we did spend a nice evening at my son's school. It was the annual holiday Choir and Band show. This is my son's first year in the band (he plays the French Horn). I have to admit that the 7th grade band sounded pretty good all together - especially since most of them are new to band and have only been playing for the past four months since school started. I found it to be a very enjoyable program.

Comics in December pt. 7

The Search for Ray Palmer: Superwoman/Batwoman - I had high hopes for this one-shot that would be taking the Challengers to a world where the genders were reverse (this world's "Superman" and "Batman" were women, this world's "Wonder Woman" was a man, etc.). It harkened back to a Superman comic from the late 70's when Mr. Mxyzptlk tried to confuse Superman by magically changing every he to a she and vice versa. Well, this one-shot really only had the gender changes going for it. Other than that, it was 22 pages of mostly yawns. I am so glad the Challengers will be finding Ray Palmer next week in Countdown.

Speaking of, Countdown to Final Crisis #19 - another so-so issue. Mostly it centered on the Pied Piper dragging around and talking to the Trickster's corpse. Sure, we get some of the goings-on at Paradise Island and some Jimmy Olsen stuff too, but mostly it was just so-so for me. Not very festive in a holiday mood.

Countdown: Arena #3 - the weekly slugfest continues. This issue we see the captives trying to organize against Monarch, again. We also see the short fight between the 'Starman' of three worlds, a medium fight between three 'Flash' and a nice knock-down fight between three 'Wonder Woman'. The mini series ends next week so I am looking for some kind of bigger pay-off. We'll see if I get a nice present for New Years or not.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Comics in December pt. 6

Finally, I'm caught up!

Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #3 - this issue concludes the mini-series and, it would appear, provides a final fate of the cast of the Zoo Crew. I admit, I was annoyed when I read the final pages of this comic for I felt that some favorite characters of mine were forever dumped on the trash-heap. However, I then read some comments by the creators on the DC Comics Message Boards. Scott Shaw and Bill Morrison did say that management wanted them to have a particular ending to the mini, but both creators feel optimistic that they can use this as a launching point should enough fans demand to see more of the Captain and his cohorts. And they seem eager to do more as well. But will it happen? If it doesn't, is this indeed the final 'arc'? I fear it might be. I hope that fear is proved wrong.

Booster Gold #5 - last month I was wowed by the possibility of what the final page of issue 4 showed. Could Booster stop Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) from being left wheel-chair-bound after the fateful attack by the Joker from a decade old story? I had hoped so. I really really had. But, like Booster, I got to learn the hard and fast rule - that not all past events can be altered. Some things are set in stone. To me, that's management speak for 'we aren't rocking the boat that much'. Still, I have to say this was a good issue in how it told that story and how Booster had to learn the hard way that not every thing in the past can be changed. But that begs the question: where is this series going to go if all Booster and company can do is fix time-glitches that aren't supposed to happen? It could get very dull very fast. I hope the creative team of Johns and Jurgens have some ideas on how to keep the franchise vital after the well-planned and engaging opening arc. The true test of any new title is can it keep the level up into the third, fourth or fifth story arcs. We'll see.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Comics in December pt. 5

Continuing to work through the pile...

Justice Society of America #11 - the next chapter in the "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline. Mostly we get the JSA and JLA validating this elder Superman's claim that he is who he says he is and is from where he says he is from (a destroyed universe). They conclude his word is true and his intentions are good. And from his thought-narrations, it appears that way as well. So, that leaves me wondering "what's the big hook/payoff of this arc?". Clearly another shoe has got to fall at some point. I expect that Geoff Johns and Alex Ross. The question is what and when. I am hoping for a huge payoff from these two. The art by Dale Ealgesham is wonderful, as always.

Salvation Run #2 - the second part of this seven part mini-series kicks the story up a notch. We get some deaths of villains (as expected) and we get the Joker in an outstanding scene where he shows why he's someone even other villains fear in the DCU. Very nicely if not brutally done. And, of course, we get to see what happens when Lex Luthor drops into this exile party. Lex does what he does best, and he shows he'll lead through a different sort of method. So, the lines seem to be forming - and I predict a big villain war on this death-world before it is all through. Who survives to make it back to Earth? I think half the fun will be who we get shocked with seeing NOT make it home, and why. You need to be reading this book!

Company Christmas Cruise

Last night we had to do a company Christmas party - it was for my wife's company, not mine. The party was a dinner cruise on nearby Lake Norman. Now, normally that would have been fun - especially if the warmer weather had stayed with us. No such luck. It was cold (in the 30's) and rainy. So we spent most of the time inside the two-tiered boat or on the covered deck outside.

Still, it was a fun party. Dinner was very late (it was like 8:30 before we got fed - an hour into the trip). Good thing we stopped for a burger on the way to tide us over. The food was okay - typical buffet items of salmon, turkey, chicken, corn, rice with beans and a choice of two deserts (key-lime pie and cheesecake).

There was a cash-bar so naturally there was some drinking. As designated-driver, I had water. That made it interesting to watch and observe the others around me who did imbibe. Saw some interesting things(!). And, of course, since I don't work with these people or know who's who, it made it like people-watching of strangers.

Still, it was a nice night out - to get dressed up and have adult conversations around dinner with other couples.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comics in December pt. 4

Continuing the pile of books showing up this month (man, there have been a lot!):

Countdown to Final Crisis #20 - Okay, four really good issues in a row meant we were due for a bit of clunker. This week's book was it. Despite the wonderful art by Howard Porter, the story was back to hitting each of the main characters for two to three pages each. Yawn. Momentum is quickly losted faster than the Pied Piper lugging around the Trickster's corpse (I'm still stinging from that death - but now it's getting morbid and not in a funny "Weekend at Bernie's" sort of way). I hope things pick up again soon.

Countdown: Arena #2 - the slaughter-fest continues this week with showdowns between trios of Rays, Blue Beetles and Green Lanterns. I liked the touch of telling us which of the 52 Earths each of the heroes comes from. It helps to map out the Multiverse a bit better. Some of the combatants were familiar or vaguely familiar. Others had interesting twists. Some of these death-fights though were pretty gruesome. I'm really glad this book only runs for four issues - all this month. While this is an okay as a one-time-deal story, I wouldn't want to see a steady diet of this.

Tales of the Green Lantern Corps: Ion - this one-shot kind of serves as an epilogue of sorts to the recent "Sinestro War" arc in the GL titles. Mostly, it focuses on the passing of the torch between Kyle Raynor and the Daxamite who is to serve as the new host of Ion. I picked it up to go with the other GL book this week, but I wasn't all that thrilled with it. It was just okay for me.

Green Lantern #25 - this was THE book for me this week! Man, what an awesome conclusion to an awesome story arc. We get a super-sized issue with some gorgeous double-page panels - the art was fantastic through-out (and well worth the few weeks delay in schedule). We get a ton of action and a conclusion worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster epic. We get guest-heroes (which should be there when a huge invasion hits the Earth). We get some nice family moments between Hal and his brother, as well as Coast City showing their love for the hometown legend. We get heroes fighting without their rings - because in the end it isn't the power that makes a hero a hero. We see see the villains - Cyborg-Superman, Prime, the Anti-Monitor and Sinestro - all get served, as well they should. We get it all! And we get hints of what's to come - as the next major GL landmark event will be coming in the summer of 2009. I guarantee the build up over the next year and a half will be amazing. Geoff Johns has proven once more his love for these characters and that he has the ability to build upon the foundations of the past while moving the whole pantheon to the next level.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Doesn't Feel Like Christmas Yet

First, I feel bad for everyone in the midwest that got slammed by the ice storms and such this week. That is just horrible conditions. I hope things improve there soon.

Meanwhile, here in NC, it hardly feels like Christmas time. The highs this week have been in the 70's. Now, I'm not asking for snow and ice - God forbid as Southerners just freak out at the mere chance of flakes. No, I wouldn't mind a little drop in temperature - perhaps a brisk upper 40's or so with a gentle, crisp breeze.

I hear we're supposed to get some weather from the North pushing down on us later in the week. That would be nice. Just to have the feeling of Christmas back in NY, without all the slush, muck and such.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Comics in December pt. 3

Continuing the pile of books from the last week of November and first week of December:

The Search for Ray Palmer: Red Son - this one-shot in the series of one-shots in search of the Atom was just so-so for me. I never read the Elseworlds Red Son book, wherein Superman's rocket lands in Moscow instead of America. So, this Soviet super-friends-slugfest wasn't all that exciting for me. It really was a lot of filler - I should have passed it up.

Justice League of America #15 - the final part of the new creative team's opening arc was just okay. Any time you have such a huge confrontation set up - the Justice League versus this new Injustice League - it has a good chance of falling apart due to too many players involved. Sure, there were nice character bits and such but the villains were beat too easily given their emassed power. I guess my expectation levels were a bit too high. The offering of JLA membership to a certain hero was an unexpected surprise, for me, but I guess it works. Every new writer wants to pepper the team with characters they are interested in, so this team really isn't an exception in doing so. Here's hoping the next storyline has a bit more meat than a couple huge brawls.

Countdown to Adventure #4 - In the lead tale, the creative team shows us how resourceful Adam Strange can be even when his back is up against the wall. Despite having no powers, we are shown that he is a true hero in every sense of the word - fighting his way through a building of enemies. We also get a little bit with Animal Man and Starfire, the later whom I hope gets her powers back soon. The art on this lead feature was very nice as well. In the back-up, Forerunner keeps plodding along and showing she can't get along with anyone. I'm curious as to what role she'll be playing in the big Final Crisis next year; she's given all this set-up storyline so it needs to payoff at some point.

Death of the New Gods #3 - part three in this epic by Jim Starlin and company was enjoyable. The art fits the grand epic nature of this "twilight" of the Gods storyline. About the only thing that might make this more enjoyable would be to read this entire tale in one fell-swoop. However, it is such a good story that waiting for the trade would be too much torture for me.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Films We'd Like To See

Someone posted this link on a board I visit - so I don't know how long it's been around. Still, it comes across as a comic book movie I know I'd like to see!

Comics in December pt. 2

Continuing the plow through the comic pile from the last two weeks:

Countdown to Final Crisis #22 and #21 - wow! I am so glad I actually had stacked up two weeks of this mini series back to back. The final nine pages of #22 and the first three page of #21 were very powerful. And they include the final fate of a character I have enjoyed for decades. I was moved. Overall, I am happy with the way this mini series has tightened up its act over the past month or so. We are getting issues more tightly focused on one or two plotlines - as the whole plot ramps up towards a huge payoff in just a few months.

Teen Titans #53 - part three of a storyline I am getting bored with. I think the dragging of it out for four parts is hurting this one, especially when those four parts take four months to get out. One the plus side, I am loving the artwork by Eddy Barrows and Rob Hunter. These two make a great team.

the All-New Atom #18 - part two of the Atom/Wonder Woman team up. I enjoyed this a lot - thanks to Gail Simone's writing. She is bridging nicely from the character whose book she started and the character with whom she is taking over the writing chores. I think I might have to check out her work on Wonder Woman if this is how she writes the Amazon. And that last page - a nice payoff! I can wait to see Ryan's answer to the question.

Countdown Arena #1 - this is part one of a four week mini series. It basically pits three versions of various characters against one another in a Roman gladiator type competition. Three walk into the arena - one survives. The prize? To become a member of the Monarch's super-army. Fighting is not an option - you do or you die. I like the concept. What didn't thrill me so much was the artwork by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens. It seemed too cartoony for something this intense and heavy. Give me someone like Perez and Jimenz on this book - that would have been awesome! Ah well. It is only four issues so I'll keep it on the list.

Parental Moments

I had two moments yesterday, as a parent, that filled me with two different emotions.

The first was pride. Yesterday, my son as part of his boy scouts program volunteered for two hours to be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army at the local mall. He was there with another scout and an adult scoutmaster. This is part of his community service work to achieve his next level in scouts. It was very rewarding as a parent to see him out there, gladly ringing the bells and wishing people a "Merry Christmas" - whether they donated or not.

The second was concern. Last night, my son got a text message from a friend of his in class to go check out a YouTube video. My wife was there with him and checked it out with him. Turns out the video was of a bunch of girls the same age as the boys - at a pajama party, cavorting around and being silly. What was concerning was the girls in the video were classmates of my son and his friend. Twelve year old girls - putting video of themselves up on YouTube. One of the girls was the daughter of friends right across the street. And she was the one who told my son's friend how to find the video (word is she has a crush on him). Now, I didn't see the video - my wife said there wasn't anything sexual about it. What concerns me, as a parent, is that kids aren't thinking twice about what they put on the Internet. Like FaceBook and MySpace, these can turn into tools predators can use to target our children. Very very disconcerting to me.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Comics in December pt. 1

Due to other reading, I'm a bit backlogged on my weekly comic reading. So, I'm just going through the pile slowly. Since they overlap release weeks, I'll just lump them together in groups of four until I'm through. Oh, and one last thing - all images from weekly comic reviews belong to the DC Comics company (the links even come from their website - just wanted to mention that). Thanks. On to the books:

Justice League Unlimited #40 - the issue has more of a focus on Zatanna, the League's mistress of magic. There are nice homages to classic comic tales - like Zatanna's quest to find her father, etc. It is a nice, done-in-one tale. Rumor is this book is scheduled to stop soon. That's a shame if it happens - I enjoy it a lot.

Teen Titans Go! #49 - like the above book, this one brings a little classic comic stuff into the animated comic universe. The cover asks if it is time for the return of Slade (Deathstroke the Terminator). Inside, the answer is revealed - and astute comic fans can guess it. But for kids who might not read the mainstream books, I am sure it is a surprise. A good story with clean art by Todd Nauck.

Batman and the Outsiders #2 - I picked the first issue up on a whim a few weeks back and liked it enough to give the second a shot. I liked the second a lot. Chuck Dixon is the writer and he really makes these characters engaging for me. I think this book will be a nice new addition to my pull-list.

JSA Classified #32 - First off, I liked the cover. Very eye grabbing. Inside, I am glad to be back reading this title after dropping a few issues due to the horrible Mr. Terrific solo arc that ran for three months. This is part one of two parts featuring the original Green Lantern of the 40's. While the dialogue on the first few pages was way too expository for my tastes, it did fit okay. A father still frought with the grief of his young daughter's death would likely say those things aloud. I miss thought balloons. Anyway, good book.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Who Finally Read the Watchmen?

Well, last night I finished reading the copy of Watchmen that I checked out of the library. For those who aren't into comics, it is a twelve-part graphic novel, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, centering around a number of former super-heroes and how they face the changes in the world around them.

Now, I know many folks read it when it first came out in 1985 and found it to be very groundbreaking. I can certainly see that. Like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen really told its story of heroes in a very realistic way, struggling to make sense of the chaos and try to make a better world. It was done in a style that up until that point had never been done before - or at least note in such a concentrated sort of focus. Sure Marvel Comics of the 60's really kicked into the genre the whole soap-opera type element, but these two titles from the 80's ushered in a new period of heroes forced to make some extreme choices. It was really the start of the grim-and-gritty period of comics of the late 80's and early 90's.

However, reading it for the first time today in 2007 with the ability to see it in hindsight and its context to the genre since, I didn't feel as much of its story impact as a probably would have if I had read it back in 1985. What I mean is that I've seen elements of Watchmen in so many comics since then - elements that I was not always fully aware until now that got their roots from Watchmen. And I don't just see it in comics I've read in the past 20 years; I can see television shows like Heroes drew from this thematic well too.

Was it a good read? Yes.

Was it something that a more mature reader would appreciate as opposed to, say, my twelve year old son? Definitely.

Am I glad I read it for free from the library as opposed to plopping down $20 for a copy in the bookstore? Very much so.

Is that a knock on the door by my comic-book compadrees ready to revoke my lifetime fandom membership card? Probably.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Heroes season 2 Finale

Damn! Now that's how to do a season finale!

Heroes had always planned to split the 2007-2008 season into two chapters/seasons if you will. The Writers' Strike just kind of pushed this one to that point a little bit faster.

Still, they managed to pack quite a bit of stuff into this episode - with lots of all-so-awesomeness as well! It is definitely an episode people will be talking about for days.

And that's good since the start of the season had been so-so. Tim Kring has admitted that he sort of lost some of the wind in the sails, but the last three shows really went far to make up for that.

Now we have to wait until 2008 (January? March? Septebmer?) to get the next chapter of the story. I think it will be worth the wait.

Hey, NBC! How's about getting out a DVD set for "season 2" to fill the void? Load it with commentary and extras too!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Passing of an Icon

As a child of the 70's, I can say that my friends and I often ended up setting up ramps made from bricks and boards on the sidewalks. We'd then get on our bikes, pedal as fast as we could, roll up that ramp and jump our bikes - hoping for a solid landing on two tires or, at the very least, to land on the softer grass rather than the cement. Why did we do it?

Two words: Evel Knievel.

This motorcycle daredevil was the stuff of dreams for ten year old boys in the mid-70's. His jumps on television - be they buses or canyons - were spectacles. Back in the day when TV consisted of three networks and little else, you couldn't miss them.

And, it was more than just watching the stunts. We had the toys - the stunt cylces that were powered by reving up a big plastic crank motor, and an action figure clad in the familiar white jumpsuit and helmet, adorned with blue and red stars. The image brought up that of America and super-heroes. And when he did interviews, the guy seemed tough as nails. I guess he had to be, given how many bones he broke over the years for stunts that didn't work as well as expected. Still, he seemed tough - Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" tough or any kind of John Wayne character tough.

By today's standards, folks would label him crazy or a kook. But back in the 70's, to us ten-year old boys, he was cool.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Finally Checking It Out

I went to the local library yesterday after a workout at the YMCA and was just browsing through the shelves for something to checkout. There, among the graphic novels, was something I had actually never gotten around to reading or buying in 20+ years. I had heard a lot about it, of course. Many consider it a pinacle of comic-storytelling. I guessed after all this time I figured I should check it out. After all, using the library, it wasn't going to cost me anything but the investment of time.

What am I referring to?

Watchmen. I'll let you know what I think when I finish it in a few days.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Stampeding Through the Decades

For the past thirteen years or so, I've been a huge fan of Rhino Records and their products. It started for me on my 30th birthday with their Have A Nice Day: Super Hits of the 70's collection - a twenty-five volume CD series that really covered all those niche and one-hit wonders of the 1970's very well. I was in a rather nostalgic mood at the time and this set was perfect for me. And it really was "love" at first

From there, I branched out into two 80's collections that Rhino also had: Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's and Radio Daze: Pop Hits of the 80's. The former is a fifteen volume collection of some of the most known and quite a few forgotten new wave jems up through the middle of the 80's. The later was a five volume set that really featured some lighter pop hits of the same time - a nice compliment to the earlier 70's set. I was rather hoping this second 80's set would catch on and that more would come, but alas that wasn't the case. It must not have been as popular.

I was rather content with all of these disks, for they filled in holes in my CD collection rather nicely. As I said, a lot of the songs on these were hits by artists that didn't chart that often - so they were a nice alternative to hunting down any greatest hits sets. And, more likely, these collections are probably some of the only times some of these songs have even been made available on CD.

However, Rhino came back into my life again this past week. As you know, I've been prepping files on my PC from my CD collection so I'll be ready for my iPod come the holidays. What I realized, in going through my music, is that while the 70's and 80's were very well represented (and that makes sense too as that was my years of youth through young adulthood) I was lacking a lot of stuff from the 90's. In browsing around, I ran across another Rhino set - Whatever - the 90's Pop and Culture Box set. I luckily found it for half price so I couldn't resist getting this seven disk, 125 song set. Unlike the earlier sets, this 90's set seems to be more of a sampling buffet rather than a more focused, genre menu that the others provide. The 90's music scene included so many styles - pop, rock, R&B, rap, alternative, grunge, etc. - and this set tries to sample as much of those as it can. What you get is kind of a mish-mash of music that doesn't flow as seemlessly as other collections.

Some may look at Rhino's reissue offerings as sort of the K-Tel records of the 21st century (how many of you are old enough to get that reference?). For me, I'm okay with that. They've done the work to hunt down these various songs and make them available in affordable collections. Their selections may seem odd on the surface, but after many listening sessions you realize they've plucked some of these songs from the abyss for old fans and future fans alike to enjoy.

Now, I need to see what their 60's offerings are like....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not Surprised by Debut

My wife alerted me last night to the headline on Yahoo - "Idol Album Bombs". And I'm not surprised. The album debuted at #10 on the charts this week with only 119,000 copies. That's less than half the debut releases of season three winner Fantasia (240,000) and barely a bit more that the previous season's runner up Katherine McPhee (116,000). Not a very good start.

Jordin Sparks, in my humble opinion, was not the best of the pack in last year's American Idol crop. Sure, she was cute and young and has a lot of potential, but she still has a bit of a way to go to be a true super-star. I heard her first single a number of times on the radio last week "Tattoo" and I was not impressed. It sounded exactly like every other young teen song on the airwaves to date - and it was hardly catchy. It failed to stand out. It was okay but not extraordinary.

My money last season was on the number 2 and 3 placers - Blake Lewis and Melinda Doolittle respectively. Both had unique stylings or at the very least stylings that would help them stand out among the pack of today's radio artists. Some didn't like Blake's beatbox skills, but the man knows how to work a tune and make it fun. His CD drops next week - and I am planning to pick it up. I have a past history of supporting the #2 placers (Bo Bice, Diana DeGarmo and Clay Aiken). As for "Mindy-Doo", there is no question that she has the chops to have a long musical career. Her work as a back-up singer for many top performers of the years has shown her how to step out and be a star. Every week she delivered a flawless performance in musical abilities that seperated her from the crowd. I know she'll be recording for many many years to come.

As for Jordin, well, she is the type that would best benefit from a relationship with the folks from the Disney Channel. She's got a nice look, a nice personality and a good voice. Give her a show like Miley Cyrus and watch out! Jordin would probably be ecstatic to sell concert tickets for hundreds or thousands of dollars a pop like Miley does.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Recent Commercials

As a DVR user, I typically don't catch a lot of commercials. Though, sometimes when we're out for wings at Buffalo Wild Wings where they have a lot of sports on big TV's on around the place, you can't help but see a few ads. Here are two of my favorite current ones:

1) A car commercial with a guy driving down a country highway, windows and sun roof open. He's singing along to Andy Kim's "Rock Me Gently" on the radio when a squirrel jumps in the passenger seat and starts to sing along (yes, a cute CGI done thing). Now, I won't spoil the rest of the commercial but I find it fun and funny every time.

2) Another car commercial with two guys driving in one guy's new car. The driver is showing off the voice activated systems that allow it to play his MP3 files. Again, I won't spoil it for those not having seen it.

What do these two commercials have in common?

No, not the car products. I can't even tell you what cars they were advertising. Honestly, I didn't care. I'm not in the market for a car so why would I take notice.

Nope, what stuck with me was the use of older popular music. I guess I'm in a music mindset right now so that's what catches me. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Writer's Block

Hey, readers! Sorry I've been busy of late to work up any decent blog entries. I've been taking a lot of files from our CD library to prepare for the iPods at Christmas. It has been keeping me very busy and thus little time to think about other stuff. Couple that with a huge loss in TV watching due to the Writers' Strike - and, well, I just am out of topics for the moment.

Hopefully I'll get inspired. Meanwhile, stay well, stay warm and stay happy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to Routine

After a nice, well-needed four day weekend it is time to get back to work this morning.

Actually, we got a lot accomplished this weekend all things considered:

- a nice Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family
- some quality time for just our little family of three together
- a majority of our Christmas shopping done
- a lot more scanning of our CD libraries for both my wife and I, in anticipation of the iPods we're giving each other for Christmas

Sure, we didn't get any decorating done - that'll come next weekend. I'll probably start the gift wrapping then too, once more of our orders come in.

I figure all this rest will keep my battery charaged until about four weeks from now, when I have scheduled the rest of my vacation usage for the year. That'll be a nice long break.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Comics of the Week (11/21/07)

Action Comics #859 - this is part two of the Superman/LSH arc. Geoff Johns is really working hard to restore the past continuity that was wiped out between these characters back in the late 80's, and I am loving it! I would so pick up a monthly LSH title with these characters - things are that intriguing. This is a storyline that should not be missed.

Batman and the Outsiders #1 - this first issue of a new team book takes on the name of a classic comic titles from the 80's. Like that former book, Batman now leads a team that takes on missions that he and the Justice League can't. It is definitely more of a cut-throat, espionage type of book. While the first issue was okay, I don't know if I'll continue to pick it up or not.

Countdown to Final Crisis #23 - once more we focus on Superman-Prime with the same art and writing team as last week. S-P gets a little payback for his actions, or at the very least some major derailment of his plans.

Countdown to Mystery #3 - more on the trippy Dr. Fate written by Steve Gerber, and the back-up series featuring Eclipso and the side effects of her corruption of others. I have to admit, I am enjoying this mini-series a lot more thanks to the back-up. I guess I like the idea of getting two features in one book as well - it reminds me of the old anthology books I grew up on.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #8 - another fun issue of the animated LSH. This one shows the beginnings of the Bouncing Boy/Triplicate Girl relationship that many of us old-time Legion fans remember from the 60's and 70's. The book puts a nice spin on it for a new generation, which is really a strength of this book.

the Brave and the Bold #8 - Waid and Perez are back for another outstanding issue in this series. This is a done-in-one with Flash and the Doom Patrol. It spins out of events from the Flash book which Waid is writing (a book I dropped mostly due to the art but also the slow story telling). Here Waid's use of the Flash's kids are enjoyable. I guess Perez's art makes them more easy to take. Then again, Perez can draw anything and I'd love it! The framing pages with the Challengers of the Unknown and the Book of Destiny is also intriquing. I'm betting this all culminates in issue #12 which is supposed to be Perez's last on art. I hope he's having too much fun and stays longer.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Black Friday

Did you dare venture to the shopping mall or other retail outlets yesterday?

We didn't - or at least not at the crack of dawn. First, what's up with all these folks hitting stores at 5am or 4am or (as some of the malls in Charlotte did near us) midnight? Yes, they had amazing doorbuster deals at those hours, but is that enough to lose sleep over? Not for me.

We actually started some of our Christmas shopping online on Thanksgiving night. We ordered from a number of things for our son and our nephews, all from the comfort of the couch. And then we put in another order from Dell, again from the couch. No fuss, no crowds, no lines, no out of stocks.

On Friday morning, instead, we hit the YMCA for a morning workout. I'm happy to report that even with the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws, I managed to not add any weight (wooohooo). After the workout, we came back home to shower and change. Then we went out to lunch, and then we hit the mall.

Yup, even at 1pm it was still swamped, but there were signs of the crowds thinning. After a couple hours and getting a few more gifts knocked, we went over to the plaza with Best Buy. Didn't buy anything but were happy to find decent parking. Last year that place was a madhouse all day.

Today we're looking to hit shopping some in Charlotte to try and finish up the holiday gift hunt. It would be nice to be able to kick back and relax, knowing we have no gift pressure for a few weeks as we finalize our holiday plans.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sleeping In

You know what's nice on a day off? Sleeping in.

On normal work days, my alarm is set to go off at 4:50am. I usually snooze it twice and am up by 5:15am. So, on weekends and days off from work like today, I don't have to set the alarm and can just get up whenever. That usually means I get to sleep in until 7am or 7:30am.

What? You thought I was going to say sleep until noon. I haven't done that in decades. Back in college when I came home on break, I'd sleep until maybe 11am, but that was usually because I was out with my friends until 3am. No, these days the only way I'm in bed late into the morning is if I am sick or something.

For me, I just feel like I waste so much of the day if I'm not up reasonably early. I get a lot done in those morning hours.

Now, I'm not against the occasional afternoon nap, but that's another story for another time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. As is tradition on this American holiday, besides eating way too much and watching a lot of football, we give thanks for all the wonderful things in our lives.

I am thankful for:

family - my wife and my son, our parents, her grandparents, our brothers, our sister-in-law, our neices and nephews, our aunts and uncles and cousins.

friends - those whom we work with, those whom we know through our neighborhood and community activites, and those we can only keep touch with through cyberspace.

health - my heart is solid, my weight is going down at a reasonable rate and my tryglicerides are under control.

work - I really enjoy what I do and the company I work for. I plan for it will to be the place I stay for a long long time.

home - a roof over our heads, food and loving pets.

Everyone have a safe, enjoyable holiday. Call someone you haven't spoken to in awhile, just to say hello and that you're thinking about them. Oh, and save a drumstick for me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who You Gonna Call?

I opened our mailbox today and there was a copy of the newest issue of GameInformer magazine. On the cover, large and in charg, was that old familiar red and white iconic logo. Yup, that's the one - Ghostbusters!

Seeing that logo instantly took me back to 1984. Ray Parker Jr.'s theme song instantly jumped into my head (I can't tell you how many times I danced to that at parties and such in college).

Of course, there's the films, both very quotable. ("When someone asks you if you're a god, you say yes!", "I've been slimed!", "I am the Keymaster."). They were a nice mix of comedy, action and just plain fun. The characters are iconic - anyone on the street can recognize pictures of the guys in the brown jumpsuits with proton packs on their backs.

And I remember the Activision game for my Commodore 64 computer. Even with the limited graphics and sound capabilities (compared to today), the game captured the look, feel and sounds of the films perfectly. Spent many hours playing that game in college.

And I had a painted T-shirt, custom made for me by hand by my good friend Kathy, with the logo on it - big and bold. I wore that thing out over the years. Sure, I was a bit of a geek with it but I didn't mind. It was a wonderful gift from a wonderful friend, and I was proud of it.

So, it looks like the Ghostbusters are coming back to all the video game platforms in 2008. The previews look good. The actors are all back for voice-overs. Harold Ramis is even heavily involved with the writing of the game's storyline. If anything, this is like the third film that fans have always wanted but aren't likely to ever get - not in live action format.

Who you gonna call? ... I can't hear you! ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas Angels

At work every year, our combined department of about eleven or so people usually decide to forego Christmas gifts to one another and instead donate that money to a worthy cause. The cause is Christmas Angels, a program where needy children are put on a list and names are assigned to those who want to give. Our group usually gets two children in the same family to contribute to.

Two of the women in our department are the focal people - getting everyone involved and collecting our donations. The donations are anonymous - just an envelope that they keep and we can put in whatever cash we like. The money is gathered over a week's time. Then the fun starts.

With each angel/name comes information about that child. Things like age, clothing sizes, interests or wish-list types of toys. The women (and whoever else wants to help) then go out and shop for your children - to get gifts for them. They usually try to get at least one full outfit of clothing as well as some toys for each of the kids. Then, they wrap up the gifts and drop them off at the collection point who, in turn, makes sure the gifts get to the kids for Christmas. The kids just know they have some 'angels' that were watching over them this year.

I've been here for three holidays now, and I think it is a neat thing to do. Often it is a much better use of the money rather than us getting each other little knick-knack type gifts. This way the money can go to some good use - helping make the holidays a little brighter for a few children in need.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Polished Armor

With everything going on of late, I forgot to review an acquisition that arrived the last week of October. Ironically, given the news I talked about yesterday, this review is a bitter sweet one. The Invicible Iron Man: the Complete Collection DVD-ROM, it turns out, is the last of the huge runs that GIT Corp is putting out. What a way to go.

Iron Man is actually billionaire industrialist Tony Stark who created a fantastic suit of armor in part to help with his weak heart. He ends up becoming a hero, using his brains and inventive skills to come up with a wonderous arsenal of weapons to fight evil. Along the way he fights the likes of the Mandarin, the Titanium Man, the Melter, the Living Lazer and many many more.

As a kid, I mostly knew Iron Man from the cartoons and his appearances as a member of the Avengers. I never got into his solo book much. I think part of that was due to poor distribution of the title on the local newsstands. So, a lot of this collection is new to me, so I look forward to diving headlong into it. Lots of good reading of storylines I've heard about for years (like Tony's wrestling with alcoholism, the replacement years with Jim Rhodes, the Armor Wars and more).

If you're an Iron Man fan, like my good buddy Tim Watts is (shout out! "Typhoooooon!"), you can't miss this one. Nothing like over 500 issues of Iron Man on a single disk for less that $50. And, you better snag them fast. GIT has said that they can produce any more of this or any of their other Marvel sets - so once supplies run out they are gone forever!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Marvel Pulls the GIT Plug

After five years, Marvel Comics has decided to not renew the licensing agreement with GIT Corp. GIT was the company that would produce CD-ROM and DVD-ROM collections of Marvel comics, providing full cover to cover scans of books (all pages, ads, letter columns, etc.) which are readable with Adobe Reader (a universal PC document reader) at a super affordable price.

Marvel has decided to instead to get into providing digital comics for reading off of their website. For a monthly fee (or annual one), a person can subscribe to the service, log on to the Marvel site and use their cumbersome viewer to look at the books. The books on Marvel's site only have the story pages and covers - no ads, no letter columns. And the kicker: you don't get to actually download the file on your PC. Nope, you can only view it online.

Now, what I love about the GIT collections is that I can read them anywhere. I don't have to have an internet connection. I just need the disk and my PC. That means I can read them on a plane. I can read them on vacation where I might not have an online connection. It doesn't matter.

Marvel, in my opinion, is cutting of their noses despite their faces. They see the money being made by iTunes and other folks and want a piece of the download pie. But, they are not in the same pie. The end user does not get to keep anything when they use the Marvel service. If you quit after a year, then you have nothing to show for it. Nothing.

GIT also provided full runs on titles. Marvel is putting up books piecemeal to their site - about 20 books a week. And they appear to be random. Parts of mini series but not all. Jumping around on main titles. Basically the reader is now at the whim of whatever Marvel wants to put up.

It sucks that GIT could not get out their Thor and Daredevil sets before the license got pulled. They were on the slate for 2008. However, GIT is not down or out of the game. Their president said they were closing the deal on doing their product magic with the Archie line of comics. I'll be happy to get those types of collections in the DVD-ROM format if they are affordable. I'm betting they will be.

So, the loser here is Marvel. Now they get less of my money than they did before. I don't get any current books from Marvel, only reprints in Essentials. I may stop that, just to vote with my wallet. If what I've read in the past 48 hours on message boards, I'm not the only one.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Comics of the Week (11/14/07)

Teen Titans East Special - Cyborg can't get his old teammates back into the group, so he decides to train some second-string teens into a new unit. However, a little training exercise ends in very very disastrous results! The first half of the book is more like a flashback or untold tale of the New Teen Titans line-up from back in the 80's. Still, it didn't feel "right" - even down to the teaming of Joker with Bizarro (why why why team those two up?). Since this special is a prelude to a new #1 issue coming soon with a team returning to the classic line up, I am concerned that the writer can make it work given this issue's look at his using those characters. I'll give the first issue a shot, but it will be with a wary eye.

Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #2 - Frogzilla is back! And so is Alley-Kat-Abra! This middle issue of the mini-series moved things along, but there are lots of elements going on in this book. In fact, it might be too much and that's making this return to a classic a little less fun than expected. It is almost like the writer knows he only has a mini to work with, so he's throwing everything and the kitchen sink in just in case the book doesn't do well enough to warrant a new ongoing title.

Salvation Run #1 - The premise behind this seven issue mini-series is that DC's nastiest villains are gathered up by the government and deposited upon an alien world, left to their own devices. They can either work together or take each other out. It starts with the Flash's Rogues Gallery, a group of villains I've always enjoyed. Before the end of the first issue, we get a lot more villains on the playing field as well. And the final panel hints at who is really behind this whole operation (I'm looking forward to finding out why they are doing it). I felt the art worked well enough and the writing was good. Since I've always enjoyed spotlights on the villains (I wrote enough fanfiction starring many of them for years), I think I'm in for the long-run on this run.

Countdown to Final Crisis #24 - as much as I wasn't thrilled with the book last week's issue, this week's offering redeemed this book in spades! The story focuses mostly on Superman Prime, a sole hero from a parallel Earth long since gone. He continues to search the multiverse, looking for the perfect one that is close to his own home. However, when he fails to find it, look out! He is so unworthy of the Superman title it is not funny. How he destroys a world's heroes and people is a textbook example of power gone wild. A very solid story with great art and the introduction of a true threat to this storyline that could make the finale next year huge.

Booster Gold #4 - Booster run into, literally, the Flash (Barry Allen) and Kid Flash (Wally West) as part of his time-travel adventures. These two guest stars work well in the story - to serve as a catalyst for the events - without any overshadowing of the book's main stars. Booster, Skeets and Rip Hunter all get into the action as they fight those who are trying to obilterate the JLA members from the timeline. There are more ongoing subplots as well, and that final page has a gorgeous pin-up picture of one of my favorite heroes ever! I can't wait to see how next issue plays out - I'm really hoping for a certain kind of ending, though I might not get it as it would totally throw the status quo of things. I hope they deliver - that'd be an awesome Christmas present for 2007.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rant: Censoring Santa

I read a story yesterday out of Syndney, Australia, that said Santas in the big city down under were being strongly urged not to use the traditional "ho ho ho" greeting because it could be considered offensive. Yeah, you read that right. Santa Clause is being censored.

Give me a break! The line for political correctness has gone way too far when something like this happens. Santa Clause is a cherished icon of the Christmas holidays and is known the world-over as a bringer of joy and good cheer to the young and the young at heart. To imply that his most recognized greeting has any kind of slanderous implications towards women is ridiculous!

What's next? Will the Hostess company need to rename their chocolate treats? Will garden supply stores need to advertise certain tools under a less offensive name? Will rural western communities need to come up with another name for certain gatherings with music and dance? If we're going to censor Santa Clause, how can any of these other things be allowed to exist as is? (yes, I'm being sarcastic)

This is stupid. Enough is enough. People do not need to be protected from the different uses of similar sounding syllables. They need to get a better education. Put words and sounds into the context of their usage, and you'll see that none of this should be offensive in the slightest to anyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Alarm Clock

This past weekend when we went shopping, I was waiting outside the dressing rooms at one of the department stores while my son was trying on pants. I happened to spy one of those displays with gifts that often are out at the holiday times, so I walked over to check the stuff out. Among the various things were boxes of alarm clocks.

Now, my current CD player alarm clock is one I've had for over 15 years. The CD player actually gets stuck a lot and the face place has come unglued over time and slides down. It isn't a bad clock really. However, these new ones had something interesting going for them - they could work with an iPod!

Yeah, the wheels were turning. I was thinking "well, if I got an iPod for Christmas, I'd need someplace to charge it". This GPX clock radio could do that, and you could actually awaken with music from your iPod as a source. We got my son a similar type of clock for his birthday with his iPod, and this one was a much better price - and it had a $10 mail in rebate to boot.

I picked up the box, trotted over to where my wife was and asked if I could get it. I think she followed my silent thinking and said it was fine. So, I got myself a new clock and have something to dock my iPod I should be getting at Christmas. Win-win.

Or so I thought. Turns out this clock has a few fun features I did not know about.

For example, it has a lighted display with three settings - dim, brighter and super-nova bright. Okay, no problem. I can put it on dim. Well, damn if that dim isn't bright enough to act as a beacon for those return trips from the bathroom in the middle of the night. Seriously, all it needs is a fog-horn and it could bring in the ships. Okay, I can live with that. And, yes, I have to now roll over and fall asleep the other way to avoid the "dim" light in my face. Not a problem.

Next comes the alarm. You can do radio, iPod or buzzer. I've never been a buzzer person and since no iPod yet, I go radio. That's cool. Found a station I like that comes in and set the volume. Good to go. Well, not quite. When the alarm goes off, hitting the snooze is easy (biggest bar and all). Even without my glasses on I can hit that without a problem. But, the display goes from "dim" to super-nova when the alarm goes off and stays that way. I guess it is to help further wake you up. Gak. So, I hit snooze, roll over and avoid the interrogation lamps beating down at me.

Now, I'm a three snooze kind of person (my old clock each snooze was eight minutes). Guess what? This clock's snooze is nine minutes. So, I have to recalculate the first alarm time so I am up when I want to be (no later than 5:15am). Grumble grumble. Okay, just a minor annoyance. Most likely I'll switch it over to two snoozes and move on.

Lastly, turning the darn alarm off. On my old clock, it was easy. Button just up and to the right of the snooze. Actually, that was too convenient as you could hit the off by accident. Not so easy on this new clock. The off button is the power button on the upper left. A small button. Not something I can hit easily from lying in bed. I've found I have to snooze it first, sit up, put on my glasses and then locate the power button to turn it off. I guess that's a motivator to get me out of bed on time.

I guess I'll just have to adjust to the changes. Change is good. Or, at the very least, change keeps us on our toes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Soup For Supper

Last night we had for dinner some homemade chicken soup that my wife cooked up in the crockpot during the day on Sunday.

She boiled up some chicken we had in the freezer and then deboned it. She carmalized some onions, celery and carrots. Then, all of that went into the crock pot along with some of the water from the chicken boiling and a container of chicken broth (for flavor). She let it all simmer all day on Sunday.

Last night, we took that and brought it to a slow boil in a regular pot. To that she added some frozen peas and corn to thicken it up. She cooked up some rotini pasta in another pot (she doesn't like the noodles to cook in the soup as they get too soggy for her taste that way). She then served up the bowls by putting pasta on the bottom and then adding ladels full of goodness on top.

I've always been a huge soup fan, so I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I ended up having seconds along with finishing my son's bowl when he was done (he picked out the chicken and noodles and had most of the broth - he's not huge on vegetables). Along with that we had some nice bread with rosemary and olive oil baked in. A very nice, light dinner.

The best part: there is plenty of soup left-over so I can have another meal of it late in the week (or to cover my lunches on the weekend).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Morning Routine

Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty much a creature of habit. Order and routine are the norm which I don't often variate from. In the first twenty minutes of any given day after I awake, here's the order of things:

- bathroom
- take my morning aspirin (for my heart)
- put on clothes
- wake the dogs and take them for a walk
- take my daily TriCor pill
- make my lunch for work (if Monday through Friday)
- feed the dogs
- feed the tortoise

Only after that do I hit the computer to check email, message boards, post in my blog, etc.

I'm like the military, I do a lot in the first twenty minutes of my day. ;)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mighty Sore

Well, it's a good thing it is a holiday today - and that I took a vacation day to be home with my son who is off from school. After the weekend I've had so far, I'm ready to just kick back and do nothing today.

It started of Saturday morning after the cable guy left. While my son had his tennis at the YMCA, my wife and I went inside to work out. I did my usual 45 minutes on the cross-training machine. Lots of leg and arm work. I enjoy that workout routine, even if I only get it in once a week.

After we got home, showered and changed, it was back in the car. We drove the hour to one of the shopping malls near Charlotte. My son needed long pants since he outgrew his ones from last year. So, we walked the mall - for about four or so hours. Okay, walking is good. No problem.

Woke up Sunday morning a little sore, but I had to suck it up. My wife wanted us to have a few hours on a family activity for Sunday, so around 10:30am we took off and drove to South Mountain nature park. Now, one of the pluses of living in Hickory is being close to a lot of wonderful nature in this part of North Carolina. The mountains are very close, and the leaves are still in the color changing phase so it was a perfect time to go.

Well, we first did the walk of about 3/4 of a mile to the various trail starts. That was flat - no problem. Then we started on the trail up to the falls. Lots of rocks, roots, rises and such. After about an hour, we got to the look-out point below the falls. That was a good run for our first trip, and then we started back. In total, we walked for a good two hours. Not sure how far - I'm thinking a couple miles easy. Whew.

So, today, I'm doing nada. Sitting on my butt in front of the computer or TV. Maybe I'll get a nap in too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

...Long Live the DVR

On Thursday I told you how our old DVR went on the fritz. Well, the cable guy came yesterday morning. Yup, it was dead.

Good news is he brought us a replacement DVR. Yeah! I can't tell you how different our house was without a working cable box in the family room this week. My wife and I spent a lot of time doing other things - mostly on the computer. It is nice to have the box back.

The bad news is that it is not a MOXI box which we were used to. It is still a Motorola box, but it does not have the same interfaces. To trade off, though, the hard drive is twice as large.

The program search is a bit harder to set up. The program record functions are missing the option of "first run only" - it has "new episodes" instead. Now, that's pretty much the same for network shows, but it gets dicey on cable shows that run the new episodes multiple times a week. I guess I have to watch what I set for series recording now on.

I had to, of course, re-enter our recording schedule as this was a new box. Side effect of all this: in asking my wife if she wanted the soaps added back in, she said no. She liked not feeling the 'pressure' to watch what was recorded. If they weren't there, oh well. So, that frees up time on our schedules a lot.

And I liked that the cable guy hit our house fifteen minutes after 8. When they give the block of 8-12, it is usually my luck to get the last appointment of the day. We got the first and that allowed for us to have more time with our Saturday scheduled events. That was a nice way to start the day too.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Adventures with iTunes

Last month I mentioned that we got my son an iPod nano for his 12th birthday. He's really enjoying it - takes his music when we go places or visiting family so he can listen to the songs he likes. He's even done some downloading of music from the iTunes Store site with the giftcards he got on his birthday as well.

I had set him up with about 80 or so mp3 files myself from files I had stored on his computer. That computer was my old desktop model which I had used for many years. Still stored on it were fourteen directories filled with mp3 files of songs I pulled from our CD collection. I had them organized by year (1970 through 1983) and I actually had burned a copy of each directory onto CDs for storage purposes.

In setting him up with songs for his iPod, it got me thinking about all those files again after a long time. I took the CD back-ups and put the files onto my laptop. Then I installed the free iTunes software from the Apple site. Now the iTunes software can work independently of an iPod; one can use it really just to organize music files, video files, photograph files, etc. on your computer. It's pretty slick for some free software. Apple's goal, of course, is for you to use their iTunes Store to pay to download music, videos, etc and/or to get an iPod to take those things with you.

I'm mostly playing with it for the music files. One of the fun things you can do is update the details on the music files. You can modify the attributes like artist, song title, and music genre. You can also update the data from which album the song came from. When you do that, you can also click the mouse and have iTunes sync up with the iTunes Store site to download the album artwork, if they have that album on the site. How cool is that? Since the iPod will display an album cover when it plays a song, you can have a visual touch to go with the music. That appeals to me a lot.

Now, I have noticed that some albums aren't there. There tend to be more greatest-hits type collections. I'm really trying to sync my songs with artwork from the albums the songs first appeared on. So that takes a little longer to get the exact album. In fact, I've gotten obcessive over the past few weekends and started to clean up my files. I've updated artist names and albums and then pulled in the album art for many of the songs I had. It's been time consuming but a lot of fun too. One of the other neat features on the iPod is to scroll through the Album Art. It reminds me of flipping through albums on one of those CD jukeboxes.

I also noticed a number of artists, surprisingly, did not have any songs in the iTunes store. Sure, some are one-hit wonders so I would expect those not to be there. But, also, some bigger names: Led Zepplin, AC/DC, Bob Seger - to name but three.

My goal for all this? To have my files set up perfectly for when I get my own iPod. It's on my Christmas list - actually the only thing I'm really interested in getting. We might break down and snag one sooner, just to be sure stores don't sell out too close to the holidays. That's okay though - it has been many many a Christmas since I've had any big surprises under the tree. In any case, I'll be ready to roll with my music collection when the time comes. Yeah, I'm a huge plan-ahead kind of person. Can't you tell? ;)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Comics of the Week (11/07/07)

After last week's avalanche of books, we're back to a lighter week. Here's what I picked up:

Countdown to Final Crisis #25 - After last week's solid issue, this week was back to so-so land. I think it was the artwork. It seemed very rushed to me. It was nice to see the storyline focusing, however, on Karate Kid. Also, it wasn't lost on me the point that all roads are leading to Apokolips (three of the plotlines ran that direction this week).

Justice League Unlimited #39 - a fun issue featuring the great detectives - Batman, Elongated Man and...Detective Chimp??? Very fun read from the animated universe. I know these books are more targetted to kid readers, but even those of us that are still a kid at heart can enjoy them. It wasn't predictable either so that means the writer isn't "dumbing it down".

the All-New Atom # 17 - Gail Simone is back to writing, and she's bringing along the elements of the Wonder Woman book which she is now writing as well. That's a good thing. The interaction between the Atom and the amazon were fun, as were his interactions with Giganta. The art was appropriately pin-up in style without being overtly trashy. Definitely a fun read. And, lots more bizarre happenings in Ivy Town (this place makes the town of Twin Peaks look like Hooterville).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

DVR Is Dead...

Tuesday night I went in the family room after dinner and noticed an odd sequence of numbers on our cable company provided DVR box. Turning on the television, I could sit and watch the box go through a sequence of trying to start up and connect to the network, only to fail and reboot. This happened over and over. Not sure when it started per se. It was fine Monday night. I'm thinking at some point during Tuesday.

So, I called the local cable company and first tried the automated service route. You know the ones - where you speak answers to the prompts and it gives you other prompts. I should have known that was a recipe for wasted time. Sure, I can see it helping with a lot of simple problems but mine clearly wasn't so. Finally, I got to an agent. I gave him my info and details of the problem, then he said he would have to transfer me to an expert on our particular box. Fine.

Then we got disconnected.

I called back again and luckily got a person right off the bat. I explained what the problem was briefly and how I was going to be transferred to an expert on my box when the call got dropped. Turns out this guy was the expert. Lucky me, and lucky him. Saved me going on another tirade while being on hold, a tirade which my wife just tuned out entirely.

Anyway, we tried a few things only to conclude that, yes, the DVR seemed to be suffering a hardware failure. He said a tech would have to be scheduled to come out. The earliest was Thursday morning. Ugh. Couldn't be out of work so we took Saturday morning instead. We first however signed up for the $4.95 monthly line service contract so that we would not have to pay the technician for a service call (they get covered by that).

So, I got done with the phone call just in time to turn on the tiny TV in the kitchen so we could watch our Tuesday night shows on FOX (since the cable still worked on other sets in the house). No pausing though or rewinding. Kind of missed that already.

I'm going to assume that also gone was anything recorded for the week. Bummer. My wife did not see most of the Monday comedies so we'll have to wait on the reruns. Gone too were the two days of soaps. Oh well. We had been talking about making a break from them anyway. Perhaps the DVR failure was a sign - a way for us to quit cold turkey. I'm also going to assume I'll have to reset up my "to record" list should we require a new box - I'm thinking that's going to be the case. Again, probably a good thing. A good time to reassess viewing habits.

Maybe my DVR box knew about the writers' strike and was just trying to throw me into the "no new TV" deep-end. ...nah...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

the Writers' Strike

The Writers' Guild, whose members provide the scripts for television shows and movies, went on strike this week. As with all kinds of work walkouts such as this, they are looking for better financial compensation - in particular in the areas where new revenue streams have come in for the studios thanks to advancing technologies (DVD releases, internet feeds, podcasts to phones, etc.).

The last time that the Guild went on strike was back in 1988, and that strike lasted 22 weeks. However, the impact was not as severe since the strike was between the end of one television season and the beginning of the next; the impact to viewers was that it pushed back the Fall Season debuts a bit. Clearly, this time things were a bit more calculated - with the shoe dropping just in time for November sweeps. While most shows have a few scripts in the can in advance for shooting, talk shows and nightly shows are hit first as they tend to be rather topical and written much closer to air time. The movie studios have a less of an impact as they tend to have their 2008 shooting scripts already in hand.

This really kind of bums me out a bit because a lot of the shows I've been enjoying are really starting to click nicely. After about three or so slow weeks, Heroes has been coming back hard in the past two weeks with that "wow factor" that it had from season 1. Still, the planned spin-off/hiatus-filler show Heroes: Origins appears to have been put on hold. The writers' strike might have been a factor in that. Similarly, How I Met Your Mother has been picking up again after a slow transition out of last season's storylines. These past three weeks or so they've been back in the comedy style that made the show a hit in recent years.

Other shows have been solid all along, and the strike putting them on hold will be felt in our household. Bones and Two & A Half Men have been pretty solid all season. And freshman comedy the Big Bang Theory has been knocking it out of the park weekly, in our household, since its debut. I will be very disappointed if the season-interuptus is long on these shows.

The networks figure they'll be able to counter with reruns or by pumping up the schedules further with non-scripted shows (reality shows and game shows). I'm not a mega fan of reruns but I will support my favorites by catching them as they show (my DVR is only set for recording first-run episodes though). I guess, too, if the writers' strike lasts a long time that the daily soap operas will get quickly derailed (they too only shoot about four or so weeks in advance). I guess if that happens I'll have more free time on my weekend nights - less programming to catch up on if I can skip the weekly five-block of Guiding Light.

The silver lining, I guess, is I can do over the winter what I do over the summer - catch up on other things and hobbies. I have a couple things that I've been neglecting of late - books to read, films to catch up on, etc. So maybe this won't be such a bad thing. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Joy of Catalogs

Okay, I know this'll put me in the "old fogey" category (as if my other interests haven't already), but this time of year gets me to thinking about catalogs. Now, I'm not talking about those twenty page fliers for clothing and such that inevitablly you get any time you sign up at a retailer with your name and address. Sure those are okay, but that's not what I'm thinking about.

I'm thinking about those thick, square bound ones that came in the mail or your parents picked up at the store. You know what I'm talking about. The Sears Wishbook, or the JCPenney holiday catalog or the Montgomery Wards book. The front cover would have some nice family scene under the Christmas tree. Everyone would be smiling. The kids would be in green and red.

And what did we do? We skipped that whole front part - skipped the clothes for women and men, barely stopped for a few moments on the kids clothing (unless you were looking for that real cool Superman t-shirt or Hot Wheels pajamas). You skimmed past the hardware and home furnishing sections. No, your goal was in those 300 or 400 page sections. You, my friend, wanted to see the toys!

It was like magic, seeing all those things in full color. You wished you were that kid going down that slide, or that you had the complete set of Star Wars action figures. You wondered what pictures were on those Viewmaster reels. You couldn't wait to build something as cool with your Legos. It was such a thrill and it would keep you enthralled for hours on end. You would even go back and look at the book again and again as November turned into December.

As a kid, I would get out a sheet of notebook paper and start making a list for my parents. I'd note which book and what page the items were on. If it had an item number, I'd list it with the description and the price. If it had different choices, like with action figures, I'd carefully list which ones I was interested in. I mean, really, who's mother actually could tell the difference between R2-D2 and R5-D4? Mine couldn't. And I would prioritize items as well - just so they'd know which items were top choices and which were secondary.

Kids today don't get that joy any more. Most of the big retailers who did catalogs like that either are out of business or just don't put out the books like they used to. It's an internet-age. You can pretty much do the same thing on with a quick click of the button to put items into your 'wish list'. I use those functions as an adult to earmark things I'd like - but it's just not the same.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Comics of the Week (10/31/07) - part 2

Rounding out the rest of this week's huge haul of good reading from the comic shop, here is the second batch which features the shorter mini-series and one-shots.

DC Infinite Halloween Special - this book has thirteen tales of horror and suspense to celebrate the holiday. With a book such as this, with various writers and artists, you can end up with some hit-and-miss results. For the most part, this book was more of a miss for me. A lot of the art was very stylistic and scratchy. The stories are told from the perspective of the villains from Arkham Asylum (Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, etc.) so they tend to be more dark and the heroes less heroic. I did enjoy the tale about Blue Devil though.

Countdown to Adventure #3 - The lead tale focus on the plague hitting Earth and Rannagar, a plague that one of the space heroes picked up when facing Lady Styx during 52. The backup heats up with Forerunner encountering a world of magic heroes.

Countdown to Mystery #2 - the new Dr. Fate muddles his way through his first fight. It was a good example of how a neophyte must learn their way with their powers, and it is done in Steve Gerber's stylistic form of writing. The backup story with Eclipso continues to grow its cast, with appearances by Darkseid, Plastic Man, the Spectre and it looks like the Creeper.

Death of the New Gods #2 - Another solid issue by Jim Starlin. The story and the art are moving along nicely. Definitely a mini-series that fans should not be missing.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Comics of the Week (10/31/07) - part 1

Lots of good reading came from the comic shop this week. So much so that I felt it best to break it up into two editions to the blog. Here's the first grouping - with regular ongoing titles.

Countdown to Final Crisis #26 - With this issue, the weekly title crosses the halfway point - and changes it's title a bit too boot. Now it is clear that the countdown is leading to something major, and this issue gives a nice narrative recap of things. However, it isn't a fast read. In fact, it is quite wordy which is a nice change of pace. And behind those words are some wonderful art that moves a lot of the subplots silently along. Definitely a solid issue.

Teen Titans Go! #48 - this nice done-in-one tale of the animated heroes deals with Killowatt and the attempt to send him back to his homeworld. However, something goes amiss and he ends up in a "Mirror-Mirror" sort of world (that reference for all my Trek friends). The Titans here are tyrants (with some mega-red glowing eyes so you know they're evil). An enjoyable read with nice artwork by Todd Nauck (if I can't get any more of his solo Wildguard title, at least I am happy he is still doing work here).

Action Comics #858 - I gave up regularly getting the Superman titles a few years back. However, I will drop back in for certain story arcs that interest me. This one definitely does! Geoff Johns is attempting to reconcile once more Superman's past connections with the 31st Century's Legion of Super-Heroes. And for those readers as old I am, this is very much the Legion we grew up with - or very close to them. I am happy to see them back in whatever capacity possible. I'm not a huge fan of Gary Frank's artwork (some of his females' had very plastic looking faces in this issue) but his attention to detail on fabrics and such is quite good.

Justice Society of America #10 - this issue is part one of the "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline, which brings the regular DCU and the cast from the Kingom Come mini-series into direct contact. The cover and some of the interior pages even feature work by Alex Ross, the artist on that famed min-series. The story definitely looks to be a fun one, and once again Geoff Johns is at the top of his writing game here.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Tangled Web

Spider-Man III, this summer's installment in the film franchise, just came out on DVD this week. While I own DVDs of the first two films, I think I'm going to pass on picking this one up. I just have mixed feelings about the film which we did see in theatres.

While I loved the Sandman (I thought Thomas Hayden-Church was perfect casting for the character) and the visual effects with that character were wonderful, I felt disappointed with how the story didn't feature him more. His story easily could have been enough to carry a solid 1 1/2 hour or so film. The problem came into with throwing Venom and the whole symbiote thing into the mix. Again, the effects worked for this character and Topher Grace was okay in the role (he'll always be "Eric Forman" to me - so that is distracting) but this plotline and Peter's struggle with the symbiote in his life again could have made a decent film on its own. Slamming these two plots together made the film disjointed. Add to it the closing arc of the Harry Osborn story plus the introduction of Gwen Stacy plus Peter and MJ's rocky engagement, the film was just trying to cover all the bases, at times failing to make me care truly about any of them. It was almost as if the folks behind the franchise were trying to get everything in just in case this was the final hurrah for the series.

The series in general has been a little hit and miss for me.

Spider-Man started out well enough with a nice retelling of the origin. I didn't even mind the liberties taken with storylines to make a solid Green Goblin tale as well for the film. Where I was let down was the whole Goblin mask. It was too "Power Ranger-ry" for me. Here they have Willem Dafoe, a wonderfully expressive actor, and they tie him down with an unmoving mask. That is so wrong. The Goblin needed a skin-tight yet fully expressive mask. That's what made the character so memorable in the comics.

Spider-Man II really worked the best of the three films. The origin was out of the way so we got to see Spidey doing what he does. Doc Ock was brought to life wonderfully, and the battles in this film were outstanding. It clearly is up there on my list of the top super-hero films to date. Maybe that's why the third film didn't work as well for me - the second film was such a peak that anything that followed was going to have its work cut out for it to match the excellence.

Yeah, the third Spidey film, much like the third and fourth films of the previous Batman franchise, put too many villains into the pot in hopes to amp things up further. Bigger casts does not always mean better films. Give us a solid story. Make us connect with and understand fully the villains brought in. Give them a chance to strut their stuff as one film is usually all any of them will get. I'd rather have 90+ minutes of a solid film rather than 120+ minutes of a film that's all over the map.