Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ouija Boards Scare Me!

Okay, okay, I know it is a totally irrational thing. We're just talking about a laminated pressed-cardboard surface with letters and numbers and a plastic stylus. They were sold my a major toy company for decades. Logic dictates that something mass produced for consumption as a kids' game cannot have any real occult powers. And anyone who knows me - logic is a strong factor in my psychological make-up and behavior.

They still scare the heck out of me! Here's why:

Back in the Fall of 1983 or so (I remember my friends Gary and Kathy were still dating at the time), I came back home from my freshman year at college on a semester break. So, I called up my usual high school gang to go and hangout one evening, and we all ended up going over to Alison's house. Her folks were out for the evening for something, so it was about seven of us just hanging out in the family room listening to music and such.

As we were catching up on things, it was brought up that the group members that remained back in the hometown for school and jobs had been doing some things with spirit writing. Gary had actually been doing it with the group of girls - he said he was channelling the spirit of some deceased child and would produce these writing in a hand-writing not his own that told this child's tragic tale. My buddy John and I were into tarot cards at the time and we would do readings for the others for fun (we must have brought along our decks based on the proposed plan for the night).

Anyway, someone brings up the idea that we should bring out the Ouija board and do some spirit world contact that way. Now, I was a skeptic that it would work - even if I did believe in spirits and ghosts. So, a bunch of us gave it a shot. I put one finger on the stylus as did Lynette and Alison. I'm not sure whose sprits we tried to contact at first, but at one point we thought we'd see if we could contact any deceased relatives. So, I asked "the board" a question that only someone in my immediate family (living or dead) would know. For sure Lynette and Alison didn't know what I was alluding to. And damn if the board didn't spell out the correct answer!

Yes, I did have a finger on the stylus but one finger alone doesn't move that thing. Even if my own thoughts concentrating on the answer were guiding my finger muscles to want to steer it in the right direction, how in the world could my muscles counter those of the other two girls? It had to be something else - it certainly felt like something else! Once that stylus started to move, it moved with amazing accuracy and pace. I can still hear the sound of the plastic device moving across the board, letter to letter to letter.

Needless to say, I freaked when that happened. I quickly told "the board" goodbye which is protocol for "releasing" the spirits you've contacted. Once the stylus hit that goodbye mark, I was done for the night. I was sufficiently freaked out by the whole thing.

To this day, I've never touched another Ouija board again

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

DHS alumni: Wendy Corsi Staub

I am very pleased to say that another famous person with whom I went to high school is best selling author Wendy Corsi Staub. Like myself, Wendy grew up in the small town of Dunkirk, NY. She was a year ahead of me in school, and both of our families went to the same church. I recall that she was very friendly to everyone in school and that helped make her popular. After high school she went to the State University of New York (SUNY) in Fredonia, the next town over. However, that was just the beginning of the journey that would take her to becoming a New York Times bestseller.

She writes suspense and mystery novels under her married name. She also writes romance novels under the name "Wendy Markham". She has also written a number of novels that would fall in the young adult/teen category. In total, she has gotten published more than 60 books which is just amazing.

I have actually purchased a few of her suspense novels in paperback and found them to be very enjoyable (even if this isn't a genre I read as often as others). Besides Fade To Black and All The Way Home, my favorite of hers would have to be In The Blink Of An Eye. The later book takes place in Lilydale, NY, a place not far from where we grew up. Lilydale is a renowned center for psychics and such, and the locale makes an intriguing backdrop for the novel. I am certain Wendy gathered a lot of details from the setting first hand - and the book is peppered with other references of nearby communities and locales, including the Book Nook which is the small bookstore in Dunkirk that I am sure Wendy (like myself) spent a lot of time perusing the shelves for that certain title to read.

I have to give it to Wendy - she is actually doing something I always dreamed of as a youth: making a living as a writer. I like too that she doesn't forget her smalltown roots even though she lives much closer to New York City these days. Often her book tours will take her back through western New York, and I hear she often makes the Book Nook one of her stops for signings.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reign of the Rain

The editors of Vanity Fair magazine created a list of the top 50 movie soundtracks of all time. Looking at the Top 10 from bottom to top, they had The Big Chill, American Graffiti, Saturday Night Fever, Trainspotting, Superfly, The Graduate, Pulp Fiction, The Harder They Come, A Hard Day's Night and in number one position: Purple Rain. The editors describe Prince's masterpiece as "a flawless combination of funk, R&B, pop, metal and even psychedelia into a sound that defined the '80s".

Now, I'm certainly not going to disagree with that choice for number one. I'm a huge fan of Purple Rain. I owned it on vinyl and then again on CD. I had the movie poster adorning my walls for much of my college years. I owned the movie on VHS and again on DVD. I've easily seen it a couple dozen times. Sure, the acting in it is a little poor at times. But there are some shining moments. There is no denying the chemistry between Prince and Apollonia, and the comedy stylings of Morris Day and Jerome Benton were also key. I would have liked for the rest of the Revolution (Wendy, Lisa, Dr. Fink, etc.) to have a bit more meat in the film besides a few lines here and there, but that's okay.

What really worked for the film was the slick, music-video stylings of the various performance numbers. In fact, the whole album is properly showcased in the film with full numbers along with a couple killer performances from the Time, Apollonia 6 and other Minneapolis bands from the early 80's era. That's really when the movie rocks literally.

And, back to the soundtrack which is all tunes by Prince and the Revolution, the songs are a very solid combination when put together. The music has some variety - a little experimenting here and there by Prince to keep the audience totally interested. From the opening bounces of "Let's Go Crazy" through the final lighter-waving "Purple Rain", this is an album that delivers the goods through and through. Sure, it was one of the records that set Tipper Gore and her PMRC group a flutter about ratings being needed for music (nothing more amusing than hearing Tipper recite the lyrics to "Darling Nikki"), but that's just a total other angle of why this album has a place in musical history.


Last night on America's Most Smartest Model, the remaining models were mentally challenged with a science fair project (which they did in teams of two). Later, they then had to tie it in with modeling by mixing their own sunless tanning products and doing a photoshoot with their "bronzed" pasty skinned nerds. Very funny stuff.

The beauty was that to help on the science fair judging and such the show brought in Bill Nye the Science Guy. How cool is that? Bill freaking Nye! Even before we had a kid, my wife and I used to watch his show on Sunday mornings (along with Beakman's World). Nye was his usual quirky out-there sort of self. A great casting on a reality show that is shaping up nicely.

Only downer - Jessie, the gay black model, was the one "purged" this week. I knew it would happen. He's been on the chopping block for three weeks. Mary Alice has been harping on him to lose weight and that he's "not a model". Jessie had the smarts and a nice look in the face - just a little gut. What a shame. We really liked the guy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Comics of the Week (10/24/07)

Countdown #27 was okay. I realized this week that I have to take this weekly title as if I was reading a novel. There are many storylines going on, thus each one doesn't move much on a week to week basis. I have to look at the broader picture. There also continues to be a lot of preping for other spin-off mini series - again we're seeing the beginnings of Countdown: Arena and Salvation Run in these storylines.

Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime is a one-shot tie-in to the whole Sinestro Corps Wars plot going on in the Green Lantern titles. This one-shot goes over the origins and motivations of Superman-Prime, a character many of us old time readers know as Superboy from Earth-Prime (the parallel Earth where "we" live - that had only one super-hero - a planet that was destroyed when Crisis On Infinite-Earths happened in the mid-80's. It is interesting to see someone so young, with powers potentially greater than Superman, deciding to fight the other fight because the heroes he "read about and believed in" are gone. It is kind of a fitting analogy to how us older readers sometimes feel about modern comics. Some of these characters are not the ones we grew up with. I guess Superman-Prime gives a voice to that frustration.

Teen Titans #52 ticked me off slightly with it's cover. It shows the team fighting Starro the Conqueor in a classic homage to the debut cover of JLA back in the 60's. Many books have done this over the years. No biggie there. So, why am I ticked? The artist couldn't even give a proper "after..." credit on it. It does not credit the original cover artist for the concept, and it does not even quote the right issue (it says "JLA 28" when it should be "B&B 28" - as the JLA debuted in Brave and the Bold #28). As for the rest of the issue, it was okay. Basically a center issue of a multi-part arc with a couple good moments and that's about it. I'm kind of bored with the whole 'Future Titans' angle now.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #7 is another fun read in the animated series style. The cover shows the boys of the team surrounded by the warrior Amazon women, very classic sci-fi to be sure. Inside, the book ties in nicely with the Themiscyra concept (aka. Paradise Island for us old school Wonder Woman fans) with a 31st century spin. The villain of the piece makes sense given her potential for longevity of life. A nice, fun issue that tells a story with a beginning, middle and end. If only more comics these days could be like that.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Back Tomorrow

To all my faithful readers, I'll be back tomorrow. Out of town for the day so no major post this time. I'll have two for you late Sunday - promise. Enjoy your Saturday.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Out of the Closet - Harry Potter revelation

Last Friday, J.K. Rowlings announced that the character of Albus Dumbledore from her beloved Harry Potter series of books was in fact gay. She said that it was something, as a writer, she decided about the character from the very start - even before the first book ever got published - though she would pepper only slight clues through out the books to this fact. Based on the hub-bub on the Internet and in the media after the announcement, this fact wasn't quite as obvious to her readers as she might have thought.

I don't at all find this surprising - the fact that not everyone picked up on it. I know I didn't catch it when I read the books over a marathon session over the summer and I'm a grown adult who should be able to read between the lines. Maybe, as a writer, Rowlings should have been a tad less subtle on things - especially in her seventh book where Dumbledore's youthful "great tragedy", as she put it, plays such a key role in the many revelations between what the students know and what is the truth about their headmaster.

Sometimes the signs are there and we don't always see them. In both high school and in college, I had good friends whom I thought I knew very well. It wasn't until decades later did I find out that they were in fact gay (one told me right out via an email after I contacted him after all those years, the other still hasn't said so though I know from other reliable sources in his life that he is). It is very possible that at the time I knew each of these guys that they hadn't come to their own conclusions yet. If they had, both were very much in the closet at the time.

I don't know - maybe it's a guy thing. Guys don't always want to tell their guy friends that they are gay. Maybe they think that'll change the friendship. Hard to say. From my perspective, it doesn't change the friendship at all. I'm friends with someone because of common interests we share (professional, hobbies, etc.). Just because we have one interest that we don't share in the same way does not have any bearing on the friendship.

My experience with female friends who have come out is a bit different. One of my closest friends in high school realized in her mid-twenties that she was a lesbian. I remember when she first told me; she was very open about it. I was very happy for her in that she found out what made her happy as was persuing that. She is still one of my dearest friends whom I great with a great big hug every time we get together. And for a few years in the 90's I worked with someone who was quite open about being a lesbian. She and I often talked about music, and she steered me towards a number of musical artists that I've found to enjoy for many years since. Her sexuality was just a part of who she was and it didn't matter to her who knew about it.

It is my hope, now that it is late in 2007, that the world is starting to become a bit more tolerant and open-minded. We are who we are, we like who we like. None of us has the right to judge what people should and should not do, especially when it is causing no one else harm and it is actually allowing some folks to finally find happiness in who they are.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

California Ablaze

You can't go anywhere without hearing about the fires in California. Even here on the East Coast (in NC), we're hearing the news on TV, on the radio, etc. The devastation being caused by the uncontrolled flames and the Santa Ana winds is driving many from their homes for safety and in a lot of cases leaving many homeless.

My wife was actually born in San Diego, and her parents lived in Twenty-Nine Palms for a number of years while my father-in-law was stationed with the Marines there. Her aunt and uncle still live in Chula Vista, south of San Diego but north of the border to Mexico.

I've been to the San Diego area many times over the years - mostly for the Comic-Con and to visit my friends who lived there. Some have since moved from there, but others still remain there. I haven't heard from them all yet, so all I can do is hope and pray they're surviving the ordeal.

We were actually on vacation in Palm Springs back in 2004 during the late October time frame. I recall when the Santa Anas were blowing in. On the day we were to head out to come back home, we were driving back to John Wayne Airport through the mountains. We could see the smoke rising in the distance and of course were concerned with how close the fires might be or if they'd have an impact on our flight schedule, etc.

I can't imagine what the people are going through with the uncontrolled fires this year and every year. To know that something is on its way, heading for your home and family, and the only thing you can do is pack whatever might fit in your car and take off - that's just a horrible feeling. We sometimes get that here on the East Coast when hurricanes are heading in-land. Sure, there are things you can do to minimize damage like boarding up windows, etc. But, with fire, that's a whole other animal. Fire is the great purger with nothing to stop it other than the rains or other means of dousing. Unfortunately, combine the fires with draught conditions - which actually help the fires to spread to begin with - and you're talking about a disaster that is difficult contain.

I'm sorry to see a part of the country I love so much going through such pain. My prayers are with everyone there struggling to keep their lives together in the face of such tragedy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where Superstars Shine and Sign

Back in 1993, Maggie Thompson and Krause Publishing put out a hardcover book. Seeing as I was still a regular subscriber of the Comicbook Buyers' Guide, I snapped up their Comic Book Superstars publication. While a little dated today, it is a fun book to see who was active in the comic book industry at the time.

What I use my copy for, though, is my source for getting autographs and such from folks in the comic book industry whenever I go to conventions. I've taken it to Atlanta for Dragon*Con and San Diego (many times) for Comic-Con International. I even brought it with me last weekend to the Hickory Comic-Con so I could get it signed by Roy Thomas.

I like it because it will be sort of a personal momento for me - a reminder of the many creators I've had a chance to meet and talk with at shows. Some of the autographs, like cartoon that of underground humor writer Jay Lynch, are personalized to me - so it is something I can enjoy until I'm old and gray and then pass down to my son as well as a family "treasure".

So, who's signatures have I collected in the book so far over the years?

Of course, there is the author Maggie Thompson (she signed it in four places in the book - with a "x of 4, collect 'em all" tag line, very appropriate for the whole 90's trend of multiple covers). And I have just signatures from Neal Adams, George Perez, Irv Novick, Mart Nodell and his wife (met them in Atlanta - what a wonderful elderly couple), Julius Schwartz, Ramona Fradon, Greg Theakston, Bob Haney, Geoff Johns, Adam Kubert, Jim Mooney, Walt and Louise Simonson, William Messner-Loebs, Batton Lash, Terry Collins, Al Bigley, Brian Michael Bendis, Dick Ayers, Mark Waid, John Romita, Tony Isabella, Bob Greenberger, Rags Morales, and Steve Rude.

I also had a couple creators that did mini-sketches in the book when they signed it. It started when Chuck Wojkiewicz did a Crimson Fox portrait in the front cover. That seemed to spark other artists to add to the jamfest. Bill Marimon did a quick sketch of Damage, a character he co-created. Scott Shaw(!) did me a quick Fred Flintstone. Sergio Aragones added in an inquisitive Groo who is looking at writer Brian Augustyn's quick sketch of the Flash. Bob Burden added one of his own creations next to Paul Chadwick's Concrete. Ric Estrada added a soldier from one of the many war comics he drew over the years. Oh, and writer Kurt Busiek drew me this spotted sort-of-thing that was supposed to be a cow (what a funny guy!).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Pleasant Compliment

On Saturday morning, I managed to accomplish my goals at the Hickory Comic-Con fairly quickly (meet Roy Thomas - check, get the business card of an artist to email him later about doing a commission for me - check, look through dealer boxes - check) and was heading out the door with my purchases in a bag (a near full run of Just Imagine - Stan Lee's mini series where he reimagineers various DC heroes - twelve books gotten for $6, I might add - a bargain since each book new had a cover price of $5.95 each). On the way going out, I ran into Eddie, the manager of Time Tunnel Comics and son of the shop owner.

Eddie and I were talking about the show and how it looked to be a good turn out based on the first couple hours. He then asked where my son was. I explained that my son was off at a thing for the boy scouts and that I was flying solo for the show. Then Eddie paid me an amazing compliment. He said he noticed how I interact with my son when he comes to the shop sometimes with me and that he felt my wife and I were doing an amazing job to raise such a polite, well-behaving and obedient young man.

Wow. That's something every parent never gets tired of hearing.

Eddie, who doesn't have any kids yet but plans to someday soon, said he often observes parents and their kids - both at the shop and around town and at shows. He thought it was great that my son and I share interests. He says he often sees parents drop their kids off at the shop for card tournaments on Saturday and take off without ever seeing them inside, etc. He said those unsupervised kids can be unruly and not likely to follow the rules, etc. Or kids will come in to the shops with their parents and be demanding about getting stuff, to the point of tantrums. Eddie noted that if I tell my son "no" or "not today" that my son doesn't push the point. And, lastly, my son is very respectful when talking to adults. Often if Eddie is there, he will politely ask about tournament promo cards, etc. If my son wasn't able to make it to a tournament, Eddie will check to see if there are any extra promos left and will give him one.

We talked a bit more as I was heading out to leave and he was heading out for a smoke. We talked about how kids today are more into the cards and the video games. I've tried to get my son into reading comics but he has only done so sparringly. In general, reading is not one of his favorite things. When it comes to getting him to read for school, I often have to hope he'll find a series he likes so he'll be apt to read more of the books. We agreed that kids today would rather skip reading about Wolverine when they can "play" Wolverine thanks to the advances in video games. I can certainly see that. My son has learned a lot more now about cars and football (college and pro) thanks to the video games he likes to play. Same with his evolving taste in music - thanks to the Guitar Hero line of games I have gotten him to appreciate more the classic rock genre. Because of this learning factor, I cannot discount the games entirely as worthless.

Anyway, it was a really nice talk and a nice way to cap off a good morning. I do want to add that it is always enjoyable to patronize a business where the staff or owners take an active interest in building a repoire with their customers. My old comic shop in Raleigh was like that because of Ken, the owner of Capital Comics. It is nice that they're more than just concerned about what you are buying each week.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Treasure Vault of Fun

Harvey Comics Classics volume 2 featuring Richie Rich came out a couple weeks ago. Like volume 1 which featured Casper the Friendly Ghost, this collection from Dark Horse Comics was a joy to read. Again, the book samples with some color pages as well as a lot of black & white stories. This time, the book is split between the early Richie strips where he was a supporting feature in Little Dot's comics and then when he later graduated into his own titles in the early 60's.

The stories seem to keep pretty fresh with a lot of variety on the theme of this millionaire's son trying to use his money to help others. The book also has debuts of a lot of his supporting cast like Reggie (his snobby rich cousin), Freckles and Pee Wee (his poor friends), Gloria (his girlfriend), Cadbury (his faithful butler), and Dollar (his dalmation dog).

These stories take me back to 1970 when I was first getting into reading and comic books. As I have mentioned before, the Harvey staple of titles was a big part of my collecting then. At the time, Richie was starring in dozens of titles a month - so there was always plenty of his books to pick up.

What I learned with getting this collection was that Gene Colan, a staple of super-hero books from both Marvel and DC, also did a lot of Richie work as well. I find it very interesting to see his artistic abilities adapted to this sort of comic. To me, Gene is always synonymous with books like Tomb of Dracula, Dr. Strange and Night Force. So, this was a pleasant sort of surprise.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who started out on these kinds of comics in the 60's and 70's. Even for that feeling of nostalgia, that feeling of sitting on the grass under a tree when you were five or so and just getting into reading for yourself. That's what these collections do for me.

Oh, and hey, volume 3 of the set is slated for February - featuring that devilish Hot Stuff! Yeah, baby.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hickory Comic-Con - Fall 2007

I must admit I had some concerns when we moved from a larger metropolitan area (Raleigh NC) to a smaller one (Hickory NC) back in 2005. It was involving a change in jobs and a change in living locations (both of which I had had for 17 1/2 years prior). To help ease into the transition, one of the first things I did was find a new comic book shop to insure a transition for my weekly purchasing habits (a reader has to have his priorities!). I was in luck that there was a shop in town (rather than having to drive a ways - like the hour into Charlotte - to find new books). Time Tunnel Comics was a very welcoming place, with a staff and manager eager to have my business. The transition to the new shop was seamless; they began pulling my subscription books the first week I moved to town.

Another great surprise was finding that the shop was very active in coordinating local comic book conventions. They sponser the Hickory Comic-Con at the local convention center twice a year - in the spring and in the fall. Usually my son would go with me to the shows - mostly so he can hunt for Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic: the Gathering cards and to play in the tournaments that are held. However, he had a thing with the scouts this weekend so I was going to be flying solo for the Fall show which was held yesterday. That worked out okay, though, because then I was able to focus on checking out things I'm interested in (like browsing back issue boxes, etc.). I paid my $2 admission and headed inside.

I have to admit that my primary motivation for hitting the show this go-round was due to one of the guests in particular - Roy Thomas. Roy is known for his many years working at Marvel as both a writer and an editor during the 60's and 70's. In the 80's, he switched over to DC Comics and wrote a number of books I enjoyed as well. A lot of the younger comic book readers might not know of his work or appreciate his contribution to the industry, but I was very excited to have a chance to meet him. I even brought my copy of Comic Book Super-Stars, a book put out by the Comic Buyers' Guide publisher back in the 90's, in hopes to get Roy's autograph.

I got to the show about 45 minutes after it started, and I didn't have to wait tool long for Roy to arrive. In the meantime I checked out various tables and dealers. Once I saw Roy was free, having finished talking to someone else, I introduced myself and we talked a bit. I thanked him for all the enjoyment I have gotten out of his work at both DC and Marvel. He revealed to me that, despite what Stan Lee might say to him, that his favorite book he wrote of all time was All-Star Squadron for DC. He said Conan the Barbarian would be a close second.

He also said he really doesn't read many new comics today. He gets his complimentary copies from DC every month. He pulls things like the Archives and Showcase Presents titles, and gets the kids books to give to local children, but he mostly doesn't read the rest. His wife Dannette won't let him throw them out though so he just ships them off to a storage facility he has.

In the end, we had a very nice talk about comics in general. I also got his autograph which was a very nice momento of our time talking together.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Comic of the Week (10/17/07)

Countdown #28 was about par for the course - a couple good scenes and a couple mediocre ones. It also spoiled something from the next book on the list - too bad they couldn't have included a reading order somewhere to avoid that spoiler. Still, I've been in for half the ride on this year long weekly book so I'll stick around until the end.

Death of the New Gods #1 is written and draw beautifully by Jim Starlin. As the title suggests, there are epic changes in store for the pantheon from New Genesis and Apokolips in this mini series. Will these "deaths" be permanent? Hard to say. Part of me would be sad to see these classic Jack Kirby creations gone for good. I discovered them in the late 70's when a lot of the characters were resurfacing in titles (I missed their debuts in the early 70's but have since read those runs in reprints) and found them to be very enjoyable. They really are heroes (and villains) in a very classic mold. Again, I hope they'll be back in some form - possibly after the Final Crisis hits the DCU next May.

Justice League of America #14 continues the battle between the JLA and their foes united in the Injustice League. The issue seemed to be a quick read this time. Maybe a lot of large panels in the art contributed to that. It was still good but not as meaty as I would have preferred.

And, for the book of the week - Brave and the Bold #7 teams up Wonder Woman and Power Girl in another Waid/Perez collaboration. This was a very solid, done-in one sort of tale with two powerful heroines. Throw in a major guest-star, a recognizable classic villain and some interesting revelations in the final pages that seem to be following up on the first B&B arc by this creative team, and you have the makings for a solid comic book. Waid and Perez pack more in this single tale than most creative teams do in two or three regular monthly comics. Kudos to them.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Rules

My buddy Jim 'called me out' in his blog last month to put up my 'rules' - those axioms which govern the way I do what I do. Sorry, Jim, that it took me awhile to get to them (hey - when Mike can get to them before I do, then we know something is up, right? LOL). So, without further ado, my rules:

Do Unto Others...
The Golden Rule is still one of the best. That's why it's 'the Golden Rule'. Treat others how you wish to be treated. Most of the time it works. However, once in awhile you find those people that it doesn't - and they're usually so lost in themselves that they can't see the forest for the trees. Those are the folks you need to either go for more extreme intervention OR get out of your life. Bad vibes will totally mess up your own.

Don't Put Off Until Tomorrow...
...what you could have done yesterday. I have a tween. He doesn't like to do homework. He'd rather listen to music on his iPod or play video games. But the lesson he is having to learn now that he's in junior high is that you are given advance notice on assignments for a reason. Use the time and plan accordingly. It is a lot easier to start a task early - one you know you have to get done - and get as much of it out of the way so you can relax later and not feel the stress. In school (all the way through college), I was the type to work on papers and projects early. I started studying for tests well in advance, so everything had time to sink in properly. My grades reflected that kind of work, which in turn helped me get a good job later in life. People also remember when you get things done on time or early. That shows you're reliable and thinking of the big picture. Even more so, they remember when you're late and cause chaos because of it. Of course, there are always circumstances outside your control - and those are usually okay when it comes to missing deadlines. But things in your control are in your control. So, control them.

Family First
I grew up with a lot of extended family around (my mom's parents, her sister and husband and their three daughters). We spent a lot of time together as a whole family - birthdays, holidays, vacation, even just hanging out watching TV. That instilled in me an importance of family and making time to do things with them. Even after moving away and starting a family of my own, that still comes into play. In our house, we always try to eat dinner as a family so we can talk about our days. We make time for my son to spend time with both sets of grandparents. We try to work holidays around who is coming or going where. If family is in the area from up north, we try to arrange time - even for just the afternoon - to get there and visit. Can this come in the way of things? Sure. In 2006, my wife and son and I took our family vacation to San Diego. It was centered around the Comic-Con so I could take my son to the show. Did I want to hang out and spend more time with my buddies? Of course! But it was a 'family' vacation and that meant spending time as a family all together - for meals, doing some site-seeing together, etc. As much as a value my time chilling with the guys, family just comes first. It won't be too much longer until my son is ready to go off to college, and then my wife and I will find our house a little bit emptier.

Keep It Civil
In his blog yesterday, Mike said one of his rules involved off-limits topics (sex, politics, religion, etc.). Now, I agree that these things can be hot-topics and spark a lot of debate very quickly. I think debate is okay. The key is keeping it civil. A group of adults can have an intelligent, engaging dialogue about these things. But, when the voice levels raise to yelling or (in the case of sex) the language drops way down into the gutter, then I'm going to tune out faster than that distant FM radio station your car will no longer pick up. I don't need all that negativity in my life so I'd rather not spend a lot of time dwelling in that area. Keep it civil and we can talk. If not, excuse me while I walk.

Widescreen Only
In the past five or so years, I have come to appreciate the joys of widescreen viewing. Having a widescreen television certainly helps in that. TV or movies, it doesn't matter. Once you've been to the promised land, there is no going back. So, don't give me that full-screen or pan-scan version. It has to be widescreen or nothing else, especially when getting me a DVD as a gift. The directors and producers wanted me to have the full experience and take in everything they filmed, so by gum I'm going to do just that!

Build A Bridge And Get Over It
Yes, things get to us. We're human. We get angry at someone or something or frustrated by a situation. That is good. Bottling it up inside can be bad for your health. So, vent and let it out. After that, build a bridge and just get over it. What's done is done. What's past is past. What was said can't be taken back (we can only apologize for saying it). Just move on. Obsessing about the past is not healthy. You can't change it. You can only move on to the next thing in the future.

Watch Your Health
No one else (okay, maybe a spouse, your mom, or your employer) will do it for you, so you need to watch out for your own health. Trust me, as you get older you realize your body isn't going to function as it did in your twenties. It simply can't take all that abuse of late night junk food binges or partying until 4am. And things will start going wrong for no apparent reason. So, get a physicial every year if you can. Eat right. Drink plenty of water. Okay, have those occasional indulgences - again, we're all human. The key is moderation.

Make Time To Just Chill
Finally, take time to just relax for yourself. We all need a break from the world. Set aside some time every day or at least once a week to do something you enjoy. It could be as simple as reading for a few minutes a night, or watching a favorite show with the phone off the hook (or ringer turned off), or just going out and enjoying the fresh air. Mental health, along with physical health, needs to be attended to.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

100 Things About Me

Thanks to my buddy Jim for tipping me off on the tradition of the 100th blog entry being 100 things about the author. So, here's my list of things you might not know about me:

1) I was born in Dunkirk, NY (at Brooks Memorial Hospital) on February 23rd, 1965.
2) If I had been born the day before, my parents were considering naming me 'George'.
3) I was actually born a few weeks early (maybe that's why I'm so wired for being on-time/early).
4) We lived in a suburb of Buffalo NY (Amherst) until I was four years old. Then we moved back to Dunkirk.
5) My fondest memory of the house in Buffalo was sitting in the playroom listening to "Meet The Beatles" over and over on my parent's hi-fi record player.
6) I'm five foot eleven inches tall when I stand without hunching my shoulders.
7) I sucked my thumb as a kid until I was four years old. That gave me an overbite that lead to needing braces.
8) I used to eat carmels and Sugar Daddys when I had my braces, often pulling my metal bands off my back teeth.
9) I have one brother who is four years old than me. We are opposites in quite a number of ways.
10) I've worn glasses since junior high school.
11) I did wear contacts for most of my college years and through the first few years of being married.
12) I stopped wearing contacts because staring at a computer screen all day tended to dry them out a lot.
13) I ran cross-country and track (running the two mile) the first couple years of high school.
14) I was on the golf team my junior year of high school.
15) I was a member of the editorial staff for 'the Candle', our high school magazine of poetry and creative arts.
16) I was also a member of the Computer Science Club and the Honor Society in high school.
17) I scored an 1160 on my SAT (530 verbal, 630 math).
18) I graduated fifth in my high school class out of 252 students. My GPA was a 96.0.
19) I went to Rochester Institute of Technology where I got my Bachelors in Science in computer science.
20) While at RIT I volunteered for the Student Orientation Service (SOS) all four years I was there.
21) For SOS, I was the chairperson of the Deaf Awareness committee on year, and I took over the Academics committee another year when a good friend needed a replacement for his spot.
22) I bought myself a sign-language dictionary and spent Thanksgiving break learning some sign to help in my chairperson role for Deaf Awarness. The five members on that committee were all hearing-impaired.
23) One of my college co-op assignments was in Randolph, NJ for the information processing company for M&M/Mars.
24) While working in Randolph, I lived in Dover, NJ - less than a three minute walk from the Joe Kubert School of Art.
25) For my other co-op assignment, I worked for IBM in Kingston, NY.
26) While in Kingston, we used to go out to the Hurley Mountain Inn which is a bar where they filmed one of the scenes in Tootsie.
27) While in Kingston, a bunch of us took a trip into Manhattan for the day. The highlight was an evening at a comedy club where we saw a young Dennis Miller perform a set after his SNL act.
28) That same year, a bunch of us took the trains into the city to spend New Year's Eve in Times Square.
29) Also while in Kingston I became a casual, social smoker (ie. only smoked when I went out to the bars).
30) I quit after a year and never picked it up with any type of regularity since then.
31) My favorite classes in both high school and college were those in the liberal arts.
32) My college GPA at graduation was a 3.36.
33) Upon graduation of college, I had numerous offers from IBM for a job. I decided to head south to Raleigh NC.
34) Part of the decision to do that was because my parents were planning to retire in North Carolina at some point.
35) The other part of the decision was I tired of all those NY state blizzards and frigid winters.
36) I was a member of the Raleigh Jaycees (the Junior Chamber of Commerce) for two years.
37) Post-college, I lived in an apartment alone for a year and then my brother moved in with me for a year.
38) I met my wife at a dance club in Raleigh called 'Cheers'.
39) We got engaged after two months of dating, and we were married just shy of a year from when we met.
40) We had our first house built while we were engaged and we moved our stuff into it a week before our wedding.
41) We lived in that house for thirteen years until our family, now including our son, needed something bigger. We moved a whole mile up the road.
42) We moved again in 2005 when I had to relocate for a new job - this time across state.
43) Despite my allergies to certain haired cats, I was able to adjust to the presence of my wife's cat Jazz which she brought to the marriage.
44) My other allergies include hayfever and pollen.
45) We've had six dogs so far since we got married (the max at any time was three). We have two right now - a beagle Buster and a boykin spaniel Cocoa.
46) Of the four dogs and the cat we've lost, we have the ashes of all of them save one. Duchess, a stray dog who we took in, had seizures so we donated her body to the local veterinary school for study.
47) I've been a programmer in the retail sector for almost 20 years now, and that was only with two different employers.
48) I taught myself HTML on the side in part so I could make websites for various hobbies I was involved in.
49) In the mid-90's, I was very into the Overpower collectible card game, and I had a website where I posted details and images for hundreds of homemade cards.
50) In the late 90's, I was involved in a DC Comics fanfiction club where I wrote over 150 stories - and even helped with archiving them to the club's website.
51) Over the recent six or so years, I've made images for hundreds for homemade product parodies similar to Wacky Packages which I collected as a kid in the 70's.
52) During my four years of college, I was part of a group which played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons every weekend.
53) As a kid, I used to write stories of my own super-heroes - many inspired by the comic books I was reading at the time. I still have some of those original hand written and typed tales.
54) In high school, I discovered Champions, a super-hero role-playing game, and I began to build my world under those game mechanics. I still play Champions once in a blue moon.
55) Today, I still write fiction involving my own heroic creations and post them on websites that I've put together.
56) I draw okay - well enough to get my ideas across. I am grateful for my artist friends who take pity on me and send me sketches as well.
57) Back in high school, my best friend and I would sit in the back of Sociology and Economics drawing our own comic strips. Mine were "the All-Fruit Squadron" and "the Unsalted Eggs-Men".
58) My favorite author in high school and college was Piers Anthony.
59) My favorite author today is Brad Meltzer.
60) I got to meet Brad in person at the San Diego Comic-Con a few years back, and we occasionally exchange emails.
61) My all-time favorite comic book artist is George Perez. I got to meet him in San Diego as well a number of years ago.
62) My second favorite comic book artist is John Byrne. I actually met him at a Greensboro, NC, convention back in 1990 or so.
63) My current favorite comic book writer is Geoff Johns. He writes a number of the current books I enjoy.
64) My all-time favorite comic book team is the Justice League of America.
65) My fictional heroic team the Justice Gang is very much inspired by the Justice League of the 70's.
66) My favorite Marvel comic book team is the Avengers.
67) I like team books over solo hero books because teams allow for varying dynamics and interpersonal connections.
68) My favorite solo hero would have to be Spider-Man.
69) The Flash would be a close second. He and Spidey have the widest array of fun villains.
70) Batman only comes in third because I hated how he got all dark and gritty after Frank Miller messed with him.
71) Logan's Run was the first PG rated film I ever saw in theatres (1976).
72) Saturday Night Fever was the first R rated film I ever saw in theatres (1978).
73) The Bee Gee's "Spirits Having Flown" tour (1979) was the first ever concert I went to.
74) Prince is my all-time favorite musical artist.
75) I have actually seen Prince in concert three times. His live shows are awesome.
76) My current favorite TV drama is Heroes (with Bones a close second).
77) My current favorite TV comedy is the Big Bang Theory (it better not get cancelled).
78) My all-time favorite TV drama is Freaks And Geeks.
79) My all-time favorite TV comedy would have to be Soap.
80) My favorite super-hero movie would have to be Superman II.
81) My favorite musical film would have to be Grease 2.
82) My first computer was a Commodore-64 which I got in 1983.
83) My current computer is a widescreen Toshiba laptop which I got in 2005.
84) We have a time share in Orlando, FL, right adjacent to Disney (you can hear the lions in Animal Kingdom roaring at night).
85) We've swapped weeks so we could travel to places like Palm Springs, CA.
86) I've been out of the country to Mexico once (Tijuana) and to Canada for business (Quebec).
87) Still, one my favorite places to go is San Diego (and southern California in general).
88) My first choice for ice cream would be strawberry. Vanilla is second.
89) When I make sauce for pasta and lasgna from scratch, I never make it the same twice. I just go by gut and taste when it comes to the ingredients.
90) Coke or Pepsi? I'll drink both but prefer Coke.
91) Actually, now it would be Coke Zero as I've switched over this Fall to the zero calories for health reasons.
92) I'm actually trying to lose weight. My highest ever has been 195lbs but my goal by next summer is 175lbs or less - in time for my 25th high school reunion. I'm halfway to that goal.
93) My favorite food would be Japanese steak and vegetables cooked in front of you.
94) I like to dip my french fries in a little mayonaise and ketchup.
95) I'm very much a creature of habit, perferring the routine to the unexpected. Spontaneous I am not.
96) I make schedules all the time, even in my head. Always ticking off that to-do list.
97) This is probably the biggest problem of mine as I tend to come across as a nag to my wife and son because things aren't happening to "my time-table".
98) This is one of the things I really need to change about myself, but see item #95 (I have a hard time with change).
99) I actually had to reorder items in this list a number of times, just to organize it better.
100) I enjoy the challenge of coming up with different things to blog about each day. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Hero In The Hand

For Father's Day, my son got me the Marvel Trading Card Game for my Nintendo DS. I tried it out briefly then but put it aside when I started my marathon of Potter reading over the rest of the summer. We'll, I've finally gotten back to playing this video game - and man is it a challenge!

The game is an electronic version of Upper Deck's Vs (versus) collectible-card game. The cards, of course, feature the characters from the Marvel comic books (folks like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men, etc.). Now, unlike games like Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon which I had seen the card games before playing the electronic versions, this one was brand new to me. And the game has some very complex mechanics that take a little while to master. The first few times playing in the storymode of this video game, I got my butt handed to me by the very capable AI opponent you face. The tutorial in the game was a little hard to follow, so I actually had to go back and read the book and then visit the CCG site that had a better tutorial to get a handle of how things are done.

Even after all that, it is still going slow. I lose at least as many times as I win (sometimes more). I still on the first arc of many arcs in the storymode. And I've barely begun to modify my starter deck by purchasing additional packs of cards with points won from the battles.

All in all, this is a good thing. That means I'll definitely get tons of playing hours from this game - making it well worth the money spent. There are also puzzle challenges (ones you have to win in a single hand) and some stand-alone battles that allow you to win new character avatars. There also is a mulitplayer mode and wireless mode, allowing you to challenge others who have the game too. That might be fun. The game does only limit you to having five decks made up (and you cannot give them unique names beyond 'deck 1', 'deck 2', etc.) but something tells me I won't be doing as much deck experimentation as I do in the Yu-Gi-Oh games.

This is a lot of fun - and a chance to explore this CCG without having to spend tons and tons of money on cards. I wouldn't mind the same company putting out the DC Comics based version of Vs (versus) in the DS format too - especially now that I'm learning the mechanics.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Comic of the Week (10/10/07)

Five books purchased this week. Three get very high marks, one solid as always and the last so-so. Going from worst to best:

Countdown #29 - on the positive side we now know which of the parallel Earths that Lord Havok and the Extremists (thinly veiled versions of Marvel villains reside) and the two page origin spread of the Penguin was nice. On the downside, they killed off the Jokester (you bastards!) and too many of these other plot threads are dragging their heels. And I'm getting a little tired of having to go off to other mini-series to get the rest of this story. Ah well.

Justice League Unlimited #38 - another solid issue from the animated DCU. I liked the focus on Giganta and her affections towards the Flash - a carry over from one of the cartoon episodes in the final season.

Green Lantern #24 - this is chapter 8 in the Sinestro Corps War arc, and things really hit the fan when the villains assault the Earth. There is a lot of action and drama that takes into account all the various mainstays of the title - Hal, Kyle, John, and Guy.

Booster Gold #3 - Booster spends time in the wild-wild west with gun-slinger Jonah Hex. Sure, the whole "destroy a hero by insuring their parents are never born" is an old standard, but it worked well in this issue. And I love the final pages and lead-up for next issue.

The book of the week title goes to the first of a three-issue mini-series called Captain Carrot and the Final Ark. Yes, yes, CC and his Zoo Crew are back in action. I loved this book back in the early 80's, featuring "funny animal" super-heroes in a world that made fun of things in our own (real celebrities and politicians, for example, have animal names like "Byrd Rentals" and "Mallard Fillmore"). The art is being done again by Scott Shaw(!) who was the original illustrator of the team's adventures over 20 years ago. The book works on many levels, just like good classic cartoons from Warner Brothers and Disney used to. I'm hoping this mini does well enough to warrant a follow-up or possibly a new ongoing series again.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Full House

Normally it is just the three of us: my wife, my son and I. However, this weekend we had a bit of a full house.

My wife's aunt and uncle came down last week from Minnesota for a visit. They ended up staying at my in-laws' house about twenty minutes from us. With the northern relatives so close to visit, my wife's brother and his family came up from Georgia so that the aunt and uncle could see them and their kids as well. Since my in-laws have a very small house now (only one guest room), we had to put up the rest of the family at our house.

So, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law took the queen-sized day-bed in our guest room. Their two boys, ages 6 and 4, took the bunk beds in my son's room. My son shifted down to the fouton in my 'cave' in the basement. And the twin girls, eighteen months old, slept in their travel playpens in my wife's office area. They also travelled with their dog, an eleven year old schnauzer, so we put our two dogs in the kennel for the weekend (it is just easier all the way around as our dogs really couldn't handle that many guests in the house).

They arrived late on Friday afternoon and headed back home this afternoon after lunch. Luckily, my mother-in-law insisted on handling the big meals (dinners on Friday and Saturday, and lunch on Sunday). We covered breakfast for our houseguests on both mornings and lunch on Saturday (ordered a couple three pizzas from a nearby place).

I have to admit that my nerves could only take that many kids for a couple days at a time before they start to frey (the nerves that is). Don't get me wrong - I love my nephews and nieces. They're wonderful kids. I guess I'm just used to the quiet our house usually has with just the three of us. It has been a long long time since our son was that age. Heck, all four kids adding their ages together barely is more than our son's age. I guess I'm just kind of happy that we've moved beyond that stage in our lives and are more into the time where our son can take care of many things for himself, etc. Still, it was a nice visit - just the right length in time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Worth the Wait?

A couple Sundays back I DVRed a movie off of HBO Comedy but we hadn't gotten around to watching it. Last night, my wife, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law and I did watch it - the 40 Year Old Virigin. Now, I had high expectations before seeing this film. I heard a lot of great things. Judd Apatow directed - loved his Freaks and Geeks show. Many actors I knew were in it. I expected greatness.

What it was like was more like that first time - awkward in parts, a little uncomfortable and not all skyrockets.

Now, I liked the premise - a guy is 40 who, due to circumstances, never has had sex yet. Sure, he is shown as a geek/nerd - with an apartment full of toys in their packages and a framed Asia poster. I was fine with that. I've known guys who could fall into this category very easily, virgin and all.

What I didn't like was the barrage of profanity in the first 20 minutes. It felt as though it was really there to get the film an R rating. I didn't find that funny. I found that uncomfortable. I like my humor for situations and reactions - not a barrage of F-bombs, a descriptive dialogue about female anatomy, etc. Maybe this was there to get the younger audience (early 20's) into the theatre. I don't know.

In the end, I'm glad I taped it to watch and didn't pay to see it in the theatre or on DVD. All I'm out is the time - which again wasn't so badly spent for most of the film. The love-story was worth the viewing time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nearly A Teen

This week, my son turned twelve years old.

For his birthday, we decided to take him out to dinner to wherever he wanted to go. His choice was Buffalo Wild Wings; he is really on a kick of late for buffalo wings plus the place has tons of large screen televisions all around with various sports on them. If we're still living in the same place when he turns legal at 21, I know the first place to take him for a drink.

As for a gift, he asked for an iPod. That's all he really wanted for his birthday. He has lots of friends in middle school who have them. He enjoys music - including a lot of classic rock (I'm glad we've been able to steer him to some music we enjoy as well - rather than a lot of dreck of current music on the radio). His mom was able to go online and order exactly the color he had been asking for - and their delivery time was incredible (it showed up well in advance - we so love online shopping).

I remember the moment right after he was born, when the nurse wrapped him in a blanket after checking him over and cleaning him up. It was the first time I had ever held a baby so tiny and so new to the world. It was a moment that will stay with me until my dying days. I wanted to protect him from all the negative things in the world.

I remember struggling with my anger and frustrations when we learned he had a brachial plexus injury, caused during the delivery. I remember being by my wife's side, supporting her, every time he underwent surgery at such a young age for procedures to help with the condition (nerve grafts, muscle related surgeries, etc.).

I remember his first steps and his first words. I remember the times he asked for my help with his homework. I remember with pride and relief all of the times he found ways around his disability to do things I was so worried that he'd might not ever be able to do. Things like tying his shoes, riding a bike, and learning to swim.

It won't be too long from now when he'll start wanting to hang out with his friends more, or he'll start dating or be wanting to borrow the car. It won't be too long until we'll have to let him go off on his own to college.

They grow up so fast.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Rare Finds

It was reported earlier this week that a comic dealer in Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania, had a man come into his shop with a rare edition of Detective Comics #27 - the first appearance of Batman. It turns out that the man found a copy of the comic in his attic, and the book was still in pretty good condition after all these years (given the book came out pre-World War II and hadn't been put in any special protective bagging or such). Of course, the shop owner made the man a good, fair offer for the book. He most certainly will be able to turn over the book for a profit given that issue's importance in comic book history.

This reminds me of something my father used to tell me about when I got into collecting comics in the late 70's. As a kid growing up in the 30's and early 40's, he actually had a copy of Whiz Comics #1 - the first appearance of Captain Marvel. I am sure he had other wonderful classics as well. But, of course, the story turns instantly sad when he told me that all those books went to either the trash or to paper drives for the war efforts. The thought of that was just shocking to me as a young comic collector at the time. It still stings today some. If he had somehow kept the book and it was in a very good condition, he could have paid for my college education with that one single sale. That's mind-blowing.

Rare finds like these are no doubt harder and harder to come by in this day and age. With the advent of online auction sites such as eBay and the Internet full of information in general, I can't imagine how someone could stumble across one of these older comics and not be able to find out what kind of treasure they have. Of course, the opposite happens too. Folks stumble across these old books that are not in great shape at all (torn covers, written on, etc.) but they don't know much about comic grading and thus think the books are worth more than they are. It's a double-edged sword.

Still, it is nice to hear stories like this - that these classic pieces of comic book history are at least making their way into the hands of folks who will try to preserve them. I'd rather that happen then them end up in some landfill somewhere.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Weighing In Again

A few months ago I talked about wanting to lose some weight. My maximum weight since the beginning of 2007 was 195lbs. Now, I'm 5'11" so I was carrying the amount I was overweight pretty well. Still, I didn't like dancing that close to 200 and decided to do something about it.

First, and foremost, I really focused on counting my calories to stay under 2000 a day. That meant making some dietary switches.

I went through the regular soda 12-packs that were in the garage (Coke and Pepsi) and switched over to a zero calorie drink instead - Coke Zero. I know, a zero calorie is a diet soda but for years I never liked the taste of diet sodas. Coke Zero, however, tastes much closer to original Coke than Diet Coke does, so making the switch wasn't so hard on my tastebuds. Now, instead of one can of regular soda a day I drink one can of Coke Zero, lopping 150 calories off my bottom line right there. While it is a little bit, over a week's time it'll add up.

The next change was in my sandwich for lunch. I switched over from PB&J on white-wheat bread to a turkey sandwich on wheat bread. The turkey is thinly sliced and I only use two pieces (less than a serving). I put in a low-fat cheese slice and use very little (a thin slide across the bread) low-fat mayonaise - just enough for the flavor. I could even throw in the occasional lettuce or tomato slices if we have them fresh in the house. I'm probably pulling in the same amount of calories here, but it is more healthy for me in a lot of ways. So, another good change.

I've also made sure to add in three pieces of fruit to my lunch box for through out the day. Coupled with drinking only water at work, that's also helping me more.

With dinners, we're really trying to eat a lot more healthier as a family. More vegetables are on tap for each meal. Meat portions are scaled back in serving sizes, and we often do a lot cooking of those in our George Foreman Grill (again, to let the fat run off).

All these changes seem to be helping. Over the past month or so I've had a pretty steady drop in the weight on the scale. As of this week, I'm sitting at 185lbs - which is only ten pounds off the goal I had for next summer (I wanted to be at least at 175lbs or less for my 25th High School reunion). The challenge, naturally, is getting through the holiday season coming up - when it seems like there is a lot of parties and celebrations with food involved. That's where will-power, heavy monitoring of portion control, and perhaps a few extra exercise sessions per week are going to come into play. The nice thing is that the weather is going to start cooling off soon (hopefully - who needs temps in the 90's in October?) and that means I can do some laps around the parking lot during lunch at work to help burn a little here and there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Holy Hannah!

It was reported this week that one single ticket for the "Best of Both Worlds Tour" sold on the resell market in Charolotte NC for $2565.00. Given that the tickets were initially retailing for $27.00, that's one heck of a profit!

Oh, by the way, this is for the tour of Miley Cyrus, daughter of country music singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who plays Hannah Montana in the popular Disney Channel show. The tour follows up her double album release "Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus" which has already sold more than 1 million copies since its release in June. Her first album last year, also a soundtrack from the show, sold more than 2 million copies.

Now, I must admit it - I am a Hannah Montana fan. We watch the show in our house quite often. I think its a cute comedy and a nice enough family show. The humor has some wink-wink nods that make fun of Billy Ray, etc. that adults my age will get (Billy Ray plays "Robby Ray Stewart" on the show, father of "Miley Stewart" who has a second secret life as pop-star "Hannah Montana"). I find the supporting actors - Jason Earles, Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso, Moises Arias, and Frances Callier - to all be funny too. There is a lot of outrageous physical humor that reminds me the classic I Love Lucy. And in the end, there are often great lessons about friendship and family that I think today's generation can benefit from.

But, as noted above, the show is also about the pop-music. Each episode features a snippet or more of a song off one of the albums. Is the show pushing the product? Is the product pushing the show? Most definitely. Does Radio Disney really hype their own stars with constant airplay of the songs? Absolutely. Is it infectious pop music? I tend to think so.

I have the music CDs in my collection - the ones with songs from the show as well as Miley's own release. The show songs are very familiar and Miley's original music shows a lot of varying musical styles to it. I will listen to the songs when I'm in a carefree sort of mood - usually in my car on the way home from work or something. Does it embarrass my son? Sometimes. Other times, I think he likes having the excuse of "my Dad is listening to it" so he can too. He doesn't have to admit he likes the music that way.

Still, as much of a fan that I am, I still think anyone paying thousands of dollars for a scalped concert ticket has to be a little crazy. I mean, I love my kid too, but when the only way you can get them to a concert they are begging about is to max out the credit limit on a card (or two) then I think it is time to sit down and have a serious family discussion about the value of money and economic realities.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Long Live the Cube

I read an article yesterday about Sunday's competition in Hungary for solving Rubik's Cube. Erno Rubik, a Hungarian engineer, invented the three-by-three colorful cube puzzle back in 1974, and competitions to solve the cube nationally have been ongoing since 1982. This latest event drew more than 250 competitors from 33 countries. The fastest time recorded at the event was 10.88 seconds, just of the world record of 9.86 seconds which was set by a Frenchman in May of 2007.

Monday, October 8, 2007

TV Shuffle

A few weeks into the new Fall Season, and already we have some changes in our viewing habits. Let's review.


Back To You, while funny in the pilot, has left us pretty cold after the second and third episodes. My wife said after viewing the taped show from last week "you can drop recording this one unless you are enjoying it". Since she was the one that wanted to watch the show anyway, it got dropped.

Survivor: China was also cast-off. While I was okay on the pilot, I just felt I had too much TV viewing going on during the week that I was not focusing on other things. Given I was never a hardcore Survivor fan anyway (I missed nearly every season between the first and All-Stars), I gave it up.


VH-1 debuted a new Sunday night show last night: America's Most Smartest Model. Yes, the title is indeed grammatically incorrect, and that's part of the point. See, you have all these gorgeous contestants who are either models or aspire to be. But the kicker is, can they model and be quizzed at the same time? Sounds boring. Did I mention one of the key panelists is Ben Stein? Now I've got your attention. Yup, Ben Stein - brilliant and sarcastic. We love Ben Stein in our house, all the way back to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. If Ben's involved, we're willing to give it a watch. This is perfect no-brainer (okay, maybe some brainer as the questions and mental portions can be challenging - for the contestants) for an end-of-the-weekend, just before bed show on Sunday nights.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Not So Happy Birthday

Yesterday was my wife's birthday.

Over the years we've been together, there have been quite a few of them when she was working a lot of long hours. In lots of businesses, the fiscal calendars begin in October, so year-end closing usually occurs that first week of October to close out the end of the previous year. So, there have been birthdays where we've had to shift the celebration to a few days later.

In 1989, the first of her birthday's we had together was while we were dating, we visited her parents (the second time I had met them actually). That birthday was memorable in that she spent the first hour at their house with her right hand sort of hidden behind pillows on the couch as we talked with her folks. See, we had just gotten engaged the week prior and she was waiting to tell them the news. When we had a free moment, I whispered in her ear that she was just being a chicken and needed to do it. Once she told them, the tension was gone. We had a dual celebration that weekend - her birthday and our engagement.

In 1995, my wife was over nine months pregnant. Our son was past his due date and we had induction scheduled the week after her birthday. Still, we had been spending a lot of time doing things to try to make it happen naturally. She ate a whole can of cling peaches to try to induce labor, on my sister-in-law's suggestion; the only thing that accomplished was to turn my wife off to canned peaches for years. We did lots of walking in the mall. As a last ditch effort, on her birthday, I took her to the Angus Barn - one of Raleigh NC's well-known eating establishments. We both ate until we were about to bust. Sadly, no contractions that night.

Yesterday falls into one of those memorable birthdays, but not in a good way. We took our dogs to the vet in the morning only to learn the bad news about our boykin spaniel Cocoa (who is about eighteen months old). She is pretty much blind in her right eye due to cataracs and her vision is going in her left eye too. Now, we're dog lovers - have been for all our married years. We've lost a number of our babies due to various health problems, but this is the first time we've had one so young have problems. So, we're going to have to take her to a canine eye doctor to see what can be done and how much it will cost. Then we'll have to decide what we're going to do.

So, we're going to try and have a do-over today for my wife's birthday. Hopefully it'll be a little more happier.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Comic of the Week (10/3/07)

From my pulls this week, I had four regular floppy books to chose from for my comic of the week.

The All-New Atom #16 had a very fun fill-in story written by Roger Stern. Roger did a great job matching the "feel" and "narrative style" of regular writer Gail Simone.

Coundown #30 was just okay - it mostly focused on the world-hopping team's visit to Earth-15. The art on the main story was only so-so, and the villain origin pages in back on General Zod didn't do much to excite me.

The Tales of the Sinestro Corps - Cyborg-Superman one-shot special was okay as well - half of it was spent recapping C-S's history which I was already thoroughly acquainted with and the other half was really just a lead in to next week's Green Lantern issue. The art was nice though.

So, that leaves the book of the week to the Countdown Presents - The Search of Ray Palmer: the Crime Society. This one-shot special really is a tie-in to last week's Countdown #31 when the world-hopping team ended up on Earth-3. A little history lesson for those not savy on their parallel Earths history: Earth-3 is a world in which the known major heroes like the Justice League, etc. have villainous counterparts while the villains of Earth-1 might have heroic counterparts. So, on this world, the Batman-like character is Owlman and a criminal. The Superman-like character is Ultraman and a criminal. The Joker-like character is called the Jokester and he's a hero. The first Earth-3 was destroyed as part of the Crisis On Infinite Earths mini-series back in 1985. Earth-3 along with the whole parallel Earths concept was brought back, slightly different than before, at the end of the 52 mini-series last year. This issue actually focuses on that later character - the Jokester - how he came to be and how he is connected to the character of the Joker's Daughter who was killed in Countdown #51 (she was a world-hopper too). I very much enjoyed this looking at familiar characters through a reverse-mirror. The art was solid with a lot of homages to classic comic images from Batman books of decades gone by.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Happiness is...the Complete Peanuts

I just completed the second volume in the two volume slipcase of the Complete Peanuts 1950-1954. These books actually came out four years ago by Fantagraphics, one debuting in the spring and the other in the fall (with the slipcase also collected in the fall). The idea is to publish, chronologically, all the Peanuts daily and Sunday cartoons in a hardcover, black and white format. They are four years into the project (the fourth slipcase set came out just last month) with another eight years left to go to cover the full run of this classic comic strip.

Now, I have been a big Peanuts fan ever since I was a kid first learning to read in the late 60's. I recall enjoying the most current comic strips each evening in the newspaper, and I had a number of paperback collections as well that reprinted some of the early strips. And, naturally, I'd watch each year the Halloween and Christmas specials when they came on the local CBS station.

What I find really enjoyable about this new set is the fact that they are all here, in order. Back when I was a kid, the collections would jump around and be missing whole chunks of strips. So, quite a few of these I had never seen before - a couple hundred strips easily. Turns out, a lot of these earlier strips from these first two volumes were actually missing for a time. Fantagraphics has found them, cleaned them up, and presented them in wonderful keep-sake books that look great on the bookshelves of any fans of the series. And when I do run across ones I had seen previously, that wonderful nostalgia feel hits me; it takes me back to my days of carefree youth and sitting at a picnic table enjoying these funny drawings.

Watching the character development, especially in these two earliest of volumes, is interesting as well. You can see Charlie Brown evolve from a smart-aleck practical joker to the everyman type of character he became. You see Schroeder, Lucy and Linus go from toddlers into the age similar to the other kids. Some characters who were prominent up front like Shermy and Patty slide back into more secondary roles as others develop and grow popular. The 1953-1954 volume also includes the introduction of Pig-Pen, and we start to see where 'story lines' begin to run across multiple days of the week.

I find this to be light but enjoyable reading. I usually keep the volume I am working by the nightstand so I can read a couple dozen pages (a month or so worth of comics) just before going to sleep. With the first two volumes down and six more waiting in the wings, I'll be good to go for awhile. My only question now is: how far will I collect these? I just got the set that includes the most recently released book 1965-1966. This volume covers the strips of the year I was born. I will likely continue to get these through the strips that run into the late 70's or early 80's, but from there will I decide to stay on board until the end of the line? We'll see. The collector in me says "yes, of course". Having the full run in 25 volumes would be rather nice. The beautiful thing is that these strips are pretty timeless, so they can be enjoyed for decades and generations to come.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Celebrity Poker Hands

On my way into work yesterday morning, the DJs and their staff were playing a game called Celebrity Poker Hands with listeners. The idea is to find out which celebrities are born on your birthday and assemble the "best" poker hand (ie. five celebs) that you can. Of course, the "best" is going to depend upon who you're playing with - some folks might consider famous sports figures to be a really strong hand, others might think actors or musicians. The idea is to just see who has the "best" poker hand of the group.

To help, here's a website that allows you see who was born on your birthday:

I dropped into this site yesterday and assembled the following hand for my birthday (Feb. 23rd). Remember: I am a TV and movie geek so that influenced a bit of my choices.

1. Peter Fonda (1940) - I will start out with that Easy Rider himself. This actor has such a wide range of work, even active in such recent films as Ghost Rider, Wild Hogs and 3:10 To Yuma. All that longevity earns him a place in my hand.

2. Howard Jones (1955) - I have to include this 80's musician. I've always loved his songs and we (my wife, my son and I) actually saw him live in concert back in 2000 or so (on the same bill at the Human League and Culture Club).

3. Kristin Davis (1965) - I gotta go with her for a number of reasons. First, loved her back on Melrose Place in the 80's. Second, she's very funny on Sex In the City. And third, hey - same year born as me! How cool is that?

4. This one was a tough choice. Part of me wants to go with Home Improvement matriarch Patricia Richardson (1951). She played "Jill" for many years against Tim Allen's "Tim 'the Toolman' Taylor". However, the uber-TV geek in me has to lean more towards Marc Price (1968) who played "'Skippy' Handleman" on Family Ties for many years. Marc played that underdog dweeb so well in his ever-lasting fatuation of "Mallory". I gotta give the fourth spot in my hand to Marc for that.

5. The fifth and final place in my hand has to go, without a question, to Majel Barrett (1939). Wife of Gene Roddenberry and very accomplished actress in her own right, she will also forever be known as the voice of the computer systems on all of the next-generation of Star Trek TV series and films.

So, that's my Celebrity Poker Hand. Care to share yours?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And You Thought Your Ex Was Bad

Last week I had the chance to record and then watch My Super Ex-Girlfriend, another film from 2006 that I meant to see in theatres but didn't. Now, you might have missed this one. The film stars Luke Wilson as a NY City guy who happens to ask out a woman on the subway. The woman, played by Uma Thurman, turns out to have a secret - she's really the super-powered heroine known as G-Girl. This comedy film covers the rise and fall of that relationship.

I watched the film with my wife. She did like the whole 'becareful how you cross the woman you're dating' angles, but some of the things I found very humorous really just didn't make her laugh. See, I'm a comic book reader thus the whole "woman of steel/man of kleenix" angle was very funny to me. I loved the complete focus on 'things one must do to hide their secret identity' too. That was played up very well.

Still I could certainly see how this film could easily fall into a fanboy's dream (you know the comic book fanboy - the guy who will debate you for hours why hero X is greater than hero Y, etc.). The film really caters to that audience with a lot of the humor and the situations (what sex would be like with a dominating super-woman, and how said woman becomes the bane of the guy's existence when he breaks up with her).

Luke Wilson plays the everyman well and doesn't go over the top when he realizes the woman he's landed. Uma Thurman gives a great performance of a character who at times borders on bipolar. The actress who played the blonde in the office was cute enough though how things played out was pretty predictable. The actor who played the best friend really came off like a jerk, which is what the script called for. I also enjoyed Wanda Sikes in her supporting role. I wish there was more of her in the film as she is always extremely funny.

The only part of the film I thought was 'meh' was the final reel. Like the film Howard the Duck, this one does pretty good in the first two thirds of sticking to the genre without getting too cliche. The last part of the film sort of feels like a way to quickly tie-it-all-up because the end was approaching fast. The ending here was kind of cheesey - and even for a comedy like this it was too cheesey.

Definitely one you'd want to catch on cable for free as opposed to spending money on a rental. Hopefully you didn't spend the money to see it in the theatres in 2006.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bang - You Got Me!

Just when I thought my Monday nights couldn't get any funnier, CBS added to the block of two of my favorite comedies a third, freshman show called the Big Bang Theory.

Last week I mentioned how much I enjoyed the pilot episode. It was very smart, very funny, very in-tune to the geek world. It referenced commentaries on Battlestar Galactica DVDs and one of the guys wore a Flash t-shirt. That's geeky. But, I thought, pilots are usually top notch to sell the show - how will the second week be?


Last night was another awesome episode. From the opening discussions on how Superman: the Movie defied physics (and not just in that a man can fly - and how about them discussing a good Superman movie? Kudos!) to watching the two high IQ leads try to figure out how to move some furniture (with a Green Lantern reference yet!) to the final joke of the four scientists discussing the inferior design of said Swedish furniture, this show had me laughing out loud from start to finish.

The cast really works. Johnny Galecki (known from Roseanne) plays Leonard, the geek trying to rise above. Jim Parsons plays Sheldon, the organized neat freak who wears his super-hero shirts proudly. Kaley Cuoco plays Penny, the cute and not as smart nextdoor neighbor whom Leonard is determined to help in whatever way he can.

My hope is that CBS gives it a full season to find its audience. So far, it is doing well in the ratings. It is definitely a show that appeals to folks who have a bit higher than a high school education.

Monday, October 1, 2007

One Word - Titus!

I happened to be watching Comedy Central the other weekend and caught a rebroadcast of a 2004 comedy special. It was Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding which is the one-man performance by Christopher Titus. Born in 1964, the native Californian's comedy act is really a look at his dysfunctional family life in a rather humorous way. His father was an alcoholic and a womanizer who would rather his sons learn by their actions not to do stupid things versus just telling them not do. He constantly referred to his boys as "wussies". His mother suffered mental illness and killed her second husband. Titus' and his younger brother Dave's lives were forever impacted by the environment in which they were raised.