Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rainy Hallowe'en Nets Us Just 9 Little Beggars

We didn't even hit double digits this year (a first!), thanks to a windy and rainy late afternoon and evening.  Nine is only a few kids less than normal, though it's about 50% below the average if you want to talk percentages.

Updating the tallies from the years I've been blogging:

2013: 9
2012: 14
2011: 15
2010: 18
2009: 19
2008: 19
2007: 18
2006: 12

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The New Bathrooms, Part 2

I couldn't convince Vicki to provide the blog post on the upstairs bathroom, so you'll just have to settle for photos and minimal commentary from me.

Here's what it looked like before:

And here's the spiffy new look, once again hard to capture in photos, unfortunately:

Quite the upgrade, I'd say!!  And now we'll be proud to send house guests upstairs to use the facilities, which certainly hasn't been the case for years.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed, Neil Gaiman And The Art Of Interviewing

Following the news of Lou Reed's death over the weekend, there's been lots of conversation about the man, as usually happens when a celebrity dies.  My own 'relationship' with the singer is extremely limited, to put it mildly.  I enjoyed a few of his popular songs, including "Sweet Jane" by Reed and The Velvet Underground, which Tammy introduced me to several years ago (and which has been covered quite a few times over the past forty years).

By far the most interesting thing I've read out of this current flurry of Reed-mania is Neil Gaiman's interview with Lou from 1992.  I'm a firm believer that there's an art to conducting a good interview, and it's a skill that seems largely lacking among those who do the most interviews.  I used to love Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show style back in the 70s and 80s because he not only asked interesting questions of his guests, but he also went to the places that you wanted him to go, even if you didn't know it until it happened.  By the time Snyder was done with his subject, you understood the person (rather than the persona) in ways you never would had anyone else been asking the questions.

Neil's talk with Lou Reed is fascinating in a different way, though.  The article that precedes the interview provides the perfect scene-setting to allow you to understand how big a deal it was for the writer to land that gig, as well as to observe the slow, steady transformation that unfolds in the singer's attitude toward his interviewer.  You can track Reed's growing appreciation for the intelligence and insight behind the questions, and the openness that Gaiman elicits out of him in response is extraordinary for such a short conversation.

It's a weird confluence of coincidences that Neil Gaiman's return to Sandman debuts in two days (Sandman Overture) and I'd just suggested The Velvet Underground as the letters column name for the comic series, Velvet, that came out last Wednesday.  Everything ties together.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Copyright Vs The Public Domain

The Washington Post has a great article detailing the history of copyright term-extension legislation, including the fact that the topic is about to rear its ugly head again over the next several years as properties like Mickey Mouse are once more 'at risk' of falling into the public domain.

As a creator of copyrighted material myself (six books and counting!), I'm totally of the opinion that copyrights have to terminate after a reasonable span, such as the creator's lifetime plus fifty years, for example.  That provides plenty of opportunity for money-making off of them, not only for the person who produced the work, but also for the next generation of family members.  Any more than that is ridiculous, if you ask me.  And, as the article points out, the term keeps getting extended to put more money into corporations' pockets, not to help out creative types.  Considering that it's Disney and Time Warner, among others, that we're talking about here, the irony is pretty thick: both companies have comic publishing arms (Marvel and DC, respectively) who've famously screwed over the people actually creating the stories and artwork for their characters.

I'd love to see this trend toward longer and longer extensions reversed sometime soon, but I doubt it'll happen.  Corporate interests, after all, are more zealously safeguarded now than ever.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The New Bathrooms, Part 1

For the past two weeks, Vicki, Emma and I (and even Tammy, during her Thanksgiving weekend visit) were under siege from a father-son pair of contractors who were completely renovating our two main bathrooms, literally from floor to ceiling.  This is the project Vicki worked her last contract for, as we set aside most of the after-tax money she made specifically for this purpose.  All of our bathrooms have been looking tired and dated for years now, and so Vicki took on the challenge of addressing that situation for the two main ones.

I may get her to do a guest blog post (haven't had one of those in ages!) to really do the subject justice, but I thought I'd at least put up some before-and-after pictures to get a certain relentlessly-persistent sister-in-law off my back.

I'm starting with the en suite that's situated off the master bedroom, as it's the one I always use (and this blog is all about me, remember).  It's hard to convey the look and feel of the room in photos, but here's what we got rid of:

Quite boring looking, with ugly vertical striped wallpaper that was peeling off and tile grout that was impossible to get clean (believe me, I tried!).  The tub had long since lost any luster and the toilet had some sort of design flaw in how the water needed to circulate in order to go down, the end result of which was that it clogged very easily and required me to plunge it about twice a week.  No, I'm not kidding!

After Mark and Jordan of Cornerstone Construction worked their magic, though, the room was transformed into this:

Beautiful colours all around, and everything's state of the art now: toilet seat and vanity drawers are all self-closing, the ceiling fan has its own humidistat for automatic on/off functionality, and best of all, there's a rain head at the top of the shower, which I've already fallen in love with and use in place of the actual shower head.  And the toilet flushes reliably and with a lovely whooshing sound!

We do have a slight problem with space, as you might be able to see from the pictures: the longer-than-usual toilet and the fairly wide vanity don't have a lot of room between them near the tub, making the access to the tub a bit tight.  So we may end up swapping one or the other out for smaller pieces if we find that it continues to feel cramped in there.  The plan right now is to get Cornerstone back in over the next several months to do the basement bathroom, and that would be the perfect time to tweak the en suite's layout, if necessary.  As it is, though, I can't believe what a great job Vicki did in all of her choices, as it really does feel like an executive bathroom in some swanky hotel.  And yet it's right off our bedroom!  How awesome is that?

Still to come: the upstairs bathroom, which is equally impressive.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Supporting The Artist

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the way art intersects with commerce.  I guess that's not surprising, as I'm mostly writing and selling my books these days, as compared to earlier periods where I was working full-time or doing Math tutoring.  Now I'm more likely to think of myself as an artist who is - or isn't - making a living off my art.

Anyway, one of the recent trends I've seen in my spending habits is that I'm more inclined to support activities or products that give more of their proceeds back to the artist.  As musicians and writers, in particular, have discovered new and exciting ways to get their output directly into the hands of their fans, I've begun to feel better and better about laying down my hard-earned cash for such work.  Another example would be the Fringe festivals that Vicki and I have started going to, where 100% of the money taken in at the box office goes to the performer(s).  I find that I love the feeling that comes with that kind of a purchase.

Today, a new comic series, Velvet, is coming out from Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the creative team responsible for the greatest run on Captain America.  I was sold on Velvet from the day it was announced, purely on the strength of the creative team, and everything I've seen about it since just increased my confidence about its quality.  However, one aspect of its publication appeals to me for reasons more in line with the rest of this post: Velvet is a creator-owned title, published by Image Comics.  I didn't use to think about such things much, but now it's a huge deal that Brubaker and Epting will own the characters and stories of this great female-spy title.  After all, there's never been a better time for comic properties to break into movies or TV than right now, which means those two gents could reap huge financial rewards for their work if they were picked up by Hollywood. One need look no further than Robert Kirkman and The Walking Dead (also an Image title) to see what I'm talking about.  Even if that doesn't happen, though, there's the usual revenue from merchandising in addition to all of the monthly sales profit, the entirety of which will go back to them.

And as I look at my comic buying habits right now, I notice that four of the most exciting titles I'm buying are creator-owned: Fatale, Lazarus, Saga and now Velvet (all published by Image).  All of them are doing well, both commercially and critically, and each one is a joy to read.  They represent about one-quarter of my monthly purchases, with the rest being a mix of DC and Marvel titles.  At this point, I'd actually be quite happy to see that balance swing more to the creator-owned side, as I'm well and truly sick of the corporate greed that's begun to dominate both of those long-established companies (thanks to owners, Warners and Disney, respectively).

In the meantime, though, I'm just excited to have four such entertaining comics to read each month, with the profit going where it belongs.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Getting Onto The Internet Through Your Light Bulb

This crazy invention is another example of just how brilliant we are, as a species, when we're not busy destroying the planet like a bunch of morons, that is.  The idea of using the flicker frequency of light bulbs to transmit data is so out there that, at first, you can't help but think someone's pulling your leg.  It's actually been proven to work, though.  Wow!

As the article points out, there is the one big limitation: the device you want to connect to the Internet would have to be within sight of a data-transmitting bulb, as compared to current routers that transit through walls.  Still, I'd think that would be a small price to pay in order to get speeds ten times faster than what we see now.  And really, if all the lights in your house were acting as routers, then it probably wouldn't be much of an issue unless you like surfing in the dark, or want to head outside.  (It does bring to mind a whole new family of "How many ___________s does it take to change a light bulb?" joke possibilities, though.)

Amusingly, the light in our living room where I'm typing up this post flickered twice in the past several minutes, possibly signaling its approval of this invention.  Or maybe warning against it!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Low In Canadian Politics?

Or just more of the same, when it comes to Harper's Conservative government?

You be the judge

Thanks to PJ for the tip on this one. 

Gotta Love Fox News

They're almost as comical a news provider as The Colbert Report, especially when they do stuff like this: interviewing people about how Obamacare has adversely affected them, without even bothering to check to see if any of the stories are real/accurate. Or maybe they knew full well that those tales of woe were complete bullshit and went with them anyway. Either way, that seems about right for Faux News.

Roller Derby Will Save Your Soul Next June

Two years ago, Vicki and I went on the road to take in Hamilton Fringe Festival, and when we came home I wrote about all the plays we'd seen there, even going so far as to provide our personal rankings for each.  Very near the top of both our lists was a wonderful one-woman performance called Roller Derby Saved My Soul, featuring Nancy Kenny.  Ms. Kenny was funny, poignant and totally engaging in RDSMS, and I've hoped ever since that she'd someday be able to bring her wonderful act here to London.

Well, as she blogged about yesterday, it's happening!  She's doing a multi-city tour next summer, and she's kicking it off with a stop here during London Fringe (June 4 - 15).  I'll be sure to promote this great show again closer to the start of the festival itself, but I wanted to get the word out nice and early.  Any fans of humour and pop culture will definitely not want to miss RDSMS in 2014.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Bit Of Book News, Including The Title!

I've now finished Chapter 9 of the new book, which is feeling like the midway mark, more or less.  There's a lot of story in those first nine chapters, and lots more to come, so it's hard to say exactly where the middle is.  But we're definitely close.  And I think I may still make my notional goal of finishing the first draft by year-end, which would be a worthy achievement indeed.

Although publication remains several months away, I'm very confident now about the title of this book.  It was something else originally, before I actually started writing it, and then I thought of the new one and immediately liked it a lot more.  I figure now that I'm well into it, I might as well reveal the title so I can start referring to it by name, from here on out.  In a while I'll provide a description of the story (aka "the back cover blurb"), but in the meantime, feel free to speculate away as to what it's about!

And so, without further ado, the title of my fourth novel is:

Leap of Faith

How's that hit you?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Miracleman Is Coming!

This news has been several years in the making, but at New York Comic Con this weekend, Marvel/Disney finally made the announcement we've all been waiting for:

Miracleman is coming in January 2014!

As you'll see at that link, there's going to be a reprinting of all the modern Miracleman stories (written by Alan Moore, initially, and then Neil Gaiman, for the final several issues published back in the 90s) after which Gaiman is planning to write the concluding chapters that he always wanted to do.  This is amazing news for fans of the character, and I just hope that Marvel/Disney does it up right.  The press release says all the correct things, but I'll only believe it when I have the final product in my own two hands.