Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comics of the Week (7/23/08)

I interrupt my own travelogue to finish up something I didn't do last week.

Trinity #8 - the heroes continue to investigate the strange trinity/tarot themes while the trio of villains plot to take power. Still enjoying this weekly as it unfolds.

Justice League of America #23 - Vixen learns the truth about her recent power changes, and Amazo makes his move. It is all out battle in the JLA headquarters as their enemy with all their powers takes them out.

Ambush Bug: Year None #1 (of 6) - the quirky hero is back with his creators (Giffen and Fleming) guiding the tale. In their classic comedy style, they poke fun at the conventions of the medium as well as recent comic events, using Ambush Bug as their irreverent mouth-piece. Should be a fun mini series.


the Brave and the Bold #15 - with Nanda Parbat undersiege, Deadman recruits the team of Nightwing and Hawkman to help. I enjoyed this issue a lot because writer Mark Waid shows why Nightwing (Dick Grayson) has such a tactical mind. He learned from the best (Batman) and this issue shows that nicely. This two-part arc was a lot of fun, and it shows that this team-up title can do different mixes of tales nicely (multi-part epics, two-parters, single issue tales).

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 2

A Family / A Fair

We had a wake up call set for 9:30am. Good thing I have a great internal clock when I sleep as the call did not come. Still, I was awake by 9:15am and excited for our day ahead of us. This trip was for my 25th high school reunion and there were events planned on both Friday and Saturday. Still, I had a few plans for things I wanted to do on Friday as well so I got the family up and ready to go by 10:30am.

First stop was to my aunt's house, and along the way I gave my wife and son a quick tour of stuff (pointed out my old middle school, the hospital where I was born, the house where the local country club's golf pro lived, the florist that sold great stick candy for pennies back in the day, etc.). My aunt actually lives in the house my grandparents lived in growing up (she lived next door, but now her youngest daughter lives there while she lives with her middle daughter in my grandparents' old house). Anyway, we dropped in for a quick visit and to pick up two things: directions to my middle cousin's cottage where we'd be having dinner that night and tickets to the county fair.

After getting some breakfast/lunch at the Bob Evans, we headed over to the Chatauqua County Fairgrounds. The reunion dates were picked, in part, to coincide with the Fair, giving folks who were coming back home another event to take part of. Growing up, the Fair was a huge thing every summer. I'd often go for a day with my youngest cousin, to ride the rides and play the games and eat the food. We'd also go with the whole family on Wednesday night every year; Wednesday was traditionally the night of the Joey Chitwood motor show. We always had a ball at the Fair.


Going back after 20+ years as a 43 year old adult, the Fair seemed a bit smaller. Sure, most of the same things were there: the exhibit hall for crafts, the livestock buildings, the I Got It game, certain concession stands still owned and run by the same families after all these years, the midway laid out in pretty much the same fashion with the carnival games down one aisle and the rides up the middle, etc. It just seemed smaller from a grown up perspective. It didn't take too long for us to check most of the things out. We did, however, ride a few rides including the Tilt-A-Whirl or, as I called it after one ride in my youth - the Tilt-A-Hurl (because I mistakenly drank a Pepsi after riding it then and did not make it to the nearest restroom in time - you want to make someone made at the Fair, go and barf in front of their booth.).

After a few hours, we went back to the van which we parked for free at the D-F Plaza lot, and headed back to the hotel. There we took a few minutes to take a walk around the water front of Lake Erie harbor. The weather was nice and cool, and the pathway along the breakwall that protects the harbor was nice place to just walk and talk. Again, I shared memories of growing up here, of swimming in the lake when it wasn't so polluted, of fishing on the dock with my father, etc.

After our walk, we drove out to my cousins' cottage for dinner. Now, that was an experience too. Turns out this community has a creek that runs through the center of it down to the lake. To get to my cousins' place, you have to drive through the creek. Yup, you read that right. Luckily the creek was low so it wasn't too challenging. There we visited with most of the family, had a dinner of hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob (locally grown, yum) and birthday cake. My three cousins all celebrate their birthdays in the July/August months, so for the first time in a long time we had a family birthday for them. It was just like when we were growing up. We had a lot of fun.

At 9pm, it was time to say goodbye to the family and head back to the hotel to get cleaned up. It was time for the Friday evening portion of the reunion festivities!


(to be continued...)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 1

Take The Long Way Home

On Thursday July 24th, my family loaded up the new van and began the 600 mile trek from Hickory, NC, to the town I grew up in - Dunkirk, NY. Of course, before we could even start out, I had to first drive an hour to the Boy Scout camp outside of Rutherfordton, NC, pick up my son who had been at camp since Sunday the 27th, drive the hour back to the house, unload his camp gear and load up our trip stuff. Good thing my wife was willing to drive the first leg when we left our house at 4pm.

Everything was going great until the tunnels of Virginia. First encountered on I-77 was the Big Walker tunnel. Now, my wife doesn't like going through them to begin with (she's a bit claustrophobic) but she was driving so she just dealt with it. After the first tunnel is about 10 miles of road before the second one. That ten miles took nearly an hour and 45 minutes to traverse, in part due to maintenance going on at the East River Mountain tunnel. Traffic was stopped completely for most of that period while two lanes of traffic slowly became one. Ugh. So, the first four hours of the trip we barely clocked in 160 miles total. Not good.

We ate a very late dinner and then I took over. The van GPS which, by the way, is a godsend, was pretty good about keeping us fully on track. However, it had clocked the trip for 9 hours, assuming a speed of 67 mph. Well, we still had another six and half hours to go, according to her, so I had to make up some time. The best laid plans of mice and men...

If you've never driven the Pennsylvania highways, I need to point out that they are always under construction. Every time I have made a trip back to New York since moving south 20 years ago, we always encounter construction in the Keystone State. This trip was no different. Lots of slowing down, narrowing of lanes with cement barriers, orange barrels, single lanes, etc. By midnight, we still had quite a good distance to go.

It was time to make a decision. Did we find a hotel, stop and get about five hours sleep and then do the final three hours in the morning, or did we just push on and drive the rest of the way? Either way we would only get five hours sleep at best. We had plans for Friday which didn't allow for much buffer. Also, at midnight the traffic was pretty much non-existent. Come morning, who knew what delays we'd hit? My wife called the hotel in Dunkirk, explained that we had a reservation beginning Friday night and asked if they had a room open should we arrive at 3am. They said they would have our room for us. We decided to press on!

Besides the GPS, the other blessing of the van is the XM radio system. Except in the mountain tunnels, we had clear single all the way. I love that! No fishing for stations, no settling for genres you don't want. At 11pm, XM 8 the 80's started an American Top 40 countdown with Casey Kasem from 1980, so I had a soundtrack to drive to.

Even still, by 2am, my eyes were starting to get droopy. We pulled into a Sheetz gas station to top off the tank, use the bathroom, and refill on caffenated beverages. My wife took over to drive an hour while I allowed by eyes to relax a bit. Towards the end of her hour, the New York state border was just ahead. We pulled over just before getting on to the New York State Thruway, and I drove the final little bit. As we hit the Dunkirk exit, I had her turn off the GPS. I was back in the town I grew up in and knew my way around even after all this time.

We pulled up to the Clarion hotel on Lake Erie at 4am, did a quick check-in, hauled our stuff to the room and crashed. Okay, technically my son crashed again as he had slept nearly the whole trip in the car up (scout camp tends to wear him out). Still, it was great to be finally getting some sleep, as little as it would be. In a few hours, we'd have things to do for our 72 hours in Dunkirk.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

School Days


School Days, published in 2005, is Robert B. Parker's 33rd Spenser novel. The Boston investigator is hired by a grandmother of a young man involved in a school shooting. She wants Spenser to prove his innocence, even though the child confessed to being a part of the killing with another young man. In typical fashion of these novels by Parker, Spenser learns there is more to the case than meets the eye.

The book is pure Spenser. The typical supporting cast of Susan and Hawk are not present. Only minor contacts of Spenser's from past books appear. This, in a lot of ways, is sort of a throwback to the earlier novels. In that, it makes it a nice break from the last few books.

In a number of ways, this one seemed to be ripped from the headlines. He had a very Columbine feel to it, as the infamous school shooting had happened around the time this book was written.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cold Service


I just finished reading Cold Service, the 32nd book by Robert B. Parker in the Spenser series. In this 2005 novel, we open with Spenser at Hawk's bedside in a hospital. Hawk and a family he knew were gunned down by five Ukranian thugs. Only Hawk survived the shooting which left one little boy orphaned. Even beat down pretty bad, Spenser's good friend wants revenge for the family and for himself. It takes awhile to recover, but eventually he is ready to do just that. But what it ends up costing Hawk is something else.

I really felt Parker missed an opportunity here. The book focuses on Hawk mostly and, I have to say, it was about time. However, this was a chance to really let readers know more details about who Hawk is, how he came to be, etc. We don't get that. Parker keeps him this man of mystery and secrets. I felt he could have given the readers more without compromising the character. Ah well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What was #1 the Day You were Born?

Billboard Music - Billboard #1 Hits

What was the #1 song on the day you were born? Do you know? Do you care? Will it haunt you at night now that I mentioned it until you check? Good.

Click on the link above then click the Billboard #1 Hits on the toolbar in blue to find the decade you were born. Click that to bring up the lists for that decade, find your year and then within that the week you were born. Viola. Your #1 song on the day you were born.

Mine is Gary Lewis and the Playboys - "This Diamond Ring".

My wife's is the Association - "Cherish".

My son's is Mariah Carey - "Fantasy".

What's yours?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog

Trust me, you gotta check this link out: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog. If you're a fan of super-heroes, musicals, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Joss Whedon's awesome genius - you need to check this out. It is a three-act melodrama about Dr. Horrible (Harris) and how he is torn between love and getting into the Evil League of Evil. And his heroic rival - none other than Captain Hammer (Fillion).

I laughed so hard I cried. And who knew these guys could sing? Just go watch it. You'll thank me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Comics of the Week (7/16/08)

Batman and the Outsiders #10 - the team is back from their mission in Europe, and Metamorpho is back from space. But what was going on there turns out to be a lot bigger of a threat than first imagined. Batman brings back old member Looker to help out as well. Hopefully Dixon can tie this whole arc together before his final issue as writer.

Tangent: Superman's Reign #5 (of 12) - more battles, more captives, more heroes on the run. And, the Tangent world's Superman learns about the Earth where the Justice League comes from. Oh, this doesn't bode well at all. I'm hoping the pace steps up a bit as we round into the final half.

Trinity #7 - and here the pieces start to come together, and more heroes are getting involved. Busiek manages to tie this tale into another book he did years back JLA/Avengers, and that should prove to make things a lot more exciting as well. Still a solid read week after week.


Final Crisis - Rogues' Revenge #1 (of 3) - Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins reunite in a story about the Flash's foes, and it is just like they hadn't left the Flash title at all. Johns writes the Rogues better than anyone, and Kolins' art is perfect for this story. I'm a big fan of the bad guys taking a story lead, and this book is delivering. Three issues is the perfect length for this mini series - we get set-up this issue, major conflict next month, and conclusion the month after that. Awesome!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wild about Wildguard!


I don't get many independent comics these days, but one that I never miss is Todd Nauck's Wildguard. Published by Image Comics, this book first appeared as a six part mini-series back in 2004. What sets it apart from any other debuting super-team book? How about the concept of a team being picked based on a reality show open-call process? Yup, that's what Wildguard did - take one part Survivor/American Idol and throw in capes and spandex, and you've got a fun concept.

I actually picked up the entire first arc as part of the Wildguard: Casting Call trade paperback. I knew Todd's artwork from his working on DC's Young Justice. Here, Todd was doing both the writing and art, delivering a one-two creative punch. This book is all his vision and it is outstanding. Around this same time, a one-shot called Wildguard: Fire Power came out. He also started a "where are they now?" back-up feature with a couple pages of popular heroes that didn't make the final team cut.

In 2005, he followed the first mini up with the two part Wildguard: Fool's Gold. Not only did he explore the new team first working together but also other elements of their world. This was also the time Todd started putting up a weekly web-comic on his site Wildguard.com.

Those web-comics made print this summer in the three-part Wildguard Insider. Not only were all the web-comics printed, but Todd and his other friends added some all new lead material and a number of "where are they now?" segments as well.

Todd had been doing Teen Titans Go! regularly for DC the past four years. Since that title got cancelled recently, I am hoping this will allow Todd and Image to put out Wildguard as a regular monthly title (or at least a steady stream of minis). This is one book that is too good to be kept on a sporadic schedule.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bad Business


Bad Business, written in 2004, is the 31st Spenser novel by author Robert B. Parker. The Boston private eye is approached by the wife of an executive at Kinergy, a company that sells energy, to investigate her husband to confirm he is cheating on her. She wants to have evidence to use against him in a divorce. Only a day on the job, Spenser finds that other people are tailing others involved so he gets them to compare notes. Soon he uncovers a bizarre secret life of the corporation members and that investigation leads to murder.

Parker again goes to the well of the usual motives for murder: sex and money. This story combines them both, in some very interesting twists. The story moves pretty quickly. I polished off this 309 page book in two days over the weekend. I definitely wasn't bored with it.

Superman Doomsday


Cartoon Network showed the 2007 direct to video animated Superman Doomsday this weekend. I taped it, watched it with my son on Sunday and have to day that I was not very impressed. I am glad I didn't buy this one on DVD sight unseen.

The story tries in about 70 minutes to cover what was done in a year's worth of comic stores back in the early part of the decade - ie. the death and rebirth of Superman. In both tales, the Man of Steel faces an incredible alien fighting machine (a creature called Doomsday) that only knows how to do one thing - kill. And the first part of the film covers this aspect of the tale well enough. Superman fights the creature to his death. The film even then covers, quickly, the aspects of the comic series covered over two months in an arc "Funeral For a Friend". Now, this animated film does not have space for other heroes to cameo, so we only see Metropolis' response to his death. Still works.

But then the film goes off on its own story path. In the comics, four heroes emerge to try to fill the void left by Superman. They are Steel, Superboy, the Cyborg-Superman and the Eradicator. The film has no time for all these extra characters, so it comes up with its own plot.

And that's kind of where the film loses me. I realize they had to do something quick to bring it all back around, but it all felt like two episodes from the old animated series, put together. Ah well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Simpsons...


I was a follower of the Simpsons family from their first shorts debut on the Tracey Ullman Show. That was back in 1987, when FOX was still a struggling network that could barely put on three nights of new programming. Still, something about that dysfunctional family resonated even from the early shorts - enough to earn them a Christmas special and then a full-fledged show. Since then, it has become the longest running animated show on television.

I haven't been a regular viewer of the show though since about 2003 - the same season that FOX decided to cancel Futurama, another great animated show from the mind of Matt Goening. I think this was about the time my son was old enough to understand things he was seeing on television, and that some of the humor and double-entendre of the show would be things I wouldn't want to expose him to. So, I pretty much skipped the show to only catch the occasional episode every now and again.

Today, after an hour long morning workout at the YMCA and a lunch at Ryan's buffet, I was on the couch flipping through the guide on the TV only to find that 2007's The Simpsons Movie was about to start. Sure, I knew about the film from the promos. Who wouldn't? Who can't help but sing "Spider-pig, spider-pig..."? So, for old times sake, I decided to give it a viewing (as I did not see it in the theatre).

I have to say that I enjoyed it. Sure, this isn't academy award winning writing, but I don't expect that from the Simpsons. There was some great in-jokes, a bunch of silly humor, appearances by all the main staples from the show, and it was a huge storyline that flowed from situation to situation fairly well. And, despite all the jokes and the crudeness, there was at the heart of the film some heart. These may be drawn characters but they have at their very core still have an emotional center that every family can relate to. And that's the charm that has endured them and their show to us for the past two decades.

Comics of the Week (7/10/08) part 2

Trinity #6 - Tarot consults the cards and finds a startling pattern. The trio of heroes discuss the recent events, and in the back-up Hawkman teams up with Gangbuster. The issue definitely felt like an interlude, but in a weekly book an interlude issue is fine enough. As we get closer to the second month ending, the book still has solid quality. We'll see if it can make it last the entire run.

Booster Gold #1000000 - once again, the creative team ties in Booster with past comic events from the 90's seemlessly. This issue is actually the twelth in the run, thus ending the first publishing year, and it ties up the second story arc nicely. The ending is a surprise on a couple of points, and once again we get four teaser panels from the coming year in the title. Definitely one of my favorite monthly books on the market today.


Final Crisis - Requiem - this one-shot special celebrates the life of the Martian Manhunter. We get more details of his final fight, which was so woefully glossed over in Final Crisis #1. This issue shows he went out fighting, as it should have been. We also see how much respect he earned in his life in the heroic community. A must-have issue for any true DC fan.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Comics of the Week (7/10/08) part 1

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #16 - the cover is in celebration of the classic LSH debut from Adventure Comics #247 and the story inside is pretty much summed up by the issue's title: "the Untold Legend of Arm-Fall-Off Boy". A cute, one issue story that tells the tale of a different person trying to fit in.

The War That Time Forgot #3 (of 12) - actually came out last week but my shop didn't get them right away. The art inside seems to be sliding a bit on this mini-series and the story is running pretty slowly. I hope they aren't padding it just to make it fill the 12 issues. I was hoping for more but I am slowly getting disappointed. May drop it after another issue.


Justice Society of America #17 - "One World, Under Gog" continues with this second part subtitled "Wish Fulfillment". After the way the last issue ended, more members of the JSA find themselves on the receiving end of Gog's wonderous gifts. Is it all a ploy, or can this benevolent giant being be on the level? We'll see soon. Enjoying this arc a lot. Also, can't wait for the Justice Society of America Annual to come out in a few weeks. Two words: Earth-Two (okay, that one word hyphenated but still...)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back Story


Back Story, published in 2003, is the 30th Spenser novel. Like most cases, it starts out simple enough - a friend of Paul's asks Spenser to find out who murdered her mother. Problem was the murder happened twenty-eight years ago. It doesn't take the Boston private eye too long to find out this cold-case is so hot that a number of someones want to make sure it stays closed. And they'll threaten Spenser to do so.

I have to admit that I wasn't so hot on this book. It really didn't gain a lot of momentum for me until the final third of the book. And chapter 56 actually touches upon something Parker hasn't done since A Savage Place - Spenser has a rare crisis of conscious. My hope is that Parker can build upon this though I fear it will sort of get pushed back under the rug in later novels. That's a shame.

One thing that is cool about this book though is that Parker has a cameo/crossover of sorts with Jesse Stone, another lead character in a Parker written series. I plan to read the Jesse Stone novels after I finish the Spenser set. So it was good to get a little introduction to him. It really helps to build the Parker-verse of sorts.

One Week, Two Anniversaries

This second week of July 2008 marks two anniversaries for me.

The first, and most important, is that it marks the 18th wedding anniversary for my wife Terri and I. We've actually known each other since 19 years ago this month and, after about three months of dating, we got engaged the beginning of October in 1989. A week before our wedding date in 1990, we closed on our first house and moved all our stuff in. The wedding was held in the church in her hometown, and the reception was a pig picking barbeque in her parents' backyard.

18 years is a long time, and we've had our shares of ups and downs. In the end, though, it is the balance we bring to each other that helps us sail through those hard times and enjoy the great times. We each have our strengths that compliment the other person. She's my best friend and the first person I turn to for everything. I couldn't ask for a better person with whom to grow old.

The second anniversary this week is the first year of this very blog. Yes, on July 11th, 2007, I began doing the blogging thing. For the most part, I've been pretty regular - almost putting in a post per day (okay, 320 entries versus 365 days means I missed a few here and there). That's pretty good if you think about it. I've enjoyed sharing my thoughts on books, films, comics and such - and I hope you do too. I plan to continue strongly through year two and beyond. We'll see how that turns out.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Love Money!

No, that isn't a statement declaring any inherent greed on my part. I Love Money! is the name of a new reality show that debuted this week on VH-1.

The concept of the show is pretty straight forward. Take seventeen former contestants on four VH-1 reality shows, take them down to Mexico, and have them compete for a $250,000 prize. Of course, there will be drama, romance, alliances built and crumbled, and lots of trash-talk and back-stabbing. Perfect, mindless summer viewing.

From Flavor of Love and Charm School comes Hoops, Nibblz, Pumpkin and Toastee. From I Love New York comes Chance, Real, White-Boy, Midget Mac, Entertainer, 12-Pack, Mr. Boston and another dude whose name I can't recall (why did Flav and New York have to give these folks such funky nicknames?). From Rock of Love seasons 1 and 2 comes Heather, Destiny, Brandi C., Rodeo and Megan.

Sure, this isn't emmy award winning television. Heck, it is more in line with Jerry Springer than anything else. But it is interesting to me to see what people will do for fame and fortune, and just how low-down they'll stoop for either. Let the games begin!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Welcome to Riverdale


After Marvel pulled the plug on GIT Corp's production of their DVD-ROM sets (see this blog entry I posted previously), I was worried that was that for my comics on DVD-ROM reading. Thankfully, GIT went and got a new publisher on board.

GIT put out last month the first installment of the Archie line of titles on DVD-ROM with Archie the Bronze Age Collection. This set features 97 complete printable comics and annuals from the Archie title that ran from February 1970 through December 1979.

As a kid, I did read some Archie books with Jeannie, a neighbor girl across the street. This was back when I was reading books by Gold Key and Harvey as well, before I graduated to the world of super-heroes. So, reading this set takes me back to those times when we couldn't wait to grow up to become teenagers and have cool adventures like Archie and gang.

A few differences with this set over GIT's Marvel offerings:

First, it is only one decade of a book - the 1970's. So you get less books that Marvel's run of a full title. That means we are starting with issue 197 in the run too. So, we aren't getting the full range of stories. But that's okay. The price is less than the Marvel sets (under $20) so it makes it affordable to the casual buyer. If it sells well, I'd expect we'll see sets with earlier stuff and later stuff as well.

Conversely, unlike the Marvel stuff which builds on continuity, each of these issues can be read on their own. So, starting in the middle of the run is fine. Again, Archie and his pals are ageless - forever teens - so the only thing that changes with the decades are the clothes, the cars and the music. So, this 70's snapshot works out just fine.

Already on the slate for the coming months are bronze age sets for Jughead (in August) and Betty and Veronica (in September). I look forward to sampling those as well.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday morning on the links


When I got up this morning, I spent some time on the links. No, I didn't go golfing - I haven't played a round of 18 in a number of years. No, instead I happened to flip on the television to catch the 2000 film the Legend of Bagger Vance.

The film stars Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh, a WWI veteran who returns the town of Savanah, GA, after the war. When his former girlfriend (Charlize Theron) enlists him to play in a huge golf tournament with two big names, Junuh finds himself having problems. Enter Bagger Vance (Will Smith) as a mysterious wise-man with much wisdom to give - often in the form of symbolic stories and golfing metaphors. In the end, Junuh needs to find his rhythm to comeback from behind in the tournament and to make amends with the woman he loves.

Now, this film isn't going to excite everyone. There is a lot of golf involved and not everyone finds the game that interesting. Folks either love it or hate it. Still, Robert Redford did a great job directing this film. The feel of the period and the setting in the deep south in the early 1900's is perfect. And seeing those lush shots of the golf course in widescreen, high definition television - that makes it even more beautiful to watch.

Music and Lyrics (2007)


I freely admit that I am a huge fan of the romantic-comedy genre of movies. Something about the odd situations where a couple meet, fall in love, have some kind of misunderstanding only to reunite in the end so that love can conqueor all really tugs at my heart strings. 2007's Music and Lyrics is one of those films - light yet plausible and a great distraction on an overcast Sunday afternoon like today.

The film stars Hugh Grant as 80's has-been pop singer Alex Fletcher, the less successful member of the former band Pop!, who is perfectly happy playing reunions and state fairs. But that well is starting to dry up, so his manager (played by Brad Garrett) gets him a chance to write a song for a hot young musical artist named Cora (played superbly by newcomer Haley Bennett). Problem is that Alex only does music, not lyrics. Enter underachiever Sophie (played by the ever likeable Drew Barrymore), who seems to have a natural knack for writing lines. Alex and Sophie collaborate on the song and end up falling in love.

One of the best touches of the film is the music video for "Pop Went My Heart", the big hit single of Alex's band Pop! (a very thinly disguised homage to Wham!) back in the mid-80's. The film opens with that and it is spot on to the times. Make sure to see the video resurface at the end during closing credits as well, with an added bit of "pop" to it. Very fitting.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Widow's Walk


Widow's Walk, published in 2002, is Robert B. Parker's 29th book in the Spenser mystery series. In this one, the Boston private eye is asked by his old friend Rita, a lawyer, to help with a defense case they are working on. Spenser is trying to determine if woman has murdered her husband. However, he soon finds the case very frustrating because the woman is not very bright or forthcoming with information. The more Spenser digs into the case, the more confusing it gets.

Then the ante gets upped as people whom Spenser talks with start dropping like flies.

I found this one very unpredictable and that kept me wanting to read more. I wanted to know how Spenser would solve this one, but I was confident he would. So seldom has he not.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Comics of the Week (7/2/08)

All-New Atom #25 - well, the final issue comes with a whimper. I was excited when last issue ended with Ray Palmer arriving, but this issue was just a let-down. The way this book has slid in quality since Gail Simone left writing it, the cancellation actually was more like an act of mercy. With his title gone, I give Ryan Choi's Atom about a year before he either is killed off or fades into obscurity.

Trinity #5 (of 52) - another week and another good comic. The battle with Konvict comes to an end, but the mystery is just beginning. And the back-up tale is about to collide with the lead tale. Extra bonus: the appearance of three classic villains in the back-up story - two of whom I used quite a lot in fanfiction I did for a DC Comics writing group a few years back. Who doesn't love Throttle and Blindside? Kudos to Busiek and Nicieza for bringing them back briefly.


Rann-Thanagar Holy War #3 (of 8) - once again Jim Starlin and Ron Lim deliver a gorgeous epic that jumps for cosmic locale to cosmic locale with great ease. The cast is large and varied, and it is just a rip-roaring adventure. I'm loving it. If you are a fan of costumed adventurers in outer space, you really need to check this one out. If you are bigger fan of DC's cosmic heroes, you'll love it even more.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rant: Defacing Public Property

I'm all for folks letting me know if I've posted something (like a story on one of my websites) that contains typos and grammatical errors and such. I am totally open for that and welcome it. I know I miss things. And I know there are people out there that have the editorial desire that bursts to come out in them. I get that too. My wife can't read our local newspaper without catching all the grammer errors that seem to creep in.

What I don't like, though, if folks who do this kind of editting on library books.

As I've mentioned, I've been reading the Robert B. Parker books pretty regularly this year and all of them have been from the library (why buy the cow when the milk is there for free?). In the past six months I've probably read more library books then I had read in the past 12 years combined. But what annoys me - and this has happened now on at least four of the 26 or so books I've checked out - is that I'll be reading along and there are striked out words, with corrections above it or in the margins or whatever.

First off, I'm not talking spelling errors. These appear to be grammer corrections. But what's worse is that they are often in character dialogue. Hello! The author decided that the character speaking may not speak correct English and therefore this improper use of grammer is a reflection on the character. It is how the character talks. Who are you to make a correction of that? Are you the author? No, I don't think so! So what gives you the right to distract the reader with your pencil or pen marks with correction? The answer is no one did.

Second, this is a library book so I expect people who check them out can read. What is taped into the front cover of every book in the library (it has been in every book I've checked out so far)? Just this:

NOTICE: According to the North Carolina General Statutes, any person who writes upon materials belonging to a public library can be found guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the material (GS 14-398). PLEASE do not deface our books by writing in them!

See? The NC State is so concerned about this that they take the time to have these noticed taped into the front cover of every library book. Maybe I live in a state of rampant write-in-book criminals. Don't know. But I've hit four books that have had writing in them, and it clearly isn't the same hand (one could assume it might be - someone reading the same author as I am doing).

Argh!

Thanks for letting me get that one off my chest.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tribute to a Favorite Stomping Ground


I got some bad news delivered to me the other day from a good friend: a favorite stomping grounds of ours in San Diego caught fire last week and was pretty much totalled. I am talking about the Kansas City Barbeque restaurant and bar, just across the way from the San Diego Convention Center.

Now, for of those of you who have never been to San Diego, you still might know the place. Some scenes from the film Top Gun were filmed there. In fact, the place had a number of pieces of memorabilia from the film on the walls and such.

For me, it was a communal place - where my friends and I would go once per convention to have a lunch or dinner. The food was good, filling and affordable. I usually got the barbeque chicken with curly fries and some corn on the cob. We'd mostly eat outside and pull a few tables together to accomodate our group size. It was nice to feel the California sunshine and hear the sounds of the city as we ate.

My last time at the KC Barbeque was in 2006. I had missed the Comic-Con the previous two years, so the whole family (my wife and my son) joined me for the trip out that July. I made it a point for us to eat there once, for old times sake. I think we did so for lunch on the last day of the convention.

I read that the owners were hoping they could rebuild. I do hope they can. But even if they do, it will be different. It was those nuances, those little things from time and many patrons that made it the place it was. That will take some time again to get the feel once more.