John Maddock Mad6 China

Friday, December 19, 2008

F+W Media decided to sell the corporate guest houses in Iola, and one of the final steps was emptying the Thorson House of its assortment of furnishings so that the new owners could move in. Over the weekend, employees bid on this and that, and I ended up with a slew of wine glasses (including matched sets of 14 small glasses and 7 larger ones; is "glasses" the term? goblets, maybe?), a slew of old china, and (yes! thinking ahead!) a slew of maroon towels. This morning, the beverage containers are on the mantel, and the china resides on kitchen surfaces. In the case of the china (for which I paid $85, more than the minimum bid), my first curiosity was what the pattern actually is. It's not a complete set, though there are lots of dishes. There's no gravy boat. There's no sugar-and-creamer set. So what if I wanted to add those? And these dishes have been in use for decades, so several pieces are chipped. So what if I wanted to replace them? (The set seems to have a base of 12 [though I bet it began as 14 before attrition hit].)

Kind Kim Frankenhoff came to the rescue, having been handed a saucer, and she came up with the following:

The set is (as identified on an assortment of dish bottoms) Royal Vitreous made by John Maddock & Sons. And (yay, Kim!) the pattern is officially known as Mad6. The startling information comes from an eBay search, where I find the Oval Covered Vegetable dish (above), for example, is priced at $245. And the Round Footed Soup Tureen is $375. On the other hand, the Round Covered Vegetable Dish is a mere $195. Ah, and a cup and saucer set (a couple above; I have 8) is $32 @.

This does not bode well for the goal of filling out the impulsively purchased set with a gravy boat. Mind you, people offering random pieces on eBay are probably not those who can even identify the pattern, so there'd be a posting something along the lines of "Old Gravy Boat RARE!" and I'm not about to spend the time. The prices in the preceding paragraph are those from online stores that specialize in identifying and selling this sort of thing, and I'm not about to spend the money for their expertise. So probably what I have is what I'll stick with, though I'm still curious as to when it was manufactured and what was in the "complete" set. (Old china can be weird; Valerie gave me a bunch of Haviland china a few years ago in what a friend identified as the "Apple Blossom" pattern -- and it included ramekins and strange dishes for fish bones. Heck, a cup and saucer set from that pattern is listed at $60 from Replacements Ltd.)

I love the idea of even having a Round Covered Vegetable Dish, and it's been used enough that I trust my dish is not truly worth the full $195. But this is a hobby in which I've probably dabbled to my limit already.


Why Won't Garmin's Nuvi 260 Display 6-Lane Roads?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I mean really! Why?

I love my big, clunky, falling-off-the-dashboard-despite-the-friction-mount old Garmin. Because its maps are out of date at the moment, it sometimes thinks I'm sitting in a field, whereas I'm actually in a huge new shopping center. But it identifies the frickin' roads in Wisconsin, be they super-highways or county route or lanes or (sometimes) even alleys.

I bought a Nuvi 260 for trips in Maryland, because I frequently end up driving through the traffic in Silver Spring. I thought in my cleverness that it'd be great, because (1) Garmins are cool, (2) this has newer maps than my old Garmin, and (3) it's lightweight and has a cool mount for the vehicle and so on.

And after a week, I ask, Huh? It's great on the four-lane roads. It tells me how fast I'm going, it lets me imagine myself as a beachball, it's up to date, it ... Well, it has one problem, which I've wrestled with all week: It won't display information on 6-lane highways. These aren't freeways; they're just streets with names and route numbers and stoplights. And 6 lanes of traffic.

Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, University Boulevard: stop-and-go traffic, primary routes people are likely to tell you if you ask for directions. "Take University Boulevard to Viers Mill Road." Viers Mill is identified, but University Boulevard (aka Route 193) is just a massive orange line. Massive enough to have "University Boulevard" and "193" in big, bold letters. But there's no ID. Connecticut Avenue, oddly enough, displays momentarily (along with its 185 ID), if it's at an angle seen while I'm on a back street. But when I get close, it cloaks itself in orange anonymity.

I tried all the configurations: Show Most, Show Least, Show Normal. I tried zooming in and zooming out. I tried both "View Map" and "Go To." It knows the streets when it's telling me to turn onto them in "Go To." But it won't label them on the map itself.

So what the heck is with that? I e-mailed Garmin and did get back a prompt response. In part, it read, "The Nuvi's do not provide every road in writing while in the View Map mode. The unit will provide the name of some streets as you travel, but not every one of them. Please turn your Map Detail to Most to help provide more detail level on your map screen. As well, you may want to be zoomed in to a more finite view of the map to allow the unit to pick up on the surrounding roads.

"The Nuvi's are a sleek and slim device that are intended to be used by first time GPS users. Having too many features or too many items on the map can overcomplicate the user and not give a user friendly experience."

(As noted, I'd already tried zooming in, out, and about -- and accessing the widest variety of displays. The 6-lane roads were identified on none.)

Now, I fully understand the part about not showing everything. But not showing the most major routes? How would showing them confuse a driver?

Sigh. I still love Garmins. And this one has already triumphed in a situation involving back roads and an unfamiliar address. But (and I'm sure the 260 has already -- despite its purchase within the last month -- been outmoded) it'd be nice if newer models emulated the clunky Garmin antique still serving me in Wisconsin, identifying the major routes. Just saying.


The Morning After

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Four hours' sleep, then up and about.

It's been posted elsewhere on the Internet referring to this moment, but it just keeps coming to mind. It's from Shakespeare's Henry V (Act IV, Scene 3), as King Henry's advisors are concerned that they will lose the upcoming battle. This portion of his response, referring to the fact that the day they are to fight (Oct. 25) is the religious feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispian, resonates this morning:

... Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered --
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother. Be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition. [make him a gentleman]
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day.

Hope you voted. What an event!


Small-Town Voting Is a Breeze Here

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A couple of hours ago, I sent a text message to son Stephen, announcing I'd just voted and asking whether he'd done so yet. He responded, "We're about to head over. Linda [Holmes] said the line in her ward is nuts and that they'd already reached 40 percent turnout as of 10:30 a.m. No early voting, either!" He and his wife are in Silver Spring, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C., neck of the woods, and I have yet to hear that they've finished casting their votes. Topping it off: Stephen works for National Public Radio, and the crew there is going to be up late, late, late tonight. (I'd forgotten that aspect of being in the news media. When The Cleveland Press still existed, election day and the following day were crazy.)

Here is one of the (many) advantages to living in rural Wisconsin. I decided to be at the polling station at 7 a.m.,when the doors opened. (For one thing, a bunch of guys are in the process of installing a heat pump at my house, and I wanted to be there if there were any questions during the day. For another thing -- well, I just wanted to be there when the doors opened.) The crowd that was there already amounted to three people. The doors opened, the first guy said he wanted to register, so he stepped to one side, while the multitude of the rest of us (I think three more people had arrived after me) were processed through. I opted, as ever, for the paper ballot to be read by the optical scanner, there was a minor glitch, the minor glitch was fixed, and I was on my way. [Parenthetical note: This photo is from the September rally I referred to yesterday. That posting was so photo-heavy it made itself crazy, so I saved this one for today. Someday, I'll gain the knack of illustrating this blog so that pictures don't confuse it. Or me. But not today, I fear.]

Now, it's just a matter of waiting -- for both voting results and the heat pump. And I'll be checking out The Daily Show and Colbert Report special broadcast tonight on Comedy Central. Check your local listings.



Monday, November 3, 2008

The day before the election, I'm listening to NPR's coverage on Talk of the Nation of people waiting in line to vote early. (The first guy they interviewed said he'd brought along a book to read while he waiting in line more than three hours: Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book. A comment that elicited host Neal Conan's response that he loves Gaiman's writing, too.)

My mind goes back to the long wait in line (in chilly weather, especially compared to what those folks today are doing) to get through the doors for a Wisconsin pre-primary rally for Obama on February 15. I'd recently decided to back Obama based on his specifics about a "Credit Card Bill of Rights" -- at a time when people were already saying he was a great speaker but didn't provide information on what he'd do that would affect voters. You can Google "Obama" and "Credit Card Bill of Rights," just as I did, and get such specifics as that it would prohibit charging interest on credit-card fees. And that interest rate increases would only apply to future debt.

So I waited in the cold with a slew of others. It was a Friday, so the audience skewed to college students and retirees, and the auditorium was packed. Thanks to my foresight regarding getting there super-early (sorry, frozen ears!), I found prime seating: three rows up on the bleachers, at the end by which he passed from the curtained area to the podium. I was occasionally off-the-message struck simply by his excellence as a public speaker. If you're considering a career that involves public presentations, he uses a number of devices that work brilliantly with a crowd: perfect, albeit casual posture; splendid timing in holding still enough to make good photos possible; smoothly turning to each quadrant of a surrounding audience without lurching from group to group; mastering a hand-held mike, pulling it closer to his mouth as the crowd noise grew louder so that he didn't wait to make his point but simply upping the volume so he could be heard over the rising decibels. Who was it who suggested the term "Obamariffic" after his 2004 speech at the Democrats' convention? In any case, it's now in common use.

The excellence of his or her public speaking is, of course, no reason to vote for a candidate. But, following the candidates throughout primaries, national conventions, and weeks of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I've found no reason to change my primary choice. Thanks to Bob Chapman's Graphitti and Alex Ross for a T-shirt that gets compliments whenever I wear it.

The lines were as long -- but the weather much better -- September 22. That rally, on a Monday, had attendance affected again by the fact that it was a work day. Nevertheless, still fun, still enthusiastic, still well worth attending.
It seems to me something of an irony that, in this high-tech era, most of the volunteer efforts asked of Democrats are traditional activities: (1) make phonecalls, (2) go door-to-door to talk to people, and (3) hold a sort of house party to "sell" friends on the party's messages. Well, I loathe receiving unsolicited phonecalls (and I'm on Wisconsin's "do not call" list), I hate having strangers arriving unannounced on my doorstep, and I'm none too fond of ostensible parties that are in reality excuses to sell me things.
Guess what three things I didn't do for the Democrats.
What I did turn out to be able to do to help was data entry -- compiled from information received in the course of the telephoning. And that, I was pleased to see, included noting when people asked not to be called again.
And there's yet another aspect of the advantages of this Age of the Internet: I took a photo in February in Oshkosh that I'd be glad to provide to the people who probably most want it. Following his speech in Oshkosh, Obama went around the perimeter of the crowd, shaking hands, waving, talking briefly to those in the front rows. And, yes, having a baby pushed into his arms. My bet is -- especially if he's elected tomorrow -- that the parents of that infant would be happy to have a print of this moment for their own memory book. But they don't even know the photo exists.
So, hey, Democrats with babies who went to the Oshkosh event in February: Were you standing in the front row near his entry-and-exit spot? Did you thrust your child into his arms? Would you like a copy of this photo? It can be yours.


A Month and a Half Since My Last Post?

Yes, well, I've been busy. And today, tomorrow, and Wednesday are pretty much devoted to the installation of a heat-pump system to replace the furnace that's a quarter of a century old or so. But surely it won't be so long until my next post.


Leslie Charteris Oddity: Lady on a Train

Monday, September 15, 2008

A bunch of buddies hereabouts maintains a movie club. Once a month we get together for lunch, pick a movie to watch in the ensuing month, circulate DVDs of that movie, and spend the following month's lunch discussing (or failing to discuss) that pick.

This time around, we picked the Deanna Durbin film Lady on a Train (1945), which I had wanted to see for some time, having bought the paperback at an earlier point. The back cover of the paperback, signed "The Publishers," was clearly written by the publisher -- but that happened to be author Leslie Charteris (1907-1993) himself. Of interest to me when I bought the used copy was that it was a non-Saint mystery (though, despite what the cover copy says, it does have one passing reference to Simon Templar).

In any case, the short novel has another distinction, outlined by mystery writer Charteris inside the front cover. (See left.) And I embarked on the most sensible method of consumption: I watched the movie first, then read the book. And found massive changes in the story.

And, yes, the story in the novel is an improvement over the story in the film. Charteris added several new characters and better defined the Deanna Durbin character's motivation for being where she is and doing what she does.

On the other hand, he deleted one of the major characters in the film: mystery writer "Wayne Morgan," who becomes involved in attempts to solve the puzzle. Played by David Bruce (1916-1976), Morgan is reduced almost to comedy-relief status at times, as Durbin's character barrels ahead relentlessly to untangle the threads of where and when and how and who. But an additional gag (whether from the screenwriters or Charteris) is that Bruce bears a startling resemblance to Charteris himself.

If you find this interesting enough to pursue, the film is on a set of Durbin DVDs titled Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack. On the other hand, the book isn't as accessible. I find a few on Amazon, starting at (yikes!) $52.39, and starts at $56.38 and ranges as high as $114.25. It apparently only had the one edition: a saddle-stitched paperback. Maybe it's time for Universal to bring out a collector's edition of the movie and the book in a single package? Just a thought ...


Highly Seasoned

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I've commented in the past that I watch very little TV as it's being broadcast these days. The advertisements annoy me, the all-too-frequent time dance that leads to my missing an episode of a continuing story, and the long wait between episodes has become more a torment than a delightful anticipation. There's a bit of guilt about my cunning plan, since the ratings help determine the ads, and the ads are what pays for the shows. Nevertheless, I've been hooked for some time on the practice of buying DVD sets of many series' episodes.

And now, thanks to the impending new season of such series, I find myself almost overcome by the plethora of such DVD sets, with a stack now awaiting viewing. (Moreover, one of the best set-producers today is BBC Video -- and, to review those for Comics Buyer's Guide, I have to watch every minute of every disc, variant soundtracks and all. I am in the midst of watching-and-notetaking Spaced: The Complete Series, which ran only two short seasons, written by and starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes starting in 1999 [ISBN 1-4198-6845-4]. They're only half-hour episodes, but there's an original video commentary and a current video commentary, not to mention a bonus disc -- so the 14 episodes take three times as long to view as the simple episodes themselves, and I could actually add a fourth viewing, if I wanted to keep track of the Homage-O-Meter information. [That, for example, identifies the brief appearance of two grim little girls as a tribute to the two little girls in Kubrick's film of The Shining.] As noted, I still haven't finished watching the delicious show about [to quote the box] "two idle twentysomething flatmates -- immature skateboarding would-be comic artist Tim and moody, responsibility-shy writer Daisy and their self-induced lack of success in employment, relationships, and life in general." End of parenthetical remark.)

So I find myself in the midst of a backlog. There's a stack of such older boxed sets as Poirot: The New Mysteries Collection; Poirot: Classic Crimes Collection; Poirot: The Classic Collection, Sets 1-3 [which, right, turns out to be a repackaging of an earlier Acorn Media set, left, titled simply Poirot and which is further complicated by Volume 1 of Set 2 carrying the identification on the disc itself as Set 4; I've never been fond of Acorn's packaging; but I digress]; and Midsomer Murders Set Three. (Do you detect a theme?)

But it's the new material that is my current challenge. As a beginning, toward the end of the summer, I found Eureka's two seasons a pleasure: The concept of a town filled with geniuses could have been improbable with routine scripts; instead, the lines and plot devices sparkled and worked.

Then came Burn Notice Season One. I'd been looking forward to seeing it since I saw the first few episodes at Harlan and Susan Ellison's house, at their recommendation. Captivated, I discovered I'd missed some episodes and then gave up attempts to watch it when broadcast. "When Michael receives a 'burn notice,' blacklisting him from the intelligence community and compromising his very identity, he must track down a faceless nemesis without getting himself killed in the process. Meanwhile, Michael is forced to double as a private investigator on the dangerous streets of Miami in order to survive." It's sharp, it has a great script, it has terrific performers (including Sharon Gless and Bruce Campbell), and it's action-packed. I'm going to wait for the next set rather than try to follow it as it airs. But I love it.

Then, I went on to The Closer, which has a total of three seasons out on DVD, which means I've been missing it for a while. Kyra Sedgwick plays the head of a Los Angeles Priority Murder Squad, a C.I.A.-trained interrogator who's known as someone who can close cases successfully. It's fun, it's involving, it's entertaining, and I've now watched two of the three seasons with much enjoyment.

Excellent. Next? Well, then I thought I'd try doling things out, much as if I were actually seeing them on TV, instead of pounding down episode after episode of a single series nonstop. So I've now watched two episodes of The Dresden Files (Harry Dresden is a Chicago wizard who "deals in all matters of supernatural threats"). It's based on books by Jim Butcher, and the performers and script are amiable enough, but it's easy to remind myself to dole it out an episode at a time. Unless later episodes are more gripping, it'll be no pressure to wait to see Season Two.

And Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season One is OK but (after three episodes) I don't see it going much of anywhere. Summer Glau is terrific and probably the main reason for continuing to watch.

Life Season One derailed my decision to dole things out, and I'm not sure quite why. "After 12 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, offbeat Charlie Crews has returned to the force with a $50 million settlement [says the box; I don't think it's specified in the show], a new spiritual outlook, a strong fondness for fruit, and a highly unusual approach to solving crime." Scripting is fun, and Damian Lewis puts across the character of Crews compellingly. In any case, after a couple of episodes, I went back to watching the entire series back-to-back and found it rewarded the attention.

Back to doling things out, I come to The Big Bang Theory. This is a torment. Box description: "Physicists Leonard and Sheldon [trivia shout-out to Sheldon Leonard, obviously] understand everything from the inescapable gravitational pull of a black hole to the intricate structure of the atom. But take those atoms and assemble them into a woman, and their comprehension comes to a grinding halt." Well, that sounds pretty dreadful. But the scripts are fall-down-funny -- and that's what makes the horrendous laughtrack even more agonizing. I'd pay extra for a set that would make it possible to watch without the laughtrack, because this is packed with geeky humor that brilliantly portrays My World. I'm doling it out because I can't take the automated giggles in large doses; otherwise, it'd have been another back-to-back treat. (In the entire first disc, I've only hit one geek line that didn't display the full spectrum of knowledge -- and I think it was a slightly misdelivered reading, not realizing The Avengers is a group's name.) Johnny Galecki's presence adds resonance to occasional appearances by other Roseanne cast members. Aieee!

I have other discs waiting in the proverbial wings: The Simpsons Season 11, The Office Season Four, Jericho, Heroes Season 2 (which is the only one of these that I saw when it was broadcast but hey!), and House Season 4.

But I've hit another show that has derailed the doling-out process, and it's jaw-dropping, at least so far. Damages Season 1 had an ending on the first episode that left me stunned. The summary on the box gives away little: "Set in New York's world of high stakes litigation, Damages follows the lives of Patty Hewes (Glen Close), the nation's most revered and most reviled litigator, and her bright, ambitious protegee Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) as they become embroiled in a class action lawsuit targeting Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson)." I'm captivated -- and find the storytelling is (at least, after three episodes) closest to mini-series style rather than what we find is the usual short-stories-in-a-larger-frame that has become standard TV lately.

So why am I posting this? Time to go on to Episode 4.


In the Midst of Morphing

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Slowly, this website is evolving into a spot I hope to visit more often. In a way, that hope is assisted by the fact that I haven't been able to communicate directly here for quite some time. Kudos to the dogged determination of John Jackson Miller, who has been at work with drywall, plaster, and paint -- not to mention smelling salts and a transfusion -- to restore the domicile and its contents.


Be Careful What You Wish For ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

One of the obsessions that qualified me for my job (currently as Comics Buyer's Guide Senior Editor) was BBC science fiction and fantasy. I created the magazine Fantasy Empire, which had a focus on Doctor Who -- in large part to help me explore further the realm of the series that was relatively inaccessible in America. In the course of my life, then, I've actually spent some time with Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. (Not to jump that up to overstatement, "some time" was, at most, a dinner. But super-nice performers, each of whom did his best to provide a pleasant interlude for a goggling fan.)

Thanks to a tenuous connection to the world of comics (there have been Doctor Who comic-book adventures in England and America, after all), I can maintain a minor presence of DW material in CBG and at CBGXtra. I recently noticed that there'd been a bunch of BBC shows that I wanted to review here, there, and everywhere, so I asked for what was available. And wow.

I have a couple of months without plans to visit other states, so the project is doable, but the thing is that the BBC is among the best providers of DVD entertainment based on its shows. Not only does the customer get the show as aired, but the bonus material is incredible. Once you see the show itself, you can rewatch it with commentaries, featurettes, and similar bonuses. So a reviewer can begin by doubling the length of time to watch the feature itself and go from there. Here's what I get to explore:

Doctor Who #17: The Time Meddler 1965, 1:40 [total for the feature alone, then, is 3:20 -- and there's scads of bonuses, which I won't bother to note in the rest of this list, but includes here a look at The Doctor's appearance in comic strips]

Doctor Who #93: The Invisible Enemy 1977, 2:23 [4:46 -- and, since that introduced K-9, there's a bonus included in the time count of K-9 and Company, 1981]

Doctor Who #97: The Invasion of Time 1978, 2:30 [5:00 -- and one of my favorites]

Doctor Who #130: The Five Doctors 1983, 3:11 [6:22 -- but I'm not sure about this, because it says it's the 1983 and 1995 versions; we shall see]

Torchwood: The Complete Second Season 2008, 10:28 [20:56 -- and the packaging doesn't mention extras but]

Not to mention two other boxes:

Robin Hood Season Two 2008, 9:47 [I'm not sure whether this set has commentaries on every show, but there's at least one -- plus three featurettes]


Spaced: The Complete Series 1999, 5:50 [Man, I'm not sure, but there seem to be many bonuses, including some commentary work by such people as Matt Stone, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino. Comics connection? Yep: One of the two focal nerds is a wanna-be comic-book artist; he's played by Simon Pegg. I can hardly wait and I'm not being sarcastic!]

Time to quit blogging and turn on the TV!


How Deliberately Was Dean Koontz Being Annoying?

Now that I have two months undisturbed by out-of-state jaunts, I'm settling down to seeing what organization can be brought to The Clutter That Is My Home. So I pulled a fresh audiobook off the shelf, and it happened to be the unabridged Odd Thomas (2003) by Dean Koontz, an author whose works have entertained me over the years. It's the first in a series, and I think I've come across a later book, so what better time to Begin at the Beginning?

And, whack, within five minutes of the start of the (promisingly intriguing) story, Koontz slaps me across the face. And I could sit there and take it. I could spout a series of obscenities. Or I could get back to this neglected website and point a finger and say, "Dude! What the hell?" Or words to that effect.

I did, in fact, resort to response #2 before turning to #3. And I know that, when I write #3, the response of many (including, presumably, Koontz -- if he or the others ever saw this) would be something along the lines of, "Get over it, whiner. You and those like you are a bunch of nerds who are not worth our attention -- unless it is to annoy you further by giving away the endings of Murder on the Orient Express, Sleuth, The Sixth Sense ..." And the hilarity would ensue at my expense, with some of the mockery including actual renditions of the twists that the audience is supposed to experience for itself. And some of those folks would be passing on those resolutions without actually having read the books or seen the films for themselves.

And, to be fair, I'm only five minutes and 23 seconds into the start of Odd Thomas. And it may turn out that there was actually some sort of artistic necessity for Koontz to give away the gimmick of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. But I bet not.

As one of the few among today's readers who actually read Agatha Christie's Ackroyd without knowing the ending in advance -- and who (yes) had the pleasure of solving the mystery in the course of reading it -- I resent anyone who takes away the chance for others to have that same pleasure. Or the pleasure of being surprised by the ending, if they don't solve it themselves. I especially resent it when the person tossing off the revelation is another creator. Who should know better.

Dude. What the hell?


Unpacking from Convention Jaunts and Returning to Filing

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm still coping with a travel cold. (I don't think I caught it from anyone at the convention, though a buddy pointed out that little sleep for a week just might have left me with my immune system slightly tweaked.)

But, even staggering around a bit, I'm able to do a few of the post-show chores that will make life better. Laundry, for example, is done (except for the partial box thereof that will arrive on the pallet with Convention Stuff before much longer). And I suddenly realized that I'd acquired a bunch of DVDs in a jaunt to Madison, Wis., the Friday before Con Week.

Madison, you see, is home to Four Star Video, a marvelous rental facility that prunes its stock and sells those cullings for $15 a DVD -- and, when you're a Gold Card member (as am I), you get them for roughly $10 a DVD. So I lolled about, pampering myself watching Season One of Eureka (recommended by my brother), yesterday and today, as I nursed my cold. And then it occurred to me that I might have other DVDs I hadn't checked out. What to my wondering eyes should appear but the following movies:

Charlie Wilson's War (2008, 1:42), The Corporation (2004, 2:25), Dan in Real Life (200X, 1:38), The Darjeeling Limited (2007, 1:31), The Golden Compass (2007, 1:53), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007, 1:46), Jumper (2008, 1:28), National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (200X, 2:05), The Orphanage (2007, 1:45), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008, 1:55), Revolver (2005, 1:44), Sleuth (2007, 1:29), Sweeny Todd (2007, 1:56)

Then, there are the TV shows, each except Blue Murder at those $10 prices:

Blue Murder (1995, 3:17, $20), George Carlin: Doin' It Again (1990, 1:00), George Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988, :58), Invisible Man Season One (1950s, 5:30), The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch (2002, :56)

And, at Half Price Books:

The Comeback (2006, 6:30, $15) and Unscripted (2005, 5:00, $10)

And, ordered from Amazon (so there were a variety of discounts but not used copies):

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966, 1:24), Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965, 1:23), Burn Notice Season One (2007, 8:52), Eureka Season One (2007, 9:18), The Closer Season One (2005, 10:02)

Looks as if I'll have something more to watch while I get over this cold. (By the way, an ongoing annoying facet of prerecorded material from the Disney organization is its policy of avoiding identification of copyright date for its releases. Yes, I could check it on iMDB, but geez.)

How about yourself? What movies and shows would you buy for $10 each?


Comic-Con Ho!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why so few entries in the blog? Why will there be so few over the next week?

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go -- and this afternoon, fingers crossed, I'll be in San Diego, picking up exhibitor badges (Booth #1419) prior to Comic-Con International: San Diego.



June 23, 1962

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nuff said?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was much fun in the theater: It barrelled along satisfyingly with just the right number of Eek! and Yes! moments.

And I picked up the hardcover by James Rollins, "Based on the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson, and the screenplay by David Koepp."

It's nicely straightforward, an excellent reminder of the entertainment and a faithful transcription of the script as performed on screen, along with some bonuses. Such as this paragraph on Page 78, featuring the confrontation when Dean Stanforth (played by Jim Broadbent) breaks the news to Indy that he's in trouble.

Indy reminds him, "They're good kids."



Wii way more!

I took it for granted that acquiring the Wii console would be the end of problems in working out with Nintendo's gaming system. After finding that the basic games did, indeed, get me more active (if you sign on as a beginner, Bowling -- for example -- is very forgiving), I also realized that (at least the way I played them) the games provided most exercise for my right arm and little else.

Even understanding that the way I was playing Tennis was not the way that a tennis-player would play tennis, I became more interested in the Wii Fit equipment. One review I'd come across said that, for example, the hoop game could provide a full-body workout in six minutes. Hot diggety! I'll just go buy Wii Fit and go for more serious exercise.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was the "Hunt for the Wii" process all over again. Nobody had it. I tried an two-hour round trip to Appleton to check all the possible stores. Nothing. Asked at service desks for estimated arrival dates. It was first come, first served again (with at least one service-desk staffer expressing considerable hostility -- not for me, but for Nintendo). I alerted my buddies to keep an eye out for it. I set up a schedule of telephone calls with possible venues. (When does the store open? When does it unload the truck?) The Best Buy recorded telephone pick-up seemed a little crabby, as it said something along the lines of, "If you're calling about the Wii Fit, none is available right now."

So you can doubly imagine my surprise when a not-quite-casual jaunt through the Target store in Stevens Point (where I'd wound up in advance of a dinner meeting with friends) found -- with no fanfare, no store announcements, no crush of multitudes -- a Wii Fit, not where I'd logically checked with the other Wii software, but sitting happily on an endcap beside five or six other Wii Fit boxes.

Whew! The exercise is over!

(What do you mean that wasn't the exercise?)



Thursday, June 12, 2008

I don't know whether you've ever come across Paul Gallico's Thomasina. Subtitled "The Cat Who Thought She Was God," the novel was originally published in 1957. The writer (1897-1976) had several of his works adapted to film; these included The Poseidon Adventure and Love of Seven Dolls (filmed as Lili). As noted, among the film adaptations of his writing is the Disney 1964 film The Three Lives of Thomasina.

That film starred Patrick McGoohan as the vet father of a little girl (played by Karen Dotrice) who loves her cat Thomasina, who narrates the film -- and dies, only to return to life to be with the little girl. It's a children's film and it features a cat (well, actually, a bunch of male cats, each playing Thomasina and each clearly distinctive to the adult cat-lover's eye, but never mind) -- so it was a natural for 5-year-old grandson Devon (who first saw it when he was 4).

Switch the scene now to Devon's household a couple of weeks ago. Beloved kitty Dactyl was in such an advanced stage of cancer that it was time to say goodbye. Devon was told this, though he didn't seem to grasp the details (which was probably just as well), and -- after much family cuddling -- Zander had the sad job of taking Dactyl to the vet.

It was then decided that the family desperately needed cheering distractions, so Valerie, Zander, and Devon went to the Quassy Amusement Park (on Lake Quassapaug in Connecticut , founded in 1908, one of only 11 "trolley parks" still operating in this country). They had a lovely time and then headed to the multi-lane highway for the long ride home. They were driving in the outside lane, when both Valerie and Zander simultaneously (and incredibly) spotted a tiny, road-colored lump by the side of the road. "Isn't that --?"

Zander (carefully) pulled over and (carefully) got out and ran back to the lump, then carried it back to the car. Valerie, who had had no reason to bring along a cashmere sweater on a hot day, took the tiny lump and wrapped it in the seemingly useless sweater. And Devon, from the back seat, asked, "Is that my Thomasina?"

And, yes, it was. Clearly, someone had decided it'd be (shudder) merciful to throw a six-week kitten out by the side of a major highway (with a Jersey Barrier in the middle, so nothing could ever cross it safely). The fist-sized kitten was covered with ticks but otherwise OK, and all arrived home safe and sound, albeit with ensuing tick-picking ahead.

Kitten has now seen the vet, and it is clearly established that (again, as was the case in the Disney film) Thomasina is a boy kitty. And a wonderful addition to the household.


46 years ago

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I don't know whether this photo was taken exactly 46 years ago -- but here are the circumstances:

Don and I had been engaged for a year and a half. It was the end of my sophomore year at Oberlin College, and Don had taken the bus to Oberlin each weekend for the entirety of my Oberlin stay. (I'd even managed to stay in Oberlin between my freshman and sophomore year with the excuse of taking typing at the little business college that was also in Oberlin.)

I was staying in the Fairchild dormitory, where I'd met Ron Hardin, who was a junior, played the lute, snapped a mean camera shutter, and ate at the same dining-room table as I did. Ron occasionally hung out with Don and me -- and, as something of an end-of-year gift, took several photos of Don and me clowning in front of Fairchild within the month before we were married.

So here we were, as of June 1962. Hee!


51 years ago

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It was on June 8, 1957, that Mom (science-fiction writer Betsy Curtis) drove to a science-fiction picnic at the home of Basil and Virginia Wells. She'd thought the event would be held at the home of Ed Hamilton and Leigh Brackett in Kinsman, Ohio, so we arrived there -- only to be told (by Leigh's parents in the farm across the road) that it was at the Wells home.

Undeterred, we ended up at a delightful event, attended by a number of SF professionals and fans. Among pro attendees were P. Schuyler Miller, the Hamiltons, and Andre Norton. Among the fans was a Penn State sophomore who'd heard about it through the National Fantasy Fan Federation.

The college student had hitchhiked there from his home in Grand Valley, Pennsylvania -- and we happened to reside in a house that was on the route back to Grand Valley, so we were glad to take him as far as our place on his way home. But that's not why we hit it off: What happened was that we spent most of the day discovering almost identical fannish interests, ranging from Old Time Radio (which wasn't Old Time at that point) to Western movies to fantasy to science fiction to mysteries to, yes, comics.

The next time I heard from him came when Harvey Kurtzman's Humbug #1 (Aug 57) was released; Don Thompson folded it in two and sent it to me in a #10 envelope with a note telling me of its publication.

It wasn't until some time later that he sent me this photo:

On the back, he had typed this message:

This picture was taken before I became a science fiction fan. Anyone gazing at my ravaged features today will see only too clearly the detrimental effects of this insidious activity.

Don't let this happen to your child! Join the Crusade to Stamp out Bug-Eyed Monsters. See your neighborhood chapter of the Society For the Prevention of Science Fiction Books and Magazines.

Support the SFPSFBM. Cash contributions are welcomed. Send your donation to:

Ray Palmer
Amherst, Wisconsin

It is difficult to believe that this innocent, wide-eyed child is today, not only a science fiction fan, but a radio announcer.

(Annotation for the history-minded: Don worked on the Penn State radio station WDFM.)

(Further annotation: Who'd have thought that, 25 years later, Don and Maggie Thompson would move less than 20 miles away from the home of SF and flying saucer editor Ray Palmer? It was, clearly Fate -- another in-joke. Sorry.)


Wii Whee!

Friday, June 6, 2008

While an annoying combination of Things That Happen have kept me from this blog for days and days and days, it's a Personal Triumph that returns me to it.

I decided that Wednesday would be the beginning of investigations that will eventually lead to a revamped home-entertainment environment. The whole digital-to-analog broadcast-television thing coming up in February has goaded me to visiting TV set replacement and the like. So I eyeballed (almost literally: I put my eye about two inches away from an assortment of LCD screens to look at details) sets, read descriptions of what different TVs had to offer, stood at varying distances from displays to decide what would be "too big," and so on.

At the same time, I decided to begin the process of trying to purchase something I'd mulled buying for months: a Nintendo Wii. I don't play most games. Life is short enough without activities that leave you where you began. But a few games provide a bonus that makes worthwhile the time you've invested. I've found Out of the Box's Apples to Apples and Cineplexity are not only fun but also enriching. (The former consists of thought-provoking non-embarrassing social interaction with friends; the latter has led to movie recommendations for films I hadn't encountered. But I digress.)

But, as is widely known, You Can't Find a Wii. So I went online to see what eBay prices looked like. And I Googled online vendors to do the same. Best price seemed to be about $375. Ouch. But, hey, my goal is to find something that makes it, if not pleasant, at least bearable to exercise. If I'm going to have a fancy environment for passive entertainment, how much better if it gets me off my duff from time to time? So I asked at the Appleton Best Buy (after deciding that a 40-42-inch LCD was probably what my goal TV should be) how one went about finding a Wii there. Can I put my name on a waiting list? How does it work?

"We advertise the console and say there are limited quantities available." Oh. So I need to watch the ads and it's first come first served? Yep.

So yesterday I asked The Invaluable Brent (who pays attention to Best Buy ads) to let me know the next time he saw a Wii advertised. Having decided to buy one, I figured I would simply make a concerted effort to acquire it. Brent said, "When I was at the Best Buy in Plover last night, there were a bunch of them on a table at the front of the store." The console? Not a bunch of add-ons? No way? Way. When did you see them? Last night. What time does the store open this morning? 10 a.m. -- and it was just after 9.

Surely, there'll be none left after a day on sale, but what the heck. (Brent, as we talked, made a list of area information of other possibilities, in case this didn't pan out.) Hopped in car, drove to Plover, found about a dozen consoles sitting on a table at the front of the store, grabbed one (limit was one per family, by the way), headed to the Other Wii Things to Buy display, chatted with a friendly Best Buy clerk about what good additions would be (second remote controller), threw stuff in the cart, and made for the checkout with a smile. Price was list for the item: $249.

I returned to the office to spread the word to an assortment of buddies -- and the reaction was interesting, ranging from several people who'd acquired consoles already, several people who didn't care, one person (John Jackson Miller, creator of this very website) who expressed revulsion at the idea of playing indoors when one should be active outdoors, and one person who immediately grabbed the phone to give the news to a relative who'd been looking for a console for months.

Mind you, it's now almost 24 hours later, and I still haven't opened the box. But, in the meantime, I've got two extra discs: Hudson's Deca Sports (wow, curling! woo hoo!), which seems to have enough variety of movement that I'll find something entertaining enough to stick with (remembering that the goal is exercise), and Electronic Arts' The Simpsons Game because, well, because. Hey, Maggie, life is short enough without activities that leave you where you began. D'oh!


Remembering William McGonagall

Monday, May 19, 2008

I first came across information about the gentleman (1825-1902) years ago in Gilbert Highet's book of literary essays A Clerk of Oxenford, but William McGonagall has been brought to my attention again by a news item in The Wall Street Journal. (Thanks, Brother Paul, for sending me the link!)

McGonagall is widely accepted as the worst poet in the English language. Here, for example, are the closing lines of his "An Address to Shakespeare":

"Immortal! Bard of Avon, your writings are divine,

And will live in the memories of your admirers until the end of time;

Your plays are read in family circles with wonder and delight,

While seated around the fireside on a cold winter's night."

He wrote many poems about disasters, such as "The Clepington Catastrophe," which begins:

"'Twas on a Monday morning, and in the year of 1884,

That a fire broke out in Bailie Bradford's store,

Which contained bales of jute and large quantities of waste,

Which the brave firemen ran to extinguish in great haste."

There is a lovely website devoted to his work; I recommend it, whether you have time to read only a single verse or the entirety of his autobiography.

But the inspiring news of the day is that, in a Friday auction, 35 of McGonagall's broadsheets brought $13,200 from an anonymous buyer: in the words of the Wall Street Journal article, "$1,200 more than was bid at the same auction for a collection of Harry Potter first editions signed by J.K. Rowling -- and much more than a set of first editions of Sir Walter Scott, a wildly popular writer during Mr. McGonagall's time."

It is somehow sweet that the poet, who died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave (though it is marked well these days), produced a body of work that is cherished today -- for whatever reason.


Underdog for young audiences

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One of the advantages to being in a different house is the ability to evaluate that household's DVD collection. I've been noting the content of Underdog: The Ultimate Collection (a three-DVD set, 9 original shows, 18 complete episodes) currently playing in the Thompson household in Maryland.

It contains, not only the expected adventures of the super-identity of Friendly Lovable Shoeshine Boy, but also the features "Hunter," "Go Go Gophers," "Klondike Kat," "Tennessee Tuxedo," and "Tooter Turtle." (The [Native American] Gophers, by the way, are just about as non-PC as you can get -- except that they're smarter than the military types whose lives they complicate.)

They're definitely adventures of another era -- but I note that almost without exception the wildest violence happens offscreen. Villains may tote tommy guns, but it seems to me that less damage is done than in the average Warner Brothers cartoon. Explosions abound, but the results tend toward holes in walls and scuff marks on those involved.

And how do the adventures seem to fare with today's children (aka 7-year-old Jonah and 4-year-old Grace)? The kids seem to be having a good time. As am I.


Starbucks Splash Sticks

Travel can expose you to many delights you don't encounter if you stay locked in a limited routine.

Linda Holmes had blogged some time ago about the utility of Starbucks splash sticks, and I'd kept an eye out for them at the assorted Starbucks kiosks I encounter in the course of a month or so. But I'd never seen one of the little devils. The catch is, of course, that a Starbucks in an airport or in a bookstore isn't necessarily an actual Starbucks-owned venue: a part of the chain, per se. But Denise and I were in the neighborhood of a true Starbucks site on Friday, and (in the midst of sipping a Mint Chocolate Frappacino Venti) I asked about the availability of the splash sticks.

The kindly proprietor smiled benevolently and handed me five! I gave one to Denise, we showed one to a customer seated at a table when she asked to see one, and I am now the proud owner of four Starbucks splash sticks: at least one of which I shall carry with me on coffee-purchasing shopping trips. What a great idea! (Thanks, Linda! Thanks, Starbucks!)


Adventures in Grandparenting

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I'm relaxing in the course of a pleasant evening that has been spent babysitting 7-year-old Jonah and 4-year-old Grace. We're winding down after supper and (at Grace's request) have watched the entirety of the Scholastic DVD that begins with Laurie Keller's Open Wide: Tooth School Inside.

Naturally enough, we follow up with the Scholastic DVD that begins with the perennial Jonah favorite, also by Keller, The Scrambled States of America. I've always enjoyed both books, and the DVD adaptations are nicely done. But the remainder of the "children's book" adaptations on the second DVD are not quite so based in children's literature; the second "story" is, while based on the children's book's pictures by Kathy Jakobsen, really primarily Arlo Guthrie's performance of his father's song "This Land Is Your Land."

So I'm still mellow, and the kids begin by sitting passively enough -- but soon, with little warning, a dispute begins. "This land is my land!" says Grace. "No, it's my land!" retorts Jonah. "It's quieting down time," says Grandma Maggie. "My land!" "My land!" "Settle down." And so it goes for all umpty verses of a song which is itself, if you listen closely, not quite as mushily sentimental as some people think.


Betsy Curtis: A Hunt for Illustrations

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My mother was Betsy Curtis, whose science-fiction stories began to be published in the 1950s. It's weird that it hasn't occurred to me till now to try to track down the art used to illustrate those stories, but I've been chatting with George Hagenauer recently about the possibility of locating one or more of the pieces.

Her bibliography (in chronological order) is as follows:

"Divine Right" F&SF (Sum 50) NO PIC
"The Old Ones" Imagination (Dec 50) Ramon Raymond
"The Protector" Galaxy (Feb 51) David Stone
"The Ones" Marvel Science Stories Vol 3 #3 (May 51) Lee J. Ames
"A Peculiar People" F&SF (Aug 51), HC The Best Science-Fiction Stories 1952 (Everett F. Bleiler & T.E. Dikty); The Best Science Fiction Stories: Third Series, 1953 NO PIC
"The Trap" Galaxy (Aug 53) Emsh (unsigned)
"Temptress of Planet Delight" Planet Stories (May 53) Kelly Freas
"Of the Fittest" Universe (Jul 54) H.W. McCauley, reprinted in Authentic Science Fiction #73 (Sep 56) John Mortimer
"Rebuttal" Infinity (Jun 56) [a story responding to Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star"] John Giunta (pic also used for "The Star")
"Latter-Day Daniel" If (Mar 67) NO PIC
"The Steiger Effect" Analog (Oct 68) [Nominated for Hugo Award] Leo Summers
"The Key to Out" 1970 HC, Alchemy and Academe; 1980 SC, Alchemy & Academe NO PIC
"Earth to Earth" Amazing Stories (Sep 72) Steve Harper (unsigned)
"Of Course" Amazing Science Fiction (Jun 73) NO PIC

The Old Ones

The Protector

The Ones

The Trap

Temptress of Planet Delight (clearly)

Of the Fittest (Universe)

Of the Fittest (Authentic)


The Steiger Effect

Earth to Earth


Ah, Those Good Intentions

Monday, May 5, 2008

It's what I get for declaring how often I'd be contributing blog entries. Mea culpa.

When I left the house on Friday to see Iron Man (which was well worth seeing: one of the best comic-book screen adaptations), my home Internet connection was working fine. When I got back, it wasn't working. Turn it off, turn it on again, three different computers, try each, yadda, yadda.

Trying again Saturday (Free Comic Book Day -- did you get yours?), it still wasn't working.

Sunday (a mini-convention in Oconomowoc) morning, Sunday evening, the same.

I'm at the office this morning -- which is why I can post right now. I've reported it to the provider. We shall see. Snarl.


DAN! and GFCF: Gee, It's Ghee!

Friday, May 2, 2008

About the acronyms: DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now! and it's a controversial treatment for autism. I don't give much of a hoot about the controversy; I know that in the case of 5-year-old Grandson Devon the DAN! protocol has helped incredibly. Yes, it's anecdotal -- but there had been no progress until the experiment of removing gluten and milk from his diet resulted in almost instantaneous progress many months ago. So this anecdote in this case says it's doggone well worth the experiment, folks.

GFCF is what the diet change is called, and it stands for gluten-free, casein-free. And, boy, is it fun shopping for groceries when you're trying to follow that protocol! All those good-for-you multi-grain "healthy" cereals and breads are off-limits for starters. My beloved Cornell Bread recipe is entirely based on what GFCF diets can't have: nonfat dry milk, wheat germ, and soy flour.

Oh, yes, that's the third torment. Even GFCF cookbooks seem to shovel in the soy. And, in Devon's case, anecdotal though it is, diet restrictions include soy -- at least for the time being.

But there was a development yesterday that I haven't seen in any of the (admittedly limited) hunts I've made on bookstore shelves and online. Daughter Valerie mentioned that Devon loves it when his meals are prepared with Ghee but, she added, it was expensive. But, I replied, Ghee is just clarified butter! See "remove gluten and milk" in that first paragraph! Ak!

Yes, it is -- but, in clarifying the butter, you remove the casein! Didn't see that in the GFCF cookbooks I checked -- at least one of which kept using "non-dairy margarine" as a butter substitute. (Ik.)

Heck, clarifying butter is easy; I used to do it in preparing meals where I wanted the butter without the low smoking point. Commercially available Ghee is apparently hard to find and expensive when you locate it. But butter? It's in every refrigerator case. And Ghee has lots of advantages; you can even keep it at room temperature for a month or so without its going rancid.

To clarify butter, you bring it to a boil at medium while stirring (keep an eye on it; you don't want to burn it). Skim off the foam -- and keep skimming it, This process takes about 7 minutes, at which point, the butter will be golden and you'll have skimmed all the froth. You can let it cool a bit. Then carefully pour it through fine mesh (like a fine strainer or three layers of cheesecloth) into Pyrex or similar dish, leaving the brown solid residue in the bottom of the pan. Store the Ghee in an airtight container -- but it'll keep OK at room temperature. And then you can use it in GFCF food preparation: no soy, no need to avoid butter in recipes.

And a final tip (which a friend told me this morning, when I shared the Ghee anecdote): In a lot of baking, you can try substituting applesauce -- measure for measure -- for oil or shortening in recipes that call for it. As opposed to Ghee, I haven't tried that for myself. Just saying.


Oh, sweet comics, you rule my life

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Or something. In any case, tomorrow is Iron Man Day, and the Appleton Hollywood theater has showings at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12:30, 3:30, 6:30, and 9:30, according to (I have the Fox Trot Sunday strip among my choices -- and note that there's even an Iron Man reference there.

That should mean I can get shopping (including camcorder cassettes for Free Comic Book Day recording Saturday) done in the morning and still take my pick of afternoon show times. Mind you, it looks as if thundershowers and temperatures in the upper 50s will be the norm for the weekend -- but they grow us tough in Wisconsin. We can do it.

And I'll spend part of the weekend brainstorming with John Jackson Miller about this site to figure out what items I can add. We'll both be at a mini-comics-convention on Sunday -- and I hope to come out of it with a schedule of Stuff to Post. Stay tuned.


Spring in Wisconsin

Monday, April 28, 2008

According to my calendar, spring arrived March 20. This morning, when I left the house to drive to my daily morning swim, I found the ground covered with a layer of snow.

I post this as a note to warn myself a year from now that, well, that I live in Wisconsin and should be prepared.

But I haven't seen a single mosquito here in 2008. Hah!


More on Linda Holmes

Sunday, April 27, 2008

You may have seen my April 14 recommendation to check out Linda Holmes' blog.

I'm just letting you know that she now has her own website, where her comments continue. I continue to recommend both her topics and her skills at expressing many things I believe but don't say as well.


Unexpected projects

Little did I think Friday, when I arrived home from the office (mind still chugging through what I was going to do for my feature in Comics Buyer's Guide #1643 -- a feature which is turning out to be a lot of fun), that I'd be hearing so soon from my near-and-dear son, Stephen.

And "near" was the operative term, since it turned out that he was calling, not from his office in Washington, D.C., not from his home in Silver Spring, Md., but from Madison, Wis. -- a mere two hours' drive away! What th--?

Seems he and wife, Denise, had decided that a storage unit in Madison, where they'd been storing much of their Stuff for the past two years, had become (a) a nuisance and (b) a financial drain. So he and some of Denise's kindly (strong) family members were clearing out the storage unit into a U-Haul and were driving said truck to Denise's parents' home in Gresham (a mere one hour's drive away for me).

So Saturday morning, I drove to Gresham (much to the surprise of Denise's mom, who was not expecting me) and got there about 10 minutes before the U-Haul hove into sight. At which point, those of us with strong backs began to unload a strange assortment of Stuff into a basement. It's just as well the decision was taken at this point, because (warning! warning! warning!) you can't always count on a storage unit to be water-tight, and several boxes were starting to disintegrate.

I have come away from the experience with arms that are sore, if I move them this way (so don't move them this way, silly!), and the determination that this will be the year that sees some of my Stuff out of my house and dispersed to locales where no one of my acquaintance will have to deal with it any more.


Clambering on the horse again

OK, I admit it.

The foul-up with SuperPhone (a Mobile PC from Verizon) a week ago made me wary of posting online again. It looks as though everyone is in the midst of figuring out what the problem is -- and, in the meantime, I shan't attempt such communications again. Me for ordinary postings via ordinary computers.

Except that later in the week, the Dell from which I'm posting at the moment (yes, another home computer; I seem to be wallowing in computers) suddenly decided that it wasn't going to accept its wireless keyboard (though its wireless mouse worked just fine). I replaced the batteries, turned everything off (going so far as to unplug everything), turned everything on again -- nope. I tried deleting the keyboard and adding it again -- nope. I checked some of the "Help" information, and it suggested using a wired keyboard to do the hookup. So I bought a (cheapo) wired keyboard and this morning finally had nerve enough to plug it into the USB port. At which point, the Dell announced proudly that it had located a wireless keyboard and didn't I want to use it?

Heck, yes.

I've left the wired keyboard hooked in as a threat to the wireless keyboard. Maybe that'll keep it in line. And I'm back to the "daily" blog.


Super-Phone isn't letting me post here

Thursday, April 17, 2008

That's why no post yesterday. I assure you, yesterday's post was brilliant -- brilliant, I say. There was wisdom therein that could have changed the lives of all readers.

Or maybe it was just nattering on how I'd had a terrific day in New York City, capped by an interview with DC Comics' Zuda team. (Video will eventually be online at CBGXtra. Stay tunred.)

It continues to be frustrating that, after I've blogged via SuperPhone, I get a red-lettered note that saying something like, "Entry Is Needed." And then the entire entry disappears. Sigh. Dunno if it's the phone or this site. I can e-mail via the Internet just fine. But blogging? Not as simple.

Plans for today: Into the city again. I'll see whether I can get press credentials at the Javits Center this morning (probably not -- and it'll be a hike back to civilization, since shuttle busses won't be running). Target is to meet Patty Jeres at the Blue Fin restaurant at 1537 Broadway (212) 918-1400 at 12:30 p.m. Hoping to contact Carolyn Kelly to join us there. We shall see.

Then, a quick 4:30 meeting with Michael Uslan, if all goes as planned -- and then a hike back to Grand Central Station for the trip home. Cold is (sniffle) getting better, following massive infusions of Vitamin C. Can you tell that this blog has become a boring account I'm using more for my own purposes? Apologies. But, oh, that yesterday post you never saw ...


The New York Comicon is coming, and I...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

.. have a sore throat?


So I'm pounding down Vitamin C and getting adequate sleep and all. But sharing a house with a grandson with a cold? Well, there's just so much self-immunizing one can do.

In the meantime, it looks as if today's noblest goal will be to get laundry done. Dang!


Have You Ever Heard of Linda Holmes?

Monday, April 14, 2008

No? Well, have you ever heard of the website Television without Pity? While she was there, she was the snarky wordsmith on several of the most entertaining review strings.

More on Linda in her own words;

Linda Holmes grew up wanting to be a writer, but quit at eighteen because she was too chicken to approach professors to get into college-level writing classes. TRUE STORY! She also discovered that her instinctive enjoyment of picking apart logical problems and human behavior was a good match for the study of law, so she went off to law school. While in law school, she started writing movie reviews on the internet, which nobody cared about except her family and friends and a couple of random fans whose names are lost to history.

She successfully passed the bar exam and became an attorney. She worked for the Minnesota legislature for six years, doing legal analysis and drafting legislation (ask her about the temporary abolition of the Board Of Boxing and why you can’t sell cars in Minnesota on Sundays!). It was during this time that she became a fan of, and then started freelancing for, Television Without Pity, where she had the remarkable good fortune to be assigned The Amazing Race as her very first show.

Those words are from her newly established website, Things What Things.

As soon as I can figure out how to do it, I'll be adding her to the links at the side of my home page -- just so I can save a few steps in finding out what essay she's posted most recently. For example, yesterday her post including this valuable information (valuable for me, because my daughter works in New York City and my son works in Washington, D.C., and the rest of their respective families are nearby):

Instead of the usual Greyhound approach of stopping fairly frequently and taking a long time as a result and costing a lot, Boltbus only goes between a few spots, and it goes express with no stops. In New York, it leaves from a couple of places, one of which is at 33rd and 7th across from Madison Square Garden, only a couple of blocks from the F train. Better yet, it drops off in DC right in front of the Metro Center stop on the D.C. Metro, making it very easy to go wherever you need to go next. I decided to try it out this weekend for a last-minute jaunt to D.C. to see the MS — missed my sis this time, but I’ll get her next time, and it won’t be long, because I LOVE BOLTBUS.

They promote two things about Boltbus very prominently: it’s cheap, and it has wireless. Indeed, even at the very last minute, I paid $40 roundtrip from New York to D.C., and if you have a little more notice, you can get a ticket for $30. Or $20. Or $14. Or, if you book a month or so in advance, $2. That’s right — part of their charm is that they offer a one-dollar fare each way, provided you book early enough. Not many of those two-buck fares are available, I’m sure, but that makes New York to D.C. and back the same price as taking the train from Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center.

Wow, huh? Thanks, Linda! I've got my eye on you (or, rather, your superb wordcraftings) from now on.



Sunday, April 13, 2008

Since it begins to look as if a visit to Fred Kida is not going to happen, a large chunk of yesterday was spent lolling about in family entertainment. So I watched a terrific mystery movie, Green for Danger, with brother Paul and son-in-law Zander yesterday afternoon and the recent Disney release Enchanted with daughter Valerie and Zander yesterday evening.

Both were successes with the new audiences, so let me suggest both for your own viewing.

Green for Danger made a star out of its detective -- Alistair Sim -- and the script sparkles. Moreover, the mystery is fair and solvable -- and Zander noted and solved several bits in advance of The Big Reveal. See if your local library can find a copy for you.

I've had several people indicate surprise at my enthusiastic recommendations of Enchanted, but the delights of a Disney satire on its own film library and approaches to storytelling are many and rewarding. I gather the BluRay release is packed with more "footnotes" to elements of the film, and I'll add this to my shopping list when I finally go shopping for a player.


Well, THAT Wasn't as Simple as I'd Hoped

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Up and dazed this morning, after being up 22 hours coping with delayed and canceled flights. Long story short: fog in Milwaukee and bad weather elsewhere. Still, I'm fond of the Milwaukee airport (the terminal bookstore is Renaissance Books, which stocks used books; what can I say?), and it was tiring but not horrible.

Still, all attempts to post from my phone (and I made several tries) failed. Sigh. Let's hope it's more cooperative at the upcoming NYC comics convention.

And the experience stands as a warning about summer conventions: If you're traveling by air, you might want to consider giving yourself lots of leeway, so that you can smile and adjust rather than snarl at the poor souls at the gate, who had nothing to do with the fix you're in. (I told one of those staffers, "I wouldn't have your job for a squillion dollars." She responded, "I'm eligible for early retirement, and I'm seriously considering it.")

It would be nice if whoever handles the assortment of announcement boards (which are well set up and well placed throughout the Milwaukee airport) were a little more clued-in, though. I noticed that the Flight 15 I was scheduled to take out of Milwaukee was listed on the Arrivals Board as "On Time," but that it was (a) already past the time it should have arrived and (b) given as "Delayed" on the Departures Board.

I was lucky that my situation was not even particularly urgent -- which is why I'm hoping we can all plan ahead for con season. It's one thing to be six hours delayed in arriving in NYC when you're just aiming for a pleasant family weekend; it's quite another to miss a panel with your favorite artist because you're stranded in Chicago.


Crossing my fingers...

Friday, April 11, 2008

I've checked multiple times with the Midwest Airlines website, and it continues to assure me that the flights I'll be on today are On Time. So today's schedule puts me on airplanes to New York City one full week before the New York Comic-Con. This lets me hang out with family over the weekend and (fingers crossed again) see whether it'll be possible for me to visit artist Ed Kida, whose "Airboy" stories were so captivating from Hillman. (Not to downplay his other work, but I thought Airboy was especially keen.)

Part of the challenge of this trip is coordinating NYC activities pre-con. Thursday is already getting nicely booked; we'll see whether hopes of doing videos with comics people earlier in the week come to anything. It's a two-hour commute between daughter Valerie's home and Grand Central Station, so I won't make it on a whim. But it's certainly worth the effort, if I can come up with news and views. (The Karen Berger video interview on was done pre-con last year, for example.)

The dishwasher is chugging away, the trash has been set out for garbage pickup, and now it's back to packing.



Thursday, March 20, 2008


Found More: Newfangles!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Searches through a couple of filing cabinets and a stack on a bookshelf have turned up Newfangles #11 (Jun 68, including news that DC was about to cancel Bomba, Inferior 5, Blackhawk, and The Spectre) through #18 (Jan 69, more cancellations, including Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Not Brand Ecch, Anthro, The Hawk and the Dove, Doctor Solar, and probably Bat Lash).

And A Decade of Comics Fan Awards: 1961-1970.

Oh, and #19 (Feb 69, reprieves for Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, and possibly Bat Lash) through #28 (Nov 69, packed with news and views, including Harvey Kurtzman's projects).

And #47 (May 71, opening with the exciting news of an upcoming 500-page comic selling for $2, DC's upcoming Blockbuster; no, doggone it, never published) through #54 (Dec 71, our final issue, including a nasty letter from Bill Griffith, who called us vermin -- ah, those were the days).

So, while I continue to hunt for #29-#46, there's some scanning in my future. Woo hoo!


The Indexing That Is to Come

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John Jackson Miller, who continues to walk me through this whole process, has suggested that I provide introductions to each "Fanzine Library" entry. This will (a) make it easier for me to find data in the increasing stack of back issues and (b) likewise enable Google searches to locate topics in what is otherwise merely a grainy picture.

So it'll happen -- but meanwhile I continue my search for the next 10 issues of Newfangles. Just saying ...


And Now Stephen's Hip-Deep in SXSW

The day began with a Morning Edition conversation between Renee Montagne and Stephen. Much fun, nice singers and songs. Great way to start the day!

And a quick visit to the website has the report of the live concert tonight that culminates with a performance by R.E.M. Don't you wish you'd followed my blog from Day One?

That's OK. Whenever you check out those links, the broadcasts should be there.


Cornell Bread Recipe: Have You Tried It?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not everything on this site is comics-centric, you'll note. Today, I'm wondering how many people today are familiar with Dr. Clive McCay's "Cornell Triple-Rich Flour Formula" bread. I first came across it in the 1967 printing of Joy of Cooking and have experimented with it off and on since. This week, it's "on" again.

Here's the deal: McCay experimented with rats to find a method of bread-baking that would provide a loaf that basically supplied nutrients needed for life. (He sweetly paid tribute to those rats in his publication of the recipe.) And it's pretty simple.

In the bottom of each cup of flour that you measure for whatever bread recipe it is that you use, put one tablespoon of soy flour, one tablespoon of dry milk, and one teaspoon of wheat germ. That's it. The result is a heavier loaf, and I hadn't tried it recently with my breadmaker.


I tried it Sunday with a quickbread recipe. That's one that doesn't use yeast to raise the dough. So it's easy and, yes, quick. Moreover, I used a recipe that already involved wheat germ, so all I had to add was the dry milk and the soy flour. It came out good enough -- but unexciting. Later this week, I'm going to try adding currants and diced dried apple. I like having a fast snack that's actually nourishing; we shall see.


Travel to the past with Newfangles

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thanks to the guidance of Kindly John Jackson Miller, I've just finished posting the first 10 issues of our Newfangles newsletter: a mimeographed publication that began as a bimonthly in 1967 and grew in size and frequency in 1968.

You can journey now to those thrilling days of yesteryear and join those who lived through the evolution of comics, when you could still acquire key comics without devastating your budget. (Or could you? With a growing family, we couldn't afford that pricey Action #1. Heck, it could set you back as much as $300. Who had that kind of cash?)

More to come!


Son Stephen Is Preparing for South by Southwest

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A lengthy chat on the phone today with Stephen (who's a music producer with National Public Radio) leaves me feeling exhausted merely at the contemplation of the things he has to do for the next week. Tomorrow morning, he's in the studio to prepare an interview that is scheduled to air on Morning Edition Wednesday, March 12. That's in the midst of preparing all the other material that will have to be done seamlessly while he's in Texas.

Noon Tuesday he flies to Austin and runs around for the next days, seeing to it that he (a) hears the bands he needs to hear, (b) helps preside (in one fashion or another) over the programs that will be available online, and (c) helps play host to a big NPR event on the 13th. When all is wrapped up, he'll fly back on the 16th to work up a report on the week that is scheduled to air on Morning Edition on St. Patrick's Day.

Sorta like Comic-Con International: San Diego -- if I were also trying to come up with some sort of coherent summary of the entire event (instead of my piece of it) the second it was over.

There's an audio preview for your audio enjoyment online now. Though I know no one is in the habit of checking my blog on this site as yet.


Don and Maggie 1983

Here's a YouTube post (taped and posted by The Buyer's Guide founder Alan Light) of the Thompsons in 1983. Alan had braved a Wisconsin winter to visit Iola and record this for our immortality.


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