Sunday, September 30, 2007

More Pals! More Gals!

I just added a whole bunch o' blogs by my pals in the Legion of Superfluous Heroes to my Archie's Pals & Gals sidebar. So cruise through and take a look!


Who Needs Sleep?

Every now and then I check out Netflix's "watch instantly" pages to see what sorts of videos I can watch streaming on my computer. And tonight...I found Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot.
I watched this show all the time as a kid. It, Ultraman and Space Giants were always good for giant rubber monster fun. I remember once when I was a kid (from the house we were living in, I couldn't have been more than 7), the sound went out on our TV while I was watching Ultraman. (For those who don't know these shows, all were produced in Japan and then dubbed into English). I complained (okay, whined) to my mom about the sound, and she said, like it was the most reasonable thing in the world, "Read their lips."

So I sat there, trying to process whatever I could see, little realizing that I was trying something doubly impossible. Wicked sense of humor, my mom has.

Anyway, I can watch Johnny Sokko on the computer now. I've only watched the first episode so far ("Dracalon, the Great Sea Monster"), but I can see 25 more late nights in my future. I'm especially looking forward to "Opticon Must Be Destroyed" (that giant flying eyeball gave me nightmares) and "The Monstrous Flying Jawbone," because, well...monstrous flying jawbone, y'know?


Friday, September 28, 2007

Lentil Ben

I just made lentil soup!

This is quite amazing to me, since this is the second lentil soup recipe I've seen in a couple of days (the other was on Good Eats, and I'll get around to making that one, too). I was intrigued by the bacon that starts it off, but also the promise of something fairly healthy and filling to eat. (My calculations, figuring on 8 small servings, is 3 points!)

My soup may, in fact, be a little too filling. Some of it is...there's no getting around it...kinda chewy. I've never been a good simmerer. But man, is it tasty.

Don't leave out the final steps: the salt, pepper, and vinegar. I did, initially, and the soup tasted kind of bland to me. But the seasoning really made it pop!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hey, Nice Marmot!

After a day of the medicine, the Dude seems to be pepping up.

So far, so good.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lightning Round!

A while back, I promised these upcoming stories for the blog:

Scotch and Cheese
On Godhood
On Danger Signs and Beyond
The Tiffany Flytrap

I’m going to try to wrap up as many of them as I can here, since otherwise I’ll never get to them.

First of all, I covered “On Godhood” here. If you haven’t read it, feel free. This post ain’t goin’ anywhere. (Actually, the same could be said for pretty much ALL of my posts.)

So: Scotch and Cheese.
As adults, I think sometimes we forget how mysterious our world is to children. But at the same time, we also forget what open books we are to the little buggers. So when one of the kids on vacation told one of us that all we talked about when they weren’t around was scotch and cheese, our immediate reaction was, “That’s absurd! We talk about movies too!” But thinking it over: Yeah, she totally nailed us.

Okay, I have hardly any idea what this is actually about. This paragraph will be refreshingly free of any definite facts. But one night at Fest, there was one set at a night concert played by somebody (what’d I tell you?) where the lead musician was going on and on about this guy named Hobart. (That’s the one concrete detail I can give you, and I gave it up in the title. Sheesh.) Apparently he was some big Hobart fan or something. Maybe it was a tribute concert; actually, whether it was billed as one or not, it certainly was one.

What happened is that I was asleep for the first five minutes of the concert. A little too much drinky, you ask? Could it have been fifteen-year-old scotch, or fifteen-year-old cheese? I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that I woke up, this guy was playing some instrument or other, talking about how Hobart would do this or that, or how Hobart preferred his fiddle strung (if Hobart played a fiddle; I don’t know). And I’m thinking, “Hobart who?” But that ship had sailed, and like a latecomer to an episode of Seinfeld, I was five steps behind the jokes. Except there weren’t any jokes. There was just this guy lecturing us about Hobart, and occasionally playing some music that Hobart either wrote, played, or liked. Or possibly all three. I have no idea. Maybe the songs were about Hobart.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one confused. That night, and for the rest of the weekend, you could hear folks in camp criticizing each other, saying “Hobart wouldn’t grill a burger that way,” or “Hobart would do a shot if he were here. Are you too good for Hobart?” The spectre of Hobart loomed large, even if no one was particularly sure who he was or what he did. Or maybe everyone knew, and was suitably impressed, and they all decided to keep it from me.

I bet that’s what Hobart would do.

I wanted to say a bit more about the Toyota Tundra I borrowed for Fest. It made camp prep so much easier. In order to fit all our equipment in one of our cars, we have to playe this elaborate game of jenga in the backseat and trunk, using every last available micron of space. Witht he Canyonero (as we soon called it), we could fit it all in the front third of the bed...and still have room for our car. in the end, we decided to leave the car at our house and just take the truck.

On Danger Signs and Beyond
This needs visuals I don’t have with me, so I’ll have to postpone this one yet again.

The Tiffany Flytrap
There’s a chapel in Auburn, New York, that was entirely designed by Lewis “Comfort is my Middle Name” Tiffany. It’s a pretty cool place, even if throughout the decades since its design, a couple of the building’s caretakers have either removed fixtures or painted over the walls’ original color. But the windows and chandeliers are really impressive, using some interesting folded-glass techniques that look pretty neat from a distance, but up close simply amaze.

The tour staff was nice, but their information on the building was kind of hit-or-miss. One fun fact? To get the yellow used in the windows, Tiffany tinted the glass with uranium. My advice to you if you go is: Don’t lick the windows.

Our tour guide kept on talking about a video that we were supposed to see before the tour, but they were struggling with the VCR all day. We seemed to be doing all right without it, but just before we left, a staffer emerged from the office with the joyous news that the video was finally working again, and did we want to see it?

“No,” we answered, “Not on your life. Your entire day’s work has been for naught. You have completely wasted the last eight hours.”

Ah, if only. Instead, we said “Sure,” and filed into the office to see a fifteen minute video telling us the things we’d already been told, accompanied by photos that didn’t do the structure justice. Plus, it didn’t really seem to be made for visitors; instead, it seemed to be aimed at donors, and when its job was done on that level, someone got the idea to include it as part of the tour. Thereby leading to our inability to escape.

Let me give you a timeline: We arrived a little before three in the afternoon. The chapel itself wasn’t open except for tours, so we waited for the 3:30 tour, which started without announcement as we browsed their used books table. Then we walked around the chapel for a half hour or so, finding ourselves wowed by new little details, but finally preparing to leave. And then, on the brink of departure, we get sucked into the video. All told, we spent nearly two hours on a half-hour tour.

Even though it was located just around the corner, Harriet Tubman’s house will have to wait until next year.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Some Bad News

I took our ferret The Dude to the vet this morning; he's been acting lethargic and kind of mopey for a few days, and just generally out of sorts, and we wanted to find out what was wrong.

So now we know. Sort of.

After some X-rays, it looks like the Dude has a large tumor in his abdomen, and it's likely he has another one on his lung. The vet gave this an 80 percent chance; otherwise, it could be pneumonia, so we're trying antibiotics first.

In two weeks, we'll take him back, and decide what to do from there. But I get the feeling that surgery is not an option with a tumor this size; it's just a matter of keeping the Dude comfortable and treating whatever symptoms he gets.

Regardless, he's a trooper. The Dude abides.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Notes From Bizarro World

A senior White House official has said Barack Obama is "intellectually lazy."

This quote must be miscredited. It must be from the an official at the Black House, the seat of executive power in Bizarro World, where super-genius President Bush has brought us an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity through his unparalleled knowledge of world history, current events, and economics.

Has to be. Has to be.

Because otherwise, it'd just be a White House official making up bullshit with no basis in fact, ignoring the obvious mental deficiencies (and possible functional illiteracy) of the Chimp-in-Chief.

Hmm... on second thought, either possibility is equally likely.


Weekend Update

Warning: This post rambles like whoever it is that sings “Ramblin’ Man” that I’m too lazy to look up right now. Strap yourself in: It’s going to be a bumpy post.

Coming off a good weekend today. It started out early, strangely enough, with a train delay. Somehow fate had contrived to seat me in the same booth as a woman I talk to on the platform and one of her friends, and we had a good conversation about horror movies at 8-something in the morning, As they described some horrific details of Hostel, and I mentioned some skeevy goings-on in The Ruins, I had to wonder—was anyone listening to us?

I’m reminded of a line from Jo Carol Pierce’s musical, Bad Girls Upset by the Truth: “Friends are great, but to have a truly exciting life, you must have strangers.” Here’s to that.

Saturday night, Kathy & I hit TheatreSource’s Estrogenius festival for the closing night of the Week One one-acts. Our friend Jen Thatcher had written a play for it, and it was good to see her and her husband Jesse (and their friends Greg and Beth) for dinner and theater. In between, we caught some talented singers busking at Washington Square, and Jesse explained some math priciples to us (including how the sum of a certain infinite sequence of numbers comes out to Pi squared over six, which is brilliant in a way that only Jesse can see).

The festival provided a fun night of plays, with Jen’s “The Wedding (Re)Gift” being one of the strongest of the night—it was written and acted very naturalistically, about a very human problem (a couple’s marriage gets off to a rocky start). It was funny and genuine, and well-acted by Denise Fiore and Elon Rutberg.

The other standouts were “Swan Song,” a heartfelt musical about aging and caregiving by Andrew Frank and Doug Silver, and “After People” by Fiona Jones, which absolutely kicked my eyeballs in. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, a group of clone-grown women are setting about to rebuild the devastated planet. It sounds like too big a concept to fit into a one-act, but Jones narrows the focus perfectly on a specific problem, with implications for the future of society as a whole. The ensemble (Elizabeth Rosengren, Carla Hayes, Judy W. Chen, D’Vorah Bailey and Brie Eley, directed by Mhari Sandoval) buzzed around the stage with urgency and purpose, deflty handling the exposition necessary in a piece like this without ever making it seem like an information-dump. It was a great piece to close out the night with, and has enormous potential for expansion to a full length play or a movie.

Afterward, there was a week-one closing party at the Source, and we hung around gabbing until a lucky glance at the time made us realize we’d have to scamper to make the last train home to NJ. After trying unsuccessfully to get a cab, we’d just resolved to hoof it back to Penn Station when I spotted one as we were crossing the street. We made it just as the train started boarding, and were able to get seats together.

The train ride home was terrifically entertaining, as a cluster of drunks had gotten on the wrong train and were asking every conductor where they should get off, and what their next step should be. Then they’d forget about whatever their plan was, and ask again. I heard the leader of the bunch, a white guy with long greasy island-style braids, say to his friend, “If you weren’t so sober, you’d be fuckin’ bombed.” Words to live by. Anyhow, they planned to get off in Rahway, then passed that station. Then they planned to leave at Metropark, but didn’t get off when we did. I don’t doubt they saw the nightlife in Trenton by the time the night was over.

Yesterday was some much-needed yardwork, and some little-needed extra eating. I’m glad the tabloids don’t stalk me like they do Britney and Lindsay, or else I’d be in some sort of ankle bracelet for that bowl of ice cream and spoonsful of peanut butter I couldn’t resist. Stupid human! Stupid! Stupid!

And then, this morning—the guy I’m sitting next to on the train asks me about the comic I’m reading (the excellent Sandman Mystery Theatre) and suddenly we’re off and running on a nice conversation on comics and the direct market and commentary and all sorts of stuff. Turns out he’s the boyfriend of Cheryl Lynn of Digital Femme fame. Thanks for the conversation, Jay—hopefully I’ll see you on the train again sometime.

See what I mean about strangers?


Friday, September 21, 2007

It's Official.

Arguing is fun.

(Thanks, Superfluous Heroes!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This stuff fascinates me.

Quirkology is Richard Wiseman's term for his various studies of oddities of human behavior. He's a psychologist who enjoys looking into why and how we lie, why we're fooled by magic tricks, and things like that. I heard an interview with him a few weeks ago on Paul Harris's radio show, and he really knocked me out.

Ah, why am I trying to explain, when this video does it so well. I give you the fascinating Color-Changing Card Trick. Watch closely...

More videos are at the Quirkology website.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Enter...the Meat Man

It's been a while since I've indulged in any casting for the HBO production of Garth Ennis' and Steve Dillon's Preacher. And I know this character is a ways down the road, plotwise, but I think it's wise to sew this guy up before he gets a better offer. So I present to you the mad butcher of Salvation, Texas, Odin Quincannon... played by Alan Greenspan.

Seriously. I just saw him on The Daily Show last night, and he would kill.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Emmy Spotlight

Just a moment to note Jamie Pressly's Emmy win for her work as Joy in My Name Is Earl.

She totally deserves it. It's a rare treat to see a woman who's so pretty constantly make herself look so ridiculous for the sake of well-earned, in-character laughs. It's a terrific, laugh-out-loud-funny show, and she does outstanding work. There was a moment this season—no idea what it was now, to be honest–when I paused the TV and said, "She should get an Emmy." And now she has one. Judge Dredd would be pleased.

("Hey, Crab Man.")

I Lost My Handicam

Or the approximately 13 ounces this Sony Handicam represents. Hand not included.

(Still 2.6 pounds up from my lowest recorded weight.. but getting there.)

Janet Reno's Greatest Hits

Okay, not really.

But get this: Former attorney general Janet Reno is one of the compilers of Song of America, a three-cd box set of music that traces American history. And it looks pretty good, with songs from the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Wesley Harding, Freedy Johnston, BR549, Bettye LaVette, Old Crow Medicine Show, Janis Ian, Martha Wainwright, and (as they say) much, much more. Philly band Marah sings "John Brown's Body," for cryin' out loud. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Hoofing It

Kathy & I spent a glorious day hiking in the Palisades yesterday—a seven-mile hike that went downhill fast and uphill even more steeply. We got to see some gorgeous views of the Hudson River and the cliffs themselves. There was one overlook by a monument to the women's groups that saved the area from strip-mining that revealed a steep drop and a majestic view of the river.

The view from below.

But further along the hike—almost to the end of it—is a spot called Gray Crag, which is a jagged mass of gray rocks that's separated by a crevasse from the trail, so that you have to cross a bridge to reach it. It's here where the view was the most beautiful. Maybe it's simply the sense that fewer people have seen it. There are no handrails here, giving the impression that the only people to get to this point are the ones with enough sense not to fall over the side.

(We didn't fall over the side, in case you're wondering.)

It wasn't all gorgeous views, though. I hate to say I wasn't in a great mood for much of it. I blame it on my sinuses, which were providing me with a nearly unimpeded flow of what my dear friend Christoph would identify as "nasal mucus," but which you and I refer to as "snot." My lung capacity was fine, but my air intake was almost entirely by mouth, making the hike tougher for me than it should have been. By the end of the hike, not only were we almost out of water, but I was also rationing clean tissues from my left pocket. On the other hand, I had plenty of used tissues left to cure and ferment in my right pocket, and these were often brought back into service.

That was much more than you cared to know, I'm sure.

Anyway, the best part of the hike, even better than the view? The activity points I earned. Four hours of hiking gives you 17 activity points—enough to cover the sandwich and few handfuls of gorp I ate on the hike. And leaving me with lunch and dinner points for dinner. So a few hours later, I was staring at a half-rack of St. Louis-style barbecue ribs, thinking: I earned these.

And then, strangely enough, I went home and passed right out.


Friday, September 14, 2007

On Godhood

For our recent vacation, Kathy & I and three other couples rented a house on Lake Owasco in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Kathy and I were the only couple without kids, and there were six of them in all. They're a good bunch o’ sprites, smart, enthusiastic, creative and funny.

And they worshiped me as a god. Honestly. There was bowing and scraping and stuff. I couldn’t believe it either.

It started when Kathy & I brought home a watermelon from the supermarket. One of the kids asked me about it -- they might have even asked flat-out if it was a watermelon, although they clearly knew that it was. Kids like hearing themselves talk.

Anyway, I said no, it wasn’t a watermelon; it was a football. An edible football that tasted like watermelon. They liked this.

They really liked this.

Whenever the watermelon and I were in the same room together (usually the kitchen, since the melon didn’t get around much), they’d ask me about it. When we’d eat the edible football. Could we play with the edible football? I made up whatever answers were necessary, and these seemed to be transmitted through the gaggle enthusiastically.

The football questions persisted, and I met each one with a new slice of baloney. At some point, to discourage them from playing with the edible football, I invented water balloon football. This caused some problems—the outside spigot wasn’t working, so we had to fill the water balloons in the house, Some water got on the floor, and at least one of the kids slipped. She wasn’t seriously hurt, but there were some tears, I think. I organized the kids into more of a bucket-brigade system, with everyone having one job or anther, so at least there wasn’t so much fighting for the sink.

Then I tried to divide the kids into teams. I picked two captains randomly. Big mistake—I should have picked the two youngest, to separate them. The teams would have evened themselves out. Instead, there was some consternation about game balance, and we soon reshuffled the teams.

And then I realized that I couldn’t just say “It’s just like football except if the balloon breaks, you’re down.” For one thing, I didn't want the kids tackling each other, since their was a variety of sizes on the field. Plus, some of them weren't clear on the rules of football. (I’m no expert, either.) So there was some hashing out of the rules, and then I just threw up my hands. "You know what? Let’s have a water balloon fight.”

It was brief, and I was attacked a lot. I did manage to catch a few and throw them back, though.

Somewhere around this time, the boys in particular started bowing to me, chanting, “All hail the master of the edible football! All hail!” This, I thought, is what vacation is for. I don’t get a lot of “all hail” at work.

The kids would corner me as I walked through doors or down stairs. Out of nowhere, they’d suddenly appear, praising me. It was funny and creepy at the same time, which was probably their desired effect. Kudos all around, kids—you’re freaking out the grownups.

Anyway, back to the edible, watermelon. At some point I cut the thing into chunks and brought it out to the kids in a big bowl, announcing “The time has come! Eat of the innards of the edible football!”

They took to this like ducks to duck sauce. Within minutes, all that was left was a pool of watermelon juice at the bottom of the bowl. And then one of them said, “Drink the blood of the edible football!” Suddenly I realized—I had created a sacrament. That’s a little nerve-wracking, even for a guy who doesn’t believe in divine retribution.

The praising and the bowing started becoming more and more persistent. “All hail Master!” they started saying. The edible football was dwindling in stature now that it was gone. A couple of the adults told me: “You’ve got an army, and you’re not making them do anything.”

Finally, the servitude got to me. Long after it should have, really, but I could tell they were having fun. But on the morning we spent tie-dying shirts and sheets and soon, everything in sight, it started getting to be too much. I told them (in a grown-up voice): “I don’t want anyone calling me Master who’s not washing our cars.”

And that was that.

Easy come, easy go.

Rob, Former Master of the Edible Football

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Half A Million Strong

In a recent post, Jeri Smith-Ready recently wondered why there's are very few novels set on 9/11, and it brought to mind a similar question I'd been asking myself:

Woodstock gets billed as "the concert that shaped a generation" -- but are there any movies set at Woodstock? Other than, y'know, Woodstock? Fiction's what I'm driving at. I bet there are plenty of interesting stories that could be told in that environment -- a weekend-long temporary metropolis.

And yet I can't think of one.


Fighting Infection

I just got an email from Consumers Union urging me to write my congressman to urge him to support the HR 1174, the Healthy Hospitals Act of 2007. The act provides incentives for Hospitals to make their infection rates public, the idea being that the disclosure will spur them to reduce their number. It sounds like a good idea (although I can't claim to know the ins and outs of the actual legislation), so I wrote my congressman, Frank Pallone. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Rep. Pallone,

I’m writing to urge your cosponsorship of HR 1174, the Healthy Hospitals Act of 2007. You’ll probably be getting a number of these letters, since Consumers Union has sent out a “call to action” email, but I thought I’d take a moment and write my own email, since I believe the issue of hospital infections is so important.

In June of 2001, my father checked into Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore for a lung transplant. He had ideopathic pulminary fibrosis, and his lung capacity was diminishing daily. We’d been waiting for this for a long time, and were excited and scared by the procedure -- we worried that the transplant would be rejected, or that he wouldn’t be able to gather the strength for his recovery from surgery.

Neither was the case. Dad and his new lungs got along well, and his strength was building every day. Signs were good for a successful recovery.

However, the hospital was using a model of bronchioscope that was later recalled because it resisted regular sterilization procedures. This was unknown at the time, so that whenever my father was reexamined with one of the devices, he risked getting someone else’s infection. (And vice-versa: Whenever someone else was examined, they risked getting Dad’s infection. I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first time I ever considered that.) So despite his body’s acceptance of the new lungs, and despite his progress in rehab, my father caught infection after infection. He fought off as many as he could, but in the end it was too much. He died in October of 2001.

To my understanding, the Healthy Hospitals Act would require hospitals to make public the statistics regarding their rates of infection. Now, I’m not writing to say that this information alone would have changed any choices my family made. Johns Hopkins had the best doctors in the area for the procedure, and Dad would have gone into their care regardless. But I do believe that by making this information public, hospitals will feel pressure to evaluate the choices they make with regard to infection. And those choices will reduce the rate of infection overall, one step at a time.

I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t looked deeply into this Act. I don’t know the ins and outs of policy, or the ramifications for hospitals beyond its intended effects. But I will say that this sounds like a very good idea. So please, take a close look at HR 1174 and consider cosponsoring it. (And if you decide it’s a bad bill for some reason, I’d like to hear why as well. I know a lot of bad legislation is cloaked in the language of reasonable, common-sense solutions.)

Thank you very much for your time and service,

(I'm not on a first-name basis with Rep. Pallone; I'm just keeping my address to myself.)

If you think this bill sounds like a good idea, write your representative too. Here's Consumers Union's action page (although the language of its email is much more certain that the legislation is good down to the details; in retrospect I should have amended my first sentence, but what's done is done).


You Want To See This

See? Told you so.

(Thanks, Alan M.!)

Tipping the Scales

Went to another meeting today -- my first since going back on program since going off the grid for vacation and gaining 9.8 pounds -- which, you may remember, is the weight of a circular saw.

My first week back, I lost...6.4 pounds. To put it in perspective, it's the weight of this silver female rainbow trout:

So after a week, I still have 3.4 pounds of vacation weight on me. Say...this Kentucky bass:

There you have it. My weight in fish.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ten Characters in Search of a Psychiatrist

I wasn’t sure what I’d be blogging about next, but I knew I’d have some time to get into it this afternoon, now that all my pages are shipped and I have only to wait for them to come back in proof. And then I discover I’ve been tagged by Ami in the Ten Character meme. Fair enough -- I had a feeling I’d be tagged eventually, and had resisted reading too far into the relevant posts because i wanted to approach my group of characters fresh. But enough dilly-dallying—onward to the (enormous freaking) meme! (Rules are in bold, by the way.)

First, select your ten fictional characters (from any medium) by whichever method you like best. Then answer the questions below.

1. Darryl Zero, The Zero Effect, movie
2. Yossarian, Catch-22, novel
3. Barney Gumble, The Simpsons, TV
4. Kilroy, Styx’s Kilroy Was Here, rock opera
5. Dr. Girlfriend, The Venture Bros., TV
6. Mr. Peanut, Planters mascot, advertising
7. Noah, The Bible
8. Coach Ernie Pantuso, Cheers, TV
9. Amanda Waller, Suicide Squad, comics
10. Samuel L. Jackson, Snakes on a Plane, movie*

*I just looked on IMDB and discovered his character’s name was Neville Flynn. WTF? There’s not a chance I’ll call him that, and not a chance you’d know who I was talking about if I did. (Like more than two of you know who Darryl Zero is—but moving on...)

1. Divide the list up by even and odd. Which group of five would make a better Five Man Band (like a Power Rangers team)? Who would you slot in each position: Leader, Lancer (second-in-command), Big Guy, Smart Guy, The Chick? If you think the team would be improved by swapping one character between the even and odd groups, which ones would you switch?

Team A:
Darryl Zero, Barney, Dr. Girlfriend, Noah, and Amanda Waller.
Team B:
Yossarian, Kilroy, Mr. Peanut, Coach, and Samuel L. Jackson.

For Team A, Waller is the leader, with Darryl Zero as the smart guy. Noah is the lancer, because he knows how to follow orders and he can Get Things Done. Barney is the big guy, and Dr. Girlfriend is the chick. With a pipefitter’s voice.

On Team B, we’ve got Samuel L. Jackson as the leader, because he knows how to get the snakes off the motherfucking plane. Kilroy is the lancer, and Coach is the big guy (well, he’s obviously not the smart guy -- we’ll leave that to Mr. Peanut). Yossarian is the chick.

Do I really have to say that Team A can whup Team B any day of the week?

2. Gender-swap 2, 8 & 10. Which character would have the most change in their story arc? Which the least? Would any of these characters have to have a complete personality change to be believable as the opposite sex?

Three males to females: Yossarian, Coach, and Samuel L. Jackson. Coach’s story changes the most. If anything, Yossarian would have to face even more bureaucracy than before, and SLJ can kick ass in any gender. But a female major-league baseball coach in the 70’s? There’s a story there. Especially since, of all the wonderful things Coach is, she’s not the brightest bulb in the woodshed. (Yes, I know.) So how’d she get the gig?

3. Compare the matchups of 1 & 8 and 5 & 9. (Ignore canon sexual preferences for the moment.) Which couple would be more compatible? Which couple would be more plausible to people from either principal’s home culture?

Darryl Zero & Coach, or Dr. Girlfriend and Amanda Waller? Zero and Coach couldn’t even UNDERSTAND each other, let alone be compatible. Zero is 99% intellect, frustrated by stunted emotion. Coach is exactly the opposite -- all heart, no brains. They both need a trip to Oz.

As for Girlfriend and Waller -- they’d make a fine couple. Girlfriend goes for plotters, and she’d find her dream date in Waller -- she’s actually competent! Waller, on the other hand, likes to be in control of everything, but I bet would like it even more that Dr. G wouldn’t let her be. Yeah, they’d be good together.

4. Your team is 3, 4 & 9. The mission consists of a social challenge, a mental challenge and a physical challenge. Which team member do you assign to each challenge?

Barney, Kilroy and Amanda.

Waller gets the intellectual challenge, and she defeats it with guile and guts. Kilroy can convincingly imitate a robot, so he’s obviously not a social guy. Let’s give him the physical challenge. I’ll give Barney the social challenge, since as a boozehound he’s full of the social lubricant.

5. 7 becomes 1’s boss for a week in some plausible fashion. How’s their working relationship?

Okay, paranoid detective Darryl Zero works for Noah for a week. Zero, his own boss, doesn not take orders well. By week’s end, Noah has either caged him with the rhesus monkeys or has mistaken him for God.

6. 2 finds him/her/itself inserted into 6’s continuity. As far as anyone other than 2 or 6 is concerned, they’ve always been there. What role would 2 be presumed to have had in 6’s story, and could they fit in without going wonky?

Ah, the vast Mr. Peanut mythos. What will Yossarian do? I imagine Yossarian annoys and circumvents mascot after mascot up the food chain, from Mr. Bubble to the Coppertone girl, until he finally comes face to face with the monacled manipulator who has been salting everything in sight.

Seriously, I think my head just exploded.

7. 3 and 5 get three wishes. The catch is that they have to agree on all three wishes before they get the benefits of any of them. What three wishes would they make?

Barney and Dr. Girfriend get three wishes.

Dr. G. lets Barney wish for an endless supply of Duff beer right off the bat, figuring he’ll be out of the picture and she’ll get two unimpeded wishes out of the deal. Problem is, now that she’s got them, she doesn’t know what to wish for. She doesn’t want to be an arch-villain, because she’s seen enough to know that game is for chumps. Just the same, she wouldn’t throw in with Dr. venture and his crew. And while she’s hemming and hawing, Barney wishes for two more endless supplies of beer. Things never work out for Dr. Girlfriend.

8. 1 and 2 are brainwashed by a one-time artifact that works even on people immune to mind control to attack and kill 4. They keep their normal personality, skills and competence level, except any Code vs. Killing has been turned off. Can 4 survive? How?

Darryl Zero and Yossarian team up to kill Kilroy? It takes less than a minute for Zero to find Kilroy in a Roboto unit. (If only he'd stop shouting "I'm Kilroy! Kilroy!") Wherepon, Yossarian brings up a question about how to kill him, leading Zero to a logical impasse. Wherepon Killroy takes the opportunity to escape. Wherepon Zero finds him. And so on, ad infinitum.

9. 6, 7, 9 & 10 must help an orphanage full of small and depressed children have a merry Christmas. Who does what, knowing that at the very least the kids will be expecting a visit from Santa?

Mr. Peanut, Noah, Waller and SLJ, helping an orphanage at Christmas. First off, Jackson burns the place to the ground to torch any snakes in stockings (and roasting Mr. Peanut in the process. I’m getting hungry). Amanda Waller convinces Noah to play Santa, while she checks the orphanages secret files (in a fireproof safe, I guess) for any secret information she can use or withhold at a later date.

10. 3 and 8 are challenged to circumnavigate the Earth in eighty days or less, using only forms of transportation invented before 1900. Can they do it, or will they be fatally distracted by sidequests or their own personality conflicts?

Barney and Coach circumnavigate the Earth? They couldn’t successfully circumnavigate a grapefruit.


And that’s it: My long-ass post of the day. I’ll tag Drew or Sharon, Jim the Bastard, Jeri, Greg and KTBuffy. No obligation, guys. Frankly, I’d be surprised if you even got this far.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Persistence of Memory

Business as usual today.

I’m okay with that.

There are places I could go, commemorations I could take part in, should I feel the need. But I've heard this date invoked in so many nakedly political speeches that I find myself eyeing any public ceremonies with skepticism and distrust.

I shouldn't, I know. People are genuinely grieving, still. But I can't do it in public, and I don’t want to watch other people do it, either.

I’m tired of remembering.

Remembering means walking through Penn Station and thinking someone might want to collapse the building around me. This huge hub of activity in the heart of New York, with trains entering it every couple minutes, any one of which could be carrying an explosive device. At any given moment, thousands of us could be crushed or trapped underground.

I walk past the Empire State Building on my way to work. Normally, it’s no big deal; I buy my comics across the street. But when I think about what happened six years ago, it’s a looming target, casting its shadow for blocks.

I’m lucky, I know. I didn’t lose anyone during the attacks. When I think about that day, the person that comes to mind is my father, lying in a hospital bed in Baltimore. It was the only day none of us could make the drive from Philadelphia down to visit him. It was the only day of his long hospital stay he was alone.

He died shortly after that. A month later, almost to the day. He had his own things to deal with; a lung transplant gone bad, nothing to do with the attacks. He moved on. And yet I think about him more today, perhaps, than any other day of the year. I remember that first time I visited, afterward, sitting by his bed and watching the news coverage. The first steps we were taking were good ones, we both agreed. Everyone was acting responsibly, in the public’s interest. As a country, we were being patient while we looked for evidence. As a people, we were being kind to one another.

I remember those moments, and also later, another night, sitting in that same room with him, watching an episode of JAG. It was the first time his TV hadn’t been tuned to the news, and I savored it. It was a little escape.

That’s my memory of September 11; that’s what I cling to, my life raft. An evening watching a TV show with my father in his hospital room. It’s not a very good raft, as these things go, but it’s what I’ve got.

Otherwise, remembering means looking at every public structure I enter with fear and suspicion. It means remembering my incredulity that we were going to war with Iraq, and my powerlessness to stop it. It means remembering my shame that we reelected the person who brought us into that war, who misdirected us so.

I’d love to forget what I learned that day: That lives are fragile, even in large numbers. That nowhere is safe. That you never know the day or hour, and that some people aren’t lucky enough to have the chance for goodbyes my family had a few weeks later.

And I wish I hadn’t learned what followed: How frightened people are easy to persuade, and how easy, and how tempting, it is for the majority to silence a lone voice. How given the choice between feeling powerless and scared and powerful and lashing out blindly, we chose to lash out. How willing we are to turn a blind eye to or excuse evil being done in our name.

So please, don’t ask me to remember. I remember enough, and there’s no percentage in it. Nor any peace.


Monday, September 10, 2007

A Good Guy

I didn't know this, and finding it out gave me even more respect for the man: Michael Palin (of Monty Python fame) supports The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children, a theraputic center in England named after him because of the stuttering character Ken he played in A Fish Called Wanda. His father had a difficult stammer all his life, and it's a condition close to Palin's heart -- part of the reason Ken became such a sympathetic, well-rounded character.

Good for him.


I Guess It Is Mightier Than The Sword

So. Server trouble at work, and e-mail has been spotty to non-existent all day. Plenty of messages falling through the cracks: There's an email I sent to myself last night that still hasn't arrived.

But what makes it through the gantlet? Three--count 'em, three--separate press releases for a fountain pen convention in Texas. Thank you, Entourage, for making me -- I'm sorry, where was I? I must've nodded off. Fountain pens. Holy hell.

If you can think of anything I'm less interested in, please post it in the comments. The notification emails are bound to get through.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

You Might Wanna See This

But then again, you might not: a fashion show with designs based on Charles Schulz's Peanuts.

Joe Cool, eat your heart out.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ze Boom, She Is Lowered

Well, I got back on that Weight Watchers horse after three weeks of vacationing, lollygagging, vacationing again, and eating any stray vacationers and lollygaggers who wandered into my path.

And what do I have to show for it?

Good gravy, I'm up 9.8 pounds. (Actually, bad gravy! Bad gravy!)

Now, maybe a pound of that is me being weighed in jeans this week. My eating on vacation wasn't too bad -- but the gin and the scotch and the beer and, yes, even the wine and rum and tequila, those steadfast friends, more than made up for any eating I wasn't doing. (Holy crap that's a list, huh? Good thing it wasn't all on one night. Still, it's probably best to keep my liver away from any open flames for a while.) And these last couple days of lunch at work have been like a bachelor party for my stomach -- a metaphor I don't want to push too far, lest I envision a lap-dance from a cheese steak.

So, ten pounds in three weeks. And I simply don't have ten pounds of rationalizations in me. Instead, I'm going to work my butt off (literally) to lose these ten pounds in the next three weeks. That seems possible, if difficult.

Man, 9.8 pounds. That's as much as this circular saw weighs.


When Titans Nosh

I saw this on Kevin Church's blog: Tony Bourdain (No Reservations) meets Harvey Pekar (American Splendor) for a TV shoot and a tour of Cleveland--and they both write online comics about it. Gotta keep an eye out for this episode.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Worst Snack Ever

Before I get to vacation blogging, some sound advice from the Dead Sea Scrolls:

"If thou seest a jawbreaker in the bottom of a urinal, eateth not of it, for it is the Devil's Jawbreaker. And it is probably a Superball."

I encountered the Devil's Jawbreaker in the movie bathroom when I went to see Superbad. I was strong enough to resist it. As you should be, should it ever cross your path. Er, stream. Whatever.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Still On Vacation

We've extended our vacation for a few days, so blogging won't resume today, as I originally thought. This post is a figment of your imagination.

Upcoming topics include:

Scotch and Cheese
On Godhood
On Danger Signs and Beyond
The Tiffany Flytrap