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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama's first 100 days

I had this ambitious blog post in mind where I would tackle a whole list of specific topics within specific categories and analyze/grade them all. Well, THAT'S not gonna happen. I did, though want to note that the more political reading I do, the less cognitive clarity I get. Particularly with criticism of Barack Obama, I hear apparent faux pas by the Obamas towards the Queen of England lumped together with legitimate concerns over whether the economic stimulus will work fast enough to avoid staflation down the road. It all becomes noise.

Listening to the Sunday morning talk shows, it seems that the greatest concern about President Obama is "where he draw the line in the sand?" Whether it be economic issues - will he pour MORE money in the banks if they fail the 'stress test'? or foreign policy - he can talk to our adversaries, but what if that doesn't work? I've come to believe that it is Obama's seeming malleability, after years of George W. Bush's apparent certainty, hat seems to make the pundits nervous.

I specifically recall the Sunday morning of April 12. What's he going to do about the Somali pirates holding Captain Philips? Doesn't he appear weak when the White House says he's "monitoring the situation"? By the end of the day (in the US), the story had totally changed.

I fully support talking with our enemies. That's what Obama said he'd do in his campaign, despite some criticism, and I believe it's the right course. He's already made substantive and long overdue changes with regard to Cuba. So, Hugh Chavez showboats by giving Obama a book (which subsequently jumps up the Amazon book sales list); doesn't matter in the long run. Talking with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be better than not talking. It seems that the concern is that our adversaries are all willier than the US is and that the talks are stalling tactics that ultimately won't work. Maybe so, but that doesn't mean we don't try.

When he was in Europe, Obama made comments about some mutually negative attitudes which I thought were accurate. It was embarrassing, e.g., back in 2003 when the House of Representatives renamed French fries and French toast.

I'd like to see more investigations, by Congress if not the Justice Department, in a couple areas. One is the collapse of the economic markets. The auto industry was merely incompetent, but as I heard on Bill Moyers' show, William K. Black suspects that it was more than greed and incompetence that brought down the U.S. financial sector and plunged the economy in recession — it was fraud. And he would know. When it comes to financial shenanigans, William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, has seen pretty much everything.

Black made a great comparison with plane crashes. When there's an accident or even a "near miss", there's an investigation. If after a crash, the authorities said, "Let's move on," what kind of confidence would be derived from that?

The other area I'd like more information involves torture. Congressional hearings may begin to address this. It appears clear to me that Obama wanted to denounce torture, put out some documents, then move on. But "move on" just won't cut it. As Salon put it, "President Obama released memos that describe, in horrific detail, the torture techniques authorized by the Bush administration. The memos make clear that top Bush officials didn't just condone torture—they encouraged it."

Finally, there's the economy. Robert Reich gives his grades, which I think are about right. I believe that some sort of massive health care initiative needs to come out of the budget, that putting money in prevention and well care will save money down the road. But I'm STILL unconvinced that the bailout, operated by insiders such as Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, will do anything. The TARP money, going back to 2008, has been spent with ever-changing goals, without any noticeable oversight. To quote Marvin Gaye, "Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands." That's because, at this juncture, I don't know WHAT should happen. Those first quarter bank "profits" are largely a result of changes in the reporting mechanism.

Most people are reasonably happy with Barack Obama as President. I am, too. He's smart, he's articulate, and he's more energetic than he has a right to be, given the scope of the issues facing him. It feels like much more than 100 days, since he started dealing with them before the inauguration. I watched the press conference last night, and he proved to be - and this is by no means belittling - competent., which is a refreshing change.

Unlike certain unnamed people, I want him to succeed. His attempts to create more transparency, while incomplete, is better than I expected. Good luck, Mr. President , on the next 1360 days or so.
Oh, Arlen Specter (D-PA). Just wanted to write that. The Republican chair, Michael Steele, said Specter's switch is an "outrage" because he switched for "political expediency". It's true that he almost certainly would have lost his party's nomination; it's also true that his former party has moved so far to the inflexible that he was no longer comfortable there.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SOLD OUT, Part 5 by John Hebert

Before I get to John's rellections, a couple comics-related things:
1. Len Wein, creator of, among many other things, X-Men staples such as Wolverine, Storm, and Nightcrawler, had a house fire, as I've mentioned. Here's info for the Let's Restore Len Wein's Comic Book Collection Project. Contact Evanier before sending anything.
2. Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday, May 2; hope it doesn't interfere with the Kentucky Derby. In all likelihood, I'll go to Earthworld in Albany, as usual, get a bunch of free stuff for the kid and for me, and end up buying something i didn't know I wanted.

Now, back to John, after I show you his X-Men 100 swipe homage with a circus strongman, Rowdy Roddy Piper, every guy who ever worked at an amusement park in the 80's, and me.

I was a penciling fool- working and reworking pages here and there all that summer of 1986, getting the then-girlfriend to letter and dying to get to the inks. I'd been very fearful of inking my first book because I didn't think I could ever be much of an inker. When I'd started trying to bust into the biz in earnest a couple of years before, I'd decided that penciling was a little too complicated so I thought to break in as an inker first and learn from whomever I'd inked and go from there. This brainstorm lasted just about a month- or the time it took for me to @*%*&^ up my copy of the Marvel Tryout Book and then be told by Zeck that my inks sucked, but that my pencil work had potential, so I'd gone with it.

Anyway, I'd shortly have to put my brush handle where my mouth had been. Once I'd penciled the entire comic, we'd all set a date where Tom, Roger, she-who-was-not-to-be-ignored, as well as FantaCo stalwarts Matt Mattick, Hank Jansen, and Joelle Michalkiewicz and myself would sit down, spread all of the pages out on the floor of the back office and take the "SOLD OUT!" experience in before committing it to ink, deciding what worked and what didn't, what needed to be punched up and where we needed to tone bits down. It was a bit frustrating, to say the least. While almost everyone agreed that it was a very tight piece of effort, there was always a bit of niggling back and forth where everybody but one person would just love something, but that one detail bothered that one person which seemed to corrupt the entire apple cart and then we'd rework the damned thing until somebody else wasn't happy and then.....Suddenly, at some point, after a very long day in the back office and losing the daylight, we staggered out into the early autumn evening clutching the bulging manila folder of pages ready to be committed to ink. My moment of truth had arrived.

One of Tom's primary requirements for the artist was that he or she could draw a reasonably realistic turtle and hamster.

I'd put everything into the pencils, to the point where I needed to go to ink just to stir up the old creative juices with a change of technique. Even though I've never thought of myself as a particularly good inker and with the additional weight of the fear of screwing it all up with bad inks, I think I did a pretty darn serviceable job- especially on the first half of the book when my energy level was high and I was interested, and in fact, thrilled to be doing something other than penciling. I did a really broad John Beatty type brush style throughout most of the book with a swatch of Jerry Ordway and a ton of zip-a-tone tossed in for good measure and just enjoyed the Hell out of most of the experience, but before long, I was tiring of inking as well, especially after we'd begun making last, last-minute changes as I was going along, sometimes scrapping panels after they'd been committed to ink and making me feel like a rat in a maze.

Our deadline was fast approaching too, as was Halloween when we'd hoped to have the book on the shelves, the girlfriend and I went into overdrive, always expecting the project done "the next week", then still spinning our creative tires in the not-so-creative sand and shooting for the following week. It finally came down to the very cold day before Halloween of 1986, when I, having been up for something like 26 hours, leaned over the drawing board in my humble, yet tastefully appointed studio, forcing myself to ink those last few pesky panels that I'd put off inking for various pointless reasons for so long. The edict had come down from Tom Skulan - the book had to be done THAT DAY!!!! We'd already missed one scheduled press day and it was not to happen again.

The girlfriend had shown up at around 8 a.m. and we'd torn into the unfinished pages immediately, determined to deliver the entire finished book to FantaCo by noon for one more final "look-over" be various staff-eyes, and then we were to drive the entire project out to the printing plant in Gloversville, NY, some 90 minutes away. I was so tried and ragged by that point that I didn't think I'd make it and longed for the peaceful reassurance of the void I was sure to encounter as I'd fall asleep at the wheel and swing the Camaro in front of a speeding semi on the Thruway....."Don't bother calling an ambulance Ferdie- he was a funny book artist, now he's road pizza!"

So, we made it into the store at around one in the afternoon and dropped the packet of pages on Skulan's desk, ready for criticism and a very, very long nap. Tom and Raj were the primary editors now, going over every panel and page, never missing a misspelling or uninked eye on some tiny figure in the background that no one would ever notice, but we fixed everything right there in the back room where it had all begun just a few, short, holy mackerel- it was, like FIVE months earlier, what was I thinking?!?!? Anyway, thankfully, most of the required changes were of the lettering variety and she-who-must-not-have-been ignored took care of them with white out and a couple of markers while I slipped closer and closer towards comatose while sitting on that very cold, uninsulated office floor. That cold and the aching in my joints were the only things keeping me awake, but somehow, it was finally done and the time had come to drive the darned book to the printer. The pages were lashed together in a large shiny orange folder and away we went, towards the beginning of the rest of my life, the world's smallest Pontiac dealership, and the embarrassment of being photographed in a skirt on a busy Albany street.


John Hebert
Miss Marvel, Mister Roger, Miss Lydia, May 3, 2008, Earthworld


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

O is for Opportunities

OK, I am a sucker for good causes:
BlogCatalog and Heifer International are partnering to call for the end of world hunger and start of hope on April 29. All we ask is that you join thousands of other bloggers and write a post about world hunger on April 29.
You Can Make a Difference.

I am posting this a day early in case others want to join in.

* Right now, more than 500 million people are living in "absolute poverty" and more than 15 million children die of hunger every year.
* World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the population is underfed and another third is starving.
* Even in the United States, 46 percent of African-American children and 49 percent of Latino children are considered chronically hungry.

Organizations like Heifer International are the solution. Every day in April, Heifer International is lifting people out of poverty by providing communities with livestock and agricultural training to improve lives and inspire hope.
What can you do for Bloggers Unite For Hunger And Hope?

* Join this event by visiting Bloggers Unite and adding a badge to your blog before April 29.
* Visit Heifer International to learn more about Pass On The Gift.
*Make a small donation or take some other action to end world hunger.
*Blog about world hunger on April 29 with links to solutions all over the world.

I was stuck for an idea about what different perspective I could bring to the topic, until yesterday, when my American Institute of Philanthropy Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report showed up in the mail. Among other information, the website designates the top-rated charities in a variety of categories. For hunger, they include, with links:
Action Against Hunger - USA A+
Bread for the World B+
Bread for the World Institute A
Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest) A
Food Bank for New York City (formerly Food for Survival) A–
Food for the Hungry B+
Freedom from Hunger A–
Global Hunger Project A
The grades are based on "rigorous analysis. Groups included on the Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, and receive 'open-book' status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to AIP." Knowing this information is extremely helpful, for, in the words of the newsletter, "As the unemployment rate continues to rise and home foreclosures increase, it is more important than ever that those who are able lend a hand to their neighbors who need it."

I am interested to hear from any of you , especially outside the Unites States, to find out if watchdog groups such as AIP exist elsewhere.
Also, here's something I learned about watching Bill Moyers' Journal on PBS, American public television:

Playing For Change -- Songs Around The World CD/DVD in stores now

After 4 years of filming and recording musicians around the globe, we are finally releasing our album "Playing For Change: Songs around the World," featuring a 10 song CD and 7 track DVD. This is a collection of songs and videos featuring over 100 musicians from around the world that have never met in person, but have been brought together through the power of music.

Today is our chance to show the world that independent projects designed to connect and inspire people can be successful.

The album demonstrates that regardless of our religion, race, gender, or political views we can unite through music. The time is now to unite as a human race and this global collaboration driven by your love and encouragement is designed to lead us in that direction.

The CD/DVD is available online or at that increasingly popular purveyor of music, Starbucks.


Monday, April 27, 2009

iTunes Meme

The meme: the last vestige of the desperate blogger. Thom wrote about the number of cuts from groups and solo artists that populate his iPod. well, I don't have one, but I do have iTunes, so I thought I'd list those folks.

Unlike Thom, most, though not all, of mine are culled from albums. But it's not a particular reflection of my whole collection. For instance, the Beatles, who I own extensively, only have 14 cuts, all from the Help! album. Sometimes I remember to add songs and sometimes not. Apparently I have more recently, since most of the artists represented have birthdays in the past five months. So this list might look quite different in a few months. Links are to videos of songs I like and I own.
1. Johnny Cash (Feb)- 153. I do love John R.
1. James Taylor (Mar)-153.
3. Frank Sinatra (Dec)-114. A couple box sets
4. R.E.M. (Michael Stipe: Jan)-110.
5. Burning Spear-101. This was a group that got downloaded from someone else's list.
6. Aretha Franklin (Mar)-98. Largely from a box set
7. Temptations-95 (Eddie Kendrick: Dec; David Ruffin-Jan; Dennis Edwards: Feb)
8. Heptones-87. Likewise from someone else's roster.
8. Elton John (Mar)-87. Same birthday as Aretha, BTW.
10. Marvin Gaye (Apr)-80. He also died in April, a day shy of his 40th birthday.
10. George Harrison (Feb)-80.
12. Eric Clapton (Mar)-79.
13. Supremes (Diana Ross, Mary Wilson: both Mar)-76
14. Neville Brothers (Aaron: Jan)-73.
15. Elvis Presley (Jan)-72.
I mowed the lawn for the first time this season yesterday. When you have a push mower, timing is everything. The mower doesn't work well on dewy mornings and I don't do well in the heat of the day. So mowing at 6 or 7 pm is optimal, if it hasn't rained.

I always listen to music when I mow. Today it was Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage. The title track also appears as the last track of a disc on a six-CD set Say It Loud, which covers 100 years of black music. On the compilation, the Hancock cut sticks and never gets past 4 minutes of the 7 minute song. When I listen to the Hancock album, I expect the same result, but of course it plays fine.
Charles Mingus Cat Toilet Training Program. Yes, THAT Charles Mingus, no joke.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lydster, Part 61: What She Watches (which means I watch too)

Lydia's pediatrician has a real antipathy about children watching television or videos. While most guidelines suggest avoiding kids watching TV before the age of two, we waited until she was three.

Most of the first programs were actually videos - programs on something called VHS - which we acquired from my now-18-year-old niece, all circa 1994. Surprisingly, given the fact that Alex was obsessed with him in the day, there was only one Barney video. (I remember specifically being chastised by my parents for NOT buying her a Barney thing in the day; it wasn't my antipathy for Barney, it was "What do you buy someone who seems to have everything already?" It'd be like buying me Beatles stuff until they put out new product.)

I DO have antipathy for this Barney DVD I got from my in-laws, a "live-action" game show with a studio audience of kids and adults. My wife said that I might applaud if I were in the audience; maybe, but I just don't want to SEE grown-ups getting all excited about the antics of a purple dinosaur.

Another batch of videos features "the Magic School Bus." Voiced by Lily Tomlin as The Frizz, and occasionally Malcolm Jamal-Warner in the ending segment, they were so successful with Lydia that she now has over a dozen books and a DVD.

Not much else really stuck, other than Arthur, the aardvark, though she was briefly enamored with this funky 15-minute (in English, followed by the same in Spanish) home safety tape with the catchy tune, "Code Red Rover, grown-up come over."

Ultimately she found there were shows on TV for her. Her first great love was Little Bear, based on the Maurice Sendak-drawn books from a half-century ago. She was onto Little Bear, and Emily, her doll Lucy, Cat, Duck, Hen, Owl, Mother Bear and Father Bear every day for about eight months until we were seeing the same episodes for the third time. Still we read the books, which are direct sources for some of the episodes.

Lydia's current favorite TV show is Franklin, which again has but one character with a name other than Bear, Fox, Skunk, Mr. and Mrs. Turtle and so on. She likes calling Franklin Frank; she thinks this is wildly hysterical. The theme song is by Bruce Cockburn of "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" ("some [s.o.b.] would die") fame.; actually have a half dozen Cockburn LPs.

But she has branched out:
Angelina Ballerina: on once a week, has fueled her need to dance. Not to take lessons, mind you, just to twirl in front of the set.
Ni-Hao, Kai-lan, Blue's Clues: doesn't actually watch unless it's on in real time.
Jack's Big Music Show: a program I'd almost watch without her.
Dora the Explorer: she watches relatively little of this, but she has Dora pajamas, Dora Band-Aids, several Dora books and she got a Dora DVD for her birthday. Why does she, and her cousin Diego, seem to YELL all the time. "WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE STORY?" And they are so damn earnest, too.

Her upcoming favorite is the Wonder Pets. a hamster, a turtle and duck get in their flyboat and save other animals. There's always a costume change relevant to the location and some difficulty before they get going that turns out to be useful later on.

It was my wife, though, who noted the operatic stylings of the introductory piece:

Imagine if you can that, instead of Linny, it is a basso profundo singing: "The phone, the phone is ringing." That octave descent alone would be stunning. Then a tenor, not Tuck, singing the second, a non-lisping contralto, rather than Ming-Ming, on the third. There's a certain drama in the presentation.

The rest of the music is tied to the situation or the geography. Recently, WP saved the Rat Pack (three rats, one named Blue Eyes), a fiddler crab on the roof and a bluesy Louisiana bullfrog. This is award-winning stuff against stiff competition.

I figure that I'd better record this stuff now before she heads for school, for while I think I'll "always remember", chances are that I won't.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bea Arthur, RIP

Edith's cousin Maude Findlay going toe to toe with Archie Bunker.
(I suspect the changed intro music is there for some copyright reasons.)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Of course, Bea Arthur was also a star of Golden Girls, as well, as well as a song and dance person, as this Mark Evanier find showed.


Being Alone QUESTION

My wife has this book called "The Daily Spark: 180 easy-to-use lessons and class activities!" They are journal writing warm-up activities. I was leafing through it when I came to an entry called "All Alone":

"Mark Twain once said, 'The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with oneself.'
"What do you think he meant by this? Does this idea apply to your own life?
Conclude your entry by explaining how you feel about being alone. Do you dread it, or do you enjoy having time to yourself?"

I think people have always thought of me as a social being. Yet, even as a child, I always enjoyed the comfort of my own room. It wasn't the room itself, which was tiny. It was what the room represented, which was (relative) solitude. I'd read there, or create imaginary baseball games or look at my postage stamp and coin collections - where IS my postage stamp collection anyway?

I suspect that some of the difficulty I've had in relationships in the past is that my desire for alone time was perceived as some sort of rejection of the other.

These days, I try very hard to take off one day per month, usually a Monday. I can play racquetball a little longer than usual. Then I'll come home, eat, read, watch TV, blog, whatever I want, in my own house. It's the only time I can be in my own home by myself, especially since the child arrived. I used to go to the movies to see a film my wife didn't want to see, but lately the desire for that has been outweighed by other needs. if it's nice, though, I might trek to a park and read there for a while, if it's quiet.

So do you have an inner Greta Garbo or an outer Ashton Kutcher?


Friday, April 24, 2009


Here's something that's true; I can be a bit of a movie snob. I tend to go to movies that I expect to be good. Oscar-nominated films, films acclaimed at a film festival, and so on. Every once in a while - a GREAT while, given the more limited opportunities - I'll go to see more popular fare.

Carol's and my first night in Saratoga last week, we went to the Wilton Mall. I'd never been to the Wilton Mall before; it was mallish. Mallesque? One of the presents we got from one of my brothers-in-law for Christmas was a packet of tickets to any Regal Theater. This turned out to be our first opportunity to use them.

We had gotten there about 20 minutes before the film was scheduled to start, and bought popcorn. This was far inferior to the great popcorn I'm used to from the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. We were "entertained" by a package of "behind the scenes" pieces - one was for "Angels and Demons" the sequel to The da Vinci Code and again starring Tom Hanks. The segment was peppered with commercials: food commercials, car commercials, commercials for the U.S. Army.

Then it was the appointed moment. Time for...previews, the standard fare.

O.K., FINALLY, the actual movie. We'd heard some decent comments about the new evidently raunchy comedy I Love You, Man. It stars Paul Rudd, who we liked from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, as a man named Peter, a real estate guy who early on becomes engaged to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones from Parks and Recreation, and The Office). The problem is that he doesn't have any male friends, a real issue for Zooey's friends.

Paul gets advice from his gay brother (Andy Samburg from Saturday Night Live) on how to meet straight men. But it is on his own that he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a usually honest fellow - sometimes too much so, and they hit it off over a shared passion.

A movie like I Love You, Man can either work or not, depending on the writing and acting. I'm disinclined to over analyze it, except that it was less coarse than the last two Rudd movies I saw.

The verdict: while it has its flaws, including supporting characters that arrive but seem to get lost along the way and a joke or two that go on too long, I laughed, quite a bit actually. Ultimately, that's all I really want in a comedy. My favorite joke, not a big ha-ha, but a knowing one took about an hour to set up. It's a rather simple premise, but it worked for my wife and me, mostly because of the performances of Rudd and Segel.
Not used in the movie, thank goodness, was the term bromance, though the commentator here used it to describe this movie. I happen to dislike the term intensely, though I can't explain exactly why. Maybe because it seems want to have it both ways: a teasing, somewhat homophobic way to show show how non-homophobic straight guys can be.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

World Book and Copyright Day

From the news release:
On 23 April 2009, we will celebrate the 14th World Book and Copyright Day, proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in 1995 to promote greater awareness of the importance of books in the world.

In order to support the Organization in today’s society, this year international professional associations are once again kindly invited to play an essential role in informing and mobilizing both their members and their external networks of experts and stakeholders.

For this edition of the Day, UNESCO suggests to explore the topic of the paramount function of books for the development of quality education, as well as the link between publishing and fundamental rights.

One of the cool things my wife did this past year was to apply for and receive a $600 minigrant to buy books for her English as a Second Language unit that had been limited by ancient, archaic texts. Even more impressive, she got a publisher to donate - that is, give for free - an almost equal number of books.

Something I know from personal experience is that teachers often spend money out of pocket for books and supplies that they bring to the classroom. In honor of today, perhaps you might contract your local school or PTA to see what books they might need. Or contact your local library; ironically, in a period of increased demand for library services, library budgets are being slashed.

So buy a book, for yourself and/or for someone else.
An action film, Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, will be filmed in part on the streets of Albany. Some folks are up in arms, even though the schedule suggests that it won't disrupt the morning or evening commutes. I think the real issue is that there was NO information at all going out to the general public until a couple days ago about something that begins today, and there is a lot of misinformation floating out there.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

N is for Nature

I'm old enough to have participated in the very first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. For that occasion, I joined some of my fellow students in picking up the trash around my high school. For whatever reason - perhaps because my father was a smoker - I decided to concentrate on one of the smaller, but more annoying pieces of litter, the cigarette butt. I recall picking up 1300 of them before I lost count. And I thought I was really doing something.

Today, I recognize that saving the nature of our earth involves a lot more than picking up litter. Not that I've stopped; my daughter plays at the local elementary school playground, and I've picked up the trash three days in a row, knowing that the garbage I picked up on the third day was not there on the first.

I'm pretty much an obsessive on recycling. I've discovered that, e.g., another unit on my floor will have ordered a large deli plate. In these parts, the base is flat and black, while the top is clear and a hemisphere. Both parts are recyclable, with a 1 or 2 in a triangle. Yet someone has often thrown them in the trash. Well, not IN the trash; they are so large that they've been placed NEAR the trash. I pick them up, wash them off and take them home.

I often read newspapers on long trips or even taking the bus to work; instead of trashing that read paper, I'll bring it back home.

Recently, we've acquired some large canvas shopping bags from our local public radio/television station, WMHT; unfortunately, we've lost one. However, I was carrying the other one around when shopping at the local CVS pharmacy. The clerk commended me, "I wish more people would do that." On the same shopping trip, I stopped at the nearby Price Chopper supermarket, and the clerk there gave me three cents off my purchase; all the stuff fit in the same bag, BTW.

At my office in the past three years, we've sent out our research on links to PDFs rather than printing and mailing them. Not only have we saved whole forests of trees, we've saved a bunch of money on paper and postage. Generally speaking, we have - as most UAlbany e-mails suggest - think before we print.

The state of New York has recently passed a better bottle bill. Starting in about six weeks, it won't be just cans and bottles of beer and soda that will have a redeemable five cent deposit, it'll also be on water bottles. Knowing full well that this will be a pain for retailers and distributors, because neighboring states haven't enacted a similar law, I think it's on the whole a good thing. However, I expect an uptick in the number of bottle entrepreneurs rummaging through my recyclables bin on trash night looking for the returnables that I never put there but that other neighbors inexplicably do.

But all of this seems like small potatoes. We've recently got a better front door and better windows, but should we get a solar paneled roof? Can we AFFORD a solar paneled roof in the short term, even if it pays off the long run?

I get peevish about some neighborhoods' behavior in limiting environmental consciousness. Some in the United States actually ban people from hanging clothes outside on a clothesline, saying that it will reduce property values, as though the current recession hasn't already done that. Similar bans exist on the aforementioned solar panels for the same reason.

Here are some links that deal with some of the more substantial issues of Earth Day:
What to Do to Celebrate Earth Day?
How To Teach Your Preschooler to "Go Green"
My college's current sustainability bulletin -PDF
My college is also participate in the ongoing IBM Smarter Planet University Jam, April 21-23: "Faculty and students from more than 170 academic institutions around the globe will be participating in the Jam. Beginning 12:00 AM EDT on April 21st and continuing for a 72-hour period, they will be coming together for an on-line conversation on
important topics such as the vulnerability of global supply chains for food and medicine, the environmental and geopolitical issues surrounding energy, how to adapt our education system to help students acquire the skills to compete in an interconnected, intelligent and instrumented world, and more."
Green Tax Incentives in the US

Always have to have some music:

And for a little whimsy, Welcome Back: The longer the winter, the sweeter the spring, and this winter seemed very long indeed. And if spring brings such pleasure to us now, I can only imagine the joy and relief it must have brought to man in ancient times, when winters were not so much endured but survived. (If you're in the Southern Hemisphere, watch it in six months.)


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SOLD OUT, Part 4 by John Hebert

Mr. Hebert continues his reminisces about a comic book I had something to do with because on this topic, his memopry's WAY better than mine.

Now, it was time to put my money where my mouth had been all those years. I had to actually sit down and produce a comic book- doing the pencils and inks all myself and I'd gotten my then-art student/girlfriend to agree to letter the project. This was the point where a lot of the poseurs and wannabes are separated from the real pros. It's one thing to draw lots of pretty pictures of Batman, Wolverine and Phoenix standing around and looking dramatic with no real backgrounds, but when you've got to TELL THE STORY WITH PICTURES, make it interesting and authentic and throw in some kind of "cinematic magic" to boot, that's where it's all at. I've seen so many kids and even adults who are SO sure that they're the next big thing in comic art crumble and drift away sheepishly once they actually get a real script in hand and they see that copying a Jim Lee or McFarlane splash page has virtually nothing to do with actual sequential art that I can see them coming from a mile away now.

This, however, was my turn to shine or fail and skulk off to a lumberyard or some worse fate and I was determined to not allow that to happen. I gave my all on that book, staying up sometimes more than 24 hours straight, drawing, redrawing, hitting the library (pre-Internet) for reference, trying to stay "current" with the look and storytelling of the piece, sometimes second and even third-guessing myself into a near nervous breakdown of worry (which, admittedly, I came to do again and again even once I'd "made it in the big leagues" a few years later) and doing my best to not only impress Tom and Roger, but to try and out-mainstream the mainstream comics that "my book" would share rack space with. I'd pencil a page or 2, then pop into the store to show Tom and Raj what I'd done, then head back to the proverbial and literal drawing board sometimes high as a kite and sometimes near-suicidal as I had to pencil, repencil and even cut and paste up some pages combining 2 or 3 pages into one . This was occasionally very frustrating, but now, in retrospect, I realize that ALMOST every change was for the better and that this was the first real editorial input I'd ever had outside of school work and the volunteer work I'd done on theatrical projects and etc.

There were a few times when I practically begged Tom to let me ink a few pages, to not only get ahead, but to break up the monotony of the thing, but he insisted that, except for the cover and ONE page that would be sent around to the Comics Journal and such for promotional purposes that the entire book had to be pencilled and lettered before we'd all sit down, go over it, making sure evry panel of every page was complete, cohesive and coherent before I'd be allowed to commit the project to ink.

Phew, "tough room", I thought, but not as tough as the times I'd have with the lettering. As I stated previously, my then-girlfriend had been recruited to letter the book. She'd never really even read comics and was struggling her way through art school, and, in the interest of complete honesty and disclosure, we did end up breaking up during the production of SOLD OUT!- once for a few days on the first issue and then permanently and badly a few pages into the second book. She was in over her head on the book, but in all fairness, she did give her all most of the time and she really had gotten involved to support me and in retrospect some 20 years later, that was a good and decent thing and I'll do my best to say as little as possible in regards to this subject from here on. I was constantly throwing her copies of Simonson's Thor which was lettered by John Workman- the only letterer whose work was not only competent, but practically jumped off of the page and actually added to the compositions and storytelling. I wanted "our" first project to be a winner and as strong as possible, but at times, I was too close to it and I didn't handle the pressures as well as I should have. I'd spend days banging out a page, then I'd drop it at her house for lettering-sometimes only a panel or two, then feeling it all slipping away when I'd come back a couple of days later and find out that nothing had been done. It was agonizing; I couldn't let this book fall apart, I had to get it done - the right way. It was my portal to the big leagues and out of Palookaville.

I got more and more stressed and was sleeping less and less, spending more and more of my awake time at the board after everybody at my house had gone to bed, and then crashing and sleeping the day away, only to begin again once the sun went down. I was a vampire without a cape and hokey accent, and I was hating it and loving it at the same time. As tough as doing a regular comic is, this was even tougher on some levels because it had to be FUNNY on top of all else and, as many have said before, "Comedy is tough". We had to load the book up with loads and loads of sight gags, yet not overdo it and burn the reader out, we sought some weird state of balance where we'd go deeper and deeper into the absurd and twisted, then veer back into straight narrative-it was great and a true challenge as I had no problem diving into the absurd, but I sometimes needed (and still need) guidance to find my way back. The sight gags and plays on words and titles that I crammed into oh so many panels were inspiring, when I'd get a small notebook page with "John-go nuts here" scrawled on it, I did, feeding off of the guffaws and giggles I'd get from Tom and Raj when I'd plop the corresponding pages down on the desk for their look-sees.

It nurtured my need for not only reassurance and acceptance that every creative person craves, but it sustained my constant need to entertain- a flaw I still carry with me which is why I still stock a book of office traps and pranks on my desk to this day and why my cohorts at the firehouse and I spent two years planting broken lawn implements in one particular guy's truck. It's a sickness like drugs, drinking or gambling (at least two of which I know a bit about), but for the most part a benign one- although the lawnmower guy would most likely dispute that.

There were times it seemed like I'd never finish the project, that it'd never be an actual, tangible book. I kept working and reworking, getting closer, yet further from completion. The comics business was actually writing the damned thing for us with its absurd bombardment of the market with more and more awful small press black and white comics, some so ludicrously titled that we couldn't even have come up with them. I sometimes think that it was a good thing that the book took us so long as we had had time to look at what was going on and say "Whoa, gotta put that in there!" The first pages completed- both in pencil and ink were actually the cover and the last page, when I got the go ahead to actually ink 'em, it felt like one big psychic enema, it was the break in the monotony that I needed - I could breathe again...for a few days, but thank God for those late night showings of HBO's comedy specials on more than one occasion, they kept me from running screaming off into whatever night I was in the midst of.

There were a couple of inspirational moments on the project as well. The first started out absolutely horribly. I'd had a "Big Brother" when I was a kid because I'd grown up without a Dad of my own and my "Big Brother" and his family and I were and still are, close. Jack had a son named Erin who'd had a lot of behavior problems for years and had just seemed to be getting a handle on them when he was murdered by his mother's boyfriend on July 8th, 1986. As a tribute to him, I put Erin in the book, arguing with a doppelganger of FantaCo's own longtime counterman Matt Mattick over a jacked up cover price and some 10 or 12 years later that very same panel was reprinted in a comics news magazine as accompaniment for a letter on speculation and distribution issues.It was self-serving, but I'd do it again in a minute.

Bottom panel is John's tribute to Erin, on the left; I had no idea. A pretty good likeness of Matt on the right. - ROG

The second "uplift" if you will, came near the end of that summer when The Comics Buyer's Guide printed the cover of SOLD OUT! #1 in their coming attractions section. I'd picked up a copy while dropping pages off at the store and retreated with she-who-was-not-to-be-ignored to this great little dive of a mexican restaurant where she had lunch and I stared at the cover art on that cheap newsprint blankly. I'd arrived. It's funny, that Mexican place was still going strong until the owner died 4 or 5 years back. It's a coffee place now; my office is basically spitting distance from there, and every time I pass it, I can't help but think of that warmest of afternoons.

To be continued.........


Monday, April 20, 2009

The weekend without the child

My wife and I haven't been away alone together in over five years. This correlates nicely with the age of our progeny. (This is not to say that Lydia's never been away from both of us; last summer, while Carol was in college, I dropped her off at Grandma and Grandpa's in Oneonta, about 75 miles away, so I wasn't the position of both taking her to day care and picking her out.)

But the wife and I alone together for more than a few hours? Doesn't happen. Yet our tenth wedding anniversary is coming up next month. Taking off time during the school year is tough, and the summer will be pretty packed, too. This past week, on the other hand, school was off.

So my parents-in-law kindly drove up the hour and a quarter to watch Lydia Thursday afternoon while Carol and I took a vacation in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga? Isn't that only about 30 miles away from Albany? Indeed it is. but we stayed at an inn, and visited places we'd never been before. You know how people in Manhattan never go to the top of the Empire State building unless they're hauling in relatives from out of town? It's pretty much the same thing.

It was near enough that the trip there and back wouldn't be onerous, but unfamiliar enough to be able to explore.

I'll undoubtedly discuss the specific aspects of the trip over the next few weeks, but let me give you some first impressions:

*We end up watching either the Today show or Good Morning America only when we're off work. saw Today on Friday, GMA on Sunday. What depressing shows. No wonder people tune out the news.
*We ate too much.
*We've become near experts at getting around Saratoga.
*We worried that the child would miss us. we called Thursday night and she talked to us, but when we called Friday night, she was too busy watching TV to pick up. (That is NOT a complaint.) However, she (with Grandma's help) called us Saturday morning.
*She has so many things that getting Lydia yet something else seemed undesirable. Ultimately, we opted for flipflops.
*The hotel allegedly had a public computer, but the two times I actually had time to use it, it died after 16 minutes one times and 20 minutes the other. So no, I haven't read any of your blogs lately; I will, I will, eventually.
*The times I did get on my e-mail, I got e-mails from a friend of a friend of Raoul Vezina's and my high school history teacher, both of whom came across me through this blog.

Ah, my wife needs to use the computer. Bye for now.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Treppenwitz: I Should Have Thought of That Sooner

I learned a new word last year, treppenwitz. OK, "learned" might be overstating it, because it subsequently slipped my mind.

It's of German origin, as you might surmise. It's that phenomenon that takes place when someone angers or frustrates you; the moment passes, and then 15 minutes later, you come up with that perfect rejoinder that would have turned your antagonist into a puddle of despair. Or so you would believe.

That smackdown to the rude driver you eviscerate, instead of saying, ""
Putting racist/sexist/homophobic commenters in their place with a such rapier-like wit that they are slackjawed.

I listen to the political talk shows or the Jerry Springer-type shows - in some ways, they're pretty much the same - and I know that if I were on one of them, I would suffer mightily, not because I don't have my facts or a sense of my own convictions, but because I'd likely get caught up trying to match snark with snark.

Ultimately, I think I'll stick with the written word thing. This is not to say that, someday, I wouldn't want to do a podcast. But it'd be MY podcast, or on a civil and friendly podcast of someone else's.
Speaking of words, I seriously had no idea of the primary meaning of the word 'teabagging' until this week, though someone said it was mentioned by a character in The 40-Year Old Virgin, which I saw. I think the tea party notion is silly; it may have been Arthur of AmeriNZ who said, "Taxation without reprsentation? I thought they were from the District of Columbia!" which DOES suffer from that political malady.
Because I like it: Susan Boyle.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why do you comment QUESTION

I have pretty much purloined this from Rose, who wrote:
"Bloggers love comments. Comments tell us that our readership is actually interested in what we blog about. If you like someone’s blog, you leave a comment. It’s that simple."

I find it trickier, though. In my comments to Rose, I wrote: "Some sites require you to register to comment, and I have if I’m likely to return. Some have word verification, and some work better than others - if I have to work at it, never mind. Some open another window that take too long to open and I’ll bail."

Then there are folks who just KNOW I'm checking out their sites by my frequent comments, but I may not have anything to say about that particular post. Scott, for instance, is a really swell guy. He's actually snail mailed me something out of the blue. When he writes about music or his son, I often comment. When he tells about Aussie Rules Fantasy Football, though, I've got nothing to add, but I'll still come back the next time.

I'd particular like to hear from the lurkers out there who read but never write.

One of the things that I've opted to do here is to try to make it easy to reply. One does not have to join Blogger to answer, just pick anonymous or your own URL. I don't even have word verification or comment moderation; I do, however, get comments e-mailed to me, and I can delete spam after the fact.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Shorted season

How did I not notice before? It's baseball season already.

Oh, I'm not talking about Major League Baseball; hard to miss that one. I'm referring to Minor League Baseball. I was reminded of this when I got an e-mail touting MiLB.TV - 800 games for only $29.95 for the whole season to one's computer. This seems like not such a bad deal.

The reason that minor league baseball is off my radar is that it's not yet being played around Albany. The Tri-Cities Valley Cats, a Houston Astros farm team, are in the New York-Penn League a "short season A" league that doesn't start until June and ends around Labor Day. It seems strange for a city of 95,000 in a metropolitan area of about 850,000 to have such a low affiliation. Meanwhile, my hometown of Binghamton, with maybe 47,000 and a metro of 250,000 has a Double A team in the Eastern League, the Binghamton Mets.

Speaking of the Eastern League, I love the angle of this story about Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice Rice being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It notes that they are the 28th and 29th players from the Eastern League so honored. BTW, I've thought for years that Rice, selected in his 15th year of eligibility, was deserving.

I usually seem to miss that free opportunity to experience Extra Innings, the MLB package of games around the country. This year, it was April 6-12. I did take advantage a few years ago, though. It's fun watching the same game, while alternating two different announcing teams; totally different perspective.

I just realized that I haven't talked with my father-in-law about the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic featuring retired players, some of them Hall of Famers, replacing the Hall of Fame Game. That's probably because tickets aren't available at all until this weekend to Museum members, and not to the general public until April 26. A different system than waiting in line in Cooperstown in February or March, which is what my father-in-law's tradition has been.
Failed to note the passing of the colorful Mark "the Bird" Fidrych, the AL Rookie of the Year. Here's a 1985 interview:


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Choir Is Still Singing

Last week, on Maundy Thursday, our church choir was rehearsing in the sanctuary. One member got up a couple times, but then returned. Suddenly, she toppled over. This wasn't a slumped over as though she had fainted; this was a stiff collapse as though she were a tree being felled by a lumberjack. She was terribly pale. Someone called 911, and while a nurse in a congregation - previously unknown to me - helped others tend to her, I waited for the ambulance.

So as people arrived and said "hi" to me, I was evidently not very responsive. The emergency team treated her, then put her on a gurney and took her to the hospital. a member of the congregation not in the choir, who worked in the hospital, followed her to the facility. Then the choir had tpo sing, which we did, admirably under the circumstances.

As it turns out, the culprits were low potassium and dehydration, which meant low blood volume and low blood pressure. Much to our delight and surprise, she was able to sing on Easter Sunday morning.

There have been other choir incidents though, all of these involving different people over the past couple weeks
* hospitalized with arrhythmia, though out by Easter
* out for six weeks for a surgery, though should be returning today
* family was in a car accident which totaled the vehicle but rendered relatively minimal harm
* on medicine that thinned the blood too much and had had to be briefly hospitalized
* illness
* flu
* broken foot

And during Holy Week, the choir director also had the flu, missing her first Easter in church probably ever. Fortunately, our former acting director was able to step in for both the Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday services.

So say a little prayer (or whatever it is you do) for our hardy little band.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

M is for Money

Happy U.S. Income Tax Day!

Every year in the United States, the Social Security Administration sends out Your Social Security Statement to help me plan for my "financial future". It provides estimates of your Social Security benefits under current law." But for me, it's a personal history lesson.

The first year I worked, 1969, I made $529 at the Binghamton (NY) Public Library. I worked six months at IBM in 1971 and made the most I would make until 1978. $50 in 1976 - really? I can always tell when I went to college, or when I was unemployed or underemployed.

I also received my 401(k) statement this week. I started putting money in this account because we were all warned that Social Security wouldn't be there. My employer and I each contributed about $1000 each this past quarter. I managed to lose that plus an additional $5800. So much for retiring.

Let's talk about music instead. There are two great songs called Money that I own and that come to mind. The first was written Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, when challenged by someone who complained that all he wrote about was romance. "What else do you care about, Berry?" Well, there was money.

The original version of Money was recorded by future Songwriters' Hall of Famer Barrett Strong, who later teamed with the late Norman Whitfield to write I Heard It Through the Grapevine (a hit for both Gladys Knight & the Pips and Marvin Gaye), War (Edwin Star's hit), and a bunch of late 1960s/early 1970s classics for the Temptations, such as Too Busy Thinking About My Baby, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Just My Imagination and Ball of Confusion.

Barrett Strong's version of Money went to #2 on the Billboard R&B charts for six weeks, and to #23 on the pop charts early in 1960. It's #288 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of greatest songs, and was covered by a Liverpudlian band of some note, the Beatles.

The other Money song is by the British band Pink Floyd, by that point consisting of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright and Nick Mason. It appeared on the 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, and though it spent but one week at #1 in the U.S., it spent a total of 741 weeks on the U.S. album charts, selling more than 15 million copies.

For those unfamiliar, it has one potentially 'naughty' word.

I'm still collecting the state quarters. Right now, all I need is a Missouri quarter from the Denver mint; I even have both District of Columbia coins. But I haven't seen the Puerto Rico quarter yet from either the Philadelphia or Denver mints and other territories will be released this year. (And yes, I know DC and Puerto Rico are not states, but their coins are a continuation of the same series.) Meanwhile, I'm still looking for Denver mint coins for two of my co-workers.

Certainly it was the juxtaposition of Marilyn Chambers as wholesome Ivory Snow mom with Marilyn Chambers as, er, an actress that helped fuel whatever commercial success she had. No, though my name is Green, I've never seen Behind the Green Door or any of her other work. She died this week.
And speaking of advertising, does Burger King REALLY think it'll make money mixing SpongeBob Squarepants, Sir Mix-A-Lot, and "the TRUE (non-pirate) meaning of the word 'booty'", as my friend Fred put it in his April 13 post? And if the BK King is creepy in 30-second increments, he's REALLY bizarre in the 2:30 segment Fred found.
OK, so what other song about money am I thinking of? The clues are in this post.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SOLD OUT, Part 3 by John Hebert

Notice if you will, the crazed look of Tom Skulan, me, and just about everyone else, while the artist and his then-girlfriend look relatively sane. Hmm. - ROG Now back to the artist.

Where were we? oh, yes- I'd started doing character sketches for "THE PROJECT" of which I'd spent the better part of an afternoon talking about with Tom Skulan and Roger Green in a most productive, informative, contentious first meeting that left me feeling confident and rarin' to go as I left the store/office, yet completely bewildered as I sat down at my drawing board to begin doodling. I was supposed to come up with character sketches for: two muppetesque teenagers, a hamster and turtle who are actually 2 kids who were to just basically look like animals and the infamous empty comic book rack. The beasties weren't that difficult as I always had encyclopedias and biology books around in addition to a well stocked public library just a few blocks away - oh, that the internet existed then, with its wellspring of potential for reference, news, and porn! - but that damned comic book rack! Geez what an awful thing to draw with its more or less cylindrical shape, countless wire racks and numerous vanishing points and negative spaces!

I looked and looked for reference on one everywhere, I'd already amassed a pretty darned good "photo morgue" or "swipe file" but had nothing even remotely similar to a comic book "spinner rack" in it. What was I to do? Well, after trying to "fake it' and failing miserably, then whining to the FantaCo guys, they allowed me to take my camera into the store, dump all of the books off one of the racks and... take pictures! What a concept; then again, most of the grin boys in the biz these days probably wouldn't have a clue where to get a reference photo of something like that if their computer was down and/or there was no Jim Lee or Adam Hughes comic nearby to copy from, let alone the drive to follow up on it.

Anyway, the turtle and hamster were a little nod to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that started the whole ridiculously long titled black and white independent craze and to the Adolescent, Radioactive Black Belt hamsters who continued it and they were the first designs that were immediately accepted (y'can never go wrong with REAL people, buildings,cars, animals, etc. in illustration), but the screaming kid in front of that selfsame empty comic rack was going to need a bit of tweaking. I'd gone "realistic" with him as well, thinking of, even though not directly lifting the image of a mutant kid that Mike Zeck had drawn in a then recent issue of Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man, but Tom wanted something arch, extreme. He suggested I look at some Harvey Kurtzman, and damn, he was right. Even with all of these years and miles past, I look at that cover and it's stark, alarming and sticks in one's mind- Tom knew what he was doing. But there would still be times when each and every one of the brave little crew that was to assemble in that dismal little office would offer some last minute, out of the box idea that would save the proverbial day (even me!)

After a couple of way too quickly passing weeks, we had the basic look of the characters, and a rough cover drawing to start sending around the horn with press releases, etc. but it was time to actually get the script together and start telling the story. At some point, I finally said to Tom and Roger, "So, am I officially ON the book or what?" and Tom simply said, matter-of-factly, "You're the artist." which felt very, very good, until we had to come to terms on the money situation and decide who was going to ink and letter the book. Ooops, I hadn't thought of that- the penciling, inking and lettering duties were all to come out of the money set aside for "art" so, being a real go-getter (and so cheap I squeak), I decided to ink it myself and subcontract the lettering out to a party to be named later.

I'll never forget being handed the first few pages of the script of which I still probably have sealed in a barrel in my heavily fortified basement. That "script' was unlike any I'd seen before or since - it was a couple of lined 5 x 8 notepad pages written out in ballpoint pen, some actual script format with dialogue, sometimes reverting to "plot form" and in fact, sometimes merely being quickly lashed together sketches (better drawn than many Liefeld books) with hints of dialogue (even later on with comments such as "John, go nuts here"). Wow, this was going to be a real taskmaster, but I liked it from the get-go and really felt good about the project.

Probably one of the pages where Tom said to John to go nuts. -ROG

The book began with a newscaster yammering on about the black-and-white comic phenomenon, then segueing into flashbacks of the history of comics. This opened up infinite possibilities for coolness, I loved throwing in "period clothing" and sight gags on the comic racks in the backgrounds- mercilessly lampooning anything and everything and the guys let me ratchet it up further and further, using almost every twisted, borderline offensive suggestion with two exceptions. First, they decided to put the kibosh on a cover I had blatantly nailing DC's then current "Man of Steel" as "Bland Of Steel" complete with the famous Superman chest emblem changed to snoring zzzz's (although they finally acquiesced and allowed me a tamer version that did appear alongside "Lack of Action Comics" and "Defective Comics". Secondly (and looking back now, I'm glad) they nixed a sight gag liquor bottle labeled "Wood alcohol" with the word "Wood" in the stylized "wood cut" typeface of the signature of the late, great Wally Wood. I had been too high on creative cooties to self edit on that one.

Late one hot June night when the house was quiet, I sat down at the drawing board in my secret crimb lab with only a boombox, the script, a piece of 2 ply kid finish bristol board and a few pencils for company and started actually drawing my first comic book.

To be continued......


Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas, RIP

I was saddened to here about the sudden passing of the legendary Philadelphia Phillies announcer Harry Kalas. Harry, whose career spanned 43 years, the last 38 with the Phils, was inducted into the announcers' wing of the Baseball of Fame in 2002. He was 73

Condolences to his family, including his brother Jim, who I know as he's a member of my former church and was my boss's boss's boss for a time; he has the same resonating voice.

Here's Harry celebrating the 2007 National League East division champion Philadelphia Phillies with his rendition of "High Hopes".

And even if you're not a sports fan, the voiceover in the commercial and others in the series is Harry's.


Geek meme

From Jaquandor, done subsequently by others. You just 'X' in the items that pertain to you.

() You spent a day watching all of the Lord of the Rings/Star Wars/Star Trek movies.
No, but I did see four Beatles movies in one day and five Planet of the Apes movies on another day.
() You spent next two days after watching commentary, outtakes, and behind the scenes footage.
(x) And you bought the soundtrack.
Well, I have a couple soundtracks of Star Wars. On vinyl.
(x) You went to a midnight release of a movie.
Rocky Horror Picture Show.
() You camped in front of the theater for more than 12 hours to get tickets.
() Camping did not prevent you from being in costume.
(x) You can have an entire conversation with friends consisting of quotes from your favorite movies.
Annoying, but true.
() You own at least three game systems.
() You have lost weight because you forgot to eat while trying to reach the next level in your game.
() You own more than four game controllers (of any kind).
() You have existed on 3 hours of sleep per night so that your "Sims" get 8 hours and are refreshed for work.
() You upgraded your computer because you wanted to buy a new video game/expansion pack.
() You have dressed as your game avatar, or as a npc in that game.
() You achieved level 60 on World of Warcraft.
() You have played "Dungeons and Dragons" or any other RPG.
(x) You know what "RPG" stands for.
I know people who play. I love them anyway.
() You dressed as your RPG character would dress.
(x) You own dice with more than six sides.
() You have been accused of having a "gamer" Scent.
() You can identify a Black Lotus.
() You can identify a Charizard.
() You have bought any of the "Harry Potter" books after standing in line until midnight.
() You waited to get your "Harry Potter" book in costume, quoting favorite lines.
(x) You have attended any function with "con" in the name.
FantaCon, San Diego Comic Con, for two.
() You stood in line at said "con" for more than 4 hours to have an item signed.
() You spent more than $50 on a costume to wear to "con" because you wanted it to be authentic.
(x) You own more than 50 comics.
Hey, I used to sell the things.
() You collect your comics in longboxes.
Used to.
(x) You know what a "longbox" is.
I used to sell the things. Got very good at putting them together quickly.
(x) You've met and had your comics signed by the creator(s).
() You know how many "Robins" there are.
I used to.
(x) You know that the portrayal of Rogue in the movie "X-Men" is completely wrong.
(x) You have chatted online more than in person.
(x) You chatted online enough to learn the time zones.
() You think that when the Mythbusters say "Don't try this at home," they really don't mean YOU.
(x) Have participated in a movie/tv marathon that involved a drinking game.
() Can sing along with the Buffy Musical Episode.
(x) You know Seth Green from more than just the "Austin Powers" movies.
() You can name all 8 Kevin Smith-directed movies without referring to IMdb.
(x) You have participated in a "Clerks"-esque discussion about Star Wars (or any other movie).
(x) You have participated in a Kirk vs Picard discussion.
(x) You have participated in a Star Wars vs Star Trek discussion.
() You have participated in a Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek:DS9 discussion
() You know who jms is.
(x) You have ever corrected anyone who called you a Trekkie.
() You have worn a Star Fleet Uniform.
() You own a Star Fleet Uniform.
() You think "Twilight" is lame because everyone knows that vampires burst into flame in the sunlight.
() You have written fanfic.
() You have watched Bizzare Foods and thought "I'd try that."
() You can pinpoint the moment at which "Lost" jumped the shark.
(x) You know who Stan Lee is.
He's my Facebook "friend".
(x) You know who Jack Kirby is.
Twice talked to Jack Kirby on the phone.
() You know who Geoff Johns is.
() You have built a website.
(x) You have started a blog.
More than one.
(x) You maintained a blog for over a year.
() You know what the Genie SFRT is
(x) You have a Twitter account.
() You have over 500 followers on Twitter.
Just over 100.
() You purchased a smartphone just so you could check Twitter on the road.
() You forget your family members' birthdays because they aren't your friends on Facebook.
(x) You have given virtual gifts on Facebook.
But I still don't "get" it.
() You have Superpoked your boss on Facebook.
() You have gotten a date through Facebook (and we're not talking dinner and movie with your buddies).
() You have broken up with someone/been broken up with through Facebook
No, but have been dumped by e-mail.
() You've reached level 30 or higher in Mafia Wars.
() You know what Mafia Wars is.
(x) You participated in more than three social networks.
(x) You've spent more than 200 hours playing the same video game.
If this includes the arcade version of Ms. Pacman.
(x) You've seen any movie in the theater more than three times.
Midnight Cowboy, Annie Hall and King of Hearts.
() You can name the episode of MST3K where Joel was replaced by Mike.
(x) You've argued why the comic is way superior to the show/movie when discussing "The Tick," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "X-Men," "Fantastic Four," "Spider-Man," etc.
() You have the soundtrack for "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" on your MP3 player.
() You are willing to defend the Star Wars prequels.
Nah, only watched the first prequel.
() You openly disparage the Star Wars prequels because they don't live up to "Empire."
Nah, not that invested.
() You're openly concerned about the time line ramifications that J.J. Abram's "Star Trek" movie presents to the canon.
But give it time; the movie's not out yet.
(x) You own anything written by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore or H.P. Lovecraft.
First two for sure, both acquired in 2009.
() You have a flying spaghetti monster on your car
I don't know what that means.
() You've seen a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show with live actors in front of the screen.
(x) You know the REAL reason Spider-Man had a black costume
() You know the NCC numbers of at least two starships other than the Enterprise
() You know what "NCC" stands for.
() You own an original Star Trek Concordance, Technical Manual, and Blueprints
() You own at least two medieval weapons
(x) You have participated in battles with foam-covered swords
() You know who "Major Matt Mason" is
() You have seen bootleg copies of the original Fantastic Four and Justice League movies.
(x) After having had children you realize there's now more people to costume and relish it.
() You've managed to turn four days at Euroquest* into nearly eight because, who needs sleep?
() You've spent more than $1000 on your "spot-on" costume. (and it's still not quite right...)
() You've made a fan film.
() Your fan film has been seen by more than your immediate family.
() People know you by your online name instead of your mundane name.
() You know what Pennsic is.
() You've camped at Pennsic.
() You have/had personalized plates on your car proudly proclaiming your fandom.
() Your spouse and/or friends do as well.
(x) You yell at your kids when they try to open a toy/book/comic/figure etc. that you're collecting.
I don't yell, but she has her toys and I have mine.
() Your kids have broken your Hallmark collectible Star Trek/Star Wars, etc. ornament.
(x) You've traveled more than 500 miles to attend a con.
() You have a tattoo related to your fandom of choice.
() You met your spouse at a fan-related event or con.
As far as I know, she's never been to one.
() You got engaged (to be married!) at a sci-fi convention.
() You are publicly willing to defend Dollhouse, because Joss Whedon must be trusted.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

At some level, it's easier to be a Lenten person than an Easter person. But I'm (still) working at it.

But even if you're not a Christian, I have some wisdom for you. Specifically, it's from a very small (4" X 3.25") book I got for my last birthday called "Wisdom from It's Not Easy Being Green and Other Things to Consider" by Jim Henson, the Muppets and Friends.

"I think there are lots of ways of leading very good lives and growing spiritually. This process of growth goes on whether we believe in it or not."

Now please rise.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

CRYING Question

What makes you cry?

Certainly, sad news of a personal nature, but I'm thinking of what else makes your eyes moist?

For me, it's usually music. It might be a certain recollection; Harvest Moon by Neil Young and Stay with Me by Lorraine Ellison, for two, remind me of lost love. There's an adagio by Albinoni that recalls a late friend.

Then there are other pieces that move me: many Requiems, the Barber Adagio. Johnny Cash's Hurt does when I see the video, but it's the Mercy Seat that gets me when I'm just listening.

The hymn that always gets to me this time of year is Ah, Holy Jesus, specifically the second verse:
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

There are also the occasional movie or television show that move me to tears. The last one I recall was an episode of Scrubs. I don't remember the particulars, but it featured a number of Muppets.

How about you?


Friday, April 10, 2009


Our church's Lenten Bible study this year was about the Apostles' Creed. It was a yeasty conversation over topics such as the representation of God as Father. One part reads "I believe in the...forgiveness of sins". By that, one might assume God forgiving sins, but I think it also has as much to do with us forgiving the sins/debts/trespasses (to site another well-known Christian prayer) of each other.

Today being Good Friday, I'm also reminded of Ruby Bridges, a six-year old black girl who desegregated the schools in New Orleans in November 1960, who you will recognize from a famous painting by Norman Rockwell. To survive the attacks she received daily as she walked to school, and where only one of her white teachers would teach her, she said a prayer which her mother had taught her. Robert Coles, then the child psychiatrist who volunteered to work with Ruby and her family, asked her one day what she was mumbling as she walked through that crowd. She famously told him she was saying this prayer, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." This of course echoes one of the seven last words of Jesus on the cross.

Thus, it is in that spirit that I have decided that I need to forgive someone. It has to be someone for whom I have had a great deal of enmity in the past, lest it not be meaningful. So, I've decided to forgive George W. Bush.

I forgive George W. Bush for:
*gutting environmental initiatives
*instituting a wide variety of surveillance programs
*signing the USA (so-called)PATRIOT Act (H.R. 3162)
*the unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003
*the poor handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis
*the lack of fiscal regulations that has led to the current recession
*and all the rest of it

Understand, I haven't forgotten. But I'm doing this for me, not for him. I need to let go of my anger.

Maybe someday I'll even forgive his vice-president - or maybe not. Certainly, I'm not there yet.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

April Ramblin'

I briefly attended that vigil for Binghamton yesterday. Would have stayed longer but for the fact that it was cold, occasionally rainy, and I had the child, who has been sick recently, in tow. She may not have understood the point of the gathering, attended by about 45, including Albany's mayor (who, not incidentally is, running for re-election), but I still wanted her to be there. That event, along with the story in question, probably prompted this response from me.

THE best television newsperson to come out of the Capital District of New York State, Ed Dague, is in chronic pain. Touching story. I met him at least twice, which I should write about sometime, I reckon.

Greg finds legislation he just can't get behind.

Gordon touts Robert Johnson, as well he should.

They are remastering the whole Beatles catalog. Given the fact that I've already bought it all about thrice (US LP, UK LP, CD), do I want to buy this AGAIN? No, yet the Past Masters package sounds annoyingly intriguing.

Ken Levine talks about Point of View, one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H. Did the TV show House steal it? Didn't see the House ep, but I have my doubts.

15 free downloads to pep up your old PC, which I haven't tried yet, but I figure if I post it, it'll remind me.

I'm getting fairly obsessed with getting the Denver mint state quarters. All I need are Hawaii, Washington state, Missouri and, most problematic, Pennsylvania, the eldest. Oh, and the District of Columbia; just got the Philly mint version this week. Haven't seen the Puerto Rico quarter yet.

My good buddy Steve Bissette discusses, in great deal, including 27 8 by 10 color glossies, Saga of the Swamp Thing #20, the transitional first issue by Alan Moore, John Totleman, and himself that starts off the neat book I just received.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Speaking of Swamp Thing, the co-creator of, and later Steve's editor on, the title, coping as well as one can, given the circumstances, but there's a movement afoot to replace the comics he wrote or edited and, to that end, for people to contribute to a Len Wein comics checklist. I always liked his work during my days of reading Marvel Comics.

So THAT'S what happened at the Albany Comic Show Sunday, before I got there.

ADD's Eisner picks. I'll take his word for it, since the only thing on the list I own is Mark Evanier's Kirby book, though Coraline has been on back order for about a month.

Evanier tells A Story You Won't Believe about Spike Jones.

I'm so pleased: Two weekends ago, we went to the in-laws for their 50th wedding anniversary. Last weekend was Lydia's 5th birthday party at the State Museum. Next weekend is something else again. This coming weekend, Easter, the wife and her mother were trying to come up with a plan to get together. The final resolution - we're all staying in our respective homes and resting; I mean we'll go to church and all, but no travel. I for one am exhausted, and so is my wife, so this is a good thing.

Nik from Spatula Forum celebrates five years of blogging by talking about...

Arthur from AmeriNZ celebrates both his 100th blogpost and two years of podcasting.