Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hi all.

Jamie and I cannot thank all of you enough for your support.

Today was better. We tried to keep busy today, and I think that helped.

Doug has been here with us, and, in fact, was with us yesterday at the vet. I can't say how much we've appreciated having him here. We also spent time with my folks, who were headed back to Spring yesterday, Jamie's folks met us last night for dinner, and Jason joined us for dinner, too, as well as going out with us today.

Lucy knew something was wrong while Mel was sick. She now seems a bit out of sorts, knowing something is definitely wrong. She just seems more anxious than usual. Also, she is probably a bit thrown off by the extra attention, but she did act out a bit when we left for a while for dinner. In fact, she got into a box of biscuits the dogs received as a gift for Christmas. I think she's paying for her super-snack right now.

I think she's missing the comfort of knowing Mel is here, too, when the people go out for a while. But we did leave her with Cassidy at Jason's when we went out earlier, and Cassidy is scheduled to stay with us a day or two this week.

Poor little girl.

Thanks again to all for getting in touch. We really appreciate it, and I know Mel would have loved the attention.

Just so you know, Mel will be cremated. Jamie and I will be spreading his ashes somewhere with water, probably next weekend. If you'd like to join us, just let us know and we'll keep you posted. The same place will be making a plaster mold of Mel's footprint. They will need a lot of plaster.

I am realizing how many little places I was used to communicating with Mel. Coming downstairs first thing in the morning was, of course, a ritual, as you'd usually go to him first (Lucy is less patient and comes to you. Mel knew better and would stay on the couch and wait for his morning greeting if he'd already eaten). Or taking Lucy out to throw the ball, I looked back at the window because I was so used to Mel deciding he wanted to join us in the yard, even if he wasn't going to play. He'd just wait patiently for you to see he was there and come let him out, too.

I think it's going to be a lot of little things like that.

I'll quit going on and on.

Anyway, I am glad that I was exiled to the couch on Christmas Eve (Mel and I both snore) where Mel and I shared the L-shaped sofa by the tree. There were probably much worse ways we could have spent our last Christmas together than him keeping my feet warm.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Goodbye to Melbotis

Hi Leaguers.

As some of you know, Mel became very sick after Christmas. I am still reeling from the events of the past 48 hours or so, and suspect it will be a week or so before it all really sinks in. But we had to say good-bye to Mel this morning. We worked hard with our veterinarians to make the best decisions, and we were with Mel when he went.

I cannot, cannot believe he is gone.

The brown eyes and orange flag of a tail will never be there again when I come home from work. The happy panting as he climbs up on the couch to do nothing more than spend time with you. His patient insistence that all tennis balls belong to him and him alone, and waiting perhaps an hour to finally round them up as Lucy looks on in dismay as her game of fetch comes to an end. Mel's joyful running when we would arrive at the park, his tail spinning in circles as he'd bound free from the car. Seeing his nose and eyes sticking out of the water as he paddles toward you.

When Jamie is sick, he is always the best listener, dispenser of hugs, confidant and distraction. I cannot imagine what it might have been like in Arizona had I not had Mel's steadfast, unquestioning friendship.

I will always remember years ago, when we lived in that clapboard house on Briar street that Mel loved so much. The front yard was fenced with chain link, and he would spend his days in the yard rushing the fence to say hello to any adult and barking in what was the most pathetic excuse for ferociousness you ever saw when kids would come by. Anyway, I loved the afternoons and evening there, throwing the ball for him up and down the side of the house until we'd worked away the grass and he had dug a trench in the earth. I'd then sit on the steps as he'd roll in the yard, letting the sun warm his belly. And if there's any justice or any heaven, that's what he's doing right now, knowing Jamie and I will be up to join him when we get around to it. Knowing we love him so, so much. My boy.

I am not ready to say good-bye. But that's what we had to do today. And I miss him, and I will miss him. Those triangle ears and pink tongue. It's not fair. There's never enough time.

Good bye, Mel. I love you so much. Good boy.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Hey. Happy New Year.

So what does the future hold?
Lots of angry, angry robots.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I have a 2.5 year old topic I need to print a retraction on and make a lot of apologies.

A long time ago I complained (bitterly)
that new Austinites pronounced the street I live near as "Man-chawk-ah" when it has previously been pronounced "Man-shack". It is spelled "Manchaca".

It IS true that the name of both street and the nearby community are pronounced, traditionally in Austin as "Man-shack". But, just as we pronounce Guadalupe as "Gwod-uh-loop", it's just how it is. But that's not what I got wrong. I'm sticking by the "Man-shack" pronunciation. But I now think it was NOT a name of Czech origin. I think that was a bad bit of info I got off the news around 2000.

So this week, for some reason, I tried looking up the work "Manchaca" as a Czech name or word, and I came up with nil. So I looked it up as a Spanish name and, lo and behold, there are innumerable entries of folks of Hispanic origin with the name "Manchaca. So, I have no idea what the people on the news were talking about, and I apologize for single sourcing my story.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Heart Amanda Waller

Amanda Waller. Sounds like the name of someone who might have graduated with you from high school, maybe even rode your bus in middle school.

In DC Comics, the face of power is not that of a certain spit-curled Kryptonian, nor does the image of a cunning mind necessarily belong to a certain pointy-eared detective. Instead, for those of us who pay attention, we know that the toughest-minded, often most heroic person (and often the most stubbornly linear minded person) in the DCU doesn't wear tights, but skirted business suits.

I really have no idea where Amanda Waller first appeared in DC Comics (I think in Legends), but she came to prominence in the pages of Suicide Squad as the iron-willed bureaucrat who wasn't afraid to break a few eggs in order to get an omelette. Namely, she coerced villains of the DCU into doing Uncle Sam's dirty work as a black-ops super-hero team, Task Force X. Succeed in your missions, and get part of your life sentence commuted. Fail, and you'll most likely die somewhere in a foreign land with the US Government denying any knowledge of your existence.

Neither good guy nor bad guy, but always interesting.

Yeah, she's a tough cookie.

Waller has a "chat" with Bats

In addition to running Task Force X (aka: Suicide Squad), Waller pops up in other sort of sketchy Government-run superhero related programs, from UN peacekeeping force Checkmate to all-purpose "we're doing it for the good of the people, whether they like it or not" secret-ops G-Man.

Waller is an intriguing character not just because of her moral complexity, but because she seems 100% feasible. We've all known or met someone who is infinitely smarter, more determined and utterly un-selfconscious about making difficult decisions. In her own way, she's in the same league as Lex Luthor with both ther intellect, drive and concern about the balance of power regarding those caped wonders. Often, Waller plays the voice of a nervous government that would be reasonably concerned about the tight-wearing heroes zipping about the skyscrapers of the DCU. It's an odd bit of semi-realism for a world with Kings of Atlantis and men in red tights outrunning fighter jets.

To give you an idea of what one might expect of Waller, let us compare her to Marvel's Nick Fury if we want to talk G-Men.

1) Amanda Waller + paper work + budget meetings = utterly in character

2) Nick Fury + paper work + budget meetings = chomping a cigar, then complaining loudly about about how these suits don't "get it", and then maybe shooting someone just to meet the day's quota of super-spy action

Waller represents the extremely difficult situation people would find themselves in the DCU. She does not have Superman or Wonder Woman's awesome powers. She does not have Batman's lifelong martial and detective training (but probably his mind and a parallax version of his insight). She doesn't have the luxury of confining her battles to simply taking down the Joker, not when she's playing for keeps in an international arena. We now have series that look at what happens when Superman and Batman decide to play in the same area (Authority, etc...), but that's not the world of DC Comics. And whether or not I agree with Superman's moral code (I do), most others do not, will take advantage, and most people don't have Superman's luxury of bullet-proof skin and eyeballs.

And while she's often squarely in a morally gray area, smart writers like Greg Rucka have used her as an example of the arrogance of American power in international organizations when she was made, pretty clearly, a villain in the superlative Checkmate series as she attempted to maneuver Checkmate into her control/ American influence rather than as the multinational peacekeeping force it was intended to be. And she went down swinging.

But, anyway, when push comes to shove, Amanda Waller is the sort of person you want at your back in the DCU.

Waller gets animated

Waller was also featured in the JLU cartoon as head of Cadmus, a Government organization researching (and cloning) meta-humans. Her inclusion in the series was absolutely brilliant, as was her voicing by CCH Pounder. Originally positioning herself against the Justice League, they eventually teamed up to fight the unenviable foe of a merged Luthor and Brainiac.

Here's JLU plus Waller in action.

By the way, that episode just gets crazier from there...

And now Mattel has announced that they will be creating an Amanda Waller action figure to go with the line of JLU toys I sort of collect. It's a testament both to Waller's popularity and to Mattel's joy at tackling some of the DCU's less well known characters with the the still functioning and relatively inexpensive JLU line.

Finally, an action figure of a bureaucrat I respect and admire

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 More Year End Review

2008 is rapidly drawing to a close. We've already visited 2008 in excrutiating detail previously.

Don't forget: New Year's Eve Party at League HQ. You're invited.

Here's a link to Good Stuff in the comics world in 2008 over at Comic Fodder.

Jason did a "good stuff '08" list of his own that you should check out.

In the end, 2008 was a pretty decent year. If you'd asked me how it was going in September, I probably would have told you to stick it in your ear. Unemployment, an off kilter career and all of the related issues associated really had me down. But I think that's changed a great deal.

1) Employment!

I can't complain about the wonders of a job with benefits, a parking garage, and which puts me into a position where I feel like I'm helping out the world in some, small way. I am actually really enjoying work, so hopefully that will continue well into 2009 and beyond.

2) Re-arranging my comic buying

I've generally been a much happier comic buyer and consumer since I've made my weekly destination for comic purchasing Austin Books rather than the convenient but annoying shop I had been visiting. The crew at Austin Books is far more friendly and knowledgeable, and they understand my need for things like drinking glasses featuring the Justice League. The selection is terrific and they're much better at the whole "special events" thing than I am at participating (although I made it to the Christmas party/ sale).

I am trying to talk Jason into tailgating Free Comic Book Day with me.

3) Relatively Healthy

Jamie has been relatively healthy. We've had trips to the ER and hospital, but its all mostly been on the up and up. Our last trip to the ER was pretty much 90% unnecessary (I won't get into details), which in our world is a very good thing. May family, friends and good doctors continue to buoy Jamie's health and spirits.

4) Lucy behaves

She's not exactly ready to be the poster dog for perfect obedience, but Lucy grew up a lot this year. We no longer worry about her spazzing out any more. It's true, I guess, that labs really are puppies until they're three (or four).

Lucy turned four on Christmas Eve, by the way.

5) Mel in pretty good health

My buddy Mel is officially entering "old dog" status, and that's okay. He's always been one who seemed ready to be wearing slippers and a cardigan from day one. Despite our cancer concerns from earlier in the year, Mel has rebounded beautifully.

We are taking him in for dental work on Monday, but his bloodwork during his recent exam went very, very well.

Love you, pal.

6) Costa Rica Trip

Longtime readers of this blog will note that The League does not hit the road all that often except to see family, etc... So it was particularly fantastic that Jason and I were able to jump a jet and spend a few days kicking around Costa Rica. I can't say enough about how much fun I had (despite that panic attack in the hotel that night. Sorry about that, dude). But it was great to see a geological marvel, see some unfamiliar sights, swim in the ocean and see a coatamundi. All in all, an amazing week.

7) Catching Up With Folks Via Facebook

It's been a weird year as far as social networking technology goes. I've gotten back in touch with a few friends this year that it was probably unlikely I'd have run into again, one way or another, had Facebook not become the gold standard for social management.

I've gotten to see some of these folks, and hope to see the rest at some point. But it's great to catch up with anyone you've lost touch. Some are raising kids, some fighting fires, others are scientists. The trick now is not to lose touch.

8) Keeping up with Leaguers and other Pals

I can't say enough about how much 4 years kicking around Arizona led me to appreciate friends and family. The Steans clan has always been fairly casual about mixing the two, and the tradition continues on. And, honestly, that's the way I assume it always will be. We still enjoy having friends over (see the New Year's invitation), and I think sometimes I forget that all these folks don't know each other. And we still like dinners and nights out with our pals. And, occasionally, some of you will live with us for an extended period of time, and that's good, too.

Of course some Leaguers aren't in town, but that doesn't mean I don't want to know what you're up to or what's going on with you.

9) Writing

I'm still of the opinion that maintaining LoM is worthwhile, and I guess if you're checking in regularly, you feel the same way. It helps me feel like I am writing on a routine basis, even if its not going anywhere. And, of course, I'm still writing over at Comic Fodder, so I'm not just able to talk about comics, but occasionally I become part of the wider conversation going on about comics and comic culture.

I have three New Year's Resolutions, and one is to write even more (but probably not more here). So, yeah, there's that.

10) The Future is Now!

These lists aways seem like a much better idea when you start off, and then you run out of ideas somewhere around Item #7, and find yourself trying to get Jamie to give you some help, but she's tying her shoes and says "Did you talk about the election?" and while it IS really a big issue for you, you try to make a point of not talking politics too much on the blog, so...

I don't want it to pass without mention, but this isn't maybe that kind of list. And I really don't want to end the list on some divisive note, so... Let's stick with something awesome. Rockets and jet packs.

And I'm ready for mine...