Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Comments

For those of you into comics, these past couple of days are for you. Read the post before this one and then make sure to read Mr. Fantastic’s response in the comments section. His comment is better than the blog post, with links to back up his points. Really, really well done.

Go read that then come back here.

One of my failings is, I don’t create enough of a sense of community by not replying enough to comments. I will work on improving that.

Mr. Fantastic,

1) Excellent points on Superman. I do have to disagree on the last part though. I like to read about stiff white bread characters. Superman and Captain America are my two favorite ongoing characters. Well, I haven’t read their comics in years because they have been shite, but when written well, they are my favorites.

2) I think Iron Man was an Alcoholic before Speedy became addicted to heroin, but I might be wrong on that. Your kung-fu is strong, so you’re probably right.

3) Marvelman aka Miracleman is one of my favorite characters thanks to Alan Moore who, much like he did with the Swamp Thing, expanded on a stupid idea, gave it depth and breath and life. I agree on the premise though – looking for the hidden gems. I would add Invincible, The Walking Dead, and pretty much anything Mark Millar has ever written for any company.

4) Peter David and Frank Miller, at one time, were great writers. Miller’s run on Daredevil and David’s run on Hulk were both long and stunning and changed the characters forever, evolving them. Their influence still affects how the characters are written today. I couldn’t believe when Jean DeWolf died and loved the way Bendis portrayed her in Ultimate Spiderman.

5) I don’t know anything about the MAX line, the only title I’ve ever heard from it was Punisher Max. I do enjoy the Ultimates line though, particularly Fantastic Four, Spider Man and The Ultimates (before Jeff Loeb ruined them. Man I hate that guys writing.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Authority

I have been reading The Authority trades in my spare time.

Reading The Authority opens my eyes a lot to what could really be happening in comics, which is, pretty much, anything you can imagine. It’s actually poorly written, but it does stretch the bounds of the imagination. They have a Superhero called Apollo who is, essentially, Superman.

He shoots beams from his eyes, can lift buildings, fly in space and swim in lava. He is one of the least powerful member of the team. The villains they face are like nothing the DC universe has ever seen. A man so powerful he can snuff out the sun or stop time forever. There is a hero who can command entire cities to attack whoever he wants, including entire armies, by sucking them inside building walls or bludgeoning them with bricks and mortar.

Imagine New York City attacking an invading force of 10,000 soldiers.

There is an alien being that needs to be defeated that is essential God, as in, it created the Earth and has returned. It is so large it blocks out the sun from millions of miles away. Its arteries are so huge you can fly a fifty mile wide ship through them.

It makes me laugh realizing what is possible (anything) in comics, yet DC feels the need to make Superman less powerful every now and then so people will think he can be beaten. Which I find laughable not just because he’s been beaten several times, but his villains can control entire armies of robots, or are smarter than Einstein or as strong and invulnerable as he is. Not to mention he has vulnerable friends and people he has to protect while fighting these villains. His friends can be used as pawns or threats.

If you feel Superman needs to be de-powered, read the Authority and look at heroes fighting God and a villain who can snuff out the sun. If you think Superman needs to be less powerful, you’re a bad editor, a bad writer, or someone with no imagination.

While I wanted to end with that little conclusion, I have to also mention a scene from The Authority that buttresses my point. Apollo and the entire Authority take on a group that is clearly supposed to be The Avengers and they get their ass kicked. Apollo almost dies from “Thor’s” lightning plus morningstar beating.

Here’s the thing – If you want a Superhero beaten, you, as the writer, can have him be beaten.

It’s as simple as that.

In what I consider bad writing, Apollo recovers, charges up in sunlight for five hours and then takes on the entire team and decimates them.

It makes no sense, but the writer can do whatever he wants.

While not highly recommended, I would pick up the Mark Milar written trades to see just how far you can go if you feel like it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wedding Photos

BenJamon has informed me my wedding photos link did not work and to try this one instead -

http://wendyandjamie.shutterfly.com/pictures

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Ballad of Thor Part IV

I’d like to say we have a lazy day, but we don’t. The morning is filled with things we need to do but the late afternoon is lazy. Our second day home, Wendy says-

“Let’s take him to the dog park.”

“The one across the street?”

“No, the one by the Temple de Diebold where that little café is.”

“I don’t know if he can walk that far.”

“If he can’t we’ll stop and rest and get him some water and come home.”

I am dubious, and as usual, wrong. I come from a cautious family and I can’t help it. The safe route always seems smart to me. 99% of the time, I am wrong, so I have learned to just go along with what Wendy suggests and it usually works out just fine.

Thor still hates the stairs but I hold his harness and guide him down, letting him know I’m there to support him. He hugs the wall, as far away from the hole that leads to the bottom floor as possible. He stops at every door as if to ask “In here?”

No. Keep going.

On the street he is not frightened of the cars, or the people, or the noise, or the other dogs, or, well, anything. He prances along, head and tail wagging side to side, sniffing everything, leading the way, taking brief sniffs of people as they walk by, ignoring other dogs, weaving through people traffic like he was born in the city, eyes wide with excitement. He leads the way to the little café, ten feet ahead of us the whole time. It is two miles and by the time we get there his tongue is lolling out as far as it can go but his face is bright with excitement.

Wendy has smartly bought a portable cloth water bowl which I fill up in the restroom. He sits under the table, watches everything go by, eats his ice cream (which we bought to cool him off) drinks his water and smiles. He barks at nothing. We feed him bits of tuna and bread.

This might be okay…

It has now been almost three weeks.

We could not ask for a better dog. He walks like he has no limit. He smiles like he enjoys everything. He quietly goes to sleep under our table while we have paella or jamon or tuna. He does his taxes when and where I tell him to. He has mastered the steps in all of two tries and now bounds up and down them like he has lived here all his life. He sleeps on the bed with us, joins us on the couch, and could not be a more perfect child. (Well, he could kick a little less in his sleep actually.)

Lena found us an English speaking vet, close to the house, that boards dogs for up to months at a time. They even pick-up the dog and deliver it back to you if you don’t have a car! He was boarded this weekend, picked up and returned by a very sweet English girl and came back fatter than when we left him, chipped for Spain and his teeth were cleaned for free.

As usual in life, everything I worried about has turned out to be smoke.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wedding Pictures

For those not on Facebook, this is the site Wendy has chosen for everyone to upload their photos and videos.

http://wendyandjamie.shutterfly.com/pictures

These are not the professional photographer's pictures but all our wonderful friend's photos.

Enjoy.

The Ballad of Thor Part III

I drop Wendy, the little dog, four huge bags of luggage and two carry-ons off at our terminal, then do my best to find the rental return for our car. Even with the GPS, I still get lost once. Meanwhile, Wendy and the little dog are in full sunlight on the hottest day of the year, waiting outside for my return.

The return lot is packed and I am frantic to get back to my wife and child. Finally someone attends to me and then I hop on the bus back to our terminal, which is, of course, the last stop. We load everything onto luggage carts and attempt to check in.

They board the dog without blinking.

There is, honestly, a hilarious story that goes along with this, but if I put it on the web, the terrorists win. That’s not even a joke. See me in person for the story.

Eleven hours later we arrive in Madrid and a half an hour after we get our luggage, Thor is delivered to us. So now it is onward to customs… Oh God... We have everything we need, right? Yes.

Thor is in a green dog crate, the kind with huge air holes that indicate that there is, indeed, a live animal inside. He barks at the customs agents as we roll him past. “Just keep going” Wendy whispers. “If they don’t stop us, just keep going.”

And we do.

And they don’t.

Soon, we are in two taxis heading for our second home. Good thing I drove all over Hell and back to have that paperwork done.

And now my premonitions begin to form into reality. Thor hates the steps and I have to carry him the last three flights. They are wood, circular, slippery, and surround a deep hole that he is terrified of. He refuses to accept that the terrace and the fake grass we brought with us is “outside.” The luggage is heavier than I have ever felt it and it takes me an hour (there is much swearing, panting and resting) to get the four bags and dog crate upstairs.

I take Thor outside to “do his business.” (Tip: Say this when ever your dog goes to the bathroom, give him a treat and he will associate this saying with “It is okay if you “go” here.)

Wendy finds this hilarious, often saying - “Outside Thor! Do your business. File your taxes. Don’t forget to carry the one!”

About two hours later we are finally allowed to go to bed.

I have no idea how to make Thor go on the terrace other than to keep saying “Outside” which he knows means “A place where it is okay to make a mess,” repeating “Do your business” endlessly, and not taking him for a walk. He’ll have to go eventually, right?

And he finally does.

He looks at me like he’s expecting to get hit but instead I praise him and give him a treat, telling him endlessly what a good dog he is. Then I hose down the terrace and his little feet and dry him off.

So far he has been called Thor, Stinker Pinker, The Beast, and now he has his first Native American name- Little Doggie Wetfoot.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Ballad of Thor Part II

My sister has had care of Thor for the past four years but he has been having “disagreements” with her new pit bull, as in, Thor thought they were playing while the pit bull thought they were fighting to the death, so he was given back to me. While Thor is a great dog, we no longer have any dog accessories, and, also, not insignificantly, live in a completely different country.

Wendy and I approached two different dachshund rescue sites but they suck and couldn’t find a home for him in three months.

By the time we are ready to leave, we have decided to keep him, because, well, he’s the best dog ever. Plus, I thought he would be a good trial baby. How would having this dog affect our lifestyle? Multiply that times ten and you have a baby, so, let’s see how that goes.

Thor needs all kinds of official paperwork to let him travel from the U.S. to the European Union, but I have that all under control. The week before the wedding, I race him down to the vet for the all important rabies shot that has to happen four weeks before we leave. My vet assures me that he has done this before and knows exactly what paperwork needs to be filled out. He tells me to return with Thor two days before leaving for the rabies check-up and for final paperwork.

Two days before we leave, Wendy and I are congratulating ourselves on the fact that we seem incredibly ahead of schedule. Every time we travel from the U.S. to Spain and vice-versa someone throws a major wrench into our schedule at the last moment, causing us to run around like crazy people. But not this time! We are prepared and packed! Excellent!

We take Thor to the vet for his final paperwork and we are not impressed by what they give us. They haven’t even filled half of it out and, when we ask about the Department of Agriculture vet signature that we need, they look at us blankly. ARGH!

As a result, I spend our last two days driving all over two states desperately trying to correct our lack of documentation. I drive to west armpit New York, take a left and drive fifty miles towards the middle of nowhere. I meet with a very tiny, sweet girl vet who looks like a senior in high school. But, in fact, she knows this stuff inside and out, is correctly certified by the Department of Agriculture, and does everything in her power to make sure Thor can come to Spain with us. I get lost on the way home and have to call Wendy to find out how to escape New York since a big lake separates the two states and they have recently blown up the closest bridge home. I can’t make this shit up.

Sadly, even this is not enough. I have to get more paperwork from the local vet in the morning and then drive to the border of Canada to have the Dept of Ag. vet officially sign and stamp it.

This is the beginning of the nightmare I am imagining.

We live on the fifth floor. We have no elevator. Thor has tiny little legs and is five pounds overweight. I am fifteen pounds overweight. I do not relish the idea of going up and down all those stairs, every day, carrying Thor. And he’ll be freaked out by the city, the apartment, the food, new noises. Everything. How are we going to go on weekend trips with Lena and Stefan? Our whole life is going to change.

But we love him like our own child, so, what are we going to do?

FAA Regulations say that they cannot board a dog when the temperature is above 85 degrees. As we drive the three and a half hours to Boston the car’s outside thermometer keeps going up.

“It’s only supposed to be eighty-seven today and it’s already ninety-one.”

“Great. Now it’s ninety-three.”

“Ninety-seven.”

It is one hundred degrees when we arrive. It is the hottest day of the entire summer. Welcome to your new life with a practice child!

Perhaps my sister-in-law can come pick him up and ship him later? Perhaps they will hold him until a later flight when it is cooler? Perhaps I can stick him in my shirt and just look like a fat guy? Maybe I can bribe someone?

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Ballad of Thor Part I

Yes, the wedding details are coming. It is long already and Wendy is looking it over to make sure I didn’t forget anything. So, for now you get this. I would like to add, this was a four page single-spaced Word document before the brilliant Wendy came and talked to me about my move to the free side on StarCityGames.com. It eventually dissolved into this-

"How many StarCityGames.com articles do you want to write a week?"

"One."

"How many times a week do you want to update your website?"

"Every day."

"Is that possible?"

"This is my hero. Look. The Watchtower of Destruction by The Ferrett. He updates every day."

"Notice how he does paragraphs and you do four pages at once."

"...."

"Break up this entry (which no one has read yet) and your writing for the week is done. Expand on some of it. Post it as 'The Saga of Thor...' to be continued.

"No one really wants to read four pages at once anyway..."

"Exactly."

So, here is today's entry.

We have become addicted to “America’s Next Top Model.” As I’ve told you before, I am a big girl. On one of the challenges they have to write their own commercial, memorize it, then deliver. The ending is “What’s my secret? I… ‘insert secret here.’”

“I’m afraid of the dark.”

“I’m afraid a shark will attack me in my sleep.”

“I throw up a lot after eating.”

What’s our secret?

We can’t stop talking about the little dog.

Little dog is an odd way to describe him. Our dog Thor is the world’s largest dachshund, and I don’t mean fattest. My sister is caretaker for forty-six show dachshunds. The largest is called “Atlas.” Thor could swallow that dog whole. Wendy describes him as a dachshund crossed with a cow. I have literally had people look at him and exclaim “Oh my God! Is that a dachshund?”

“Yes, and before you ask, no, he is not a cross, he is a purebred.”

What’s my secret? I hide friends after they have a baby and their entire Facebook updates become videos and cute stories about the new baby.

In other words, I now hate me. Because all we talk about is Thor.

See, we thought we were done with dogs. I had four at one time and then Thor and Merlin starting fighting so I asked my sister Molly to take Thor. Then Merlin and Morganna became so decrepit they needed to be put down. Then my house caretaker left so I had to find a new home for Nikki while I was in Spain.

So, I was dogless.

We gave away everything related to dogs to the Humane Society. Six crates, shampoo, toys, brushes, tennis balls, pads and blankets. Everything.

Then Thor came back into our lives.

Part II tomorrow...