Tuesday, December 14, 2010
That is all.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Leading up to NaNoWriMo, I was a little on the fence about whether or not to go for it this year. I have successfully completed NaNoWriMo for the last three years, and I have a number of friends and acquaintences online and in meat space that are participating this year.
With that in mind, I started over with a story that I began writing after NaNo was done last year and only got about 6,000 words into. I'm at about the same point now as when I stopped writing last time. There are differences in each version, mostly minor, but with a couple scenes from the original version that have not appeared in any way in the new version. I have a couple scenes in the new version that are expanded from the old version or did not appear in the old version.
This year, more so than any other year, trying to do NaNoWriMo is like pulling teeth. There are a number of factors that I believe are making it so: we have two children at home a 4 year old and a 1 year old (at least last year the 1 year old was only a few weeks old and was still at that mostly lay around or sleep/eat/poop stage); I've got a full-time job and plenty to keep my busy around the house (no real change there from last year); I have another story that I'm almost 20,000 words into that I'm really liking at this point and I want to work on that more than the NaNo; as I'm writing this year's NaNovel, it just seems so dumb which isn't very motivating; and I'm just damn tired.
Why don't I work on the 20,000-word project for NaNoWriMo you ask? Well, for one I'm taking this one a little slower, and I'm writing the first draft all by hand. I enjoy doing that every once in a while and I'm really enjoying the process right now.
Usually during the first few days of NaNo I'm excited and really want to jump into the project. I'm just not feeling that this year. We'll see how the weekend goes and how the story comes along, but if I'm not feeling much better about the whole thing by Monday, I might bow out this year. That would free up more time for the 20,000-word project, which is really what I'd rather be working on right now.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Post Office Rant
I got in line behind ten to 15 people, many of them had already adopted body language that said this has taken way too fucking long and I'm still waiting in line. One window didn't have a sign up in front of it or anything. Another window had a sign directing customers to the third window. There was a person standing behind that window doing precisely dick. The third window had a staff member at it who was actively helping people. The person behind window number two would occasionally announce that the other person who was able to help us was at lunch and would be back in 20 minutes or so, and that if anyone had something to drop off and didn't require any actual assistance, she would take it. At least one cranky customer in line asked if there wasn't someone else who could help out, but of course there was. This despite the fact that the one woman was standing behind the counter doing nothing and at least two other Post Office workers stood behind the counter at one point or another.
No wonder everyone bitches about the post office.
I've worked in the customer service industry in one capacity or another for roughly 12 years. About 10 of those years were in retail and the last two years are with the library. I know good customer service and I know bad customer service and I know horrible customer service. This was horrible customer service.
I got through the line faster than I anticipated, and never got to see this mythic second clerk who would be able to help move the line faster. I do know that by the time I left the line was just as long as when I had got there. Also, I counted nine security cameras in the lobby of the Post Office. What the hell? Why would a Post Office in a small, well to do community on Chicagoland's north shore need nine security cameras in the lobby?
I've been thinking a lot about customer service lately. The good and the bad, and the people that can, can't, and can but aren't willing to provide it. Aside from being a pain in the ass, this little trip provided a good lesson on what is necessary in making a strong customer service experience.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Happy Birthday Logan
Much like his little sister would prove to be years, later, Logan was stubborn and was happy right where he was. After a long day of going to the hospital, making phone calls, checking on Brandi and waiting, lots and lots of waiting, my son came into the world. We had some scares those first ten days or so, as well as here and there throughout the first four years of his life. Still, it’s nothing I would change or give away for anything, even when I’m tired and frustrated and the kids are driving me nuts and I might say something to the contrary.
Happy birthday Logan. I hope the coming year gives you everything you need and some of the things you want.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Happy Birthday Ava
Thursday, October 7, 2010
My goals for this "month" (September 15-October 13, which is the cycle of the Writer's Support Group I went to) are:
- Write 10,000 words of the Sold Soul story. I've got about 1,900 words to go, or about 250 per day, which is totally doable. I should have room to spare for that one.
- Complete one revision of a short story about love potions. Done!
- Write 10 blog posts. I've got 8 done, and this counts for another, so I'm almost there. I even have one planned for tomorrow.
- Complete one revision of the Merlin's Yard Sale story. This is the goal I'm farthest from at this point. I did start on it the other night, but was so tired I was having a hard time staying awake. Honestly, it was my own exhaustion that put me to sleep, not the story. I swear.
I'm in a really good mood about all this, which is helping to keep me motivated. And I'm starting to think of next month's goals and what will keep me going. NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I plan on torturing myself with that again, so I'll have to work that into the goals somehow.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
The Caveman Viking
Everyone marveled at this thing, which must surely be a message from Odin. A great feast was prepared and the fires were piled high with wood to thank Odin for this omen and ask him for guidance. Soon the clan was sleepy with drink, and they returned to their lodges. The block of ice was left in the center of the village near the still roaring fires. In the morning, the members of the clan awoke to find that the ice was gone, and in its place was a man-thing.
He was naked, and cold to the touch, but getting warmer as the day drew on. In his hand was a crude club. While his shape resembled a man, he was shorter than anyone in the clan, built squat and hunched. His forehead was tall and looked like it could be used to as a ram to smash his enemies.
“Could this be one of the dwarves from the mountain,” asked one of the women of the village. “Perhaps Loki played a trick on him, or maybe he angered Odin.”
“Surely not,” replied Swissgar, “because he has no beard, and no dwarf would ever carry a weapon as crude as that.”
The men of the village brought the man-thing closer to the fire to warm and wake him, but kept careful watch in case he should arise and be an enemy.
When the man-thing finally woke, he was groggy and disoriented. He struck out at the people around him, but he attacked in fear, not from hate. Being trapped in the ice for so long, he fell tired quickly and was subdued easily. The men of the village brought him away to a storage house, but left him with food and water, and dressed him in some of the clothes that were too big for the boys and too small for the men.
After many weeks and a God’s worth of patience and effort, the man-thing, who answered to Grog, was taught the way of the Vikings, taught to use their tools and weapons. And he became one of their fiercest warriors, rushing into battle without fear of pain or death. The other clans learned to fear the members of Torbaldson’s clan and their caveman Viking.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Latest Time Suck
Monday, October 4, 2010
Mmmmmm Hamburger aaaagggghhhh
We both got the inside out burger, which was full of cheddar bacon goodness. We did carry out, and it took me a little while to get home, damn traffic, and so the burgers weren't exactly hot when we had them. We didn't go with the brick of onion rings this time either. Much like Paradise Pup, this is a place that I've driven by many times before, this time it's too and from work, and I've wondered how their food was.
The burgers were good, and juicy, and big. I got mine on a dark rye, which enhanced it even more. The cheese was still gooey inside, and mine was a delightful pink in the middle. Was it Paradise Pup? No, but seriously, once you've had Paradise Pup, nothing else stands up. Next time we get Hackneys, we're definitely going to have to eat in, not bring it home.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The Current Writing Method
Why am I doing it this way? That's a really good question. For one, the blue paper was on hand when I started, and now that I've been working on it for a while in this manner, I've decided this is how I'm going to keep going with it. I've filled six sheets in my small handwriting, and not counting the writing I did last night, I'm at 8,346 words. My goal is to be to 12,899 words by October 13. Including today, that means I've got to do about 330 words per day. That's totally doable.
I ended up not writing on Friday--I was just too damn tired--and when I went back to it last night, I just didn't know what to write. After staring at the paper for more than an hour, writing a few words, and crossing them out, I finally was able to pick up and put something down on the page.
The blue paper also makes me think of Stephen King. In On Writing he said that one of his earliest books (Carrie maybe?) was written on a ream of green paper using an old typewriter. I'm no Stephen King, and I don't know that I ever will be, but something about that keeps with me and helps give me the push I need to keep going.
NaNoWriMo is coming up again and I'm trying to decide how I want to proceed. I don't want to completely abandon the project I'm working on now, and I want my NaNo experience to count, so I'll want to type it up. There's another project I started a while ago that wasn't quite working right, but I think I know how to fix part of it, so I might restart that (I was only about 6,000 words into it when I moved on) and maybe work on both, doing the 1667 words per day of NaNo and 300 words per day of the sold soul project. We'll see how well that works out.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The Most Disturbing Commercial for a Gummi-like, Fruit-Flavored Snack Product That I've Ever Seen
Let's start with the Gushers' Robot Child commercial:
So what exactly does that mean? There's a chance that your child might bite down on some impenetrable Gusher that will fail to gush and then becomes a ticking time bomb of artificially flavored, high-fructose corn syrup destruction? If the Gush Squad didn't arrive in time would that mean some poor kid is going to drown on juiciness? Messed up, right?
How about this one from Fruit by the Foot:
"I've replaced your DNA with Fruit by the Foot."!?! WTF? What if the dog came across that mess before the parents got home? Say goodbye to your wonderful son. There's a chance that maybe the parents could find some kind of fruit snack DNA specialist doctor and have the process reversed. And this commercial is part of a series. Check this one out:
Wouldn't you think that the kid who's ancestors had been replaced by Fruit by the Foot would himself turn into Fruit by the Foot? I suppose he might not, if the heavier kid could only transform the ancestors into Fruit by the Foot but leave the rest of the time stream untouched. By trying to argue around the temporal aspects of this would take more brainpower than I have available at the moment.
Now I'm sure there are plenty of other messed up commercials, but this one, which I've only seen on television once just takes the cake. I showed it to Brandi and minute ago and she thought it was pretty gross.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Todd, who was born with a Gusher for an eye:
I know, leaves you kind of speechless right? I don't know where to begin. Do you start with the father that takes a little taste off of his crying son's face? Or how about Todd feeding baby birds by shooting Gusher juice into their open beaks?
I think my favorite part is the kid in the middle of the commercial that says "I don't get it. Is the Gusher on his eye? Or did they tape it on?" And then the other kid comes up with the double helix while the girl is mumbling the song, like it's no big thing. Of course he has a Gusher for an eye, have you been living under a god damned rock? I don't know what to say about this commercial that it doesn't say for itself.
Have you seen any other disturbing commercials for gummi-like, fruit flavored snack products?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
When Are You Gonna Stop? When I Catch Them All
Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Selling Your Soul
My current novel project (4,200 words and counting) involves the main character selling his soul, the aftermath of that, and then trying to get it back. In the story, the character sells his soul for something really stupid, but it’s important to him, at least at the time of the sale.
The genesis of this story goes back to high school, where my best friend sold his soul for something pretty stupid. I won’t go into all the details now, because I’m saving that for the story. The short of it is he was searching high and low for a small something that he thought he’d lost, he got increasingly frustrated and said “I’d sell my soul for X” and slammed his fist down. When he slammed his hand down, X fell off of a pile of things he’d just gone through. There was no sulfur, no contract signed in blood, just panic and frustration and an offer spoken aloud.
This has gotten me to thinking lately about what a soul might be worth. Some might sell their soul for money, power, a second chance at life…These are all things that are important in different levels to different people. But what if you life was consumed with owning a mint condition Babe Ruth card? What if you were all consumed with owning the football used during the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl game? What if you were really hungry and just wanted a Snickers?
And what would the effect of not having a soul have on a person? How would that person be viewed by others? Would they appear sickly or sinister or would they be hard to spot? What would happen at the end of your life when your soul is gone and death approached? And if you decided later that your soul was worth much more than what you sold it for how would you get it back?
I don’t necessarily have any answers for these questions, but these are the things that have been running through my head lately.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?
Why? Because why not?
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Dreaming in Plot Lines
So last night I had this weird dream. I won't go into all the details, because they're still kind of confusing to me, but the dream did include: a Wal-Mart stock room that only seemed to stock empty paper boxes, Stormtrooper helmets, cupcakes, and pseudo bamboo staffs; a giant scorpion; an all powerful magical mask; Iron Man; and some kind of evil wizard or something. I know, messed up, right?
But at one point in the dream, when the giant scorpion unearthed the mask for the evil wizard/whatever, the strongest of the pseudo bamboo staffs ended up outside when I knew it needed to be inside for the conflict to come. In my dream I despaired about this fact for just a moment before my dream-self realized 'oh, this is going to be important for the plot later.'
That thought really stuck with me when I woke up. I don't ever remember having a thought like that in a dream before. What does it mean? I have no idea, but I just thought I would share.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
The Dude Enters the Matrix
fuckin' a man.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I don't know what resources he's been drawing on, but now his technique has evolved. Now, he'll spin the shirt around before tossing it away. His technique it a little off though. He'll spin the shirt around for two whole minutes if I let him. That just won't do.
This is certainly not the profession I would have chosen for him, but if I he has his little mind set on being a stripper, well it's my fatherly duty to help him be the best damn stripper he can be. Therefore, I've got to try and improve the technique. Now, I've never partaken of the stripperly arts, but I've got to think that if you stand there and swing your shirt around for two whole minutes, you're going to lose people's interest. He's got to just swing the shirt around a handful of times and toss it, not whip it across the room. It probably wouldn't hurt if he had a few pelvic thrusts in there too.
We're starting early, and so I'm confident that with a little training, he can come onto the scene when he is of age as the best damn male stripper in the world.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
A Perfect Day For the Zoo
Afterward, since it was such a lovely day here, we took the kids to the zoo. It was really nice. I've never seen the zoo less crowded, and the kids got a front row view of whatever they wanted to see. Logan played map keeper again, carrying the simple map proudly before him (sometimes upside down). He had a very specific itinerary in mind: monkeys; elephants; lunch; park; and giraffes.
Of course we missed the 1:00 showing of the giraffes drinking gasoline and breathing fire. Maybe next time. That's where the zoo membership comes in handy. And of course, every monkey/ape we saw was Curious George. Ava liked looking at the monkeys/apes as well, but kept shaking her head 'no' for some reason. Who knows what lurks in the minds of toddlers?
We were all pretty pooped out by the time we left, and the kids slept most of the way back. Now I've got a splitting headache and I just want to relax.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Go to Hell, Pretzel M&Ms!
These confectionery concoctions are roughly the size of Peanut Butter M&Ms, but more spherical in shape, and nestled within the milk chocolate and brightly colored candy shell is a little pretzel ball, no bigger than a blueberry.
This new variety of M&M is represented by the orange M&M, a seemingly neurotic anthropomorphized candy, and surly pretzel dude.
I've heard people rave about them. Well, I've tried them, and I'm here to say, "Go to hell, Pretzel M&Ms!" But please, allow me to elaborate.
1) Pretzel M&Ms really aren't that great. Sure, it combines two things that go great together, pretzels and chocolate, salt and sweet. Who doesn't enjoy a pretzel rod dipped in chocolate, or a chocolate-covered twist pretzel? Or maybe even a pretzel rod dipped in chocolate and then mini M&Ms. But I tell you, Pretzel M&Ms are nothing like a chocolate-covered pretzel. The M&Ms convey plenty of the sweet, but in my humble opinion, is lacking the proper amount of salt. Perhaps it is something in the chocolate coating process. More likely, the pretzel component just doesn't have that much salt to begin with. The lack of true saltiness in the candy is disappointing at best.
2) The amount of pretzel in Pretzel M&Ms is all wrong. The pretzel you get inside the candy is approximately the size of a pea. Wrong. It's too big and not dense enough. Sure there's a crunch, but then the center of the pretzel is light and airy, eliminating the hope of subsequent satisfying crunching during the mastication process. I believe that the M&Ms Mars Candy Co. should have chosen a smaller, denser pretzel to put at the base of their candy.
3) Related to point #2; because the pretzels are too big, the M&Ms are too big, and therefore, the actual number of M&Ms you get in a standard size bag are few. If the candy itself were smaller, you would get more in the bag. Instead, when you get to the end of the bag now, even though you can tell that the candy is smaller, you're left with a feeling of 'Is that really all there was?'
4) This is the most important. It appears that with the introduction of Pretzel M&Ms, Dark Chocolate M&Ms have been taken off the shelf. WTF? Dark Chocolate M&Ms are far superior to Pretzel M&Ms. The dark chocolate in Dark Chocolate M&Ms wasn't like that kind of dark chocolate that is as dark as the depths of space and bitter as a cup of extra, extra dark coffee. Instead it was a sweet dark chocolate, similar to that of Hershey's Special Dark. Dark Chocolate M&Ms were magical and wonderful, and now they appear to be gone. This is even more of a tragedy in that I can no longer create the Ultimate Thin-Candy Shell Coated Mix, that being one part Dark Chocolate M&Ms to two parts Reese's Pieces. (Go ahead and try it if you can you wont be disappointed.)
So Pretzel M&Ms can suck it. I want my Dark Chocolate M&Ms back on the shelf, damn it.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Have Some Music
Monday, August 23, 2010
Writing in Fits and Starts
The reason I went is because lately, I've been trying to get into more of a writing groove, and I want something that's going to keep me on track. I actually finished the first draft of a story a couple weeks ago, and have revised it once since. I started another story (again) the other day, and hope to keep working on that.
It's slow going, especially since I've gone back to hand writing first drafts. But if I'm going to be serious about this whole writing thing, and getting published one day, then I need to get serious about this whole writing thing.
While I won't be able to go to the next Writer's Support Group meeting (work conflict) I have a feel for what they do and how they encourage writers and keep them on track, and I think (and hope) this'll be just what I need.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Early Writings in Science Fiction
So I submit to you 'Midnight Bombing' which was written for the eighth grade writing competition at Dundee Middle School. According to the cover sheet, I had Language Arts in 4th period and Mrs. Schumacher was my teacher. This would have been submitted in 1995 or 1996, depending on what time of year they did the writing competition. I would have been 12 or 13 at the time. I believe a wrote an earlier version of this story at a writing camp my let me go to the summer before.
Since I don't know where the file for this may or may not exist, I'll have to transcribe it. I promise to transcribe it exactly (typos and all) as it is on the page.
they created many weapons, but their best weapons were their Hyperjets. The Hyperjets are ships made of other ships and new pieces. Their weapons consist of nitrogen bombs, flame missiles, and laser cannons. The jets also contain a hyperjump system to travel past light speed through hyperspace. also in the jets are suits that are from the ship. When the pilot sits and turns on the jet the seat folds around the pilot with all things necessary for space travel. The suits also contain small variations of the jets weapons.
It is a perfect night the sky is clear Joseph Falcon is looking at the stars. Joseph is the leader of the Fire and Ice squad the group of people who pilot the Hyperjets. The stars seam to grow. Once of them shoots at Joseph. He then realizes that the stars are alien space craft come to attack the earth. He dives into his hover avoiding the laser fire.
"Sub base this is Falcon reporting. Code red hostile alien threat entering atmosphere, open sub tunnel and alert the squad!"
He rushes to weaponry base in his hover car avoiding ion fire left and right. The sub tunnel, the massive door to the weaponry base, open lifting a huge door out of the ground. When he arrives the squad is ready and waiting. Joseph gets to his jet as quickly as possible. They blast off into the night to meat their adversaries.
They fly with great speed to get rid of the threat as soon as possible. Meeting the aliens they fight. Realizing the damage their doing to the earth they get the aliens to follow them to space.
"This is where the party begins. Set targets, load missiles, and fire when ready." Says Joseph to the rest of the squad. The alien ships though small in size can do considerable damage. The aliens getting itchy trigger fingers fire their lasers at the earthlings. Making the hyperjets zig zag to dodge the fire. The jets send out a barrage of missiles hitting the alien craft like arrows to a bulls-eye.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" Is the only thing that escapes the lips of red five.
"That was uncalled for you alien scum," says Joseph, "All wingmen load nitrogen bombs and hit all possible targets."
They load and fire as commanded. They hit all craft shot at freezing them to instant shattering. Out of the deep black of space appears the mother ship Bigger than both groups in combat one-thousand fold. The sound of the massive engine lost in the soundlessness of space. Shines with the light of one-hundred fluorescent bulbs momentarily blinding the squad. That moment was all needed for the mother ship to launch another group of ships. When the light dims the pilots see the newly arrived ship as a gigantic egg.
Joesph sees the huge bay door and gets an idea. "This is flight leader Falcon follow me in full throttle." He says flying toward the mother ship.
They fly toward the bay door blasting lasers left and right. Landing in the docking bay they hop from there ships and start toward the control room. Still in their armor they check the suits weapons and power, satisfied they head forward. They reach the object of their mission, the control room. It is a room full of glowing screens and large control panels. On the screens are pictures of other races the aliens enslaved and pictures of them enslaving humans.
The doors slam shut and aliens poor out of the walls squealing in delight of fresh food. At first glance they would appear to be glow in the dark humans. At a long look a person would notice their hideousness. Their hands a three long slim clawed fingers. One eye stretches across their hole face and their notsrils are two small holes on their flat faces. There robed in loose pieces of blood red clothing.
The aliens close in the squad becomes panicky. "throw out your time bombs cries one of the men in the squad.
They all do so and the bombs automatically set for midnight. Then the same man who suggested to throw down the bombs uses the nitrogen spray in his suit to freeze the door solid. The group sees what he is doing and shoot the aliens to buy him time. When he is done he throws a grenade at the door blowing it wide open. The squad uses their rocket packs to escape to their jets. When they get there they discover the bay door is closed .
"Use all flame missiles on the door!" Shouts Joseph frantically.
When the squad rides off the alien space craft they forgot about attacks them head on. The squad rushed with adrenaline rid themselves of the mediocre threat quickly. They get out range of the explosion and feel a great weight lifted off their shoulders for they had succeeded and lived to tell of it.
Awesome, right? I'm not surprised that the judges of the competition didn't get back to me.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
The State of Things
Everyone's doing fine. We've had a run of colds going through the house recently, which has targeted me last. I'll be phlegmy for a while. The kids are growing quickly. Logan is doing well in gymnastics and has discovered the joys of Super Mario. Ava is getting so big, and she seems to be so smart, and she wants to walk so bad. Brandi is doing well, and has even started up a crafting project, so if you're looking for some flower headbands (mostly sewn by yours truly) go here.
Brandi and I celebrated our five-year anniversary recently by traveling down to Navy Pier and then having dinner at the Signature Lounge on the 95th (or is it 96th?) story of the Hancock Tower. It was a great night away from the kids, and it was too bad it had to be so short.
There are still little home projects going on, but nothing as substantial as the great kitchen project of '10.
I have a handful of projects going on right now. There's the fourth attempt at a novel, which I haven't looked at in at least a month. There's a lycanthrope story for an anthology that has a call for open submissions. Then there's a suburban fantasy story that I started the other night am just a couple handwritten pages into. I'll probably go work on that last one after I'm done with this blog post.
Work is pretty busy and getting busier all the time. I recently got approval for a big project that should keep me busy for some time.
That's all for now.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Shame on Me for Judging a Book by its Cover
Then I saw the trailer for the new movie that will be coming out this summer.
Looks awesome right? So I decided I check it out, and you know what, the books are awesome. They're funny and actiony and nerdy. I've just about devoured the first four books now. I'm waiting to get my hands on volume five, and volume six, the finale, will be out on June 20.
I just wish I hadn't been so closed minded about it before that I've been depriving myself. And maybe, when the movie comes out, I'll get a chance to get out and see it.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Inspiration Doesn’t Run on a Schedule
Why is it that inspiration strikes at the worst of times? Times when you’re not able to seize it, so all you can do is hope to remember it later. It happens to me all the time, if I’m at work, about to go to sleep, driving, etc.
I’ve heard of people carrying around a pad of paper and a pen with them wherever they go. I haven’t tried that. I really don’t like to have a lot in my pockets, but maybe that’s a good excuse to buy some new cargo pants.
Anyway, I had a good idea today when I took a little break a work. I tried to get as much down on paper as I could, and then it was such a nice day out I went for a little walk. As I went along, ideas kept churning, but I couldn’t really stop to get them down. I’m sure very few people are able to put inspiration on a schedule, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could?
Sunday, May 2, 2010
For the Love of Comic Books
I got my first comic book when I was somewhere around the age of ten. My older brother, who I idolized at the time, took my younger brother and me to a little comic shop in East Dundee in a strip mall near Route 72 and Route 25. I don't recall the name of the shop, and it is long since gone. What I do remember is my brother bought me my first comic book. It was some mid-90s issue of Wolverine. I don't remember what number it was, and I traded it long ago to a school friend who was trying to get his hands on as many issues of Wolverine as he could. There was one panel where Wolverine was in his civilian clothes, riding his motorcycle, and I thought he looked like a child in that image. Maybe some day I will come across that issue and I can have it once again.
My older brother is about ten years older than I am, and he is an avid comic book collector. Since he was often away at high school or his job, I would try and sneak into his room and see what issues were laying around that I could flip through. Not having the money or the means to get my own comics, I would have to make do with what my brother would let me read or what I could flip though when he wasn't around.
There's something about the marrying of words and images in that way that draws me in. At first I only read superhero comics. The clash of heroes and villains who wielded enough power to rip the world apart was, and is, the purest form of escapism. I would often wonder, if I had such power at my disposal, would I use it for good or evil? I wasn't one of those people who gained life lessons from comics (like Spiderman's line about power and responsibility) I had my parents for that.
I was always disappointed that I couldn't get out to get comics whenever I wanted. If I saved enough allowance money and there wasn't something going on that weekend, maybe I could get my parents to take me to Comic Quest on a Saturday, but it was so sporadic that I couldn't keep up on story lines. And then a few years after my older brother bought me my first comic, for my birthday he got me my first graphic novel. He got me one of the greatest graphic novels ever, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.
It was all over from there. I found out that I could get an entire story line collected in one volume. Even if I couldn't get to the comic shop regularly, I could still get pivotal story lines all at one go. I continued on the super hero vein for a while, collecting mainly a mix of Marvel and DC books. Eventually I began to branch out and started reading a variety of other stories, fantasy, sci-fi, samurai rabbits, ninja turtles, you name it. From that point forward, comics, well graphic novels, have been a big part of my life. I even got Brandi to read the entire run of Preacher, which was a feat all in itself.
The other night, I was trying to make up a list of my graphic novels since the shelves I put them on was moved upstairs and I figured, what better time would I have to try and make up a list of everything? I found out that over the course of about 14 years, I've accumulated approximately 234 graphic novels. I say approximately, because I know I have a few in the basement yet in box somewhere.
In the last couple years, I've also discovered web comics, which has its good and bad just like everything else. It's not quite the same, though, and I do prefer my comics on the printed page.
I feel like I'm rambling, so let me just say, that if you've never read a comic book, or it's been some time since you've read one, go out and give it a try. Libraries are carrying graphic novels more and more now (I have four from the library in my backpack now). There's a whole world of stories out there that people will sometimes pass over because they think of it as some kind of lower form or literature, and that just isn't so. And if you need a recommendation, I might be able to give you a couple titles, but I warn you, sometimes when I get going, I can't stop.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Good Reads: Play Dead by Ryan Brown
Two high school football teams are destined to go head-to-head for the district championship. The Badgers have all the advantages, including some powerful Mexican steriods, however, the Jackrabbits, a poor team from a poor town, actually have a shot at the championship. That is, until nearly the entire team is killed in an accident. They come back, with a hunger for meat and the skills to play the game of their undead lives.
I grabbed this book looking for an easy, fun read, and that is what I got, except there was more to it than that. At times action-packed, at times horriffic, and at times funny, this was a great escapism read. Ryan Brown did a wonderful job of marrying high school football with the shambling undead without beating the reader over the head with either. It wasn't like some B horror movie where your slogged down with zombies from the word go. Instead, there is a natrual, almost believable, progression to how the entire situation unfolds and then comes to its dramatic conclusion.
Some of the best passages are where the author shows the reader how a situation like this might actually happen in a town full of residents who put the success of the high school football team in the list of the most important things in life. There's one conversation between a concerned parent and a police officer that is spot on. I'll paraphrase it for you:
Parent: My son isn't acting right since the accident.
Officer: What's he doing?
Parent: He's eating a ton and not talking to me.
Officer: He's a teenage boy. Did he eat a lot before the accident?
Officer: And did he talk to you much?
Parent: Not really.
Officer: Sounds pretty normal to me.
The book will be available in hard cover on May 4, and you should definately check it out. If you like horror and/or football, you wont be disappointed. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review. There's a trailer and other info at the author's site.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Kitchen Experimentation: Chowder
The ingredients I used were:
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp dill weed
2-3 carrots chopped
2-3 potatoes diced
1 pound tilapia
1 package imitation crab
1 can of corn
1 onion chopped
2-3 tbsp flour
salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, season salt
I peeled and diced the potatoes and put them in the corning ware pan with some melted butter, onion and garlic powders, and season salt. They went into the oven at 400 degrees for about a half hour.
In the large soup pot, I set the four cups of chicken broth to simmer with the dill, some fresh-ground pepper and the peeled and chopped carrots.
Once the potatoes were done, I put them into the pot with the chicken stock, carrots, corn, onion, and various spices. Then I added a cup of heavy cream. I let it simmer a little longer. The butter that had been on the potatoes gave the chowder more of a yellow color than I had anticipated. The broth was also thinner than I had anticipated at this point, so I added about 2.5-3 tablespoons of flour. I whisked the flour in, adding it slowly so it didn't get all clumpy.
I cut up the tilapia and imitation crab meat into chunks and added them to the soup. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes and then we were ready to serve.
I served the soup with slices of Vienna bread that Logan picked out in the store. I let him choose between that and some French bread.
Everyone liked it. It was pretty similar to other chowder I've had before, so I must have done something right. If I do it again, there are a couple things I would do differently. I would have done something to the tilapia to take away some of the fishiness of it. I wasn't expecting it to be as fishy as it turned out to be. I also would have only added the imitation crab for the last five minutes or so. It softened up a lot more than I expected in the 15 minutes it was simmering with everything else, and I thought the consistency in the finished product should have been firmer.
Ava sat in her high chair and watched while I cooked. It's funny how she changes so much in a few weeks. These days, unless you're putting food in her mouth (pureed carrots tonight), she wont sit in the high chair for all that long without throwing a fit. She's just got to be the center of attention. Everything turned out to be a little much for her and she fell asleep mid-bottle while I was cooking.
Friday, March 26, 2010
How About a Little Bohemian Rhapsody?
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Unfortunately, I won't get to read this one quite yet. I have something else that's been on my guilt stack for a while that I really need to finish reading. However, next Wednesday I'll be heading up to Milwaukee to see the Author Guy himself doing a reading/signing at my good buddy Jason's store. I haven't seen Christopher Moore in person before, and I haven't seen Jason in at least a year, so I'm doubly excited to get up there. Sure, I could go to one of the readings/signings in the greater Chicagoland area on Tuesday, but what's the fun in that? Plus, I haven't been to Milwaukee in at least a year, and I really enjoy getting up there. I think of myself as more of a country boy than anything, but if I were going to live in a city, it would probably be Milwaukee.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Update on Things
Things around the house have been pretty good. Something have changed, some things have stayed the same, many things still make me scratch my head. I'll try and hit on all the milestones of what's happened in the last few weeks at home, but I'm sure I'll miss something, just as I'm sure Brandi will say 'why didn't you say anything about X?'
-Logan is potty trained! And it only took a weekend to do it!! We're all so proud of him, and surprised at how well he took to potty training. We've tried a couple times in the past, but he has shown little interest to the point of resistance. This time, though, something just clicked and he was ready. He's got pull ups for at night, but aside from that we haven't had any accidents since the first week.
During this process, as I was changing Ava's diaper one night, I turned to Brandi and said "You know, even if we get Ava potty trained at two years old, that means we'll be changing diapers for five years straight." She didn't think that was all that remarkable. I said the same to a woman at work, she's had her kids and now gets to enjoy visits with grandkids. She told me it's best not to think of such things.
-Ava's got teeth! Watch out if she grabs onto your finger. The bottom two teeth popped through about two weeks ago now and we're just waiting for more to come. She gets pretty fussy at night and she's been chewing on things like crazy. She especially likes chewing on the spare skin for Brandi's phone. Mmmmmm rubber. She'll be 5 months old in a few days, which itself is kind of hard for us to believe. She is absolutely fascinated by people eating, and if you're holding her while you have dinner she'll try her best to get to your plate and get a hold of some Mac N Cheese or whatever is available. We'll probably start her on rice cereal next week.
-Brandi's back on the ice and her body is responding well, better than after she had Logan. Ice show here we come!
-I've been caught up to my eyeballs in projects at work, as well as all of the other stuff that I have to take care of. I've had two experiences this month at work that were headscratchers for sure, things I wouldn't have ever expected to have to do. But then, that's what makes life interesting. I'm looking forward to vacation, whenever I can get away.
-I finally paid off my piece of shit Saturn, and of course just after we do I get stranded with a flat tire, and then Brandi's car gets a flat, and so it took us a long time and a lot of nervous stops to get home from the rink one night.
-I painted the ceiling in the kitchen. It's white now, nothing special. We thought it was white before, but once I started to apply the paint we found out how wrong we were. We're thinking of redoing the countertops and are looking into some inexpensive, but hopefully workable options. I'll get some pictures up when I get a chance.
-We've had plenty of birthdays, colds, and other little things to deal with. Nothing new there.
-We'd always heard that when a child is 0-6 months old they don't really get colds. We'd never heard anyone say that you can't count on that while there's a three-year-old in the house. Well you know what, you can't.
-I got the new Eels album, End Times, which is good. Really good. But I want to talk about that later.
-I made chowder completely from scratch without a recepie, and it turned out well. I've got pictures and everything, but that'll come later too.
-Still working on the writing thing, but not much, and then I beat myself up for not writing, which puts me in a bad mood and I don't feel like writing, which puts me in a worse mood, so I just need to step up and do it...
I think that covers most of it. I'll try and get more up before another month has passed.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Merlin in the Modern World: Buying a Blender
"Ok, but just so you know, that particular model has five speeds, stainless steel blades, and a three-year blade wa-" the clerk started to say.
"Silence," Merlin commanded and gave a wave of his fingers at the clerk. "I told you that I do not need any help."
The clerk clutched at the place where his mouth had been only a moment before. Now, the bottom half of his face was smooth. The clerk tried to speak, but all that came out was a panicked moan. His fingers scurried back and forth where his lips had been. His eyes were wild. He stood a moment longer before rushing off. The old wizard paid no attention to him.
"Now, Alton Brown used a Blendtec blender on his show recently," Merlin said to no one. "He is a wizard for the modern age if I have ever seen one. But I don't know if the Blendtec brand is right for me. They do have some rather nice hand mixers. I wouldn't have to worry about storing another big piece of equipment then. Perhaps someone can help me."
He turned to where the clerk had been standing and saw that he wasn't there any more. "Where did that fellow go? You can't just abandon a customer in the middle of a sale. What are they teaching these kids when the come in for a job? I shall have to summon help."
He whispered a brief incantation and raised his right palm toward the ceiling. A burst of greenish flame shot up ten feet. It was only a moment later when a security staffer came rushing around the corner.
"Not you again," the bulky man said. He dropped the fire extinguisher to his side, but did not let it go. He knew better, after the last time.
"Ah Mr. Reynolds. I need help finding a blender. It will be used for many things, including in the preparation of potions and powders that could bring world rulers to their knees and propel man into a new age of enlightenment.
"I don't know how you got in here but you need to leave, now. We told you last time that you weren't allowed back in the store, not after you made that refrigerator come to life and it almost ate that old woman. You also scrambled all the store's computers, trying to pay for your washer/dryer with some kind of glowing rock."
"The Rock of Quixil is worth far more than any washer/dryer combo, even if they have a one button wrinkle release setting."
"I don't care. You need to go. Now. How did you even get in here in the first place? I didn't see you come in and I've been at the doors all day."
"I can alter my shape as easily as you put on a new pair of pants." To prove it, he changed himself into a giant newt and then changed back.
"Look, you've got to go. If you don't leave now, I'm going to have to call the police. And from what I've heard from a buddy I've got on the force, you don't want the police coming around here. They're still pretty mad about when you changed everyone's tap water to wine and all those kids got drunk and were falling over each other in the street."
At that point, the young clerk who Merlin had silenced came running around the corner, still making panicked sounds. He had scratched up the bottom of his face, and there were thin lines of blood running down his chin. He saw the security guard and ran up to him, pointing at his face and trying to yell.
"Now that does it," the guard said, "I'm calling the cops."
He stormed off to the store's main office. The young clerk looked at Merlin, his eyes pleading.
"Oh, fine, you may speak," Merlin said and waived his hand again. The man's mouth reappeared. "What can you tell me about the Blendtec blender here? I saw Alton Brown using one on TV, but I just don't know if it's right for me."
The clerk screamed and ran off.
"Must not be a fan of the Blendtec blender. Maybe I should go with the KitchenAid."
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
The Writing, It Takes So Long
It's frustrating and rewarding at the same time.
This time around I'm working on a super hero/super villain story. I'm trying to play with some of the icons of the super hero genre while creating something all of my own. So far, it's going well, but I'm only eight to ten pages into it.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Adventures in Parenting: Hand-Me-Down Genes
The other night, we were sitting in the living room, with the monitor on in the dining room when Logan started talking in his sleep. It was kind of creepy. He'd say something kind of loud and then it would sound like he'd whisper a response. Instantly, my over-active imagination would flash to Electronic Voice Phenomenon and the other trappings of the various ghost shows that we watch. We'd also hear him wake up, ask one of us where the other was, when we're both sitting downstairs and he's in the room above us.
I'm a sleep talker. Usually, when I'm really tired and I'm in that half dazed point between wakefulness and sleep, that's when I'll talk the most. I've had long conversations with Brandi that I don't remember one word of the next day. I've also rolled over or gotten up from a dead sleep, said something to Brandi, and then rolled back like nothing happened. I don't remember exactly what I said, but one time I rolled over and said something accusatory and then went back to oblivion.
When I was five or six, I had a pair of Galvatron pajamas where Galvatron's eyes were glow in the dark. I have no memory of this, but my mom told me that one night I wandered into their room in the middle of the night and stood next to their bed. All she could see was the glowing eyes of the Transformer on my chest. I told her I was the dentist and I was going to drill her teeth out. Another time, I remember waking up in the morning at the top of the stairs. When I was a teen and my parents took us on the Cross-Country-Road-Trip-From-Hell, at one of the motels we stayed at, everyone heard me in my sleep telling Superman that he wouldn't be able to save someone.
I can only imagine what Logan might do. Thankfully, we have gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, and we're always sure to lock the top gate when we go up at the end of the night.
My dad would talk in his sleep too when he was really tired and we'd have fun asking him questions and seeing what kind of weird responses he would come up with. I wonder if Logan and Ava will have the same kind of fun with me.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Illinois Libraries Need Your Help
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
My Fairy Princess
Well, he just sent me the FTP to download the latest set of photos, and while there's not a bad one among the bunch, I saw this one and thought my little girl had truly been transformed into a princess.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Oh Those Crazy Sleepless Nights
Ava is sleeping through the night, and has been for a while now, but she is a night owl, much like her older brother was at that age. Most nights, she's up from 11:30 to 1:30 and sometimes later. When she's up during that time, she tends to be pretty specific about what she wants. She does not want to be rocked and held on the horizontal. Playing under her jungle gym thing is fine for short stretches but she prefers being upright. Sometimes I zonk out when Ava's getting her final feeding of the night, but most nights we're both up together.
Then over the past few weeks, Logan has been getting up in the middle of the night. He'll call out for us and is usually pretty upset. Since our room is right next to his room, and the walls are unfortunately thin, we can't just let him cry it out, especially when he decides to pound on the walls or come into our room. So then I end up in his room, trying to get him back to sleep. I don't want to end up sleeping in his bed, but I'm so tired that I will fall asleep sitting up if I sit there long enough. Logan has also developed spider sense when it comes to Brandi or me sneaking out of his room. He could be completely asleep for 20 minutes, but as soon as I set foot out of his room, he rolls over, realizes I'm not there, and starts crying.
I have a few theories as to why he's getting up in the middle of the night. We're still having...uh...poop issues. As one of the few things he can control in his life, the boy has decided that he does not want to poop under any circumstance and holds it in. It could be that at night, when he's deep asleep, he doesn't have the complete control over it any longer and he starts to cramp up or feels some other kind of pain.
Then there's the jealousy angle. As far as he knows, Ava gets to stay up later than him. For all he knows the three of us are down here living it up, watching Curious George and eating fruit snacks until we're ready to burst. Some nights it seems like he's trained himself to listen for the sound of us coming upstairs and that's his cue to wake up.
Then there are some nights when he seems like he's genuinely frightened of something. Maybe he has developed a fear of the dark, or maybe he's having nightmares.
The only nights that he doesn't seem to wake up in the middle of the night are the ones when he's going to bed late and is completely exhausted.
When I sleep in his room, I am able to fall asleep, but his bed is uncomfortable for me and some mornings I ake up with a lot of aches and pains. Most mornings, I wake up an am able to sneak back into our bedroom, only to see that I have no more than an hour before my alarm clock goes off.
I think this song about summs it up.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Heaven on a Bun
And then there's their feature on Food Network's Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives:
So we got the '1/3 Char Cheddar Burger.' And holy moley is that the best burger I ever ate. It's a 1/3 pound hamburger, char grilled with Merks cheddar cheese. We got them with everything, which included ketchup, mayo, thick sliced pickels, tomato (which I took off, tomatoes are gross!), and grilled onions. The burgers were so juicy and full of goodness that the meat juice was dripping out of the foil-lined wrapper they put them in.
Brandi's dad got a hot dog that looked equally good. As soon as I was done I wanted to go back and get some more, but I restrained myself.
It pains me to think that we have been living approximately 8 blocks from this place for two years and we haven't gotten over there until yesterday. We'll definately be going back, and if you're ever in Chicago, I would recommend taking a trip out to Des Plaines to sample the deliciousness that is Paradise Pup.
Excuse me, but I have to go get a towel for all the drool.