Friday, October 29, 2010

You Know You're A Stay-at-home-dad When...

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
  • know for a fact that the most efficient way to clean up a smashed Cheerio is to wait 24 hours, by which time it will have been absorbed into the general dustiness of the floor, then vacuum the whole floor like you were going to do anyway (zero additional seconds wasted on Cheerio dust clean up).
  • figured out that one way for your two-year-old to get over her fear of the vacuum cleaner was to teach her how to use it.
  • skip to the bottom of the care labels on clothes hoping to find those three little words: "or dry clean."
  • loved "True Mud" on Sesame Street
  •'ve been asked (just like Joeprah), "Daddy, where's your vagina?" (I would never have believed it if it didn't actually happen...)

Fatherhood Friday: Dads of Daughters

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsHere are a few articles and links more or less related to fatherhood that have come my way via the Twitterverse this past week.  These are more relevant if you are a parent of a daughter or daughters.

Let's start on a light note!  I'm not a huge fan of the show (though in general I love Shatner), but this blog and Twitter feed make me laugh on a pretty regular basis.  This dad is hilarious in ways a dad is only allowed to be after his kids are grown: completely filthy and completely honest.

I think I breathed an audible sigh of relief when I read this article.  Here's my favorite part:

As with many things in medicine, things change, and this article concludes that it is no longer necessary for most adolescents to undergo a routine pelvic exam.  The first Pap smear is now recommended to be performed at 21 years of age.   Furthermore, an internal exam is no longer required to begin an adolescent on oral contraceptive therapy.  This has just recently become the recommendation.
Third, we head to the Bible Belt for an article about how well abstinence-only sex-education is working (here's a hint: it's not).  I want everyone to remember that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been teaching abstinence-only sex-ed for thousands of years.  It has never worked.  If you want proof, just open your Bible to Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  Any time you read a "law" about what to do when men and women have sex outside of marriage, that means that it happened and the court had to rule on it.  Nowadays, absent the penalties of death, stoning, being forced to marry your rapist, being disowned by your family, being ostracized from your community, etc., abstinence-only sex-ed has no teeth and is ineffective.  Dads, I know it is tough to even think about the fact that your daughter is going to have sex some day, but please don't add to the risk of teen pregnancy by refusing to teach your daughter about birth control and safe sex in addition to making good decisions about her body and encouraging her to wait until she is old enough to make a good decision for herself. 

And now we have the troubling story of a high school cheerleader who refused to cheer the name of the basketball player who sexually assaulted her.  The courts actually ruled that as a cheerleader, she was required to cheer for him.  Unbelievable.  Here's the article about her and her father, who stands with her no matter what.  All parents need to be their kids' advocates, but fathers of daughters have a special role.  Even some conservatives become allies with women in the struggles against sex discrimination and sexual assault because they experience these things in a new way through the lives of their daughters.

Unfortunately, the realities of gender discrimination don't always ping men's radars.  Here we encounter a candidate for Congress who appears to be ignorant of the realities of gender discrimination.  A friend of mine recently told me that "in this country we have equal opportunity, not equal results."  We were discussing poverty issues in that case and the increasing disparity in income between the highest earners and the rest of the country.  However, while we have equal opportunity as a matter of principle, not all of us enjoy it as a matter of fact.  I could point to any number of relevant facts that show that women still do not enjoy equality with men.  That someone running for Congress is ignorant of the gender-discrimination which exists in this country is evidence enough for me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Drawing from My Distant Past #5

Thor.  The God of Thunder.  Here we see him summoning the lightning with his invincible uru war hammer "Mjolnir."  Ugh.  I did this in 1991, no doubt.  At least I was drawing an established character again.
Check out the arm holding Mjolnir.  What is that?  Of course, Thor has no fingers, when he forms a fist, his hands become indecipherable blobs.  Face, cape, anatomy, pose, proportion, everything in this picture is just wrong.   But give a guy a break!  Like William Hung, I had no professional training!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Memory Inventory: Framed Medals

In high school, I was a swimmer.  First and foremost, I swam.  I put more time and effort into the pool than I put anywhere else.  I'd love to tell you that I was a great student and worked hard in school, but that would be a lie.  The numbers don't lie.  I swam anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours a day Monday-Saturday not including meets that would last whole weekends.  I didn't put anywhere near that amount of time and effort into getting good grades or excelling academically.  I did well enough at school pretty easily.  But I had to work hard to do well in the pool.  Objectively, I was an okay swimmer; middling really, and it took a lot of effort for me to do as well as I did.  I didn't do well enough to be recruited by any colleges, but I didn't realize that was going to be the case until it was too late for me to do anything about it.  So I swam all through high school and into the summer after I graduated, without being anything close to a star athlete.

I'm not entirely sure how my dad, who was a star athlete, felt about having an oldest son who he literally had to teach, step-by-step, how to run, throw a baseball, and catch a football.  Even after all his efforts, it was pretty obvious to just about everyone that I was never going be a star of baseball, football or soccer.  I quit baseball after 5th grade, and soccer soon followed.  I never played a down of organized football.  That my father never let on that he was even slightly disappointed is to his everlasting credit and I am more grateful for that than he may ever know.

Instead, all I knew was that my father and my mother were completely invested in our (my brothers, sister and my) lives as swimmers.  And as unimpressive as I was on an objective level, my dad was totally behind me.  Over the years, I have carried a sort of token of his support around with me wherever I have lived.  My senior year in high school, I finally qualified for Eastern Zone Championships.  To give you an idea of how unimpressive that was, my younger brother qualified for the exact same Eastern Zone Championships, and he was in 8th grade at the time (he was a much more gifted swimmer).  I brought home a few medals from that meet and another middle-level championship meet that year, and as a surprise, my father mounted and framed them for me as though they were Olympic Gold.  He did not have them mounted and framed; he did it himself.  I'm not sure I appreciated it at the time.  I lived in a dorm and don't think I hung them up until I had graduated college.  But I kept those framed medals, and have hung them in every place I have lived since then.

Those framed medals traveled with me from Centreville, VA, to Washington, DC, to New Haven and Middletown, CT and back to DC.  After 15 years of being moved and re-hung, the mounting has had enough.  It basically fell apart.  I now still have the medals and the frame stored neatly away, but I doubt they will ever go up on a wall again.  Even the frame barely holds together.  But every time I look at it, I think about my dad and how much he supported an awkward, slightly weird, middling-level swimmer of an oldest son.  I appreciate him every time I think about it, and although I may need to relieve my closet of that frame, I want to keep that memory somewhere in my brain for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Podcast Recommendation: Stuff Mom Never Told You

I have to admit it: I'm a sucker for a good informative podcast on something I know nothing about.  So, when I found the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast, I was giddy.  Molly and Cristin discuss what could be broadly termed as "women's issues."  As the primary caregiver of a precocious 2-year-old female, I was more than a little intrigued.  At some point in the future, I'll be expected to understand things like acne, bras, Title 9 and why she's attracted to that "bad boy" who lives down the block.  As the guy who takes care of two fantastic females, I need to learn a bit about women's health, gender-based discrimination in schools and the workplace, and what masculine and feminine really mean in a post-modern framework.  This podcast helps me serve my ladies better.  It is eye opening (did you know there is no physiological or medical reason women need to wear bras at all?), counter-intuitive (did you know how shoddy the science is that supports "breast is best"?), and sometimes just weird (did you know the size of the human foot has been increasing rapidly over only the past 200 years?).

They are somewhat "third wave" in their approach, which makes good clear answers on some issues hard to articulate.  On other issues, such as adult acne, the history of the purse, and the origins of the term "cougar" (referring to an ... oh you know what a cougar is), their research is much more concrete and complete.  They do an okay job of presenting multiple sides and opinions on whatever topic they are addressing, even if their tone of voice lets you know how much credibility they are giving to one opinion or another.

For dads and husbands, I would definitely recommend this little window into the issues and concerns that our wives and daughters have dealt or will be dealing with.  For all the ladies out there, I'd recommend it because there are probably some myths you've been holding on to for most of your lives that have no basis in actual fact (NO you and your girl-friends' cycles did NOT sync up in college), and there are probably some things you've suspected your whole lives that you will learn are pretty much true (yup - men lose weight more easily).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Smallville "Isis" Review (Airdate 10/22/10)

I get it.  People out surfing the blogosphere don't give a crap when some random guy decides to review some random TV show on a regular basis.  But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Spoilers by the way.

This past Friday's episode of Smallville (entitled "Isis") was a combination of the things I like about the show and the things I loath.  I like it when they move relationships forward in positive ways rather than just leaving them in limbo for episode after episode.  Usually the viewer has no idea what the actual status of any given relationship is.  But, every once in a while the show gives us just a touch of clarity.  The development of Lois and Clark's relationship this season has been great so far, and now that Clark has told her about his powers, they can move on to the creation of the Superman persona and get rid of the horribly named "Blur" persona.

I do not like when they dress Lois up in skimpy outfits for no good reason.  It is cheap.  I didn't mind the Wonder Woman-ish amazon outfit at Halloween time last season, but this season has been too much too often for my tastes.  I don't care if she is possessed by Isis, there was no real reason to get her all dressed up.  It would have been more real if she was in street clothes.

I do not like when they make lame-ish attempts to discuss the nature of heady topics like love and sacrifice and what it means to be a hero who also is in love, blah.  They need better writers before they can do that kind of thing, and they don't have them.  The best they've done so far this season is Hawkman's explanation of "ubermensch" in episode 2, which I found good enough, if a little shallow and rosy.  But when we have Isis getting ready to release hell on earth for love, and Clark being willing to sacrifice even love for a greater good, the dialogue gets all stupid, unnatural, and convoluted.

I do not like Cat Grant.  At all.  I don't like how the character is written, acted, or plotted.  Put her on assignment in Gotham and leave her there.

I do like it when a team comes together to get something done.  Tess, Green Arrow, and Clark all worked together to take down Isis, save the world and free Lois.  Good stuff.

I do like that Lex Luthor is making his presence felt, even if it is just through the rapidly-aging clone, Alexander.

I'm not a huge fan of Tess, but bringing her into the League is bold at this stage in the game.  Can she be trusted? "We'll see."

I do like Lois and Clark.  From the moment Lois Lane first appeared on Smallville way back in season 4, we fans have been waiting for the past two episodes with great anticipation.  We were thrilled when Lana Lang finally made her exit so Lois and Clark could finally be the focus of the show and the characters themselves. 

The final words on "Isis" are "meh" and "'bout time!"

My Favorite Tweets of the Weekend

Aaron Gouveia
I never want to see another commercial that intricately describes how a tampon works. Don't make me hate vaginas.
Huffington Post
Catholic bishops tell Israel not to use Bible to justify "injustices" against Palestinians
Aaron Gouveia
Is there a better feeling than taking your shoes & socks off after a long Friday? Well, b______s naturally. But after that? The best. [edited by Zuke]

The Daily Show
"There's a certain segment of hardcore Sean Hannity fans that probably wouldn't want to go have a beer with me." - Barack Obama...
Matthew Zurowski
win thanks to Hall! Wow. 4 INT in one half!
NPR News
Austerity, A Virtue That Could Have Us Paying Twice
The Washington Post
For liberal groups, "Daily Show" rally on Mall, not just for laughs
Kevin Nadolski
The Lord, the "God who has no favorites," hears the cries of the poor. Do we hear the cries of the poor? Or, just care for our favorites?
Real Dad
I just traded the wife alone time with the television for sexual favors. It is a win for me!
WTF with Marc Maron
There is an add for the antidote to me on my app. Have no control over this.
One hour at the barbershop and my second son is finally in the chair. Hopefully we can leave before 6.
Jason Mayo
Holy Mama Mia! Nothing compliments a foot massage like Italian food...
CURSE YOU red velvet cake!!!
marc maron
Trying to decide whether or not I am a hoarder or just nostalgic.
Huffington Post
Condoms Next To Diapers & Other Hilarious Shelf Placement Fails (PHOTOS)

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Know You're A Stay-at-home Dad When...

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
  • ... you are invited to help a friend move and he sweetens the deal with "child care will be provided."
  • forgot to shave... this week.
  • discourage your daughter from becoming too friendly with that little hippie boy at daycare ("He's a little too friendly if you ask me.  I don't like it.")
  • ...your toddler's favorite characters are, Elmo, Dora, Mickey, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman... not necessarily in that order.
  • Hop on Pop isn't just the title of a book by Dr. Seuss; it's also your weltanschauung.   

Potty Training Panic Attack

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsHow the heck am I going to get my daughter to poop in a potty?  I can't get her to come to me when I call, or do anything I say.  I never saw any of the "signs" she was ready to potty-train.  She's never given a dang about hauling a load around in her pants, and if you don't actually catch her having a BM, you won't know about it until you smell it.  She doesn't care.  I just watched her sit on that damn potty bare-ass for 10-15 minutes immediately after a snack and some water while she read a book and just chilled out; she never peed!  Then, I gave up (if she doesn't want to you shouldn't force her right?), put on her training pants, and thirty seconds later it was full.  GAH!

I'm afraid I don't have the patience for this kind of aggravation.  I've read that if I lose it and wig out during potty-training, I may scar her forever and it will take even longer.  That's way more pressure than I ever wanted to deal with.  Both of the methods with which I am most familiar require constant vigilance and impeccable consistency.  I'm not good with either of those in this context.  So far, I've got a perfect record making sure she doesn't eat, touch, swim in, fall off of, or inhale anything that will kill her or too many of her brain cells at once.  I have reveled in my own ignorance regarding when and where she pees.  If I change her every three hours (plus whenever she smells like crap) she stays clean and dry and happy.  It's a good system. 

I'm considering putting her in underwear for a weekend to let her figure it out for herself.  She's pretty smart, and I can clean up as she learns.  I'll just take a look around the apartment every 3 hours or when something smells like crap.  Clean.  Dry.  Happy.  That's me!  Now, which weekend?  It will have to be one during which we have nothing else going on.  Let me check my calendar.  Second weekend in January looks free.  Crap.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Drawing from My Distant Past #4

This guy crack's me up.  I was inspired at the time by a horrible character design I saw in X-Force.  No doubt he was designed and created by Rob Liefield.  This guy is a villain of course.  He's got a spikey shoulder, blades on his hands as well as smoking gun barrels, boots that don't match, and that same goofy anatomy I think i was copying from Eastman and Laird's TMNT at the time combined with a simplified take on Jim Lee's version of a torso.  I probably drew him in 1992.

Is that a force field?  Wow.  I probably decided to give him that when I realized I forgot to give him other... parts.  I'm sure I felt sorry for the guy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Memory Inventory: Student ID

I've been holding on to my student ID from the University of Virginia for some reason.  I received it in late August of 1995, and now, 15 years and 6 weeks later, it still resides in my sock drawer for no apparent reason.  I really don't know for sure why I've never gotten rid of it.  Vanity perhaps?  I mean, it is a good picture.  I managed to be very photogenic for that picture for some reason.  I was in shape, tan and blond from being a lifeguard and swimming that summer.  Have I been holding on to this laminated scrap of cardboard for 15 years because I looked good?

I remember the day I received it.  It was a fantastic, hot August day in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I met my roommate as I was moving in.  I unpacked what I could, went to get my ID while my parents finished setting up my room (it was one of those mom things, I couldn't have stopped her if I had wanted to).  The main impression I have of that first day at college is of constructive chaos.  There was a schedule to keep, but keeping the schedule was completely chaotic.  The whole situation threw just about everyone out of their comfort zone, which created a situation in which everyone was just about as friendly as they'd ever been in their lives.  Whether you decided to or not, you ended up introducing yourself to everyone on the off chance that this next person might become your next best friend, your drinking buddy, or your soul mate.

Then there were the familiar faces; at least one anyway.  My wife came by to say hi.  We weren't even dating at the time and certainly did not expect what would happen ten years later.  We had dated in high school and had remained friends after it ended.  I remember we went out to this strange party the university set up out in the common area just to help us mingle and get to know one another.  She and I went out to enjoy it with a few guys from my suite.  She impressed my suite-mates terribly, but we soon lost track of each other in the mix.

I barely recognize myself in that picture when I look at it today.  No only am I no longer as tan, blond or in shape, but so much has happened that there is barely any resemblance between the kid I was 15 years ago, and the young adult I am still becoming (I define young adult up to age 35 btw).  Clearly, my life is good - real good.  But that day - that time - was more pivotal that I realized.

That was the last time my life was not marred by failure.  I had never failed at anything important before, and believed I never would.  I practically believed I never could.  In a few short months, those delusions would be soundly shattered.  Two weeks into the semester I would hobble painfully away from competitive swimming forever.  A month into the semester I would get a "D" on my first calculus text (a four-credit course; my grade would never improve despite way too much effort).  I would finish the semester with a 1.9 GPA and would see real disappointment in my parent's eyes for the first time in my life.

I would return to school for the spring semester with permanently lowered expectations.  Dean's list?  No thank you!  I would settle for anything near a 3.0.  Biology?  'Fraid not!  Hard science was too... mathy.  I would focus on Foreign Affairs; it was more BS-friendly.  Summer internships?  Bah!  I would lifeguard over the summer.  Why would anyone work hard in college when "employers don't really care about grades, they just want to see a degree"?  (That little bit of "common knowledge" floating around grounds proved to be complete BS, by the way.)

In one academic year I had shattered the over-achiever self-image that I had easily maintained in high school.  I replaced it with something mediocre and unimpressive.  Since then I have managed to over-achieve in some really important ways.  I married a woman waaaaaay out of my league.  Together we have a little girl who is the best person the world.  But you cannot erase the effects of your past failures once they've been written on your brain.  They remain with me to this day; I have trouble thinking of myself, or behaving as though I am capable of anything great.

But look at that picture on that student ID.  That kid was capable, responsible, quick-witted, sharp, funny, in shape, excited and ready to conquer anything.  How do I dig him back up out of the layer of grime that semester 15 years ago deposited?  He shines through it every so often: when I'm with my wife, my daughter - they look at me and I can tell they think I'm great.  They wouldn't trade me for that kid if he came with a million dollars in his pockets.  If I see myself through their eyes and ignore my own mediocre self-image, I might regain some of the exuberance and hope I see in the eyes smiling up at me from this old ID.

Surprising Brain Rules for Baby

This Huffington Post Article has a somewhat entertaining video and some surprising insights into early childhood brain development. 

Parents, save the money you've been spending on products that won't make your baby one iota smarter! 

DADS!!!  Get off your backsides and clean more!  I know you're going to say, "I clean plenty!  We share the chores 50/50!"  But all the research says you are grossly over-estimating your contribution.  The average distribution of household work is about 70/30.  I'm sorry, but the Lake Wobegon ("Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.") effect won't save you here!  Remember, that average includes people like me: a stay-at-home-dad who does all the laundry, all the grocery shopping, all the cleaning, and has changed every poopy diaper for 2 1/2 years ('cept for one when Vivian was tiny and I was away). 

One that gets me is that we should be talking to our very young children in baby-ese.  This is easy for Michelle, who almost naturally goes up an octave and gets this adorable lilt in her voice whenever she sees Vivian.  For me, I feel like a baritone singing first tenor whenever I try it.  I have to keep warm water on hand to keep from getting hoarse. 

I was surprised by the notion that praising your children for being smart is a bad idea.  He makes sense though.  You have to watch almost the entire video before you learn about it.

Empathy.  What a concept.  I've already been trying to train myself to empathize with Vivian when she's upset about something and gearing up for a tantrum.  It works pretty well, actually.  I just have to train myself to think before I grab.  She doesn't understand why running around with an open Sharpie freaks me out.  She thinks it's all in good fun, and when I grab the Sharpie from her, she is confused and angry.  Unfortunately, at this stage she tends to run from me whenever I call her, so I'm sorta stuck.  I usually end up causing a tantrum and then trying to empathize with my toddler who, in her mind, I have just wronged.  Ugh.  Any advice?

All in all, I'm impressed with the advice this guy is spouting, especially since he is basing it on good scientific research.  I like science.  It forces us to confront our own irrational behaviors with the light of facts and reason.  I'll probably end up buying the book, or at least visiting his web site once in a while.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Misogyny Alive and Well in America

I did a quick rundown of a few news stories that crossed my Twitter feed in the past few days and am appalled at how badly men in this country feel like they can treat women.

First, we have Brett Favre and his junk.  It's bad enough that an iconic sportsman like Favre would pursue an adulterous affair.  It's bad, but not surprising.  Athletes, celebrities, politicians, religious leaders, and probably a third to half of the married men you know are trying to get with someone they are not supposed to.  I'm not sure how many of them actually sent unwanted pictures of their genitals to someone who is clearly not interested, but I know Favre did just that.  That's no the worst of it, though.  Check out The Daddy Files for another take on Favre and the media's misrepresentation of the woman in question.  He's not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, and his misconceptions about workplace harassment and the feminist movement in general are a little off-putting, but his take on the misogyny present in our culture is spot-on and refreshing to hear from someone who has "traditionally skewered feminists and feminism in general."

Then we have DKE at Yale:

Begin­ning around 9:30 pm, mem­bers of the DKE fra­ter­nity marched with their pledges around Yale’s Old Cam­pus (the home of almost all of Yale’s fresh­man women) chant­ing slo­gans such as “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophil­iac, I f— dead women, and fill them with my semen.” 

Here are a few links in chronological order if you want to read a little more: October 14, October 15, and October 18.

I have any number of questions about these young men in DKE at Yale.  First, where were their fathers when they were growing up that they would allow their sons to think for a second that this behavior is acceptable or that these attitudes towards women should even be allowed a moment's purchase in their academically gifted minds?  Where are their parents now?  If I were ever to have a son in college and I heard that any organization in which he was a member perpetrated anything like this, I would require him to quit if he wanted another dime of support for the rest of his life!  This is just abhorrent.  Where are the alums of this fraternity?  Do they condone this behavior?  The strongest possible message needs to be sent; shut it down.  Anything less is tacit approval and license to continue. 

Finally, we have the Meghan McCain firestorm.  She is an intelligent and articulate young woman who expressed serious concern about the messages Christine O'Donnell's nomination to the US Senate sends to young people.  Here's an article on the right-wing media response.  Apparently, they can't look at her without seeing her breasts, and that makes them angry. 

These are just three examples I noticed over the past three days of the reality of misogyny that women confront every day in this country and all over the world.  As a man who loves his wife and his daughter, I know I need to keep that in mind and give them both all the support and love I can muster while doing what I can to call attention to and fight against the misogynistic impulses in our culture. 

Blaming Gender: 5 Reasons Boys Are Slipping in School – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks

Blaming Gender: 5 Reasons Boys Are Slipping in School – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks

Shots Fired at the Pentagon This Morning!

Multiple incidents in recent history.  Check out the story.

There are crazies everywhere.  Just relax, take it easy.  If you are angry, take a pill or something.  Violence is not the answer.  And if you feel like you just have to shoot something, lock up your gun, go buy a pair of boxing gloves, and take it out on a heavy bag.  It is much more effective.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Smallville Review: "Homecoming" (Airdate 10/15/10)

The 200th episode of Smallville was a look back at the past 9+ seasons and a look forward to the hero Clark is destined to become.  I loved it.  Lois and Clark return to Smallville for their 5-year High School reunion, we get some flashback memories about Lana, Chloe, and the "Wall of Weird," a great shot of Clark's utter mortification at being crowned the Homecoming Alumni King (HA!), and then we get the return of Brainiac (James Marsters) who (now a good guy with the Legion in the 31st century) guides Clark via time-traveling Legion ring through the pivotal moments of his past and (!) future.  Brainiac's goal is to help Clark get over the mistakes of the past, both his own and those of others in order to become the hero he needs to be in the present. 

There were a couple really awesome moments in an episode that was just great overall: 
  1. Clark travels seven years into the future, meets both Lois and his future self (“How did I become so uptight… and nerdy?”), and is blown away by the awesomeness of it all.  So was I.  
  2. The final scene was all sorts of romantic and cool in a way that this show rarely gets right.  They nailed it right on the head this time.  My darlin' was all snuggling up with me as a result, so I might be biased.
Seriously, this ep. did everything right in my book.  Sure, there were no super-villains to punch out, no kryptonite, no Lex (maybe they coulda thrown some Lex in there in a flashback or something), but the writers didn't just give us what we wanted to see; they surprised us in the process.  Awesome.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Drawing From My Distant Past #3

Oh, this dude is awesome.  I hung this guy on my wall for years.  I have no idea when I drew this guy.  Looking at the anatomy, I have to assume sometime in 1992.  I was all about creating my own characters at this point, having been inspired by the guys who had just left Marvel to form Image Comics.  This guy eventually became the ultimate bad guy in the stories I created in my head. 

The eyes are still too far up in the head.  WTF is going on with that shoulder, arm, hand, ugh.  I'm pretty sure this guy's left leg is anatomically impossible, or at least very difficult.  What a stupid looking gun.  Oh, and I still hate drawing ears.

I thought I did pretty well with the colors, given that I had not learned a dang thing about how to really use colored pencils.  I can't say I'd do any better with them today, actually. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Know You're A Stay-at-home-dad When...

  • ... you remember your annual buzz-cut fondly and seriously consider buying a set of clippers... for your two-year-old daughter.
  • got all excited when you saw the first trailers for The Expendables, and then you got really quiet and ended up putting Over the Top on your Nexflix instant queue.  
  • ... you have a personal alarm for those days you need to take a shower (Daddy!  You 'tink!)
  • ... the APA's "no peanuts" rule pisses you off every day right around lunch time ("What the %*@#! am I supposed to feed this kid?!?)
  •'re a little angry about the whole "Katy Perry banned from Sesame Street" debacle.  You and I love guest appearances on SS.  The special guests are really there just for the adults who are forced to watch Sesame Street with their preschoolers.  Any guest is a good guest in my opinion.  But they let a fat slob who specializes in toilet humor (Jack Black) on that show (and I loved it!), while a talented and liberated female performing artist is "too sexy" for Elmo?  Don't you think that's just a little sexist?  It was fine to have Rev. Run rap with Elmo (seriously, I laughed out loud at "Hop This Way") because he had the good sense to cover up his boobs with his clerical black uniform, but Katy Perry's summer dress was too much (too little?) for your pre-school aged kiddies?  Did anyone go outside this past summer?  Did anyone go to a beach?  Did you take your children anywhere during the last few months (the hottest summer ever)?  Or, in the interest of shielding their eyes from all the boob-age, did you keep them sequestered inside all summer?  Have you seen the footage?  Do you think your 2-4 year-old cares about Katy Perry's boobs?  What I enjoy is that every once in a while Sesame Street enlists a performer adults might recognize and enjoy so that we don't go insane watching with our toddlers.  So I'm a little angry that Katy Perry got canned for a couple reasons: 1) blatant sexism 2) I would've enjoyed the bit while my daughter freaked out over Elmo. 
    • For the record, I'm not what anyone would call a fan of Katy Perry's.  I liked a couple of her songs ("I Kissed a Girl" and "Hot 'N Cold"), but I can't stand the new one ("California Gurls" - ugh.). 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Memory Inventory: Chewbacca

When I was a freshman at Bishop Ireton High School, I discovered I had a talent that few people could claim: I could vocalize like a wookie.   On the bus one day riding to school, we were discussing Star Wars and I let loose a vibrating bellow that was a dead-on Chewbacca from the movies.  For the next three years I produced these sounds on demand for the upperclassmen and then, whenever my friends asked as I neared graduation.  I had many nicknames at the time, and “Chewbacca” became one of them.  

I cultivated and honed my ability through high school and took it with me to college.  I never missed an opportunity to release my inner wookie.   Did it make me more popular or win me more friends?  Probably not.  But it did make me stand out from the pack just a little bit more.  We all have our little things.  Bellowing like a wookie was one of mine.  

I played Chewbacca in a ridiculous variety show my choir used as a fundraiser.  My costume consisted of a brown suede jacket, a belt tossed sideways across my shoulder, and the huge mop of hair I was sporting at the time (another one of my “things”).  Well, as a result, that year for our choir’s Secret Santa Christmas thing, my Santa got me a Chewbacca Pez dispenser and a Chewbacca action figure (from The Empire Strikes Back; he was all covered in snow from the ice planet “Hoth”).  To this day they have remained in a box full of little memories that I have just never gotten rid of.  

I guess I just don’t want to forget certain things, but this little box of stuff has followed me from DC to New Haven to Middletown, CT and back to DC again.  It is time to come clean.  Chewbacca was part of my adolescence that made me feel special, like swimming and singing and drawing.  I could make a lot of weird noises, and Chewbacca was my favorite.  No one else could do it like me.  I’ve even tried teaching people (“just vocalize ‘ahhh’ as you vibrate your soft palate”) but no one gets it like I do.  As an adult, I don’t go all wookie nearly as often as I used to, but I still can.  It’s one of my things.  I’ll never really give it up.  Even if I toss those silly toys in the trash right now, those memories, now committed to the permanent record of digital type, will stay here with me forever.

I have a lot of extra stuff like Chewbacca that I have never bothered to get rid of.  I have sketch books full of old drawings (some of which I’ve posted on this blog), ancient toys and photographs of none but sentimental value.  I have a microphone stand I’ve never used and books I’ll never read again.  Part of the reason we keep these things is because looking at them causes old neural pathways to fire again and strengthen; they are not the memories, but the things actually reignite our memories and strengthen them.  Of course, another way to keep our memories is to write them out, scan them in, or tell someone else.  That’s what I’ll do here from time to time.  I hope those of you who visit don’t mind if I indulge myself once in a while.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Secret Formula

  • one (1) socially awkward individual who is simultaneously one of the best in her/his field, which incidentally or tangentially pertains to law enforcement, medicine, or both.  
  • one (1) more or less well-adjusted individual whose methods, personality and (most important) gender are the exact opposite but oddly compatible to those of the individual described above.  
  • an assortment of other individuals who buzz around this central relationship while providing humor, seriousness, exposition, and sexual gratuitousness whenever the situation requires.  
  • some sort of crime, mystery, illness or other puzzle to be solved in a unique and surprising manner. 
  • plenty of sexual tension (as a garnish)
Mix haphazardly (consistency is to be avoided at all costs)
Serve weekly.
Follow with cliffhanger, plot twist (avoid resolution), sentimentality or quirky one-liner.

Pairs well with any alcoholic beverage. 

The above describes at least five hour-long dramas on network television right now (three of which I watch - I'm a sucker, I know).  Can you name them (or others)?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Smallville Review: "Supergirl" (Airdate 10/8/10)

We were treated to the return of Clark's Kryptonian cousin, Kara, on Smallville Friday night.  Frankly, I like her better as a Kryptonian than as a lizard alien on V.  I'm going to try to keep this review a little shorter than last week, since I know most of you could give less than half a crap about Smallville.  If you want to follow the plot, just go to the CW website in a couple days and watch as many full episodes of Smallville as they have.

There were things I liked about last Friday's episode and there were things I did not.
What I did not like:
  • After revealing Clark's new look last week and symbolically moving the character into the light, it seems as though they misplaced his fancy new jacket and decided to return him to the shadows while we weren't looking.
  • Lois Lane is possibly the best-written and most likable character on the show ever (with the possible exception of John Schneider's portrayal of Johnathan Kent), dressing her up all fem-dom and then tying her up all bondage style seriously cheapens the character and the show.  
  • Why is Lois the one trying to keep the heroes from revealing themselves to the world?  Everyone else (except the Suicide Squad) wants heroes to believe in and trust - heroes they can see.  Is Lois being selfish?  Or is she just worried about Clark?
What I did like:
  • Kara comes back to earth, to the only family she has left, and shows Clark up in every way imaginable.  All the fanboys out there (who mostly are idiots) are going to be all like, "in the Superman mythos, it is Superman who takes Kara under wing and teaches her what it means to be a hero.. blah, blah, blah...," but in the context of what they've been doing on this show for 10 years, that Kara would help guide Clark to his destiny makes perfect sense.  I hate fanboys.  Fanboys ruin comics and any adaptation of comics by insisting that their own individual assumptions and ideas about a given character are the immutable truth. 
  • Flying!  Even a little flying is AWESOME.
  • No Tess
  • The way they hinted, just barely, at the connection between the dark force and the "Suicide Squad" from last week.  
  • Clark makes good points, but recognizes (in the end) where he falls short.  While it seems that he and Kara have come to an understanding regarding "the Darkness" ("I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOOOOOOOOVE!"), we know that, by the end of the season, it will be Clark who faces the dark force threatening the world and we know he will have to overcome his own doubts and fears to do so.  He's not ready yet, but he will be.  This show is about how Clark Kent becomes Superman, not about Superman.  Smallville gives Clark Kent room to make mistakes, learn how to deal with difficult decisions, and get out of his own way in order to become the world's greatest hero.  Superman is the best ever.  Smallville shows us how he became that.
Next week: "Homecoming," and you can check out the preview here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Drawing from My Distant Past #2

Check this guy out.  No, it's not a drawing of anyone in particular.  Just some guy flying without any hands.  If you can't draw hands, you can always imagine they are living light bulbs soooo bright they can't even be seen!

Note the freakishly high placement of the eyes, the overly severe and heavily shaded cheeks, and (again) the screwed up foreshortening (really, whose knee pints straight down when they bend their leg.  The anatomy is a little better, but not much.  And check out that hair!  No sig on this one... I'd put the date on this somewhere around '91 again.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Smallville Review: "Shield" (Airdate 10/1/10)

There were three basic plot-lines this week: 1) Lois and Cartar (Hawkman) Hall in Egypt drinking whiskey and having a heart-to-heart; 2) Clark meets his new partner at the Daily Planet (Cat Grant) and saves her from an apparent attempt on her life by the wanted criminal "Deadshot"; 3) Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen searches for Chloe who has gone missing and has apparently been erased from the digital record.  Finally, we were introduced to "The Suicide Squad," a group of crime fighters who use kidnapping, torture, and assassination and are determined to keep costumed heroes out of the spotlight.  So far, the viewer has not seen them do any actual crime fighting; just the kidnapping, assassination and torture.

The Lois/Hawkman plotline was well-done and important to the overall development of the relationship between Clark and Lois.  That Cartar discerned almost immediately that Lois knew about Clark and they were able to have an open and honest conversation was very cool.  Michael Shanks did a great job conveying the bittersweet aspects of the Hawkman character and the cycle of life, love, loss, death and rebirth he has to live through.  He sees more clearly than either Lois or Clark the importance of their relationship to Clark's destiny (really Lois's destiny too).  We also learn, almost poignantly, that Hawkman's days in this life are numbered.   This season's portrayal of Hawkman is leaps and bounds better than the bitter (no sweet) old warrior they gave us last season.

Oliver's search for Chloe was well thought out.  He does a pretty good impersonation of Batman in this episode; sneaking around, searching for clues, putting a hurting on the bad guy and figuring it all out in the end.  I was more impressed with the fact that, even though she was not even in the episode, Chloe was represented well.  We may have a better-written Chloe Sullivan this season than we've had for years, and she's only signed on for something like 5 episodes.  Oliver discovered she had traded her freedom for his, faked her own death, and erased all evidence of having ever existed.  This is cool because, in the comics, she has never existed.  Her first appearance in the comic books happened/will happen this month.  As a Superman fanboy, I'm hoping they use this device to at least attempt to bring some of Smallville into the comic book continuity.

Clark's new look
I could have done without the irritating and insipid characterization the show gave us of Cat Grant.  The character had a decent back-story and could have been very sympathetic, even if we disagree with her stance regarding "vigilantes," but the way she was played made me hate her and want Deadshot to take her out.  I loved the remote control bullet and the exploding car rescue.  I even liked that Cat's aversion to vigilantes who skulk around in the shadows helped Clark ditch the black trench look and go back to red and blue.  I thought Deadshot was a cool badguy, and that his attempts to kill Cat were misdirection while his real intention was to "tag" Clark was a cool angle that tied this episode into a broader plot-line.

Altogether, I liked this episode and found it enjoyable despite an utterly irritating portrayal of Cat Grant.  In it, Clark and Lois took a couple tentative steps toward their shared and utterly awesome destiny while and supporting characters like Hawkman, Chloe, and Oliver were moved in positive directions as well.  The introduction of the Suicide Squad means we have another shadowy group gunning for the nascent Justice League.  Hopefully, they will be more compelling than Checkmate was last season.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Drawing from My Distant Past #1

Here's a pic of Wolverine I drew probably about 1992:

Note the huge shoulder pads, tiny head, and prominent "signature."  Heh.  I also had trouble with fingers, thumbs, foreshortening, anatomy, etc.  Frankly, now that I think about it, I still have trouble with fingers, thumbs, foreshortening, anatomy, etc.  Oh well.