Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Gone Now

Weighed in yesterday, too. Lost another 0.8 pounds -- not bad for a week that included a mozzerella-stuffed hamburger!

I'm down 21.4 pounds, now. I'm vanishing a little bit at a time.


Nillz has a Question

I just got a comment from a reader named Nillz, regarding the music used in the puppetry act I linked to way back when. (And if you haven't seen it, it really is worth checking out.)

does anyone know what music is used in this act. i have the music from "the mission" but im looking for the piece that is played when he moves his thumb in like a plucking motion.

Can anyone help Nillz out? I can’t see video at work, and will likely not be able to hear it before the weekend is out because of brother E’s wedding festivities. Post your thoughts here or in the old link -- I'll be checking both. (Nillz may only be checking the original, though.)


Wednesday, May 30, 2007


DC just released this teaser in connection with its Countdown event:

Now, aside from the underlying message, I like the image a lot. It's extremely well-drawn, and it's reminiscent of this image from the cover of The Flash 174, by Carmine Infantino. I could have sworn he or other Flash artists went back to this well a few other times, but I can't find anything else; nor can I find an image from Will Eisner's Spirit that I've heard it's based on, although I think it's more likely that it's simply Eisneresque in the way it brings the logo into the action.

And it certainly keeps with the tradition that "in every Crisis, a little Flash must fall." How this got to be a tradition, I don't know. Barry Allen died in one Crisis, and when the next one rolls around, suddenly Wally's a target? And now, Countdown may kick into high gear with Barry's grandson's Bart's death.

At least, he's the only Flash currently running around in that uniform right now. Wally's MIA (not dead, at least) and, well, Barry's still dead. And the original, Jay Garrick, never wore that uniform. So it looks like the folks at DC want us to believe that Bart is taking the golden treadmill to the pearly gates. Heck, the Rogues (always sticklers for detail) even shot up the "alive" part of the logo, just to drive the point home. (I bet that was Mirror Master. Always has to get in a little extra "dig.")

Then again, I've also heard a rumor that Bart actually is Barry Allen, somehow de-aged (and then re-aged? it makes my head hurt) and sent through time. I don't beleive that for a second. As a friend at work said of the idea: "It reeks of Spider-Clone." And no one wants to make their cologne Spider-Clone.

But DC pretty clearly wants to do something to shake Flash up. At least they recognize there's a problem. When the comic was relaunched last year with Bart at the helm, it and Wonder Woman were its highest-profile debuts that month. But the first issue was disappointing, and by the second issue it became abundantly clear that the writers, Bilson and DeMeo, were doing a lousy job... which was just as well, because artist Ken Lashley couldn't draw his way out of a paper bag. (Incidentally, I haven't seen much of his art for around a year, now. I suspect he's in a paper bag.)

And sales plummeted.

DC acted as swiftly as they could, replacing Bilson and DeMeo with Marc Guggenheim, who's been turning in entertaining scripts for the past few months, and replacing Lashley with Tony Daniel (an aritst I'm not crazy about, but he's mastered the lunchbag escape at least). So the title seems to be getting its mojo back. But DC needs to get the attention of all the readers that fled the book in the first place. (I was nearly one of them, by the way--and I've bought every issue of Flash I could get my hands on since 1977. So that's saying something.)

I hope, whoever they kill (if they kill anyone), it's a good story, worthy of the character. While I haven't been happy with his stint as Flash, I've always liked Bart Allen as Impulse and, later, Kid Flash. To die after only a few months as Flash would be an ignominious end. He deserves something better than a shot in the back.

We, also, deserve better. We've been given watered-down Flash stories for the past year or so. But that's not Bart's fault, and killing him won't make the stories any better. Unless the storytelling continues to improve, we'll be doing this all over again in 2009.


Best in the World

We have the best healthcare system in the world. Which is why I sat in a room for an hour to listen to someone offer incomprehensible series of letters (PPO, HMO, PCP!) in an attempt to explain how all of our medical lives are being turned upside down just because magazine was sold to another company. One woman is regularly taking a prescription that our new insurer doesn't cover. Others are worried about their children's checkups, or their wives' OB/GYN coverage. Probably three times more people than were in that room were affected by the change -- and those people were just a fraction of those in our company. All these people, all at once, with our lives disrupted. We have no power over this. None.

I'm not moving, so why should I change doctors? Especially since I did it six months ago when my original company decided to swap plans. Sorry, buddy -- The Company says so. Nothing we can do.

We're powerless. Thank god we live in America, where your employer decides the medical care you deserve. This is idiocy.

Best in the world my ass.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Race For Your Honor, Charlie Brown!

Rich at the Captain Comics boards gave me the heads-up to this little art project: adapting the Peanuts gang to manga.

(Frieda's kinda cute. That really freaks me out.)

UPDATE: Also from the boards, this time from the Baron: Recognize these kids?


Sunday, May 27, 2007

I've been memed!

So, I’ve been memed. According to SharonGR (who heard it from Nordette, the Jersey Goddess), I’m supposed to come up with eight things most people don’t know about me. Problem is, post people reading this blog know an awful lot about me already – more than you want to, probably, but you can’t look away, like some car accident on the shoulder of the turnpike. (Jeez, I must be getting used to living in New Jersey. A few years ago I’d have said I-95.)

But judging by Sharon’s list, from which I knew, either explicitly or by inference, seven of the eight facts (kiwis? really?), I figure I don’t necessarily need to surprise my nearest and dearest. The rest of you, though – be ready for some schoolin’.

1) I’m a comics geek and a D&D geek. This doesn’t mean I’m a Star Wars geek or a Star Trek geek. Or a Stargate SG-9/Atlantis/Special Victims Unit geek. I know about some of that stuff, but id doesn't mean I *heart* it. (Okay, Star Wars broke my heart, and I ain't goin' back. The others... eh.) I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to comics (although I do have standards), but just because your TV or movie has a spaceship or time travel, doesn’t mean I’m gonna watch it. So far I’ve even passed on Battlestar Galactica, and everyone loves that.

2) If I could be reincarnated as any animal, it would be the sea otter. Swimmin’, tool-usin’, seafood-eatin’ and layin’ about. It should probably be on my coat of arms.

3) Speaking of which, this Venn diagram should probably appear somewhere on my family crest as well. At least for the guys:

4) While I’m not so much a Sci-Fi geek, there are certain types of movies that will grab my attention at any time: con artist movies and movies involving magic. Basically, anything with Ricky Jay in it. (I also have a weakness for prison escape movies, and can only think that some accident of scheduling has kept me from watching the TV show on Fox. I like stories where people, under very controlled situations, use what little resources they have to either break out or build a liveable life for themselves. Under this definition, Misery and Gattica both count as prison movies.)

5) Hot sauce makes weight loss possible. Without it, I’d never be able to eat the egg-white sandwich I have at the beginning of every workday. Let’s hear it for hot sauce!

6) I’m slowly turning into a clothes-horse. Every time I walk into Men’s Wearhouse, I need to pick up something new. For some reason, I still manage to look like a schlub 90 percent of the time. But one day this will change.

7) Last year I had the opportunity to shoot skeet with a 20-gauge Remington break-action shotgun. I had a terrific time, and am looking forward to trying again. Clay pigeons don’t break on their own, you know. They need us.

8) New Orleans and Philadelphia are my favorite cities in the world – but I’ve got plenty of love left for Vancouver, Baltimore, Quebec City, Galway, Paris, and yes, New York. Miami can kiss my ass.

And now, the eight people to tag with this meme. I’ll repeat a few of Sharon’s, since they’re my friends too. So, with all the solemnity of a Pokemon match:

Greg! I choose you!

VeeganMD! I choose you!

Drew! I choose you!

Rob or Brenda! I choose you!

Jeri! I choose you!

Travis! I choose you!

Ami! I choose you!

KTBuffy! I choose you!

Jim the Bastard! I choose you!

That’s nine (HA!). As Sharon said, don’t feel obligated to do this. But heck, I’d like to know more about y’all.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Statue Week: The End

The incredibly talented cartoonist J. Bone gets the last word on the Mary Jane statue brouhaha. It's been posted everywhere I go, but maybe not everywhere you go. So here you go:

And with that, statue week is over.

Have a great weekend.


Before Statue Week Concludes

I want to take the opportunity to link to a dumbass. I love this trainwreck of a blog: It’s like going to the monkey house and watching a chimp throw his own shit.

But the main reason for that link (and don’t bother reading to far, just get a general idea of the guy and move on) is so I can link to Ami Angelwings’ absolutely brilliant satire of the guy. (And be sure to check out Kalinka’s comment, below. It’s gold.)

If your child ever asks you, “Mom, Dad, why did God make morons?” now you know the answer: “So we can ridicule them, dear. Nighty-nite.”

Truly, we are blessed.


More Lost Speculation

My last post prompted my brother Tom to write to me with a possible explanation for Jack's father being alive: That it wasn't just a flash-forward, but also an alternate universe. The episode, he points out, was called "Through the Looking Glass," after all. (It was, however, also a flash forward, whatever universe it happened in. The name of the funeral home, Hoffs Drawlar, is an anagram fro Flash Forward.)

In fact, the idea of an alternate universe ties in with my own personal pet theory of the island -- that it's like Brigadoon, only appearing in our dimension for brief periods. Could it be that instead of being in Limbo when it's not here, it shifts between realities?

In a world where my brother writes to me, sci-fi/fantasy/comics geek that I am, to open my mind to the possibility of alternate universes, rather than the other way around, I'm willing to believe that anything's possible.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost Season Finale (Now Extra Spoilery!)

I'm sure I'm not the only one among us who watches this show, so here's a question: If the Jack sequences were flash-forwards, why does he refer to his father being alive and working at the hospital?

But mostly, if you feel like posting something about Lost, feel free to do it below.

UPDATE: I'm really impressed with the way Lost turned itself around this season. It had really been floundering for a direction, and then, suddenly, it found its footing again. With this episode, it delived the best season finale I've seen this season. (Yes, including Heroes, and even the wonderfully uncomfortable (and ultimately satisfying) finale to The Office.

Some more questions:

Who's in the casket? For a while I thought it was Jack himself. Now I'm starting to think it's Ben. (That is, assuming future Kate is with Sawyer.) Some folks think it's Michael.

Why isn't future Kate in jail?

Did only Jack, Kate and Casket leave the island, or have others?

If Naomi's boat people weren't sent by Penny, how did they know about Desmond?

And finally: GO, HURLEY!

What an excellent show.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Running in Place

Lost 2.8 pounds this week, which officially brings me to 20.6 pounds total -- exactly the amount I'd lost before losing focus and motivation the week before the trip to New Orleans. Essentially, the week's vacation from Weight Watchers in the Tastiest Place on Earth cost me two week's time after and one week before. After a month, I'm back on track.

Worth every second.


Stormed In

It wasn't yet a blurry night when we walked into Molly's, on Touluse Street off of Bourbon. We were just looking to have a drink or two and kill some time before heading into the Dungeon, next door.

It had been a good day. We'd had a great breakfast at a little place called the Coffee Pot, which was topped off by these little balls called callas cakes, a muffiny sort of thing made with rice and pecans and covered with powdered sugar. Then we went to Nicole's folks place in Baton Rouge and had a fantastic crawfish boil. They're monsters, but they're good little monsters! Then we did who knows what, eventually ending up at Molly's. For just a beer, and to stop and use the bathroom.

I'm not gonna kid you by saying anything about making a long story short -- this is a long story anyway. But I'll cut to the chase: We had more than a beer, or a couple of beers. We were having fun, and were in no hurry.

Somewhere along the line, Beth started talking to this guy named Tony, pictured below. Tony was a bartender at the Old Absinthe House, and he started suggesting drinks for Beth, which the bartender, Tom, happily made.

Here's what we know about Tony: He's a big sports fan, particularly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He talked to me about the Eagles for quite a bit; I tried to hold up my half of the conversation, but luckily, he had opinions enough for both of us. He was in the Navy, and had at one point fallen seven stories off a ladder and survived. (Some rookie had climbed the latter with oily shoes.) He had, if I remember correctly, two years of physical therapy to recover from the fall, one of which was so painful that he had to spend the year in isolation. It was a hell of a story.

(Maybe I should mention here that later in the week we stopped in to the Old Absinthe looking for Tony, and a bartender told us he'd been working there for four years, and had never heard of a Tony there. So maybe Tony wasn't being entirely upfront with us.)

He also mentioned that one lasting effect of the accident was that when he was sitting, he was most comfortable crossing his legs, which caused him to be hit on my no end of gay men. He warned us against going much further up Bourbon -- a block or so away was the gay section. "There are dicks flying everywhere," he said. We'd alread walked through it on our way to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe, and we'd noticed no such dicks, flying or otherwise. It was actually pretty tame there. Nonetheless, we all had a good time talking to Tony.

Soon, a friend from the Absinthe named joined us. (He's the guy behind my gigantic, shiny scalp in the picture below.) Tony started ordering shots. They were of this Italian liquer called Tuaca, which is a mix of vanilla and citus flavors. It's delicious. I can't stress that enough. Delicious. The shots are often combined with cream and called "Tiger's Milk," but Tony prefered to use Bailey's, calling it "Tony the Tiger's Milk." Whatever you call it, it was an incredible drink. I don't know how many we had, but we killed the bottle.

(Incidentally, Tony the Tiger's Milk was a good example of Tony's bartending philosophy: Never add something that'll cut the alcohol content when there's an alternative that won't. He also prefers adding Bacardi Limon to Coronas instead of a lime wedge. That's how serious he is about the philosophy.)

Jason, a waiter, had found a phone number of someone named Jennifer in his sugar caddy. He called the number, and tried to get her to come to the bar. Sadly, she preferred to meet at a bar down the street called the Roundup. It's apparently a popular transexual bar. And yes, Jennifer fit right in there.

Somewhere around this point, Tony walked outside, took a look at the sky, and noticed the storm was almost on us. (Oh, yeah, there was a big one in the forecast. I'm not gonna go back and foreshadow it now. This is long enough as it is. But at one point, Jay took off so as to not get caught in it, leaving four of us behind.) Tony came back and said "You've got about fifteen minutes to get back to your hotel. You're either in or you're out." I ordered another drink. We were in.

Okay, back to the plot. It's raining, and Jason is going to run out to the Roundup to meet Jennifer. Kathy and Beth are happy to go with him, and out the door they run into the rain with a guy we've never seen before. This makes no real sense, but Jason seems like a nice guy, and he wanted company.

A few minutes later, and they're back. Jason found her--Kathy says she had a blouse cut down to here, and a bra that came to here (a little above the neckline), drawing as much attention as possible to her hard-won boobs. Jennifer gave Jason a quick look and said "I've never seen you before," dismissing him. So back to Molly's they ran. Poor Jason.

We liked him anyway.

At some point, we'd killed the Tuaca, and Jason moved us on to Jaegermeister. It's not a liquor I particularly like, but we had become a drinking club of sorts, Tony, Jason and I, so I joined in. And joined in. And joined in. (How many is that, three?) And joined in and joined in and joined in. That should do it.

(Interesting side note. Jaegermeister makes you throw up black, by the way.)

Eventually, Tony and Jason left. Tom the bartender looked out the door, and realized Jason had left Tony holding himself up against a lamppost. A while later he was gone. (That's the reason we went looking for Tony at the Old Absinthe later on. We wanted to know if he survived.)

Tom decided to close up the bar. He called a cab for another couple, but they took off without it showing up, so he said the four of us could have it if it did. It never turned up. Tom suggested we could make it most of the way to our hotel under balconies and not get too wet.

We ordered four waters for the road to ward off the next day's hangover. (That worked!) I tried to give Tom a couple bucks as a tip, but he handed them back to me: "You've already taken care of me, believe me." What a guy.

Here's Tom. Lord knows how much I tipped the man.

Now, on our way back we managed to navigate under the balconies pretty well, and stayed fairly dry. I, however, was having trouble keeping my pants up. I was wearing shorts I'd bought the year before, and they were comfortable then. After a couple months of dieting, well...let's just say there were suspension problems.

At some point in the hotel lobby, just before stepping into the elevator, my will to hold my pants up just gave out. Well, I was still holding them up -- I was just holding them in my hand.

My finest moment.

Kathy took a picture of the clock to commemorate our night out, and to record how long we'd been out there doing Bacchus' work. Four oh eight a.m.

Sleep soundly, now.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Say "Ahhh..."

Walking to work, I passed a guy in what looked some sort of doctor's scrubs. I noticed a patch above his shirt pocket. It read "Orgasm Research."

Made me laugh.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Knee-Deep in the Suds

Now that I've jumped into the washing machine, I might as well stick around for the spin cycle. I'm not the only one.

Like practically everyone else in the blogosphere (honestly, I’m surprised Atrios hasn’t weighed in by now), Heidi at the BEAT has more to say about the MJ Laundry statue:

Having worked at Disney for nearly a decade, I can assure you that there is a rich fantasy market for pictures of Disney characters doing very very naughty things. In fact, I used to get some of them in the mail. The Marvel statue of Mary Jane isn’t quite as bad as Disney suddenly leeching coin off this crowd by making statues of naked Pocahontas and Mulan getting it on, but it’s definitely playing to the same kind of mindset. I mean, yeah, Disney WOULD do such a thing to make money if they could get away with it, but theirimage and their branding is too strong to allow it.

Marvel and DC don’t have brands that strong. Batman and Spider-Man appeal to young boysbut that doesn’t stop them from doing appalling things in various muti-verse or variant takes.

I think Heidi puts her finger on the undercurrent of a lot of the arguments against this statue. Above the fold, most anti-statue arguments lead with how the depiction, pose and activity are demeaning to women, and they turn off Spider-Man’s many female fans (most gained via the movies). Which is all well and good, and I think has at least the element of truth to it. Undoubtedly, a lot of fans don’t like the statue, and a percentage of them might look askance at other Spidey projects in the future. The only thing questionable in my mind is the quantity of those female fans – and the quantity of fans (male and female) whose buying habits would change because of this statue. And I don’t think there are many people in the conversation qualified to answer more than “Who knows?” to that question. And in terms of sheer dollars and cents, that’s probably not enough information to actupon.

I don’t know for sure whether Marvel’s publisher Dan Buckley or DC’s Paul Levitz really care about the depiction of women in their comics. Every interview I’ve ever read with Levitz (as well as his body of work writing Legion of Super-Heroes and other titles) leads me to believe he’s a decent, thoughtful man. I don’t think he makes decisions viscerally or impulsively; I get the impression he considers each move he makes. But I’m a complete outsider, and I could be 100 percent off-base about that. And I don’t really have a feeling for Buckley’s character at all.

But my guess is, whatever their personal feelings are, they probably have to swallow some of it to do their job effectively. Each man is under pressure to have their division perform, and sometimes that means going against their own personal grain. Levitz has mentioned in interviews that he didn’t enjoy Preacher, but he felt it was worthwhile for DC to publish it anyway, under its Vertigo imprint. For every one of these decisions he talks about to the press, there are probably dozens he keeps quiet.

And heck, I think I’m rambling. So let me cut to the chase. I think Levitz or Buckley could agree 100 percent with every critique of the statue (and to pull an example from DC, Michael Turner’s heinous cover of Justice League of America #10), and still not necessarily act on it. Because there’s not really an entrenched corporate mechanism to address these kinds of complaints.

But Heidi says it a different way: The MJ Statue dilutes the Spider-Man brand. The Power Girl cover dilutes the JLA brand. It’s the reason the DC and Marvel brands aren’t as strong as the Disney brand – because there’s not as stringent a control to make sure the characters look and act “on model.” This isn’t always bad – we’d almost surely never have gotten Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns with more stringent brand control. But at the same time, we wouldn’t be getting All-Star Batman and Robin now, so maybe it’s a wash. Too-strict brand control keeps characters frombeing able to offer true surprise to adult audience, and I’m part of the adult audience these companies cultivate. But without some sort of quality control, the products begin pandering to the lowest common denominator, and visiting that well too frequently can do lasting damage – not just among those who were initially offended, but among those who fail to get enjoyment out of the current, crasser content. Offense isn’t the only way to drive customers away.

It’s an argument that doesn’t try to appeal to their personal sensibilities; instead, it speaks to the nature of their jobs, as caretakers of these characters and brands. In that sense, the argument at least might be a more compelling tack.


From the Crypt

It was bound to happen -- someone has risen from the Crypt!

VeeganMD has restarted his blog (on blogger instead of livejournal, so that's a plus), and it's high time I made not of it here. So I've hereby moved his link from Tales From the Crypt to Archie's Pals and Gals. And the Crypt Keeper shakes his gnarled fist...

Welcome back, Veeg.


Like a Polaroid Picture

A New Orleans story is coming tomorrow. For now, enjoy Paul shakin' it in some Bourbon Street daquiri bar.


Saturday, May 19, 2007


So, for the past week, there’s been this big brouhaha over a statue. It’s Spider-Man’s girlfriend/wife (depending on which stories you’re following) Mary Jane washing his Spider-suit in a “sexy” pose. And man, has it caused an uproar. What started out as complaints in blog posts and livejournal entries made its way to Boing Boing, Pandagon, The New York Post and other outlets. People complained that the statue was sexist, and then others complained that the complainers have no sense of humor and no business telling people what they should and should not buy. I’m simplifying things quite a bit, but in this past week of reading comics blogs, I’ve spent a lot of time ducking as one side threw brickbats at the other. (What’s a brickbat, anyway? I doubt they’re MLB-regulation.)

And all I could think, looking at the statue, is:

Man, that thing is ugly.

And I couldn’t understand it. It’s based on a design by Adam Hughes. Hughes is a terrific artist, who’s talented enough to draw whatever he cares to. Whatever he wants you to see, you’ll see it. Granted, his art often tends toward cheesecake, but it’s the good kind of cheesecake. No empty calories, no porny expressions, none of that stuff. He’s the Vargas of comics.

And he designed this statue. So why is it so goddamned ugly?

I have to put it down to a sculptor who just doesn’t share Hughes’ talent. Because (thanks to That Slow Redheaded Kid) I’ve finally seen the drawing Hughes did as a concept:

It just has so much more personality and verve than the statue itself. MJ’s having fun here. She’s in on the joke. Hell, she’s making the joke. But as for the statue, it seems to me that she is the joke. In the drawing, she has a personality. In the statue, she's a prop.

I dunno. I see a difference here, and it really does come down to subtlety and talent. Maybe that’s just me.



This took me a minute:

In a heated exchange with fellow Republicans on the immigration bill, John McCain apparently dropped the F-bomb and used "a curse word associated with chickens," according to Paul Kane of the Washington Post.

Naturally, I started trying to decode the fowl language. My first thought was, er... "chicken lover," as they put it on South Park. But that seemed over the top, even for McCain. Hell, it's over the top even for the Vice President "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney--and he shot a man in the face. Because he thought he was a bird.

Then I wondered: Do chickens curse? If so, how can we tell? We'll have to wash their beaks out with soap, but considering the fate that lies a little down the road for them, that's hardly a deterrent. "Soap me all you want, beeyotch! I'm already on death row! Baw-BAWK!"

Then I realized: McCain called something or someone chickenshit. As a noun or an adjective, chickenshit does fine work in the derision business.

Sometimes I wish newspapers weren't so chickenshit about quoting people verbatim. But if they were, I wouldn't get to play this little game now and then.

(Via TPM)

Friday, May 18, 2007

R.I.P., Lloyd Alexander

I just read on The BEAT that another of my favorite writers has died.

Lloyd Alexander was the first writer I ever met. He’s a Philadelphian, which astounded me. I didn’t know where writers were supposed to be from, but “around the corner” was not anywhere near my range of guesses. (“England” and “California” were probably the top two.) For his Chronicles of Prydain series, he used and transformed Welsh mythology into an engaging – hell, why stop there? enveloping, enrapturing, empowering and exhilarating – series about how a boy who begins so lowly and so hungry for a title that he’s named “Assistant Pig-Keeper” becomes the lynchpin in a grand battle between good and evil. The books were meant for younger readers than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and for that they spoke to me much more clearly and profoundly than Tolkien ever did.

Sometime when I was in my tweens, in a decade before they were called “tweens”, Mr. Alexander made an appearance at Gene’s Books in Broomall. So, from a staging area about a mile or so up the road, my friend Tim and I rode our bikes—no, I take that back, we walked—to the bookstore to meet the man. I don’t remember if he did a reading, or if he made any sort of presentation. I just remember shaking his hand and telling him how much I liked his books, getting a couple of my paperbacks signed, and getting a mimeographed sheet of paper with pronunciation guides for all of the characters in the series. I can’t tell you how much it thrilled me – how much it thrills me even today – to find out for certain that I was pronouncing the main character’s name wrong. I’d been pronouncing Taran “ta-RAHN”, when the sheet told me to say it “TAH-ran.” I’ve stopped reading more than a handful of fantasy and science fiction books simply because there were too many names I couldn’t pronounce, so I appreciated this gesture maybe more than most.

The characters in the books always struck me as the perfect archetypes. Dallben, the wise old sage. Gwydion, the noble warrior, an impossible ideal. Taran, the bullheaded and perhaps a bit whiny kid, who honest-to-god grows up during the course of the series. Eilonwy, the somewhat full-of-herself princess who’s more friend than love interest. Gurgi, a clumsy, foolish, always-hungry animal-man. And Ffleuddur Fflam.

Ffleuddur Fflam was the bard of the series, a spinner of tall tales who was cursed so that his harp strings would always break whenever he told a lie. Anyone who’s ever played D&D with me can probably guess how much this character captured my imagination.

What especially impressed me about the books was that, as they progressed, the characters grew and changed. This was especially evident in Taran, but his friends all revealed new facets to their personalities as well. By the end of the final book, The High King, they feel like friends I’d known a long time—and had even missed, given their absence from a large part of the fourth book, Taran Wanderer.

I hadn’t meant to write so much about Lloyd Alexander and these books. But they thrilled me many times when I was younger, and I remember reading them again during a summer home from college, and being impressed as a near-adult with how wise they were, and in such simple terms. I think it’s probably time to revisit them, and see what I think now.

Rest in peace, Mr. Alexander. Thank you so much.


Phrase of the Week!

...from about a month ago, actually.

Kathy & I are finally getting around to watching some Tivoed eps of The Amazing Race, and in the most recent one, a boyfriend-girlfriend team (I don't remember their names, and I can't go to the website to check or I'll find out who won) got yeilded* by the Beauty Queens (Dustin and...I'm drawing a blank). They feel betrayed by them, like the BQs are cheating somehow -- and for that matter, the blondies were shown feeling really guilty about yielding them because they like them (I have no idea why), but felt they were the strongest team.

(*A Yield is when one team can choose stop another team in its tracks for a certain period of time -- I think it's a half hour.)

So, feeling all betrayed and such, the girlfriend wonders why the BQs would do such a thing. (For a million dollars. Cripes!) And her boyfriend (pretty much a constant jerk) has the answer: "They're hookers. They're dirty pirate hookers."

And by introducing the phrase "dirty pirate hookers" into my lexicon, jerkboy has justified his existence. This post is me justifying mine.

UPDATE: More fun with dirty pirate hookers.


At the Heart of Every House

I spent a good deal of my twenties going to see one band, week in and weekout – a gloriously skewed pop/rock/jam/folk/reggae combo called Neo Pseudo.They had an amzing hold over the room, and could get and keep me dancinglike no band I’ve ever seen before or since. They played at a number of differentplaces in Philly, notably Casa Mexicana in Manayunk and the North Star Bar,although I remember an amazing show at the Tin Angel with Beth Williams aswell. (NP’s drummer, Dave Biddison, still plays with Bet.) It's been toolong since I've heard them.

Anyhow, it occurred to me recently thatone of the lead singers, Mike Biddison, was also a carpenter and visual artist, and I wondered if any of his work was online. So I did some searching. And strangely enough, the first thing I found wasn’t his website, but a step-by-step project he did for a show on HGTV.

Then I found his website, It’s good to see that he retains the style and sense of whimsy that I alwaysdug about his music. And he’s still in the area, too.

I remember, years ago, looking at some of his and his wife’s art – particularly a semi-abstract painting of a mermaid that really floored me – and wondering where the hellI could put it. Now, living in a house of my own, I should really take a second look one of these days. Although with the semi-finished or soon-to-be-redonestate of our various rooms, the question remains… where could we put it?But I’m a lot more motivated to find an answer this time.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Erasing the Damage

I dropped 1.4 pounds at my weigh-in last night, almost comletely getting rid of the 1.6 I gained in New Orleans (only that half-mufflatta I split with Jay at Napoleon House to go!). Still there's the 2.6 I gained the week before the trip, as I was easing into vacation mode and slacking right and left. But I'm back on track now! The magic of sushi makes me thin!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Brass Ones

Still not posting much text, but here's some blurry footage of a brass band Jay & I saw on Frenchmen Street last Monday night. (We'd gone to see a reggae band called 007, who were quite a bit of fun, and more on the night later.) They really kicked it up, and had a whole mess o' people gathered around them, dancing and dodging cabs. There's not much to see here, but I dig the sound.

And here are a couple photos I shot:

A little wobbly, but I was drinking and hanging off a lamppost at the time. You should see the ones Jay shot. Oh wait--here's one:

Clearly, I wasn't drinking enough. But the night was young.


Monday, May 14, 2007


Sorry I'm not getting to these New Orleans posts as quickly as I'd like. Allergies are particularly bad right now. (As I was blowing my nose, my wife just gave me the nickname "Honky McSnotsalot," so that should give you some idea.) But more soon, I promise.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saturday Night In the Boom Boom Room

Jumping ahead…

One night, after a great dinner at the Grapevine (in which I had a HUGE pork chop with apricot sauce over a sweet potato and wild boar sausage(!) hash), four of us walked on down to Frenchman street to catch some music. For those of you unfamiliar with New Orleans, Bourbon Street is the street that gets all the press (and the flashing, and the tourists, etc.), but to my knowledge, Frenchman Street has the best concentration of bars to actually see decent music. We walked up and down the two block stretch, and had the choice of seeing Marva Wright, Anders Osbourne, the Papa Mali Trio, Trombone Shorty, and some others, all in packed bars, all sounding great from outside.

The packed bars were a problem. After several days of Jazzfest, and with more walking to come, Beth’s and Kathy’s feet were killing them. They didn’t want to pay a $20 cover just to stand for a few songs before their feet finally gave out, dragging us all home $80 poorer, all told. So after much discussion about whether they’d be safe on their own and whether they knew the way home, they took off, leaving Paul and me on Frenchmen.

We walked around a bit more, evaluating our choices, eventually settling on Ray’s Boom Boom Room, which no longer had Marva Wright onstage, instead featuring David Batistse and the Gladiators. And, at the moment we walked in, John Legend’s drummer, whose name I wish I could find, because he was throwing it into the skins like no one I’ve ever seen. Amazing stuff.

Not that the rest of the band were slouches, either. We walked in about a half hour before the set was scheduled to end (only paying half cover, boo-yah!), but got to enjoy more than an hour of music just the same, including club owner Ray singing “Cruisin’” and an especially nice “Let’s Get it On,” and a singer named Karen K. (or Kaye) singing “Sweet Love” and one more tune that was even better, but which my poor soaked memory can’t quite recall. Meanwhile David Batiste’s band kept it going and going.

In the crowd was an old guy, with maybe one tooth in his head for every decade he was alive. (That’s being generous.) But man, what this guy lacked in choppers, he made up in game. Women loved him. At one point, one lady about a third his age was shaking it right in front of him, all for him. He took out a handkerchief and started mopping his brow as he watched. Then, he unfolded it and started fanning her, as if to cool her off. She kept going and going, to the point where he fished inside his shirt and pulled out a stethoscope. He put the buds in his ears and checked his heart rate. He had a whole routine worked out, and it was a delight to watch. (The shimmying was nice, too.)

Eventually, the band closed the night, and Paul and I took off up Decatur Street, vaguely heading toward our hotel. I’ll pick this up later, but don’t think the night ended there…


Friday, May 11, 2007

Cookin' in the Kitchen

We started the week with dinner at K-Paul's Kitchen, Paul Prudhomme's restaurant on Chartres street. I had pan-friend rabbit with shrimp and pasta. Good food -- but it was in some ways eclipsed by the jazz band that marched through the restaurant, including the open kitchen. Here's some video that Kathy caught of the event.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Coming Soon

Stories, pictures and video from the Big Easy, including a Jazzfest music report; a Jazzfest food report; How We Got Rained Into a Bar all Night, and the Pain and Pantslessness That Resulted; Why Paul Should Appear on the Mexican Dancing With the Stars; A Late-Night-Encounter With Loose Marbles; A Dorky Blunder; Jammin’ In The Kitchen at K-Paul’s; A Face Full of Mud; and How I Wound Up on Bourbon Street in My Pajamas.

All this and more, coming up at Laughing at the Pieces. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Checking In

I'm back, and still exhausted from a vacation filled with food, drink and music. I'll be blogging again soon. But for now, sleep before midnight. What a novelty!


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

That's it.

I'm off to Jazzfest. See you in a week. Here's a little Taj Mahal to entertain you while I'm gone.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Just Allright With Me

I’m going to hell for even linking to this. But who doesn’t like sexy dentists and hot dogs on a stick?



It was four years ago today that we won the war in Iraq.

Mission Accomplished! So glad that's over.

UPDATE: Aaaand... he's going for five. Or six. And after that, what does he care?


The Intruder

I want to get a few posts in before running off to vacation, but vacation prep is hectic, so we’ll see. But if I drop off the face of the blogosphere for a week, just know that it’s because I’m living it up at Jazzfest in New Orleans. Down the road, down the road, down the road, come-a junco partner…

Anyway, in training for New Orleans, I went to my brother’s bachelor party this weekend. Which was a great time, by the way, and if you can travel back in time and join us, please do.

We had one such traveler already. We spent the afternoon/evening at the Phillies game, either in the new stadium or out in the parking lot, tailgaiting next to our big yellow schoolbus. When the game was over, it was time to get on the bus and go to a strip club. It honestly took a lot of effort to get everyone on the bus – some guys were really wrapped up in a parking-lot “horseshoes” type game, where they’d throw colored washers at handmade box targets made out of 2-by-4s and PVC. It was pretty clever, granted… but it’s not generally what you consider the main attraction at a bachelor party. Getting the tailgaters onto the bus was like herding cats. Drunk, drunk cats.

But finally, we’re on our way. And some dude, drinking in the back of the bus, tosses his empty beer can out the bus window. He’s immediately leapt on (only figuratively) by a guy I’ll call Alpha Dog (it’s a bachelor party, names have been changed, etc…), who shouts “Yo, man, that is NOT COOL! We got a trash bag, we got a receptacle, you just don’t DO THAT!” And the can-tosser gives him this blurry look that says, “who the fuck are you?”

And suddenly, that’s the question of the moment, but from the other direction. We all know Alpha Dog, but who the hell is Tosser? It’s a big party, but no one knows him.

Turns out he’s some kid from Bonner (a local high school) who thought we were his crew, since we were on a similar bus and he was drunk out of his mind. (I don’t think he was still in high school – he looked a little old for that – but he probably was still hanging out with his old friends.) “You gotta take me back,” slurred Tosser.

“Sorry, kid,” said Alpha Dog. “You’re going to Day Dreams.”

I don’t really know what happened to Tosser after that. The club isn’t in the best neighborhood, but I think I saw someone arranging for him to get a cab. But hours later, after we loaded up on the bus (and let’s face it, we were loaded up on that bus!) and started the drive home, a couple of the guys said they saw Tosser stumbling down the road. Not that anyone was in any condition to know for sure – it could have been a fire hydrant, for all we knew.

Here’s to you, Tosser. Safe journey, dope.