Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Caffeine, My Beloved!

Caffeine, my beloved! Giddy with the rush and buzz of you, my step is light, my eyes are bright. I barely feel the need for sleep, my heart skips every other beat.

Caffeine, you make me a better person—and not just figuratively—measurably too. With you in my life I am not just more alert and engaging, but more interested in the world and open to the possibilities that the universe has to offer. You complete me.

How do I love thee? Let me count the empties. I wake to your kiss, I feed off of your energy for sustenance throughout the day. You are with me at every meal and while I watch too much TV or play too many video games hours after I should have gone to bed. You help me get my work done, comforting me in the wee hours when everyone else has gone. You are always ready to pick me up and help me keep going.

And yet, everyone says that you are bad for me and that our relationship is unnatural. They accuse you of enabling my self-destructive tendencies and fueling my bad habits. What do they know of our love? Sure, my mouth is dry, my hands shake and I can’t sleep even when I want to, but aren’t those the same symptoms of any deep and passionate love?

And oh, you are a wicked harsh mistress to cross. I have tried to leave you! But without your love my head pounds, my muscles ache and the very light that touches my eyes burns like fire. Plus, I get crabby as hell. Without you, food loses its taste, my wit loses its edge and I fall asleep at my desk.

Ah, Caffeine, my beloved.

#69, the Canadian Amazon, Bewhape and the Chuck Season Finale

So, someone just sent me a note that The Helm graphic novel was #69 on the Canadian Amazon.com, which is called Amazon.ca. I didn't even realize there was a Canadian version of Amazon, but I am pleased that the Helm was #69 on it.

I have a friend, Erik, for whom the number 69 brings special glee. He now resides in India, but when he was in the good old US of A, he would always high-five me whenever the number 69 came up in the course of normal conversation. Well, if I was around. I am sure that, somewhere in India, when he reads this post, he will high-five the nearest Indian. That Indian will likely be bewildered.

Bewildered is a great word. It's apparently related to the much older word bewhape. It's the combination of Be--thoroughly and Wilder--lead astray, lure into the wilds. The fact that ancient dudes came up with a specific word for thoroughly luring someone into the wilds makes me suspicious that there must have been a lot of that going on in the past. Now it's just done figuratively, like Erik high-fiving the Indian, but back in the 1500's, it was apparently happening often enough and literally enough that it got its own word! Of course, there were more wilds back then to lure people into. Like the wilds of the Canadian Amazon.

Anyway, enough about that. I just saw the season finale of Chuck and I really liked it. Chuck is a good show. I read recently on Geek Dad that the network was thinking of dropping the show. All I have to say about that is don't be stupid, Network! Chuck is my current favorite show. Sure, they have problems with the direction of their action sequences, but give them a break! They're computer nerds! Not Michael Bay for god's sake!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Real Genius, Val Kilmer, Hansen and Tinted Windows

So, Real Genius is a great movie.

If you haven't seen it, you should. Val Kilmer is in it, but he's not the main character. The main character is this dweeby guy named Mitch Taylor (played by Gabriel Jarret) and Val plays his sort of deranged mentor, Chris Knight. You wouldn't think it to look at him in the movie, but Gabriel Jarret actually grew up to be kind of good looking. Check it out on IMDB if you don't believe me. You know who else is in the movie? William Atherton. You may remember him as the jerky Walter Peck from Ghost Busters. You know, the guy that orders the ghost storage device shut down. The guy about whom Peter Venkman (Bill Murray's character) says to the mayor, "Yes it's true...This man has no dick."

Anyway, that's not the point.

The point is that Real Genius is a great movie. And Val Kilmer is really good in it. Actually, he's so good in it that it makes me feel like he's never really lived up to the potential he displayed in this 1985 classic directed by Martha Coolidge. I know Val Kilmer follows this blog, so, sorry man. I loved you in True Romance. And Top Secret (although that was actually before Real Genius.) Anyway, I would have liked to have seen more movies with the Real Genius Val Kilmer and less movies with The Doors Val Kilmer. Again, sorry Val.

You know what else? Deborah Foreman is in Real Genius. It's just a cameo, but she's in there. She has one really great line, "Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?" You remember Deborah Foreman. She starred in Valley Girl. And she was also in the movie My Chauffer. If you haven't seen that one, check it out. I should probably offer a disclaimer at this point and note that I haven't seen My Chauffer in about twenty years, so it may not be as good as I remember. That happens sometimes. Like with the movie The Blue Rose, aka The Thief of Baghdad. But that's another story. Deborah Foreman should have been a bigger star.

Oh, and one final thing. That song MMMBop, by Hansen? That's a pretty good song. I don't care how saccharine those guys come off. I like it. Everyone just made fun of me when I played it in the office when explaining who was in the band Tinted Windows, but so what.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ballad of the F-Bomb and the Claw Foot Tub

First, there's the swearing.

So I was sitting with my daughters on the front porch, eating ice cream, when my wife mentioned this family we know--the Swits. My little three-year-old said, "In Spanish you would pronounce it sh*ts." I frowned at her in concern. She's had a long standing habit of speaking what we call "fake Spanish," but where had she heard that word? "That's just how you'd pronounce it," she reassured me, perhaps because I looked so worried.

I glanced over at my eight-year-old to see if she had registered the use of a forbidden word, but she seemed oblivious. Then the three-year-old said, "Do you know how to pronounce 'frog' in Spanish? You say f*ck." My frown deepened. My innocent little one had just dropped her first F-Bomb. "Sh*t and f*ck," she over enunciated, "That's Spanish."

I quizzed her a little as nonchalantly as possible. Had she heard those words from somebody? "Nope, Dad," she answered, "It's just Spanish." Later, I checked in with my wife to see if she had heard anyone swearing around the kids or if, heaven forbid, it had been one of us.

"I don't think so," she answered with deep concern, "I mean, maybe she might have heard the S-word, but I don't think so. And the F-word? Definitely not. I mean, I hope not. I hope she just made it up."

"Both of them?" I asked, "The S-word and the F-word? Together? She just spontaneously invented swearing?"

"I hope so," my wife answered, but she sounded less than convinced. Me too.

And then, there's the claw foot tub.

So about an hour later, I was getting ready to give the girls their bath in the new upstairs bathroom. We have a claw foot tub. It is very pretty and elegant, but I'm not all that fond of it. It was in the house when we bought it--the house is from 1902, so there's no telling how old the tub is--and I was leery about it right from the start. I'm a shower-man myself. I don't really take baths. And with a claw foot tub, you have to hang shower curtains all the way around it if you're going to shower, which seems kind of impractical and inelegant. And it's also clumsy stepping into and out of the claw foot in the first place, a problem aggravated by the addition of a shower curtain. So I was against the tub. I thought we should get a cool, modern, glass doored shower for the upstairs bathroom. I conceded as how we could maybe leave the tub in the first floor bathroom as a decorative piece. But my wife, who is much more stylish than I am, had other plans.

So we carried the claw foot tub up to the newly constructed upstairs bathroom and it became our sole bathing option. It's very pretty looking with all kinds of gleaming chrome spigots and porcelain handles for the tub spigot, the hand-held shower attachment and the overhead shower. But right from the start, the claw foot has given me problems. At first, we just had one curtain around it, but the water shot out the opening in the curtain, ran down the wall to where the plumbing goes through the floor and then dripped down to the main floor bathroom directly below. So then we put in two curtains with a bit of overlap. That stopped most of the water, but the curtains had this annoying tendency to suction in around your body while you showered. The steamy hot air rising out of the top drew cold air in around the bottom and caused the curtains to suck in around you like really cold Saran Wrap. And also, some water still leaked out and ran down the wall, which we didn't notice until I was wiping the baseboards one day and a bunch of the paint just peeled right off because it had been soaking for days.

So, lately, we've had three shower curtains forming an impenetrably overlapping wall. This is both heavy enough that it doesn't suction in on you, and thorough enough that no water gets out. The only problem is that it's a total pain when it's time to give the girls a bath. What do you do with the curtains? Well, at first we would flip them up over the hanging metal oval that suspends the curtains. But then their incredibly vast weight started to pull the supports for the hanging metal oval out of the ceiling. So lately we've switched to just sweeping the curtains back and pinning them behind the back edge of the tub against the wall. It works, but it bothers me every time and just contributes to the overall sense that the darn claw foot tub and I will never be friends.

And now the point of this long story. I swept the curtains back, turned on the taps and started letting the water warm up as the girls waited for their bath. I was still thinking about the F-bomb-Spanish-word-for-frog thing when I suddenly noticed that my socks were soaking wet. I looked down and saw a huge puddle of water spreading out from beneath the tub. What the-?!

Yes, the shower spigot was still in the "on" position and at least half of the water was shooting out of the shower head, into the perfect funnel made by the curtains and gushing down the back wall and under the tub! So, as I frantically shut off the water and jammed towels under the tub, I angrily shouted, "This is just perfect! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! DUMB! DUMB! DUMB! ARRRRRRGHHHHH!!"

"DADDY!" my eight-year-old gasped. She sounded both deeply shocked and very hurt. Emotionally.

Unable to imagine what might possibly be causing her such an acute level of distress, I looked up from the puddle, where I was laying on my belly, blotting furiously at the water under the tub before it had a chance to seep down to the floor below. She had her hand to her mouth--like she'd just stepped out of the Victorian era--and had the most disapproving look on her face an eight-year-old could muster.

"You said stupid," she whispered in horror. "Stupid and dumb!"

"Well, honey," I countered, soaked through and blood still boiling at the claw foot, "I'm sort of angry."

"We do not talk like that," she corrected me, "ever. It's not nice."

"Yeah, daddy," the three-year-old added with righteous indignation, "those are very bad words. Say you're sorry."

So, I apologized for my inappropriate language. My eight-year-old turned out to be shocked enough that she later ratted me out to my wife.

"Did you say 'stupid' in front of the kids?" my wife asked me after the little ones were finally asleep. I sheepishly admitted that I had, explained the extenuating circumstances and threw myself on the mercy of the court. "Well, you've probably scarred them for life, but at least this answers the swearing question. If they're still this upset about 'stupid' and 'dumb' then they probably haven't heard anything much worse. F*cking claw foot tub," she sighed.

"Oh I hate that stupid tu--" I started, but she cut me off with a raised hand.

"Don't you talk any trash about that tub. I love that tub," she warned, "Don't say anything you're going to regret later."

F*cking claw foot tub.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Comics: Pros, Cons, Neutrals and Fests

A shallow and lackluster meditation today. You probably shouldn't read this.

Pros: I just did a signing for The Helm at the Stumptown Comics Fest. That's me with the pen in the picture. I'm sure my experience is similar to that of everyone in comics today. It's getting difficult to deal with the vast throngs of autograph hungry fans. I have blisters on my Sharpie. I list the signing as a Pro although, arguably, it happened at a Con. I say arguably because the word Con doesn't appear in the name of the Stumptown Comics Fest. So, I guess you could make the case that it is not a Con. And there is a kind of feast involved. But that's beside the point. It was a fun fest (not a funfest) and I got to see a bunch of people I knew. It was also, roughly, the one year anniversary of my semi-immersion into comics. My baptism by paper. Last year, I went to the Stumptown Comics Fest as my first real introduction to the world of comics because I was writing the Helm and was eager to see what the culture was like. A definite pro: Friendly, crazily creative people, doing their quirky thing.

Cons: Some questionable smells--blame the high quirkiness factor. Despite it being a wonderful fest, the ventilation is poor and that leads to an occasional palpable funk. And another one: Poor sales. I just read that no comic sold more than 100,000 copies last month. First time since they started measuring that the numbers have been that low. Ouch. Seems like this economy is being particularly cruel to...well, everybody I guess, but comics especially. Anyway, and even if you don't normally buy comics, you should go out and buy a bunch. I did. Goon, Buffy, Umbrella Academy, Templar, Arizona, some other things I'll mention tomorrow. Buy some comics, let's get those numbers up.

Neutrals: Nope. I got nothing. Fruit Striped Gum? PRO! I LOVE IT! Pesto? CON! I HATE IT! Pizza? PRO! I LOVE IT! Dollar Rent A Car? CON! I HATE IT! Dr. Pepper? PRO! I LOVE IT! Diabetes? CON! I HATE IT! Chuck? PRO! I LOVE IT! Grey's Anatomy? CON! I HATE IT! Please note that I am speaking of the television series, which I have indicated by spelling Grey with an "e". I love the encyclopedia of anatomy which is spelled with an "a".

Fest: It's descended from the word Festivus and is related to the word feast. It has come to mean a celebration or party. I like celebrations and parties, but I don't really care for feasts. So there you go. I especially hate Thanksgiving. Should have gone in the Cons category.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bottle Caps and Modern Urinals

I really like root-beer-flavored Bottle Caps. Even as an adult, I will literally eat them until they make me sick. I am, of course, referring to the candies made by the Nestle company under the Wonka label.

Eating root-beer-flavored Bottle Caps until they made me sick used to be a pretty tall order when I was a kid. Anyone who loves root-beer-flavored Bottle Caps knows that they are the most scarce of all of the flavors. You hardly ever hit two in a row. Orange is the most abundant flavor, and I hate the orange ones. I am constantly hitting runs of three or even four of them. I just throw the orange ones away, or offer them to friends who don't really understand Bottle Caps. These days though, I am capable of affording multiple rolls of Bottle Caps and I have no health minded grown up standing over my shoulder to discourage this behavior. I think that maybe I was supposed to become this health minded grown up, but it never happened. So now, I buy a handful of rolls and just comb through them for the root beer ones. Hence the danger of eating them until I feel sick. I think it takes about thirteen of them to start feeling like I should have stopped. Figuring there are an average of about four or five per roll, that means I have to buy four rolls, minimum, which usually means that I cross the thirteen line and eat more like twenty and then I feel sick.

You know, I only assume that the ones I like are actually the root beer ones. In rolls of Bottle Caps (as opposed to the bags) there are two different shades of brown, a pretty goldenish brown and an ugly grayish brown. One is supposed to be root beer and the other is cola. Neither really tastes like either root beer or cola, but the ones I like seem slightly more root beerish than cola-ish, so I've always assumed that's what they are. The ones I like, in case you couldn't tell by the favoritism of my description, are the pretty goldenish brown ones.

They are so good it's obnoxious. They have a delightful, melt-in-your-mouth quality unique amongst the Bottle Caps. I have just gone through a streak of sixteen other bottle caps with only one root beer flavored one. I think the rarity contributes to my devotion. I also really love the lemon-lime ones, but they only come in the flat packs and the Bottle Caps in the flat packs are far inferior to the ones in the rolls. They are almost a completely different candy apart from the name and the kind of strange premise that they are bottle cap shaped candies that taste vaguely like soda pop flavors. The ones in the bags are thinner and harder and have a much more pronounced bottle cap shape. I've often wondered why they are so different from their rolled brethren. It's really a wild, inexplicable inconsistency. But I digress.

I hate modern urinals--the ones that are really designy and sleek looking. I mean, sure I appreciate that they are like sophisticated works of minimalist modern art, but I feel awkward peeing on art. Or, into it. And worse, they often give the impression that they will not make particularly effective urine receptacles. They frequently look like their sleekly designed, sometimes even ironic, forms may please the eye, but splash the pee. I've always been kind of prissy in that regard. I'm not comfortable with splash back, or "quiet reflection" as the deeply religious might call it. I guess I'm not manly enough to be okay with it.

Anyway, I encountered both things yesterday on a trip to Dallas. I bought six rolls of Bottle Caps and had to pee in an overly stylish urinal twice. Strangely, even though I hated the modern urinal, its overall negative impact was just to put me off a bit. The Bottle Caps, which I love, have made me sick to my stomach. Because I had twenty-two of them. I guess it just proves that age old adage: "Curse not overmuch the beautiful receptacles of thy loin waters! Tis the lid shaped confections a man lovest best that profit him least."

Oh, and the Helm graphic novel has been nominated to the American Library Association's Great Graphic Novel for Teens Booklist. Whoo Hooo!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Drunken Raccoons and Chocolate Donuts

I was just out walking in the spring sunshine--kind of a rarity in Portland, Oregon at this time of year--to get some vitamin D and an old fashioned chocolate donut, when a big raccoon stumbled across my path. To give this some context, it was ten in the morning in a busy part of Northwest Portland and the raccoon seemed totally oblivious to the fact that, as a wild animal, he should be slinking about at night rather than meandering across the street in broad daylight.

This was a big raccoon too. The size of two cats or a mid-sized dog. He kind of startled me at first so that I stopped in my tracks. Raccoons don't really walk like cats or dogs. They have their own weird little gait which I suppose comes from walking on those dexterous and clever hands. That strange, arch backed walk quickly cues your brain that you are dealing with something different--even if you haven't fully registered what yet. Brains are good that way. They notice even the tinniest little things out of the ordinary and then give you a quick goose to make sure you know something is up. Anyway, this gigantic raccoon just sort of rolled out of a bush on the other side of the road, stumbled his way across the street and then cut right in front of me and headed off down the sidewalk from the direction I had just come. I don't think he even noticed me. He just kind of shambled away, bleary-eyed and stunned looking, kind of listing to one side.

At first, I thought something might be wrong with him--like maybe he just woke up, or he might have been hit by a car or was in the early stages of rabies. But then I looked back over at the bush he had fallen out of and there were a couple of empty beer bottles laying there. So, I think he may have been drunk. Just to see how snoggered he was, I turned and followed him. Animals are usually pretty attuned to being followed. They catch on right away and get all freaked out about it. But not this guy. He just kept staggering down the sidewalk, like a dude heading home after an all night party. I even yelled "Hey! Raccoon! Get off the sidewalk!" just as a public service gesture, but he wasn't phased at all, didn't even wince. This suggested to me that he did not yet have a hangover. He walked down to the end of the block, turned the corner and toddled out of sight. For my part, I continued back to my office and ate my chocolate donut.

It was delicious.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

These Tweets Were Made For Walken

So, CWalken, the guy who appeared to be Christopher Walken, is no longer tweeting on Twitter. His account has been removed. There is no information about why, just a blank space where his "following" icon used to sit.

We unintentionally ex-followers speculated. Was it an impostor? A fake Walken? If so, the faker was funny. He really seemed to capture the Walken essence. Of course, what do I know of the Walken essence? I've never met the man, only seen him in films and appearances on Saturday Night Live and the like. I only know the face he decides to show the world through the work he's done. He might be a totally different guy in real life--a guy who doesn't say wonderfully ironic and slightly deranged things as a matter of course.

Anyway, Twitter became a darker place with the loss of CWalken.

And now, thanks to Google, I know what happened. At least a little. It wasn't Christopher Walken after all. His agent has confirmed that. Apparently, it was someone from a group called clusterflock. Twitter killed the account because they have a policy about pulling the accounts of people pretending to be people they aren't. Or maybe just people pretending to be Christopher Walken.

I'm still sad. CWalken may not have been the Actor Christopher Walken, but he wrote some really good stuff that I greatly enjoyed.

So long, CWalken! You will be missed.

Deluxe EOTB DVD Trilogy Edition!

Throw out your regular version DVD's, the long awaited Deluxe Blu-Ray DVD Special Edition of the Emperor Of The Bracelet Trilogy is finally out and well worth the wait and the $99 MSRP!

This boxed set contains all three films in their fully remastered, extended, director's cut versions as well as six "extras" DVD's that include never before released behind-the-scenes material detailing the art, special effects, casting and "book to screen" issues encountered when translating this classic series into blockbuster films. There's even a whole documentary about the "EOTB curse" that supposedly claimed the life of leading lady Lindia Barganza. I took off work today to watch and I'm just finished with the movies and finally getting started with the extras disks. All I can say is A HOO HAH! Popcorn and soda for dinner!

Starring veteran character actor Wayne T. Bruno in his endearingly comic role as Goonbung Darkenhelven the gnome theif, Dale Grandenburg in classic, over-the-top form as the Elf Lord Ivaldi and introducing the vivacious Lindia Barganza as the beguiling Princess Nalweegy, this EOTB set is a must have for any fan of epic sword and sorcery! By turns hilarious, tragic, thrilling and awe-inspiring, there has never been and is likely to never be, another cinematic experience quite like this.

Six out of five stars! Three out of two thumbs up! And whatever grade is higher than A++! Highly recommended!!