Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What I Did Today (July 31st, 2007 Edition)

Look at this.. another month done! But at least I bucked the recent trend of less and less blogging, as July will weigh in as the second bloggiest month of 2007 for me! Yay! (Vacation time will do that, I guess.)

More napping today, as well as an attempt at starting a longer short story. I only got a few paragraphs written, so it may still all come to naught. Only time will tell.

Vicki spent an hour or more sitting in a stationary train this evening, as her return trip from Toronto was delayed by a fire along the tracks. Eventually she and her co-workers gave up waiting and called a cab to get them the rest of the way home.

I Admire The Honesty, At Least

For those who, like me, found this past season of 24 somewhat... sub-optimal?... please take a moment and enjoy these comments about the producers of the TV show at Comic-Con International last weekend (semi-spoilerish for next season):

"They came in and said they could only say three things about the coming season:

1) It’s set in D.C. rather than L.A.,
2) CTU no longer exists, and
3) Jack starts the season being questioned by a senate subcommittee for something he’s done … or maybe everything he’s ever done?

They also acknowledged that this past season wasn’t up to par with previous ones."

At least that last line's something, for those of us who suffered through all 24 hours!

A Perfect Movie Poster

This, the first Watchmen movie poster, could totally pass as a cover for the original series (except that it isn't)! Nice that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons is playing nicely with director Zack Snyder and the rest of his gang, even if author Moore won't! This is a beautifully-redrawn scene from the first issue, showing a flashback to the attack on the Comedian that happens just moments before the story begins. Good on ya, Mr Gibbons!

Not That Amazed By Amazon Lately

I've generally had pretty good results when ordering stuff from Amazon in the past. I was characteristically nervous about using a purely online service the first time, but as time went on I bought into it more and more (so to speak). The speed with which they got whatever I ordered to me, even with the cheapest delivery option always being selected, was impressive.

Earlier this month, I noticed that Amazon was advertising the new box set (Sojourner) by Magnolia Electric Company as being available July 24th. As far as I knew, the official release date was August 7th, so this was particularly interesting to me. I wondered if possibly they'd gotten a special arrangement that would allow them to make it available to their customers early, and if so, I wanted in on that! So I set up an order, and was informed that the expected delivery date was Jul 27 - Jul 30. Cool!

As we got toward the end of July, I kept checking to see if my MEC bundle of joy had shipped yet, and each day it seemed like they would push the delivery estimate back a day or two. As of today, they've shoved it all the way out to Aug 14 - Aug 17! So much for their initial claim that it would be available July 24th! I'm now at the point where I'm trying to decide if I should cancel the order - along with a clear explanation of how much I don't appreciate being lied to! - and get it directly from Secretly Canadian - MEC's music label - or just leave it as is. It's potentially cheaper from the supplier, although I have to factor in U.S. exchange (which isn't much right now but still isn't $0), shipping and possibly duty. Or is it better to get it from a big name like Amazon, because that makes it more likely they'd carry future MEC merchandise? Decisions, decisions...

Silver Age Comic Trivia XXVI

By what two other names was Bob Cobb better known?

Yesterday's Answer: It was the blue-eyed, bashful Ben Grimm aka the Thing who complained about the world being too small for him when he first appeared in Fantastic Four # 1. I think it had something to do with him busting out of yet another overcoat, or not fitting through a door frame...

Monday, July 30, 2007

What I Did Today (July 30th, 2007 Edition)

Mostly what I did today, was sleep.

The 2 percocets early in the day that made the crater re-dressing bearable also lead to not one, but two daytime naps today - one in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Because of that, the day's mostly a blur.

Ironically, the long-awaited summer weather - sunny, high of 30 degrees Celcius, 0% POP - has finally arrived... just when I can't swim (because of the hole in my back)! That's just the way it goes around here sometimes.

I've read a couple dozen Teen Titans by now and am starting to think in terms of what to read next. It should really be something Marvel, but no good ideas have come to me yet.

According To Google Analytics...

... nobody visited my blog yesterday (July 29th)! Not one person! I find that hard to believe since Vicki actually left a comment on one of the posts, but that's what they're claiming on the site that tracks such things for me.

I've had low site hits before (like, 9 visits) but never ZERO!

Was it the photo of the boil? Did that scare everyone away?

[Update: Now it's saying 25 visitors on July 29th, which is more normal. It must've been having trouble communicating with the Mother Ship when I checked earlier.]

Another One Bites The Dust

One of my favourite interviewers, in my younger years, was Tom Snyder. He had a knack for asking the sort of questions I thought I'd ask if I were in his chair, and for having conversations with his guests, rather than just seeming to read his prompts off of cuecards. And since his original Tomorrow Show aired at 1:00 am when I was a teenager, and I frequently had insomnia even at that age, it was a match made in Sleepless Heaven!

Vicki discovered Snyder at the same time I re-discovered him: when David Letterman brought him to CBS to host the Late Late Show in the 90s. Tom had mellowed a bit by then, and didn't have quite the same bite to his interview style that I'd grown up with. But it was still the best one-on-one show on the air at the time as most programs of that type were really just thinly-disguised promo pieces for books, TV shows or movies.

Today I read that Tom Snyder is dead, at 71. He died of leukemia, and because of that, I suspect his last couple years weren't terribly pleasant. That makes me a little sad, as he'd brought a lot of laughter into my life over the past thirty years.

Rest in peace, Tom Snyder.

BoilBoy - The After Photo

And here's what it looks like after you've had a huge and grotesque boil excised, leaving a lovely crater in its place.

Morning routine now includes tearing off yesterday's bandage (and more of my back hair), removing the foot or so of bloodied packing gauze, irrigating the hole, and then re-packing with fresh gauze under a new bandage. And then usually I have a 2- or 3-hr nap, since the 2 percocets have worked their magic by then. Lovely way to spend a vacation week, eh! I'm just lucky to have Nurse Vicki in my life...

Silver Age Comic Trivia XXV

Whose first published words were, "Bah! Everywhere it is the same! I live in a world too small for me!"?

Yesterday's Answer: The first Silver Age appearance of the Justice Society of America (not to be confused with the Justice League of America, as Vicki apparently did) came in the pages of the Flash comic book. Earth-2, the Silver Age invention which allowed the Golden Age DC heroes to exist without cramping the style of their successors, was introduced in Flash # 123, where we saw that the original Scarlet Speedster, Jay Garrick, was still around, albeit in retirement. Before long, Jay made a return appearance (Flash # 129) and then brought his old gang out of mothballs (Flash # 137), setting up the first historic meeting of the JLA and JSA (JLA # 21 & 22).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lost Panel At Comic-Con International

Interesting tidbits about the future of Lost can be found here, as long as you don't mind the odd spoiler.

I found the following to be one of the most interesting revelations:

"What you saw with Kate and Jack [at the end of season three] is not the end of the show," said Cuse.

"There's this whole chapter of our story that takes place off the island," said Lindelof. "But we couldn't tell that story until we knew an end was coming. Come with us all the way to the end, and it won't be a waste of time."

Ah, Lost... the real head upon which rests the "best show on television" crown!

The Sad State Of DC Comics Editorial

I've written a few posts over the past few months about how it appears as though DC Comics are being edited by monkeys these days, and I don't say such things easily or maliciously. I'm a bigtime, and longtime, fan of DC, and would love to see them kicking Marvel's ass - especially right now - in terms of sales and quality comics. But they've just made so many poor decisions lately that I'm losing confidence in them almost weekly.

I've naturally been following all of the Comic-Con International panel reports coming out of San Diego, and the DC ones are just laughable. When the DC representatives aren't mocking the fans who ask questions or simply ignoring the gist of the queries, they're demonstrating the shockingly poor level of editorial competence at work within their walls recently. From Newsarama:

"A fan asked Dini about Trickster and Piper's role in Flash's death, and why they thought they were innocent in the murder, since it appears that they are helping in beating Bart Allen to death in Flash #13, Dini said that if that was indeed the case, it was a result of miscommunication between the writers."

It's things like that make me wonder if anyone's actually steering that ship anymore. Something as significant as the death of the Flash and it's left up to chance as to whether they get the details right. Isn't that exactly the sort of thing you hire an editor to help with? As someone put it so well awhile back, DC cranks out comics that make no sense or contradict each other, and then they attempt to provide explanations or corrections via comments made during interviews! Is that really any way to run a comic company? It's nice that Executive Editor Dan DiDio can laugh at himself - as in this photo from the Con - but is anything actually being done about the situation? Because DC's on the verge of becoming a laughing stock, which doesn't sit well with this fan at all!

Silver Age Comic Trivia XXIV

In what comic series did the Justice Society of America make their first Silver Age appearance?

Yesterday's Answer: As every school kid knows, the first new Avenger to join after the team was formed in Avengers # 1 was Captain America. Cap was thawed out of the ice, in which he'd floated for twenty years since the final days of World War II, in Avengers # 4. His time thus spent in suspended animation allowed him to remain a twenty-something hero in the 1960s despite having fought in WWII, and presented opportunities aplenty for Stan Lee (and others after him) to tell "fish out of water" storylines in which the wild and crazy culture of the Sixties was played off against the sensibilities of the "old war horse."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

BoilBoy - The Before Photo

This photo doesn't really capture the grotesque hugeness of the boil I had on my back, but at least it gives some indication of what it looked like (think "Devil's Horn" shape, about an inch or so in length, sticking straight out...)

Vicki hopes to get a picture of the "water bottle cap"-sized crater now taking up residence in that area of my back soon.. maybe Monday.

Watchmen Movie Release Date Announced

In all of the exciting news coming out of San Diego right now, I almost missed the fact that Watchmen finally has a release date: March 6, 2009! If that doesn't change, and if the film ends up being at least good, that'd make a great present for me right around my 46th birthday! Admittedly, though, those are a couple very big ifs!

There's also an official website for the movie now, in case anyone besides me is interested. Not much up there so far, but I'm sure it'll get better.

First Dark Knight Trailer Is Out

And you can see it right here on YouTube. It certainly doesn't give anything away but does set the mood appropriately. I like it!

Silver Age Comic Trivia XXIII

Since I'm a little doped up today, here's the easiest question yet: Who was the first non-founding member of the Avengers to join?

Yesterday's Answer: Although readers initially thought it was Saturn Girl who bravely sacrificed herself to bring Lightning Lad back to life, it turned out that it was actually Chameleon Boy's intelligent, telepathic and shape-shifting 'pet', Proty. He'd taken Saturn Girl's place (by tricking her into going somewhere else and then making himself look like her) and then arranged things so that the supposedly-random conditions under which the revival was going to claim its victim would actually 'favour' him. I get a little choked up just thinking about it...

What I Did Yesterday (July 27th Late Edition)

What I did yesterday was, unfortunately, nothing like what I had wanted to do when the day started. In fact, I spent most of my day in various locations within the Emergency Room. (I couldn't help but think of how familiar it all seemed after all those hours of watching E.R. over the past decade.)

I've had a large boil on my back since shortly after my vacation started, and up until Friday Vicki and I had been treating it with the recommended approach: hot compresses, several times a day. Because it's essentially at the level of my shoulder blade, and close to the center of my back, I couldn't really even see it, beyond the odd glimpse I'd manage to catch of it in the mirror when it didn't know I was looking at it. Vicki and Tammy both assured me it was quite something to see, though, and I did eventually persuade Vicki to take a picture of it (photo to follow, when I get a chance!). What I can say with certainty is that it hurt quite a lot, to the point where on Tuesday this week I actually started to get a headache (I don't get headaches!) and I decided on my own that I had to take some acetaminophen tablets (I don't take pain pills!) The pain was fairly easy to understand, though: the skin back there was being stretched awfully thin, considering how huge this thing had become! Over the last several nights, I'd been sleeping fitfully, as of course rolling over onto my back, as I'm wont to do when I'm sawing lumber, inevitably causes sharp pain as I put pressure on this tender red horn sticking out of my back!

On Thursday evening this week we were overjoyed to see that it appeared to have popped, as some small amount of pus was spotted on it at that time. Several hot compresses later, however, it seemed to have sealed up again, and we were no further ahead.

So on Friday I asked Vicki to call our family doctor and see what he had to say. He wanted to see me, so off I cycled downtown, expecting to either have him lance it, or prescribe me antibiotics. Instead, he sent me off to Emerg, where my five hour odyssey would keep me for the rest of the day, and require Vicki to come to pick up both me and my bike.

Several long waits, a blood test, an IV line that never really seemed to work quite right, and a very painful excision surgery later, I was being told that I'd need home care for about a week! (I say the IV didn't work because both the doctor and nurse kept telling me that I shouldn't be feeling the cuts or scrapings, and yet I felt every damned thing they did to me, and was flinching repeatedly. I also never had the woozy feeling they'd told me to expect when the sedative was supposedly given to me.) After cutting the boil out, they packed the area with some sort of material, and then bandaged it up. So apparently that packing material needs to be removed and replaced once a day, which Vicki's going to learn how to do from the home care nurse who's coming by today. And I'm on percocet and an antibiotic for the next several days. (Two of the percocets, it turns out, numb me completely and make me want to sleep, as I found out when I took them around 8:00 pm last night. Taking just one, on the other hand, dulls the pain moderately but didn't appear to make me drowsy, as I was awake for most of last night. In both cases, they only last about 4 hours. And they only prescribed me 30!) Needless to say, all of that made for a very long day - not exactly how I'd choose to spend a vacation day - and one that I'm glad to have behind me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Silver Age Comic Trivia XXII

Who gave their life to bring deceased Legionnaire Lightning Lad back to life?

Yesterday's Answer: The Letter's Page for Silver Surfer was called Who Speaks for the Surfer? And yes, each comic series did have its own unique name for this section. And yes, those names do sometimes show up as trivia questions in this competition! It's the one category that I've pretty much owned each time it comes up. (Go ahead... quiz me on it! I'll answer as best I can without looking anything up!)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What I Did Today (July 26th, 2007 Edition)

Today we actually got a little bit of the rain that seems to be in the forecast every day but which rarely seems to actually materialize. I can't remember the last time we had so many days in July in which precipitation was being predicted so regularly. How's a guy to ever hang out laundry to dry if it always looks like we're going to get rain (never mind that more often than not, we don't!)?

This was my 2nd big cycling day this week, as today I headed downtown for lunch with Vicki once again. Through my first three weeks of vacation, I've managed to hit my target of two full bike rides each week, although I've yet to exceed it (which I had sort of hoped to do). When I read about co-worker Jamie and his bike trip around Lake Superior, I'm appropriately humbled.

Tonight Vicki and I finished the chore that Tammy and I had started on Tuesday, which was the full-scale replacement of the pool's solar blanket, roller and all. All that remained was the purchase of a new solar blanket and its attachment to the new roller, but that still occupied a significant amount of our time after Vicki got home (I'd purchased the blanket this afternoon but hooking it up was rife with trial and error attempts, in order to get the straps and clasps all correct). But at least now that's done, and we're good to go (for another couple years).

I also did something tonight I haven't done in years: I wrote, and sent, an e-mail to a comic letter's page! So few comics even have letter's pages anymore, and fewer still prompt me to send in any comments. Whenever Paul Chadwick produces a new Concrete mini-series, I always produce a letter for each one, because I absolutely love the way he does the letter's page himself and will actually discuss meaningful topics there. (I've also had several letters published in Concrete, as well as receiving preview copies of issues occasionally.) But sadly there hasn't been any new material for that series in awhile, and nothing's on the horizon. However, I did get my first new issue of Nexus in almost a decade a couple weeks ago, and that's nearly as cool! It's self-published by the artist, Steve Rude, and I figure he'd probably appreciate hearing from the readers more than most, these days. Hence the letter (which was mercifully brief, by my standards).

Other than all of the above, the day was spent reading Teen Titans as well as the tons of news coming out of Comic-Con International, in San Diego. I expect that latter activity will be even greater tomorrow, as the Con gets into full swing.

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that I've now unfortunately passed the halfway mark of my vacation. I wouldn't say any sort of depression has set in yet, but I also don't expect it'll be that long in coming. And the nearly-complete lack of comments from the Peanut Gallery doesn't help, either!

Finished Season One Of The Wire And It Was... OK

That was pretty much the consensus reaction from both of us: we'd watch the second season of The Wire if it fell in our laps (for example, was on free TV), but we didn't really care enough about it that we'd go out of our way to track it down or, God forbid, buy it on DVD! That puts it below Battlestar Galactica, which we are planning to buy the 3rd season of, as soon as it goes on sale. And it's nowhere nearly as popular in this household as other contemporaries like Lost, Heroes or 30 Rock.

I guess that I'd conclude that the folks who think The Wire is the "best show on TV" must really, really love their procedurals... or else they just can't get enough foul language at their local gym! Having a realistic portrayal of something isn't necessarily enough to turn my crank, when it comes to fiction, and while I found that the characters did grow on me - kudos to the writers for that! - I still wasn't terribly invested in most of them by the end of the season.

I also have to wonder why buddy Tim could've possibly named the end of Season One as his favourite cliffhanger, when there's... actually... no cliffhanger at all! Everything's pretty much wrapped up, albeit not to the main characters' satisfaction. Sure, I could see how the writers could pick up from that point and tell more stories with that same cast, but cliffhangers usually have you sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens next, and there's nothing like that here. I guess love really is blind...

Anyway, it was enjoyable enough to watch, and we thank Tim for the loan of the DVDs! If he happens to buy more seasons, we'd happily give them a gander... or just as easily not.

Silver Age Comic Trivia XXI

What was the name of the letter's column for the Silver Surfer?

Yesterday's Answer: The Challengers of the Unknown were "Prof" Haley, "Red" Ryan, "Ace" Morgan and "Rocky" Davis. The four men all walked away from a plane crash without sustaining any injuries, and hence concluded that they were living on borrowed time. Believing that they were thus in "bonus time", they banded together to form the Challs, who would take on whatever dangerous adventures needed tackling.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What I Did Today (July 25th, 2007 Edition)

Yikes, it's time for bed already!

I was so wiped today, after getting up with Vicki and Tammy around 7:30, that I laid down on the upstairs bed, beside one of the cats, around mid-day, and the next thing I knew it was 2 hours later!

Other than napping, I biked to get comics (18 of them!), read some Teen Titans, had a lovely post-cycling swim, and posted a few times on this here blog!

That is all!

A Call For Movie Thrillers

Some official-looking casting news for several of the lead roles in the Watchmen movie were announced/confirmed today:

1) Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach

2) Billy Crudup as Doctor Manhattan

3) Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II

4) Matthew Goode as Ozymandias

5) Patrick Wilson as Night Owl II

6) Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian

I don't know enough about any of those actors to have any sort of reaction beyond, "Well, they're certainly not loading the movie down with big names!" and "I hope they're up to the job!"

But thinking about this put my mind down the path of how much more information comes out now about movies, even before they begin filming, compared to even fifteen or twenty years ago! While we still have the odd exceptional case like "Cloverfield 1-8-08", the vast majority of releases get covered to death in the months and sometimes even years leading up to their debut. And that wasn't always the way.

I've railed in recent years against trailers for comedies (or even dramadies) that give away all the best lines before the launch date! Then there're the suspense yarns where you're pretty sure you know at least the first half of the plot just from the trailers alone, which I always hate. I guess, because they keep doing it, that strategy must work to pull people into the theatre. But it also devalues the experience of actually seeing the movie for the first time and hearing the great jokes or seeing the story unfold in context. By contrast - and I can't remember where I saw this done - occasionally trailers will actually show scenes that aren't in the film, but which feature its characters and perfectly communicate the feel of the story. That's an intriguing idea.

Which lead me to think about how easy that would be to do for Watchmen. With 12 issues of plot, characterization and mood, totaling something like 400 pages, there are clearly going to be lots of parts excised, either at the screenplay stage, or on the proverbial cutting room floor. What I'd love to see Zack Snyder and group do is figure out a few emblematic scenes that they don't believe will be in the final product, and go ahead and shoot them anyway, specifically for usage in a trailer! (With as much green screen work as I suspect they'll be doing, it's not like this would have to be ridiculously expensive.) For those who know the comic, imagine if any of the following vignettes weren't going to be in the movie but instead were used in ads leading up to the release date:

1) The flashback scene from the period just prior to the Keene Act (banning vigilantes) getting passed, when Night Owl and the Comedian are dealing with the angry crowds of American civilians, and Night Owl asks, "Whatever happened to the American Dream?" to which the Comedian sagely replies, "What happened to it?? It came true! You're lookin' at it!"

2) The image of a giant, 100-ft tall Doctor Manhattan strolling through the rice paddies of Vietnam, in the late 60s, pointing his finger and bursting Viet Cong into flame on the ground below him, or the Comedian getting his face slashed by the Vietnamese girl he's impregnated (although that's more likely to be in the finished product, as explanation for his ugly scar).

3) Rorschach interrogating the riff raff in the bar, breaking someone's finger each time he believes they've lied to him.

4) Some sort of montage from Mars, where Doctor Manhattan sits, holding the picture of him (as Jon Osterman) and Janey Slater from the Fair, and lets the picture fall to the red dust at his feet. This could be done really well, where the action flows forwards and backwards, photo falling and then returning to his fingers as we see scenes from his early days.

Any one of those would make for an absolutely thrilling teaser for the movie, providing a good idea of what it's going to be like in terms of plot and tone, without actually giving anything away. And fans would not only go to see it in the theatre, but be desperate to own the DVD as well, so they'd have that "extra scene" that was in the trailer (before they knew it wasn't in the film). That's what I'd love to see... (you listening, Zack Snyder?)

Han Really Did Shoot First!

Courtesy of Aint It Cool News, here's a lovely little article which makes great hay out of a photo of George Lucas wearing a "Han Shot First" T-shirt!

(This Pop Culture Reference was first covered here back in January for those with short memories or even-shorter attention spans...)

While I've Been Away

Through various sources who just can't stop themselves from "talking shop" with me while I'm trying to not think work thoughts at all, I've learned of some of the more significant developments that have occurred, or are occurring, during my vacation.

At least one person I know somewhat well has quit, and will be gone by the time I return.

A member of our blogosphere has decided to leave his QA cronies behind and is moving to the Project Management Office.

One of the longest-running Agile issues that we've struggled with, "Keep the Mainline Green", has risen from its own ashes once again, and is about to be given a fresh once-over.

It's funny, but all of that just seems like "stuff that's happening to other people" right now. And I guess that's a good thing.

Silver Age Comic Trivia XX

Name the four men, each living on borrowed time, who comprised the Challengers of the Unknown.

Yesterday's Answer: In what must've surely felt like a classic 'bait & switch' move, Marvel Comics released the first two issues of Fantastic Four at 10 cents each, before unceremoniously jacking the cost up a whopping 20 percent for issue # 3! The only consolation would've been that the other comic companies - notably DC - were doing the same thing. But it's still always struck me as odd that someone would launch a brand new line of comics and then almost immediately increase the price!

Gotta Love The Internet!

This morning I happened to stumble upon a 'new' (to me, anyway) feature of IMDB: the FAQ section relating to a film! The one they were highlighting today was for John Carpenter's The Thing, which just happens to be one of my Top 20 or so favourite movies. I had a great time reading through the Frequently Asked Questions and the answers that had been cobbled together by various fans of the flick. Almost every question tackled in there is one that I'd pondered during one of my many viewings of this great Sci Fi/Horror gem!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What I Did Today (July 24th, 2007 Edition)

It was a Tammy-filled day, as expected, and a very nice one! She and I put together a new solar blanket holder that I'd had in the basement since last summer, and watched the final three Babylon 5 episodes (like JMS, I can't get through "Sleeping in Light" without significant waterworks). Then we made dinner so Vicki wouldn't have to!

I only got one issue of Teen Titans read, but it's back at it bigtime tomorrow! Only two and a half weeks until the Trivia Panel!

Marvel May Never Surprise Us Again

Thanks to Blog@Newsarama, I visited this blog in which the blogmaster asks his trusty Magic Eightball to reveal which Marvel heroes are Skrulls, and which are not!

And ain't nobody gonna tell me that the Magic Eightball lies, you hear what I'm sayin'?

Silver Age Comic Trivia XIX

Not too terribly long after Marvel Comics launched their superhero line with Fantastic Four # 1, priced at 10 cents, the company followed the industry lead and went to 12-cent comics. How many issues of Fantastic Four were in fact sold for 10 cents?

Yesterday's Answer: Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen operated as Agent Double-5, which stemmed from the number of letters in his first and last names (J-I-M-M-Y O-L-S-E-N). What was his name again? "Olsen, Jimmy Olsen!"

Monday, July 23, 2007

What I Did Today (July 23rd, 2007 Edition)

As the Middle Week (Week 3) of my vacation gets underway, it's the same old, same old. I started reading Teen Titans today, in preparation for the Silver Age Trivia Panel next month, and got about six issues covered. I also got in a 20-minute bike ride, just around our neighbourhood, as well as an afternoon swim... and finished Motherless Brooklyn.

Tammy's here for a visit now, through Wednesday morning, so I expect to be busy watching the last few Babylon 5 episodes with her (we started down this path... maybe two years ago?) as well as playing some more Marvel Ultimate Alliance in Co-op mode (she and I finished the game tonight but there are lots of mini-missions left to play). It's good to be on vacation!

Things To See In Chicago This Year

Tricia Helfer, who plays Number Six on Battlestar Galactica, is one of the special guests at WizardWorld Chicago this year. Last year we got to see Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) who'd I never seen in person before, and in previous trips we've been lucky enough to see, listen to, and often even speak to luminaries like J Michael Straczynski, Harlan Ellison, Erica Durance, Neil Gaiman, Walter Koenig (Chekov/Bester), Kevin Smith, and Patricia Tallman ("Lyta" on Babylon 5), among many others. It's one of the neat perks of the experience that we always seem to add someone new, each year, to our "brushes with famous people" list. I'm hoping that the lovely Ms Helfer gets added this year, but we'll have to see how accessible she is, as often the TV folks require hours of lining up to see.

Watchmen Movie Casting Rumours Soon To Be Confirmed?

This past weekend saw a couple new rumours about Watchmen cast members burst into flower in the Information Super Garden that we've all come to know and love. It sounds like official announcements should be coming out of the San Diego Comic-Con this week, so I guess we won't have much longer to wait on this front.

I'm still not convinced this movie will ever happen, but announcements of actors and actresses being signed to play specific roles in it would certainly be a significant step in the right direction!

Silver Age Comic Trivia XVIII

We all know that, in the TV show Get Smart, Maxwell Smart was Agent 86, and his lovely partner - played by Barbara Feldon - was Agent 99. In that same vein, Jimmy Olsen had a secret agent number. What was it?

Yesterday's Answer: In something of a trick question - asked at the Chicago Trivia Panel several years ago - the person who made her debut with the words, "The little lady has a name, Flash" was not in any way related to DC's Fastest Man Alive (as you might reasonably expect)! Instead, it was one of my favourite characters in the Marvel Universe, Miss Gwen Stacy, speaking to Peter Parker's longtime high school nemesis, Flash Thompson! (Anyone who's picked up on the fact that I've been strictly alternating between DC and Marvel questions each day would've realized that, of course!)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Who Really Owns Art?

For a variety of reasons, novelist Jonathan Lethem has been attracting a lot of my attention lately. There's the fact that I'm reading his novel, Motherless Brooklyn, after thoroughly enjoying my first exposure to his work last year, in the form of another of his books, The Fortress of Solitude. Then there's the interview published this weekend on Newsarama in which Lethem talks about his upcoming comic work, reimagining the mid-70s Marvel Comics series, Omega the Unknown. In that interview, he's asked about the controversy surrounding that assignment, as comic writer Steve Gerber, who co-created Omega back in 1975, doesn't believe his character should be worked on by anyone but him. This, of course, is a position with no legal standing, since Gerber - like everyone else working within the Marvel Universe then, as now - did his creative magic under a Work-Made-For-Hire contract, meaning that he relinquished all rights to whatever he produced each time he accepted a paycheque. However, as we've seen in the previous cases of Siegel and Shuster (vis-a-vis the creation of Superman) and others, it's not completely unheard of for a big comic publisher to do something in recognition of the contribution of a writer or artist, regardless of the legal necessity of it. Public Relations can, as happened with the Superman-men, play a part in loosening up purse strings. So it would only be unlikely, not unprecedented, if Marvel had taken it upon themselves to nix the Lethem series, or at least attempt to involve Gerber in some capacity. (Nothing of the sort has happened, to date.)

Author Lethem, meanwhile, has thus been cast in the role of "intellectual property plunderer" by Gerber, despite Omega and his supporting cast being wholly and completely owned by Marvel Comics, Lethem's employer in the endeavour! (Funny that I hadn't thought to consider this scenario when I wrote, awhile back, about how the infusion of outside talent was helping to raise the bar within comics these days!)

As I continued to dig deeper into Lethem's background and newsworthiness, I discovered that this is in fact quite an appropriate scandal for him to be at the center of! He happens to be a very vocal proponent for a much more open interpretation of intellectual ownership. He wrote a very long, very fascinating article in Harper's Magazine (which you can read here) on this topic, as well as starting up his own Promisculous Materials project, whereby he has made some of his very short stories - or simply ideas for short stories - available to anyone who wants to adapt them into another form (play, movie, comic book, etc), free of charge. He's doing this, he says, because art should be shared, and adapted, and built upon, and the contributions of many are greater than the effort of one. (That's me, paraphrasing. He says it better in any of the links above.) It looks like he's also sold the movie rights to his latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, for a single dollar, with the stipulation that he get paid the equivalent of 2 percent of the film's budget, if it actually gets made and distributed.

Throughout all of that reading, I kept coming back to the central question in my mind, which was: How much of this do I really agree with? Among his arguments in the Harper's article is that copying music or a film electronically is perhaps no worse than lending someone a book you own, which I've never believed to be true. I think that each artist - in whatever medium he or she works, such as music, TV, movies, comics, paintings - should own the rights to their work, to the extent that they feel is appropriate, for a reasonable - but not unlimited - time after creating it. Lethem certainly makes a good case for how some art has actually suffered from being over-restricted whereas other examples have flourished in the popular mind thanks to parodies or near-plagarism of them. But I still fall on the side of believing that's up to the artist to decide, not the people who want to steal, copy or simply enjoy-without-payment the work itself. An author like Lethem can make some of his work available in that way, and that's a good thing. But by the same token, if last season's American Idol winner (I have no idea whether that was a man or a woman, nor do I care!) wants to record a CD of his or her own music, and demand that anyone who wants to own a copy pay $50 for the privilege, I think that's just fine. If it's worth $50 to you, then buy it; if not, forget about it and listen to something else instead - maybe something that's free because the artist just wants it out there, or music that's worth the $1/song that you paid for it. You don't get to forego the price tag that the artist set just because you disagree with it, anymore than you get to stay in a hotel for free simply because you think $200/night is too steep a price.

I love that the Internet has loosened up the grip that big business used to have on video (cable companies, movie studios & theatres, distributors), music (record labels) and even comics (publishers), because of the opportunity it affords Joe or Jane Q. Public to get their work out to a potentially wide audience without having to sell some jaded executive on the notion that it'll be the "next big thing." That's the Light Side of what's happening, I think. The Dark Side is that people are slowly being trained to believe that Everything Should Be Free, which in this particular context is such a derogatory stance to take toward artists and their work. We haven't - yet! - gotten to the point where a reasonable citizen thinks that their shoes, cars, or big screen TVs shouldn't cost anything to own (although that may only be because no one's figured out a way to electronically copy them) but we're definitely fast approaching that point with 'software'. Lethem doesn't seem to think that's a problem, and that's really where I think he and I part company.

But he certainly has an interesting view on all of this, and has given me more to think about on the topic. Visit the links included above if you're similarly intrigued.

Silver Age Comic Trivia XVII

Whose first published words were "The little lady has a name, Flash!"?

Yesterday's Answer: It was the Sixties, so of course there had to be a villain called the Mad Mod! And since the all-sidekicks superhero group, The Teen Titans, was among the most desperately-hip of that period, it made perfect sense for them to be the ones who'd routinely face his Modness. (As far as I know, no Rampaging Rocker showed up to balance him out...)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Silver Age Comic Trivia XVI

Which Silver Age superhero group counted the Mad Mod among their rogues gallery?

Yesterday's Answer: In Silver Surfer # 2, a comic I practically read the cover off of back in my childhood, the lizard-like Badoon came to Earth with conquest on their minds. They had an invisibility device that allowed both them and their space craft to avoid human detection, but the Surfer, whose eyes could spot a grain of dust within the vast expanse of space, was able to see them (thank Goodness, as otherwise we'd all be living under Badoon-rule now!)

Friday, July 20, 2007

He Will Be Missed

Frequent visitor Boneman has headed to Cottage Land for the next week, so that's one less person available to make valiant guesses at the daily Silver Age Comic Trivia. Not that I'd expect any of the rest of you to take up the slack or anything, but I just thought I'd mention it.

What I Did Today (July 20th, 2007 Edition)

Today was a great day (other than the whole losing-our-supply-of-water thing) as I got everything done that I'd hoped for at the start of the day!

Nothing too exciting was accomplished, but I finished the Silver Surfers I wanted to read and got the notes I'd made on them typed up, did some household chores so they won't be waiting for me over the weekend, biked downtown and had lunch with Vicki, got a swim in, and even read a graphic novel that I've had hanging around for over a month now (Eddie Campbell's The Black Diamond Detective Agency). I could really get used to this life of leisure, you know?

Dry As A Bone

We are, it appears, completely without tap water at Casa Kimota right now. Someone around the crescent from us must've burst a water main, because there've been heavy machines going to and fro all afternoon (I thought nothing of it) and now Vicki's discovered our pipes are just sucking air!

Fortunately we had lots of bottled water on hand, as otherwise we weren't getting spaghetti for dinner! The prognosis we got, when we called to enquire, was that service should be resumed sometime this evening. Or not (since we know how often estimates are actually met!)

One Less Crybaby In The League

TSN is reporting (via the Canadian Press) that former Ottawa Senator and New York Islander Alexei Yashin has signed a one-year contract to play in Russia in 2007/08. This comes not long after Yashin and his agent were in the news complaining about the low-ball offers that he'd been receiving from NHL clubs. Nice to see that the collective intelligence of the NHL GMs came through, for once! Here's hoping he never makes it back to our game, considering what a disappointment and negative factor he's been over his career. (Too bad he still made out like a bandit, financially, though... including having his final four years of a 10-year, $87.5 million contract bought out.)

Now if only Lindros will retire...

Silver Age Comic Trivia XV

What was the name of the alien race that the Silver Surfer encountered as they invisibly spied on Earth, preparing to launch an invasion here?

Yesterday's Answer: In a situation that fans still shake their heads over, Barry Allen married longtime sweetheart Iris West without telling her that he was also the Flash! Talk about building a marriage on a shaky foundation! He delayed telling her because he was concerned about whether they'd be able to have children or not - what with his changed physiology - and wanted to be able to provide the answer at the same time that he revealed the big secret (some might argue that would've been cause for delaying the wedding!). At any rate, unbeknownst to Barry, he had a tendency to talk in his sleep, and so Iris put it all together on their wedding night, as he mumbled things like, "Must eventually tell Iris I'm the Flash" and "You won't get away this time, Captain Cold!" (OK, I made those up. But you get the general idea.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

That Feeling, Like When No One Remembers Your Birthday

While I haven't thought much about work during the first couple weeks of vacation, it did sadden me that the first anniversary of Agile came and went unmarked this past Tuesday. (We kicked off our Agile Feature Teams on July 17, 2006 in a big way.) I'd known I was going to be off when it rolled around, but I'd sent an e-mail to a group of executives about a month ago, in the hopes that something would be arranged, and had even promised to show up if anything was set up. Obviously there are bigger fish to fry for those folks than celebrating a silly milestone, but still it's a bit of a letdown.

I guess it's my fault, as had I been there, I could've made sure some sort of celebration was held. What kind of Agile Manager is on vacation for the first anniversary of going Agile, anyway? Oh wait, now I remember: the kind who didn't take any weeks off last summer because it was all starting up then! Oh well. Back to not thinking about work, I go.

What I Did Today (July 19th, 2007 Edition)

Well, after being awake for a good part of the night (I was overdue for a bout of insomnia) I lustily slept in until nearly 11:00 this morning! We didn't get the rain that was forecast but it was overcast for most of the day, so I didn't even bother uncovering the pool (removing the solar blanket) or turning on the pump.

It was a good day for reading Silver Surfers, though, as I went through almost all of the remaining issues. Amazingly, I think there are issues in that run that I've literally only read once before, which is quite an oddity for comics from that period, especially when you consider that # 2 had been read by me so many times that the cover had come loose! I only have a few left to go, and I'll finish those up tomorrow as well as figuring out what stack to bring up next.

Somewhere in the late afternoon I found a couple hours to play some more Marvel Ultimate Alliance and mostly just made Spider-Man more powerful (Cap, Thor, Storm and Wolverine are already maxed out in terms of discretionary spending). I've decided that our core team should be those five plus maybe one or two others, but haven't figured out yet who'd be coolest to finish out the group. Maybe Ghost Rider? Silver Surfer? Iron Man? It's too bad they don't have the Squadron Supreme members as unlockables, because then I could create my own pseudo Marvel/DC crossover! As it is, some members of the Imperial Guard appear as villains in the game, and they're of course copies of the 1970s version of the Legion of Super-Heroes (so another pseudo DC group in the Marvel Universe).

I also spent way too much time writing my blog post about Favourite TV Shows but it was such fun that I don't regret it at all! Strangely, there've been exactly zero comments on that one so far, where I expected to get a firestorm of responses. Is everyone otherwise-engaged tonight?

Death To Junk Mail

An e-mail thread came to me a month or so ago, via Vicki and other nefarious stops. It was loosely attributed to Andy Rooney (in the Subject, at least) but the gist of it was that people who say they hate junk mail (and telemarketers) have some simple options open to them to show their disgust. The one that really jumped out at me was the notion that, when you receive unsolicited crap in the mail that includes a postage-paid return envelope, use it! Cram it full of whatever paper they sent you, or other unwanted stuff that arrived in your mailbox, as long as it doesn't have your name on it. Part of the rationale for doing this is that the sender only ends up paying postage on those envelopes if you return them, so why not make it more expensive for them to waste your time? Plus of course it makes work for the Post Office, which is a good thing (hey, I like the Post Office, even if they won't offer a cheap way to add a tracking number to a light package!)

Anyway, I think this week I'm going to put this into practice. I've gotten two pieces of junk mail so far that look like viable candidates: a financial service that wants me to join up with them - despite me never expressing any interest in it - and a dating service that thinks I - or my wife! - may be just the sort of person they're looking to help! I won't use this response for charities, as I think they're at least trying to do good work... but the for-profit jackasses that keep mailing us stuff we don't want had better watch out! I'm about to hit them where it hurts (or where it would hurt, if more people did the same).

Favourite TV Shows

Some of buddy Tim's comments (regarding my thoughts on The Wire TV show) got me thinking about trying to build a "20 Favourite TV Shows" list.

Unlike some other categories I've tackled in the past, like comics, movies or albums, this one's kind of tricky. For one thing, those other interests are more easily re-visited on a regular basis. So, for example, I'm fairly sure that I still consider The Day The Earth Stood Still to be a great film, having seen it many times, including in the last five years (on DVD). But most TV shows get watched once while they're on, and then rarely seen again unless you stumble on them in syndication somewhere (which is certainly possible, but not something I do much of).

So I decided that I'd probably end up with different groups of shows, and then - someday - I could build my list from that. Here are the categories I thought of:

1) The No-brainers. These are the ones that I don't even have to think about. It's a small list: The Dick Van Dyke Show (Rob & Laura Petrie), Babylon 5, The Rockford Files, Lost (so far) and Star Trek (original series). With the exception of Lost, all of those are series that have long since wrapped up, and have been watched by me in re-runs enough times for me to believe they've stood the test of time, and remain personal favourites.

2) The Probably, But Haven't Seen Them Recently Enough. On this list would be shows like Barney Miller, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hill Street Blues, All in the Family, and St. Elsewhere. I certainly loved them big-time when they were originally on, but are they more likely to induce newfound appreciation, or cringes, if I watched them today?

3) The Possibly, But Can I Ignore The Last Season Or Two? We've all loved some of these, I'm sure, and then been embarrassed when they stayed on the air just a little too long. I'm looking at you, Cheers, The X-Files, 24, E.R., Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Simpsons and Frasier.

4) Those That Should Be Considered But May Be Flashes In The Pan. These are some of the more recent (for us, anyway) shows like Buffy, Firefly, Heroes and 30 Rock that haven't yet had to stand the test of time, but possibly will. I think what I'd do with this group is simply gauge how much I enjoy them at the time of making the list, and acknowledge that they may slide over time.

5) The Guilty Pleasures. This would be the "just shut the Hell up and don't ask me to defend them" group, with titles like The Six Million Dollar Man, Columbo and MacMillan & Wife. This is, after all, a "favourite" list I'm making up, not my idea of what constitutes "the best!"

6) The Forgotten Ones. Whenever I build a list of faves I always overlook some gems, so for once I'm going to set aside a slot for those to go in, as I'm reminded of them. Empty to start, of course. :-)

In looking over the above groupings, I notice I've got just over 20 TV shows listed. Even assuming The Forgotten Ones gets a few members as I think about (and hear about) this some more, it may not be all that hard to prune the collection down to a manageable twenty. Maybe that'll be something for next week?

Silver Age Comic Trivia XIV

Barry Allen married Iris West without telling her that he was the Flash, but eventually broke the news to her - a year later! She'd actually figured it out on their wedding night, though... how?

(And yes, feel free to insert your favourite Fastest Man Between the Sheets jokes here!)

Yesterday's Answer: Bull Brogin, "Handsome" Harry Phillips and Yogi Dakor were recruited by Dr Doom as the Terrible Trio who could take down the Reed Richard-less Fantastic Four after a disagreement about leadership had prompted Mr Fantastic to (temporarily) abandon the others. Each of the three crooks had their natural abilities augmented by Doom, such that rough-houser Brogin could take on the Thing, Phillips' good looks could potentially woo Sue Storm into a trap, and Dakor's imperviousness to flame would allow him to defeat the Human Torch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What I Did Today (July 18th, 2007 Edition)

Hmmmmm, what did I do today? Let's see...

Read a bunch of great Silver Surfers...

Cycled downtown to chat with my boss and pick up comics...

Managed to get two swims in (one before lunch, and one after cycling home) despite the crappy forecast...

And that's about it! All in all, a pretty good day!


"Driving 'round the city rings
Staring at the shape of things
I talk in pictures not in words
Overloaded with everything we said
be careful where you tread
Watch the wire"

- Peter Gabriel, "... And Through The Wire", Peter Gabriel 3

Vicki and I have now watched the first seven episodes of The Wire Season One, which was lent to us on DVD by buddy Tim. I suspect he's waiting with bated breath to hear how we're liking it, so I might as well give some early thoughts. After all, he was nice enough to do us the kindness of the DVD loaner.

It's definitely an interesting program. I think the more you like procedurals, the more you'll enjoy it. In other words, if seeing every little detail that goes into something like the drug operation investigation shown in The Wire is your idea of a great time, you'll be all over this. And I suppose Vicki and I do have some love for that genre, as we've been faithfully watching Law and Order (the original series) since Tammy first got us into it more than a decade ago, as well as CSI. Anyone who has no patience for that sort of thing, though, is probably going to be asking, "Why the Hell isn't more happening?" by about the second or third hour!

And by the way, that preceding exclamation would be several shades milder than just about anything said on The Wire! It regularly turns the air blue with the amount of profanity that's employed by every single character on the show, to the point where it really starts to seem ridiculous at times. The scene in which two of the central characters re-examine a murder scene from six months earlier, and realize that it was completely mishandled by the incompetent boob who initially wrote it up, is completely dialogue-free, if you don't count the word "fuck" and all its many variations. I'm sure the writer(s) thought this was very clever, but all I could think about as we watched it was that it seemed really stupid that the two detectives were using profanity at a time when a brand new avenue was opening up in something that had previously looked like a dead-end. It played very 'written' and completely took me out of the scene. And that tends to happen a lot on this show, as the most incidental character shows up briefly, shows off his - or her! - ability to swear creatively, and then exits again. It's probably the worst aspect of the series for me... not because I mind profanity, but because it's so clearly over-the-top. If that's faithful to the way Baltimore cops actually talk - and I have no reason to doubt it - do I really care? The fact that no one I know uses even 1/10th that many "fucks" in conversation, and that anyone using the kind of descriptive insults that lace every episode - most especially by the cops! - would be sued for workplace harassment in a heartbeat, makes it all seem very unreal.

On the other hand, the character development on the show is great, as each person - so far - has turned out to be more than he or she initially seemed to be. That's one of my favourite aspects of Lost, and I really like it here, too. Returning to the comparison of The Wire to Law and Order, one of the biggest differences is in this area, since L&O almost always concerns itself with the crime and the criminals, with little or no attention paid to the regulars. While there are certainly no shortage of unlikable characters in The Wire, at least they're all fleshed out well instead of being simple cardboard cutouts of "the drug dealer", "the drunk cop", "the redneck" and so on. I think without this going for it, we'd both probably have given up on the show by now.

Overall, and with 2/3 of the season still unwatched, I'd say we're liking it quite a bit. Tim likes to call it "the best show on TV" and I'm sure it is.. for him. It must have just the right ingredients for what he's looking for in a great show, whereas I think Vicki and I would, at most, call it a "very good show." Nothing I've seen so far makes me think it'll knock Lost off the top of my list, or even compete with Heroes, 30 Rock or Babylon 5 (from days gone by). But I can definitely see it maybe making it onto my Top 20 list, if it keeps going strong.

One For ChessMaster Hinckley

Despite the fact that he could be dead for all that I ever hear from him anymore, this one's for Hinckley! (Pointed to by Wil Wheaton's blog.)

One Good Thing Leads To Another

As I lovingly work my way through the late-60s Silver Surfer issues (just read #s 1 - 3), I saw an ad - or advert, as the British say! - for a gem that somehow got missed when I was doing my "Favourite Comic Cover" posts around the end of last year. This classic cover, showing the original Avengers (on the right hand side) about to tussle with the then-current version of the team, still gives me goosebumps. The interior story doesn't quite live up to the cover... but oh boy, what an image adorned Avengers Annual # 2!

(And I also saw an ad for another Annual from around the same time, but that one hadn't slipped my mind previously.)

Silver Age Comic Trivia XIII

Under what group name did Bull Brogin, "Handsome" Harry Phillips and Yogi Dakor operate?

Yesterday's Answer: Aquaman's father was of course Tom Curry, lighthouse keeper (not to be confused with 'light housekeeper,' which would be something entirely different!). Tom had a son with Atlanna, citizen of undersea Atlantis, whom they named Arthur Curry (later to be known as Aquaman). This dual heritage explains why Aquaman is able to breathe both water and air, as well as some of his affinity for denizens of the deep. After Atlanna died, Tom married a land lubber and they had a son, named Orm. As an adult, Orm would demonstrate his jealousy toward his half-brother Arthur by becoming his arch foe, the Ocean Master.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What I Did Today (July 17th, 2007 Edition)

Today... was a rainy day! It rained for most of the day, clearing up around noon just long enough for me to go out and have a twenty minute bike ride in the hopes of keeping my cycling muscles from atrophying completely during this vacation. More of the same sort of wetness is currently forecast for tomorrow, and the next day, which is kind of unusual for July in these parts. I don't mind it that much, as it's not like I'm paying thousands of dollars to be at a resort somewhere - only to have it rain! - but it'd be nice to get back to sunshine sometime soon!

I mostly just goofed around today (even more than usual). I played a couple hours of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, but did it with a heating pad on my back! Since I'd been reading mostly Silver Age comics recently, I went on a binge of working through my current pile, catching up on what had come out over the past couple weeks.

And that was about it (where does the time go?)

Early Returns

Tammy's back in Canada a couple weeks earlier than originally planned, as she got a little homesick and road weary lately, as you'd expect after nearly eight weeks abroad. If any of the (I'm sure) 2000 or so digital photos she took on her adventure especially tickle my fancy, I'll post one here later on.

A less cheery set of early returns I spent some time today reading about today are the responses to DC Comics' current weekly series, Countdown. Among the more negative bellwethers I found were sliding sales (compared to predecessor 52's remarkably steady numbers) as well as the decision of the owner of the blogsite dedicated to writing about Countdown to not only stop covering Countdown.. but to also stop buying it! (Sort of like when the president of your fan club announces he or she is closing it down. Gulp!) His criticisms of the series so far - of which he has many - are all well-reasoned, and appear to be in line with what I've read elsewhere as well as winced at myself. It's quickly becoming a hard series to like, and this is coming from a die-hard DC fan (for almost 40 years now). There's very little actually happening in each issue; the art has been wildly inconsistent, to the point where it's hard to figure out who's who on some pages; and it always seems like the real story is actually going on somewhere else and we're just getting glimpses of the periphery in this title. And then to have DC announce yet another slew of Countdown spin-offs recently, at a time when people like me are wondering why we're even bothering to sink $3 each week into this crap... It seems like DC may've backed the wrong horse this summer, as I'd be much more inclined to pay to see the Sinestro Corps storyline spread throughout the DCU, as at least that one's interesting, has a clear direction to it and has already featured some fantastic artwork!

Studying Update

I've finished researching Green Lantern (I covered his first several appearances in Showcase, and then the first 25 issues of his own title) and have typed up my notes. I've given myself the rest of the day off before plunging into a new area, which I also have to decide on. In years past, I've covered off (and have notes on) the following:

Action Comics and Superman
Adventure Comics (Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl)
Amazing Spider-Man
Fantastic Four
Justice League of America
Strange Tales (Human Torch, Dr Strange, Nick Fury)
Tales of Suspense (Iron Man, Captain America)
Tales to Astonish (Hulk, Ant Man, Sub-Mariner)

I'm considering diving into Lois Lane (so to speak!) and *ahem* Jimmy Olsen, since those are two characters we get asked a lot of questions about and I'm never familiar enough with, but... I'm missing a lot of Silver Age issues of both runs, which makes it harder to get a really good feel for them. Same deal with X-Men, where I probably only have about 2/3 of the Silver Age issues. The other obvious glaring omission is Batman and Detective Comics, of which I have lots.. but they're just so bad during that period (it coincides with the campy TV show).

I'm leaning toward bringing up the 18 issues of Silver Surfer next, just because it's such a short run, and a great one! Even if there wasn't a single question asked from that series, it'd still be time well-spent!

If anyone out there wants to throw Silver Age questions at me, maybe from something they read in Wikipedia or elsewhere in their travels, please feel free (I need the practice!) Basically any Marvel or DC superhero-ish title, from 1956 to 1969, is fair game.

Silver Age Comic Trivia XII

Everyone knows that Aquaman had a human father and a water-breathing mother, but what was his father's occupation? And if that's too easy, then which of Aquaman's foes was actually related to him?

Yesterday's Answer: Daredevil took care of the regular everyday crook who ordered his father's murder, in the pages of his debut issue, but it wasn't until Daredevil # 2 hit the stands that he faced his first costumed villain: Electro! They met up, of all places, at the Fantastic Four's headquarters: the Baxter Building! So there you had Marvel's newest sensation, a blind attorney who happened to be a swashbuckling superhero, encountering a Spider-Man villain inside the FF's HQ, all in his 2nd issue! Did Stan Lee know how to cross-promote, or what?

Monday, July 16, 2007

For More On Cloverfield 1-18-08...

... you could always check out what "Moriarty", at Ain't It Cool News, has to say about it.

What I Did Today (July 16th, 2007 Edition)

After spending most of yesterday in bed or on the couch, sidelined with a wrenched back, I was happy just to be pain-free today!

I read a lot of my book today (Motherless Brooklyn) and quite a few Green Lanterns, and enjoyed the warm-but-mild weather - even going for a swim - and that's about it. No game-playing, as I think too much time with a console in my hands late last week may've contributed to the back problem, and no bike ride, although I'd hoped to get the latter in. I've been having some leg pains over the past week, which I expect is due to not exercising the muscles at all, but I didn't trust my back enough today to venture out. Hopefully tomorrow.

Life On Other Planets

The other night I had a really vivid dream about being selected as the person best suited to design and lead an expedition to find life elsewhere. And really, considering that I'm the Agile Manager at work and all, who would be better qualified than me?

Anyway, that bit of non-logic out of the way, it made sense somehow in the dream that I'd be the man for the job. It seems that not only had we recently discovered a means of faster-than-light transportation, but we'd also learned of something that made us believe that there was intelligent life out there in solar system blah-blah-blah. The part of the dream that really stuck out for me, after I woke up, was that I'd decided that there were three "worst case" scenarios for us to prepare for, each of which was worse than the one before it. Here's what they were:

1) We get to blah-blah-blah only to discover that there is no intelligent life to be found there, and our brand new program, that cost so much money to develop, ends up looking stupid. I called this the Laughing Stock result.

2) We get to blah-blah-blah and, regardless of whether we find intelligent life or not, we end up bringing some new kind of virus or germ back with us, which threatens to wipe out the entire Human Race! I called this scenario the Infection result.

3) We get to blah-blah-blah and not only antagonize the indigenous life there, but also give away the location of our homeworld, such that they come to Earth and attempt to conquer us. I called this the Invasion result.

A good deal of my dream dealt with me trying to convince others that these were the three outcomes we needed to worry about, and that our plans should include strategies for each. I don't think we ever got to the point of actually going there, by the time I'd woken up! And the next time I fell asleep (an afternoon nap later that day), I dreamed about it again, and still it was the three results that the dream was obsessed with!

Also, upon waking, I thought it was funny that dealing with conquerors was considered a worse fate than being wiped out by a disease of some sort!

Silver Age Comic Trivia XI

Who was the first costumed villain that Daredevil faced?

Hint: Spider-Man fans would be well familiar with this bad guy (and no, it's not the Ox, again)

Yesterday's Answer: Kathy Kane and her niece Betty were of course the dynamic duo of Batwoman and Bat-girl, featured regularly during the early days of the Silver Age! In the wake of Dr Wertham's 1954 Seduction of the Innocent book, which attacked comic books in various ways, including suggesting that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were homosexuals, DC Comics wanted to make it perfectly clear which team their boys were playing for. And thus creating female counterparts to Batman and Robin, in whom the heroes could display great interest, seemed like an easy solution.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fun With Numbers

That previous post - Widescreen Cats - was post # 1010. That number, 1010, was my ABM passcode for years when I first started using ABMs. What I loved about that particular arrangement of digits is that, in decimal format (base 10), it's two 10s, and in binary format (base 2) it's one 10 (8 + 2). Since 10 is my favourite number (if I had to pick a favourite, since I love 'em all so much!) this seemed like an appropriate choice for a 4-digit passcode.

I eventually abandoned it because it was too easy to spot for anyone watching over my shoulder, but I still have a certain fondness for it.

Widescreen Cats

This is what happens when you can't quite get the photo you wanted (of our cat, Lucy, out in the garden with Tammy's cat, Rascal, in a shot that clearly shows both) and you blindly start fooling around with some basic photo stitching software that you've never used before.

Voila! Four cats! But at least one good view of each of the pair!

Silver Age Comic Trivia X

What were the superhero identities of Gotham City's Kathy Kane and Betty Kane?

Yesterday's Answer: As all long-time Avengers fans know well, the original Masters of Evil were the Black Knight, the Melter and Radioactive Man, all under the leadership of Baron Zemo. Those four were villains who'd previously fought, respectively: Giant Man & the Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America... which just happened to be the membership of the Avengers at that time! (It's knowing things like that that make these answers easy, right?)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Killing Helicopters With Cars

We went out to see Live Free or Die Hard this afternoon, and both really enjoyed it. Yes, it's pretty mindless, and yes, you have to suspend your disbelief quite often, but isn't that what the genre's all about? Justin Long (aka "the Mac guy") was a great foil for Bruce Willis' John McClane, and vice versa. Willis brings just the right mixture of world-weary cynicism and inevitable heroism to the role, despite being long in the tooth these days. (I hope Harrison Ford can do as well in his return to the Indiana Jones hat, jacket and whip!) You pretty much know what you're going to get out of Mr "I'm a Mac" these days, and it was all right there, ready with an ironic one-liner at all the right moments. And Kevin Smith, as Hacker Supreme Warlock, living in his mother's basement with a life-size cardboard cutout of Boba Fett, was perfectly cast. He even managed to show a tiny bit of dramatic range, which somehow "Silent Bob" has never really afforded him!

High art, this movie was never in any danger of being confused with. But as a solid couple hours of entertainment, it definitely qualified!

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(Stolen from Eddie Campbell's blog, where he's not sure who he stole it from...)

Green Lantern Lore: Then And Now

I'm about 20 issues into my Silver Age Green Lantern re-reading, and I can't help but pick up on some of the areas where the current GL mythos is at odds with what was originally published. This isn't really even a continuity problem, since Crisis on Infinite Earths provided a vehicle for modern DC writers to diverge from what was established previously. However, unlike the Superman family, for example, Green Lantern was generally felt to have been left largely unchanged by the history-rewriting effects of 1986's Crisis (other than around Earth-2 stories, obviously). So are these changes just plain laziness (lack of research), or a conscious attempt to update the character? Since it's usually Geoff Johns at the helm, I'm more inclined to think the latter.

Here are a few examples that I've spotted so far.

1) It was pretty clear in the old days that anyone who happened to find himself - or herself - in the possession of a Green Lantern ring could wield it pretty effectively, right away. In the 2nd story in Green Lantern # 18, which I just finished, hobo Bill Baggett (not to be confused with Bilbo Baggins, although Mark Waid did once in our Trivia Panel!) stumbles on the ring while Hal Jordan's conducting tests to see how far away from the ring he can still control it. Incredibly - to modern readers - this down-and-out loser makes off with the power ring immediately, figuring out in seconds how to create new matter with it, as well as fly! This conflicts completely with a very powerful scene that Geoff Johns wrote recently, in which Oliver "Green Arrow" Queen tries to make the ring work in order to save his friend's life, and almost kills himself in the process because of the extreme effort apparently required. When he later asks Hal something along the lines of, "Is it that hard for you?" Jordan replies with, "Only every time!" While this is cool, it's pretty inconsistent with tons of previous stories.

2) In the recent - and excellent - Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special we're told that Sinestro was one of the established Green Lanterns who trained Hal Jordan in the use of his ring, after the Earthman received it from dying alien Abin Sur. I think this new wrinkle was introduced before the Special, but until I recently re-read Green Lantern # 7, in which Sinestro was introduced, I hadn't realized that this twist was impossible in the original continuity. Back in the Silver Age, the first time Hal encounters the Guardians, it's because they've summoned him to Oa to explain that a renegade GL, once the greatest of the Corps, went bad and set himself up as dictator of his home planet of Korugar. Once the Guardians discovered what had happened, they stripped him of his ring, insignia and power battery, and exiled him to the planet Qward, within the anti-matter universe. This is all told to Hal as a flashback, prior to them sending him to Qward to stop Sinestro's schemes with the Qwardians. That sequence of events, where Hal learns about an already-disgraced and exiled Sinestro in his first meeting with the Oans, doesn't allow for any possibility of GL-Sinestro previously being assigned to be his mentor.

3) Currently, we're led to believe that only rookie Green Lanterns suffer from the "inability to affect anything that's yellow" weakness, rather than it being an absolute physical limitation, as it was always shown back in the Silver Age. What makes that seem unlikely is that Hal was constantly meeting more and more Green Lanterns back then, some of whom had been at it for decades. And yet all of them struggled with the same yellow impurity restriction. Clearly a retcon, that one.

4) A minor change I've seen is around Sinestro's motivation in the final days of him being a Green Lantern. Originally he was portrayed as imposing himself as absolute ruler because the power of being a Green Lantern corrupted him. Nowadays - and central to one of the themes of the Sinestro Corps plotline - Geoff Johns has made it abundantly clear that Sinestro simply wanted order, over chaos... and went to whatever great lengths he thought were required to achieve that somewhat altruistic goal (such as placing himself in charge of the whole planet). Definitely the newer take is more interesting and allows for greater empathy toward the villain.

Other than those, though, it's rather striking how similar the current run of Green Lantern is to the one forty-five years ago! Certainly the violence is amped up considerably, and the themes are darker, but there's a surprisingly direct line that can be drawn from the old stories to the new, especially with the Sinestro Corps storyline that's just started up. Back in the Silver Age, you could count on ol' Sin showing his purple, scowling face quite regularly... moreso than I'd ever imagined, having previously only read the old Green Lanterns in bits and pieces. And here he is, in 2007, right smack dab in the middle of the biggest GL event in ages!

Silver Age Comic Trivia IX

In their first appearance in Avengers # 6, who were the four members of the Masters of Evil (including their leader)?

Yesterday's Answer: No one out there seemed to know that Green Arrow was the first non-charter member of the Justice League of America. He was added in JLA # 4 (the group's 7th adventure, as they'd been featured in Brave and the Bold #s 28 - 30 before being awarded their own title) and joined Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman and Wonder Woman... because a group with all that power clearly needed a guy who could shoot trick arrows at the bad guys!

Friday, July 13, 2007

What I Did Today (July 13th, 2007 Edition)

My afternoon was spent with my aunt Dorothy (my mother's twin sister) as we drove to a beach, sat on a log and got caught up on recent events. I also got about five or six Green Lanterns read (went on a tear!) and played some Marvel Ultimate Alliance (but only a few hours' worth!) with Vicki. My swimming streak came to an end (after a week or so) as it was just too cool today to warrant even taking the solar blanket off.

And so Vacation Week 1 ends... and Week 2 begins!

Silver Age Comic Trivia VIII

Time for another easy one: After the team was originally formed, who was the first new member to join the Justice League of America?

Yesterday's Answer: As you can see in the image to the left (although you'll have to squint), postman Willie Lumpkin offered himself up as a potential new Fantastic Four member on the basis of being able to "wiggle [his] ears real good"! Hot-shot Johnny Storm, standing behind him, got a good laugh out of it, and hopefully you did, too!

What I Did Yesterday (July 12th Late Edition)

Yesterday was a blur of Marvel Ultimate Alliance playing! I spent way too many hours at it, both in the afternoon, and then again in the evening. I was so tired by the time I went to bed that I didn't even have the energy to post this blog entry!

Other than that, I didn't really do much! Read some more of my book, got a (very cool) swim in, and dusted off a few more Green Lantern comics. And that was after getting up early once again!

As always happens when I play video games too much, I spent the entire night either dreaming about the game, or tossing and turning as I unintentionally re-lived moments from it! All of which is very annoying, and you'd think that would be enough to keep me from ever over-doing it again (but you'd be wrong, apparently).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yeah, She Looks The Part (Hopefully She Can Act)

This is the new face of Supergirl (or Kara Zor-El), who'll be joining the cast of Smallville next season. She's Torontonian Laura Vandervoort, seen by some as "Sadie Harrison" on Instant Star (never heard of it, myself). Laura's headshot here gives her a certain... credibility... as the Last Daughter of Krypton, in my mind, but I'll reserve judgement until I've seen her in a few episodes. (Please don't let her be a skank! Please don't let her be a skank!)

Longtime Smallville viewers will recall that we thought we had been introduced to Kal-El's cousin in the show a couple seasons ago, but that turned out to be a trick played on Clark by a mere Earth girl.

Funny how we get our first big screen Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) in Spider-Man 3 and now a for-real Supergirl in Smallville, all in the same year. Is someone just trying to get on my good side? (It may work!)

One Thousand Posts Later

As hard as it may be for some to believe - including me! - this is my one thousandth post on this blog (just a little over nine months in). To mark the milestone, I'm going to reflect back on a few of my favourite entries, and encourage you to do the same, if you're so inclined.

It's probably worthwhile to peruse the very first post, Misadventures in Blogland, from way back on October 1st of last year. (And wouldn't that make a good subtitle for this whole experience?) What a novice that guy was!

It probably says something about me that the first series of entries I posted were on the topic of Why Blog? Nothing like starting off introspective! The first answer I came up with was, it's good to have an outlet. And that's still true, 1000 posts in!

One of my first World View Rants was Midlife Crises and Why I Don't Want One and it still pretty much sums up how I feel on the topic.

Around the same time, I put out If I like it, why the Hell don't you? which was - and is - my statement on how people should make recommendations. I've thought back on that one a few times since, as I've encountered Poor Reasons A and B in the ensuing months.

Work issues were occasionally on my mind, such as when I sarcastically exclaimed, You Call This Free Crap A Perk? or pondered the pluses and minuses of Key Performance Indicators.

When I wasn't obsessing over work, chances are I was watching TV, and possibly blogging about Heroes or Lost, two of the best ways to spend an hour each week!

Of the many new short stories I've included on this site, I'd have to say that Skipped was my favourite, if for no other reason than it was the most elaborate and took me the longest to write. I also really, really liked In The Zone and would like to thank Hinckley, once again, for the excellent opening sentence!

Among older, Blast from the Past-type, short stories, it's hard to top The Dice Men, as that one's always worked so well for me.

It's certainly fun to re-read Stupid Things I Know and see not only my list, but many of yours!

Having to think through my Favourite Comic Stories Of All Time, and realizing in the process that I needed to put the work of Alan Moore in a separate list so that he wouldn't completely dominate the first one, was an excellent use of my time! As was, of course, the sharing of some of my Favourite, and Least Favourite Comic Covers.

And whose cold heart didn't melt, at least a little, upon reading about The Loneliest Man On The Planet? Would it be the same person who didn't thrill to each and every promotion handed out during my rise through the Resistance: Fall of Man ranks, or whose pulse didn't quicken at the thought of my bike riding streak? I think it just might be!

Then there was the trivia! Who doesn't love trivia?

Were any lives saved by my ruminations about debt? Almost certainly not, but at least I tried!

And we know a life was lost - albeit a fictional one - as we considered The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking On The Information Superhighway and mourned the passing of a living legend.

No mourning at all was needed where my love of the New York Rangers was concerned, as they managed the only sweep in the playoffs and then did respectably-well in the 2nd Round, as reported on hereabouts, though even that couldn't hold a candle to The Day The Earth Stood Still.

And finally, I'd like to thank the faithful readers who I think have been with me for the entire ride (so far): Jimmy Hinckley, PeterJ, Man from Mars, and of course Vicki and Tammy. Without you guys, as well as the newer arrivals like Boneman, Shane and Tim, it just wouldn't be the same!