Saturday, June 30, 2007

No More Work...Until Monday

We finally finished (pretty much) setting all the forms for the garage. It looks real good. We should pass our inspection first thing Monday morning (hopefully) and be able to have the concrete poured in our forms by the end of the day Monday. Once all this concrete work is done, I am told the building of the walls and the rest of the garage should be easier going.

I'll try my hardest to get through some of The Stacks tomorrow. We'll see if that gives me time to put a couple of reviews up on the blog. I also need to get back out on my bike. I know I don't feel like it today, or even tomorrow. Next week. I swear.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sunk Again

Today I almost lost my left foot. I slipped and misplaced my foot while we were pouring the concrete for the garage. I sunk my entire shoe up past my ankle in a trench of freshly poured concrete. Lemme tell ain't easy pulling your foot out from wet concrete. If that's what quicksand feels like, Moses help me, I'd be a goner!

Other than that one slip, it was a pretty uneventful day. Lots of work, and more tomorrow. Building the forms and getting them straight and level takes time.

I'm headed back over at 7 AM to put in what will probably be another full day. At least I'm doing something. Building something that will be pretty darn impressive. It's cool.

Concrete Dreams

I slept...poorly last night. Dreams about garage building all night long kept waking me up. Must have been the salmon fish and chips I had for supper late last night.

I'm off back over there today to finish the footing. When they pour the footing it is pretty cool. We ended up using 2x4's to move the concrete around in the trench and to flatten things down. It's a lot like paddling with an oar, except instead of water you are slicing through concrete - a much more difficult medium to move. We'll also work on putting together all the forms for the 2nd stage pour of concrete - the foundation.
It's my mom's birthday today. Happy birthday, mom! We're going to breakfast before I head off to work. It makes for an early morning, but she's worth it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Pirate Escapes IV

Here's how it works: the pirate is given five items - as varied and crazy as you can imagine - and a single scenario of peril to escape. From there, things get...interesting as the pirate attempts ANOTHER GREAT ESCAPE.

The Items:
1. Book bag with two textbooks
2. Some pens
3. Sandwich in a Ziplock bag
4. Keys
5. Running shoes

The Scenario of Peril:
You are on a train, alone in your own train car, when the train derails, falling 20 feet in to the river. The train car is sinking. You are stuck inside. And the door is locked. (Courtesy of Allison)
With the water pooling at my feet in the sinking train car, I dump out my book bag. I quickly open the first textbook, How to Swim. I speed read the first couple of chapters and am now able "to swim like an Olympian." I glance at the title of the second text, How to Drown Like a Loser, and toss it aside. With confidence at near super-human levels, I set about escaping.

The water has reached my knees by the time I truly get started. I use the pens to draw a bulls-eye target on the window of the train car. Knowing that I have only one shot at this, I put a running shoe on my hand to act as a sort of boxing glove, and punch the window out. The water floods into the train car. I open my sandwich bag and suck out all of the air stored in the Ziplock baggie. I then swim through the broken window. As I struggle to reach the surface, I cut off my clothes with my keys. The less weight and resistance, the quicker I rise. Once on the surface of the water I breathe easy and float naked awaiting rescue. Another great escape, Pirate!
And that's how it is done. If you have a perilous scenario and five tools of escape to challenge me, please post them in the comments...and you will soon witness: Another Great Escape, Pirate!

Hi Ho, It's Off to Work Again

It's like I've found a job, or something. I'm heading back over to grandpa's to work on the garage. The concrete is coming today for the footer. It's all new to me (and to him, in some degree, I believe), but it is exciting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oh. My. God!
Live Free or Die Hard Review

Ho-ley Moses! Live Free or Die Hard is an amazing movie! I can’t think of an action movie in the past 5 years that was as impressive as this one.

My jaw is literally on the floor. I may have to wire it shut just to keep from tripping over it.

It’s been 12 years since the last Die Hard movie hit the screens. In that time it doesn’t appear that Bruce Willis has lost a step as John McClane. He’s lost some hair – and the rating has dropped to a PG-13 (a limit-stretching PG-13) – but McClane is still taking names and kicking ass.

The story is action-movie convenient and predictable, but that doesn’t really matter. Just like the previous Die Hard movies, we – as an audience – only care about watching the invincible McClane tear through the bad guys and save the day.

Do things go from bad to worse to - damn - totally unfair? Does McClane waste an army of henchmen? Does McClane take a beating the likes of which make you wince to watch? Does the humor, action, and explosions make you bounce up and down in your seat?

Yes! Yes, yes, yes.

There is no way I’d be able to write a proper review for this movie. I’m in awe. The (full) audience clapped at the end of the show. And this wasn’t your loud, obnoxious teenage audience. These were normal folk. Adults, old people – grandmas and grandpas.

The only bad thing about the whole experience, is that no other summer movie will come close to the action and fun present in Live Free or Die Hard. I guess I’ll just have to go see it again. And again. And again!

Spend the money. See the movie. This is a theater movie. Spend the money. It is worth it.

New Comics - June 27, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Countdown #44 by Ed Benes
DC Comics

I knew this would be the cover of the week when I saw the “Next Issue” image at the back of last week’s issue. Monarch’s armor was cool when he first appeared in the 90’s, and it holds up well today. Add the coolness factor to the questions his appearance in this series raise, and it’s a good week to be following Countdown.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Wonder Woman #10
Countdown #44
Amazons Attack! #3
Blue Beetle #16
X-Factor #20
The Immortal Iron Fist #6
She-Hulk #19

Maintenance vol. 1: It’s A Dirty Job (TPB)
The Ultimates 2 vol. 2: Grand Theft America (TPB)
The Trials of Shazam vol. 1 (TPB)
The Irredeemable Ant-Man vo. 1: Low-Life (TPB)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus vol. 1 (TPB)

Watch for thoughts or quick reviews when a comic requires the extra attention.

Grunt Labor

I'm off to be grunt labor for my grandpa. I don't know a thing about garage building, but I do know grunt labor. I've lived nearly my whole life doing that kind of work. Grunt!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why I Read

I think I enjoy reading so much for the sense of – awe – I experience just seeing the words, watching the combination of those words work together to create pictures and thoughts and adventures in my head. Grant Morrison’s run on the Animal Man comic from 1990 was a brutal, beautiful and breath-taking achievement in writing. A character that isn’t even real becomes as true as any person I meet on the street. Bizarre and true essays by Chuck Palahniuk about farm combine demolition derbies and dressing up and running wild in a dog costume allow me to explore the weirdly wonderful crazy things people do do. Sure, all this reading is a substitute for the actual experience - for the doing of these things myself - but it’s still enjoyable.

Just one of the many reasons I enjoy reading.

New Media - June 26, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week – I try to limit myself to once a week – I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here’s a taste of what has been added to my collection in the past week.

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Maximum Ride: School’s Out – Forever by James Patterson
Subterranean by James Rollins
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

The Waiting Place vol. 2 (TPB) by Sean McKeever and Mike Norton
Beyond! (HC) by Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins
The Other Side (GN) by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart
Blood: A Tale (GN) by J.M. DeMatteis and Kent Williams

Black Snake Moan
Die Hard Collection
Mission Impossible III
The Black Dahlia
The Ladykillers

Easy Tiger by Ryan Adams
My December by Kelly Clarkson
Truth in Sincerity by Amber Pacific
Icky Thump by The White Stripes

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

Comic Thoughts - Week of June 20, 2007
(Part II)

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of June 20, 2007. (Continued from Part I)

Robin #163: Adam Beechen writes his Robin as a smart, insightful, and funny hero. Just the type of hero I like reading about. Following a crook down a busy street Robin wonders off-handedly if –

“...any flying superheroes ever thought to moonlight as sky traffic reporters. Be a good way to make extra dough.”

This is the type of thought I’d have while out superheroing. This issue was both a great sentimental story – Tim and Bruce’s first Father’s Day together – and action showcase – Robin taking down twelve heavily armed, but not particularly bright, members of The Jury. It’s a fight that demonstrates Robin’s well-deserved place as the leader of the younger generation of DC heroes. I’ll be sad to see Beechen leave the title after the next story arc.

Shadowpact #14: An angel, Zauriel, and a demon, Blue Devil, fight to the death. Catchy intro, huh? In the background someone shouts, “Kick him in the nards!” I haven’t heard someone shout “nards” since I last saw Monster Squad, one of my favorite movies from when I was young(er), still waiting for a DVD release. Suckers! It’s nice to see Zauriel back interacting with the DC Universe. The former Justice Leaguer and Angel of God is forced to fill the spot left vacant in the Shadowpact as Blue Devil takes a leave of absence while he fights to free himself from his deal with the devil. All the while, Doctor Gotham finally prepares to attack the Shadowpact head-on.

Catwoman #68: Pfeifer’s Catwoman is a comic full of tension. Every issue reads like you are walking a tightrope, fearful of falling to your death. This issue appears to wrap up the “Catwoman Dies” storyline – and no, she doesn’t die – and maybe even Holly’s (backup Catwoman) involvement with this book. At least we see now why Holly is on the run, and on the streets of Metropolis, in the Countdown series. Good writing and moody art – I especially liked the atmospheric red rain scratching the panels this month. Very noir-ish.

The Incredible Hulk #107: While this was a great addition to the “World War Hulk” event, the issue suffers from some repetition, a common curse of the mega-crossover event. That repetition aside, we do get the extra characterization and expanded back-stories not possible in the main-event book. In this issue Amadeus Cho continues his recruitment drive for friends of the Hulk. After a meeting with the a-hole of the seas, Namor, the group arrives in New York, seconds too late. After the Hulk battles and defeats Iron Man, the group attempts to reason with him. Hercules takes a titanic beating before the Hulk takes notice of the small band of puny humans assembled before him. Will Hulk SMASH, or will Hulk accept these friends? We’ll find out soon, True Believers. Soon.

*I do not plan on collecting all the related tie-ins to the “World War Hulk” event – even thought I’ve been digging the Hulk over the past year and love the start of this event. I’ll read those Marvel comics I normally purchase, but I am not willing to throw away the buckets of money necessary to have the complete saga. I’m a DC boy, through and through. If I’m going to throw buckets of money away, it’ll be for DC-related comics. Sorry, Marvel.

Boneyard #25: Out and out, the funniest book I read currently. It’s a shame the book is only published quarterly. This issue kicks off a new story arc as Michael’s imaginary childhood friend, Lita – a fairie – comes to the graveyard seeking sanctuary. As you might guess, no good – at least for our band of merry monsters – comes of this. It is funny for us, though.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wisconsin Vacation (Part IV)

(Continued from Part III)

Disc golf is not my strong suit. In my first game I managed to lose my disc in the woods. It being green and blending into the surroundings didn’t help much. And the kicker? I was doing well that game before I misplaced the disc. Also, to add insult to the injury: I was injured looking for the stupid thing. I was climbing around on the steep incline in my blasted sandals when I slipped and landed on my arm. Only a small scrape and a little blood, but it sure did ache like a wicked bruise for the rest of the vacation. I did play a few more rounds later in the week, but my scores were nothing worth writing about – i.e. they were bad. (Joe did later find the disc – it is his favorite to use, and use he can; he’s a great shot.)

Cards ended up being a wash for me. The first night we played poker for money I came out $5.25 ahead. The second night – say ta ta to $5.00. Overall I was the winner of a cool quarter dollar. But it’s not for the money I play cards. We – Stacey, Steve, Grandpa, and I – had a blast just staying up late and throwing around the cards. We also played “Pitch” and “Up and Down the River.” It was said that we were just a wee bit loud the first night, but that’s cards, grandma.

With Colby, Justin, and Beth, I played a card game I picked up a couple of years ago called, “Spank the Monkey.” We had a lot of fun with this game. The gist of the game is this: A monkey is messing around in a junkyard. The players use Junk cards to build a tower in order to reach the monkey – and spank it. You can reinforce your tower and attack your opponents’ towers. First person to spank the monkey wins the game. Turns out, Colby is a pretty good monkey spanker. (Definitely one of the weirdest sentences written on this blog – and one not to be taken out of context.) Sorry, Colby.

It was my birthday, and Father’s Day, that Sunday of vacation, June 17. I not so subtly reminded everyone of this fact, and even managed to get a cake out of the deal. There was a marble cake with chocolate frosting for my birthday, and a white cake with white frosting for all the fathers. It was nice. Good cake, too.

This was a fantastic vacation. Stacey and Joe have a great place to relax all year round. That’s right, all year round. They snowmobile in the winter. And I’ve been invited to try that as well. I can’t wait.

Part I can be found here. Part II, here. Part III, here.

Wisconsin Vacation (Part III)

(Continued from Part II)

Timm’s Hill is Wisconsin’s highest natural point, at 1,951.5 feet. It’s also a five-minute drive from the cottage. One afternoon we drove out to Timm’s Hill and trekked up to the wooden tower they’ve built on top of the hill. If you climb up the tower, you will be greeted with a spectacular view of Wisconsin – miles and miles you can see from up high. Not a huge fan of heights, I was a bit hesitant climbing the tower, but the view was worth it.

We had a couple of storms while we were at the cottage. The rain never lasted too long, but at times it was coming down strong and heavy. It came down so heavy one day that a fairly large tree at the neighbors (Joe’s brother’s place) was taken down. The funny thing was that the tree broke 15 feet up from the ground. The not-so-funny thing was that there was still quite a lot of tree that managed to smash down on their dock. Steve and I went down after the rain stopped for pictures, and were almost carried away by the enormous number of mosquitoes that had come with the rain. Trees falling is a common occurrence, or so I’d gather from the sheer number of broken trees I saw.

Here’s the before view of the neighbor’s dock:

(Concluded in Part IV)

Wisconsin Vacation (Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

I had never really been out on a boat before. Sure, I’d been on the boat ride in Branson as a kid where pirates attacked, but that hardly counts as a real boat ride – the pirates weren’t even scary. This boat ride was one of the most calm and relaxing hours I’ve ever spent on a vacation. We just cruised around the lake – Stacey, Joe, Grandma, Grandpa, and I – taking in the lake, the shore, and the setting sun. If I had to pick a best moment of the entire vacation, it would be this leisurely cruise. Joe kicked up the speed at the end of the ride and I couldn’t get the smile off my face.

The day before we left the cottage, I went out in the boat as the spotter while Beth, Colby, Justin, Anneka, Cierra, and Rachel went tubing. I’d never seen anyone go tubing before. It’s as simple as tying an inner tube to the back of a boat and speeding off across the lake. And it couldn’t have looked like more fun to me. After watching the gang take multiple rides – and a few spills – across the lake, I knew I had to get out there and try. We docked long enough for me to run up to the cottage and change into my swim trunks. Picking up Steve as the new spotter and Stacey as the new driver, Beth, Colby, Joe, and I were ready for some tubing.

At least, I was as ready as a newbie could be - having never tubed before or have any real grasp on swimming/water skills. Let’s just thank Moses I had a life jacket on. I think I lasted a bit over five minutes before I managed to flip over and get drug under water upside-down. It wasn’t right away after flipping over and into the water that I remembered the one rule of tubing: let go of the tube if you flip over. Bobbing in the water as Stacey attempted to pick me up, I was able to clearly hear Steve yelling, “I got you on video! I got you on video!” Sure enough, he did. It’s a pretty good video of me riding the tube, flipping the tube, and then trying so hard to get rescued. At least I was smiling. And it was fun. Next time I’ll do better. Next time.

Oh, and that first stretch of tubing was the time out in the sun that resulted in my impressive sunburn. A perfect half circle of burn on my forehead from wearing my ball cap backwards.

I did manage to get two bike rides in – not counting that disaster of a ride the first day. For these rides, we put the bikes on the back of Steve’s vehicle, and drove the mile up to the paved road to start. The first ride was with Steve and Colby, and it was a windy one. The temps were in the low 60’s, but with the wind it was a little cool starting out. Once warmed up I felt good. I remember telling Steve that my almost 500 miles of training must have done me some good. We rode a loop around Spirit Lake and stopped by the grocery store in Rib Lake (pop. 881) to pick up three bags of miniature candy bars - we were running low. It was 19.14 miles at 14.1 mph. The second ride was just Steve and I. We rode around the lake again, without the stop in Rib Lake. It was a little cooler, low 50’s, but not nearly as windy. I just never found my zone. It felt tough for me, be we managed the 15.15 miles at 16 mph. All in all, a couple of great bike rides were squeezed in.

(Continued in Part III)

Sure Is Warm Out There

It sure is warm out there today. I didn't go on a morning bike ride, but instead mowed the yard. It was a sweaty deal. The yard looks great, though. Having the riding lawnmower makes the job that much easier and the yard that much sharper-looking.

The Stacks - June 25, 2007

The Stacks, a weekly list of all I’m currently reading, or watching on DVD. New materials added are underlined.

The Stacks – June 25, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Dark Tower (Dark Tower book 7) by Stephen King
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukayaneko
On Writing by Stephen King
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

Paste issue 32, June 2007

Deadwood: Season 3 (TV series)
Showtime Sampler: Weeds, Dexter, The Tudors (TV series)
Futurama: Season 1 (TV series)
Die Hard Collection
Kidnapped (TV series)
Venture Bros: Season 1 (TV series)
Hex: Season 1 (TV series)

JSA Presents: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. vol. 1 (TPB)
Blood: A Tale (TPB)
The Other Side (GN)
Beyond! (TPB)
Wasteland vol. 1 (TPB)
Pearls Before Swine: Sgt. Piggy’s Lonely Hearts Club Comic (Treasury)
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (GN)

Look for reviews/thoughts of selected materials from The Stacks…when I finish something. Anything.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Part the Way There

I only made it part of the way there with my vacation posting today. I'll work on getting more typed up tomorrow. I'll also try and finish my Comic Thoughts for the week.

I ended up over at my grandparents to play some cards. Once I got back home I watched a few episodes of Futurama - hilarious - and read a little more in some of my books. That was the night for me. The weather looks good for the week, so I'm sure I'll be out on my bike sometime. I've got the alarm set for a 5AM ride, but that's going to be iffy...

The Lot That Almost Ate Me

This is a picture of the foundation of the new house my mom is having built in Altoona. It was here, yesterday, that I almost lost my sandals, maybe even my feet - the mud was so quick and grabby. Near-death experience aside, this is one impressive looking foundation. I can't wait to see the house as it goes up. (Although, I have to question the indoor swimming pool it appears that she has mysteriously added to the basement.)

Wisconsin Vacation (Part I)

I was lucky enough to be invited, along with any other family members able to make the trip, to a cottage (house) on Spirit Lake in north central Wisconsin, June 16 – 21, 2007. My aunt Stacey and her husband, Joe, opened their doors to 21 guests for a week of relaxation and fun. Not being a big outdoors or water person, I was curious as to how much I would enjoy the getaway. I shouldn’t have even wondered – I couldn’t have had a better time anywhere else.

I was able to hitch a ride, with my bike and way too many bags, in the pickup with my grandparents. It was a shorter drive than I would have thought. We made it to the cottage in about 6.5 hours of driving time; we’d have been there sooner if we hadn’t stopped for a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s – I hadn’t been to a Denny’s in years.

We weren’t the first to arrive, or the last, but it didn’t take long before the fun began. After exploring the disc golf course around the cottage, the steep path down to the lake (and back up), and the inflatable Playstation bobbing in the water and overrun with shouting cousins, I was content to just sit in a chair on the patio and soak up the experience. Not so for my uncle Scott. Scott was aching for a bike ride.

And I did bring my bike. With a reluctant and quick change, I was ready to go with Scott, and uncles Steve and John, followed on scooter by grandpa. Being ready to go and being able to go, turned out to be two very different things, indeed. My bike, with its skinny tires, was no match for the gravel roads on the peninsula on which the cottage hid. After half a mile I gave up. I turned around and walked/rode my bike back to the cottage, swearing both out-loud, and loudly in my head. Gravel!

I calmed down after a bit, and settled into what would become my weekly routine: eat, drink Diet Coke, eat, huff and puff up and down the hill to the lake, eat (there were a lot of snacks out and open on the kitchen counter), and chill out around the cottage watching movies and playing cards.

The rest of the week all blends together…

(Continued in Part II)

O Coen Brothers, Where Art Thou? - Updated 6/25/07 2:13 PM

I had forgotten how much I enjoy films made by the Coen brothers. It'd been three years since I last saw a new movie, or even watched one of their older movies on DVD. They had a segment, "Tuileries," in the recently released anthology flick, Paris, je t'aime, a wonderful movie whose review will be coming soon. This segment reignited in me a desire to experience some of their delightfully quirky, dark humor. On vacation I watched The Big Lebowski, which only made me want to see The Ladykillers again. Both movies are filled with strong and hilarious language and dialogue, along with the modern day fairy tale-esque elements that give the Coen brothers' films that something special - that style - which makes them pop with uniqueness.

I don't know how much humor will be present in their next movie, No Country for Old Men, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's acclaimed novel, due out in November, but I'll be there in line opening day. The duo has a way of making movies irresistible to my attention.

Update: The trailer for No Country for Old Men can be found, here. It looks great.

Comic Thoughts - Week of June 20, 2007
(Part I)

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of June 20, 2007.

Justice League of America #10: They did it! And I don’t care if this spoils the conclusion of “The Lightning Saga” for you – they brought back Wally West, THE FLASH. My Flash is back. Whoo!

Countdown #45: The big fight between Donna Troy and Forerunner was nothing more than your typical comic book brawl. Where this issue worked was Jimmy Olsen’s rambling history of the New Gods, and the last panel reappearance of Monarch – a one-time big bad whose armor is being sported by the recently put-upon Captain Atom. What his plans are, we don’t know. What potential he sees in the disgraced Forerunner, we don’t know. Is he a force for good or evil? Can’t wait to find out. Next week’s cover: Monarch in all his bad-ass glory.

Checkmate #15: Some horrific torture, some diplomatic problem-solving, and some superhero smashing. All this and the surprising guest-appearance of a former leader of The Outsiders – another great issue in a series of great issues. It looks like this current storyline/crossover ends in the next issue of The Outsiders.

The Flash #13: Son of a… What a week to be a Flash fan. Wally comes back, but they kill Bart?! I can’t write anything but the words from the final page – a fitting (but hopefully not permanent – comic’s revolving door of death, please) end for the Flash, Bart Allen:

“My name is Bart Allen. I’m the fastest man alive. End of the day you only need to know two things about me. I run fast…and I help people.”


Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #53: Fantasy novelist Tad Williams continues his strong run on Aquaman. The stories are engaging, the mysteries deepening. All this plus some spectacularly drawn pages by Shawn McManus make Aquaman a winner.

The Brave and the Bold #4: This issue was placed in my pull pile (the set of comics put aside for me each week at the comic shop) by accident. While I like the idea of teaming up random characters in the DC Universe, this series isn’t working for me. I tried the first issue and was unimpressed. This issue was more of the same convoluted story and uninteresting art. It’s just not one for me.

(Continued in Part II)

Ambitious Day

I plan on getting my vacation write-up and pictures posted today. It will just take tearing myself away from the stacks of reading and watching materials. Still, I did want a relaxing day, so the vacation posts may be a late-day addition to the blog.

I also have a backlog of CD and movie reviews to get up on the site. We'll get there, gang.

Hope everyone is taking it easy this Sunday. Remember, there's work tomorrow for most of you, so enjoy the break while you can.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Spider Attack

There is nothing worse than lying down in bed only to discover a spider walking across the ceiling directly overhead. I'm sure it was just waiting for my eyes to close before it lowered itself down into my open mouth. God, I hate waking up with spider eggs in my throat!

Sweet dreams all.

Almost Swallowed Whole

Today is just not my day. I ended up sleeping until 11, which is fine, but it really eats up a good portion of my waking hours.

Then, once I did get out, I left my cell phone at home. I drove over to my mom's new house to take some pictures of the construction and managed to sink ankle-deep in mud. It is a very impressive foundation she has poured, though. Probably wasn't the smartest idea to go exploring in my sandals, but I'm just not on my game today. There was a point when I swore my sandals were goners, that I would never get them pulled out of the mud. It's like the mud burped up and attempted to swallow me whole.

After that fiasco, I managed to bend and break my new sunglasses. A week old and already in heaven.

I'm just waiting for the lightning bolt to drop from the sky and zap me while I try to watch Die Hard with a Vengeance tonight. I'll keep my muddy toes crossed.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Trouble Sleeping

For the past couple of days I've had some trouble sleeping. I sleep, just not very well, or for very long. It's frustrating because then I am tired during the day. I wonder if it's just the sunburn effecting me, or if it's something else. Well, whatever it is, I hope I get a good sleep tonight.

My plans are up in the air for tomorrow. Couple of different pots on the stove. I guess I'll just see what's what when the when is when.

At least I found my missing wallet. Nothing bothers at paranoid dude - me - more than misplacing your wallet.

3:10 to Yuma Trailer

I can't believe I had not heard of this movie before I saw the trailer today. Holy Moses! A new western staring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, directed by the man behind Walk the Line - this all adds up to a winner.

Apparently this is a remake of some 50’s western. I’m just happy to see that we’ve got another western coming out soon. The last couple of westerns I saw in the theaters, Open Range and The Proposition, were very good. And then there was HBO’s Deadwood. It’s about time the western made a comeback. If I wasn’t a pirate, I’d want to be a cowboy.

1408 Review

I wanted to like 1408 more than I did. There was just something about it that kept me from walking out of the theater thinking: wow.

Don’t misunderstand me, 1408 is a good flick. Adapted from a Stephen King short story and directed by Mikael Hafstrom, it’s pretty much a one-man show starring John Cusack in all his wryness. Cusack plays writer, Mike Enslin, very much intent in witnessing some true paranormal activity. He haunts hotels and mansions in search for some truth to the ghost stories that give these faltering operations a last leg to stand on. You are led to believe he does this solely to prove to himself that there is something out there after death – something, somewhere for his dead daughter to feel safe.

After a mysterious postcard arrives warning him not to enter room 1408 at The Dolphin Hotel, Enslin reluctantly packs his bag and gadgets and heads for New York, on the hunt once more. Samuel L. Jackson, in a small but important role as the hotel manager, provides the history and warning behind the “f**king evil room.” It must be some unwritten rule that Sam gets an f-drop in all his movies – even the single drop allowed in a PG-13 thriller.

Once Enslin enters room 1408, the movie kicks into drive and runs at near real-time speed, as a clock ticks down from 60:00, no one having ever lasted the room an hour.

The movie works; it’s all there. I was just hoping for that something special that makes some movies so much more. If you are in the mood for a scare and a jump, 1408 is a good movie to catch at a matinee price.

New Comics - June 20, 2007

Cover of the Week:
JSA Presents: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. vol. 1 (TPB)
by Lee Moder

I’ve been waiting years for this collection. I really dig the character of Stargirl, and enjoyed this fun series when it first came out. For some reason I only made it to issue 6 or 7, so this collection will help me on the way to completing the series.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Checkmate #15
Countdown #45
The Brave and the Bold #4
Justice League of America #10
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #53
The Flash #13
Robin #163
Shadowpact #14
Catwoman #68
The Incredible Hulk #107
Boneyard #25

JSA Presents: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E vol. 1 (TPB)

Watch for thoughts or quick reviews when a comic requires the extra attention.

New Media - June 19, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week – I try to limit myself to once a week – I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here’s a taste of what has been added to my collection in the past week.

New Media – June 19, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
Chances Are…Adventures in Probability by Michael and Ellen Kaplan

The Plain Janes (GN) by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Wasteland (TPB) by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten

Paste: Issue 32 June 2007

Freaks and Geeks: Complete Series (TV series)
Futurama: Season 2 (TV series)
That 70’s Show: Season 4 (TV series)
Sleeper Cell: Season 2 (TV series)
The 4400: Season 1 (TV series)

Once: Music from the Motion Picture

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

The (Vacation) Stacks - June 18, 2007

The (Vacation) Stacks, a list of all I’ve taken to read, or watch on DVD this vacation.

I was having so much fun that I hardly looked at a thing I brought with me. I put some comments in brackets to show what I did get through.

The (Vacation) Stacks – June 18, 2007

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials II) by Philip Pullman
[finished this, but I only had 60 pages to get through]
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk
[read the intro and 14 pages…stellar writing so far]
The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

The New Yorker June 11 & 18, 2007: Summer Fiction Issue

The 4400: Season 1 (TV series)
Showtime Sampler: Weeds, Dexter, The Tudors (TV series)
That 70’s Show: Season 4 (TV series)
The Venture Bros.: Season 1 (TV series)
V for Vendetta
Last Man Standing
The Big Lebowski
[watched this with Steve…had to do so in the basement with the door closed because of the younger kids and the movie’s language…I forgot how much swearing was in the movie!]
The Devil’s Backbone
The Proposition
Pan’s Labyrinth

The Plain Janes (GN)

Look for reviews/thoughts of The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials II) once I catch up on the blog.

The (Regular) Stacks return next Monday.

Back (and Burned)

I'm back.

I'm back from a terrific vacation! I couldn't have had more fun. There will be a handful of posts about my time at the cottage in Wisconsin over the next day or two. I'll also work on posting the regular features I missed earlier in the week (sorry about that, but there was no Internet connection, or even cell service for my phone).

But before all that, I need to eat some breakfast and finish watching the Robot Chicken Star Wars special I taped from last Sunday. Oh, and I need to do some laundry, too.

Back (again) soon.

The burn? Yeah, it was a sun burn. A bad one. I shouldn't have worn my ball cap backwards on my bald head. Burned a perfect half-circle onto my forehead. Moron.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Out of Time

I was going to try and get some movie reviews up on the blog before I left for vacation, but I just ran out of time.

I'm 90% sure that I'll be able to update the blog during the week I'm on vacation in Wisconsin - starting tomorrow. If that turns out to be true, look forward to your regularly scheduled content: The Stacks, New Media, movie reviews (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Paris, Je t'aime), and The Pirate Escapes. The weekly comics will be posted on Friday when I return home, with reviews to follow on the weekend.

If I can't find access to the internet...well, that's why nothing's been updated since this post. Never fear, in the very worst case scenario, I shall return to regular posting on Friday, June 22, 2007.

Here's to the hope that no lake monster swallows me whole - or if it does, that I at least have 5 items I can use to plan ANOTHER GREAT ESCAPE, PIRATE!

Original Artwork by Pat Gleason

Here is the piece of original artwork - featuring the Green Latern, Guy Gardner - I mentioned that I snagged from Pat Gleason at a comic book convention last year. He truly was a great dude for drawing it up for me.

Getting Ready for Vacation

I hate getting ready to leave on a trip. I'm so sure the entire time I'm packing that I'm forgetting something important. That feeling never really leaves me, even once I've arrived where I'm going. I just keep waiting for that moment when I'll need something and I'll look in my bag and then not have it.

Also, it's a lot of work getting packed and doing all the stuff - like paying bills - I like to put off until the last possible minute. It really cuts into my "lazy time."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge Review

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge TPB
Writers: Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons
Artist: Patrick Gleason
DC Comics

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge is a great sci-fi superhero comic. This collection is also a good starting point for readers interested in exploring the sci-fi corner of the DC Universe.

Written by Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons, with art by Patrick Gleason, this mini-series explores the rebuilding of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force. Governed by a race of powerful little blue midgets – the Guardians of the Universe – the Corps seeks out a single individual per sector of space to act as a peacekeeper and superhero problem-solver. Armed with a green power ring that manifests the ring-bearer’s will, this individual is the one creature – because let’s face it, this is space and not every race can easily be defined – in the sector who acts without fear.

Earth, in sector 2814, has four Green Lanterns assigned to it. Which, considering the overwhelming number of crisis events that pop up on Earth alone, seems reasonable. However, at the beginning of this series, two of these veteran Lanterns - the brash and cocksure Guy Gardner, and the powerful and artistic Kyle Rayner (both personal favorites of mine) – are mysteriously recalled to the planet Oa, home world of the Guardians. Upon arrival, they quickly become recruited as teachers and mentors for an expanding number of trainee Lanterns from across the galaxy.

It doesn’t take long before Lanterns start dying and suns across the galaxy disappear. Soon our veteran Lanterns are paired up with new recruits and sent to investigate. Enemies are found and fought, while an even larger threat looms in the background.

I was happy to see that this story wrapped up nicely in this one volume. I think even without a great deal of background knowledge, the casual comic reader can enjoy this series. The writers use multiple new recruits to act as points-of-view for the reader, shepherding us into the world of the Green Lantern Corps.

Patrick Gleason does a tremendous job with the art and covers for this series. There is plenty of detail in every panel, and the space settings really allow him to tear loose with his imagination. It’s almost as if he himself is wielding a power ring – imagination brought to life.

Interesting side note: I was actually able to meet Patrick – a friendly dude - at a comic book convention a year ago. I even managed to pick up a piece of original artwork featuring the Green Lantern, Guy Gardner. I’ll try to get a picture of this awesome drawing up on the blog tomorrow.

All in all, if you are in the mood for a good sci-fi action story, pick up Green Lantern Corps: Recharge. You can find it on sale here at And if you enjoy this collection, the mini-series continued into an on-going series, of which the first collection, Green Lantern Corps vol. 1: To Be A Lantern is also now available. (I own this collection, but have not read it yet.)

A Day with Grandpa

I spent most of today hanging out and running errands with my Grandpa. I was even able to learn a bit about building a garage. Today we went to Menards and a place for windows and a place for shingles in preparation of the garage building that will occur when we all get back from vacation in Wisconsin. I know nothing about building - I'm sure I could demolish with best of them - so it was a learning experience for me. While I didn't understand everything, I caught the gist of it. In my mind it seems like it could be a lot of fun. I may just stop over there for a couple days and see what's up.

A bonus about spending the day with my Grandpa: He reminds me a bit of my dad - how he acts. It was nice.

The Pirate Escapes III (The Beginning)

Here's how it all started: I emailed the following message to a co-worker 3 years ago. Help me get through the day...Let's play MacGyver. You give me a situation to escape from (a cave-in, a sinking ship, etc.) and 5 everyday items that I can use to escape with (a toothbrush, a shoelace, a pack of matches, a bicycle tire, a stick of gum, etc.). I'll then come up with a wicked-cool story of escape. Think you can help me out? From that day until my last day of work, I found myself constantly in situations of grave peril. Without such peril, I doubt I'd have survived the days.

Here's how it works: the pirate is given five items - as varied and crazy as you can imagine - and a single scenario of peril to escape. From there, things get...interesting as the pirate attempts ANOTHER GREAT ESCAPE.

The Items:
1. A canteen
2. An energy bar
3. Fingernail clippers
4. A belt
5. An M&M's wrapper

The Perilous Scenario:
You've fallen through a hole in the ground. Luckily, you've landed on a smooth, stalagmite platform. Below, you can hear the hissing and clicking of snakes and giant cockroaches. (Courtesy of Erica - August 12, 2004)

I stand up on the platform and dust myself off. I take a bite from the energy bar and chew on it until it becomes soft and sticky with saliva. I then use the gummy engery bar to attach the M&M's wrapper to the buckle of my belt. I tie the belt to my leg, and then hang by my fingertips from the platform, dangling the belt with the wrapper over the snakes at the bottom of the hole. The smell of the M&M's wrapper entices a snake below to leap up and snag the tasty treat.

Ha! He bites through the wrapper hiding the buckle of the bet and gets his mouth snared on the little hook part of the buckle. Caught like a fish.

Utilizing my impressive upper-body strength, I pull myself back onto the platform. I grab the canteen and use it to smash the snake's head flat, killing it. I repeat this entire process nine times, bringing up nine more snakes and smashing their head's flat as well.

I then use the nail file on my fingernail clippers to gut the snakes. I tie together the intestines and now have over twenty feet of super-strong, snake-gut rope. I toss my rope up and out of the hole and it cathes on a large boulder. I quickly scurry up the rope. Standing in the sun and staring down into the hole which once kept me captive, I smile.

This was the first great escape of the Pirate!
And that's how it is done. If you have a perilous scenario and five tools of escape to challenge me, please post them in the comments...and you will soon witness: Another Great Escape, Pirate!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Biking? Biking?

Yeah, yeah. I know I haven't been out biking in 3 whole days. I could write some excuses, but why bother. Fact is, I've just been down and lazy.

Missing 3 days won't kill me, but I can't make a habit of it or I won't meet my goal of 1,000 miles before RAGBRAI. I think I'm just killing time until my birthday (Sunday), which I've set as some mythical day that I'll hit my dieting and working out hardcore. Of course, I'll be on vacation by then, so who knows how things will go. Vacation is a hard time to diet and workout.

Heck, if this summer has been any indication, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are hard times to diet and workout.

Ocean's Thirteen Review

I saw Ocean’s Thirteen for the second time tonight. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s just a fun show. I shouldn’t have been surprised; I thought the first two were great. I love con/heist movies.

The thing about seeing these types of movies more than once is that the second time around you catch so much more. This time around I noticed little off-hand remarks throughout the beginning of the movie that related to events later on. I wasn’t lost the first time I saw the movie because I didn’t notice this stuff, or put it all together, I managed to follow the story just fine. It is a bonus catching it all the second time through.

Now, some people complain that these types of movies are “too confusing” or “too hard to follow.” I just don’t understand. Are lots of different things going on? Is the story not linear? Sure, sure. But that doesn’t make it confusing. Just pay attention.

Anyway, Ocean’s Thirteen is the most fun I’ve had at a movie so far this summer. While Spiderman 3 was a bit bloated, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was a tad convoluted, Ocean and the gang stole the show.
It’s not over though – summer, that is. There’s still Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfter, Live Free or Die Hard, Transformers, Daywatch, and Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix. And that’s only a handful of movies coming out in the next month or so.

Comic Thoughts - Week of June 13, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of June 13, 2007.

World War Hulk #1: Wow! This is one of those big company-wide crossovers that actually delivers on its promise: HULK SMASH!

The premise is simple: A group of Marvel heroes – Iron Man, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) – took it upon themselves to exile the Hulk for the good of the Earth. After his rocket veers off course and crashes onto a brutal planet, the Hulk finds himself fighting for life and freedom. Overcoming great odds, he survives and becomes king of the planet. He takes a queen, who soon becomes pregnant with his child. All is right and perfect for the Hulk, until the day when the ship he was sent on suddenly explodes, killing millions, including the Hulk’s queen and unborn child. Now on a mission of vengeance, the Hulk has returned to the Earth.

In this issue…the Hulk SMASH Black Bolt and Iron Man. And he’s only just getting started. I have to be honest, after Iron Man’s turn into jerk-hero during Civil War, I was glad to see him get pummeled.

John Romita, Jr.’s art takes some getting used to, but it sure does shine destructively throughout this issue. Greg Pak’s writing is both stirring and right – a perfectly plotted issue from page 1. I had hoped to see the same excellent work that created the incredible, year-long “Planet Hulk” storyline, and I was not disappointed. This is the book to beat this summer!

Countdown #46: After 5 weeks of waiting for this series to pick up, it finally does. While the mysteries surrounding Jimmy Olsen still haven’t been explained, the connections between him and the New Gods become much more interesting. Jason Todd and Donna Troy meet the Monitor’s greatest weapon, Forerunner, an alien chick capable of beating down the two anomalies without even breaking a sweat. But the best bit had to be the Rouges just sitting around discussing the lack of courtesy and manners displayed toward those working in the service industries. It reminded me of the opening scene in the movie Reservoir Dogs, when the gang argued about the necessity of tipping your waitress. Fantastic work this week.

Hawkgirl #65: I’m still enjoying this series mainly for the artwork, especially the gritty addition of Renato Arlem’s pencils. The Egyptian stuff – reincarnated lovers and immortal mummies – also keeps it interesting.

Green Arrow #75: A super issue and end to this run of Green Arrow. It had everything this series has come to rely on – idealism and heroics, big fights, political maneuvering, and big fights. I was happy to see Ollie finally use the ring Brad Meltzer introduced in his short run on Arrow, “Archer’s Quest,” to propose to Black Canary. I’ll be picking up the Black Canary mini-series this summer to see how she responds. Also, I’m really looking forward to the Green Arrow: Year One mini-series in August from Andy Diggle and Jock.

Punisher War Journal #8: After combining his own costume with that of Captain America, Frank Castle explains how he’ll take on an army of modern-day Nazis. “This isn’t just a war against an army -- Hate-Monger is waging a war of ideas. And on that kind of battlefield, Captain America can be an H-bomb. I know. I’ve seen it.” What a way for a psychopath to explain Captain America’s level of influence. Great writing, Matt Fraction!

The New Avengers #31: The Skrulls?! And what’s up with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s baby in the last panel? I’m hooked; no putting this one off until the trades appear.

Construction Everywhere

Holy Moses! It's like every road I drove on today was having some form of work done. From having to following trucks repainting the yellow and white lines, to driving between cones as crews dug up and pounded down asphalt, driving became a real chore.

And of course, any distraction tended to make all the other drivers on the roads complete morons. I can't wait for the day when we just teleport to our destinations. Ah, the future...

New Comics - June 13, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Green Arrow #75 by Scott McDaniel

I’m going with the soft and sentimental this week. I’m choosing this cover purely for the fact that it shows Green Arrow proposing to Black Canary, at long last. It’s also the final issue for this run of a Green Arrow series.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Green Arrow #75
Countdown #46
Hawkgirl #65
World War Hulk #1
The New Avengers #31
Punisher War Journal #8

Fables vol. 9: Sons of Empire TPB
Re-Gifters GN
Pulp Fiction Library: Mystery in Space TPB

Watch for thoughts or quick reviews when a comic requires the extra attention.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! Review

Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! TPB
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
DC Comics

Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! is an obscure – but good – comic collection. This TPB (trade paperback) collection is the initial pairing of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale from way back in 1991. The pair went on to create some truly fantastic stories featuring Batman, Superman, Catwoman, Spiderman, Daredevil, and the Hulk. More on this later.

The Challengers of the Unknown are a group of adventurers living on borrowed time. Originally created back in late 1950’s for DC Comics, four strangers survived a plane crash that should have killed them. As happens only in comics, they instantly decided to band together and challenge the unknown. As happens over time – 40 years – the Challs faded into obscurity.

This eight-issue mini-series picks up the Challengers late in life. After a horrific accident that destroys their headquarters, Challenger Mountain, and kills thousands of innocent civilians, the Challengers of the Unknown are forced into retirement. With each character going his separate and disastrous way, it is up to a hack reporter to track them all down and solve the mystery behind the plot that ended the Challengers.

Coming into this series with only a limited knowledge of the Challengers, I was pleasantly surprised when I began to care about these characters. I shouldn’t have been surprised; Loeb has a gift for characterization. His future comics work, especially Superman For All Season, only proves the point. By the end of the series I am left wanting their story to continue. I like these guys. I like this team.

Tim Sale was doing his first comics work with this series. And while his art is good in this collection, it does not compare to his more polished work in their later collaborations. Sale’s art was recently all over the place this past year on TV. It was his amazing art that showed the future on NBC’s Heroes.

I’m getting off topic. What I need to say about this collection is that it’s good. Only, it’s probably enjoyed more by those who have read the duo’s other works. This series is only the kernel – the starting point – for the mysteries and the characterization that define such modern classics in comic storytelling as, Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Superman For All Seasons, Catwoman: When in Rome, Spiderman: Blue, Daredevil: Yellow, and Hulk: Grey.

Do yourself the favor and pick up Superman For All Seasons, it is the essential Superman story. Once you finish it, pick up the rest. Just don’t forget to eventually give the Challengers a shot, too. While not the best of the pair’s work, it’s still a good read.

New Media - June 12, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week - I try to limit myself to once a week - I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here's a taste of what has recently been added to my collection.

New Media - June 12, 2007

Blaze by Richard Bachman [a.k.a. Stephen King]

The New Yorker - June 11 & 18, 2007: Summer Fiction Issue

Deadwood: Season 3 (TV series)
Futurama: Season 3 (TV series)
Futurama: Season 4 (TV series)
X-Files: Season 6 (TV series)

Riot! by Paramore
Era Vulgaris by Queens of the Stone Age

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

Smallville Gains a Supergirl

I read today on Mania that they are currently casting the role of Supergirl for Smallville's seventh season. And this time it will be a real Supergirl, not just some Earth girl given Kryptonian powers by Jor-El, like at the end of the third season. She'll have the same powers as Clark, but will be able to fly. Oh, and she'll be a possible romantic interest for Jimmy, who becomes a full-time cast member this upcoming season.

Too bad they can't just get rid of Lana. She's the only part of the show that I don't care for.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Loop, Kitchen Confidential Reviews

The thing about TV shows - especially programs on Fox - is that the good ones never seem to last anymore. In fact, some of the shows that get cancelled don't even get the chance to air all their episodes. However, most of these shows find their way to DVD. And I like that.

Kitchen Confidential first aired on Fox a couple of years ago. I managed to catch the first few episodes, and really enjoyed them, but then it disappeared. It wasn't until recently that the show found its way to DVD. Turns out there were actually 13 episodes filmed, and they kept getting better and better. In fact, this show, based loosely on the book by the same name - a very funny and behind-the-scenes look at the crazy lives of chefs that kicked off the whole Top Chef/Hell's Kitchen craze - is one of the funniest shows I've watched. At the end of the 13 episodes it was clear that this show was becoming a lot like Scrubs (BEST COMEDY EVER), and that's a thing of wonder. I strongly recommend this series, unless you lack a sense of humor. It's cheap, GO BUY IT NOW!

The Loop is another example of a show that I caught the first few episodes of before losing track of it. However, unlike Kitchen, The Loop returns this summer on Fox. The show is pretty crazy and predictable, but the characters are hilarious. This show is about a young airline executive, Sam, trying to balance work and play. The situations Sam finds himself in, courtesy of his slacker older brother and two hot female roommates, are so bizarre and...bizarre that it doesn't matter if you know things are going to work out in the end. You cringe along with Sam as things go from bad to worse to disaster. For a pure, crazy, and mindless comedy, The Loop is the ticket. You can catch the entire first season online for free at, or you can spend the $14.99 and pick it up for keeps.

It's Like the Weekend on a Monday

I slept in today. I didn't get the chance to do that over the weekend because of a bike ride and cleaning my mom's garage. It's not that I have to sleep in, but it sure is nice to do sometimes.

I don't have big plans for today. I need to drive over to Altoona to see if there has been any progress made on my mom's new house. She's out of town on vacation with my grandma and has tasked me to take pictures of her basement being dug. That's cool because I've got the new camera to play with.

I'll probably work on securing my speakers to my bike better. They popped off yesterday while I was riding. At least this time they didn't get broken. I've got some tie-wraps I'm going to use to help secure it.

I'll also work on getting my odometer moved to the back wheel of my old bike - which is on a bike trainer for inside riding. This way I can record my miles if I have to ride inside because of rain.

Other than those things, I'm just going to chill today.

The Stacks - June 11, 2007

The Stacks, a weekly list of all I’m currently reading, or watching on DVD. New materials added are underlined.

The Stacks – June 11, 2007

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials II) by Philip Pullman
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Dark Tower (Dark Tower book 7) by Stephen King
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukayaneko
On Writing by Stephen King
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

Kidnapped (TV series)
Venture Bros: Season 1 (TV series)
Hex: Season 1 (TV series)

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge (TPB)
Challengers of the Unknown Must Die (TPB)
Animal Man vol. 3: Deus Ex Machina (TPB)
Pearls Before Swine: Sgt. Piggy’s Lonely Hearts Club Comic (Treasury)
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (GN)

Look for reviews/thoughts of selected materials from The Stacks…when I finish something. Anything.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

$100 Sandals

Yeah, that's what a pair of $100 sandals looks like. I never thought I'd see the day when I felt the need to spend so much money on a pair of sandals!

The sandals are for riding my bike in the summer. My kick-butt biking shoes are great, but they get a little warm when I'm out in the hot summer sun for hours at a time. So, solution: sandals.

The sandals themself don't actually cost $100. You can order them from the Lake Cycling Shoes for $79.99, but by the time you add the cleats - the attachement that locks you into the bike pedals - at $17.99, well, that gets you some pretty expensive sandals.

Ohh...but I can't wait to let my little piggies breathe when I ride next.

Comic Thoughts - Week of June 6, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of June 6, 2007.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #4: What can I say? The comic reads like the best episodes of the TV series. This issue nicely wraps up the first story arc – introducing our villains, reminding us of our heroes, and setting the stage for the rest of the “season.” Next issue (in August) is a one-off by Joss, and then it is time for writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, TV’s Lost) to wow us with a Faith arc, baby.

Justice League Unlimited #34: This was a lame comic. Two months in a row – disappointment. There were word balloons misplaced, lettering problems, and even inconsistent drawings of the characters. Sloppy work all around. Still, this issue had the comic styling of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. This used to be so much like the TV series; it’s a shame, really.

Countdown #47: Aside from the awesome looking dark Mary Marvel cover, this was another in a string of boring issues. I hope this weekly series is counting down to better issues. And soon. Five issues in and I’m not at all as excited as I was with 52.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #5: This series is essentially an abridged version of the main story from King’s fourth book in The Dark Tower series, Wizards and Glass. What makes the comic work so well is the breathtaking art (best I’ve seen in years) penciled by Jae Lee and digitally painted by Richard Isanove. The backup text features help to expand on the world of the gunslinger, giving insight and background that adds to the overall Dark Tower experience.

Detective Comics #833: A great twist ending with the reappearance of Batman’s deadliest foe. This book gets “two thumbs up.”

Justice Society of America #6: I’m enjoying this crossover with the Justice League, featuring the Legion of Superheroes. Three of DC Comics greatest teams all in one book together – fantastic! The two-page spread featuring all three teams fighting crazybad stuff is amazing.

Birds of Prey #107: Ice is back from the dead! - hopefully for good. This almost makes up for killing Blue Beetle, Max Lord, and Ralph and Sue Dibny. Is this the start of the JLI returning to glory?

Outsiders #48: The Outsiders and Checkmate together – this must be the week of team-ups. The issue was every bit as good as I would expect from Winick and Rucka. The art still leaves a lot to be desired, though; I just don’t care for Matthew Clark’s pencils (not that it was all his fault, what with having to share penciling duties this issue). The next-issue cover with a teaser for a Batman appearance has got me excited, especially since it appears he’ll soon be taking over the Outsiders.

Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #4: There were a couple of good lines from Ash, but the whole “Marvel Zombies” everywhere thing is beginning to bore me.

Nightwing #133: The story was decent enough. I could see that it was just setting the stage for something larger to come, so I’ll reserve my judgment until a later date. It is good to see that Jamal Igle hasn’t been forgotten as an artist after Firestorm was cancelled.

Adding the Hills

I decided that if I really want to be prepared for RAGBRAI this year, I need to add more hills to my bike rides. My normal routes are pretty flat. The couple of hills I do encounter are gradual, spread out over a mile each, and pretty easy to handle. This is not typical of RAGBRAI.

I rode a 20 mile ride today that added two steep hillls. If I can just force myself to do this ride, or one with similar hills, every other day, I might handle RAGBRAI better this year. In the past, it's been the hills that just kill me and my bad knees.

Today's ride: 20.33 miles; 15.8 mph; temps in low 70's; wind SSE 10-15 mph; cloudy.

4G SDHC Memory Card on Sale

This week at Best Buy, you can get a 4G SDHC Memory Card with USB memory card reader for only $39.99. This is 50% off the normal price. I picked one up last week for my new digital camera, and it's an impressive amount of storage. And at this price - well worth it. The sale runs through June 16.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Great Time at Adventureland

After my morning bike ride, I went to Adventureland for the first time in probably 15 years. I went with Ryan and Amy, and had more fun than I imagined I would. The funny thing about going back to a place like that - a place you primarly went to while you were young - was that everything seemed smaller. The buildings, the crowds, the rides. It was like being a giant in a tiny, little world. It rocked.

I think we had planned to spend only a part of the the day there, but we lasted 8 and a half hours! The best rides had to be the spinning, swinging, leg-dangling wonder that was the Sidewinder (thanks for the recommendation, Steve), and the pretty tall, pretty quick, Space Shot. Ryan rode most of the rides, but missed out on the Sidewinder (they had closed it temporarily for some reason, maybe vomit removal?). Oh, and there was this Splash Mountain-type ride with an inner tube and a giant slide that was pure bliss.

Oh, oh, oh, and I won a leopard - I gave it to Amy because it looked dumb, and I'm a man - at one of the games by throwing wiffle softballs on top of goblets. It was a fantistic invitation Ryan and Amy extended to me. Thanks guys!

Chichaqua Trail Ride

This morning I got up somewhat early and drove out to the Chichaqua Valley Recreation Trail to ride with Steve, Justin, Ryan, Amy, and Colby. It was a very nice ride on a smooth, paved trail. The trail used to be a railroad track, so there aren't any major hills, another plus. The trail is 20 miles long, but we were looking for a nice, easy ride today. We went out from the start near Bondurant and rode 7.5 miles before turning around, for a total of 15 miles. We averaged 13.5 mph. It was just the type of ride I needed today.


I did notice that Scott got out on his bike and put in 50 miles today. Sounds like it was probably a good ride, but it puts him within 60 miles of me in our race for the most miles logged before RAGBRAI. Man, I'm really going to have to put in the miles this coming week.

Danny Elfman Scores Hellboy 2

This day just keeps getting better and better. First the trailer for 30 Days, and now the news that my favorite composer, Danny Elfman, will score del Toro's Hellboy 2: fantastic! I'm sad about Elfman's falling out with Sam Raimi, but if he's going to find another director to work with - aside from Tim Burton - he can't do much wrong in finding del Toro. Oh, and Hellboy rocks, too. I'll be looking forward to this score!

30 Days of Night Trailer

Wow! The trailer for 30 Days of Night is up and running. The movie looks terrifyingly spectacular. Based on the graphic novel, it's the story of a group of vampires invading the town of Barrow, Alaska as the sun sets for thirty days of night. Needless to say, things don't go well for the townspeople. This movie has jumped into the top 5 movies I have to see this fall. It opens October 19th. The website for the movie is now live, and can be found HERE. The site includes a link for the trailer. Do yourself a favor and watch it. But do so during the day, definitely not at night.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Nightfall on the River - June 7, 2007

Last night I went to the first concert of the Nightfall on the River concert series at the Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater in downtown Des Moines.

Back a couple of months ago when they announced the lineup for this summer’s series – which runs Thursdays, June 7 to August 2 – I didn’t see a single night that looked interesting. Then yesterday, while I was looking through the paper, I noticed the performer of last night’s show, Emerson Hart, was once the lead singer for the band, Tonic.

Tonic was never a huge band, but I liked them. A lot. They were at the height of their popularity in the late nineties, just as I was finishing high school and starting college. They had a couple of Grammy nominations and a couple of hit songs, “If You Could Only See” and “Open Up Your Eyes.” Needless to say, once I realized who Emerson Hart was, I wanted to go. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. And at $8 a ticket, it was cheap.

I actually enjoy concerts at this venue, on the Des Moines River, out in the fresh air and sunshine, quite a bit. I bring a collapsible captain’s chair and a bottle of water, and can watch a show sitting down, with the city skyline behind the stage, and no smoke. Also, I can hear after the concert…always a big plus. While the rest of this year’s series doesn’t look interesting, I may be surprised like I was yesterday, or I can always pay a bit more and enjoy the same stage and experience with the Alive concert series on Friday nights, all summer long.

The opening performer was dude named Scott Leger out of Austin, Texas. Joined by a bass and drums, Leger put on a great show. The sound reminded me a bit of Lifehouse, The Calling, and The Nadas. While the music was good, even Leger recognized and apologized for the awkward banter between songs.

Two songs of note: “Maybe Tonight, Maybe Tomorrow,” a song written for the Lance Armstrong Foundation with his band Wasteland, and available for download on iTunes with all proceeds going to the foundation (there have already been 10,000 downloads = $10,000 raised), and “I’m Not So Far Away,” (? title) the show-closing song. This last song was their best. Everything clicked and the vocals were fantastic.

After a short break, Emerson Hart took the stage. After fumbling around for a lost guitar pick, Hart got right in to it. From the very first song, this show was rocking. Hart was aided by a second guitar, a bass, drums, and keyboard. There was no awkward banter here, the interaction between songs connected with and engaged the audience. “Note to self,” Hart joked, “don’t take up the courtesy and friendship of these locals because they’ll drink you into a hole before you take the stage.” Apparently his last visit to Des Moines went very well.

Emerson Hart owned the stage for the entire hour and a quarter he was up there. After playing “If You Could Only See,” Hart mentioned that while he was traveling around the Southeast trying out new songs for his upcoming album, Cigarettes and Gasoline he would play “If You Could Only See” for the crowd. After one performance he was talking with a guy back stage who told him he sounded, just like that guy who sings that song. Hart joked that he heard that a lot. The guy wouldn’t let up. He said, "No man, your other songs are great, but it might hurt your career sounding so much like that guy." Hart could only shrug and say, “Welcome to my life.”

The best song of the night had to be “It Takes A Little Bit of Love” (? title). Hart mentioned that his inspirations for the song were The Beatles and Queen, “without the weird mustache or unitard.” It was a rocking song with audience participation that even managed to get a hot blonde up dancing in front of the stage.

The set ended with Hart’s new single, “If You’re Gonna Leave.” It was a great song, great performance, and stellar night to be out listening to live music.

I wholeheartedly recommend checking out the single “Maybe Tonight, Maybe Tomorrow” from Scott Leger, and the purchase of Emerson Hart’s CD Cigarettes and Gasoline when it arrives in July.

[Expletive Deleted]

Stupid [expletive deleted] wind! Are you kidding me, 30 mph from the NNW! That means that all the [expletive deleted] hills on my normal ride will also include brutal [expletive deleted] wind as well.

Not fun. It was not a very easy or enjoyable bike ride this morning. The temps were nice - in the 60's - but the wind just killed any of the fun to be had. And my iPod Shuffle finally died. It started flashing all these lights at me and just refused to play music. It is a couple of years old, so maybe it's outlived its time. At least I found this out before I started riding and was able to hook up my iPod Nano to the bike speakers. I just cannot ride without my music.

20.32 miles *hanging my head in shame* at 14.5 mph.

Hopefully the winds will die down before my ride tonight...or I think I might just cry.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Quickly Before Bed

I did a good thing tonight. I got out of the house, out among the populace. If you know me, you know how rare this is. But it's something I'm working on. I swear.

I'll write about what I did tonight and post it sometime tomorrow. It's too late to write now. My bed calls to me.

Ah Man...

I just looked in the mirrow (ha) and noticed that I've got raccoon eyes. I must have gotten a little too much sun the past couple of days - while wearing my sunglasses - and now I have white ovals around my eyes and a red face.

Bike Until You Bleed

I wasn't going to do it today. I started talking myself out of a bike ride from the moment I hit the snooze on my alarm at 5 AM. Once I finally did get out of bed at 7, I only felt like breakfast. And it was windy - real windy. So, I went to Village Inn - and I wasn't going to mention this because I am supposed to be watching what I eat, but oh well, it was good - and got my wonderful bacon and eggs and pancakes. It's such a gorgeous meal, really.

Once I returned home I was a little more inclined to get out and at least put in 15 miles (I had just eaten a not-so-healthy breakfast). I watched the Weather Channel and looked at the weather on the internet, and neither source was giving me the news I wanted. I just didn't want to ride into those 30-40mph winds from the SSW. Also, it looked like a rain storm was coming my way, complete with hail.

I finally just decided that if I was going to go out tonight - which I planned on doing - I needed to get some distance of a ride in. I stepped outside, and yeah, it was humid, hot, and windy, but I could get in 15 miles. I dressed in my biking shorts and Velcroed my biking shoes tight.

Once out there riding - going North with a 30mph tail wind - I decided that maybe I'd try get in 20 miles. Once I turned South after about 6 miles of nice, fast riding, and powered through the headwind, I thought maybe instead of 20 miles I'd just get in the 30 I want to average a day. It was hot, and it was sunny, and it was windy, but I managed to get in a great ride. I rode 30.46 miles at 15.0 mph. Not too shabby.

Oh, and the blood I alluded to in the title of the lips got chapped, and when I wiped the gummy stuff from them there was a little blood. Biking is brutal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


"Horsey to pointy guy six. Heh, heh. Check."

I love Futurama. I can think of no better show to fall asleep to at night.

Fueled by Ramen

The record label, Fueled by Ramen, has quickly become my replacement for Wind-Up Records. Back when I was at school at the University of Iowa, Wind-Up Records seemed to be the force behind the majority of the new bands I was beginning to enjoy. I haven't heard much of anything recently that has really sparked my interest coming from Wind-Up.

On the other hand, Fueled by Ramen has introduced me to Fall Out Boy, Gym Class Heroes, Cobra Starship, Panic! At The Disco, and most recently, Paramore. The thing about these bands - and the bands on Wind-Up - is their similar sounding records. It's a type of music that you are following. I like that; it makes it easy to find records you know you will enjoy.

Today, on my way out to Best Buy, I heard the new single from Paramore, Misery Business. Immediately I knew, having never heard the song, or even of the band before that moment, that they were signed with Fueled by Ramen. It was just that type, that sound that got me excited about discovering a new band. Turns out the song on the radio is from the upcoming album, Riot!, in stores June 12, 2007. I did happen to find, and purchase, the band's first album, All We Know is Falling. It was a great cross of female vocals and that rockin' Ramen sound. It's an album worth your listen if you, too, are Fueled by Ramen.

New Comics - June 6, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Nightwing #133 by Ryan Sook

I've been a fan of Sook since his run on The Spectre years ago. He rarely disappoints with his moody, shawdow-heavy art. I particularly enjoy the reflections of Nightwing's previous costumes.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #4
Birds of Prey #107
Countdown #47
Nightwing #133
Justice Society of America #6
Justice League Unlimited #34
Outsiders #48
Detective Comics #833
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #5
Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #4

Watch for quick reviews or comments when a comic requires the extra attention.

Val Kilmer is Crazy Normal

I just finished reading a profile of Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Spartan) by Chuck Klosterman in an old issue of Esquire (July 2005). I've always liked him as an actor. And I've always heard that he was a bit...weird. The picture they have of him at the begining of the article didn't do much to disuade me of my preconcieved notion. He looks like a pudgy, Amish farmer calling his bison home. Not your typical Hollywood star.

In the article he comes across as a pretty normal guy. Sure, he lives on a ranch with two bison, is a Christian Scientist, and owns an "inordinate number of reference books," but we all have our own burdens to bear. He hangs out with his children, avoids the media, and continues to impress on the big screen. Can't go wrong there. It's nice to read an article about a celebrity and not have to hear about another arrest, another drug-fueled tantrum, or Paris Hilton.

(And yes, I know I'm a little behind with my Esquire subscription, but I'm working to get caught up to the issue that just arrived Monday - July 2007)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

New (and first) Digital Camera

Over the weekend I purchased my first digital camera. I wasn't sure what I really wanted - I know nothing about cameras - but I thought it would be nice to have one for my upcoming trip to Wisconsin and for RAGBRAI. I went out to Apple's website to see if anyone had posted favorable reviews for any of the cameras they list. I wanted to make sure that I got a good camera and that there were no problems interfacing with my MacBook.

I ended up with a Canon PowerShot SD750. It's a small, little camera.

From the manufacturer:
This camera has features including a 7.1 Megapixel, 1/2.5-inch CCD, DIGIC III Image Processor, 3x optical zoom lens and 3.0-inch LCD monitor with wide viewing angle. It uses Battery Pack NB-4L to shoot up to approx. 210 images (based on the CIPA standard when the LCD monitor is on), and SD memory cards, SDHC memory cards and MultiMediaCards for the recording media. Images are utilized with a direct print compatible printer, computer and TV via USB 2.0 Hi-Speed. The dimensions (excluding protrusions) of the main body are 91.6 x 56.8 x 19.6 mm (3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.) and the weight is approximately 130 g (4.6 oz.).

I haven't done much more than charge the battery and read the Basic User Guide. It looks like it has some cool features that could result in some pretty trippy pictures. I'll keep you informed as I use the little bugger. I may even share a snapshot or two - I do occasionally take a good pic.

My Biking Ambition

I have six and a half weeks until RAGBRAI - the 500 mile bike ride across Iowa. I am currently sitting at a little under 400 miles for the year. It would be nice if I could get 1,000 miles in before the ride begins. It's ambitious, I know, but possible.

If I could manage 150 miles per week, I'd hit my goal, no problem. This sounds like quite a bit, but it's really only 5 days of 30 miles each week. I could even break it up into two seperate rides of 15 miles each. And riding at about 16 mph, this would mean less than 2 hours a day. We'll see how things shape my calves and thighs. Ha!

When did I do all this planning? Why, on my 30 mile ride today, of course! It was a good day for a ride, temps in the 70's and mild winds from the North. I pushed it hard, averaging 16.5 mph for the full 30 miles. I took a couple of short breaks to get a drink and wiggle my toes - they get numb. It's funny how a good ride gets you thinking about pushing yourself a bit further, like reaching for a full 1,000 miles of training when they say (and past experience has shown) that 500 or 600 miles does you just fine.

The Pirate Escapes II

Here’s how it works: The pirate is given five items – as varied and crazy as you can imagine – and a single scenario of peril to escape. From there, things get…interesting as the pirate attempts ANOTHER GREAT ESCAPE.

The Items:
1. A black licorice rope
2. A petrified dung ball (from a dung beetle of course)
3. Six mint-flavored toothpicks
4. Three fortune cookies (without fortunes)
5. A Pizazz pizza oven

The Scenario of Peril:
You’ve wandered on your goldfish raft into disputed waters. The gun ships of the Iranians and the British are bearing down on you, both wanting to smite the lawbreaker and famous great escape pirate. (Courtesy of Neal)

Sometimes you just get lucky. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to sink two gun ships from two separate countries. Okay, if you are a pirate like me, it happens more often than you would believe, but it’s still a red letter day for the calendar.

Still naked, and still drifting along on my makeshift raft of expanded goldfish crackers, I notice two gun ships, one British and one Iranian. I can see from the large guns slowly turning my direction that my sudden appearance has stroked their attention. Fine. It’s not like I was doing much today. I can sink a couple of ships. (Jeez, look at my own boat at the bottom of the ocean if you don’t believe me.)

Luckily, as I was drifting along, I managed to pick up a couple of useful items. I took the 3 fortune cookies, without fortunes (who takes the fortunes and leaves the cookies anyway, they’re the best part!), and quickly soaked them in the ocean water to make them more malleable. I then wrapped the solid, petrified dung ball in the now squishy fortune cookies. I attached 5 of the mint toothpicks to my new “killing stone.” The toothpicks jutting out from the squishy fortune cookie mess gave my “killing stone” mace ball-like appearance. The burning sun quickly hardened the squishy fortune cookie mess. And not a moment too soon, I was finally within range of the ships.

I stuck the remaining toothpick in my mouth – I like chewing on toothpicks – and scanned the British ship for my target. Soon I found him. Some poor sap just doing his job aiming his boat’s large cannon-like calibers at me. I threw my “killing stone” David-like, and with deadly accuracy impaled the poor sap in the eye. He slumped forward onto his controls. The guns came to life, swinging from my position and locking on to the Iranian ship, unleashing fury. The roar was deafening as the British ship pummeled the Iranian one. Not one to back down from a fight, the Iranian ship targeted the British ship and let loose. I guess somebody forgot about little ole me. Heh.

I take the platter from the Pizazz pizza oven and attach it to my arm with the black licorice rope. I use this as a shield to deflect any desperate, small-caliber shots from panicked crewmembers as I sail by the sinking ships. Amazingly enough, those panicked crewmembers, they don’t much care about shooting at me. They seem to be more concerned with the whole not drowning thing.

As I quickly remove the shield – black licorice burns skin on contact – I listen to the screams of the drowning sailors. That’ll teach them to mess with a stunningly naked pirate. I think to myself, that’s another great escape, pirate!
And that's how it is done. If you have a perilous scenario and five tools of escape to challenge me, please post them in the comments...and you will soon witness: Another Great Escape, Pirate.

Comic Book Review

Y: The Last Man vol. 8: Kimino Dragons TPB
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka, Jose Marzan Jr.

This is still one of the best comic series being published today. Kimono Dragons collects issues 43-48 of the series that explores a world in which all the males have mysteriously died. All except amatuer escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand. Working with secret agent 355 and scientist Dr. Allison Mann, the last two males alive are on a dangerous and eye-opening quest through a fragmented world of women in search of a cure and Yorick's missing love, Beth.

This latest volume finds our heroes in Japan in search of Ampersand, stolen by a mysterious, samurai sword-packing woman. Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Beth and Yorick's sister, Hero, continue their search for Yorick and arrive at the bunker with a special surprise for its occupants. Little do they know, Alter and her Israeli army are closing in as well.

I don't want to spoil the series by revealing too much of the plot. The real strengths of this series are the surprises and twists the story takes as it barrels along toward its conclusion this year. The premise of a world populated only by women could easily fall into cliched or weak-minded male fantasies, but here is where Y shines. The women left are intelligent and opportunistic and kind and vicious...they're real. This story - this volume - is not just some throwaway experience. You think, you feel, you care about these characters and their journey. As things wind down we'll start to get the answers we've been waiting years for.