Saturday, April 29, 2006 Catching Up with The League
Melbotis's post-op recovery goes apace. He has a big square shaved into his side, about 7" x 7", and his big old scar and stitches sit in the middle. We can't really bandage him, but in an effort to keep him clean, we've asked Mel to put on a shirt. Now he looks like a little man.
Yes, next to The League, everything looks a little smaller.
The League is shocked to learn Mel prefers Marvel to DC
Here is the plate of brownies Jamie made for me on my birthday. I forgot to post this after my birthday.
As last evening was our anniversary, Jamie and I went to Primo, this odd little italian restaurant a few miles from us. The place is in a strip shopping center near a Taco Bell and a bagel shop, but it has decided that a mediocre location and an oddly spartan interior are no reason they can't have really darn good food. For some reason, probably the white tablecloths and waitstaff in white-shirt and tie, most of the patrons have decided that you have to dress up a bit to go to Primo.
Part of that pressure may also come from the fact that 80% of their patrons are from Sun City (the 50 and over community south of us), and this is their big night out for the week. So, heck yeah, these folks put on something a little snazzy. That, of course, isn't the norm in Arizona. Most places are more like Chili's, where if you have a diaper and scuba fins on, you can get a table.
Some people show up in their t-shirts and shorts, look around for a beat, then head to Taco Bell.
Others don't seem to notice, and Ziggy (the owner) doesn't really have a real dress code. If he did, the first time we showed up in t-shirts and shorts, we never would have made it in the door. What I always wonder is what the families like this do when they sit down and see the menu is not pizza, grinders and spaghetti out of a can. They don't ever get up and leave, so they must be figuring something out.
Anyway, Jamie has a new dress she got for her birthday, so she wore it to dinner. She looked lovely. I looked awful. And as I had to come home early to jump-start Jamie's car, I never even got a chance to get her anniversary flowers.
Ah, well. There's always next year.
Speed Skating and Balloons
As some of you may know, Chad Hedrick won the gold medal in Olympic Speed Skating a few months back. He's originally from the same general area of Houston where The League went to high school and where The Admiral and The KareBear still dwell.
Chad's aunt teaches at the same school where The KareBear works, and for some time they've been trying to get Chad to pop in and give a "follow your dreams" speech.
Unfortunately for poor Chad, he also works out occasionally at the gym where the KareBear chisels herself into a menacing teaching machine and guilt dispenser. Now, the KareBear is in awe of Olympians and all that, but she's also mostly interested in her class of kids and getting them inspired. So, The KareBear, not sure what this term "boundaries" means, apparently bugged Chad at the gym (using her patented guilting technique that has never quit working on The League) until he came to Kaiser Elementary and gave his "chase your dreams" speech.
Way to go, KareBear.
Oh, and apparently my Mom's school put her up in a hot air ballon yesterday. So now she wants to take Jamie up in a hot air balloon. Not sure what that's all about.
The NFL Draft is upon us. The League was delighted, but not surprised, that Vince Young was in the top five picks. We're even more excited that he went to The Titans. That's a good spot for him to grow, as long as McNair hangs around to make sure VY keeps his head screwed on straight.
Reggie Bush went a surprising second. Some guy I'd barely heard of went first, with the Texans picking Mario Williams out of NCState. Reggie will be playing for The Saints. Let us all hope Reggie makes wiser decisions that Ricki.
Matt "I Look Like a Future 'The Bachelor' Contestant" Leinart wound up in AZ, which is probably great news for Leinart. Leinart, no doubt, is completely unaware that folks in Phoenix pay more attention to USC football than UA or ASU football. This guy is going to have a massive built-in fan base the second his feet hit the turf at the new Cardinals stadium in Glendale.
I didn't even know Huff had entered the draft from Texas, so I was excited to see him go to Oakland (before Leinart).
I'm glad all the debate and speculation can end. The NFL draft is necessary, but it's very boring television (I'd never watched before). Most puzzling is all the hooplah over a bunch of players who have as of yet to prove any of their NFL mettle. Even in the "remember the time..." clips they were using to fill space in the show, there's Berman, ugly and moronic as ever, talking about a bunch of players who showed up in the NFL and pretty much fizzled.
If anything, the draft is popular simply because it gives the NFL a chance to be seen on TV when they won't really be doing anything again until August.
Speaking of sports and fizzling, my Phoenix Suns are looking like maybe they aren't a play-offs made team this year, losing two of three to the Lakers. Or, more accurately, to Kobe. It's just painful and I can't watch.
The Suns just look off, like everybody but Nash thinks they don't belong there. Meanwhile, the Lakers look brisk and confident.
Oh, and the Cavs squeaked one out last night, thus extending their stay in the paly-offs that much longer.
This week The League has two big events lined up. On Thursday we have tickets with pretty good seats to go see the Arizona Diamondbacks meet up with the Cubbies. As The League has as of yet to see a team he's cheering for win a baseball game (could be something to do with seeing mid-90's 'Stros and then The Cubbies) I've decided to cheer for the D-Backs in hopes that the Cubbies win.
I'm trying to learn the names of the different D-Backs pitchers, but we haven't been watching enough and I don't know enough about baseball.
Our other big scheduled event for this week is to toddle north to see the AZRD bout between the Surly Girlies and the Bad News Beaters. I'll be cheering on the Surly Girlies. But mostly I'll be cheering on Brickhouse.
Hope you guys are having a good weekend. I'm off to read some comics.
3:22 PM |
Friday, April 28, 2006 Melbotis Post-Op Update
Mel is doing well, though he's moving a little slow.
Last night Mel wanted to be with the peoples, but he was still sort of doped up. We tried numerous times to get Mel to go to sleep on his blanket in the bedroom, but he would then follow us back into the living room a few minutes later.
He was much peppier this morning, but he's still moving a bit slow. Lucy seems to know to leave him alone, so we're doing okay.
7:26 AM |
Thursday, April 27, 2006 Melbotis Update Hey all - Mrs. League here. Melbotis has had a hard week, so I thought I'd share.
Last December when Mel had his yearly check-up, we asked the vet to feel a lump in his side. The doc said not to worry, it was probably a clump of fat cells, but to keep an eye on it. Early this week as I was giving Melly his nightly brushing, I noticed the lump was substantially larger. To be on the safe side, I took him to the vet again yesterday and much to my relief the biopsy showed only fat cells. However, the doc recommended that he have surgery to remove the lump so today Melly went under the knife.
The vet's office just called and said (while laughing because Mel was licking her) he was doing great! We will bring him home tonight and now he will just have to be tortured with the 10 days of ear medicine he got for his ear infections. It's dog ear medicine all around at League HQ - Lucy has an infection, too. Maybe I should give Jeff the Cat some medicine, too, just to be on the safe side...
On the whole, Mel is doing much better than he was before Lucy entered the picture. He has more energy and takes walkies with Lucy almost every night. At one time he weighed in at 122, but as of yesterday was 104! I'm very proud of him (League, you need to update the side panel with his new weight).
Tuesday, April 25, 2006 Melbotis Mailbag: The League's Comic Book Continuity Manifesto
D. Loyd included this question in his Mellie Noms:
Why does the League obsess about Continuity in the DC world?
Good question, D.
For those of you who do not read comic books, comics work a LOT like soap operas. The Spider-Man comics that are released today under the name "The Amazing Spider-Man" follow the adventures of the same Peter Parker kids fell in love with in 1963. From a certain perspective, it's all been one long, continuous story for more than forty years. For good or ill, it's also been a story told by a long list of writers, editors and artists.
There are also multiple Spider-Man comics, and some have come and gone over the years, but Spidey usually has two comics going on at any time. This is usually where new readers notice continuity problems as it's tough to figure out when the events in Amazing Spider-Man are taking place versus the events in Spectacular Spider-Man.
Just to get complicated, Spidey lives in a world populated by a wide array of heroes, which means he may also appear in other comics. He might guest star in Captain America, which means that, from a reader's perspective, in six months Spidey needs to remember who Cap is and what events took place over in Cap's title.
It's supposed to be the job of the editor to make sure that there are no oversights in continuity. One of the great joys of comics is the history that surrounds the major comics and characters. The characters don't forget what's come before. They do refer to prior events, and they discuss them from time to time (or give you the necessary exposition in a thought-bubble). As a kid I first learned the names of the editors at Marvel as the editors would add an asterisk and a small box to a panel that contained dicussion of prior events. Spidey might say "Last time I fought Doc Ock I threw a brick at him.*" And then the editor would have a little pane that said "* in issue #187 -Exposition Lovin' Ralph".
As a reader, you wanted to know what was going on that made Spidey throw a brick at Doc Ock. So off you'd go to find a back issue at your local comic shop. The real point, of course, was to let you know when and how events occured. I learned about the entire storylines for Dark Phoenix and Days of Future Past in this manner before ever reading the stories.
Marvel also wisely had instituted a policy that said "assume every comic is the first comic that somebody ever picked up". I think the policy has been abandoned under Quesada for a while, but may be on the comeback. What the policy meant for editors was that any issue of a new comic might contain lots of those little asterisks. It also meant characters called each other by name a little too often, and they spent more time than a DragonBall Z character explaining their powers. They might also spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of a fight during the middle of a fight.
As a kid, to me, that meant I was discovering a whole new world which had a rich history, where actions had consequence and meaning, and that these imaginary worlds were a heck of a lot more interesting than Pencewood Drive.
My point here is that the editors may have made the wrong decision when it comes to new readership. I'd heard that a lot of the old Marvel practices had been scrapped because continuity was too burdensome to new readers. To a potential casual reader, sure. But to the little geeks just discovering comics, scrapping continuity and references to the past means there's nothing behind the latest issue. No continuity means that there's no world to discover and appreciate, and that each issue is as disposable as the last episode of Power Rangers. Continuity and editorial control of continuity put a challenge to new readers, one that is not impossible, and one that's enjoyable to overcome as they dig out the lore and missing pieces that make up the comic they hold in their hand.
As an adult reader who knows his way around the Marvel and DCU fairly well, the need to continue to learn more and more about comics hasn't really gone away. I'm constantly learning new things about the comic publishing industry, about the folks behind the comics, the kinds of stories that were told, etc... and I still unearth new tidbits about the characters that make up the roster of the DCU. That's the fuel that sets the fire of the historian side of my comic geekiness.
To more directly answer D. Loyd's question of why I care about Continuity at age 31: What is the point of reading a story if any impact will be immediately erased by the whims of the next creative team?
I'm going to use character death repeatedly as an example, partly because the death of a character is a definite terminal point in any narrative, partly because it's terribly abused in comics, and partly because it's a lot less picky than some geeky things I could point out.
If I read a well-written story in which, say, The Flash kills the Trickster, and part of that story is that everyone knows The Flash killed The Trickster, (a) it's not going to make sense when the Trickster pops up again four months from now because "Brave and the Bold wants" to use The Trickster and, last I checked, he was dead. (b) If other characters are aware that The Flash is capable of murder, wouldn't they treat him with the proper caution? If never refer to those events again, doesn't that leave sort of a gap? (c) What did Flash learn from his experience? If Trickster never died, than we assume Flash never learned that lesson. (d) if Flash mentions the death in his own comics, and, so, say, as promise to never kill again, the Flash starts wearing yellow trunks... it won't make sense if he's wearing trunks when he comes up the Trickster again in two years becasue he was aline in "The Brave and the Bold".
Yes, these things happen.
Now multiply that by dozens of comics coming out every month, twelve months a year. It's a daunting task for an editor to keep up with, but the fans of the comics can do it, and they're spending money, not earning it.
Comics have enough problems with logic and time compression. In spite of those short fallings, what they can provide is a continuous story in which the characters grow and learn lessons, just as characters on a television program can grow and learn lessons. While some mistakes and changes are inevitable (and some, may, in fact, improve the overall logic of the comic) blatant disregard for the events of a story which many or most readers know shows a lack of respect for long time readers who have been the ones to support a title.
Similar to a television program which has multiple seasons, fans would not tolerate, say, a dead character reappearing without explanation when a new season debuts. I do not want to see movie sequels in which dead characters suddenly return to life because the writers decided they liked a death scene in the original, but they really wanted that guy, after all. (How would Godfather II have been if Sonny had just pulled up to the lake house with no explanation?). I don't want to read a book where characters are impossible to track and suddenly walk into a room when we believe they're on a boat somewhere in the Pacific. I want comics to show the same, basic respect for my intelligence.
It is true that many creative teams do find themselves painted into a corner by the work of previous creative teams. I don't find this to necessarily mean that the previous work should simply be ignored. Writers like Geoff Johns have shown heroic efforts in streamlining continuities, finding ways for apparent continuity flaws to co-exist, and basically writing to the situation rather than pretending like it never happened.
It is, in my opinion, the editor and writer's job to ensure continuity remains intact in mainline comic books. Action Comics should not contradict itself as team after team is inevitably replaced. If the writers and editors wish to tell a story which contradicts continuity, the story should be strong enough to carry itself as a one-shot or limited series. Otherwise, it is the writer's duty to find the logic in altering the continuity one way or another in their story-telling.
The popular stance four years ago was that continuity was for saps and that it damaged the industry. What the writers were publically stating was that they were being given writing jobs based upon success elsewhere, and they didn't have the appropriate knowledge to complete the job they'd been recruited to do. And, of course, they couldn't be bothered to spend a few hours reading comics to see what was going on with a title before they took it over.
What DC has managed to prove since Identity Crisis is that continuity does matter. Readers will tend to pick up additional comics if they are somehow tied together. Readers will tend to stick with a title if they don't feel abandoned by the editors. And you can explain and fix all of your continuity problems with a Crisis when things get out of hand.
11:35 PM |
Monday, April 24, 2006 Some amusing links at Nanostalgia.com
Thursday morning I met with my doctor and I said "Well, I need to lose some weight. I was hoping to come up with some sort of dietary plan and maybe an exercise plan."
Dr. Chang does not suffer fools, and made it pretty clear that my getting in shape was not his responsibility, it was my own. Apparently he's quite sick of people asking how he can help people get in shape, but at the end of the day, he can't really help people eat less and exercise. "Everything else in this world," he told me "you can pay somebody else to do it for you. I can pay someone to clean my house or wash my car. I can't pay someone to work out for me. I can't pay someone to eat less." Anyway, we had a long discussion about how my lazy caveman brain didn't want for me to work out because it wanted to store energy for fight-or-flight moments, but since I'm not routinely being attacked by wild beasts, I needed to show some will-power. Schedule? Schedules are for losers. Every day. I must go out and exercise every day. None of this every-other-day crap. Not after work, either. After work there are excuses and things to do and distractions. So with the sad knowledge that I must now go to bed earlier, I am getting up in the dark (which in AZ in Spring is pretty early), patting Mel on the head, and putting on my sneakers. What should I do for an exercise? I asked. Run. It's cheap and you don't need equipment or a place to go to do it. No gym membership. No trainer. Just move your fat ass faster than normal and try not to have a heart-attack. "This is the United States," Dr. Chang advised me, "If you drop dead, they'll resucitate you." So I'm running. Not well, mind you. The first day I kept waiting for Thursday night's dinner to come back at me. My knees were killing me and I felt generally beat up all day on Saturday. So I'm trying running. I've no technique and I'm mixing stretches of running with stretches of walking until I'm positive I won't vomit. And I'm only on day 4, so give me a @#$%ing break.
Memories of 8th grade keep coming back to me, when I took athleticism as a point of pride. I wasn't any track star, but I had one of the top 1/3rd times in the mile on the football team (and I was a lineman). I could run two miles and get sweaty, but not tired. Muscles and joints didn't hurt. And you never cared if people were watching you run because you might look funny.
Youth is wasted on the wrong people.
Sunday Jamie and I met up for lunch with Tami Nelson. Tami and I have orbited one another since high school, then in college, then out of college, and somehow we continue to bump into one another and occasionally keep in touch.
Tami is my token Katrina victim. She left Austin 5 or more years ago for the promise of adventure in New Orleans. Long enough, anyway, for it to become home. She evacuated herself and her world-famous cat, Tom Proctor, prior to the storm, going back to Spring for what she believed was a long weekend. She's now in Austin, and there's a story there, but it's Tami's and I don't really feel like I'm the one to share the story second-hand.
While in New Orleans Tami had become involved in improvisational comedy. The remarkable part of her story is that her troupe, scattered to the four winds in the evacuation, found one another and regrouped in Austin. They renamed themself and are now performing a mixed bag of local Austin shows and travelling to improv festivals, apparently stronger now than prior to the hurricane.
Anyhoo, it's always great to see someone out here in the Valley of the Sun. Bits and pieces of your former life do occasionally wash up on shore, and it's always interesting to see "how much did we change? Or did we change at all?"
Tami has an interesting opportunity, and if it materializes the way it sounds like it might, I'll let you cats know. Folks in Texas might be particularly interested.