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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Post of the Year!

Only seconds remaining, but just had to get one last blog entry in....

Happy New Year everyone, and hope 2007 is good to everyone!

NFL Playoff Picture... Set?

It didn't take long for the NFC to sort itself out this afternoon:

Chicago & New Orleans get 1st Round Byes
Philadelphia will host the Giants
Seattle will host the Cowboys
(Interestingly, three teams from the NFC East division make it in, and all three have to play next weekend!)

But the final AFC Wildcard team - Denver or Kansas City - is still not known, at 7:15 pm! The Broncos need to win or tie to get in, and they're trailing the lowly 49ers 20-16 with about 6:00 to go. If they don't pull off the comeback, the Chiefs sneak into the playoffs, seemingly out of nowhere. A little over 3 weeks ago, both Cincinnati and Jacksonville, at 8-5, looked like the favourites for grabbing the Wildcard spots. Then each team rattled off three consecutive losses to end up at 8-8 and on the outside looking in! The Jaguars' finish must've particularly frustrated their fans, since those three losses were by a combined total of only 15 points! So clearly any of them could've been a win, which would've made all the difference!

Back to how the AFC sits:

San Diego and Baltimore get 1st Round Byes
The Colts and Patriots finished 3rd and 4th, so they'll have home field advantage next weekend. And the Jets will visit one of Indy or Foxboro, but until the sixth team is determined, we won't know which. There's now 2:00 left at Mile High, and the Broncos are down by 7 but have the ball deep in SF territory. Could this already-late game be heading to overtime? We'll know shortly.

OK, Denver just scored to tie it at 23-23. SF has one timeout and 1:30 left to keep it from going to a 5th, sudden-death quarter, and rain on Denver's parade in the process.

Except that the 49ers had no offense at all, and had to punt it away with a few seconds remaining, so we're off to O/T. If they play the whole 15:00 with neither team scoring, the game ends in a tie and Denver advances to the postseason. But as Jim Hinckley will tell you, ties are quite rare in the NFL (there've been none so far all season, over 254 games played up to now!)

Glancing over the standings (while O/T continues) I'd have to say the Chargers look like the team to beat. Not only do they have the best record, at 14-2 - although the Bears could match them tonight, if they beat Green Bay - but they've got a perfect 8-0 home record and will host all AFC playoff games they play in. They're also heading into the postseason on a 10-game winning streak, which is pretty impressive!

Each of Denver and SF have now wasted a possession in O/T without getting into field goal range. With more than half the period gone, and Denver getting their 2nd possession, things are looking pretty good for the Broncos.

San Fran has the ball back, with under 4:00 to go, and is driving into Denver territory. They're at the Denver 25 yard line now, which should mean they'll at least have a chance for a field goal and victory for SF, but...

They're inside the Denver 20 now, at the two minute warning. Kansas City Chiefs, and their fans, must be going nuts about now!

The 49ers are lining up to make their field goal attempt now... And it's good!! The announcer called it as being missed (initially), but it was good all the way! Denver's out, and the Chiefs are in! Unbelievable finish!!

So now the AFC 1st round matchups are:

Indianapolis hosts the Chiefs
New England hosts the Jets

Whew, I'm spent!

Favourite Comic Covers Part 7


Another cover from my childhood - 1972, this time - that still resonates strongly with me all these years later. While I was too young and naive at the time to recognize a bondage cover when I saw one, I definitely empathized with the sheer terror that's shown on lovely Diana's face as she looks upward at that gleaming axe. This was one of the scariest comic scenes I'd encountered up to that point, largely because it was a DC mainstay - and member of the JLA! - being threatened, not some nameless victim in a horror comic. I'm not entirely sure Wonder Woman should ever look that helpless, but I can't deny the power of that image, then and now.

Wrestling with Demons

Wrestling With Demons

by Tammy and Matt
Dec 29th - 31st, 2006

Susan knew that she only had a few seconds to catch her breath before he'd round the corner and be upon her. She shuddered at the thought of his appearance: his face was sickly pale, his shoulders broad and square above her head, and his hands twitched constantly as if they already held her neck between them. His lumbering footsteps grew louder now, and unformed words issued from his dead mouth. Determined not to waste any more time, Susan turned and fled towards the crumbling flight of stone stairs that would take her out of the depths of the castle.

But her flight was shortly impeded by another equally menacing figure.

"Figures..." she muttered as she stopped in her tracks, "you can't have a castle dungeon without Dracula showing up!"

The infamous vampire flashed his fangs and leapt toward her, his black cape billowing out behind him. Not a stranger to these sorts of happenings, Susan was not as scared as the situation should have entailed. Without a sound, she ducked quickly under his lunge and proceeded up the steps to the top.

Running into the darkened library, the vampire hot upon her heels, Susan spied the ingredient that her plan called for. Just narrowly avoiding another leaping attack from behind her, she dashed forward and grabbed the golden tassle that shone like a holy grail in her eyes. As if she didn't have enough on her plate, she could once again hear the footsteps of the monster she'd left below. Luckily for her, he wasn't a fast mover, that one!

Dracula sneered with the satisfaction of victory as his prey stood before him, apparently helpless and cornered. He licked his fangs in anticipation.

"While I do love what you've done with the place," she said, as her muscles tensed, "this ugly curtain has just got to go!" With that she gave the golden tassle a firm pull, throwing wide the heavy drapery and releasing waves of bright sunlight into the dark room.

"Ahhhhhhhhhh!" screamed Dracula, as his washed out skin burst aflame. He turned to escape the band of light, but in doing so ran smack into the hulking creature who had followed them up the stairs. This caused both villains to burn a slow, painful death.

Sighing to herself as she stepped over her vanquished foes' ashes, Susan exited the library and made her way into an adjacent bedroom. Not three steps had she taken, though, before the floor beneath her feet gave way and she toppled into the chamber below.

Thankfully, something soft had cushioned her fall. However, her relief was shortlived, as she appeared to be in the jaws of a giant venus fly trap! Just as the leafy mouth began to close around her, she did a nimble backflip into the air and onto safer ground.

"Geez, there really is no end to what some people can come up with."

Standing a safe distance from the mammoth plant, she took stock of her situation once more. Her surroundings seemed familiar, but then again all dungeons start to look the same after awhile. What she knew was that she had to find her way up again.

Moving from room to room, Susan tried to get her bearings. Like Hansel and Gretel of fairy tale lore, Susan looked for signs of her handiwork to find her previous trail. Before long, she was sidestepping fresh corpses that she'd left behind not long ago.

At that moment, a low growl behind her reminded her that she hadn't finished her work just yet. And unlike the patchwork man who'd lumbered after her earlier, this beast was built for speed. Susan broke into a run, heading toward and then up the staircase once more, with one precise destination in mind. Emerging into the library with her pursuer only a few loping strides behind, she noticed that it was inexplicably dark outside, with the exception of a full, glowing moon.

"Well, that... at least... explains the werewolf!" she got out, between pants.

This time, however, she didn't stop to admire the view within the libarry but instead headed straight for the adjacent bedroom. Running at full speed toward the gaping hole, she leapt adeptly at the last possible moment to avoid her previous pitfall. Landing lightly onto a bed, she turned to watch her hairy opponent disappear into the floor. Susan crawled forward and leaned over the edge of the bed to see what transpired below. In this case, a silver bullet was unnecessary - the killer flower had done the job just fine, thank you very much. It seemed that the werewolf must have had quite a nasty aftertaste, though, because the venus fly trap withered quickly and died.

"Wow, it's not every day that I kill two birds with one stone ... twice!"

Wiping the sweat from her forehead, Susan headed toward the castle doors. Stepping out into the fickle sunlight once more, she fully believed her job was done. The giant beetle that raced up to her, however, had other ideas. Not even breaking her stride, she squished this latest threat beneath her boot.

"God, who dreams these things up?!"

In the last moments before she faded from the unreality around her, Susan wondered where she'd end up next. In the years since the accident, the only thrills she'd had were these trips into the minds of others. Even twenty-first century medical science couldn't explain why a 34-year-old quadraplegic could enter the dreams of the mentally ill, and yet Susan did it whenever asked. These poor souls were in such rough shape when Susan was wheeled in beside them, that their very nightmares were slowly killing them from the inside out. Her job, time after time, was to exorcise those demons and give the dreamers some peace. And it allowed Susan to do all the things she'd long since been denied, trapped as she was within an uncooperative body. It wasn't the greatest of lives; but it was a living!

Next Up Is Post # 400

Tammy and I wrote our short story together on Friday night, and I just need to clean it up a bit (as soon as she gets up, which, considering it's now around noon, is probably only an hour or two away) before publishing it. Unless we change our minds at the last moment, it's going to be called Wrestling with Demons. It's blissfully short (under 1000 words), a fun romp, and only my second ever collaboration on a short story (the first can be read here.)

Superhero Identification

Thanks to Will Wheaton's blog, I saw a link that was fun: take a quiz to find out which superhero you're most like!

I took the quiz, and here are my results:

You are Superman
























Superman
80%
Green Lantern
75%
Spider-Man
65%
Hulk
60%
The Flash
55%
Supergirl
53%
Iron Man
50%
Robin
48%
Batman
40%
Catwoman
30%
Wonder Woman
23%
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test


And there's a supervillain equivalent but I didn't bother taking it (why would I want to associate myself with a bad guy, after all?)

P.S. Sorry I can't get the formatting right above. It looks perfect in Preview mode, but puts all that extra padding in when published. I can't see in the HTML what's causing it, so we're stuck with what we've got.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

NFL Playoff Excitement

Watching the Giants/Redskins game tonight, it's apparent that a whole lot of teams are still in the running for the post-season going into this final weekend of the regular season. In the NFC, it's possible (though unlikely) that the final Wildcard team could finish the season with a record of 7-9 (at best, they'll be 8-8). Five teams are currently sitting at 7-8, any of whom could make it as the Wildcard team with the right results tonight and tomorrow. Since none of them play each other, and all are playing on the road this weekend, it's theoretically possible that all five could lose their final game and then the Giants - who it sounds like hold the overall tie-breaker - would make it in, with a losing record. More likely is that one or more of them will record a win, of course. If the Giants win tonight, they eliminate the rest; if they lose, then there are all kinds of possibilities tomorrow for Green Bay, St. Louis, Carolina and Atlanta. New York was up big earlier against Washington, 27-7, but now it's 27-21 and things are getting interesting. Already in, but jockeying for position, are Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Dallas, with one of the last two ending up as a Wildcard team while the other will win their division. Chicago has by far the best record in the NFC, at 3 games better than the next best team, so they'll get to skip next weekend's opening round, as will New Orleans.

In the AFC, the hated Steelers were thankfully eliminated last weekend, but hopes still remain for NY Jets, Cincinatti, Jacksonville, Denver, Kansas City and Tennessee, all of whom are battling for the 2 Wildcard spots. Denver and the Jets control their own destinies, thanks to their 9-6 records, meaning they simply need to win their final game to get in. This also means that the AFC Wildcard teams will have winning records, possibly as good as 10-6. The division winners, Baltimore, New England, San Diego and Indianapolis still have some questions to answer, such as who gets the other first round bye (San Diego's got one of them) and who finishes where in the standings.

Should be an interesting and exciting final day of the season tomorrow!

Losing Streak Ended... For The Moment

The Rangers returned home tonight and managed a rare win, this time against the Capitals, 4-1. They came within 3 minutes of earning a shutout, but as so often happens with this team, they let up late and blew the goalie's chance for a perfect game. But of course, at this point, any victory is like a gift from God, so I'm sure there's great rejoicing in the locker room that they didn't finish 2006 with an eight game losing streak.

Re-Reading Preacher

After finishing all of the comics from the past few weeks, and while waiting for this week's new comics to (finally) arrive, I began to follow through on my loose plan to re-read the late-90s Preacher series in anticipation of the recently-announced HBO TV series based on it.

So far I've re-read the first 10 issues, and they're every bit as entertaining as I remembered them. Author Garth Ennis knows how to tell a tale, filled with vulgarity, profanity and over-the-top characters, and still succeed at pulling the reader in to the point where you can't wait to read the next installment. As I go through them, I'm considering each story in terms of its potential for being translatable to television. Certainly, you couldn't do it any sort of justice on network TV, because you'd have to water down the language and violence so extensively as to completely neuter it.

Assuming that HBO allows for an "anything goes" approach, I think the stories Ennis weaves around Reverend Jesse Custer, Cassiday the vampire and Tulip O'Hare, along with the crazies they run into, could be done ala Sin City: just adapt them straight-up, and trust that their appeal will transcend the medium they started life in. The serial killer saga, for example, could be done as a single one-hour episode, or could possibly be spread out over two if you wanted to flesh out the supporting cast a bit more. And Jesse's origin saga, which I'm right in the middle of, has an obvious cliffhanger moment in it (the final scene in # 10) that would be perfect as the bridge between two episodes.

Not that anyone will ask my opinion on how to do the TV show, though. No, sir, that'd just be silly.

Some Initial Musings On Resistance: Fall Of Man

Well, I played about an hour last night, in Single Player Mode, and then did another 45 minutes or so with Vicki in Coop Mode going through the same maps. While I wait for the HD Component PS/3 cable that I ordered, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the SD graphics, but that's to be expected. I've seen the game in all its HD glory elsewhere, and expect that that's what I'll see on my HD TV soon.

As far as gameplay, I was surprised how challenging the first part was to get through. I'm playing, as usual, on Medium difficulty. I find both Easy and Hard to be less-than-fun, the former because there's so little skill required, and the latter for the opposite reason! Medium always seems about the right speed for me. Of all the parts I've played so far, the very start was by far the hardest: it probably took me 10 tries to get through it! First, there didn't seem to be much health around, which is always bad for a gung-ho run-and-gunner like me. So then I had to play more cautiously, in order to preserve my precious bodily fluids. Also, the enemy AI was surprisingly smart, doing things like coming at me from different directions each time through, as well as leaving their original position at random points. That's a great feature of any video game, but last night I was cursing them for their original thinking! And, just to compound my difficulties, I'd gotten well into the game before I figured out that the O button was the way to throw grenades! That would've been really handy to have known as I kept dying over and over at the hands of crowds of bad guys who were ripe for some mass damage!

I've only picked up 3 weapons so far, but they're all pretty good. I'm a sucker for a good shotgun in a video game, and the double-barreled version offered up in Resistance works just fine for me! The bullseye has a secondary fire that's unique in my experience: it fires a tracer (if you have any left) at a target, and then primary fire will find the target, even going around corners! I really need to experiment more with that cool feature! I've already run out of ammo on one or another of the guns, telling me that I'm not mixing up my selection enough. I'll have to work on that, since the last thing I want is to end up playing a level with extremely limited ammunition (I'm not nearly good enough at video games to survive that experience, without going to God mode!)

Overall, my first impressions have been very positive. There's a great Science Fiction, alternate history story behind it that would make a nice movie, and a variety of threat types, all of which add to the experience. Now I just need to get it into HD mode!

Favourite Comic Covers Part 6


Of all the Jim Steranko covers from the late 1960s/early 70s, this is probably my favourite. It's an incredibly powerful image that, unfortunately, the story inside completely under-delivers on. But since we're talking about covers, here, this one has to be on the list. It's really too bad Steranko's stint in the mainstream comic world was so short-lived, but at least we have iconic gems like Incredible Hulk Annual # 1 to enjoy!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Make It Seven In A Row

Another rousing effort by the boys from Broadway tonight, as they managed to somehow lose to an injury-ridden Ottawa Senators team, 1-0. And yes, that means it's been over 2 games now since they last scored a goal (go, team!)

One more loss, which should come later this weekend, and they'll be back to the way they started the season: just as many losses as wins. And then it only gets worse.

I think being a NY Rangers fan over the past 10 years has got to be one of the most unrewarding sports experiences possible over that stretch. I wonder if any other team has fared as poorly?

Pretty Cool!

I've now set up the PS/3, including downloading the latest service update, and played a minute or two of Resistance: Fall of Man. I confirmed that there really is a 2-person Coop Mode for it. It put the 2 screens up top and bottom, which is bad when you have a widescreen TV, but that may be because I'm in SD mode (rather than HD) right now as I don't have the Component cable I need to run in HD yet.

Using the browser capability, I was actually able to surf to this very page! I've bookmarked it, so that maybe Vicki will find she reads my blog more often if she can do it right on the TV.

So far, so cool!

And Then, Seconds Later...

I had literally just clicked on the Publish button for that last entry when I heard a truck outside, looked out, and saw the Canada Post emblem!

I had to actually open the box and see it before I was willing to believe that this wouldn't be another false alarm! But now I can declare:

My PS/3 has arrived!!

Of course, now I just have to hope it works!!

Off I go to play!

Dude, Where's My Damned PS/3??

Shortly after I woke up this morning, a UPS truck stopped in front of our house, and I was sure my PS/3 had arrived! Quicker minds than mine wouldn't have jumped to that conclusion, since the console is supposed to be coming via Canada Post, not UPS. But I ran to the door full of excitement and anticipation just as the delivery guy left a small package at the door, which was clearly neither large nor heavy enough to be my PS/3. When I opened the wrapping to get the invoice, I discovered it was a lovely chocolate gift from my work's parent company in the States. Very nice, very considerate, and very unexpected, but also, in this context, very disappointing!

Then I checked the tracking status on the Canada Post website, and saw that it had finally changed, indicating that it was now in this city, and "out for delivery!" My enthusiasm climbed back up again! Unfortunately, that was over 3 hours ago, and there's still no sign of it! I'm starting to fear it won't come until next week, by which time I'll have missed a long weekend during which I could've played around with it to my heart's content. I'd also been thinking about biking to the comic store today (if the comics ever make it in) but I probably won't want to leave until the womenfolk are back from Michigan, so that I don't miss the delivery. And that may mean waiting until too close to sundown to make cycling a reasonable option. Some things just aren't meant to happen, I guess.

Story Update

Tammy and I brainstormed ideas yesterday, and came up with one that we both thought had some potential. We then threw around suggestions for plot points and I made some notes. All of that took long enough that we left it at that, before we moved on to more Halo 2 playing, with the plan to re-visit it today.

Then last night I had a dream that gave me a completely different concept that might be more fun for us to use. Because of Tammy's late rise (1:00 pm) and Vicki and I being out all afternoon shopping, I never even got a chance to mention this to Tammy (although she might be reading about it right here and now). Tomorrow she and her mother are going to see her grandmother in Michigan, so I suspect no further progress will happen until either Friday night or Saturday. I spent a little time today fleshing out this second idea more fully, though, and now I'm quite enamored of it! Here's hoping she likes it!

And I would like to thank those who provided suggestions, including PJ who did an entire post about it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Movie Selection Has Been Made

It's The Good Shepherd that we'll be off to see this evening. Tammy's initial offering was We Are Marshall, but when I responded with, "You're making us watch a football movie?" she changed her choice. This is funny because we'd watched quite a bit of football over this break, which Vicki and I enjoyed while Tammy considered it boring. And of course there's the whole raft of college Bowl games still to come. So taking us out to a movie about the sport would've been strange, to say the least.

And The Delays Just Keep On Comin'

Still no sign of the PS/3 (tracking info still says it's sitting in the "Mississauga sortation plant.") I was sorely tempted to buy one of the 5 60 Gig PS/3's that Electronic Boutique had in stock when we were there this afternoon, buying a 2nd wireless controller (or 1st, really, since I haven't received the console yet) and Resistance: Fall of Man. Future Shop was pathetically understocked on most things PS/3-related, so the only money of mine it got was for a Peter Gabriel concert DVD and Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the PS/3.

And then we went to the comic store (considerably out of our way), only to discover the comics didn't make it in, despite it already being a day later than normal. Some sort of screw-up on the distributor's part.. that seems to be the theme of the day: those in the delivery business appear to be doing more storing than shipping right now! Maybe the seasonal high volume caught them by surprise, like it does every December!

Me, bitter? OK, maybe just a little.

Favourite Comic Covers Part 5

For sheer, unadulterated fanboy pleasure, it's hard to beat the incredible George Perez cover to Avengers/JLA # 2! I mean, c'mon, check out some of the battles being waged right there, before your eyes:
Superman vs Thor!
Batman vs Captain America!
Wonder Woman vs Hercules, the Greek demi-god who defiled her mother!
Green Arrow and Hawkeye facing off in a battle of archery skills!
The Flash showing Quicksilver what real speed looks like!

If you want to know what a comic fan wet dream looks like - and who wouldn't? - just feast your eyes on this beauty! Definitely one of my all-time faves, despite being only about 3 or 4 years old!

Making A List; Checking It Twice

Since I had a lot of time on my hands this holiday week, I tended to check out the contents of our blogosphere a fair bit, hoping for interesting blogs to help pass the time. It seems only natural that I'd now comment on that, hmm?

Naughty

Man from Mars.. hello? No post since the 21st? Did this guy actually travel back to Mars for the holidays, and John Carter wouldn't let him use his wireless?

Rick Mercer apparently got so overwrought from writing about Same Sex Marriage in early December, that he called it a year right then and there!

PJ almost avoided the Naughty list, but I couldn't quite qualify his 2 posts over a week as all that nice, now could I?

And then there's Roopak, whose last entry was over a week ago now, and was a self-congratulatory pat on the back for posting three times in one day! I guess he kind of shot his wad back there on the 20th!

Nice

My most faithful companion this week, From Hell artist Eddie Campbell continued his pattern of interesting daily posts right through it all, not even taking the big day itself off!

Tammy'd be on the Naughty list if it weren't for the extenuating circumstances of me knowing she was dead to the world for half the last week, and then kicked out 2 posts once she recovered.

Jim Hinckley slowed, but didn't stop, his output, and just recently provided a delightful recounting of Maya's first big Christmas.

And newbie cjg soldiered on, despite a similar flu ailment, and persisted in his doomed attempt to keep up with the prolific writings of your Humble Blogger.

The World Outside These Walls

I haven't ventured out of the house since Sunday afternoon, when Vicki and I went for a walk through the neighbourhood while flu-embattled Tammy slept. I love a vacation where I can play the shut-in instead of having to be on the go all of the time.

But today we'll venture out into the cold, cruel world once more. First, Vicki and I have a Future Shop trip planned, to buy a few items that were missed for Christmas, as well as possibly some PS/3-related goodies (despite the console, itself, still being a no-show). We'll also be venturing to the comic store as part of that trip, in the hopes that this week's gigantic load of comics will have arrived today.

Then, after dinner, the current plan is for the three of us to head out for the birthday movie that Tammy missed back in the middle of the month, when she snubbed us for a drunken bash at her apartment (I'd prefer a movie anyday, personally!). I don't think she's picked the movie we're going to see yet, though. After the inane dialogue of Kill Bill Vol 2 last night, I'd be tempted to say anything would be an improvement!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Halo 2 Can Be Somewhat Frustrating At Times

Tammy and I've played many hours of Halo 2, in cooperative mode, over the last 2 days. In fact, we've played some of the same hours more than once, thanks to the wacky Save functionality of the game! After playing for 2 or 3 hours yesterday, and getting through what seemed to us to be several levels (with accompanying cutesy titles that appear briefly on-screen at the start of each new one), we finally stopped. Then today we started it up again, only to start at the same point we had yesterday, meaning we had to re-play all of those same levels again! When you say you want to exit, it warns you that you'll lose whatever progress you've made in the current level, but that seemed OK to us yesterday because we'd finished our third or fourth level at that point and were barely into the next one. But apparently those must've been sub-levels, or chapters, or somesuch, because none of it was recalled today as being completed! After a couple more hours today, we're almost as far as we got yesterday, but now we're afraid to quit for fear of having to play them yet a third time! Instead, we've left the XBox on, paused, so that we can pick up from there later tonight or tomorrow... what kind of an environmentally-friendly game style is that??!

Having said all that, it's certainly a fun 2-person shooting game. If only Tammy would tell me when she dies so that I could run away and hide, long enough for her to re-spawn, rather than following her example and dying myself, only to force us to start over from the last checkpoint! She doesn't tell me, apparently, because she doesn't want to distract me! Oy.

Possible 400th Post

It's still almost 20 posts away, but Tammy and I were discussing the possibility of co-writing a short story to mark that milestone. With her here all week it seems like a golden opportunity, now that stomach flu season is (hopefully) behind us. We agreed we'd keep it fairly short, rather than tackling
an
epic
like
this!

So that's a notional goal for the remaining half of the 10 days off. Feel free to submit story ideas on the off-chance we'd actually use one, since we have nothing to go on so far!!

Favourite Comic Covers Part 4


Yet another favourite comic cover by Neal Adams... no wonder he's my all-time favourite (despite leaving a less-than-favourable impression when I met him in person).

This time around it's Justice League of America (Vol I) # 92, from 1971. As with Avengers # 93, this was one of the earliest comics I ever owned. And again, as with its Marvel counterpart, I'd read this so many times the cover had fallen off and been lost by the time I'd reached an age to appreciate just how bad an event that was! For each, I think that extended period of time in my life when I'd lost the original cover and could only see it in the occasional ad I'd stumble on, probably contributed significantly to my deepfelt affection for those cover images ever since. They were, for years and years, that elusive and indescribable quality of my childhood that I'd carelessly misplaced at some point. In fact, when Vicki and I first got together and started visiting comic stores while on vacation, Avengers # 93 and JLA # 92 were on my short list of comics to upgrade so as to have copies with covers once again! The former was very easy to find; the latter took me a few years, which probably speaks to the relative popularity of the two titles around that time!

And just look at the JLA and JSA line-ups, down the left and right edge of this cover! Two Supermen, two Flashes, two Green Lanterns, two Hawkmen, two Atoms, and even two Robins! I'd previously mentioned this issue in passing, while describing my love for stories involving dopplegangers. So combine across-the-board JLA/JSA counterparts, Solomon Grundy (always a frightening JSA villain), a lost-for-years cover, and Neal Adams' magic, and surely this must qualify as one of my favourite comic covers of all times!

PS/3 Update: Not Here Yet!

Today's mail arrived but without any sign of my PS/3. Worse, the BestBuy website that had the tracking information appeared to go down for awhile this morning, at least to the point of only giving me a "Sorry, we don't have that info right now" message when I tried to access it. I notice now that it's back up, but the tracking status is the same as it was on Friday last week: "entered into sortation plant in Mississauga." What have those lazy layabouts been doing for the past four days?! Oh, right, Christmas.. never mind.

One of Vicki's gifts from me this year was the PS/2 game: Lego Star Wars II - The Original Trilogy. It sounded like just the sort of game she likes, plus it features cooperative mode so that we can play the levels together (her favourite type of console gaming). However, with the prospect of the PS/3 on the horizon, it doesn't make much sense to start the game on our PS/2 and then have to re-start it once the PS/3 gets up and going. So instead we're working hard to finish off her Neopets: Darkest Faerie game on the PS/2 before the new console lands on our doorstep.

Could This One Actually Be Good?


The new Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer trailer would give one reason to at least ponder that question. The special effects in the trailer look excellent, and some aspects of it would suggest that this sequel will be about Galactus arriving to consume the Earth.

If so, one of the next big questions will be: what will the Big G look like? His comic book appearance doesn't really... um, translate?... to the big screen all that well, I'm guessing! Something about the hockey sticks/boomerangs protruding from his head, and the purple colour scheme... yeah, I think for the movie, we need a different look! And really it's the concept of Galactus that's so winning, not his goofy fashion sense. He survives, after all, by eating the life essense of planets that his herald, the Silver Surfer, finds for him. Not all that different from humans eating plants or animals to survive, when you get right down to it (he's supposedly evolved well beyond our levels of understanding). In his comic debut, which is also the Surfer's first appearance (Fantastic Four # 48), one of the most interesting battles concerns whether the Surfer will rebel against his master and help defeat him. That's the element that elevates the story beyond a simple "Earth is imperiled; can the FF prevail?" sort of tale it would've been otherwise.

And the Losing Streak Hits Six

The Rangers just keep on giving this Christmas season, as they generously gave another two points away last night, this time to the Islanders (for the third time this month). It shouldn't be long before the calls for coach Tom Renney's firing start, since another couple losses will plant them right back at a 0.500 record again after peaking at 8 games above. They've already nearly fallen out of a playoff spot (only the fact that they've played so many more games than the teams around them has them still in the top 8!). I wish I could say this was at all unusual, but it's been nine straight years of it, with last year being the only anomaly, of a sort. Last season they somehow managed to delay the long losing streak until a few days after they'd clinched a post-season berth. The normal pattern has been for it to happen sometime between mid-December and mid-March, just like what's underway right now. I expect it to hit at least 10 losses in a row before some sap of a team gives them a victory. Deja vu all over again, as they say.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Traditional Holiday Movie

No, not Lord of the Rings (although we did watch Fellowship). Tammy brought over Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2, and we got soaked in the bloodbath that is the first one tonight. As is always the case, I can respect and admire Tarantino's skill as a film-maker while finding his moral sense pretty much lacking. Uma's good in it, though, and really, what more do we need in an action-revenge flick? (It does feature some of the dumbest dialogue seen in recent days, though.)

Complete Movie List

Since I glossed over the topic earlier, here's the entire list of DVDs that were received by Vicki or I this holiday season:

An Inconvenient Truth (all three of us loved this when we saw it at the theatre)
An Unfinished Life
Band of Brothers
Bend It Like Beckham
Goodnight and Good Luck
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
The Last Samurai
Syriana
Where the Truth Lies
(by Atom Egoyan, a favourite director of ours)

That's a pretty typical number of DVDs for us to add to our collection over Christmas. Of course, all are in widescreen aspect ratio, but none of them are Blu-Ray format, despite the fact that my Blu-Ray-playing PS/3 should be arriving any day now! I'm not decided yet on the idea of buying too many Blu-Ray DVDs when the winner between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD hasn't been crowned yet!

We also may go out later this week and buy a few more, since that's another tradition that's developed around here. I'd like to find 49-Up, for example.

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow Or The Next Day (Dec 26th Edition)

Big week of comics to end the year, as there are a whopping 17 for me to buy whatever day they actually arrive this week! Here are the most exciting ones:

Justice League of America # 5 - Doesn't seem like it was all that long ago that # 4 came out, but I'm not complaining! The last issue revealed that a scarily-intelligent Solomon Grundy might be the mastermind behind the theft of Red Tornado's android body. Brad Meltzer, you had me at about page six of issue # 0!

Astonishing X-Men # 19 - Joss Whedon's 2nd year is now half over, and his final 6-part storyline appears to be taking the merry mutants into space, which is always cool!

Daredevil # 92 - DD's touring Europe in a tale by one of my current fave writers, Ed Brubaker. This title has been rising in my estimation ever since Bru arrived, after more than a decade of mediocrity that'd finally driven me away from it.

Ultimate Power # 3 - This 9-issue series pits the JMS-conceived Squadron Supreme against the majority of Marvel's Ultimate line, including Spidey, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the don't-call-them-Avengers Ultimates! With gorgeous Greg Land artwork it's almost too pretty to look at!

So it's looking like a good week, both in terms of quantity and quality!

Christmas Update

We finally did the present opening this morning. Vicki and I de-bagged a couple packages from each other while Tammy was still sleeping (it was 11:00 am, after all!) and then the three of us did the rest of the gifts once Tammy was up. I got some great items off my wishlist items (HL2: Episode 1, bike helmet, couple good books including Gaiman's Anansi Boys) but Vicki came up a little light on one important category: I only received one comic, and it was what's known in our household as an upgrade, meaning a better condition copy of something I already have. That's probably the smallest comic haul I've ever gotten for Christmas, but then again, it was an unusual holiday all around! We did get quite a few DVDs between us, with my gifts including Band of Brothers, An Inconvenient Truth and Syriana, among others.

As I type this I still haven't come down with the stomach flu that laid the women low. Vicki's still not 100%, by the way, making it about a 2 - 3 day effect as far as I can tell.

I Survived Christmas 2006

Well, it's now 12:01 on the 26th, so I made it through Christmas Day without succumbing to whatever variety of flu that's grounded the womenfolk - and cjg, by the sounds of it. I'm still expecting my time to come but I appreciate making it through the big day without returning any of the gifts I'd consumed (if you catch my drift).

I had sporadic visits today from both of my patients but spent a good chunk of Christmas 2006 by myself, making for quite the surreal holiday. A couple years ago Tammy had all four of her wisdom teeth removed right before Christmas and had just barely recovered in time to experience the day. That was the closest we'd ever come to anything like this year's scenario. For Vicki in particular, this'll be the one she barely remembers!

Ah well, we'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. One of these days we'll all be healthy and get to open those presents!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Has Football Been This Boring All Season?

Watching the Jets-Dolphins game, and we're 4 minutes shy of the fourth quarter and it's still 0-0! I'll buy that the downpour they're playing in has something to do with the lack of scoring, but holy crap it's been some deadly dull play so far! The only legitimate scoring chance up to now was a botched field goal hold by the Jets - that's right, the hold was the problem, not the kick, as no kick was even attempted! As I type this, those self-same NY'ers are threatening, as they've made it to Miami's 3-yard line. But now it's 4th down so we get another field goal attempt.

And... it's good! Only took 42:35 of game time - and over 2 and a half hours of watching - for someone to finally score! One of the commentators just characterized the Jets' 3-0 advantage as possibly "an insurmountable lead!"

I'm just glad the hated Steelers lost yesterday, as otherwise I'd have had nothing to watch today!!

Loneliest Man On The Planet

Both flu patients are in their respective beds sleeping at 8:00 pm, and here I sit getting ready for my second NFL game of the day (Jets vs Dolphins). I've been eating very carefully all day - pretty much just toast, bagels, and a little mild cheese - in anticipation of throwing it all back up but I've been lucky thus far on that front. Tammy's been more-or-less OK all day, but not eating much (crackers, one piece of dry toast, and half a bowl of Jell-O). Vicki's had a nice run with no vomiting since early this morning but likewise not eating much. Both have been sleeping for a good chunk of the day.

Christmas Day, it turns out, is quite a boring occasion when you don't have anyone to spend it with and you're trying to be quiet so as not wake up sleeping flu victims. At least I've gotten some comics read, though!

One Film To Rule Them All

Tammy's feeling coherent enough this afternoon to watch a movie, but since she's likely to drift in and out, we decided on one that we've both seen many times. And so we renew a Christmas tradition of a few years back, when a new Lord of the Rings installment came out each December and we'd thrill to the tale all over again.

So here we sit, watching The Fellowship of the Ring for what must be, for me, about the sixth time now (twice at the theatre back in 2001). It really holds up well under repeated viewings, I must say!

Favourite Comic Covers Part 3



Ah, Crisis on Infinite Earths # 7. This might be the one I end up voting for in DC's online poll, because it's just so chock-full of comic goodness. Like Superman vs Muhammad Ali's cover, this has a host of interesting folks in the background to spend hours admiring. In this case, it's a veritable who's who of the DC Universe that artist George Perez slaved away on to provide the appropriate scene of grieving behind Superman and his fallen cousin, Supergirl. As described elsewhere, the death of Supergirl rocked me to my comic fan core, and this cover epitomises the emotions that I've still never quite recovered from.

Four Hours Later, Still Blogging!

I keep expecting to feel ill anytime now, but so far, so good on that front. Vicki's now on Gravol and has slept for most of the last four hours, without throwing up. Tammy's just now up and acting perky again, but we got fooled by that development yesterday so I'm not drawing any conclusions yet. She's still only nibbling away at salted crackers and sipping apple juice, reluctant to provide more vomiting ammunition. I've made up Jello for Vicki and it's setting in the fridge, awaiting her to be brave enough to try putting something in that roiling tummy of hers.

Hopefully everyone who's reading this had a better Christmas morning than we did!

Worst Christmas Ever?

Turns out that what I should've wished for last night was for Tammy's recovery from the flu to continue and no one else in the house to catch it! Right after we went to bed, Tammy had a relapse and started throwing up again, only a few minutes before Vicki announced, "I think I've got what Tammy's got" and began making hourly trips to the toilet herself. It was a long night for everyone in the household and this morning there's no talk of opening presents. Based on how long after coming into contact with Tammy Vicki started feeling the effects, I expect I'm probably now only a few hours or less away from getting it myself. When we moved in all those years ago, I thought 3 bathrooms was a bit much for a house this size. Now I'm thinking we may actually need all of them to get through the next couple days!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Pope Urges Care For Children

Which is good, since he also admonishes that birth control's a sin, so there are more unwanted kids coming into the world all the time, if people are listening to him!

After watching Kingdom of Heaven last night, all about Christians and Muslims fighting over holy sites, I'm in one of my Why are people so stupid? moods. I'm sure it'll pass soon, since I'm heading to bed now anyway.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Christmas Wishes

Now that it's too late for Vicki to read this list and think she needed to do anything about it (since Christmas is less than 2 hours away), here are some of the items that I'd enjoy receiving tomorrow morning. And that's no reflection on whatever great stuff I actually end up getting, of course! It's just fun to put this in writing before opening the cloth bags and re-used cardboard boxes in the morning. So here we go:

1) The 49-Up DVD collection. Michael Apted's amazing series of documentaries that follows the lives of a group of British children, checking in with them every 7 years as they become adolescents and then adults. The format is brilliant and the execution, in the segments I've actually seen, has been heart-breakingly perfect. If I don't receive this for Christmas, it'll be something I'll buy for myself shortly thereafter.

2) Half Life 2: Episode One for the PC. Somehow I missed this when it came out, but all of the year end gaming reviews gushed about how great a follow-up to HL2 it was. Since I absolutely loved HL2, I'm sure this'll be a treat.

3) Some cool old comics. I know Vicki bought a few in Chicago this year, as usual, and also true to form, I've done my best to forget what she picked up. I'm always accusing her of losing some of them upstairs (really just misplacing them temporarily) since it often seems like long periods of time (years) pass between her buying them and me getting them, but that could also just be my imagination or faulty memory. I'm confident I'll get something good in this category.

4) A new book by someone I like. I always look forward to new 'grown-up' reading material in addition to the comics, and Vicki's got a good track record in this area.

5) A new bike helmet. I actually know this one's coming, as she wanted me to size it before she bought it. But considering the sad state of my current headgear, I'm really looking forward to having something more comfortable on my noggin when I start biking again in the New Year.

6) Something completely unexpected. Most years she finds at least one present that's completely out of left field and that I never would've predicted. As you'd imagine, sometimes it's a winner and sometimes.. not so much. The classic case of the latter was the very expensive foosball table she gave me for Christmas not long after we moved into this house, under the mistaken impression that foosball was the table game that I had such nostalgic feelings about from my childhood (it was actually tabletop hockey, naturally, with the players you slide up and down the ice and the goalies that go side-to-side). The important thing, though, is that she always looks for that special surprise, year after year. How lucky does that make me? (Damn lucky.)

More Dreaming About Flooding

Last night I had my second dream in the last couple weeks about being in a situation where the land I was on was being flooded. In this case, Vicki and I had property on a fairly large island but the tide was rising relentlessly. We were driving a car along roads, trying to find a way to higher ground, because we could tell that pretty soon most of the island was going to be underwater. At one point we saw large waves coming in, which reminded me (in the dream) of the tsunami that hit Indonesia and elsewhere a couple years ago around this time.

Clearly all of the Global Warming stuff I've been reading and watching has made its way firmly into my subconscious. Now if only it'd have that same effect on everyone else!

Favourite Comic Covers Part 2


They're aren't many comic covers as fun to play "Where's Waldo?" with as Neal Adams' beautiful wraparound artwork for Superman Vs Muhummad Ali from 1978. As with my first choice (Avengers # 93), this beauty adorns an extra long original story illustrated by Mr Adams, which was a treasure whenever it happened. In fact, in this case, it was a Treasury, as that's what they called the oversize (11" x 15") format that both Marvel and DC used in the 70s and briefly revived a few years ago.

And one of the best things about the wraparound cover was the fact that, inside the giant comic they included a key that showed who each of the celebrities in the audience was! I spent hours poring over that legend, flpping back and forth to the front or back cover, back when this fun little gem came out.

Oh, and if you're wondering how Ali, a mere mortal - despite what the boxer himself might've proclaimed - could fight a Kryptonian: the story takes care of that in a reasonably believable way. Or at least, believable in comic book terms!

Merry Christmas and A Happy Third Period Collapse!

Let's review what every New York Rangers fan expects to get for Christmas:

1) Extended losing streak
Check! They've now lost 5 in a row, with nary a point in any of those five losses.

2) Finding new ways to lose each game
Check! First a blowout loss early, then a blowout loss late, then a almost comeback that stops short, then a 2-0 third period lead blown, followed by a 3-0 third period lead blown!!

3) Slipping in the standing
Check! Dropping like a stone.

4) More games played than most teams
Check! Not only are they dropping in the standings, but the teams around them all have 2, 3 or even 4 games in hand on them! Meaning they're really even further down than their current position would suggest.

Yes, as Christmas traditions go, this one's pretty reliable. Fucking losers!

At least the hated Steelers were just eliminated from getting into the post-season in the NFL, so all's not gloom and doom in my world of sports. This joyful development has the additional benefit of allowing me to resume following the NFL again, since I'd sworn off of it until Pittsburgh's reign was ended.

RoboCats Under An Umbrella



Now why in the world would I photoshop those amazing laser eyes out of this shot?

Say hello to Lucy and Rascal, possibly the last things you'll ever see if they come looking for you...

Apparently...

... some folks have better things to do on the weekend before Christmas than visit or update blogs. This is inexplicable to me, but then again, we don't even have a Christmas tree up! (Some presents have been bagged, though.)

It's always a bit worrisome to me how much things grind to a halt this time of year. I always imagine that we're going to need something from someplace that's closed for 2 days, when in reality we probably have a week or more's supply of almost anything we ever use on hand, thanks to Vicki's shopping style (buy the replacement whatever well before you need it).

We had planned to have lasagna for dinner tonight (mmmm, lasagna) but with Tammy still recovering, we decided to save that meal for after Christmas. Even though Tammy wouldn't appreciate it, this is yet another case of delayed gratification working for me!

Prescription Drug Commercials Remind Me Of Brave New World

There's a commercial on American networks right now for a prescription drug that can help you fall asleep if you take a long time to do so at night, or help you stay asleep if you're the type who falls asleep easily but then awakens in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. I happen to have both problems, at various times, and have suffered with insomnia for most of my life. And yet my reaction to this ad was not to rush to my doctor to see if I could get a script for it. Instead, that commercial caused me to think about how chilling Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley was, with its soma-neutralized populace. Described as "an opiate of the masses", soma kept people in chemically-controlled equilibrium just like our current pharmaceutical companies would love to see everyone modulated daily, or better yet, hourly.

I'm not anti-prescription drugs, as a lot of serious problems require medication and even modulation. But I draw the line at using them to 'fix' things that are better handled by the sufferers themselves, like not sleeping, eating too much, or not feeling happy, or up, enough. Seems like I might be in the minority on that count, though..

Favourite Comic Covers Part 1



DC just announced an online poll to give the fans a chance to vote for the best DC cover of all time. The deadline for voting is January 5/07, so in preparation of me casting my vote, I thought I'd post some of my fave comic covers (from all publishers, not just DC) to help me formulate my thoughts.

Certainly one of my all-time faves, both in terms of covers and the comic itself, is Avengers # 93 from 1971. There are so many things to love about this cover that I can barely type them fast enough!

You have to start by considering that the cover (and entire issue) is drawn by the great artist, Neal Adams. He's unquestionably the ultimate comic penciller of the late 60s and early 70s, as he towered head and shoulder above his peers in terms of realism, at the time. In 1971, at age 8, I doubt I appreciated how unique his style was, but I definitely knew I loved it and it became the gold standard by which I judged other artists over the next decade or more.

Then there's the image itself: The Avengers' Big Three - Captain America, Iron Man and Thor - coming to the rescue of fallen lesser light members Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, who, incomprehensibly, are lying at the feet of the male members of the Fantastic Four! What self-respecting fan didn't need to buy that comic in order to find out the story behind the picture?

If you're like I was at eight years old, you'be certainly be wondering just what the heck a "Beach-Head Earth" is? I mean, I knew what a beach was, and a head, and the Earth, but you put them all together and I had no clue! Even though I'm sure author Roy Thomas (sort of) explained the term implicitly within the pages of the comic itself, it was years later when I was learning about World War II at school that the penny finally dropped and I got that mysterious title!

Sometime before I read the cover off my original copy (I had the coverless version as my only copy for a lot longer than that cover had ever stayed on) I probably noticed the ambiguity implied in the "... or do they??" that followed the claim that the Avengers were battling the "fabulous FF" (fabulous fantastic four? now that's hype at its finest!) Truth in advertising in the early 70s! (The 3 FF members were actually Skrulls, a dangling subplot left over from Fantastic Four # 2, ten years earlier, believe it or not!)

The cherry on the top, though, was the "All New! All Great!" text that accompanied the double-length story behind the cover. More truth in advertising, because it was entirely new material (no reprints) and it was truly great from front cover to final page, including a Fantastic Voyage homage, battles aplently, in-fighting within the ranks of the Avengers, an ending that made it seem as though all was lost, and lots more. Those square-bound 25 centers of that period were a fan's dream come true!

And in writing this post, I learned something about Avengers # 93's cover that I never knew: there were apparently two versions of it released! The common version is the one I used to accompany these words, but if you click here you can see both versions. Now that I know there's a second cover, I want to know more, and I certainly want to find one of my own!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Blogger Experiencing Technical Problems

I was all ready to post the first in a series of "Favourite Comic Covers" entries, only to find out that Blogger's not able to upload images right now. Kind of takes the fun out of talking about a comic cover if I can't even show it! So that'll have to wait until tomorrow, I guess, or whenever they fix their boo-boo (that's the technical term used by computer software professionals like myself).

At the same time, Vicki's locked out of her beloved Neopets site because they're having problems of some variety, as well! This coincidence caused Vicki to remark about how slowly the debit machines were processing when she was out getting groceries today, and that took us both back to the (then-called) Point Of Sale (debit) crisis right before Christmas, about a decade ago at the bank. Our Anonymous reader can probably provide more amusing anecdotes around that event, since he was most likely involved, whereas Vicki and I were just interested bystanders. It definitely made for an unmerry Christmas for a lot of folks, including many within the bank!

Ah well, the best laid plans and all that...

Reasons Why It Doesn't Feel Like The Night Before Christmas Eve

Not being a big fan of Christmas, I'm not complaining here. In fact, in some ways, I'm celebrating the fact that we're not awash in the commercial trappings of a religious holiday that no one in this household is a disciple of. But here's the list, for posterity's sake.

1) There's approximately... well, zero snow on the ground outside. This is a good thing, for my money, because it meant I got to ride my bike one more time this past week, and of course it's nice travelling weather for anyone who has out of town plans for the holidays. However, it's certainly not a Christmas-y scene when I look out my window. Maybe Global Warming will make white Christmases a thing of the past in these parts?

2) No matter how hard you look, you won't find a Christmas tree up or presents out on display (yet) in this house. We decided to keep it low key this year in terms of presents, which around here translates to keeping it down to six or so packages going each way between Vicki and I. The tree-or-no-tree decision is always up to Vicki and Tammy (I always favour no-tree). We have an artificial tree that might still go up, although with Tammy sick and Christmas less than 30 hours away, it'd seem kind of silly now. Back to the presents, we usually have them bagged by this time (we use cloth bags for all family presents, along with re-usable cardboard boxes and tissue paper, where appropriate) but that activity's just not been high on the agenda so far. Typically that happens after the tree goes up, and so here we are.

3) I don't recall the official sounds of the season soundtrack including the distinctive barking cough of someone throwing up, and yet that's what we've had today, as poor Tammy knelt at the porcelain throne throughout the afternoon. As Vicki joked, Christmas dinner for the 20-year-old may be chicken noodle soup, unless she has a quick recovery.

4) For whatever reason, this year we just haven't had much interaction with kids in the days leading up to Christmas. Usually we'll be visiting friends with young children and I'll see that sparkle in their eyes that reminds me that, if you don't buy into the whole birth of the Son of God business, then it's really all about the excitement of the young. I'm sure it's happening, as usual, but I just haven't seen it this year.

5) And, as mentioned here, there wasn't any kind of big and expensive Christmas comic item that got my blood racing this month. For an incurable comic geek like me, there's a real tradition involved with this that's hardly ever been missed. I even said to the comic store owner this week, that had I wanted to send Vicki his way to buy me that special something for Christmas 2006, I don't know what she could've picked up. And he felt the same way. Fortunately she had our Chicago comic convention in August to stock up on old comics so I remain hopeful that not all is lost!

Again, this isn't a list of complaints, but rather observations of how unusual the lead-up to Christmas has been this time around.

A Few Points About Bullet Points

I just read Marvel's Bullet Points # 2, in which the alternate history of the Marvel Universe continues with Peter Parker, not Bruce Banner, getting the Gamma Ray Rama Lama Ding Dong and becoming the Hulk. The first issue had Steve Rogers, back in 1941, miss out on the Soldier Soldier treatment when a fateful bullet took out Prof Erskine before he could finalize his top secret formula (in the real Marvel history, he was shot dead just minutes after Rogers became Captain America, keeping him from mass producing what would've clearly shortened WWII significantly). Instead, in a stretch that kind of left me behind, Rogers became part of an early Iron Man project that bonded him with the armour that shouldn't have existed for another twenty years or so.

The series is certainly an interesting concept, not all that different than various incarnations of What If? series that Marvel's produced over the past thirty years. The central conceit of a What If? issue was always to take a pivotal moment in history and have someone dodge right instead of left. So early storylines included "What If Spider-Man Hadn't Been Bitten by the Radioactive Spider?" and "What If Rick Jones Had Become the Hulk?" You can see how Bullet Points would remind me of this, hmmm?

Anyway, with JMS doing the writing chores, and appropriately rough-edged artwork by Tommy Lee Edwards, it's an enjoyable enough series so far. I suppose the only negative for me, through two issues, is the contradiction of doing it as a divergent history while still playing with all of the same characters at its core. So Steve Rogers becomes Iron Man, instead of Captain America, and then Peter Parker ends up as the Hulk, in Bruce Banner's place. Reed Richards and the rest of the not-yet-fanastic foursome are preparing to take a fateful rocket flight, but of course something's going to go horribly wrong such that they don't become the FF we know and love (maybe they'll become the X-Men? or some other foursome will steal their rocket and they'll be the FF?) I realize that superhero comics require a willing suspension of disbelief from the get-go, and yet this approach seems to have just pushed the envelope a tad too far for me. It reminds me of the conversation Vicki and I had after watching the movie Frequency, with Dennis Quaid, in which one character was changing history repeatedly thanks to some information he was receiving from the future over *ahem* a short-wave radio. The film's writers at least understood that changing the past would change the present, but there didn't seem to be any consideration of just how much effect such drastic alterations of the timeline would have, as things were by-and-large the same except for a few key points that were central to the story. Maybe I'm wrong in my standpoint - and it's not like we'll probably ever know - but I'm with the classic SF story in which the time traveller steps off the time platform in the distant past, crushes the plant or small animal under his heel, and returns to find that everything has changed! I suppose I have to file this under my growing list of "how time travel works" theories even though Bullet Points is actually a divergent history, not time travel.

Regardless, I like the rest of the package enough to keep buying and reading the remaining 3 issues in the mini-series. I just wish JMS hadn't gone the route he did, flying so fully in the face of what seems like an obvious ripple effect to messing around with historical events.

Tammy Has Arrived... Avec Flu!

We got the pathetic phonecall just after 7:00 this morning, waking us up to hear a weak voice say, "I'm really sick. Can you come help?"

So off Vicki went, and then the pair went to the hospital to get the young patient on an IV, and some gravol into her, before bringing her here and straight to bed. Great start to the holiday for all!

Five Things To Curdle Your Blood

Taking the PJ challenge, here are five things not many people know about me:

1) Although I don't eat cereal very often, when I do, I eat it dry, except when I'm feeling nostalgic and will pour Orange Juice on my Captain Crunch.

2) I once had a cat named Kabooble. Why Kaboodle? When we named her, she was the Kitten Kaboodle! (which only works if you've ever heard of the expression "the whole kit & kaboodle" or would like to read about it here)

3) In a few months, I'll have lived in the house Vicki and I currently own longer than any other place I've ever lived. We moved here in 1998 so clearly there was some moving around in my childhood. Can't move too often when you're on the run from the law, I tell ya!

4) My superpower is that I always know how many days are in each of the 12 months. I know it sounds impressive, but it's really not all that astounding. Oh sure, I could make a lot of money if I put that skill toward criminal ends, but never fear: I only use it for good!

5) I was written up in my local newspaper when I was 17, because I was one of their oldest paperboys and also happened to have a freakishly large comic book collection at the time. And that was when the hot chicks really started beating down my door, as if I needed to point that out!

Quickie Comic Trivia Quiz Answers

Didn't feel like typing these up last night, and besides: the delay provided any takers with a period of time during which they couldn't be tempted to cheat and peek at the answers before thinking through the questions.

Anyway, click on the Comments link below and you'll see the A's to these Q's.

Nocturnal E-missions

It's just past 1:00 am on Saturday morning, and I've given up trying to get to sleep (for awhile, anyway). I tossed and turned for an hour or so and then headed to the basement to find more entertaining missions (or at least, mildly productive ones) for myself.

First I put some paid bills and statements away in the filing cabinet that holds such things, in which the folders, of course, are arranged alphabetically and by type. Then I catalogued the last couple weeks' worth of comic purchases. (Current comic total, according to my Java Inventory System: 26,098.) Next I sorted that pile of 20-ish comics into the order in which I plan to read them: best down to worst. Have I ever mentioned how obsessive I am about sorting things?

And now I've finished playing about 20 minutes of Quake 4, the PC video game I've been working away on for months. I whizzed through some simple parts but then ran into a scene where I'm set upon by several of the game's toughest bad guys, and after dying 5 or 6 times in a row, I decided to leave that mission for the daylight hours.

Soon, I'll give sleeping another shot. Insomnia's a regular vistor to this house; but when I don't have to worry about getting up for work tomorrow (or anytime soon), it's more of an annoyance than a problem. I've long believed that once I stop working, I'll simply get into a pattern where I sleep when I'm tired, and do stuff when I'm not. It's just hard to do that when I'm expected to be up from 7:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night 5 days out of every 7 (which hardly matches my fatigue patterns, unfortunately).

Friday, December 22, 2006

9 Posts In One Day.. Is That A Record?

Actually, I think I did 9 posts once before, although I'm not curious enough to flip back through the dashboard and see if I'm right. Certainly it's a ridiculous volume but I didn't really do any super-long ones today, for a change.

It sounds like we're off to visit friends tomorrow evening and watch another Blu-Ray DVD movie on their PS/3. However, unlike the last visit there, I won't be silently cursing myself for letting 2 units go by the wayside as I enjoy their console. Instead, I'll be gleefully thinking of the fun to come, once Mr Postman delivers his parcel next week (hint, hint).

And at some undetermined point in the day Tammy is coming over to start her holiday-long stay with us, which should bode well for Halo 2, Babylon 5 and who knows what else.

So it remains to be seen if tomorrow will be as prolific as today.

Why blog? (Chapter Nine)

In typing up that last entry, another answer to this eternal question presented itself to me. While I'm not in a position to judge if I'm succeeding or not, I do at least realize that one of my goals with this whole blog experiment is to see if I can take some of the routine, ordinary things that happen in my life and present them in a reasonably entertaining fashion. When I think of something to blog about, I almost never find myself rejecting the notion because I can't think of some way to describe it that's at least interesting to me. Usually ideas get tossed out because they're betraying the confidence of someone at work, hitting a little too close to home, or possibly pushing the limits of good taste.

OK, that good taste reason above was complete and utter bullshit, but you knew that already, didn't you?

Funny Conversation At Work

When someone, at the turkey lunch, asked me whether I was working next week or not, I responded with, "Ah, you haven't been reading my blog, now have you?" Fortunately this was someone I know fairly well, so I wasn't really in jeopardy of hurting her feelings or making her think I was any more of a jerk than she already knows me to be. But it was definitely my natural reaction these days, which is kind of funny on its own! And since I'd just blogged the day before, on my work blog, with an "AgileMan On Vacation Next Week" entry that included the advice:

"If you encounter any Agile emergencies while I'm away, just ask yourself:

What Would AgileMan Do?

(and then do the opposite!)"


it seemed clear to me that this person hadn't been keeping up. Otherwise I'm sure that priceless bit of humour would've stuck in her mind...

Undeterred by my question and tone, she thought for a moment and then said, "Well, I have been, but I've fallen a little behind. But I saw the one about temperatures."

That stumped me for a moment, during which she followed up with, "You know, the one about setting the temperatures in your house."

And then I remembered this post from a couple weeks ago, or nearly 100 entries back!

Which of course left me pondering whether I should tell her that she's missed several tens of thousands of words on that blog in the meantime, or that I've started up a work blog so she's actually behind on two different fronts?

I went for the latter, and saw the look of horror seep into her eyes, which, I have to say, made the whole thing worthwhile!

Somedays it's a wonder I have any friends at all at work...

A Quickie Comic Trivia Quiz

It's been awhile, so here are just a handful of comic head-scratchers.

1) How did Batman's parents die?

2) Who was Peter Parker's first girlfriend?

3) Which hero was always fighting the Melter in the 60s?

4) What colour was Daredevil's original costume?

5) Who were the original 4 members of the Teen Titans, in the story where they used that group name for the first time?

6) Name any four of the six gods who provide their attributes to Billy Batson when he's transformed, via a magic word, into his superheroic form.

Another New Member Joins The Blog Crew!

Another of our number has thrown off the yoke of silence and proclaimed his right to add to the growing din of one handed clapping! No real names will be needed once you visit his site and glom his touque-emblazoned melon, but for now let's just call him cjg, as that's the moniker he's chosen after casting aside the slave name his parents saddled him with.

And yet he seems like such a quiet, withdrawn fellow in person........

PS/3 Has Shipped!

According to the Best Buy site, my PS/3 has "been successfully shipped." At first I thought, "Wha? I haven't received it yet! Who'd they ship it to??" but then realized they merely meant "it's started its long and arduous journey from our carefree bosom to your trembling-with-anticipation and clammy hands..."

And this at least means they didn't change their mind, discover they actually sold more units than they physically had in stock, or decide that my credit card wasn't carrying a large enough balance month-to-month to warrant rewarding me with a new toy.

I remain cautiously optimistic that it'll arrive on one of the three mail delivery days next week (Wed, Thu, Fri). Please feel free to pray along with me for the safe passage of this sacred artifact.

Why blog? (Chapter Eight)

I just thought of another, admittedly tenuous, benefit of blogging.

At times like this, when I'd normally lose touch with all of my co-workers for the very excellent reason that we're taking some time away from work - and even checking work e-mail can be a perilous undertaking at such times - the blogosphere represents a (mostly) non-threatening vehicle by which a few of us may still keep in touch. In other, and hopefully fewer, words: it's another connection between us that may continue even when the work relationship has gone dormant.

Or, at least that's the theory.

Can't... talk... now... too... busy... typing!

PJ has an interesting post stemming from some good-natured ribbing I gave him about his apparent lack of keyboarding proficiency. It turns out that what I'd interpreted as slow typing was actually just distracted, interrupted, or possibly just deeply pensive typing! If it were anyone else, I'd call those excuses; but in his case, it's probably the unvarnished truth.

I got the impression he was super-slow while having a Messenger conversation with him in which the following happened, over and over: I'd send him a question, or make a comment, and I'd immediately see the "so-and-so is writing a message" text show up at the bottom of our conversation window, so that I'd know he was responding.

And then 30 seconds would pass.

And then another 30 seconds would pass.

And I'd start thinking, "Wow, this is quite the novel PJ's writing!"

And then another 30 seconds would pass.

And then I'd get his response: "Yeah, somebody told me about that. Weird, huh?"

And naturally I'd think: he must be the World's Slowest Typist!

But it turns out he just chooses his words carefully. Very carefully. In fact, he probably spends more thought choosing each one of his words, then I do selecting entire paragraphs!!

Which, to anyone who knows me, is hardly news! :-)

Let the Blogfest Begin!

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of our executives at work, the holiday season is now underway (at just past 2:00 pm on Friday)! We were treated to a turkey lunch, some Wii and XBox360 gaming (or spectatorship, depending on your luck) and an early departure!

Ten straight days (plus the rest of today) with no work, no list of chores that need doing, and lots of forms of entertainment... I'm feeling the Christmas spirit!

And for those keeping score, this is blog entry # 341.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Global Warming 'Debate' Continues

From our friends in the UK, comes this report on how record-breakingly warm 2006 was in Britain.

350 years of keeping temperature records, and 2006 was the warmest one ever, with a mean temperature more than 1/5 of a Celsius degree over the previous record! Remembering the stat from that Passionate Eye documentary that said the difference between the last Ice Age and the last Tropical Age (when the area now inhabited by NYC was underwater) was on the order of a mere 4 - 6 Celsius degrees, seeing a rise of 0.21 degrees from a three and a half century long record is terrifying! Or, would be, if I didn't believe we deserve to all be wiped out if we can't even keep from turning our own planet against us!

Nobody Else's Blog Is As Great As Mine

I've lately been sampling a lot of blogs, occasionally as the result of random surfing I've been doing, but more often thanks to being pointed to them by veteran bloggers like PeterJ and the Man from Mars. I enjoy Will "Ensign Crusher" Wheaton's and Eddie "From Hell" Campbell's sites, for example, because each of them post frequently (at least daily) and the majority (but not all) of what they write about is interesting to me. Very few of the rest of the blogs I've been visiting achieve that kind of success on both levels, though certainly some are higher in frequency or more appealing in terms of subject matter (but not both).

But what's become apparent to me over the past three months is that there's only one blog in the entire world that's just exactly the kind that I really love: mine! Rather than kidding myself that this is the result of some hitherto-untapped super-skill on my part, I'm realizing it's simply an extension of a Fact of Life: I prefer my own way of doing things to anyone else's! I'm not sure if that's a universal feeling, or if in fact some people spend large stretches of their lives envying others and wishing they could take their place. Let's see: there's the original Star Trek episode where the nasty female scientist invents the device that can switch you into another body, and she uses it on Kirk because he spurned her years ago and she covets the power he's always demonstrated. And comics are full of body-swapping examples, including villains wanting to have heroes' bodies for various reasons. Even Buffy, She Who Slays Vampires got bumped out of her own bod by Faith, when envy reared its ugly head again. But those are all fiction.

In the real world, I don't know what the norm is. All I know is I'd never trade my current setup for anyone else's, despite there being richer men out there, married to super-models, with the world seemingly on a silver platter. And possibly that's the same reason I keep coming back to the reaction of, "If only this blog I'm visiting were a little more _______ or just a tiny bit less ________." I think I'm expecting them all to feel like mine does to me, which is comfortable and cozy. And that expectation's just plain silly.

On the other hand, if all you bloggers out there could make your blogs more like mine, that'd totally rock!! :-)

Me Like New Writer On Lost

I read with great interest that Ex Machina and Dr. Strange: The Oath writer Brian K. Vaughan has joined the writing staff of Lost. Since I've really enjoyed his work on both those comic titles, I'm hopeful that he'll take my fave TV show to even greater heights! Neither of the other two comic pro's to be involved with Lost - Jeph Loeb and Paul Dini - would be among my favourites, although neither's a bad writer by any stretch. So Vaughan would count as probably the best of that group, in my estimation.

Seems to me we're about a month away from Lost's return, now that I think about it. Maybe it's time to start a countdown?

I May Just Be The Proud Owner Of A 60Gig PS/3

The Scene: A large meeting room at work

The Players: Your Humble Blogger; a dozen or more co-workers, along with many other development partners and customers on the phone; a cadre of agents working in the background, scouring the face of the Earth in search of a PS/3 for yours truly (it seemed)

The Story So Far: Strike 1 and Strike 2 had already been called in my attempts to land my very own PS/3. I was starting to sweat just ever so slightly.

So there I was, in the middle of a rather large conference call, when I notice the in-basket on my laptop starting to fill up with e-mails bearing subjects like "PS/3s available at Future Shop!" from various and sundry co-workers. As subtly as I could, I clicked on the link provided within one of the e-mails, and began reading about a batch of PS/3s that were available for online ordering while supplies last! In the time it took me to read about the offer, though, the "quantity available" display on the page had already refreshed and gone down to zero. So close and yet so far! Was I doomed to never find true happiness?

And then, about 5 minutes later, another wave of e-mails: "PS/3s at Best Buy!!!!" and off I went again. This time, I barely skimmed the page (just enough to confirm it was the 60 Gig model, and note the price) and added one to my cart. Then I started the checkout, sure that everything depended on how quickly I could get through that sucker!!

Several minutes later....

Let me just say that I really hate bad UI's, and this one was a stinker. I naturally had to create an online account first, including name and address and credit card info, which I was able to do pretty quickly (I type faster, and with better accuracy, than anyone I know who isn't an admin assistant). It was interesting pulling out my wallet surreptitiously, so that I could get the credit card info off it, and yet no one seemed to notice. But I missed filling in my phone number, so after clicking "Continue", it informed me of my omission... and cleared out all of what I'd typed! I'm not sure how I concealed my gasp of horror from the throng around me, but somehow I did. I then managed to re-enter all the data again, requiring one more trip into the wallet, and got to the checkout.

By this time, I'm figuring there's zero chance the unit's still reserved for me, but I'd come this far so I might as well click "Order" and receive the "Sorry, that item is no longer available" message.

Instead, miraculously, I got a "Your order is confirmed. Please keep this order number for your records" message! I could scarcely believe my eyes! I quickly typed up an e-mail to Vicki and my boss (the latter of whom was sitting across from me in the meeting) that simply read "Think I just ordered a PS/3 online from Best Buy!" I had to type it out to someone, just to read the words back in the hope that somehow that'd help it sink in.

When the call ended, and the meeting was breaking up, I said, "Well, that was the best meeting ever. I bought a PS/3 online in the middle of it!" And much laughter ensued. (The fact that I work in a company where the news that someone spent a few minutes in an important meeting ordering a gaming console online was a source of amusement and good cheer, speaks volumes for why I'm still there!)

Since then, I've been congratulated by a few, have thanked those who were sending the e-mails, and gotten somewhat over my disbelief. I don't know when I'll receive the little bundle of joy, as I chose the standard shipping - it was the default choice, for Pete's sake! - and I suspect that could mean anything from a couple days to a week or more (given the holiday volumes of mail). When I got home, I had a confirmation voicemail awaiting me, that I had to call back on to complete the transaction (which I've done).

It was certainly one of the more surreal experiences I've had while in a work meeting. And I may still wake up in the morning to realize it was all a dream, but for now: I've lovin' it!