Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brief Notes

• When you are eliminated from a dancing competition (yes, Brandon on So You Think You Can Dance, I'm talking about you) please try to refrain from thanking your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It's offensive to those of us who don't believe, and believe me, if He's out there, He already knows how you feel.

• America, it is no longer the Nineteenth Century.  Please stop stringing your power lines on WOODEN POLES.  Especially if you're going to continue to deny global warming and let us have those wonderful "derecho" storms.  I personally cannot take a week without power in hundred degree weather.  (That's 37 degrees C. to the rest of the world.)

• We don't need gun control.  Just stop selling bullets on the Internet and I'll be thrilled.  Especially if you're selling them in lots of 3,000 to loons.

• Americans need to stop worrying about non-issues like gay marriage.  I don't care who gets married to whom, as long as you both love each other and don't hurt the kids in your life.  If you feel the uncontrollable urge to hurt your kids, though, I don't care what your orientation is, you need to grab your Second Amendment pistol and take one for the team.

• Finally, and I can't say this often enough, or loudly enough, or firmly enough:  If you're driving a car or a truck or any other vehicle, put the effing phone down before you kill somebody.  You want to off yourself, that's your business, but find a way to do it without involving any of the rest of us.  (And for all the car manufacturers who are, for all intents and purposes, installing iPads on the dashboards of new cars, I hope Dante comes up with a brand-new special circle of Hell for you.  I shudder at the thought of how many people are going to die because you just HAD to put Pandora on a touch screen above the gearshift.)

Thank you, and good night.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aurora, CO

My heart goes out to the families, especially the children, who were victims of the crazy person in Aurora, CO, last night at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  In case you have not heard the news, a gunman clad in black and wearing a gas mask attacked a midnight screening of the movie with smoke grenades, tear gas, and a shotgun, wounding over 30 people and outright killing 12.

Once again I am ashamed to live in a country which is so preoccupied with gun "rights" that we have allowed a tragedy of this magnitude to occur.  I am ashamed to live in this country where we give so much press and negative energy to non-issues like abortion and gay marriage -- and yes, these are NON-ISSUES; if you don't like them, don't do them but damn it, keep your morality to yourself because it ISN'T MINE -- and yet refuse, year after year, to do anything about the proliferation of weapons.  As blogger Barry Lyga said, more eloquently than I could have done, "anyone so brain-damaged as to walk into a movie theater with smoke grenades and a shotgun never should have been able to get his hands on smoke grenades and a shotgun in the first place."

You can read his excellent comments at his blog here:

You know the media is going to blame everything but gun laws.  They are going to blame violent movies and television and video games and entertainment.  They are going to blame Batman, for Christ's sake.  But nobody is going to dare piss off the NRA by saying what so many of us are thinking, which is that we need to do something about keeping weaponry out of the hands of loons.  And don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-gun.  My old man kept a rifle over the doorway in my childhood home the whole time I was growing up.  I never once thought about loading it up and taking it TO THE MOVIES.  None of us did.  We were not insane.

As Barry said, I'm not anti-gun.

I'm anti-death.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summertime Blues

Whew!  Been a busy couple of weeks.  We hosted a small bash at our home for friends who were visiting us from New Zealand last weekend, and the week before was busy with preparations and the week after has been busy with cleaning up and getting work done around the house.  My wife has two weeks off starting yesterday, and so far we have absolutely no idea of how to spend them.  We're capping them off with a long weekend in NYC to catch Jim Parsons in Harvey, but even that has become something a bit bittersweet as my daughter will not be able to join us for the show after all.  (It involves a scheduling conflict far too complicated and silly to delineate here....)  So if you're going to be in The City at the end of July and want to catch a show with us, please feel free to message me here!

Tribulations with the dog have been continuing for the past couple of weeks as well.  He started panting loudly each night, all night, about a week ago, and we thought he was going through another wave of anxiety for which we could find absolutely no trigger or reason.  Turns out, he about bit the had off of the vet when he examined the dog's hindquarters.  We think he might have been in a lot of pain and that was causing the panting and the needy, clingy behavior.  All I know for sure is that he's been on an anti-inflammatory medication for three nights, and he's been fine.

So if we can figure out day care for the dog, we will try to get away with little stay-cation trips in between painting the dining room, maybe getting it a new chandelier, and all the other nonsense that goes with owning a 30+ year old home that hasn't been getting enough attention for the past couple of years.  Meanwhile, I'll keep an eye on the dog and try not to be too terribly depressed.  I just turned 59 and am already rounding up to feeling 60; Universe knows I feel far older than even that ... but I don't think that's why I've been so down in the proverbial dumps lately.  I think I just have a bad case of the Summertime Blues.  And as we all know ... there ain't no cure.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stan Lee

For my birthday, my wife and daughter have given me a great gift.  When he comes to the East Coast for the Baltimore Comic-Con, I'm going to get to meet Stan Lee.  They got me the VIP ride:  autograph, photo session, a few minutes of one-on-one time, and guaranteed seating at Stan's discussion panel.

I.  Can't.  Wait.

It may be the Baltimore Comic-Con, and not the huge San Diego Comic-Con (although Stan will be there, too) but it will be great to meet him.  Stan Lee, for those few of you who might not know who he is, has been a legend in the comics book industry for decades.  He started out in the so-called Golden Age of comics at Timely Comics in the 1940's when he was just a teenager.  He went on to become the editor and publisher at Marvel Comics (which evolved out of Timely Comics) and was the writer on most of Marvel's early classic comics.  He co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Invincible Iron Man, the Avengers, and the Uncanny X-Men.  He's appeared in a cameo in just about every Marvel Comics movie, some more memorable than others, but spotting him is always a treat, at least for me.  And the Baltimore Con is the perfect place to meet him.  It's a real old-school comic fan convention.  No TV shows, no movie premieres, no Hollywood hoopla; just fans of comic books getting to meet and talk comics with some of the greatest creators in the comic book industry.

I've written how Green Lantern #4 was the first comic book I ever read, finding it in a basket of magazines at my mother's hairdresser when I was a kid in the early 1960's.  Well, the second comic book I read, from the same basket, was Amazing Spider-Man #6, the first appearance of the villain known as The Lizard.  (This same villain is making his screen debut this weekend in the new Amazing Spider-Man movie and is played by the great British actor, Rhys Ifans.)

Stan's early Marvel comics were unlike anything that had been written before for kids.  His heroes, unlike DC's Superman and Batman, were fallible human beings who had trouble finding work or paying the rent.  Spider-Man himself was a neurotic, bullied, skinny teenaged science nerd who was an orphan, had a chronically ill guardian (his Aunt May) and a terrible boss in the person of Daily Bugle newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson.  His love life was a disaster, unlike playboy Bruce Wayne or super reporter Clark Kent who had his choice of Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris or a bevy of other beauties whose initials were LL.  In issue #6, the Lizard comes about because a war veteran turned scientist tries to restore the arm he lost in the war by attempting to replicate a lizard's ability to regrow lost limbs.  It of course goes tragically awry, and to make matters worse, this selfsame scientist just happens to be Spider-Man's idol and science mentor.  Spidey needs to figure out a way to beat the Lizard without actually hurting the human being inside him.

When I was 9, this just blew me away.  Spider-Man was a bullied kid at school, just like I was.  His dad was dead; mine was an abusive a-hole.  Spidey had problems with his friends, his schoolwork, making money, and just generally getting through each day with the guilt he felt for allowing his beloved uncle to be killed by a prowler -- a prowler that Spider-Man could have stopped earlier, and didn't.  He learned the lesson which is Stan Lee's gift to all of us, that With Great Power Must Come Great Responsibility.

I didn't get much in the way of moral guidance from my own father.  I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that I didn't get much in the way of learning about lying, cheating or stealing from my dad.  Stan Lee, on the other hand, taught me a lot about how to live a moral life.  His heroes often struggled with choosing between doing the Right Thing, and doing the Easy Thing.  They always ultimately chose the Right Thing, but usually with serious personal cost.  Stan Lee taught me that there always choices, and always consequences.

I no longer have that copy of Amazing Spider-man #6, and if I did, it would probably not be in any kind of shape for Stan to autograph.  And replacing it with one in decent condition would cost, quite literally, thousands of dollars.  I do, however, have a reprint copy, and I plan to have Stan sign it for me.

A lot of people will tell you that when you get something autographed, you should never have it personalized or made out to you because it will be worth far more if it's a generic signature.  Well, to hell with that.  I will be asking Stan to make that Lizard comic out to me, and it will be priceless.  It sure isn't going to wind up on eBay.  I haven't had the chance to geek out with a lot of famous celebrities and creators, but the few from whom I have received autographs have always made them out to me, personally.  This autograph, from this man, on this comic is going to mean a great deal to me.  Maybe only to me, but to me.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.