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Jul. 30th, 2012 11:39 pm A Good Man

And then there's this:


After two tries and nine months and some odd days later, Dad's gravestone is finally in place. A few months back we received the gravestone, but the words were apparently crooked (I didn't see it. The stone arrived at the cemetery where we ordered it (from the Veteran's Administration) and they caught the error and ordered a new one for us). But there it is. It looks very nice. And that's all there is to say about that.

We wanted to have a tree or a fancy letter "H" engraved at the top, where they usually put a religious symbol, but the VA is very strict about what they engrave there, and, unfortunately, there wasn't enough evidence to pass Dad off as a druid.

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Jul. 28th, 2012 01:22 pm Elementary, My Dear Tarzan

A couple of weeks before the Con, the organizers post the daily schedules, describing all the panels, the points of discussion, who will be on the panel, etc. It's a very handy tool to peruse before the Con, when you have time and without the constant flood of sensory overload to distract yo--SQUIRREL!

The panels are pretty much the standard fare, "How to write comics/fiction/screenplays," "Secrets of this or that video game," "What's new with Marvel/DC/Dark Horse/whatever," and the obligatory anniversary panel celebrating 10, 15, 25, 30, 50, etc. years of [insert character/title/publisher/whatever name here], and a hundred+ other panels. This year, the anniversary panel really sparked my interest because both John Carter [of Mars] and Tarzan reached 100 years old this year. That's great for John Carter, but it was really Tarzan that got my attention for two reasons:

First, it was Tarzan (or, more specifically The Son of Tarzan) that really got me interested in genre fiction back in junior high or so (not to be confused with Archie comics which got me interested in comics and ultimately super heroes). Just let me set the wayback machine ...

...I was over at Dan Schuster's house. Dan had been my best friend for years. We went to the same grammar school (Oster), played on the same PAL soccer team (the Strikers) with Dan's father as coach, and he lived just a few blocks away. So, one day I was in his room and I saw a book that he was reading. The cover was awesome (though at the time I probably said "boss" or "choice", though I think "choice" might have come later). Here's the book:

Son of Tarzan Cover

This was one of the middle books in a six-book boxed set or the middle book in a five book set (didn't care so much for the other covers at the time) and though I knew who (I thought) Tarzan was, having seen many, many of the movies during various weekend movie fests on local TV stations, 2, 40, 44, and 36) all throughout my youth, the guy on the cover looked nothing like Johnny Sheffield. So, I must have told Dan how interesting the book looked/sounded to me, for on my very next birthday (which must have been right around the corner) Dan gave me that copy of the book. Took it right out of the boxed set and everything. It was really nice of him and set me on the course from which I've never looked back.

The Tarzan books really sparked my imagination. I devoured them, starting over at #1, Tarzan of the Apes, after finishing SoT, and pretty much read all 24 titles straight through (if I could have done it in one sitting, I would have). I read many of the books nestled amongst the branches of the tree in our front yard (long since gone. *sniff*) or, if I finished a book in the house, I would immediately throw off my shoes and go climb said tree.(note: I must have always had an affinity for Tarzan. I remembered while writing this post that when my brother and I were much younger, and we'd play super heroes, I played my own creation: Super Tarzan, who carried two whip-like vines coiled around his wrists that he could toss out, letting one end wrap around something that he could swing from, then toss out the other one (the first releasing itself somehow) and repeat, and that's how he would get around, a la Spider-Man. And that was his only power outside of his all-around Tarzan awesomeness. (note: note: The super hero my brother invented when we were playing super heroes was Anything Man whom, as the name implied, could have any power any time he wanted and, so, could do ... wait for it ... anything. But I digress, digress)). Where was I? Oh yeah, the Tarzan books.

After reading those 24 books, and over the next several years, I turned to the John Carter series,  then Carson of Venus, and some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' stand-alone novels, my favorite of which was The Outlaw of Torn. The only one of his series that I couldn't seem to get into much was Pellucidar (hollow Earth stuff). In between and all around these books, of course, I discovered other writers as well from the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Adventure genres: Poul Anderson, Lloyd Alexander, Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, H.G. Welles (I almost typed Orson), Jules Verne, Robert Asprin, Alexandre Dumas, Ray Bradbury, Lord Dunsany, Robert E. Howard (specifically the Solomon Kane books, but my brother gets the bulk of the credit for introducing me to him), Patricia McKillip, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Thorne Smith, Roger Zelazny, T.H. White, and J. R. R. Tolkien (but only The Hobbit. I tried reading LOTR several times, but it would be almost 20 years before I finally read it -- stupid stupid), among many, many others (my wife is laughing at my [not so] "short list"). And each of them in turn led me to others and the rest, as they say, is history. And that grand adventure all started with the love of a man in a loin cloth.

Um ... ok, that sounded different out loud than it did in my head.

Anyway, the panel. The second reason I was so excited about this panel, was because of whom was on this panel. Besides writer and comics historian Mark Evanier, and artists Tom Yeates and Joe Jusko, and author David Lemmo (Tarzan: His First 100 Years. How Ancient Literature Became Modern Mythology and Created an Ape-Man Mecca in Southern California), the panel included, at his first ever Comic-Con appearance, Ron Ely, TV's Tarzan from 1966 - 1969; very possibly the first Tarzan I ever saw, and thus, my Tarzan.I was really excited to meet him and hear stories from the set and, if truth be told, see how he's held up over the years. On my way to the panel, I stopped off at the Dark Horse Comics booth to see what freebies they were giving away (not much), but the guy behind the counter mentioned that Tarzan was there. I told him that I knew and was on my way to the panel. He explained that he meant right there.  In the booth. Right then. And he indicated a table and there was Ron  Ely, without a line or anything. Cool!

So we chatted for a few minutes. I got to tell him how much I enjoyed both his Tarzan and Doc Savage*.I also told him how he was my wife's first celebrity crush (a teeny, tiny white lie. Her real first celebrity crush was Captain James T. Kirk (not William Shatner -- KIRK!), but Ely was one of her first celebrity crushes). And he talked me into doing something I rarely do: pay for celebrity autographs; not once, but twice! I've only done it two times before, both times with Lori (NOT that I'm blaming her!). The first time was William Windom. He was great. We talked with him for awhile, got our picture taken with him and stopped by his booth several times during the Con and he always remembered us. Nice guy.The other one was June Lockhart. Also very nice, but much more business-like. She would socialize a little, but she was there to sell photos and autographs. Ely was a little more like June, but he seemed a little awed/perplexed about the whole convention experience, whereas June was a pro. He's 74 and still looks to be in pretty good shape. His blond hair has turned white, and he keeps it longish. He looks much how I imagine Tarzan would've looked in his older years (if Tarzan hadn't partaken of that immortality drug in Tarzan's Quest and stopped aging -- hey, it's pulp literature. What did you expect?). Hey, it's probably easier if I just show you a picture:


And here are the two photos I purchased and he autographed. The one on the right is Ely as Doc Savage:


And so, I had a few pleasant minutes with Ron Ely.

The panel itself was enjoyable for the most part. It was mostly moderated by Yeates, but David Lemmo presented a slide show covering much of the topic of his book. Although I didn't buy a lot of his connections (Odysseus used a bow and Tarzan used a bow, therefore Odysseus is obviously an inspiration for Tarzan. And stuff like that.), it was an entertaining slideshow, and his enthusiasm was infectious. And I really liked one of his slides so I went looking for it online and here it is:

Count 'em: FOUR Tarzans!
Jock Mahoney ~ Johnny Weissmuller ~ Ron Ely ~ James Pierce

The panel talked a little about the John Carter movie and how everyone in the audience seemed to like it and how ti will probably never have a sequel (I have to say also that I really enjoyed the movie and don't understand all the negative reviews. I mean, it isn't perfect, but it deserved better than it got. Oh well.) .Ely told some production stories about working with elephants (not all ending well), working with certain producers (Evanier shared some stories about the same producers, not all ending well), and he listed some of the bones he'd broken or sprained and other injuries he'd endured. He also shared how, when the series was still in the planning stage, he'd pushed for the show to take place in the Victorian period like the [early] novels. Too bad that didn't work out. And the panel ended with Joe Jusko unveiling his latest Tarzan painting (1st of 4) commissioned by the Burroughs estate in honor of Tarzan's anniversary.

All in all, a fun panel.

Also on Thursday, I saw the Elementary panel. This is a new show, a contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes, starring Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson, an ex-doctor now working to help addicts readjust after rehab. She's hired by Holmes' father to be his companion until he's deemed fit to be on his own. Needless to say, he's resistant and uncooperative. They showed us the pilot and it was OK. The actors are all good, the mystery was engaging ... but I've seen Sherlock from the BBC. And maybe it's just too soon after that (or actually during that, as the BBC series isn't over yet as far as I've heard), but anything else pales in comparison. Again, it isn't a bad show, and I'll probably watch at least the first few to see if anything sparks in me (besides, I  love these deductive procedurals like House and Lie to Me, etc.) and I hope it does. It would give me something entertaining to watch until the next season of Sherlock.

I also sat through the panel/pilot for the new, updated version of Beauty and the Beast, the TV series from the eighties. The less said about this show the better. Except -- just to give you an idea -- in this new version, the "beast" is a handsome hunk who, when he gets angry, he becomes more animalistic and only slightly less handsome. Please.

Another thing I did that first day of the Con was visit The Neighbors. This is a new sitcom on ABC about a couple that moves in to a new neighborhood where all the neighbors seem to be part of some kind of cult; they dress alike, perform synchronized calisthenics together in the middle of the street, and are all named after sports figures. Of course, it turns out that all the neighbors are aliens just trying to fit into American society (think Coneheads in reverse and not as funny). Groups of us were escorted into one of the neighbor's garages (or rather a booth set up to look like a garage) where we watched a 12 minute indoctrination video (clip reel), got t-shirts and our new Earth names (I'm Lebron James).

The video didn't impress me much. The show seems full of cliches and uninspired humor. But that's not to say the show won't be good or a huge hit. I thought the premise of The Big Bang Theory sounded uninspired and would get most of its humor from making fun of the geeks and consequently didn't watch the show for most of its first season. What I didn't realize at the time was how sharp and clever the writing would be. So I'm maybe not the best judge of these things. But I'm probably right about The Neighbors.

The fun thing that did happen in the line for the garage was that a guy walked up to one of the hosts and asked if he could watch the presentation without standing in the line I'd been standing in for 15 minutes already. It turned out that this guy is on the show. He plays Reggie Jackson, the son of the lead alien and he hadn't seen any of the completed footage yet. The host got the OK from his boss, and while we were waiting to go inside I asked this guy, Tim Jo, for his autograph. It turns out that was his first autograph ever (which I naturally asked him to write on the paper as well -- and it was free!). So, for his sake, and for the sake of the future value of that signature, I hope that I'm wrong and that the show is a HUGE success. Huge.
* Ely played Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) in the first and only (so far) film about the 1930s/40s pulp hero. It's a shame that the producers chose to go the Batman (1966) route and do the entire film in that campy style that had gone out of style seven years earlier because Ely was really a pretty perfect Doc. And the rest of the cast and the production values were all pretty spot on as well.

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Jul. 21st, 2012 06:15 pm Dark Knight Rises



There's been lots of talk about this one being the best of the Nolan Batman trilogy, but I'm going to say no.  Not quite. The Dark Knight is still, in my opinion, slightly better, and that's probably largely due to Heath Ledger's transformative performance as the Joker. However, that said, this is a fantastic film with stand out performances, great character-defining moments, a terrific script, and a villain every bit as frightening as The Joker in a diametrically opposed way.

This story picks up some years after the events of the previous films (I don't think they actually say how long it's been in the film, but I read somewhere that it's been eight.) and that's how long it's been since Bruce Wayne hung up his cowl. It isn't until Bane, a powerful, intelligent, mercenary soldier with a devoted army of followers shows up to terrorize Gotham that Wayne sees the necessity of once again taking up the mantle of The Bat.

Now, in the comics, Bane was a South, Central, or Latin American warlord who was physically addicted to a substance called Venom which enhanced his strength and speed, becoming larger and stronger (Hulk-like, but not that strong) but which he had to receive doses of every day or something or else suffer side effects. Bane was raised in a prison, gained a varied education from the inmates, including a classical education by an incarcerated priest, and he spoke multiple languages. He worked out in the prison gym, learned survival and fighting techniques, as well as how to kill. Eventually, he made his way to Gotham and fought the Batman ultimately breaking Batman's back and forcing him into retirement and into choosing a successor (Azrael) to take his place as Batman while he recuperated. These comic stories all fall under the banner title "Knightfall" which was one of my least favorite Batman stories of all time, and Bane is one of my least favorite popular comics characters (along with The Punisher and, coincidentally, Venom).

You can imagine my trepidation when I first heard that director Christopher Nolan had chosen Bane to be the villain in his final Batman film. But, Nolan has long since earned my trust (thanks largely to his casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker which I had to actually see to be convinced of the absolute rightness of) and I had long since adopted the attitude of "well, if that's what Nolan wants to do, I'm along for the ride." Because of this, I was very excited for the movie, and I wasn't disappointed.

Bane is a terrific villain; way better than he's ever been in the comics. He's as terrifying as the Joker, but in a very different way; whereas the Joker was completely unpredictable and his goal was anarchy and chaos, Bane is imposing and calculating. He's thought of everything and prepared a counter for whatever comes his way. He's also violent on a grand scale.

The film also introduces Catwoman in the form (!) of Anne Hathaway. I was a little uncertain of the casting of Hathaway (though she certainly looks the part and Nolan has borrowed more from the Batman TV series than the Tim Burton vision for the look of the character) but up cropped that Trust-In-Nolan thing again, and, again, he was right. Hathaway is terrific in the role, pulling off some wonderfully conflicting emotions and keeping up in the action scenes, much like Ginger Rogers who did it "backwards and in heels" (though Rogers never had to do it in heels like this).

Everyone else is as good as they've always been, and the addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) was inspired. Each character has at least one "defining moment" and it's great to see the whole cast back again.

My only real complaint with the film is Bane's dialogue. Because of the mask he wears, sometimes I had a hard time understanding what he was saying, and I would think that would have been an easy fix for the filmmakers.

Other than that, the film is pretty much flawless after one viewing. We'll see how it holds up the 2nd, 3rd, and however more times I see it in the theater or at home.

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Jul. 16th, 2012 10:44 pm Missed it by That Much

The Big Bang Theory Panel

This panel is consistently one of the most fun. The cast gets along great, they’re funny, spontaneous, great ad-libbers, and seem genuinely excited and happy to be at Comic-Con. This year’s panel seemed pretty much par for the course and everyone was present except Johnny Galecki (Leonard) whose flight from Iraq was delayed, and Jim Parsons (Sheldon) whose currently on Broadway in the revival of Harvey and so was Skyped-in on a computer monitor in the center of the table; which worked amazingly well with virtually no delay, we could hear him and he could hear us, it was like he was one of those bodiless heads from Futurama, which I believe Sheldon would have enjoyed.

**SPOILERS**  if you haven’t watched this season’s Big Bang finale.

First, some quick backstory for The Big Bang Theory this season: Howard, the engineer who worked on the space toilet for the International Space Station, gets the opportunity to actually go to the ISS and this becomes a recurring story element that runs the entire length of the season. The season finale ends with Howard (“Fruit Loops” to his fellow astronauts) aboard the shuttle as it blasts off and all his friends watching the launch on TV.

**SPOILERS**  if you don’t know my wife.

First, some quick backstory: for those of you who don’t know, my wife loves, loves, loves Star Trek and Star Wars (the original trilogy, thank you very much). But even more than that, and largely because of that, she loves, loves, loves the real space program even more. She would turn real-life shuttle launches into lessons for her classroom, leave the NASA channel playing in the background during her classes, and they would all watch Apollo 13 and then discuss the art of adaptation (she’s an English teacher, not a science teacher).  Needless to say, she’s been paying close attention to the rise of commercial space flight, and it is one of her strongest dreams to one day get into space. It pissed her off no end when NASA instituted a program to let teachers apply for astronaut training, except that every discipline was accepted except English teachers! Did NASA not watch Contact where Jodie Foster said, “They should have sent a poet?” Idiots! But I digress. So there’s some backstory on my wife.


Ok, all caught up?  Good. As the panel drew to a close, a question was posited to Simon Helberg, who plays Howard, as to whether or not, given the opportunity, he would actually go into space. The actor said he would and then out onto the stage walked Astronaut Richard Searfoss, two-time shuttle Pilot and one-time shuttle Mission Commander. Now a Commander of the Lynx RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicle) from XCOR Aerospace, he was there to offer Helberg the opportunity to fly with him in the suborbital aircraft. When Helberg balked at the chance, the opportunity was given to everyone who had asked a question of the panel during the panel. They were all brought on stage, each pulled an envelope out of a box, and one person had the literal “golden ticket” and won a place on a flight.

So here’s where the story gets heartbreaking. For us anyway. Lori had actually gone up to ask a question. She had thought of it earlier in the panel, but didn’t go up until later in the panel. When she got to the line, she was told that even though she had a great question, they had capped the line and weren’t accepting any more questions (they obviously only had so many envelopes to hand out), so Lori came back to the seat sporting an ‘oh well’ attitude. Not five minutes later the astronaut walked out on stage and the above scene played itself out.

If you could have seen her face when the realization hit her … it would have broken your heart just like it did mine. And yes, we know she wouldn’t have been guaranteed the winning ticket had she gone on stage, and we probably couldn’t have afforded the taxes we would’ve had to pay on the $150,000 valued flight, but she might have won, and we would have found the money. Somewhere.

So that’s the story of Lori narrowly missing her chance to win a chance to go to space.

More panel reports as the week(s) progress.


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Jul. 16th, 2012 12:27 am Twenty-Two

This was my Twenty-Second Comic-Con since my first in 1987, and my 19th consecutive.

So, this was a good Con. Not the best I've ever been to, and far, far from the worst. Lori and I learned a few lessons and had to adjust our plans accordingly, met some new friends in line and sitting next to us in Hall H, and I got high-fived by Iron Man. Played text-tag with Hillarie and her friends whom I met in the line last year to purchase tickets this year, placed two Shadow commissions and even got one completed, though I've paid for them both so I'm expecting the other hopefully soon. Spent more money than we should have and will probably take a beating on Ebay, got few freebies because they weren't giving many out, and Lori missed a chance to get a chance to go into space. Got home to an ant-infested kitchen (that's reality slapping us in the face and shouting "That's right! This is the REAL world. Welcome back."

So, what do you want to hear about first? The Iron Man thing? Ok, you got it.

The Marvel Panel

The Marvel panel, as usual, was lots of fun and one of the highlights of the Con. It came towards the end of a long day in Hall H (only the annual Kevin Smith Q & A came after) and included the long-awaited announcement of Marvel Studios' Phase Two: In this case, besides Iron Man 3 which is already halfway done filming in Wilmington, NC, they have in development:
So this one they were pretty vague about. They've been talking for years about doing an Ant-Man movie. Ant-Man is scientist Henry Pym who develops a method of shrinking down to ... wait for it ... ant size, as well as creating a helmet which allows him to communicate and control ant swarms. He also, later, used his same size-changing formula to grow to giant size and took the name ... wait for it ... Giant Man. In the comics, he was a founding member of The Avengers. Anyway, there's been a director attached to this project for years with nary a whisper about its progress. This year, he showed up with some test footage of Ant-Man in action sneaking into some secure facility and taking down some security guards. It was very, very rough, but it showed at least that some progress was being made on the project. Technically, this isn't part of Marvel's Phase Two, but I included it here anyway. 

Next, Marvel unveiled some other titles, which, along with Iron Man 3 (no subtitle) will mark the next few years of Marvel films:
This one got some great cheers and applause, including from me. I have no idea what "The Dark World" means, but I hope it's Hel. Because Hela, the Norse equivalent to Hades, God of the Underworld, is a terrific villain for Thor and I'd love to see what the production designers do with that headdress of hers:
Hela_1_by_Insane_Pencil Hela drawn by Gene Gonzales
And the one I am most excited about, based on the subtitle, is this one:
I'm not going to ruin anything by explaining what "The Winter Soldier" means. Suffice to say that it was one of the best comic story arcs (and is still going on to varying degrees) from the past decade and accomplished something in an exciting and unexpected way that I previously believed should never be attempted. 'nuff said. I'm surprised that they've chosen to do this story so soon, but I'm also excited. So we'll see.

Then they showed this one:
The Guardians of the Galaxy are, to put it mildly, not as widely known as any of Marvel's other characters currently (or previously) in development. In a nutshell, the current incarnation of the team includes a [mostly] alien cast of characters that have banded together to protect Earth and other parts of the galaxy from alien threats. Because this is the second group to use the name, they also flashed on screen a concept painting so the audience would know which team this is and who's on it. They are: Star*Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon.
Now, about that high-fiving thing. Here's the setup: at one point during the panel (and I don't remember if it was before or after the announced titles listed above, but probably before), this bright light came on from the far corner of the room and shone almost directly at me and was very distracting/annoying. And then the head of Marvel studios, Kevin Feige, was interrupted by music playing over the sound system. After you've seen it once, go back and see whose hand gets slapped at the 11 second mark on the right hand side of the screen:

One thing Robert Downey, Jr. isn't is shy. And one thing he doesn't lack is charisma.

What we see in the shown footage includes Tony working the kinks out of his new Iron Man armor, his cliffside mansion getting blown to smithereens, a quick shot of a version of the Iron Patriot armor (google it), shots of Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, and John Favreu who, although not reprising his role as the film's director, IS reprising his role as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark's chauffeur and bodyguard. But the real reveal of the footage, were the shots of the film's villain; his Asian motif, his ring-adorned fingers, and that Ben Kingsley is confirmed as playing The Mandarin. Very cool.
And that about sums up all the Marvel news. I'll be back later, probably/hopefully/maybe tomorrow and cover some other part of the last 4 days and 3 hours or so of my life.

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May. 4th, 2012 07:47 am One Word Movie Review: The Avengers


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Apr. 21st, 2012 10:48 am Permanent

So far, I'm right on track for updating this blog on a regular schedule ... assuming my regular schedule is to post every 12 days, then every 30 days.

Re: my job.

So I had my interview with the Manager in charge of our site (she's the lady in charge of all Pitney-Bowes employees who work for this same law firm anywhere in the US, and it's a BIG, international firm). And she hired me. Which is really nice and a big load off Lori's and my mind. Security is a wonderful thing. I had to jump through all the prerequisite hoops (submit resume (which they already had from the temp agency, but they wanted again anyway), fill out pages and pages of new hire paperwork, and get drug tested and background checked. It all must've come through fine because whereas everyone told me it could take up to a month for the background check, the whole process for me from submitting my paperwork to being approved and given a start date was one week. It was a little odd getting an email from Homeland Security telling me I'm "authorized to work." It's a little odd that Homeland Security even knows who I am.

I started as an official Pitney employee this past Monday. I had orientation via an online presentation and conference call that included 30+ other new Pitney employees from all across the country. There was more paperwork to fill out, setting up my employee email account and a bunch of stuff like that.

On Monday, one of the patent agents at our firm showed up with a big chocolate cake for me to celebrate my permanence. This was totally unexpected and really nice of her. Unfortunately, it was another employee's birthday and she had a MASSIVE cake. So I suggested we keep the cake until Tuesday so as not to infringe on the birthday party. Which turned out to be the best plan since it gave me the opportunity to bring in a gallon of milk to go with the cake.

Even though I've worked at the firm since November, it was a great way to be made welcome.

In other news:

I'm still waiting for the menu from Gamer's Dinner before I post a report here on that awesome event.

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Mar. 22nd, 2012 11:02 pm What I've been up to ...

The best news during my long hiatus, was the finalization of Lance and Ellen's adoption of Ariana, Madison, and Mabel. This took place a week ago Monday and was, understandably, quite the big deal. Even my Mother came down for it, and that's saying something.

This was Mom's first overnight trip anywhere since Dad's passing. She, my Uncle Roger, and family friend Egmeia, took the train down on Saturday and back home again on Tuesday. I couldn't be there for the actual court appointment on Monday (at 8:30am in LA), but they did have a party on Sunday which I was able to drive up for. Lori couldn't make it unfortunately, as she had a [too] rapidly approaching deadline for a paper for her Master's Class.

So Everything went smoothly on Monday and now the girls are part of our family in more than just our hearts, but also in the eye of the law and forever.

Welcome Holt Girls.  We love you.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Several people have asked about my new job. As of now (since Nov. 21) I work for a temp agency, assigned to join a team of Pitney Bowes employees who work at a law firm. We're responsible for receiving/sorting/delivering interoffice and other mail, copying/binding/scanning jobs as needed, and also setting up and breaking down conference rooms with coffee, sodas, ice, and food when required. Pitney Bowes, like other companies such as Xerox and Icon among others, put teams inside larger companies for this purpose. I'm hoping to be brought on as a permanent employee as early as next week, as I am interviewing with the regional supervisor, who, so far, I've only spoken with over the phone.

It's a good job at a good place with generally good people. It is a little different working at a law firm than, say, P&G (where I worked for 11 years in the consumer sector), but its really just a matter of getting used to some of the peculiarities that come with dealing with the high-stress world that lawyers inhabit.

On the plus side, this firm is mostly patent attorneys, so all the attorneys have Masters degrees in other fields (mostly Chemistry and other sciences) and several have Ph.D.'s.So, generally, since most of them had careers outside the legal profession, they are a little easier to deal with. I base this on what my supervisor has told me based on his experience working at other firms, and on what my lawyer friends have told me based on their experience being lawyers. According to them, lawyers can be rather ... persnickety at times. I haven't seen much of that here.

So now you're all caught up on my job after two years and three months unemployed. Oh, and my old employer finally shut their doors at the beginning of the month. I'm sorry to see them go. I have no hard feelings towards them and wish them, and my now unemployed ex-co-workers, only the best of luck.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
In other news:

Thankfully I was home sick this week when our water heater sprung a leak. It was a small leak (no geyser) but two rivulets of water spread out from the tank and reached the far corner of the garage before I caught it and shut the water off. With my contractor brother-in-law Larry on the other end of the phone telling me what to do, I/we (after Lori got home) were able to keep it from getting worse. Luckily, most of the water-damageable stuff in the garage was up off the floor on shelves, or stacked on top of plastic storage boxes. The few boxes that were damaged protected the stuff inside from any major damage. We really dodged a bullet.

Then, last night, Larry came over and installed a new water heater for us while I stayed mostly out of his way and provided "hand me this" and "go do that" support as necessary.

On the plus side, I paid attention and could probably install one of these myself now, though it would take me at least 5 times longer, require the purchase of various tools I don't own, and force me to make multiple trips to Home Depot to pick up things I'd forgotten. Of course, by the time I'll need any of this new found knowledge, I'll have forgotten most of it anyway. At least, I hope so.

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WonderCon '12:

Lori and I have long talked about attending Comic-Con International's little cousin in San Francisco: WonderCon.This is a comic book convention that I used to attend annually, much as I do CCI now. It's been described as how CCI used to be 15 years ago: smaller attendance, more access to the pros attending, less emphasis on Hollywood, etc.

Well, this year, thanks to Moscone Center undergoing renovations, WonderCon was held in Anaheim (a block from Dinneyland). So Lori and I finally made it to WonderCon this past Sat. and Sun.

It was fun. Much smaller than CCI (one estimate I heard said 45,000 attendees as opposed to CCI's 125,000). We were even able to see carpet in the Dealer's Room and stretch out our arms without hitting anybody. A friend in the Antiquarian Book business who had a booth there said that despite a larger turnout than at Northern California's WonderCons, the attendees were spending less money. I know WE were spending less money, because we didn't have much.

We spent Saturday, much as we do at CCI, in the "Big" Hall watching movie presentations. Sir Ridley Scott, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender were on hand to promote Prometheus, the yes-it-is, no-it-isn't prequel to Alien; on stage to promote Snow White and the Huntsman were Charlize Theron (again) and a completely vapid (or drunk) Kristen Stewart (Twilight) who couldn't complete a single thought, and anyone who believes that Stewart's Snow White could out-lovely Theron's Evil Queen must've been drinking the same stuff as Stewart; Director Peter Berg and stars Alexander Skarsgard and Brooklyn Decker tried desperately but in vain to make Battleship sound anything but ridiculous; Milla Jovovich pitched Resident Evil: Retribution, a movie I have zero interest in but would see before I saw Battleship ... probably. The presentation I was most anxious to see was for The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot of the popular movie franchise. Director Marc Webb (and how perfect a name is that for the director of a Spider-Man movie) and star Emma Stone (she plays Gwen Stacey) showed clips and answered questions. The clips they showed were fun and we got to see more of The Lizard than we've seen thus far in the trailers. Stone was great on stage, very relaxed and poised, but after watching Kristen Stewart, Jim Ignatowski would look relaxed and poised. I'm looking forward to this slightly darker interpretation of the Spider-Man mythos.

Two films we saw presentations for I'd never heard of but both look very interesting. The Sound of My Voice follows a cult or fringe group somewhere in Los Angeles that is centered around a woman who claims to be from the future. It has an almost documentary feel to it and looks extremely intense and almost frightening at times. They showed us the first 12 minutes and it was kind of riveting. The other film, Looper, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Third Rock From the Sun) as a modern-day assassin whose only targets are mob targets sent back in time from the future. They materialize, he kills them and disposes of the body. He's never missed a kill until the target sent back from the future is a forty-year older HIM (Bruce Willis). It then becomes a cat-and-mouse game between two different versions of the same person. Sounds like fun.

I'll say this about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, rarely since Angelina Jolie took the stage at Comic-Con International have I seen someone so at ease on stage and respectful of his audience. He answered each question from the crowd as though answering it was the most important thing he had to do at that moment. He looked the questioner in the eye and even when only slightly varied versions of the same question came three times in a row, he answered each question slightly differently, adding a little bit so the questioner didn't walk away feeling like a moron while still keeping the audience's attention. After 20 years in the acting business, this kid is going places.

On Sunday, Lori and I were joined by our friend Jim who came to peruse the Dealer's Room with us "for old time's sake." Lots of very cool stuff there, much of it I'd never seen before. I made a few contacts for future Shadow drawings, saw some cool steampunk paraphenalia for that cool steampunk costume I'll probably never make, and cool furniture for the cool game room I'll probably never have. Bought a couple of prints and a few other items and after the Con we and Jim headed over to California Adventure for a handful of rides and a fun time was had by all.

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That's all I can think of now. I'm sure I'm leaving a bunch of stuff out, but hopefully something up there will give us stuff to talk about.

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Mar. 10th, 2012 12:16 am

For the last several weeks or more I've been thinking about, and even started writing, a long-overdue post to this blog full of catch-up information about Lori and me and life in general. I was trying for something "clever" like a scene walking into a dark room full of sheet-covered furniture, closed curtains, and no electricity. I would describe my attempt to cross the room to the breaker box, flip a switch and a computer monitor would flash to life beneath one of the sheets and I'd go about removing the sheets and bringing the room to life again, symbolizing my return to Walking the Blog.

Well, obviously that didn't happen.

It occurred to me ... eventually ... that I was spending too much time "composing" when all I really needed to do was get off my butt and post something. Anything. Well, not literally off my butt because I pretty much have to be on my butt to type this and ... well, never mind.

After my last post it was my intention to go into greater detail about Dad's memorial. I'm not going to do that. Suffice to say that it was a wonderful event, as these things go, and I was particularly moved by how many of my friends showed up to offer their love and support. A special shout out to the "Space Raiders" and our sort of mini reunion at the ice cream parlor. It was nice to end a day full of reminisces about Dad, by reminiscing with friends about other stuff. And an extra special thank you to Dave, Don, John, Ginger, Pam, and Danette, my "gang" from High School, for being there on the day or in the weeks prior, and for covering Lori's and my tickets to my 30 year high school reunion, which took place the weekend after Dad's memorial.

I think of Dad every day. One of his hats hangs on my bedpost, some of his clothes hang in my closet. Whenever I pass a classic car on the highway, I think of him. Whenever a Republican says something ridiculous, I think of him. Like I said, I think of him every day.

There's stuff to catch up on, like my new job (after 2 years, 3 months, and 20 days of unemployment), new movies, new nieces (officially, come Monday), recent trips to Dinneyland, my cousin's book (all published and EVERYthing), and stuff like that.

I'm going to try my best to get back on a regular (or at least semi-regular) schedule of posting to this blog. Feel free to harass and harangue as your conscience dictates.

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Oct. 3rd, 2011 12:36 am Memories of Dad

I agree with poet Anne Sexton, who wrote: “It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” I could have filled Dad’s memorial booklet with just my memories, but I’ll share a few of them here instead and hope that you'll share some of yours.

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The three of us, Dad, Lance, and I, were driving home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Well, technically, Dad was driving as Lance and I were still too young. Mom hadn’t come with us that weekend. I don’t remember why.  But we were on the freeway just toddlin’ along when Dad accelerates to get past a group of cars. But he didn’t slow down again once he’d gotten in front of them all. Now, Lance and I were oblivious to all this, but a little later he says to us, “there’s a cop behind us.”Instantly, Lance and I swung our heads around to see the cop and Dad shouts “Don’t turn around!” But it was too late. The cop turned on his siren and Dad got a ticket.

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For most of my conscious life, Dad worked in the receiving warehouse at Memorex. The guys in the warehouse had a full-size tricycle with a large basket that they used to cart small packages quickly around the local buildings. When we were very little, Dad would put Lance and me into the basket and drive us around the warehouse and we’d wave and shout out to all Dad’s co-workers as we trundled along.

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Dad’s friend Gil had a cabin under construction up in the woods somewhere and needed help installing insulation. Dad brought me along to help – I must have been somewhere between 13 and 15 – and after spending all afternoon working on the insulation we sat down and ate cold Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. That night, as we slept, it started raining buckets. I don’t remember if Gil woke me up or I woke him up, though I suspect the former because 1) I doubt the rain would have woken me up, and 2) I wouldn’t have realized the rest of the insulation was unprotected in the bed of the truck and needed to be covered. Either way, Gil and I woke up and went out into the rain and covered the insulation. In the morning, over a camp stove breakfast, Dad was all “why didn’t you wake me up to help?”and I was all “because I was already awake and it was a two-man job.” And it may have been my imagination, but I got the feeling that Dad was proud of me for that and for the first time I felt like an adult.

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Dad’s the only person I’ve ever met who inadvertently picked up a hitchhiker.

Dad had customized the back of one of his trucks under a camper shell. He installed red, shag carpeting, inclined the front wall of the bed to make it more comfortable for Lance and me to lean against, and built a little secure shelf with a lip for the ice chest to fit into and not slide around. We were going somewhere – we were always going somewhere – and were up in the mountains. Dad pulled into one of those turnouts by the side of the road so we could all take a look at the scenery when a hitchhiker jogged up and thanked Dad for stopping. It turns out that Dad had just passed the guy and the guy thought Dad had stopped for him. I guess Dad felt a little guilty, so we ended up giving him a lift for a few miles.  I have vivid memories of the hitchhiker climbing into the back of the truck, careful not to step on my comic books which were strewn all over the carpet wherever inertia had left them (as they were wont to do).

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If you have memories of Dad, just post a comment and I'll move it into the body of the post. I'll also be posting the entire memory booklet we handed out at the memorial once I get the .pdf file from Mom.

UPDATE: I finally got around to having Mom send me the files for Dad's Memorial Booklet and I've posted them below for anyone who wasn't at the memorial and who is interested in reading memories of  Dad from people other than just me.

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