Sunday, September 30, 2007

Comic of the Week (9/26/07)

What can I say - I sometimes like to route for the villains. After all, I spent a number of years writing an ongoing series starring super-villains as part of the DC Comics Fanfiction club I was in. So, when an issue like Justice League of America #13 comes along, you know I'm going to love it.

First of all, check out the two part cover image (issues come with one half or the other) by Ian Churchill. (click on the picture below to see it full sized) How awesome is that! Even if only some of the villains shown appear in the story, that is one awesome assembly of evil!

Next up, the story itself. Dwayne McDuffie kicks off his run as the new writer on the title by picking up the reigns left by Brad Meltzer and running with them nicely. The transition between writers is not jarring at all. Dwayne keeps all the character bits Brad served us up while kicking up the action level all the way to eleven.

There is also nice focus on some key JLA members. Batman struts his stuff in the beginning pages. Green Lantern (John Stewart) shows us how to efficiently mow down some villains single-ring-handedly. Black Canary kicks some major butt effectively. And Black Lightning is shown as well earning his spot in the League after all these years.

I can't wait for next issue to see what Luthor has up his armored sleeve. And that's what a good comic should do - make we want more.

Other good reading for the week: Teen Titans #51, Countdown #31, and Countdown to Adventure #2.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Tour Ends Sunday Night

For the later part of the summer and well through September, I've been catching the episodes of Rock Of Love With Brett Michaels on VH-1. This is another one of those bachelor-dating type of shows that has been popular on various networks over the past couple years. ABC has done them with both bachelors and bachelorettes. VH-1 tends to put a celeb-reality spin to them - they did two with rapper Flavor Flav, a spin-off show with one of his rejected contestants 'New York', and now this one with the former front man of Poison.

I guess what appealed to me about this show is that I always found Brett Michaels to be charming. For a hair-band rocker, he has multiple layers. I've seen him do some acting and directing stuff which he was good at. He is likable. He's wrestled with diabetes openly.

I figured I would enjoy the show just to see what kind of interesting competitions he'd put the potential dates through. And on that level, he didn't disappoint. Sure, there was the chessy 'talk dirty to me' phone-sex one, the tour-bus obstacle course one and the 'design an album cover' one. Those were kind of expected on a show of this type. But he also had the girls ride dirt bikes, play some football, and a few other activities that he actively enjoys when he's not performing and touring.

There was also the dates themselves. He took the girls to favorite restaurants and bars, took them to the shooting range, to hockey games, to the recording studio, to ride horses, to Vegas, to get a tattoo. They were varied and interesting, and it again showed me more aspects of what Brett enjoys - so I got to know him better.

Of course, what also makes the show are the girls. And let me tell you - a lot of these seemed like they were taken right out of the open casting call from Jerry Springer! There were those that were trashy, plenty that were 'enhanced', some that couldn't hold their alcohol, and plenty who were willing to get into a cat-fight to win 'their man'. All the sterotypes were there: the bubble-heads, the crazy-ones, the sensitive ones, the one's there for fame, and even one's who were open to finding 'love'.

At first, the eliminations went fast - five of the thirty weren't even going to make it inside the house (though one of the first five ejected begged her way in - but she went when the next mass cut happened). Once down to a reasonable number, the eliminations went one per week. Those chosen to stay on got a 'backstage pass'; for the ones cut "the tour ends here". So after the final three's parents got brought on to meet Brett (and that was a hoot of an episode!), crazy Lacey was let go leaving the final two as Heather (the bleached blonde enhanced stripper) and Jess (the hair styliest with pink-frosted-tips).

The winner will be revealed tomorrow night in the finale after Brett takes the two girls for the final dates down to Mexico. I've been backing Jess for many weeks now as she's cute, hilarious in her commentaries, and just a lot of fun. Of course, then we'll have the inevitable reunion show (which is really just another Springer-like madhouse when all the girls are put back in the same room to answer questions and take final shots at one another now that they've seen the aired show ). That'll be nothing but a good time!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Elementary, My Dear Reader

Someone on one of the message boards I frequent brought up the topic of first grade. That got me thinking about the past.

I went to elementary school at School 4 in Dunkirk, NY. All of the elementary schools were numbered (there might have been up to six at one time - though I don't think all of 1 through 6 were still open at the time I went in the 70's).

I don't recall my first grade teacher's name - I'd need to check old class pictures that my mom has for that. I do remember I had Mrs. Johnson for 2nd (she was actually a third or fourth cousin of mine who had recently gotten married), Miss Oliver for 3rd, Mrs. Notte for 4th and Mr. Reardon for 5th.

I do, however, vividly recall the layout of the school, right down to the color on the floors (a black/white/gray mosaic kind of tile) and walls (beige). I can close my eyes and pretty much walk a virtual tour of the place in my mind. From the front entrance off of Central Avenue you turned left. To your right was the auditorium where Mrs. Mohney taught us music (and where I was one of five dancing soldiers at Valley Forge for the 5th grade's musical production of "George Washington"). If you went straight up the short steps you passed the principal and nurse's offices. Continue straight on the first floor and there were the classrooms for grades K through 2. Off to the right was the short hallway to the gym/cafeteria as well as the janitor's rooms. There were large stairwells on each end of the first floor that went upstairs to the second floor where grades 3 through 5 were taught. Also on the second floor on the end near the auditorium was the library which had a larger room and then a smaller room. Each grade had two classrooms each - except kindergarten. That was one room and kids only went a half day for kindergarten (thus creating the two classes for each grade thereafter).

I have a number of vivid memories from School 4.

In 4th and 5th grade, there was four of us who were considered 'advanced readers'. That basically meant that Kirsten, Joey, John and myself were given an independent study course separate from the rest of our class for reading. We read books and did special quizes and assignments to test our comprehension. Funny thing was - there wasn't a classroom to put us in, so we often met in the small room in the side of the library or, on days when that room was booked for films or something, on the landing up the second floor stairwell(!).

Prior to 5th grade, I went to my grandparents' house on the next street over for lunch (yes, I was allowed to leave school, walk to their house, eat and walk back for the lunch period - other kids who lived nearby had that option as well). I only stopped doing that the year my grandfather passed away; I'm guessing it was hard for my grandmother to have me over during that initial grieving period so I just started eating at school and kept it up for that last year. My first lunchbox was yellow, shaped like Snoopy's doghouse. The thermos inside had all the Peanuts characters on it.

Besides the presidential musical in 1976, our 5th grade class also planted a garden of flowers in front of the school laid out like an American flag (red, white and blue); I honestly don't know if they survived the following year but they looked good for a few weeks after we planted them. Also, the other 5th grade teacher was Mr. Ford, and I recall there were political discussions about Ford/Reagan at the time so we tied those events in with our two classes in a friendly competitive way.

Every school year ended with Spring Frolic which was held in the huge parking lot on the side and back of the school. It was a day of fun, games, group songs and a cook-out. When we "graduated" from 5th grade, each of us was given a green dictionary with our name inscribed in gold on the front cover by the Parents' Club. I still have the book to this day - and it includes well wishes and signatures from many of my friends and teachers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last Stand or Last Gasp?

Last weekend I was able to catch on cable the third installment in the X-Men trilogy - X-Men: the Last Stand. I didn't get around to seeing it the theatres last year when it came out. To be honest, I only saw the first of the three films in the theatre anyway. I have the first and second on DVD, and it was on my big-screen TV that I saw the second film. Maybe that's part of the reason I wasn't so excited to see the third film as the second was okay but not spectacular.

As with most super-hero related films, I am willing to let my comic book roots go and judge the film solely on its own merits. I'm not a nit-picker about the continuity versus the comics, the tweaks to costumes and origins, etc. I'm willing to ignore that stuff and look at the film itself (or within the context of the franchise, which would be valid in this case).

Things I liked: bringing in the Beast (cast with Kelsey Grammer in the role - a nice fit) as well as the Angel (the flying effects with the wings looked sharp), the expanding roles of Kitty Pryde (loved the use of her powers against the mighty Juggernaut) and Iceman as well as Colossus, the introduction of the character Leech, the nice fanboy nod to "the Days of Future Past" story from the comics (I would have loved to see more of the Sentinels), and the creative teamwork of Magneto and Pyro on Alcatraz Island (flame-bomb cars are cool).

Things I didn't like: too many juggled subplots for a film that was only 1 hour and 45 minutes long (it was like they felt they had to cram so much into the film just in case it was the last - the whole Phoenix plot, the introduction of the Morlocks, the Legacy Virus, etc. - any one of these could have properly carried a film itself if explored in great detail), the killing off of so many main characters (either through depowering - which can be reversed, or death - though in one case we saw how they found an 'out' after the credits and in another case we never did see a body), and so many characters on screen through out that you sometimes get to know very little about a lot of them (which means the casual viewer does not develop a reason to care about the fates of any of them).

I enjoyed the special effects a lot, but at times it seemed that everyone was just standing around taking in the effects. And maybe it ties back to the writing making me not care so much about the characters. If I don't care about the character or find them interesting, I don't care that they're getting clobbered by a cool effect. It is like "so what". A good film will make me character about the character so that when they are about to get clobbered by a cool effect, I'll be think "#$%#@, NO!".

Now, rumor is that they plan to spin-off Wolverine and possibly Magneto into their own solo films. That might be a good idea. Maybe we'll get more character development that way - however, these two are probably some of the more developed of the cast of thousands from these three films already. Maybe that's just more overkill. I don't know. I know, however, that I'm not the least bit excited for those installments. Again, I'll pass on the theatres and wait to catch it for free at home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Premiere Week Round-Up

With a week's worth of Fall Season network programming debuts behind me, I thought I'd add a few words about the new season so far and the shows I'm viewing.

9/19 - Watched the Back To You pilot (FOX), which I blogged about last week. A funny show that'll get some follow-up viewing in our household.

9/20 - Watched the debut of Survivor: China (CBS). This was a little different in that the contestants got a taste of the culture first before being broken up and sent down the rivers to their campsites. The mix of contestants is your usual ones. The interplay between them is always interesting. I enjoyed the immunity challenge with the large Chinese dragons and the obstacle course. I really wish "Chicken" had gotten to stick around longer - even if they were going to have to start subtitling him due to that thick Virginian accent. My early favorite is the grave-digger.

I watched Don't Forget the Lyrics (FOX), which I blogged about earlier in the summer. Another fun contestant and cute proposal by her boyfriend. This is a game show I'd love to go on myself. Wayne Brady is a cool host.

9/24 - Monday is my big night. DVR has to do double-duty at nine. But, first up the comedies.

The season opener for How I Met Your Mother (CBS) was good, but not great. Too many guest stars took time away from the core cast five. The show clicks better when its about those five exclusively. Their chemistry is that good. Very excited about the slap bet countdown! Great tie-in to a last season subplot.

The debut of the Big Bang Theory (CBS) was very funny. I wasn't planning to watch this but I kept the channel there and was instantly hooked. Nothing funnier than some really super-smart but socially inept guys and a gorgeous but not all there waitress. I can laugh at the former because, hey, I was a geek/nerd too (but not nearly this bad!). Bonus props for putting one of the guys in a Flash t-shirt. Loved that! Oh, and the show is from the same creator as the next show - another plus point.

Two And A Half Men (CBS) kicked off another season with their usual gusto. This is my wife and my "we're so going to Hell for watching this" show. It is so raunchy at times that we shouldn't find it funny, but we do. The chemistry of the actors is always good, and you can't go wrong when Angus' character "Jake" has a big part. This kid is so funny.

Heroes (NBC) kicked off season 2 with a good effort as well. We managed to check in a most of the cast and move the story along four months later. I love the bits with the Bennetts, especially how Claire and her father can't seem to keep a low profile despite their efforts. I loved Hiro's misadventures in China's past. I am intriqued by the brother-sister combo (I knew it was a bad idea to separate her from her brother!). I also love how the older generation is being hunted down. A solid debut.

9/25 Bones (FOX) is back - our favorite crime solving team. I love how this show is so deep in the forensics yet at the same time keeps with the quirky characters and the bizarre murder situations. The dialogue is snappy and well-delivered by cast. The season opener is presenting only the beginning of what appears to be a long-going plot line involving canablism, secret societies and lots of mystery. Very cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ST:TNG Turns 20

Wow, it's hard to believe but Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted twenty years ago this month. Where does the time go?

I remember very vividly when this show debuted in September of 1987. I was still back in college in Rochester, right in the middle of my final quarter of my senior year. I was living in an apartment on campus with three other guys - they were all "geeks" like me. We all played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons together every Saturday - just like we had for the past four years. Trek debuted in syndication on a Saturday night, so my roommates had arranged a gathering in the apartment family room with a bunch of other folks from our gaming group to watch the first episode, the two-hour "Encounter At Farpoint". We all thought the first misson seemed a bit lackluster, but the introduction of the new crew, the cameo by DeForrest Kelly, and the introduction of the entity known only as Q made us very interested in seeing more. I am sure the guys continued to discuss the show well into the night while waiting for Dr. Who to come on at 11pm; after the debut show ended I myself got changed to go out to a local club for drinks and dancing (my usual Friday and Saturday night routine in those later years of college).

I thought the show worked on a lot of levels for an 80's viewing audience. Here was a thinking show, a show about diplomacy and tolerance. The Captain Picard wasn't a fighter/lover, as Captain Kirk had been; Picard was much more a problem solver. And he didn't lead every away mission (that job went to Riker, who was more of a Kirk-like lover/fighter). Oh, and this new captain didn't cover up his baldness with a hairpiece. The crew had alien races in it - a Betazoid (Deanna Troi) and a Klingon (Worf) - as well as an android (Data). There were families on the ship, even an annoying know-it-all brainiac son (Wesley) of the ship's female doctor (Beverly Crusher). It definitely had a lot of potential - and that potential would get realized as the show developed and found its actors loosened up a bit and found their groove.

Now, don't get me wrong - I am a fan of the Next Generation. Over the seven years of its first-run, I would watch it pretty faithfully. In fact, of all the Trek franchises it is probably my favorite. I was born a bit late to get a lot out of the first-run of the original Trek series in the 60's, but I recall as a kid watching a lot of the reruns in the 70's. It was pretty much a staple of Saturday afternoon television where I grew up. Later, ST:TNG would spin-off other shows like Deep Space Nine and then Voyager. My wife and I would watch these on occasion - she was a big Voyager fan while I'd more put DSN in my second-place spot. We never did get much into Enterprise though.

ST:TNG also helped revive the lagging sci-fi genre on television which had sort of faded out after the 60's and mid-70's. If it wasn't for this show, we'd not likely have a Sci-Fi Channel today. I think the revival of the Trek franchise on televison opened the door for other successfully syndicated sci-fi and fantasy shows of the 90's and today.

So, take a moment to drop into Ten-Forward, have Guinan serve you a Romulan Ale and drink a toast to the Next Generation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Comic of the Week (9/19/07)

Not a very stellar week for books I am afraid. Some hits but a lot of misses.

Countdown #32 felt like a fanboy attempt to write Black Canary's bachelorette party. I expected a bit more decorum from the DCU heroines. Sigh.

Countdown to Mystery #1 is the first of an eight-issue mini series. Veteran Steve Gerber is writing the Dr. Fate lead feature the gives the origin of the new helm wearer. Steve is known for his unique, bizarre kind of writing from the 70's which actually fits this supernatural character well. The back-up feature is of Eclipso, one of DC's more deadly and long last villains. This book could be a lot of fun.

Flash #232 disappointed me - two months in a row. I think Daniel Acuna's artwork is wrong for this book; it is too water-color and clunky. A book about a speedster needs to have sharp, moving artwork. And Mark Waid's writing seems very flat - like he's phoning this in. I may be dropping this title very very soon.

The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special felt sophmoric at times. These are two seasoned heroes but the story felt like they were horn-dogs in their 20's. The artwork was okay at times but very cheesecake at others. And I was looking for a happy ending wedding - and the final pages were anything but. I hate when they do that - make you have to buy the first issue of the new ongoing series to see the continuation of the story. Thanks but no thanks. I'm passing.

Tales of the Sinestro Corps Presents Parallax was a nicely written and beautifully drawn book. However, it was a stand-alone story in a much huger arc that could easily be skipped and not missed. Good but just an extra.

So, the winner of the week is the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #6 which is a tie-in comic to the Saturday morning cartoon starring these characters. The story was fun, well drawn and features a tie-in with the Green Lantern Corps in the 31st Century. Being a self-contained tale, it was easy for readers to follow and very enjoyable. Yes, this is from the kids' Johnny-DC line of books but sometimes simpler and straight-forward is a lot better. These remind me of comics of my youth, when comics weren't so dark and gritty.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Packs Are Back

Wacky Packages, known by some as simply "Wacky Packs", are product parody stickers produced by the Topps company. These painted images would make fun of popluar products of the times, usually stuff you would see in grocery stores and such. Back in the 70's when they had their first peek period of success, these stickers were sold two per pack along with a checklist puzzle card and a piece of gum. The price back then was 5 cents per pack (though they did go up to 10 cents per pack in the later series). The original series ran for 16 series total (about 30 stickers per series) and included such popularly known parodies as Crust (Crest toothpaste), Ajerx (Ajax cleanser), Kentucky Fried Fingers (Kentucky Fried Chicken), Hawaiian Punks (Hawaiian Punch) and one of my personal favorites Crakola Crayons (Crayola crayons).

A couple years ago, Topps decided bring them back again for a whole new generation. The newer sets would include all-new parody stickers along with rarer chase insert items (clings, magnets, etc.) featuring some of the images from the classic stickers. At first, Topps did not include gum in the newer series. Then they tried out gum in them for a bit, but have again pulled the gum back out and just let the stickers stand alone.

This week Wacky Packages all-new series 6 was released. This time, they doubled the sticker count per package from 5 to 10 - but the price per pack also doubled from 99 cents to $2.00 (msrp). They also changed up the inserts a bit. First, you have ten classic sticker images with peel-and-restick parts (think like Colorforms from the 70's) so you can "Make Your Own Wackys". Then, you have another ten classic sticker images on rainbow foils. Lastly, you have another ten classic images that can be peeled off their card to reveal something humorous underneath - these called "What's In The Box?".

But, the best part of the draw is that the number of base stickers in the set have bumped up from 55 (which the five all-new series prior to this had) to 80. That's a lot of fun product parodies to collect and enjoy! Overall, the set is very solid. The artwork is top notch and the jokes are strong. Sure, we see a number of products "re-used" from both classic sets - like Ajinx (Ajax) and Hawaiian Lunch (Hawaiian Punch) - as well as some products already parodied in previous all-new series, but that's okay. The classic sets often had to dip back to the same products as well. For me, as long as it is a good solid joke then I'm okay with seeing something familiar. Besides, many products have stood the test of time since the 70's so why shouldn't they be fodder again for all new parodies? And, there are plenty of new products parodied in this go-round as well.

Oh, and speaking of product parodies, feel free to check out my website where I've posted homemade parodies for a number of years: - one visit to my site and you can tell how much I enjoy Wacky Packages and similar type products.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rant: It's Too Early!

Okay, so I was driving into work yesterday morning at 6:40am like I always do. I stopped at one of the traffic lights on one of the main drags in town and happened to glance over at the hardware store there on the corner. Something in their big display windows caught my eye. What was it? Decorated Christmas trees.

Yes, you read that right - decorated Christmas trees!

Here it was September 21st, more than three months before Christmas, and the store already had up a huge display of Christmas trees. What is up with that?

I know the retail trend is to push the holiday shopping earlier and earlier, but come on! This is crazy! Who is honestly thinking about decorating for Christmas in the middle of September? I can understand gift shopping early - that's a smart thing to take advantage of sales early, but decorating? No way!

In September, I want to see them pushing Halloween decorations - that's only a month away. I can even understand, barely, some Thanksgiving decorations because those tend to have a lot of the Fall themes to them (leaves changing, cornacopias, etc.). But the last thing I want to even think about in the heart of high school football time and leaves changing colors is snow, twinkling lights and tinsel.

What's next? Rudolph and Frosty specials sprinkled in with the new Fall season debut episodes? Thanks but no thanks. I'll think about decorating the day after Thanksgiving and not one day before.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reality vs. Scripted

In the comments section to my entry yesterday, my good friend Doug wondered why I watched a new comedy over the new reality show offering that CBS had on against it. Now, Doug knows me from another message board so he knows a little about some of my viewing habits. He knows I'm a faithful follower of American Idol as well as many celeb-reality shows on VH-1. So the question certainly made sense to ask.

For me, I think the pendulum does swing from time to time. At one point not too many years back, I was heavy into the reality show offerings. I was into Idol, Survivor, Big Brother, Rock-Star, Surreal Life, Celebrity Fit Club, etc. I just found these types of shows a bit refreshing - seeing how real people reacted to being put in certain situations, facing certain challenges, etc. But I think I burned out on these from too much "real people". I started to see the cracks in the formulas. It started to not be as fresh and new as it once was. The appeal in some cases was dropping fast.

This was kind of similar to the way I was in the late 90's and the early part of the 2000's with scripted programming. It seemed like every comedy was trying to be Friends. And those few dramas I liked ended up getting axed after a short time by the networks. Seems if it wasn't a crime scene drama or police drama that it didn't stand a chance. Blah.

So, now it's Fall 2007 and I'm trying to strike a happy medium between reality shows and scripted shows. I'll take some reality shows (a competitive one here, a game show there, toss in a celeb or two) and balance it with some scripted shows (a couple dramas, three or four comedies). This way I get a little smattering of everything and I'm not overdoing it on any one type of show.

In the end, I guess it all comes down to finding something that appeals to me, which is how it should be. If I can find a comedic ensemble that I like or a dramatic concept the peeks my interest, then I'm down for that. When that fails, perhaps some unique and quirky real life set-up will work for me. I guess that's the way it'll go for me - unless someone revives the variety show concept successfully. Then I get a mix of all worlds in one shot - singing, celebrity, unscripted moments and some comedy too. That to me was a perfect television mix.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back To You

Last night I tuned in to FOX at 8pm to record a new show for my wife who was working late. It wasn't a show I had major interest in watching but I sat through it anyway. It was Back To You, the new comedy starring Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Frasier) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond). For a pilot episode, it was okay.

It reminded me a lot of other classic television newsroom type sitcoms. There was touches of Mary Tyler Moore (like Fred Willard's sportscaster character having some hints of "Ted Baxter" to him), Murphy Brown (like the young news producer who panics a lot when his talent is late ala "Miles Silverburg") and even some of Good Morning, Miami (like the hot latina weather girl).

Despite all of these been-there-done-that elements, the show was pretty good. There was a little twist in store for Grammer's anchorman when he returns from the big news market of Los Angeles back to Alleghany (I'm assuming somewhere in the north-east, possibly western NY where I was from). And that twist should keep the show interesting for a bit.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stupid Juice

So, OJ Simpson has been arrested this past weekend in connection to an incident in a Las Vegas hotel room involving himself, some other men with him, and some memorabilia collectors. OJ claims the items to be sold were personal items of his that had been stolen in the past, and his breaking into the room with others was an attempt to get them back. OJ says he didn't go to the police because the police in general have been unwilling to listen to him about anything since he was found not guilty of the murders of his former wife Nicole and her then boyfriend Ronald Goldman back in 1994.

Um, hello? OJ? How stupid can you be?

It has been thirteen years since the murders and nearly twelve years since the year-long trial ended. During that time, your public ratings went down the crapper. No longer were you that once revered football hero with your name and face on endorsements world-wide. And, oh how I know this! I was a child in Buffalo Bills country in the 70's, having grown up in western NY state off of Lake Erie. OJ was huge and everyone loved him. Guess what, OJ? Times change and people's attitudes about you change, especially when your name is connected to one of the most publicized murder trials of the 20th century.

This 60 years old man needs to go away some place and quietly retire. Stay out of the public limelight. Stay away from potential situations that could put him in the suspicion of criminal activities. I'll give you a hint: barging into hotel rooms is not the way to do it. He'll forever have a target on his back, with people whispering behind his back about whether he's guilty or not. That's the price he has to pay for being (in)famous.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Achieving Rank

Last night was a special evening for our family. Our only son, age 11, was presented with his Tenderfoot rank at his weekly troop meeting for Boy Scouts. This ranking was achieved after only being part of the scouts for a year. It was a big deal for us for a number of reasons.

First, and I have to admit this, I was surprised he would actually stick with scouts. When he asked me to take him to the initial scouting meeting at his school last September, I was not certain this was something he would stick with for very long. He tends to want to try new things but a lot of times his interest will wane. Thankfully I was wrong. After some initial bumps, he seems to have gotten into the groove with his troop and has done most of the activities (meetings, camp-outs, field trips, etc.). He even attended a week-long event at the nearby scout camp about an hour from us. This was his first time away from home for that long of a period of time (not counting staying with family members), and he is already looking forward to next summer's event.

Second, I was concerned about his disability and how it would come into play with scouting. He has very limited use with his right hand due to a birth injury. That makes two-handed manipulations as well as a lot of other physical activities requiring two strong hands very very challenging for him. From what I knew about scouting (which I also must admit was little - I never was a scout myself), I knew this would come into play in a lot of areas. My son has also been very self-conscious about his disability, not wanting to talk about it much with folks he hasn't known for long and not wanting preferential treatment because of it. My wife and I always hoped he would grow more comfortable with it because, at this juncture, we've arranged for all we could medically to help with the condition; this is something he would have to learn to live with and work around. Still, because of his own interest to do well in scouting, he has realized he has to come up with other ways to achieve the objectives. He has to find ways to make complex knot-tying or canoe-boarding while in the water work for him. These are really good life lessons that he is getting from scouting: how to find a way to succeed with what you have and what you do not have.

Besides his new ranking, he also received last night four merit badges for various activities. A few of them were ones he achieved while away at camp over the summer. Another was for the care of a pet tortoise we got for him specifically because of his scouting interests.

I am very proud of what my son has accomplished. I am glad he has found an activity he enjoys with a group whom he gets along.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not So Triumphant Return

Another Sunday afternoon and another chance to catch a 2006 film I didn't get to see in the theatres on HBO. This one was Superman Returns, the follow up of sorts to two classic films I love a lot - Superman the Movie and Superman II. Writer/producer Bryan Singer decides to drop from continuity films three and four and instead builds on a premise that Superman takes off for five years in space, only to return to find Lois Lane has moved on romantically and has a son.

Now, it was an okay film and it did pick up a lot of old cues from those first two films. In fact, some of the scenes seem down right familiar - from dialogue to pacing, and such. But, for me, it was not a great film. Yes, I know, this is sacriledgious statement coming from me, a life-long comic book fan. I just didn't enjoy it as much as I did those films from the 70's. Yes, the special effects capabilities of movie makers has jumped leaps and bounds since then, but this film just seemed to lack the same heart and passion those earlier films did.

I think this might be, in part, why I hadn't rushed out to the theatres to see this one nor did I feel too strong about picking up the DVD. I had heard reactions to the film as well as some of the plot beats and I realized something: this wasn't my Superman. My Superman wouldn't have taken off on an errand into space to satisfy his own curiosity about his roots - not when he had a woman who loved him (and he loved her) as well as a world that needed his super-assistance. The Kents didn't raise him with the type of values to abandon others for his own pursuits. That's why this film's whole set-up really had a false ring to it.

I guess I just prefer my heroes a bit more heroic is all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Comic of the Week (9/12/07)

This was a big week for books, for me. Six floppies in total plus a black/white reprint volume. So much to chose from and a bit hard to find this week's best of the best.

Booster Gold #2 was a good follow-up to the debut issue last month. I'm still excited about the concept of a hero travelling through time, meeting various folks in those eras while he tries to prevent them from mucking up the time stream. As a huge Back To The Future fan, this book will always be fun for me.

Countdown #33 was okay; this weekly title continues to move various storylines along. Sometimes the pace is good. Other times it can appear to be slow. But, it is a weekly book so we get four/five doses a month to add it all up.

Green Lantern #23 continues the sweeping epic of "the Sinestro Corps" storyline. This one has been great, pitting huge forces of alien forces against one another in a war of good versus evil. This is definitely heating up to be one of the best storylines of the Summer and Fall.

Justice Society of America #9 was a prologue to a bigger arc coming up, thus it wasn't nearly as exciting as the book usually is. Still, it had nice character moments as the heroes do a benefit for a local fire department.

Search For Ray Palmer: Wildstorm one-shot was okay for me. I'm not a huge fan of the Wildstorm universe book line so this was really more of a sampler for me. I do like the concept of this though - a band of DC heroes (Donna Troy, Jason Todd, GL Kyle Rayner and a Monitor) hopping from Earth to Earth in the multiverse. It should offer some unique glimpses in the coming months.

But, my winner of the week has to go to the Justice League of America Wedding Special. This one-shot is a tie-in to the nuptials of Black Canary and Green Arrow, long time members of the League. This couple has been courting since I first got into comics in the early 70's, so seeing a wedding between the two finally happen is great. The characters have been through a lot but they've endured. Their wedding is a testament to all that. Plus, this issue really ties in nicely to the start of a new writer on the regular Justice League title. Dwayne McDuffie, who has written on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, brings his talents to the comic and he's starting huge. A grouping of the DCU's biggest villains will be taking on the League, and this special shows the first strikes. Will the wedding come off as planned? We'll find out in the coming weeks.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

DHS Alumni - Sean Patrick McGraw

Yesterday I mentioned about tracking down and validating information from my Dunkirk High School graduating class ("class of 83 is the best!") for our reunion next year. One of our classmates, and someone who sat in front of me in Mrs. Baker's homeroom for four years, just happens to be a little bit more famous than some of the rest of us.

Sean Patrick McGraw is an incredible country music performer. He appeared a few years back on TNN's Nashville Star (the judges cut him early on that season, I think because he was the oldest of the contestants - they tend to focus on younger, fresh faces). However, that appearance only spurred him on to continue with self-production and promotion of CDs featuring music he has written and performed. All of his CDs to date are available via his website - - and the site also has more pictures, bios, news, samples of some of his songs and a message board. He also plays around the country in bars and such, bringing his music to the masses.

Now, I must admit that I'm not a mega fan of country music. I certainly enjoy it well enough. I enjoyed when the country hits crossed over quite a bit in the 70's. And, every now and again, I'll flip the radio channel in my car to a station that plays newer country music. A lot of the newer country artists have some pop-rock influence to to their music, and I think Sean shows some of that side. In fact, back in our high school days, you never would have been able to see his current musical position; back then he was part of long haired heavy rock band with a few of our other classmates. It can be amazing where life takes us, eh?

I really do enjoy all of Sean's albums. I find I can listen to them over and over, often singing along with the lyrics. I don't get tired of them. His songs tell great stories, and I am very fond of songs which do that. There are even times when I can see the small town roots in those tales, and that reminds me of where we grew up. Listening to his music, for me, is like going "home" again.

If you've never heard of Sean before this, please visit his site and give some of the samples a listen. If you like what you hear, do order yourself a CD or two. I am sure you won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gathering Some Class

One of the things I've been trying to do this week, in the little free time that I have had, is to start touching base against with my classmates from high school. Next year is our 25th anniversary from our graduation. Some of the usual folks who help with the committee back up in Dunkirk are tied up with health issues with their elderly family members (that happens when we hit our forties and they hit their sixties and seventies). So, I offered to provide a little help, albeit long-distance variety, in a way that I could.

Back in July of 2000, many years before our 20th reunion, I decided to create a Yahoo Group as a place my classmates could come to chat, share pictures, etc. I had a handful of email addresses thanks to (back when they didn't charge you to receive messages with other members nor did they hide email addresses from folks). I invited those folks to the group, and I then proceeded to use my free time searching the Internet for clues on how to contact other folks. Before too long I had located about twenty folks, which was a pretty good start.

As the group started to get popular, our ranks grew. Through folks checking their own connections and from folks seeing others and getting information, the list of contacts continued to grow. By the time it came to the committee planning the 20th reunion, I was able to provide them a pretty good list of addresses and information from our graduating class of 252 students (I had located over half through online means alone).

The group really also served as a way for folks to get back connected. We had an online group of about twenty or so who were dedicated to the once a month chats (usually on a Saturday night) in the provided chatrooms that came with each Yahoo group. When it came time for the reunion, the online contingent had formed a unique subgrouping in the graduating class - one that hadn't existed prior. Back in 1983, you had the jocks, the cool kids, the 'geeks', the popular ones, etc. Our online grouping, who had just spent the last couple years getting to know one another again in an electronic way, seemed to cross over all those former boundaries. What you had was a hybrid of all those former high school cliques. It was really a rather neat thing to see.

So, jump forward now to this week again. I took the class data which I had put together before the last reunion and added to once the last reunion completed, and began to revisit it. I started to email folks who I had online contact info for (I've gotten from A to K so far - I expect to finish the rest this weekend). I've had twenty-two emails so far returned back to me immediately, the mailer-daemons telling me that those addresses are no longer valid. I've heard back from about two dozen or so of the ones that did go through; I'm waiting on responses from about another thirty eight or so. I figure I have about another seventy or so emails left to send - and I'm assuming statisically I'll hit the same percentage of failures, quick responses, and waiting responses. My hope is that by the end of the month I'll have heard back from the waiting responses so I can prepare the first draft of valid addresses lists. For all others, I'll then have to compare where they lived in 2003 and see if the Internet can help me determine if they're still residing in the same towns, homes, etc.

My reward? Seeing as many familiar faces at the reunion next summer as possible.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Failure to Celebrate

I overheard on the radio that yesterday, September 12th, was "National Video-Game Day" (I kid you not - there is a holiday for everything it seems). Honestly, I didn't have a spare moment last evening (between working late, a rushed dinner at the in-laws, then home to do a very little reading before bed) to even consider picking up a portable game system or powering up the PS2 or GameCube.

I better keep the doors locked and the shades down today. I worry that the Geek Patrol will show up and revoke my geek license. ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time Won't Give Me Time

Hey, faithful readers. Sorry for no posting today (and probably for the next couple days). Been some crazy time at work, plus I've got a little project at home I'm working on to help out the committee for my class reunion next summer. So, I'll get back to my usual random musings as soon as I can. Take care!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quite Acceptable Comedy

My wife was flipping around the channels yesterday afternoon and managed to settle on HBO, more than enough time for the start of a film we had seen previews for last year but never got around to seeing in the theatre. The film was the 2006 comedy Accepted, which is sort of one part Animal House, one part Revenge of the Nerds and one part Risky Business. In short, a recipe (for me) that seems to work quite nicely.

The story is about high school graduate Bartleby Gaines (played by Justin Long) who is in a tough position with his parents - he hasn't been accepted by any colleges. With time running out, he comes up with a desperate plan - to make up a college, complete with acceptance letters, website, etc. Trouble is, as what happens any time one makes up a doozie of a lie, his parents then want to see him off to the school (as all good parents would - especially when they are paying $20K a year to educate their child). So, he and his other not-bound-for-college friends locate a facility, get it into some semblence of a condition and attempt to pass it off for the real thing. Thus, the South Hampton Institute of Technology is born.

Now, I went to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) so the acronym is an instant register to me. In fact, our school was really in the southern part of the town of Henrietta, a suburb of Rochester, so we often jokingly used that same acronym back in the 80's to describe our school.

My wife and I really enjoyed the laughs in this one. Yes, it is a rather simple comedy which gets it humor from oddball situations and some collegiate cliches. But, for the frame of mind we were in for a Sunday afternoon, it really worked well.

A couple of standouts in the cast, for us, include Anthony Heald and Lewis Black. Black, who plays Dean Van Horne of the nearby school Hampton College,has been a favorite of ours since he played assistant principal Scott Guber for five seasons on Boston Public. Black, who plays Uncle Ben - the ma Bartleby pays to be the dean of his made-up school, is a very sharp witted comedienne whom we have enjoyed for many many years from specials on Comedy Central.

If you get a chance and are in need of some good, mindless laughs, I recommend checking this film out.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Exciting And (not so) New

So after our morning work out at the YMCA, we ran up to our PO box to pickup the mail. Turns out, like most Saturdays, my subscription copy of the latest Entertainment Weekly had arrived. Oh, good...the double sized Fall TV Preview issue. Looking forward to that.

So, going through the daily schedules, I hit upon Saturday. Well, since none of the networks show anything new on Saturdays but reruns and Cops, the magazine devoted four pages to talking about that all-time Saturday night classic - the Love Boat. Oooh, even better issue now!

Yes, I was a huge fan of the Love Boat. From its debut in 1977 and running for nine seasons, I was pretty much a fan of the show for most of the early years. When it debuted, I was still in Junior High School. I was young, full of romantic ideas but not lucky enough yet to act upon them. Also, I was a huge TV and movie fan. So, a show like this was the perfect thing for me. I could see tons of guest celebs everyweek in romantic comedy/drama storylines. Perfect way to spend the 9 o'clock hour on one of the two nights a week I could stay up late (when it wasn't summer). I'd either watch the show while we were over at my grandmother's house or back in my room at home on my portable black and white TV (I preferred it at her house so I could see it in color).

I pretty much was a faithful viewer of the antics of Captain Stubbing, Doc, Gopher, Issac and Julie all the way through high school. When I went to college in 1983 (the start of season 7), I kind of dropped off the habit. After all, I had better things to do now on Saturday nights - like go out to parties and such, looking for my own love connections if you will. After all, it wasn't cool to be watching the Love Boat in college, right?


Turns out, as I would learn, college folks did watch the Love Boat, usually in the lounge on the floor in a group. Interesting. Even more so, they played a drinking game that went along with it called 'Chug Boat'. The rules were pretty easy, though the list could be long. See two people kiss - drink. See a full shot of the boat - drink. Hear the ship's horn blow - drink. See Issac pour someone a drink - drink. See Doc hit on a young lady - drink. See a beach ball go by - drink. Okay, you get the idea. Basically it was a full hour of Saturday night drinking as a warm up before going out to some party for dancing and such.

Still, for me, it was about the guest stars and the promises of romance. It was something that was new each week - albeit in a familiar formula and setting. I hear that Season 1 on DVD is slated for a release next Spring. I just might have to put aside some money so I can get me a 'ticket' onto the Love Boat again.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It began for me almost seven weeks ago (Monday July 23rd) and now after many hours and thousands of pages later, I can say I have finished the seven books of the Harry Potter series for the first time. I was pleased that I could finish the seventh book - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - in under a week's time, despite it being the second largest book in the series.

First off, I have to give major props to J.K. Rowling for delivering the goods in this final installment. I mean, literally, wow! It was a roller-coaster ride in every sense of the word. Just when you thought things couldn't get crazier, BAM - she delivers another exciting chapter. I said when I discussed the sixth book last week that that one seemed like it was doing a lot of set up for the finale - and now I can say I see where the set-up in that book (and many of the earlier ones too) paid off well in.

I enjoyed immensely that she was able to bring back all of the old faces and places from earlier in the series to help make the pay-off of this one deliver. And, she also added a bunch of new characters, locales and details to further flesh out the world in which these wizards and witches live. The old is balanced out well with the peppering of the new.

And, of course, she did what every writer sometimes has to do - you have to break a few eggs (or in this case bump off a few of your creations) in order to tell the story you want to tell. As a writer myself, albeit an amateur one, I totally understand and respect that.

The ending was a little bit predictable - or at least some of what I wanted to happen did happen. So, if it is predictable but what a reader desires, it's not a bad thing, eh?

I do have major concerns on how Hollywood is going to pull off the film for this book and for the sixth book. I think this book is going to be so jam-packed that they'll have to make it 3 1/2 hours at least just to do the whole story justice. I also think they left out key things in the fifth film that are pertinent to the sixth and seventh films. They'll have to do a little shifting or a lot of expository dialogue to pull it off. As for me, I am glad I've read these as books first, so I get the full, wonderful story in all the details.

Now I can begin reading other stuff from the pile of books on my nightstand.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Nasty Monkeys

A few weeks back while we were watching Ninja Warrior on G4 (the gaming network), my son and I saw commercials for another show on the network. The show as an animated one called Code Monkeys which debuted earlier this summer, and just from the commericals I could tell this was not going to be something I'd even think of allowing my eleven year old son to watch. The brief spot implied the tone of the show - crude, irreverant, and oh so adult. Last night I actually managed to catch the show (new episodes come on Wednesday nights at 9pm). This is an MA14 marked show, and my initial impressions from the commercial still held true.

Think of this in the same family as South Park and Little George cartoons on Comedy Central. Same kind of satiric stuff. But, since this on G4 after all, it contains a lot of humor poking fun at the video game industry (mostly of the past).

The show is about the programmers working for a computer gaming company in the early 80's. What I found intriguing was the fact that the show appears to actually be done with classic computer pixel animation, in lower resolution. It actually looks like one of those classic computer games like Zac McKraken and Maniac Mansion that came out from LucasArts, or like the earliest versions of Leisure Suit Larry. There is an info bar along the bottom of the screen that changes as the episode goes. There is a status bar along the top, indicating character health, items they are using, etc. And the sound effects are straight out of the classic blip-bloop-blop sounds of old time computer games. The feel of the show is spot on (take it from this old-old school gamer who was there playing gems that looked and sounded like this in the early 80's).

And, in fact, the show has a lot more in common with Leisure Suit Larry than just the look. As I said, this show is crude and adult. There is language (some of it bleeped out), there are alcohol and drug references, there are racial references, and there are sexual references (including some blurred pixelation nudity). As an adult, I can recognize the humor and the satire in all this. And, yes, there were times when I shook my head too thinking "oh, this is so wrong...". But, like any good accident, you can't turn away as you slowly drive on by.

I'm certainly willing to give it another viewing though. Hey, any show that can get Gary Gygax, the creator of AD&D, to do a voice cameo (as himself, naturally) is worth checking out again. If nothing else, the show reminds me of those good times in high school hanging out with my best friend John, playing all these wonderful classic computer games on our Commodore-64 computers.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My Typewriters

I was having a conversation via private messages with someone from one of the message boards I frequent recently, and somehow the topic of conversation moved over to talking about typewriters. This got me reminiscing about days gone by.

My very first typewriter was a kids' typewriter, about a foot square in dimensions. It came with its own light blue plastic carrying case which latched and had a handle. Good thing too as I used to take that thing around everywhere I went (this would have been the later part of my elementary school years, around 1975 or so). No doubt I got it for my birthday or Christmas, after seeing one in the Sears Wishbook or Montgomery Wards catalog. Naturally, I didn't know how to really type them - so I mostly did the hunt-and-peck with index fingers. While that typewriter is long long gone, I think I might still have a few of the stories I typed up back then on it (using lined filler paper sheets).

Since I got so much use out of that working toy one, my parents eventually upgraded me to a more full sized manual typewriter. They actually got it from a friend of the family ('Uncle' Dan) who was upgrading the machines in his insurance office and offered one of the older models to my parents for me. Of course, this was all metal and much much heavier, so my days of portable typing were put to an end (for now). This baby sat square on my desk in my bedroom where I used it quite extensively. I remember that this one had the two-color ribbon (black and red) so it added some variations that the old toy one couldn't cover. This manual typewriter lasted me through my junior high school days and into the start of high school.

When I did get into high school, I took advantage of the opportunity early on to sign up for the typing class. Now, mostly the class consisted of girls who were thinking they might go the secretarial route someday. The guys in the classes usually were those thinking about college and thus could put good typing skills to use to do papers. Yup, this was the late 70's/early 80's and things were narrow minded like that. What can I say? Anyway, I remember my teacher well - Mr. Odebralwski, who also was the teacher for bookkeeping (I had him for that class the following year). He made the class a lot of fun, and in no time I was flying through two-handed typing at over 35 words a minute.

As a result, my parents got me for my birthday (either my 15th or 16th) a brand new electric typewriter. I remember this one very well - it was a black Silver Reed model, not nearly as tall or as heavy as the older portable I had before it. The ribbons it used had both black in as well as corrective while strips (but the corrective often wore out faster so I used other corrective means in the meantime). It came with a think plastic cover so I could keep dust off of it when it was on my desk. It also came with a very thick plastic carrying case with a handle so that I could take it places if need be. Yes, I was back to mobile typing again! (okay, not as much but still...)

My Silver Reed served me well all through high school and college. All my academic research papers and a lot of fiction were written up on that typewriter - a number of which I still have in my filing cabinets in my 'cave' in the house today. It travelled me back and forth to college in Rochester each semester. It also came with me when I worked my co-ops in Dover, NJ, and Kingston, NY. I used it pretty extensively for over a decade until we got our first home computer in the early 90's.

It wasn't until our second to last move, when I was getting this out of the attic, that I ran across this typewriter again. Seeing it again brought back memories that one would get of finding their old two-wheeler in the back of the garage at their parents' house after they had grown up and moved away. It was still solid and powered up just fine. The ribbon had long since dried up, and I hadn't picked up replacements in years so likely finding one would have been impossible. By this point too (2003) we were so entrenched in the computer-printer age that keeping around a typewriter that we never used didn't make sense. It was just something else to gather dust. So, with a heavy heart, I got rid of it.

Still, I have the memories and some of the pieces I type on it. Those are momento enough I guess.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I Like Cereal

Just like that all-yellow guy named Cheese on Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, I like cereal. It doesn't matter the manufacturer: Kelloggs, Post, Quaker, General Mills; I enjoy them all.

Every morning I have a bowl for breakfast (with skim milk). Once in awhile I'll have a bowl at night as an evening snack/desert. It has always been like that. As a kid, as a teenager, I've always done this. There is something very relaxing and comforting to me - crunching on some flakes or shapes while I look over the back of the box or read something else. And, when I was in elementary school and walked over to my grandparents' house every day for lunch, I would have cereal then too (my grandmother always made sure she had a box or two in the cupboard near the stove just in case I wanted any to munch on).

As a kid, the primary determining factor of which cereal I'd have my mother buy was totally based on what was inside the box. If there was something cool or a series of stuff you had to get, I'd focus on that cereal exclusively until my set was complete. I would often get ahead of her in the grocery store just so I could have time to check everything out and make my selection. When the prize inside review failed to yield anything I wanted to get, the fall fact factor was usually picking something that had "sugar", "fruity" or "frosted" in the title.

As a grown up, there are also two factors involved - but not the same two factors as my younger days. First, what's healthy for me is big. After my heart surgery, I have to focus on heart healthy, lower cholesterol offerings. But, every now and again, a bowl of something that is a pure treat can be fit in too. The other factor these days is price. If there is a sale on particular brands, I am more inclined to pick that up instead - especially a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

Sadly, sometimes cereal makers change the formulas over time and one-time favorites start to fall by the wayside. I found this happened with Quisp before it was pulled back from market. I found this recently with Honey Combs (they're not as sweet as they used to be) too.

The only time I really don't like cereal is if it has gotten too too soggy. Bleech. It has to have a little crunch for me to enjoy it. That's probably why I don't ever see myself becoming an oatmeal kind of person (at least as long as I have my teeth).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Meeting Rosie

Last month while discussing the View, I made reference to having actually met Rosie O'Donnell once before. So, since I've got time, here's the full story.

It was the first week of September in 1984 (23 years ago from this week in fact). I was nineteen at the time and back in college at RIT in Rochester, NY, to start my sophomore year. Of course, I hadn't been away all summer. I had come back for at least one of the long weekends during the summer to help out as part of the Student Orientation Service (SOS).

SOS was a group of volunteer students who helped make the transition to our college for incoming freshman and transfer students a little more enjoyable. During the summer, we did two weekends for freshmen (and their parents) and one weekend for transfers. As part of those weekends, we helped them with their academic scheduling, provided tours of the campus, put on skits to ease the minds of parents of first time college students, and generally were there to help answer any questions we could about their upcoming RIT experience. We stayed on the floors in the dorms with the students or parents (we really worked hard to separate them for the whole weekend as each group were looking for different answers and such) and we were encouraged to sit down with groups of them in the dining halls to again give them a welcome feel.

Of course, after long days of information overload, we wanted the kids and parents to kick back a bit in the evenings. Some of us were scheduled to socialize with the parents in the Ritskeller, the campus bar. Others were handling events like on-campus films, dances and comedy shows.

What we did for the summer weekends we also did, in part, in the Fall. This was usually during the week prior to the school year starting. Any students who didn't make a summer program could take part in the Fall ones. And we still had social events in the evening too, and that's kind of where Rosie comes into the picture.

At that time, Rosie O'Donnell was still a stand-up comedienne who was known mostly in the New York State area. This was before her big national exposure on Star Search. Our social activities committee had seen her in a Rochester club earlier that Spring and booked her as a comedy act for our Fall orientation. Since she herself was just beyond the college age, it seemed like a great fit. And she was clearly someone our budget could afford. Anyway, I can say how her act was at the time - I wasn't working the comedy show (I was on duty to work the dance that evening).

After the dance and other events ended for the evening, we had to do our usual tasks (clean up, breakdown of the dance floor, etc.). By 1:00am and a long exhausting day, it was time for the SOS crew to unwind like we always did. We headed back to the dorm buildings and down to one of the activity rooms in the basement of one of the dorms. There we proceeded with that evening's After-Hours Party. Yup, hard working volunteer college students took some time to have some snacks and drinks and chill out a bit. So, we're all just hanging out, some of us playing some drinking games, and in walk some of the committee members with someone in tow. Lo and behold, it's Rosie. They had been talking to her after the last comedy set and invited her to hang out with us. Lots of us had a chance to talk to her that evening, and she was happy to be in a number of pictures snapped that night. She seemed to fit right in, again due to the whole close age thing. And of course, she was funny. That was definitely one After-Hours party for the books.

Of course, none of us knew then how big of a celebrity she would become. Some folks stayed in touch with her after that night, and she soon let us know that she'd be on Star Search (hosted by Ed McMahon). Naturally we all watched to see how Rosie would fair. After that, her career exploded to the level of fame/infamy she is at today. But three dozen or so SOS members can say "I remember Rosie when...".

Monday, September 3, 2007

Just Another Monday

While most folks are relaxing today, doing their end of summer celebrations for Labor Day, some people do have to work. I fall into that category.

I've worked in relationship to the retail sector my entire professional career since I graduated college (nineteen and a half years now). As such, I am aware of the importance of supporting stores so that consumers can spend holiday days out shopping for clothes, food or whatever with little to no hassles. Back when I worked for 'Big Blue', even if I had a company holiday off there was still a good chance it would be my turn to have beeper duty (thus on call for critical customer emergencies and unable to head out of town).

Currently I work more directly with one retailer. That means our stores are open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). So, days like New Years Day, Presidents Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and yes, today, Labor Day are just any other kind of work day. If the holiday falls on a Monday through Friday, I'm working (unless, of course, I decide to burn a vacation day - which I usually do for Christmas and Thanksgiving).

There are definite pluses to it. First, little traffic in the mornings on the way to work. Second, I'm not missing out on a lot of stuff by not being at home. Okay, I could use the time to catch up reading or watch a movie or something, but for the most part I'm not missing much 'celebration'. Usually if we do something to celebrate, it is at dinner time. And I'm home for that so I get to eat and not be bogged down with all the set-up, etc.

So, if you're out and about today and interact with some sales clerks or wait-staff at a restaurant, take a moment and remember to smile and say thank you. They'll appreciate the little gesture.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I just completed the sixth book in the series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was good to be reading a book in the series that I did not have any previous data on (I saw the films for the first five books before reading them). I didn't have those thoughts about how 'this was different in the film' or 'I can't believe they dropped this subplot', etc. It was a pure straight read.

I found the evolution of Draco Malfoy's character interesting, especially given the light of the events in the fifth book. He went from being a character you hoped someone would sock in the eye to someone you'd want to sock in the eye yourself. I have an inkling a horrible fate will befall him in the end.

Also, the revelations into the past of Tom Riddle helped give more understanding to the overall villain of the series - knowing how he came to be. That means the sixth film will be full of a lot of these flashbacks of sorts.

This book really had a penultimate feel to it. Unlike previous books that had major events as the backdrop to them, this book was more of a foundational one. It set up ideas and events to build into the seventh and final book. With such a large amount of preparation set by this book, the expectation of the payoff in the final book is a big one. I am hoping Rowlings delivers.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Comic of the Week (8/29/07)

There were a couple of good candidates for this week's title. Teen Titans Go! #46 was another fine, done-in one tale by Torres and Nauck - for the series based upon the characters of the Teen Titans cartoon. They story was a bit predicatable but it was well-executed. Countdown to Adventure #1 had some goregeous artwork from Barrows and Fiorentino on the two features. The pacing was a bit slow but it is an eight issue mini-series so I expect a little decompression.

The winner of the week then is Teen Titans #50. This anniversary issue is a celebration of the life of Bart Allen, who was a member of the group under the guises of both Impulse and Kid Flash. What really makes the book are the various guest-creative team vignettes. There is a wonderfully funny one pager by the Young Justice team of Dezago, Nauck and Stucker and a four-page gem from original New Teen Titans team Wolfman and Perez - both capture all the magic and glory of those books' hey-days.