When I was 28, it was a very good year...

The following things made 2004 a pretty groovy experience for me. No real order, per se, but it goes without saying that the first two are tied for Definitive First Place and are The Best Things Just About Ever:

  • Erin and the first year of wedded bliss spent with her (the way the calendar falls, the last 1/6 of 2004 technically counts as Year 2, but whatever)
  • News of impending parenthood (no word on gender yet, though hopefully in a few weeks, so we can start calling the baby something other than "The Walnut")
  • My dad is responding well to his radiation treatments and his doctors expect him to beat back the threat of cancer once again. And for those of you keeping score at home, this is Brush With Cancer #2-A (#1 was in the kidney in the early 80s; #2 was prostate in the early 90s; and #3 was lung a year or two ago; this latest is a flare up of the prostate stuff, hence 2-A and not #4). And yes, I am aware of how scary my family medical history is.
  • Brand new babies of friends and family, providing some cuteness to the world and helping to give me a much needed crash course in newborn/infant wrangling. Welcome to the world (in chronological order), Connor Enright, Lily Bailey and Lucas Bouthiette!
  • After an 86 year championship drought, the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series. And yes, they’re losing several players to free agency, but so far, they’re keeping the ones that really matter, so stop trying to kill my buzz here.
  • On a related note, I got to see the Sox at Fenway 3 times this year: the first game was the first home game against the Yankees (15 rows behind home plate, no less!), an interleague game against the Dodgers, and Game 3 of the American League Division Series, where they swept the Angels and went on to meet the Yanks in the ALCS. Best part? All 3 games were cheap as free, since Erin got the tickets through people she works with.
  • We also go to see games in Baltimore and Philly, too. VERY nice ballparks, and well worth visiting even if you don’t necessarily care about the teams playing.
  • I got to go to my first “big” comic con, Wizard World East in Philadelphia. The comics industry (and Wizard itself) didn’t seem to give a damn about the show, but I had a great time.
  • Road trip: Rhode Island to Baltimore (to pick up Erin’s grandma at the airport for a family gathering) to Delaware (location of said gathering) to Maine (to see my family) to Quebec City (just because) and then to a different part of Maine (to see friends) and back to RI. Ten or eleven busy but amazing days (FYI: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is crazy fun on 4 or more beers a night).
  • Movies: Garden State, The Incredibles, Spider-Man 2, Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Bourne Supremacy (though I wish it hadn't been filmed in Epliepto-Ramatm) and some others I’m sure I’ve forgotten.
  • Music: Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, Garden State Soundtrack, Green Day, Northern State, Dropkick Murphys, Less Than Jake and this comp from Springman Records I paid a buck for at the WARPED Tour 10th Anniversary Show but am totally forgetting the name of right now (it’s good, though, trust me).
  • Comics: DEMO, Adam Strange, Plastic Man, Fantastic Four, My Faith in Frankie, JLA: Classified, True Story Swear To God, It’s A Bird… , Jack Staff and that colossal Jack Kirby book Marvel put out recently that I love already even though I’ve done little more than thumb through it after opening it on Christmas morning.
  • Having a job I enjoy and actually feel good at.
  • And last, but far from least, the continued health, safety and prosperity of my family and friends.

I hope that doesn't sound like bragging, because that's not what I'm trying to do here at all. I'm just extremely thankful for all of the good fortune that I've had this year. I hope you all had a great 2004 as well, and may 2005 treat us all kindly. Enjoy every sandwich, folks!

No "link" puns were mistreated in the writing of this title.

Made a few updates to the links earlier, adding some more blogs and websites and generally tidying up a bit. Check out the new additions, as they are all worth your time.

Here's a fun little personality test from the BBC, called "What Am I Like?" According to the results, I'm what they call a "Mastermind." Gotta admit, I like the sound of that. One more reason to dig the English, I suppose. Of course, by their reckoning, that means I'm introverted, kinda moody, given to overindulgence and have an odd sense of humor. Pretty spot on, actually, even if that does all sound a bit on the negative side.

More great holiday entertainment: The 30 Second, All-Bunny Version of It's a Wonderful Life. How the hell did we ever entertain ourselves before this here intermanet thingee?

Courtesy of Homestar Runner, here's what just may be the world's first e-snowglobe. And while we're on the subject of Homestar, here's my favorite of the site's Decemberween toons, in which Strong Bad, well, see for yourself.

Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link(ing)

I'm running out of "link" related crap puns to use as titles, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to stop me from trying.

I doubt there's anyone left in the blogoverse who isn't aware of this by now, but Mike Sterling, world renowned supporter of Super Pets, World Eaters, Hyperintelligent Gorillas Bent on World Domination and, of course, moss encrusted muck men, is having a contest where he's giving away three copies of the new Swamp Thing TPB (reprinting the first 6 issues of the new series by Adam Strange and The Losers scribe Andy Diggle). For details, go here. Contest ends Dec. 31st, so enter already, Chumly.

Also on the Earth-Comics front, Tim O'Neil's The Hurting is back from its moving-related hiatus, and proves once again why we should all pretty much just name Tim as Prime Minister of Blogdom already and get it over with. He's currently dealing with the fallout over Identity Crisis in his own insightful, intelligent and milk-spurting-out-of-your-nose-ingly funny way, so far incorporating both Sherlock Holmes and The Lorax into the mix.

A little bit of randomness

If you haven't been reading the daily installments of this year's X-Entertainment Advent Calendar, you've been missing out on what might be the best holiday-related anything of 2004. It's the story of two Lego stormtroopers and a clone of Mare Winningham and their attempts to save Christmas, Santa Claus and the forgettable Random Jim from the machinations of a robot waiter and another clone of Mare Winningham. All set against the backdrop of this year's Playmobil Advent calendar, no less. It's funny as hell, and it proves Crow T. Robot's assertion that a good action sequence does work at Christmas.

And since I've finished my finals, I'm actually able to read for fun again (for a little while, anyway). I've currently been speeding through Legion of Superheroes Archives Vol. 1 (which my wife bought me for our wedding anniversary because she's the most amazing woman ever), which I will hopefully talk about at length when I'm finished, but here are a few early observations:
  1. I love Silver Age DC stories, though my affection in no way reflects their quality. They're great fun, but also among the most terrible fiction ever written. Great ideas, TERRIBLE dialogue.
  2. The invention of hardcore comic book continuity was a fantastic thing, and well needed in the Legion's case, as major background details vary between each story.
  3. I actually think I'm starting to understand Legion fandom now. That can't be healthy.
  4. Like Mike Sterling, I have to say that I am profoundly pro-Super Pet, and I vote.

Pretty much the tastiest fudge ever.

I probably don't seem like the type of person to post a recipe, but deep down, I'm a wannabe foodie, and two of my very favorite shows on TV right now are Good Eats and Iron Chef (needless to say, I'm pretty psyched for Iron Chef America: The Series, as it combines my appreciation for both of these things). Also, if you've noticed, I link to Alton Brown's website over to the right there.

Anyway, this is a recipe for peanut butter fudge I got off of Good Eats (the episode entitled "Fudge Factor"), and it's probably one of the best tasting things I've ever consumed in my life. It's just too good not to share with the masses, so here you go:

"1 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar

Microwave butter and peanut butter for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add vanilla and powdered sugar to peanut butter mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Pour into a buttered 8 by 8-inch pan lined with waxed paper. Place a second piece of waxed paper on the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week."
Source: FoodTV.com
I never said it was healthy, just really tasty. Make two batches: one for your holiday gathering and one for yourself. You'll be glad you did. Fatter, but glad.

It had to happen sooner or later.

I now embark upon the pop culture/comics blogging rite of passage called the DC Solicits for March 2005. Today, I am a man, or at least a pathetic shell thereof.

Batman 638 - Let's see: Batman unmasks the Red Hood and looks all "Wha Huh?!?" on the cover. Which, of course, can only mean that the new Red Hood is Aunt Harriet.

Batman Chronicles Vol. 1- Reprinting Detective 27-37 and Batman 1. Not anything I'm particularly interested in, but I hope it does well enough that they start doing other series like this (Superman, Captain Marvel, Silver Age Flash, etc.). And at $14.99, it's put up or shut up time for those people who say they'd buy Archives if only they were cheaper.

Superman 215 - Jeez, you stick Fabio's head in place of Superman's and you'd have the cover for every romance novel ever. I think Jim Lee's angling for a new career.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel 1 - The title sounds like it would've made for a dandy Weisinger-era "imaginary story." I think I'll pretend that it is anyway, since that'd be more interesting.

Adam Strange 7 - It's gonna rule. You know it. I know it. It could be 22 pages of Adam Strange buys an ice cream cone, and Diggle and Ferry would still make an exciting, genuinely intriguing story out of it.

Blood of the Demon- Byrne plays with Kirby toys again. It'll just break our hearts. Best we accept that now and move on.

DC Countdown 1 - Even at a buck, I'm still hesitant to buy this. It'll just feel like I'm encouraging them somehow. In the end I'll probably cave, but I'll hate myself in the morning. Especially if they really do off Blue Beetle.

Green Arrow 48- Judd Winick is bringing back the Duke of Oil. I don't know if he should be applauded or beaten. Probably both.

Justice League Classified 5 - I'm glad DC actually decided to publish "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" after all. This earns them some much needed brownie points in my book. Which I'm sure they'll fritter away by resurrecting Amethyst so she can be raped and murdered by the cast of Binky and His Buddies or something.

Plastic Man 15 - I think DC has just given up trying to market this book. I expect the solicit for the next issue to read "It's about stuff, kind of."

Seven Soldiers: Guardian 1 and Shining Knight 1- This whole Seven Soldiers thing sounds great, honestly, but I'm not a big fan of the 5,727,456,290,345,734 separate mini-series approach of it. Besides, it's Grant Morrison doing superheroes, so you know it'll get collected. I can wait.

Starman: Sons of the Father - Glad to see DC finally remembered to finish collecting this series, which is, of course, the best superhero comic book ever. Bear in mind, of course, that I am occasionally given to superlative.

Planetary Vol 3- Yay, this is finally out in paperback! I can catch up with the story, which I last read about, oh, 3 years ago (hardcovers are spendy and I work in a library. I am poor, so very poor).

Lucifer 60- You know, it's been so long since I've seen this book on a comic store shelf that I honestly didn't know it was still being published.

Flash Vs. Gorilla Grodd Statue - Okay, Flash looks oddly misshapen, but the way Grodd looks, all knocked on his ass with his tongue hanging out like he's a little kid playing dead, that's comedy. Not $200 comedy, but comedy all the same.

Black Mask Action Figure - You can make him a major player in the comics, make him torture and kill a Bat Family member, give him a creepy little action figure that comes with a miner's helmet, a hacksaw and a power drill, and it still won't matter. Nothing will ever... EVER... make me care about the character of Black Mask. Next stop, Yawnsville Junction. Population: Black Mask.

Space Ghost Coast to Coast Busts - They come in Space Ghost, Zorak and Brak flavors (sorry, Moltar). The very existence of these must make Alex Ross cry. Good.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Nostalgic Blog Post

I don't remember how I got there, but the other day I discovered the Modern Humorist's archive of Encyclopedia Brown parodies. They're probably old news to most people by now (the most recent is dated 2002), but they were new to me. If your as behind the times as I am and haven't seen them yet, by all means go check 'em out. They're all hysterically funny (especially The Case of the Death Row Dubya and The Case of the Pirated MP3s), and the authors have the style of the books down cold. They ended up making me kind of nostalgic for the genuine articles, which I devoured with a passion I usually only reserved for comic books as a little kid.

See, when I was really young, I used to love playing detective. I'd throw on this old fishing hat (the kind with the big brim and flaps in the back) that I thought looked like Sherlock Holmes's deerstalker cap, grab the little magnifying glass my parents bought for me at a yard sale and proceed to scour the neighborhood for "cwues and feevs" (that's "clues and thieves" for those of you who don't speak the dialect of Late 20th Century Suburban New England 4 Year Olds). My dad would often go with me, since sometimes I needed a Watson, but mostly because I wasn't allowed to cross streets by myself, and we'd walk up and down the street collecting "evidence" (which usually consisted of oddly shaped rocks, loose change and the occasional soda can). I never did solve any crimes, but I liked to think that was because my constant patrols scared off any potential criminal elements

So I suppose it was only natural I took to Encyclopedia Brown books the way that I did. This kid was living the dream! He really was a detective, and probably the smartest pre-teen in the world, to boot. He and his friend, Sally, ran an actual detective agency out of the garage (charging 25 cents a day plus expenses), and the entire neighborhood would come to them to solve whatever the problem of the moment was (usually Bugs Meany swindling some other kid, though there was other stuff going on, too). And if that weren't enough, at least once per book, he'd end up solving a legitimate police case for his dad, the town's chief of police. Chief Brown would talk about some new baffling case during dinner, and before desert was served, the kid would inevitably figure it out for him (and think about that... if the Gotham City police look bad for having to depend on a vigilante to do all their actual work, how useless must the Idaville PD be if they have to depend on a 10 year old for everything?).

Needless to say, I didn't want to just emulate this kid, I wanted to be him. Even more than I wanted to be Superman, and I wanted to be Superman a whole lot. From my point of view, the kid had it all: the job, the attitude, the eventual girlfriend (once he finally "saw" Sally, and you gotta figure that was inevitable), and best of all, he was a brainy kid who had friends and didn't get beat up all the time. To nerdy little me, that looked like the best of all possible worlds. I tried to emulate him, but it never really worked. Again, there was no real criminal element in my neighborhood, and my mom laughed at the detective agency sign I made, so that never even got hung up. And then there were those damn solutions in the back of the books; I was a pretty smart kid, and I'd figure out a few of the mysteries, but so many of them seemed to rely on some really arcane knowledge that no real little kid would ever actually know (Encyclopedia always did, though; the kid was like friggin' MacGyver, except not old enough to own a pocket knife).

So the Doughty Detective Agency never really got off the ground. With such a low batting average in the actual mystery-solving department, I figured I was probably better off leaving the sleuthing to the experts. Still, it would've been pretty cool. Though I would've charged way more than 25 cents. Maybe even a whole buck.

Now with fancy new commenting...

Courtesy of Haloscan. It's easier to use than Blogger's internal commenting feature, and easier to look at, too, so long as you don't mind the occasional ad.

"I'm the Doctor, by the way."

I consider this so cool it needs it's own post.

BBC's official Doctor Who site has posted the first teaser for the new series. And there was much rejoicing.

Please let this air on BBC America. Or Bravo. Or A&E. Or Sci-Fi. Or Country Music Television, for that matter. Any channel, really, so long as I get it!

Stuff and more stuff

Let's see, in the last 24 hours I have turned in the group paper that has been ruining my life for the past few months, I watched a blurry image of my baby swimming around in my wife's belly and I got an oil change for the Hyundai that only cost a penny. I hate to jinx myself, but I have to say that it's been a pretty good stretch of time. So let's talk about some stuff before it all goes to crap, huh?

As usual, I'm about a week behind on my comics reading, so I'm a little late to the bandwagon on saying this, but the third issue DC's Adam Strange mini-series continues to rock in ways that comic books haven't (for me, anyway) in a long, long time (minor spoilers ahead, by the way). The story is beginning to pick up the pace as Adam is picked up in the supposed remains of the Rann system by a Thanagarian battle cruiser, hauled back to Thanagar and tried for the very crime he's investigating. Shades of Star Trek 6, I know, but Diggle keeps it from being too "been there, done that" with his characterization, dialogue and breakneck pacing. And let's face it, Pascal Ferry was born to draw cool space stuff. It's like some sort of divine mission for him, I think. And for special bonus fun in this issue, play "Spot the Star Wars reference." I'm geeking out over this book in a big, big way. It's not just comics, it's one hell of a ride. So glad I didn't wait for the trade on this.

I also finally picked up the new Captain America #1, which I knew I'd end up kind of regretting, but I did it anyway. Should've stuck with my gut on this one. It wasn't a bad story, per se, it just wasn't my cup of tea. First of all, why do they keep trying to remake Cap Classic into Ultimate Cap? Seriously, same crew cut, same pouch/utility belt, same perpetual grimace and same surly attitude. Ugh. If I wanted Total Asshat Cap, I'd have bought some Mark Millar garbage. I hate to sound like one of those HEAT people, but I miss the old Cap. My Cap. Dedicated? Sure. Determined. Yes. Patriotic? Obviously. Idealistic? Hell's yeah. Raging bastard, no way. Captain America, like Superman, works best when he's the ideal of everything we wished we could be. He's a born leader, the kind of guy you'd follow into Hell, not the guy you'd push into Hell. Cap, to me, will always be the way he was under writers like Roger Stern and Mark Gruenwald. This guy Brubaker's showing us might as well be a completely different character.

But maybe that's just me starting to show my age and turning into one of those Sad Cranky Bastards who proclaims everything was better when I was a kid (but it really was!). If you like this sort of thing, than Brubaker's first issue will definitely be the sort of thing you like. But none for me, thanks.

Meanwhile, over on TV, I love love love the new Rankin-Bass style Office Max ad set to the tune of "Rubber Band Man." It is catchy and cute and makes me want to buy office supplies for my loved ones (Erin would actually really appreciate that). Definitely one of my favorite commercials all year, right up there with the "Eye of the Tiger" Starbucks ad ("GLENN! Glenn Glenn GLENN!").

And The Amazing Race continues to stay excellent, but all the teams I like keep getting picked off! If this keeps up, I'll soon be rooting for anyone but Jon and Victoria (aka Yelling Guy and Doormat Trophy Wife). But here's my question: while the contestants were all in that IKEA store on this week's episode, did anyone else get a monster hankering for Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce? I sure did. And there's a new IKEA store an hour or two away in Connecticut. Hmmm...