Because I Am A Lemming

I am participating in BlogDay2008:
BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors.
With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.

I must say that I like getting out of my comfort zone now and then. So I did the next blog thing on Blogger. I avoided the ones with fewer than five posts for no particular reason. I found these:

Nicole Jarecz Illustration by Nicole Jarecz, Detroit, MI, United States. A junior at the College for Creative Studies, majoring in illustration.
Unsurprisingly, she does a lot of drawings, many of which I like. Occasionally, she even talks.

VERACRUZ TURISMO DIGITAL. Las Noticias de Turismo del Estado de Veracruz Mexico
It’s in Spanish, and I don’t really read Spanish, but it seems to be a site about the
culture of Veracruz. Has photos, so it was worth looking at.

Kundalini Splendor.
Poems and Reflections on the Spiritual Journey by Dorothy Walters
She writes: “I invite you to contact me.” She has a kindly face. Pictures accompany her photos. I’m not much into poetry, I’m afraid, but the page gave me a soothing feeling, somehow. Clearly, my favorite of the five.

ADESPOTO Halandriou
Σύλλογος φίλων των ζώων Χαλανδρίου
It’s all Greek to me. This person from Athens takes photos of animals. I like animals OK, but my Greek is non-existent, so the context is lost on me. Yet that’s all right.

吕昕展 臭Baby部落格.
Shinzhan 吕昕展, Mersing, Johor, Malaysia
OK. Not my favorite kind of page; that is, a bunch of pictures of somebody’s kid with no context, plus short videos. I don’t mind an occasional pic- been known to do it myself, but no narrative, even if I could read Chinese.
Still, I’m fascinated by this page because I put it through the Google translator, and the title of the page reads: “Lu Hsin-Chin foul Baby blog”. Really. Does this mean in translated Chinese what it means in English? And in the Chinese title: Are there no characters for “baby” in Chinese?

ROG

QUESTION: Time vs. Quality of Life


A couple weekends ago, we (OK, my wife) bought furniture for our porch. They come in these large cardboard boxes. Once upon a time, these boxes would have ended up in the garbage, but there I was cutting up the boxes, making them ready for the recycling. It took time, over a half hour for all of the boxes. It was a tradeoff between by time and the quality of life I want to maintain.

I’m recalling the local experiment the local paper Times Union did with test riders bus riders. One of the riders said, “I don’t know how anyone could subject themselves to that. (I excoriate them here.)

So the question is simple in structure: What do you do that could be done faster but that you feel is important to take on in a slower manner? My wife makes brownies from scratch. Maybe you participate in a gardening project. There’s a “slow-cook” movement that you might be part of. Perhaps you sew, knit, crochet. I was going to note that we compost, but I just don’t think of the time we spend separating the compostables from the other items as that substantial, though it does reduce the amount of trash we put out weekly.
***

Miss Wasilla for 1984, Sarah Palin.

ROG

Michael Jackson Turns 50


I remember in the mid-1970s, Andy Rooney, the guy on 60 Minutes, used to do these occasional pieces, these “humorous” mini-documentaries about restaurants, or different ways people sing the song “Misty”.

One piece was about who is famous. I recall that while Paul McCartney was famous, Michael Jackson, then with the Jackson Five, was not, at least in his mind, Famous meant generally recognized, regardless of generation.

Well, if asked now, I’m sure Andy would consider him famous, or perhaps a bit infamous.

I like quite a bit of Michael’s music, particularly the early J5 and the early parts of his solo career. Last year at this time, I noted that I thought his 1979 album, Off the Wall, was better than his massive 1982 album, Thriller. The first cut from the earlier album can be found here. His electrifying performance at Motown 25, which I haven’t seen since the mid-1980s, still brings a smile to my face.

And I noted that since I share his disease, I viscerally understood some of his craziness (the surgeries, the mask, not the hanging a baby over a balcony.)

So, on his half century mark, I’m disinclined to go beat up Michael. I’ll leave that for others. I’ll just wish him well.

ROG

Mud pie


So I needed a hook, and one was provided to me.

On Monday, July 21, I went to pick up a newspaper called The Capitol, a free monthly newspaper covering what passes for state government in Albany. It was located in one of those blue boxes not unlike those you’d find when one is buying a daily newspaper. Sitting on top of the pile of papers inside the container was an aluminum pan filled with what was meant to look like manure. At least, that’s what I hoped, since I didn’t bother studying it too closely. I took a copy of The Capitol, wrapped it around the pan, and threw it away in the nearest receptacle. But I needed to wash my hands right away, It was evident that the individual putting the pan in expected someone to reach in lazily and get this substance on his or her hand.

About three days later, I’m telling this story to a white male person of my acquaintance. I added that I wondered if the act was in any way racially motivated. I based it on two facts: 1) the cover story was about Barack Obama, or more correctly, which NY state legislators might become Presidential timber like former Illinois state legislator Obama did; 2) the box was located in front of a black-owned business. He said, “C’mon, that’s a stretch”, and I dropped it for a time. Later, though, I mentioned it again, and he wondered why. But a couple minutes later, he had an epiphany. “Oh, but why WAS that pan placed there?”

That was primarily what I was really trying to say; the thing was there for SOME reason, and curious librarian minds wanted to know if it was merely a random prank or something more significant.

Bringing up race – or the possibility of racism (or sexism or homophobia) is fraught with danger. Some will suggest that one is/I am looking through a prism of race; quite possibly true. Just mentioning race, some will suggest, IS the problem, a position that I do not ascribe to; the current presidential campaign suggests that does not work, at least not yet. Sometimes you have to talk about it anyway.

As Jay Smooth put it: “Race: the final frontier”

FantaCo Chronicles: Webslinger, si; Freak Brothers, No

FantaCo was the comic book store/publisher/mail order center/convention house where I worked from May 1980 to November 1988. It opened August 28, 1978, 30 years ago today. And it closed on August 28, 1998, 10 years ago today.

The Chronicles were comic-book-sized magazines about various comic book characters. I’ve previously talked about the X-Men Chronicles, how much I liked working with Raoul Vezina, but hated having to retrieve the wet cover from Dave Cockrum. I’ve noted how Jim Shooter screamed at us for using the Jack Kirby interview in the Fantastic Four Chronicles. I’ve mentioned how Marvel appropriated parts of the Daredevil Chronicles for its Daredevil Omnibus; I tend to agree with the criticism that it leaned too heavily on Frank Miller’s period, ignoring Wally Wood and other DD history.

Next up, the Avenger Chronicles, edited by Mitch Cohn. I always thought the George Perez cover was a bit lackluster, but it was a decent enough book. It features a lengthy essay by me about the Avengers/Defenders War, detailed nearly as much as one would have described the Peloponnesian War.

Which brings us to the Spider-Man Chronicles. This is my favorite book in the series. I loved the varied layout that I instituted, which I though gave it a clean, modern look. I felt that I had finally developed a good line of contributors I could count on, and I felt for the first time that I really knew what I was doing. My favorite feature might have been humor cartoonist Fred Hembeck interviewing Spidey scribe Roger Stern, complete with illos.

The mag was almost hassle free. Well, except for two little things. One, of course, was the cover; it’s always the cover. I had, or more likely Mitch had contacted Frank Miller about drawing it, as he had done for the Daredevil Chronicles, and he had agreed, but at the last moment, he had to beg off, leaving me very much in the lurch.

I couldn’t use the back cover done by Joe Staton, because it wouldn’t have worked design-wise. Let me mention here Joe was possibly the sweetest man I’ve known in the comic book industry and who I would see from time to time in the store.

So, what to do, what to do. Pretty much in desperation, I called John Byrne, who had done the Fantastic Four cover. He whipped it out so quickly that it did not negatively affect the production schedule we had set with the printer. Say what you will about John Byrne, who apparently has been known to say some controversial things, but he saved my bacon — twice. I will never say anything bad about John Byrne.

The other problem was a drawing that Raoul Vezina had done of Spider-Man upon which he had put on the lyrics of the Spider-Man cartoon show. Rather like this:

We had contacted the copyright holder, seeking their permission to use those lyrics, and waited. And waited. And waited. We were even willing to pay them a reasonable amount of money for the rights. But ultimately, their response at the 11th hour was that we couldn’t use the lyrics at all. Ultimately, Raoul changed the words so it merely said “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man,” which we believed to be a copyright fair-use solution.

After having dealt with Marvel, sometimes with some great difficulty, FantaCo decided to go in a different direction with the series. We put out the Chronicles Annual, an overly broad history of what else was being published at the time, which Mitch and I edited. Then we decided to look to the “independent publishers” and put out Chronicles based on their characters. The first one we were going to do was the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Chronicles, which Mitch was going to edit. It was announced in our monthly newsletter, Fantaco Nooz, and Mitch reminded me that we even had a Gilbert Shelton cover, which looked a lot like this, obviously later used instead for a Freak Brothers anthology: But for reasons that now escape me, that book never saw the light of day. After that, I was supposed to edit the Kitchen Sink Chronicles, and there was even passing conversation about getting a Will Eisner cover. That too never got off the ground.

Well, *I* forgot the reason those magazines didn’t come out. Fortunately, an THE authority on FantaCo publications remembered. That would be Tom Skulan, founder/owner/big kahuna of FantaCo, who I’ve been in touch with for only a couple weeks after a nine- or ten-year hiatus. He noted that the Freak Brothers was never done because FantaCo did not receive enough material for a full issue; I guess some potential contributors were, like, too laid back. The Kitchen Sink Chronicles was never done because the initial feedback FantaCo got about it indicated that, unfortunately, it would be a very small print run, which broke my heart. Thus, as a magazine series, the Chronicles came to a bittersweet end, though one much later FantaCo BOOK was always thought of as a continuation of the series.

ROG

The Omnivore’s Hundred

ADD writes:

Andrew Wheeler posted this challenge on the Very Good Taste blog…here are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (I’ve opted to italicize; my blog, my rules.)
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Alan’s American Variant: I asterisked (*) any items that are unknown to me. Most of the starred items, I have heard of, but I don’t know what they are. Pathetic, I know.

(Oh, Johnny B. hates tomatoes, it seems.)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho*
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi*
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses*
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – specifically apple
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper*
27. Dulce de leche*
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda*
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (I’ve had each, but not together; would certainly eat it if offered)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly*
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal*
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu*
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi*
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle*
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine*
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin*
64. Currywurst*
65. Durian*
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost*
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu*
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong*
80. Bellini*
81. Tom yum*
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa*
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I should note that I didn’t cross off anything, because I’d try it in theory. Faced with a whole insect, who knows?
Also, many of the thinks I checked on the list, I tried only once, and didn’t particularly enjoy.

ROG

The Omnivore's Hundred

ADD writes:

Andrew Wheeler posted this challenge on the Very Good Taste blog…here are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (I’ve opted to italicize; my blog, my rules.)
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Alan’s American Variant: I asterisked (*) any items that are unknown to me. Most of the starred items, I have heard of, but I don’t know what they are. Pathetic, I know.

(Oh, Johnny B. hates tomatoes, it seems.)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho*
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi*
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses*
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – specifically apple
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper*
27. Dulce de leche*
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda*
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (I’ve had each, but not together; would certainly eat it if offered)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly*
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal*
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu*
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi*
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle*
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine*
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin*
64. Currywurst*
65. Durian*
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost*
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu*
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong*
80. Bellini*
81. Tom yum*
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa*
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I should note that I didn’t cross off anything, because I’d try it in theory. Faced with a whole insect, who knows?
Also, many of the thinks I checked on the list, I tried only once, and didn’t particularly enjoy.

ROG

The Lydster, Part 53: Room of Many Colors


Lydia is susceptible to allergies, not just peanuts, but also including dust mites. So it is incumbent upon us to scrub her walls thoroughly periodically. Last year, during the process, Carol and her father painted Lydia’s room a peach color that Lydia didn’t like for reasons of design that were lost on me. So this year, when she was asked what colors she would like on her walls, Lydia told them, and Carol and her father complied. The room is now pink. And blue. And purple. And yellow. And green. With a floor that’s a color called Rose Balcony. And now Lydia is very happy with a room that she can call her own. They also painted a white chair pink to match her bedding. Joseph, the 11th son of Israel, would be pleased.
***
Other sources of allergies, which I share with her, are grasses and ragweed, which we monitor. Saturday, while I was cutting the grass, Lydia came outside to pick some wildflowers. That afternoon, she had shortness of breath, and that night she coughed for three hours; cough medicine is of no use, but the drugs in the nebulizer eventually did the trick.
***
I don’t often say things like, “Boy, is my girl smart!” OK, maybe I do. But it seemed like only a few weeks ago, she insisted that twenty-nine was followed by twenty-ten, my insistence to the contrary notwithstanding. But now she can count to one hundred and beyond. Shades of Toy Story.

Picture #1 courtesy, of Earthworld Comics, May 2008.
Picture #2 courtesy of Uthaclena, August 2008.

ROG

Julie Hembeck Turns 18

One of the great pleasures I’ve had as a result of reigniting my friendship with Fred Hembeck and his wife Lynn Moss was getting to know their daughter Julie. From an awkward 15-year-old teenager to a beautiful 18-year-old young lady, she has blossomed in her confidence as well as her artistic eye. She will be going to college next month in New York State, but about four hours from home, compared with a couple colleges she looked at right in the Mid-Hudson that were only about an hour’s drive. So Fred and Lynn have to cope with being empty-nesters.

In fact, Leonard Bernstein, who would have been 90 today, discusses and plays the Ode for Joy, just for Julie:

And speaking of the Hembecks, Carol, Lydia and I made our annual trek to their chateau earlier this month. As usual, Fred and I blathered about what we’ve later described as unincapsulable. I know we talked about FantaCo, Regis Philbin, and Fred’s new book. But the conversation tended to flit from subject to subject.

He, our wives and I also had a philosophical conversation about blogging. My wife chastised me for me saying that she should look at my blog, rather than me having to explain what I had written. I noted that it isn’t just the information in the blog that I was trying to convey but the style and manner in which I said it. So to give a Cliff’s Notes version of it wouldn’t do it justice.

Fred ragged on me when he discovered that I had watched on the Internet the last 10 minutes of “There Shall Be Blood.” About every 10 minutes he would find some parallel slapdown to give me, ending with “Oh I suppose you listened to/read/watched/ saw the last 10 minutes of THAT,” no matter what it was. He even got my beloved wife to join in the fun. I had a good time anyway, with Lynn’s vegetarian dinner a highlight of the day.
***
Another satisfied Fred Hembeck customer.

BIKE QUOTES

After my accident lost me six weeks of riding time, I got on the bicycle, but it just didn’t feel right. So I decided I ought to take my bike to the shop to make sure it’s OK. Between the time it took the shop to get to my bike in the queue, them actually fixing it and me getting to it, a total of ten weeks of prime riding time was killed, alas!

So I am on my bike, functionally for the first time in two and a half months. It feels foreign, strange. The seat had replaced as were the pedals. The seat needed adjusting – it was too high; as did my helmet – it was too tight. So I decided to ride on the sidewalk the three blocks from the bike shop to the church so I could get back to the church picnic I had left to get the vehicle in the first place and do my adjustments then.

I pass a woman on the sidewalk, not a half a block from the shop, passing her four feet wide of her, going quite slowly. And what does she say? “You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk!” Of course, she was right, but I was rather hoping for some cosmic grace. But explaining all of this would have taken too much time, so I just said, “Not without getting killed,” which was true enough; I didn’t feel in control of my vehicle. Then she said something I didn’t hear, and I rode back, sighing.

Back at church, I then made the appropriate adjustments so that I could ride on the street.
***
“The cyclist is a man half made of flesh and half of steel that only our century of science and iron could have spawned.”
– (19th-century author) Louis Baudry de Saunier
***
“My family car is an SUB and I love it. On my new ‘sport utility bicycle’ I can cart groceries, take my kids shopping, haul a barbecue grill and make a margarita,” by Mark Benjamin. Complete with video.
***
More bikes as transportation.
***
Brilliant Bike Locking:

***
The Bike to Work book.
***
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” – Arthur Conan Doyle.
***
How high are those gas prices?
***
A Borgman cartoon.
***
“A seat and handlebars have a magical way of bringing out a childish enthusiasm
that is too often thrown by the wayside as we grow up.
It’s always there. Waiting to be revived.
And when you find it again, it’s fun and strangely familiar.
Just like riding a bike.”
– Mary Buckheit
***
Actual sign: “Burn Fat Not Oil.” True that.
***
Bicycle service and parts.
***
Someone e-mailed this; don’t know the original source –

Green Machine

What’s your carbon footprint? And I don’t mean your cycling-shoe size.
No, I’m talking about the color of the moment: green.
“Puh-leeze,” you say, “I ride a bike. I’m greener than a hung-over Carnival Cruise passenger in a hurricane.”
Is that so? Then you won’t mind taking this climate-change quiz designed just for cyclists:
I commute by bike . . .
(a) every day
(b) couple times a week, if it’s not raining and the alarm goes off
(c) I no longer commute since getting fired for making fun of the boss’s Prius
My frame is made of . . .
(a) steel, aluminum, carbon or titanium
(b) bamboo, hemp or old Clorox bottles
(c) spent nuclear fuel rods, covered in baby seal fur
I only eat energy bars made from . . .
(a) endangered white-rhino meat
(b) locally grown, fair-trade, organic ingredients
(c) ethanol waste products
I clean my chain with . . .
(a) jet fuel
(b) citrus-based degreaser
(c) nothing, thus allowing it to exist freely in its natural state
After cleaning my chain, I . . .
(a) hose the drippings into the nearest storm drain, which empties into the local orphanage’s playground
(b) take the gunk-filled degreaser to the recycling center
(c) like I said, I don’t clean it, you fascist chain murderer you
When my water bottle gets moldy, I . . .
(a) chuck it in a roadside ditch
(b) cut off the top and recycle it as a planter
(c) use it to plug the exhaust pipe of Hummers
If I can’t ride my bike someplace, I . . .
(a) drive my SUV there as fast as possible, with my tires under-inflated and the AC blasting out my open windows
(b) walk, car-pool or take bio-diesel-powered public transportation
(c) ride the indoor trainer while watching my Al Gore videos
***
Why Bike? Top 5 Reasons to Ride

ROG