Saturday, February 07, 2009

Volunteering at AFB

Okie dokie...

I went to the Austin Food Bank this morning, and aside from getting a little schwetty, the work was really very pleasant. We listened to music, chatted a bit, and it was pretty low pressure.

Our little crew first bagged 160 packages of food that had some specific destination, then we sorted huge, huge crates of canned fruit into smaller boxes for distribution. if you can count to 30, then you would do well at the Austin food Bank.

I am going to go ahead and put this out there:

If you would like to maybe volunteer with The League, e-mail me, and I will get us a group sign up. I can't promise you a specific date but it would probably be in two or three weeks, and probably in the morning from 9-12 down south near us.

So e-mail me if you're interested. If you would rather do the afternoon, let me know. We can be flexible.

Presidential Language

It seems that President Obama did the narration for the audio versions of his own books, which makes complete sense.

What makes it interesting is when the President starts quoting other people. Other people who might have more of a, shall we say, common manner of speech than what we normally associate with the leader of the free world.

Needless to say, our more sensitive Leaguers will want to bypass this link. So, Judy, do not click here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Peabo Ruins it For Everyone.

You know, Peabo, when I ask for people to indulge their dreams of avarice, saying you would spend your $20 million taking a "trip to one of the poorest orphanages in Mexico or Central America, spend a week there to see what its like for those kids" sort of makes me regret my "Skybox for UT football games" reponse.

Screw you and your forcing me to have a moment of introspection.

Confessions of a Shop-a-Holic

Here's a movie that already seems like a relic from a by-gone era of about six months ago.

Ha ha ha... remember when people had money?

600,000 people lost their jobs last month. Suddenly some bobble-head taking up a job so she can bankroll her shoe fetish instead of someone feeding their three kids doesn't seem so adorable.

Also... stop it. We don't need third generation photocopies of "The Devil Wears Prada" meets "Sex in the City" for tweens. Just... stop it.

Anyone using the phrase "holic" always reminds me of this Onion article.


Jamie recently took a look at our expenses versus my take-home. We're doing okay, but it does do quite a bit to slow you down in your tracks.

I guess the part that's tough is figuring out how much I can actually spend on comics per month. I mean, what's food and shelter, right...? But I am going to have to curtail some expenditures, and comics are the obvious luxury item.


I need to figure out how I can get comp copies that reviewers receive. So, I guess look forward to The League's transformation into an all-comic reviews site heavy with advertising. Not really.

But that trip to Hawaii seems incredibly far off at this point.

We may have to sell Jeff the Cat.


I found this strip well suited to my tastes.


is no longer at our house as she's gone home to Jason after a few days at the cousin-dog house.

I shall miss her enthusiasm at my appearance each time I descend the stairs.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bloom County Collected!

Comic publishing company IDW, who made their bones with horror comic "30 Days of Night" has scored a major win, by grabbing the license to reprint the entire run of Berkely Breathed's comic series "Bloom County" in its entirety.

Heidi talks about it here.

It's hard to gauge what an impact the series had on me as a kid, and how much Breathed's absurdist viewpoint impacted how I understood the world beyond Pencewood Drive as I was growing up. I routinely had to check the paper, watch the news or check with my parents as to who certain figures were that appeared in the strip as political or pop culture figures (I wasn't entire sure who Tip O'Neill or Jeane Kirkpatrick might be, for example). Nor was the a-political Steans-Clan much of a place where such figures would have otherwise come up in conversation. This was, of course, all pre-useful-internet.

The political aspect was just a percentage of what one could expect. In order to get Breathed's take to work, he filled his world with rock bands featuring tubas, penguins, and tongue-playing cats. An ex-UT frat boy named, appropriately, Steve Dallas (Breathed introduced the character in a strip in the Daily Texan while attending UT). A personal computer that talked back. A divorcee and his son with a working anxiety closet. And a curious lot of commentary about smoking. The cast was not averse to piloting a wheelchair as they role-played Star Trek. And the ever-wise-for-his-age Milo Bloom. Most of it worked. Not all of it did. But a strip or two later the comic was back to cruising speed.

Bloom County was the comic strip that bridged the period when I sort of lost interest in "Garfield" or "Hi & Lois" and found my interest in even Beetle Bailey dwindling. It was just as I was getting into "The Far Side", but probably pre-dated "Calvin and Hobbes" and others. And as simply brilliant as Gary Larson could be in a single panel, or as much as Watterson could turn from chaotic hilarity in one panel to wistful walks in the meadow the next, Breathed built a world of characters with distinct personality, voices, viewpoints and was able to take on any and all topics from "Knight Rider" to Televangelists to why kids listen to metal instead of Billy Joel.

I'm also a particular fan of Breathed's cartooning style, which would barely survive in the strip sizes of today (think about how blocky strips like "Foxtrot" have become so that the images are legible. Of course, Bloom County was never exactly Prince Valiant, either.). Contemporary to Guisewhite's "Cathy", and her stock five poses, and two faces, Breathed's characters had hair, held deeply descriptive body language in their poses and expressions, and existed in a fish-eyed, detailed environment on Sundays or when Breathed needed room to play. Character design was specific and meaningful. And characters leaned, sprawled across and interacted with their environment.

One of my treasured collections is still the "Complete Calvin and Hobbes". I'm slowly building up a run of the Complete Peanuts. And one day hope to obtain the mammoth Complete Far Side collection as well. But that bookshelf would never feel complete without Bloom County as the main attraction, and the opportunity to flip open the pages and re-visit the residents of that creaky, improbably constructed boardinghouse.

Here's a set of strips that are kind of interesting in light of recent events.

I'm not sure I'd point to Achewood as a direct heir to Bloom County, but the large cast of (animal) characters with separate view points, and who do not have to have their lives invaded by Mary Worth is something of a genetic line, I think. Many compared "Bloom County" to Trudeau's "Doonesbury", and there were some similarities as Doonesbury took on political humor, and occasionally featured non-human players. Both addressed issues in the news beyond the political, but Trudeau's satire was a sort of generational thing, aimed pretty squarely at himself and his peers (as I saw it), where one didn't know what one would expect from Bloom County from week to week, be it Star Trek gags, an attempt to stop Steve's smoking, Opus' engagement to Lola Granola...

The comic is not to everyone's taste (I don't think The Admiral ever cracked a smile at the strip), and these days it reads as a time capsule of the day's headlines, anxieties, fads, phobias and cynicisms that younger readers may not entirely recall or understand. Do they even know the weight of a phrase like "Jim and Tammy"? Or why we thought introducing Bill the Cat to sell merchandise to the masses (as originally presented by Milo) would be hilarious?

If a collection of Bloom County is possible, then perhaps the follow up series of Outland and Opus? And maybe the UT strip, Academia Waltz? Who knows?

Anyhow, I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

No post this evening.

I'm actually kind of tired and want to turn in early.

Here's an Alex Ross interpretation of The Amazing Amazon.

Because I don't want to leave you with nothing to read:

You have just won a sweepstakes and, after taxes, will have $20 million dollars.

Let's assume that, as a great humanitarian, you've already given a truckload to charity. After paying off your house, loans, bookie, etc...

1) What are the three luxuries that you would allow yourself in the first week?

2) What are two items you would never buy, even with all that dough?

3) Would you keep showing up at work?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

many topics

Dogs (Mine and those of others)

Cassidy is here. We never bothered to move the couches back after the Superbowl on Sunday, and with two dogs in the house, I'm not very inclined to do so. Everyone kind of gets a spot.

Lucy has been much better after her misfire with the rawhide bone the other week. She's been back to normal speed for a while. I do fear she's getting really, really spoiled these days in Mel's absence and with Jeff the Cat spending more time upstairs and peacefully snoozing during the day.

For those of you who missed it, TST has brought a pup into her own life by adopting a retired greyhound. Before Lucy, Jamie and I had talked long and hard about doing the same, as... hey! it's a dog that's already been trained. And they have a great disposition. Unfortunately, we also read in more than one place that they can chase cats. So if you want to blame someone, blame Jeff.

I am thrilled for TST and her new pal. I believe his name is Holley. May they take over Houston together.

Work is Busy

Work has finally caught up with me. I still really like my job, but I'm past the honeymoon period and its work. I have to plan months out. I need to not screw up.

It's a good thing.

The Boss

I think Jason will be trying to get us tickets to see Springsteen. Jamie will, most likely, not go.


I want to take Jamie to Hawaii this year. I want to see her dance about in a grass skirt with a wreath of brightly colored flowers atop her noggin. And we should sip fruity drinks in a lounge chair at 6:00 pm.

Is it totally evil that I hope things sink a little lower so I can actually afford to take my wife on a single vacation in this lifetime?

That said, I am dreading (absolutely dreading) the flight. So I can wait.


Friends at my former employing university are on staggered furloughs. If you don't know what this means, it translates thusly: They are not getting paid to work, so the university is sending them away in blocks of time that will, hopefully, not impact the university too greatly. But, basically, everyone is seeing their salaries decreased.

When they start talking about "freezing tuition" at universities, beware. And when you vote for people who vote against supporting university funding, also ponder what that means. Universities need funding for everything from test tubes to trash bags to handicap parking spot paint. When you have no state funding, and you have no tuition money, you're left with the kindness of strangers supporting your favorite university. And when those strangers realize their pockets are empty...?

There's a slight chance that people might not be able to graduate this semester at that school I mentioned if the furloughs get longer, wider, deeper, what-have-you.

Universities get funded from somewhere. And while tuition is expensive, those fees barely begin to cover the total expenses of most schools. Schools like the University of Texas are hard to understand to the outside observer. We can all agree we need the school for the educational aspect, and we can agree that we need something beyond a "teaching college", but its hard to understand the value of the scholarship, research, etc... going on.

Anyway, its easy to be cavalier about Universities and the fact that they cost money, but its a complicated eco-system. If you're concerned its all a bunch of communism, then I'd point to how universities get their rankings, research funding, etc... in what's a pretty straightforward system of meritocracy. In order to draw the right talent (which equates to rankings and research dollars), you gotta have the dough. So if you want your degree to be worth something (or your kid's degree), it costs money. So ponder what having Stanford has meant to Palo Alto, or what having UT has meant to Austin and its industry. Or what the Research Triangle means to North Carolina as per producing talent, which attracts companies, etc... Its an eco-system, and all of these things need each other.

With such a terrific tradition of public higher education in this country, its my sincere hope that a university education does not return to pre-WWII levels of being accessible almost exclusively to the wealthy. Or that public institutions become second class universities.

Music is Hope at the End of the World (or: Superman Sings!)

Dr. K's 100-Page Super Spectacular: Final Crisis Post Mortem Interlude: The Song at the End of the World

This will mean nothing to you if you're not reading DC's event comic, Final Crisis, but...

My attempt to identify the song that's the secret of life?

I never do these memes. Bear with me.

The League Volunteer Challenge

Jason was trying to beat me to the punch on this, but... The League is going to steal his thunder.

Ladies and germs, I throw down the gauntlet.

At the urging of President and Mrs. Obama to get off our duffs and volunteer, this Saturday I'm headed down the Capital Area Foodbank to spend a few hours, reportedly polishing food cans or some such (apparently we need to clean all the cans because who knows where they've been).

Late Edit: Before you show up on Saturday morning, the Foodbank actually wants you to sign up first before showing up. They do this to manage numbers, I assume. I was also going to gauge interest before moving forward on signing people up for this activity. If its totally awful, then I'm not going to be suggest it as a volunteer opportunity.

Jason had some wheels spinning and began opining that he might try to have an Adventurers volunteer meet-up with the Foodbank. But I say thee nay. Steanso shall not upstage me.

Surely we can recruit Austin Area Leaguers (once I've checked this thing out and find out its not some scam where, once inside, they take your wallet).

Of Local Leaguers, who would be up for spending a morning or afternoon volunteering if Steanso and I put together a meet-up? Not this weekend, but in the near future?

Let's use our power for good, Leaguers.

Not really doing it for me...

Am I the only one creeped out by the sexualization of the Green M&M in the animated M&M ads?

Aside from the obvious (it's an M&M), does the female gender assignment automatically equate to sexiness? And, for the love of mike, wasn't there another way to pitch these fancy-type "premium" M&M's?

And if I'm this creeped out, doesn't it really mean there's someone out there who likes Ms. Green a little too much?

Monday, February 02, 2009

McDuck Family Tree

I really can't recommend the Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck comics enough for fun, all-ages reading. It's a little cost prohibitive coming from Gemstone, but when the stories are coming from Don Rosa or Carl Barks, I always feel I got my money's worth.

I particularly recommend the very reasonably priced "Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck" and it's companion volume.

The two collections act as a flashback, going back to the days well before Scrooge obtained his moneybin, which you will remember from the 90's-era cartoon, Duck Tales. Duck Tales was based upon a very, very long running comic series which has an insanely devoted, international audience. These days, a lot of new Duck material comes from Europe, where, I guess, the Ducks still have a strong foothold.

The Duck, the Myth...

To give someone an idea of the scope of the Duck comics, but not to intimidate anyone, because you don't need to know all this to like the comics.... here's a family tree of the characters in the Scrooge McDuck, et al comics.


The series did begin before modern sensibilities took hold, often regarding a dated typical anglo-saxons view of much of the world. And so you do, occasionally, have to grimace through a less-than-PC take on foreign lands, etc...* The Barks and Rosa** stories are well plotted, usually surprisingly well-researched, and as big on adventure as they are on comedy, which is saying something when Donald Duck is a major player.

*While I obviously don't agree with the outdated portrayals, etc... I also am deeply uncomfortable with dismissing material out of hand. Instead, I feel it's healthier to view it as an historical artifact.

**Rosa's stories are from the modern era and don't tend to reinforce outmoded or negative stereotypes

Sunday, February 01, 2009


I don't think I'm going*, but the lineup for Coachella is, once again, really very good.


I can't help but note that My Bloody Valentine is listed. Part of me refuses to believe they'll keep it together long enough to make the show, but if they're doing Coachella, maybe they'll do ACL Fest?


Paul McCartney
Morrisey (for JimD)
Leonard Cohen
The Crystal Method (your mileage may vary)
Girl Talk
TV on the Radio
Jenny Lewis
Peter Bjorn and John
Public Enemy
The Cure
Throbbing Gristle (A bad I've never heard, but always respected the name. Not quite as awesome as RevCo, but not bad)

No matter what, ACL Fest is going to pale in comparison.

*Jamie and I are talking about taking a lengthy vacation this summer, so that'd be where I'll spend my vacation days.

Well, shoot

It seems the Cardinals, whom I chose to cheer for, lost Superbowl 43.

I was really pulling for Warner and the gang. Ah, well.