Na na na na na na, they say it's your birthday

Actually, they say it's my birthday. And that's because it is. I turn 29 today. It's not the most culturally significant of birthdays (and let's face it, after you turn 21, the only major birthdays left are the ones that are multiples of 5), but still pretty cool because, hey, people give you stuff and then you eat cake. Nothing wrong with that.

No big plans, just dinner (hopefully someplace where the waiters don't sing to you; man, do I hate that!) and a trip to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Roger Ebert be damned). And then a night of crying myself to sleep in my pillow because I am becoming horribly old.

Okay, fine, not really. I never thought I'd feel this way, but I'm actually enjoying getting older. I've really enjoyed my late twenties, probably more than any other period of my life (especially the teenage years; if those really were supposed to be the best point in peoples' lives, I think the high school suicide rate would skyrocket). Life and family are getting established, you can go places when you want, stay up as late as you want, spoil your appetite without fear of parental intervention and consequences... being a grown-up kind of rules.

If it's your birthday, too (Willie Nelson and Kirsten Dunst, I'm looking at you!), then I hope you enjoy it as well. If it isn't, find an excuse to eat cake anyway. Cake makes everything better.

Things you wouldn't think you'd have to say at a library...

but I seem to have to an awful lot (and in the words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up):

"Could you please stop yelling into your cellphone."

"We only page patrons in the case of a legitimate emergency. Checking to see when your roommate wants to go to dinner isn't an emergency."

"Could you please not ride your scooter in here?"

"You're not supposed to be eating giant bowls of ice cream in here, much less directly over a computer keyboard, where it could do a whole lot of harm." (it's really difficult, by the way, to enforce a zero tolerance policy on food when someone has the genius to put a cafe and auditorium often used for dinner events in the same building.)

"No, you can't have pizza delivered here. This isn't Mr. Hand's class." (met with blank stare) "Never mind. Answer's still no."

"No, we're not trying to single you out, sir. 'Non-circulating' means we can't check it out to anybody."

"Yes, we do have books."

And last, but not least, I offer up this conversation:

Me: "Um, didn't I tell you not to ride your scooter in here?"

Other guy: "No, you told my friend not to. That was a different guy."

Me: (pause) "Well, you can't, either!"

Other guy: (long pause as look of disbelief creeps over his face) "Really?"

Me: "Yup."

Other guy: "Oh, sorry."

But did you like the play, Mrs. Linkin'?

I think I've officially run out of link-related puns. Thank God.

I added a bunch of new blogs to the sidebar recently, including Dave's Long Box, Delenda Est Carthago, Library Ninja, The Absorbascon, and Bird Season's Over, Butthorn! Most of 'em are comics related (big shock), but that last one is the my old roommate Jeremy's blog; I guarantee you've never read anything quite like it before (unless you lived with the guy for a couple of years), so check it out. I also re-arranged the blog section a bit so that it makes a little more sense (to me at least).

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According to the Film Threat website,
Gimme Gimme Octopus is now available on DVD. If you've never seen this Japanese children's show before, you owe it to yourself to check it out at least once. It's this H.R. Pufnstuf-esque program about this octopus who acts like an asshole and generally makes life miserable for everyone around him (everyone includes a pear, a walrus, a dragon, some cucumbers and a badger, among others). It has no redeeming social value, and is final clinching proof that Americans will never understand the Japanese psyche. So you pretty much need to watch it.

* * *

Look, it's
The Crockett Johnson Homepage! (via) Now if only someone would collect "Barnaby," life would be very sweet indeed.

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Blue Beetle gets his post-mortem due,
courtesy of The Fred Hembeck Show.

* * *

That Red Sox fan who smacked Gary Sheffield got his season tickets revoked. Good. Better yet, Sheffield won't be punished. Now I've made it pretty clear that I'm no Yankee fan, but Sheffield was clearly the wronged individual in this case, and if anything, I think he should be rewarded for not tearing the guy's throat out, Road House style.

* * *

If you haven't been there yet, you need to check out Kiddie Records Weekly. There's some amazingly classic stuff there (my favorite so far is "Gerald McBoingBoing" as read by The Great Gildersleeve, but your mileage may vary). I've been downloading like crazy. You know, for Liam (riiiiiight).

Let's talk about some comics, huh? We haven't done that in awhile.

Adam Strange #7 - For my money, still the best book on the stands. High art it ain't, but it's definitely Fun Comics, which is exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for these days. This issue was like the ten minutes in Star Wars that happen between the Millennium Falcon escaping the Death Star and the launch of the Rebel squadron... a nice bit of expository breathing room before the big action of the conclusion. And it worked well, thanks once again to the pacing of Andy Diggle and the right purty art of Pascal Ferry. If the final issue is as good as the previous 7, I may stick around to give Rann/Thanagar War a try.

Power Pack #1 - I never read much of the original Pack, but this looked fun so I figured I'd give it a shot. Not necessarily the most intelligent comic book you're ever going to read, but it was decent. Marc Sumerak's story was light, breezy fun, and in the space of 22 pages clearly defined each of the characters' personalities and the feel of the world they inhabit. A lot of folks who write so-called "mature" comics can't pull that off anymore, so it's a real treat to see that in an all-ages book. The manga-lite art style of Gurihiru is the perfect accompaniment here... serious enough to depict the action scenes well, but fun enough to reflect the tone. The Franklin Richards back-up story by Sumerak and Chris Eliopoulous was fun, too, placing the Fantastic Four’s firstborn in a "Dexter’s Laboratory" type story that manages to do something no one else in the history of Marvel has ever been able to do: make HERBIE the robot fun. No small feat. Anyway, lately I've been looking for comics I'll be able to read with Liam once he's old enough, and I think this may work nicely. Great for the kids and fun enough to keep the adults interested.

Superboy & The Legion of Super-Heroes #241-245 – Some people have said that “Earthwar,” the storyline running through these issues of Paul Levitz’s first run as Legion scribe, was a better story than the much vaunted “Great Darkness Saga.” Having now read them both, I’m inclined to agree. This is the big Legion story done right. The group is spread thin throughout the galaxy due to various assignments, and is therefore unprepared for the increasingly deadly series of events that threaten Earth and, ultimately, all of the United Planets. It’s a slow build over the first four issues, as each of the threats they face turn out to be manipulated by still higher powers all the way up the line to one of their single greatest foes. And since Legionnaires are picked off every step of the way, the handful remaining come time for the final battle seem hopelessly overmatched (even if one of ‘em is Superboy), so you really are left wondering how they’re going to pull it all off. This is over-the-top superhero melodrama at its finest. The art is sometimes inconsistent, and the ultimate conclusion kinda left me asking “well, why didn’t they just think of doing that in the first place?,” but the overall story is such great fun that I was easily able to overlook all that.

Chilling Adventures in Sorcery... As Told by Sabrina #2 – As if the idea of a horror book produced by Archie Comics wasn’t odd enough, this one also happens to be drawn by Dan DeCarlo in his traditional “bigfoot” comedic style. And on top of all that, we get Sabrina the Teenage Witch subbing for the Crypt Keeper. Weird as all hell, I tells ya. As you can imagine, the stories in this book are pretty toothless. They tread pretty well-worn horror territory (man turned into monster, cursed jewelry, etc.), and never really get even particularly creepy, much less scary, but still, this is a horror book by Archie, drawn by Dan DeCarlo, starring Sabrina. Isn’t that enough? If I have any complaints at all, it’s that none of the stories feature the traditional Archie characters (Sabrina herself only ever gets a headshot on the first page of each story). Who wouldn’t want to see Betty murder Veronica with an axe, or Jughead feasting on Reggieburgers? Missed opportunities galore!

Some odd little tastes of home.

I grew up in Bangor, Maine. It’s a nice enough place, but not terribly exciting. Sure, technically it’s a city, but with a population of under 40,000, it’s pretty small. All the basics were there – malls, movie theaters, restaurants, museums, and the like – but it wasn’t a very happening sort of place. If you wanted to do something really fun, you usually had to travel 2 hours south to Portland. When I was a kid, I used to paraphrase Luke Skywalker when I described my town to people: if there was a bright center of the universe, Bangor was the place that it was farthest from.

I’ve long since grown up and moved away, and with age and a certain amount of distance come wisdom. And this wisdom has led me to an important conclusion about the city of my birth: I was right all along. Seriously, Bangor is dullsville, especially if you’re under the age of 40 and would like to do something after 9 p.m. that doesn’t involve the consumption of pancakes at a nearby truck stop (not that there’s anything wrong with pancakes, mind you). It’s probably a wonderful and safe place to raise a kid, but it’s a terrible place to actually be a kid.

It is the sort of place that keeps showing up in the weirdest little corners of history and pop culture, though. I like to keep track of such things, if only to prove to myself that things really do happen there once in awhile. Here are some of what I think are the more interesting examples:

- Most famously, Bangor is the home of Stephen King
. I don’t know him, but I have met him a couple of times (his youngest son was a year behind me in school), and he’s a nice guy. A true philanthropist, too – donates money to a lot of important area causes, but doesn’t plaster his name over everything. I like that.
- A novel by Ben Ames Williams, The Strange Woman, is based on the madam of the a 19th / early 20th century Bangor area brothel. I’m also allegedly related to the woman in question (she may have been my great great aunt once removed or something).

Infamous historical events:
- The FBI guns down Public Enemy #1 Al Brady and his gang in the streets of Bangor in 1937.
- In 2004, a plane carrying the former Cat Stevens is forced to land at Bangor International Airport, and the ex-singer is denied entrance to the U.S. (BIA is on the site of a former SAC bomber base; the leftover huge runway & the geographic location make it ideal for layovers and refueling of international traffic, which is one reason why they had the plane land there and not Boston).

Comics, Toys, Fun:
- According to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, George Tarleton, the poor schlep AIM turned into MODOK, was born in Bangor.
- The Atlas of the DC Universe (produced for the DC Heroes RPG), says that Fairfax, the location of the second Dial H for Hero series, is a suburb of Bangor (the Bangor of the DCU must be a lot bigger than the real one).
- Two GI Joe characters, Sneak Peak
and Crystal Ball, had connections to Bangor. Crystal Ball’s filecard said he was not only the seventh son of a seventh son, but that his mom was from Bangor. Sneak Peak’s file said that his real name was Owen King, and that his hometown was Bangor. It is widely believed that these two characters were either suggested or directly created by Stephen King, whose son Owen (the one I mentioned above) was a big Joe fan.
- True Comics #49
contains a one page story about how the city got its name (I’ll have to track this down someday).
- When the Human Torch and Spider-Man took the Spider-Mobile out for its maiden voyage, Spidey’s lack of driving skills prompted this panel:

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(Anyone know if there’s a specific reason for that joke? Maine drivers are infuriatingly over-polite, sure, but it’s they’re not nearly as bad behind the wheel as people from Massachusetts or New Jersey.)

- Roger Miller (and not, as Johnny Barcardi pointed out, Tennessee Ernie Ford) name drops the town in his famous hobo song, “King of the Road” (“Third boxcar, midnight train / Destination Bangor, Maine”).
- Sleep inducing alt-rocker Howie Day comes from Bangor (his music isn’t really my thing, but it’s still cool when someone famous comes from your town).

- Several Stephen King film and TV mini-series adaptations (Pet Sematary, Graveyard Shift and The Langoliers for instance) were filmed in the area (which makes sense, since he lives there, and also his fictional city of Derry is essentially a stand-in for Bangor). In fact, just about all of The Langoliers is filmed there, even the scenes that are supposed to be taking place inside LAX (I was an extra; easiest $100 I’ve ever earned… I pretty much just had to sit there for 2 days).

I’m sure there are still more examples, but that’s all I can think of now. I find it kind of amazing that for a city where it seems like nothing ever happens, quite a bit actually has. It’s the sort of thing that people in places like New York, Boston, Chicago or L.A. take for granted, I’m sure, but when you come from a relatively little place, anything that manages to occur is really quite big.

Random picture of the moment

Juliana Hatfield (swoon...) and her semi-cooperative dog, Betty. Taken by me at an in-store performance at the South Portland, Maine, location of Newbury Comics in May of 2000. Posted by Hello

It takes a real man to admit this.

I managed to catch the replay of the Red Sox World Series ring ceremony last night (I was at work when it actually took place), and I'm really glad I was able to see that. There were a few moments in there that were truly amazing to watch, the sort of stuff that makes you glad you're a Sox fan, glad to be a fan of baseball in general, and maybe just glad to be alive.

The ovation given to Dave Roberts by both the crowd and the team was really fantastic. He was the Sox player who stole second base and then scored to tie game 4 of the ALCS, beginning the turn of events that would lead the team to their World Series victory. You know his place in Boston lore is permanently assured, and his warm reception as he walked out on the field proved that.

The raising of the championship banner by Johnny Pesky and Carl Yastrzemski, accompanied by a legion of other former Red Sox greats was touching. You could tell that each and every one of those guys was just as proud of that moment as if they'd be if they'd won it themselves. And it was a classy move on the part of the team to include them all in the moment, too. As Terry Cashman sang (or, warbled, really), this victory was as much about Williams and Yaz and Pesky and Doerr and all the other greats of Boston past as it was about the current team.

But the best of moment of all, the one I'd say was truly beautiful, was when Pesky, still a member of the Red Sox organization (he's listed as a "special assignment instructor") at approximately 137,000 years of age, came out to receive his ring. Appropriately, he was the last man to do so, and he received the biggest ovation of them all. He then walked down the line, stopping to hug each and every member of the team. It was hard to tell who looked more proud - Pesky of the Sox, or they of him. I'm willing to bet there weren't too many dry eyes in Fenway Park at that moment. There certainly weren't in my house.

It's Meme-Tastic 2: Electric Boogaloo

My wife Erin really enjoyed the "10, 9, 8..." meme (or whatever it's really called) and wanted to play, too. Here are her responses:

TEN random things about me:
10. I am an only child, who is best friends with her parents.
9. I am an ATM project manager at Citizens Bank, though I received my Bachelor's degree in German.

8. I loathe crickets. They scare the hell out of me.
7. I spent three weeks in intensive care when I was born.
6. I am obsessed with reality television, including, but not limited to "The Amazing Race," "Survivor," and "Real World/Road Rules Challenges."
5. I have a tendency to speak in extremes, you'll see as you read on.
4. My dad and I used to go on road trips during the summer, when I was a child, so I've seen most of the United States by car.
3. I am 30 weeks pregnant.
2. I have a pair of Dr. Marten's that are one of a kind - Bluish-purple boots with ladybugs - They were a children's style that they made one in each adult size. Soho in London is the place to buy shoes.
1. I hate vegetables.

NINE places I've visited:
9. Salzburg, Austria (I lived there for about a year during the 98-99 school year)
8. Prague, Czech Republic (by far the coolest Eastern European city you'll ever see... And the people speak PERFECT English. Like better than in NYC.)
7. Vancouver, Canada & Seattle, Washington (My mom took me for my college graduation).
6. England, Ireland & Scotland (Definitely the coolest, most beautiful places that I've ever seen abroad)
5. Paris, France (The crappiest little city in the world... Literally... There's bird crap and garbage everyone and the people are crappy, too)
4. Fenway Park, Camden Yards, Skydome, Citizens Bank Park, Wherever the Oakland A's play (I like baseball)
3. Budapest, Hungary (My friend got her tongue pierced here, so I just remember trying to find her baby food and buying a huge loaf of bread for like $.10)
2. Iceland (Overall, not so cool (or rather, very cold), but the Blue Lagoon is one of the most relaxing places you could ever want to be)
1. Sebago Lake, Maine (My most favorite place, ever).

EIGHT things I want to achieve in life:
8. Find a job that makes me happy and sustains my current way of living
7. Move to southern Maine
6. Make more friends
5. Open a store with my husband
4. Buy a house
3. Spend summers in Sebago Lake, Maine with my family and friends
2. Make Bill deliriously happy
1. Get this child out of my uterus. And then ensure that he's happy and healthy in life.

SEVEN ways to win my heart:
7. Accept me for who I am - I ain't changing
6. Cook me a good meal involving chicken and potatoes
5. Play me a good song
4. Be my friend
3. Get excited about stupid television shows with me
2. Compliment me

1. Sorry, even if you tried all of the above things, Bill Doughty has my heart

SIX things I believe:
6. If you lie to me, know that I will never trust you again
5. People who rape children should be castrated
4. We speak English in America... Learn it or leave.
3. Faith is important. Religion is bad. Especially if you try to convert people.
2. Whether you like men or women, if you can find true love, you should be respected.
1. Don't bother trying to change my mind about politics... I know they're all a bunch of idiots. And not the good kind.

FIVE things I'm afraid of:
5. Political and/or religious fanaticism.
4. Death
3. Being alone
2. The dark
1. Being a bad mommy and/or wife

FOUR of my favorite things:
4. Spending time doing absolutely nothing with my husband
3. Fall
2. Frozen yogurt from Inside Scoop
1. Watching TV

THREE things I do everyday:
3. Breathe
2. Rub my belly (say Hi to Liam)
1. Sleep

TWO things I'm not trying to do right now:
2. Work
1. Assume the Red Sox are going to win the game... You know what you do when you assume...

ONE person I want to see right now:
1. (tie) My hubby and my son (but like Bill said, I have to wait til June to see Liam)

It's meme-tastic!

Here's a meme I lifted from Jog and Alan David Doane. It's kinda long, but it was a fun time waster.

TEN random things about me:
10. My brother and I were examined by world-renowned geneticist Dr. Victor McKusick to determine if we had Marfan’s Syndrome (he said we didn’t).
9. The best hot dog I have ever eaten in my life was at SkyDome in Toronto.
8. I am a poor sleeper, and usually wake up at least 3-4 times a night.
7. I enjoy grilling.
6. My favorite singer is Juliana Hatfield.
5. I have seen very few of the “classic” Disney animated films.
4. I was an extra in the TV mini-series “Stephen King’s The Langoliers.” You can kind of see the outline of me through some crappy special effects as the main characters come back in sync with time at the end.
3. My brother and sister and 12 and 15 years older than me respectively.
2. I don’t consider myself a Republican or a Democrat; I tell people I’m “angry and unrepresented.”
1. I often judge restaurants based on the quality of their french toast.

NINE places I've visited:

9. Salzburg, Austria (where Erin spent her junior year of college)
8. Niagara Falls (Canadian side)
7. Toronto (same trip as above)
6. London, England (the saying is true: when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life)
5. Boston, MA (many times; the advantage of living in Rhode Island)
4. Baltimore, MD (Oriole Park at Camden Yard is a beautiful place to watch a ballgame)
3. NYC (a few months before the towers went down; those vacation photos are weird to look at now)
2. Reykjavic, Iceland (avoid going in November; very dark and very cold)
1. Scotland (for the honeymoon! The Highlands were beautiful, and Edinburgh would be my favorite city ever if they had baseball)

EIGHT things I want to achieve in life:
8. Get a library science degree
7. Move to southern Maine
6. Deal better with anger, depression and frustration
5. Write more often
4. Open a book, comic or music store
3. Write a book
2. Make Erin deliriously happy
1. Raise healthy, happy children

SEVEN ways to win my heart:
7. Feed me well.
6. Compliment my abilities.
5. Talk with me about random, interesting things until the wee hours of the morning.
4. Understand my occasional need for privacy and alone time.
3. Don’t hold back anything.
2. You don’t have to enjoy or even understand the things I like, but always try to accept them.
1. Make me laugh.

SIX things I believe:
6. Women should not have to deal with body image bullshit society puts them through; there are as many different ways to be beautiful as there are stars in the sky.
5. No child should ever be hungry.
4. People need to take more responsibility for their children and stop blaming everything on TV, movies, video games, etc. It’s called being a parent. Look into it.
3. Faith in a higher power is a wonderful thing. Religion is dangerous. And there is a difference between the two.
2. It is our right as rational human beings to question authority.
1. The simple joys make life worthwhile.

FIVE things I'm afraid of:
5. Political and/or religious fanaticism.
4. The fact that the whole world could go “FOOM!” at the touch of a button.
3. Death
2. My loved ones in pain (emotional or physical)
1. Spending my life alone.

FOUR of my favorite things:
4. Reading
3. Fall
2. Really great food

1. Lazy mornings

THREE things I do everyday:
3. Shower
2. Talk to the baby in my wife’s belly
1. Daydream

TWO things I'm not trying to do right now:
2. Work
1. Stare longingly out the window, wishing I were outside on such a gorgeous day

ONE person I want to see right now:
1. (tie) Erin & Liam (though I have to wait until June for him)

Pop is a many splendored thing.

I was looking to make a new music mix for myself, and thought it'd be fun to go old school and actually make a tape instead of a CD. It's been so long that I actually forgot how different the two processes are (for me, anyway). Generally, if I'm making a CD mix, I make a list of tracks I want to compile, and then listen to samples of each song to see if there's anything I want to add or delete as per needs of time, taste, etc. With tapes, though, having to sit through the songs in their entirety changes the way I operate, since hearing a certain song will inspire me to want to listen to some other other song, which will lead to another song and so on. The music seems to drive the selection process, so it's a lot more spontaneous. Even if I do make an initial list (which I started to do here), I wander away from it pretty quickly.

Here's what I ended up with:
Side A
Kids in America - Kim Wilde
New York City - They Might Be Giants
Here Comes Your Man - The Pixies
Your Favorite Thing - Sugar
Playdough - The Aquabats
Top of the World - Shonen Knife
Brian Wilson (live) - Barenaked Ladies
God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
Signal in the Sky (demo version) - The Apples in Stereo
I am Superman - REM
Three Small Words - Kay Hanley
Drive My Car - The Beatles
The Mayor of Simpleton - XTC

Side B
Spin the Bottle - The Juliana Hatfield 3
Eleanor - The Turtles
Blue - The Jayhawks
Panic - The Smiths
Doctorin' the TARDIS - The Timelords
Afternoons & Coffeespoons - Crash Test Dummies
Please Do Not Go - Violent Femmes
Saturday Morning - The Eels
Jimmy Olsen's Blues - Spin Doctors
Pleasant Valley Sunday - Marykate O'Neil
Dawn of the Day - Ookla the Mok
Blowin' Bubbles - Call & Response
Dream Police - Cheap Trick

Who says librarians are boring?

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A friend of mine who is a middle school librarian sent me the above bookmark the other day, figuring I'd get a kick out of it since I work in a library and am a comics fan. Definitely fun stuff, courtesy of the ALA. There's a poster, too, if that's more your style.

And yes, I know, technically Barbara Gordon isn't Batgirl anymore, but let's not get all fanboy on this one. It's a fun idea, and the librarians need all the positive media portrayals they can get. I mean, all we've got is the Action Figure Lady, Rupert Giles and Yomiko Readman (she counts, right?). Every little bit helps.