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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Red Bank, NJ

I have heard countless times the question "what makes a marriage work"  I have one answer.  A partners ability to humor the eccentricities of the other.   And I am here to say that my wife not only humors them but finds joy in doing so.
Last night upon returning home from work, running the gauntlet of "hello Daddy's", kisses and a much needed shower I plopped sown on my couch,  cradled a cool Ice Coffee and after recounting our days Angi got up to tend to dinner and my attention drifted to the TV.  As the kids now were meandering about I aimlessly fluttered through the Netflix "instant" library to tune something on for background noise.  There I stumbled upon some new additions Angela had programed in preparation for Movie Night.  Toward the end of the list something caught my eye, and I stopped.  A provocative title peaked my interest.
"The Comic Men"
Angela, always looking out for me,  had came across it and instantly new it would be of great nostalgic interest to me.  I'm not one for "reality" shows but this one was RIGHT up my alley!!  The show takes place in a real life Comic Book Shop, but not just ANY comic shop this is "Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash" in historic Red Bank, NJ,  Kevin Smiths home town!  If you aren't familiar with the name, he is non other then the publicity whore (his words) director of such cult classics as Clerk's, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Red State (fanFREAKINGtastic!) and co-owner of this shop founded in 1997.  A REAL feat considering the state of comic shops around the country!   Unlike Pawn Stars and the ilk it heralds the exploits of the shops ACTUAL employees.   And it's like a hilarious walk down memory lane for me!  Angela was with me the last five years of my career in the field, at the time the death knell of the business was being felt and it was a struggle.  A lot of sacrifices were made in those dark days and in looking back I made some bad decisions.  Ones to this day I still regret.  Suffice to say if I had now,  what I had then, I would never have to work again...nor would my children, purely live off the returns from Sothebys!  But, what is, is.  My wife, to her credit knows in her heart that those 12 years I spent in the field were some of the best work days of my life.  She has never forgotten the joy she saw in my eyes from the simple act of plopping on the floor and digging through a box of unexplored back issues, or the discovery of some forgotten milestone.  The eager wheeling and dealing, the art of the close as it were.  Bitterly, I turned away from it all and underwent a term of mourning, where I wanted nothing to do with it.  Slowly, in part owed to the rise of the "Super Hero" movie I found myself slowly drawn back to my obsession.  Culminating in, a small way, reacquiring some of what was lost, at least the best of some stories in Trade Paperback form.
With this thought tickling her heart she posted the show on our queue and gleefully awaited me discovering it!  Needless to say after watching the Family Movie, with the patience and humor of a doting mother hen she sat with me as I was riveted to the screen joyfully being transported back through the ethereal mists of time and for moments could not tell where the images on screen ended and my happy memories began.  As much as "High Fidelity" was a film nod to the elitists of the "second hand record" collector shop, this show is a (semi) real life thrill for me.  Truthfully, not as rambunctious a lot as I was accustomed to back in the hey days of the 80's and 90's where "New Book Day" was TRULY a celebratory event.  There is sadly no sign of the flood of humanity I was accustomed to in my Massachusetts shop where literally hundreds of bodies would come and go every Friday, greedily clutching their varying size stacks of new issues.  No hands eagerly rushing across the new stacks of books compelling the guards (yes...on Friday I had to employ TWO "NEWBIEGUARDS" as they were to become known as) to exclaim "Not until he's done!"  ensuring that I was able to unpack and place out all new issues AND pull subscriptions before any could be claimed.  Not unlike a run on a hot concert ticket, or the premier of Twilight! 
No, in a way it is somewhat melancholy,   Exciting as it is to rekindle that Fanboy glee, it is also remarkably sad to see the fall that has become the neighborhood comic shop.  With the advent of Amazon, and E-bay and the homogenization and mainstreaming of the industry, much like the second book store, or corner video shop I fear it's time is truly coming to a close.  Now populated by the few die hard practitioners it appears to be a dying institution.  I hope that I'm wrong, but even my son Eliah when he was finally old enough to watch "The Crow" was taken aback by the revelation that "There was a COMIC BOOK about this movie?!"
Yes, I failed him in fundamental knowledge and had since rectified it.  But sadly, there are fewer and fewer children today being raised on the purest joy of holding a volume in hand and spending an afternoon, prone on their bed, locked in their room escaping to  unending universes, fueled purely by imagination.
This show is a time capsule of sorts, chronicling an important American art form and sub culture that deserves historic mention. 
And I warm heartily thank my lovely wife for her diligence in discovering this for me!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

All I Can Say Is "It's About Friggin Time!"

Read an interesting article this morning that has got me, perhaps prematurely, hopeful.  10 years ago my family and I made the conscious decision to get off the oil company nipples and give up driving.  We sold our 1992 Dodge Caravan for scrap and have been relying primarily on bikes for transportation ever since.  I have to say, in the beginning it was tough.  Forgetting to give myself enough time to get to where I was going, taking the family on an extended trip proved challenging and food shopping had to be modified.  But after about six months it became pleasantly routine.  Riding a bike also afforded other benefits.  Once leaving work, regardless of the day I had, it allowed me the time to reflect and ponder the events of the day and if necessary calm myself from any negative experience.  I was not hindered by the stress associated with driving in traffic, constant starts and stops.  If riding on the side of the road I'd quickly glide to the front of the line, much to the chagrin of the suits and ties fuming over the dash of their SUV'S.  Also,  one enjoyed benefit (now somewhat diminished by the limitations of my scant 2 mile commute)  was over the course of two years of riding I dropped over 70 pounds. 
Thing is, once the Great Recession hit lots of folks were FORCED into the same choice.  We saw it daily in the amount of devout auto drivers coming in, reluctantly, to buy a bike due to several different economic reasons.   Much like when the oil industry artificially increase prices due to "world events",  when they do eventually "bring the price back down" it is never as "down" as it was BEFORE the hike!  There's a reason for that!  The oil companies uses these times to gauge how much the driving public will burden themselves, comforted in the knowledge that Americans would never give up their cars.
Perhaps that assumption is a little less then sound.  Perhaps those forced into alternative transportation encounter the same cathartic realization I and my family did.   If people had half a moment to reflect upon the steady increase in their checking account balance they may have pondered as to why that was.  And, seeing as I give the majority of humanity credit to SOME degree of smarts, they probably deduced the reason why.  That, coupled with the almost assured realization that they felt happier, healthier and calmer then they had while toughening it out in a steel, glass and fiberglass prison, that perhaps even if gas prices DID drop, they really had no good justification to chaining themselves to an internal combustion death trap! 
There's where some of your figure are at, boys.  I DO so hope my analysis is correct, because we as a nation and the world in general will be MUCH better off!

Stats show Americans not that into driving anymore


    In this Aug. 22, 2013 photo, cars travel on the rebuilt Vermont Route 107 in Bethel, Vt. In what some consider a bit of an engineering marvel, a three-mile section of Route 107 between Bethel and Stockbridge, a major east-west highway that was destroyed by the storm, was rebuilt and reopened in 119 days, a job that normally would have taken two years. Driving in America has stalled, leading researchers to ask: Is the national love affair with the automobile over? After rising for decades, total vehicle use in the U.S. peaked in August 2007. It then dropped sharply during the Great Recession and has largely plateaued since. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
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    In this Aug. 22, 2013 photo, cars travel on the rebuilt Vermont Route 107 in Bethel, Vt. In what some consider a bit of an engineering marvel, a three-mile section of Route 107 between Bethel and Stockbridge, a major east-west highway that was destroyed by the storm, was rebuilt and reopened in 119 days, a job that normally would have taken two years. Driving in America has stalled, leading researchers to ask: Is the national love affair with the automobile over? After rising for decades, total vehicle use in the U.S. peaked in August 2007. It then dropped sharply during the Great Recession and has largely plateaued since. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Driving in America has stalled, leading researchers to ask: Is the national love affair with the automobile over?
    After rising for decades, total vehicle use in the U.S. — the collective miles people drive — peaked in August 2007. It then dropped sharply during the Great Recession and has largely plateaued since, even though the economy is recovering and the population growing. Just this week the Federal Highway Administration reported vehicle miles traveled during the first half of 2013 were down slightly, continuing the trend.
    Even more telling, the average miles drivers individually rack up peaked in July 2004 at just over 900 per month, said a study by Transportation Department economists Don Pickrell and David Pace. By July of last year, that had fallen to 820 miles per month, down about 9 percent. Per capita automobile use is now back at the same levels as in the late 1990s.
    Until the mid-1990s, driving levels largely tracked economic growth, according to Pickrell and Pace, who said their conclusions are their own and not the government's. Since then, the economy has grown more rapidly than auto use. Gross domestic product declined for a while during the recession but reversed course in 2009. Auto use has yet to recover.
    Meanwhile, the share of people in their teens, 20s and 30s with driver's licenses has been dropping significantly, suggesting that getting a driver's license is no longer the teenage rite of passage it once was.
    Researchers are divided on the reasons behind the trends. One camp says the changes are almost entirely linked to the economy. In a few years, as the economy continues to recover, driving will probably bounce back, they reason. At the same time, they acknowledge there could be long-term structural changes in the economy that would prevent a return to the levels of driving growth seen in the past; it's just too soon to know.
    The other camp acknowledges that economic factors are important but says the decline in driving also reflects fundamental changes in the way Americans view the automobile. For commuters stuck in traffic, getting into a car no longer correlates with fun. It's also becoming more of a headache to own a car in central cities and downright difficult to park.
    "The idea that the car means freedom, I think, is over," said travel behavior analyst Nancy McGuckin.
    Gone are the days of the car culture as immortalized in songs like "Hot Rod Lincoln," ''Little Deuce Coupe" and "Pink Cadillac."
    "The car as a fetish of masculinity is probably over for certain age groups," McGuckin said. "I don't think young men care as much about the car they drive as they use to."
    That's partly because cars have morphed into computers on wheels that few people dare tinker with, she said. "You can't open the hood and get to know it the way you used to," she said.
    Lifestyles are also changing. People are doing more of their shopping online. More people are taking public transit than ever before. And biking and walking to work and for recreation are on the rise.
    Social networking online may also be substituting for some trips. A study by University of Michigan transportation researcher Michael Sivak found that the decline in teens and young adults with driver's licenses in the U.S. was mirrored in other wealthy countries with a high proportion of Internet users.
    Demographic changes are also a factor. The peak driving years for most people are between ages 45 and 55 when they are the height of their careers and have more money to spend, said transportation analyst Alan Pisarski, author of "Commuting in America." Now, the last of the baby boomers — the giant cohort born between 1946 and 1964 — are moving out of their peak driving years.
    "They are still the dominant players, and they are moving toward a quieter transportation lifestyle," he said.
    There's also a driving gender gap. In a role reversal, there are now more women than men in the U.S. with driver's licenses. And the declines in miles driven over the past decade were more widespread among men than women, according to Pickrell and Pace. Driving by men has declined in every age group except those 65 or older, where it increased slightly. Among women, driving declined only among young adults and teenagers.
    There are several economic factors that help explain the trends. Driving declines exactly mirror job losses among men during the recession, when male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction were especially hard hit, researchers said. But average automobile use has declined recently even among those who have remained employed.
    Economists say many Americans, especially teens and young adults, are finding that buying and owning a car stretches their financial resources. The average price of a new car is $31,000, according to the industry-aligned Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
    "We're not selling to everyone. We're selling to upper-middle class to upper class," said Sean McAlinden, the center's chief economist. The rest of the public, he said, buys used cars or takes the bus.
    Then there's the cost of insurance, maintenance and parking. The price of gas has gone up dramatically over the past decade.
    The share of younger workers who can find jobs is at an especially low ebb, while the cost of a college education — and with it student loans — is soaring. Many schools have stopped offering free driver's education to students. Owning a car is increasingly beyond the reach of many young drivers, researchers said.
    Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 18- to 20-year-olds were three times more likely to have a driver's license if they lived in a household with an annual income above $100,000 than if they lived in a household with an income below $20,000.
    "I don't think it's a change in people's preferences. I think it's all economics," McAlinden said. "It might last if the economics stay the same. But if they improve, I think people will come back to driving more. ... Give a person a good job 25 miles away and they'll be at the dealership the next morning."
    The decline in driving has important public policy implications. Among the potential benefits are less pollution, less dependence on foreign oil, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and fewer fatalities and injuries. But less driving also means less federal and state gas tax revenues, further reducing funds already in short supply for both highway and transit improvements. On the other hand, less driving may also mean less traffic congestion, although the impact on congestion may vary regionally.
    Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst for the liberal U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says driving declines mean transportation dollars could be put to other uses.
    "You just don't want to spend money you don't have for highways you don't need," he said.
    Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at

    Wednesday, August 28, 2013

    Mi Familia!

    Apparently some Floridians have about had it with trying to wait out the rain.  As the normalcy of the daily deluge has sunk in (we briefly considered changes our posted hours to to rain) those more hearty folk have excepted it's inevitability and choose not to allow it to interfere with their leisure and healthy activity anymore.  As such, we are starting to once again become the bustling little hub of activity we once were!  That's not to say we couldn't use MORE!  (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge)  Also as a blessed addition, more fodder for the bike mill has come in and we are starting to forge out some real masterpieces!  Thanks to all the folks putting their trust in us for repairs and also thank you for some of the "backyard planters"* we have been able to resurrect.
    Other then a healthy work day, and a couple new ones out not much of a much to chat about on the work front. 
    Not wishing to jinx us, but I have to say the new school year seems to be  running rather smoothly.  Kaleb, surprisingly has actually been coming home on time, and no bad words from school, so HERE'S HOPING!  Elijah is,  slowly coming to terms with the fact that he NEEDS to find a job as 18 will be hitting in under four months, and employment is the only sanctuary afforded him from....
    "the LIST!"
    What is the list you might ask?
    Well, it is a state issued list of food pantries, clothes donation's, soup kitchen's, assistance programs, job training facilities AND......Homeless shelters.  Of which their are not many of any.  One page to be exact.  This is a paper that we keep on hand to remind the elder children that as of 18, they are adults and by law we are NO longer required to furnish their living requirements or expenses.  Some may consider this harsh.  We consider it "tough love".
    We have made it clear for years that if they are continuing their education or working a job and contributing to their upkeep, they can stay as long as they need to.  But as far as loafing on the couch, raiding refrigerator?  No.  I just hope the boy gets his ---- together, quick!
    As I finally have rides to work on, gonna jump!  But check out these goodies below and Come on!  Don't be a weenie!  Brave the weather and get out and ride!

    *  "A bicycle so full of weeds, plants and insect colonies it's functionality becomes more planter then transportation"

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    Monday, August 26, 2013

    The Postman Cometh!

    OK....So I didn't "devour" the remainder of Shelly's Frankenstein last night. 
    I was forcibly reverted to my couch potato position in lieu of Angela's latest Netflix discovery.  (LOL)  OK, forced isn't an applicable term.  She'd been watching the first couple of episodes while I was working yesterday and when I returned she stated I'd be sorry if I didn't check it out.
    She was right.
    Obviously her initial reasoning behind checking out the show was it's headline star and one of the executive producers Billy  Burke (Charlie from "Twilight")  Truth be told, he was one,  if not the ONLY actor from that franchise I really liked. 
    The series is "Revolution" brought to you by the brilliance of creator Eric Kipke (Supernatural)  J.J. Abrahms, (pretty much everything cool in Sci-Fi today as well as Fringe and Lost) John Favreau (Iron Man).    Now,  first before watching this show you have to suspend your disbelief and forget everything you know about physics and well....common sense for that matter.  Keep that in mind and you'll enjoy  the ride!  Just don't over think it!
    The show takes place in a very near dystopian, post apocalyptic future where one night, 15 years past the lights went out.
     All. Over. The. World.
     (yea, yea...I know...stick with me)
    Everything requiring any form of electricity just quits!  Right down to every single airplane crashing out of the sky  (shades of Y2K?) and no one know why or how to fix it!
    Or so you are initially led to believe!
    In TRUE J.J Abram's style the story slowly unfolds through the use of the "flashback" (think "Lost" and  "Fringe")  and you soon come to learn the true players in this travesty.  I'll take a moment to comment here about the USE of flashbacks.  As a story telling tool they are invaluable as they allow you to propel an engaging story without being mired in character establishment and "origin" or "back stories".  obviously for today's viewing audience by and large they just want to skip it and get right to the meat.  So every time something important occurs that drives the story, but is based on unseen events,  plop in a dreamy eyed "flash-back".  But there's the rub.  They don't do it every time here, but the majority of the time you see the traditional close up of the actors face with a far off expression and,  short of the "wavy-lined" dream sequence,  you know that "here comes the flashback!  Many shows have utilized a disjointed "start in the action, jump back to the beginning and meet up in the end with a ten minute resolution" thing and that works too.  But once in a while I'd just like a show to throw caution to the wind and jump all over the place only to end up with a clear resolution a few minutes to final curtain!  Perhaps using a slightly more nuanced "tag" similar to Fringe when they were dealing with the whole "dual-Universe" thing and the screen would be doing a panoramic shot then shimmer and you were in the next universe.  You know...shake things up a bit!
    All right, tangent over.
    I like the fact that not everything is laid out in black and white and you have to follow the landscape for clues as to the why.  And that much like the characters who are existing in a feudalistic society run by overlords and warlords, upon encountering a stranger you are not entirely sure of each persons motivation, or elegance's.   And admittedly I am a bit of a nihilist when it comes to this. Always have been.  The total breakdown of societal and governmental norms and the rise of anarchy void of technology at times is morosely enticing.   Not to mention would be GREAT for bike sales!
    The show takes liberally from several sources to create this decaying world.  The most prominent and unlikely of sources would be the 1997 critical and box office FLOP,  Kevin Costner's "The Postman"
    (for the record, forced sentimentality aside I really enjoyed the film)  with backdrop design right out of the History Channels "Life After People"  Not to mention a tad bit of "Hunger Games" thrown in in the guise of the lead, bow wielding female protagonist. 
    In this future set in the former United States (it's made clear that the possibility of overseas travel is impossible) the Federal government has crumbled and the power vacuum is filled by varying degrees of Militia's carving out territory.  Tenuous peace maintained,  they go about ruling with a feudalistic justice.  Militia men on the ground are judge, jury and executioner in order to "keep the peace".  In the territories where the story takes place common citizens owning firearms or  the American Flag is punishable by death, meted out on the spot.  No pesky trial or arguing lawyers. 
    The story surrounds a young girl, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) who after her father is killed during a meelle with militia men, sets out to free her abducted younger brother at the behest of her dying father.  She is instructed to find and enlist the help of her uncle Miles Matheson (Billy Burke who is VERY good as the kick ass military man with a VERY dark secret!) in her search.  There is a very real reason why the militias leader Sebastian Monroe (David Lyons) wants the members of the Matheson family, and I'm not pulling a spoiler on this one, but suffice to say they may now the "HOW" in this Apocalypse! 
    There are several reason why I really enjoy this show (the least of which it being a good experiment in suppressing my "need for realism" reflex!) First and foremost is the fact that the creators took great pains to really consider the psychological and societal impact such a disaster would create.  Also the effect it would have on an entire generation being raised by parents who remember the before but must exist in a pre-industrial age.  Intermingled everywhere are familiar remnants,  re-purposed for practical use.  From coat hangers to Dodge Neon's being pulled by Oxen.  Militia men resorting to using Flintlock riffles as it is easier to forge an iron ball then find a jacketed bullet.   An entire village seeking shelter in a gutted out track side tenement comprised completely of children as their parents were massacred for displaying an American Flag and have digressed to a distrusting of adults "Lord of the Flies" mentality (a subtle slap at modern day youths digressing when raised in broken homes) .  In the opening episode we see one of the main characters Aaron Pitman (Zak Orth) a former Google executive, now residing in the small agrarian community with the Mathesons (formerly a cul-de-sac in a once prominent "gated community") works as a teacher for the communities less then appreciative youth.  His lecture to them regarding the demise of electric power not only sets up the audience with a little back story but also shows the rapid decay that would occur in fundamental knowledge when faced with the oppressive need of day to day survival.  Another scene in episode 4 "The Plague Dogs"  I found very intriguing was when Danny Matheson (Graham Rogers) the abducted brother is being taken by Militia men to Noblesville, Indiana when he see signs of a storm coming.  He alerts  Captain Neville (Giancarlo Espodito) that they best take shelter, and after some condescending remarks are cast regarding being "scared of thunder" 18 year old Danny states "You didn't feel the shift in the air?"  What's intriguing is the creators took the time to contemplate what fundamental changes would be inherent in a generation born of this retro world.  Danny, having been only three when the lights went out grew up in a world not hindered by the trappings of modernization.  Unencumbered by so much auditory and visual distractions, living off the land and truly communing with his surroundings had resurfaced the suggested natural empathy humanity has within itself.  A trait still found in many primitive tribes alive today.  His warning of course bore fruit in the way of a rapidly forming Tornado. 
    I also appreciate the fact that the antagonists in this show are NOT two dimensional.  As their personal stories unfold you quickly realize that these were just normal people suddenly thrust over the brink of desperation. Men in dirty three piece suits threatening to kill children if the parents don't relinquish their food.  Wandering groups of looters preying on the weak, true Darwinism.   Those grasping at positions within the militia, for some personal gain.  Some the need for inclusion and relative security.  The evolution of the mild mannered insurance investigator Neville is particularly compelling, asking the question "how far would a man go in order to ensure the safety of his family", not to mention some very suppressed feelings of subjugation brought on by malice and ill treatment by his once contemporaries  (Gincarlo ALL WAYS brings a GREAT performance to this tortured type of character!)  Some reluctantly thrust by a sense of duty into taking up position to fill the power void with initially the noblest of intentions but quickly the old adage "absolute power corrupts, absolutely" reveals it's true definition.  With the ever evolving storyline, further tidbits of history leaked and teasers  of other provinces (not to mention the California Territories being run by Governor Affleck!  See...HE'S EVERYWHERE!!!)   It's true horrific appeal is that unlike any other fanciful Armageddon, or alien occupation this eventual reality eludes us by only  the slightest of delicate threads.  The unlikelihood of a world wide TOTAL collapse of power not withstanding, a loss of natural resources, fuel and therefore food and water is not so hard to imagine.  That's what really makes this story unnerving but a genuine thrill to watch unfold!
    Check it out on Netflix, second season coming in September!

    Sunday, August 25, 2013

    A Brief Essay On The Unessesary Decimation Of Literary Milestone's and The Effective Homogenization for Popular Visual Consumption.

    How to screw up a perfectly good book.
    Just to prove I am not ALL about films, TV and Afflek-bashing!
    Further reason to love and appreciate my wife.  Ever since she ushered me into the technological new age by way of Android phones I have been taking the time (as with this rain I have A LOT of free time) to explore it's many applications.  Each time I find something new and yesterday I took a step into something previously considered sacrilege!  The "on-line book reader"!  I am bred from literary stock.  My Mother, Father and Sister are voracious readers and I myself have been known to pick up a volume or two now and then.  That is to say I used to.  With a household of distractions the availability of quality quiet time to read is nigh on improbable.  Last night however, while having a conversation with Logan regarding Role Playing games the subject somehow shifted to H.P Lovecraft and Cuthulu .   When he asked me what that was, I used the phone to call up an artist rendering of the creature and in the process stumbled upon my phones app for a reader.  After the conversation broke up (as Lego's now dominated the landscape) I continued poking, and amongst the downloads were the "free" ones.  My favorite price.  Lo and behold I stumbled upon Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.  Much to my personal shame I have never read this masterpiece of Gothic/romantic fiction, or so labeled.  Personally it reads very much as the very first work of "science-fiction"
    And I would have to admit that within my lifetime I befell the same fate of many and was ill-informed as to the true nature of this genius work having been introduced to it through the slick packaged incarnations on the silver screen. 
    Of the films I have seen, they are all woefully inaccurate of the majesty of this story.  With a silent nod of acceptance that I had stumbled upon something engaging, Angela allow me the after bed-time to devour the story.  Gradually I became aware that the story of the lumbering abomination was much more then it's films counterpart.  The Script itself takes on the form of a Matryoshka Doll, a story, within a story within a story.  What I had always been led to believe was the tale of a Mad Scientist playing God through the "evils" of science was in fact much, much more!  I have read some reviews and interpretations of the story which even still reflected upon the "deranged" scientist, and "playing God" even the toying with the then misunderstood applications of electricity.  Yes, back in the 1800's there was much conjecture as to the life giving properties of electricity as when applied to corpses they would make them "move, as if renewed of vigor" But there is one problem, although there is reference to the inspiration of electricity on a young Victor as he witnessed the  destructive force of a lightning bolt the actual construction of the creature and it's eventual reanimation is left particularly vague. Given the length of the story it only comprises a few pages of text.  And electricity is never mentioned.  In fact it is pointed out that his obsessive  lab work conducted in his attic takes place by candlelight?  Earlier in the story his original adherence to more fantastical and archaic scientific texts is dismissed by his professors and they introduce him to the newer thoughts of science, anatomy and chemistry.  Unless I missed something I am wholly convinced it was through a mixture of chemistry and alchemy that the creature was in fact constructed  (no bolts in this creatures neck!).  BUT, therein ends the brief focus on science.  The book to me reads more of a commentary on the contradictory nature of man.  A social commentary on the evils of perhaps science (honestly the best comparison or relevance to science I could impose on this story would be the utter sense of self loathing and regret that Victor felt must have been more then familiar to Oppenheimer himself)  but more so on the evils of societal norms, the justice system (a very painful example of how public opinion and fear prior to any real "evidence" can shape the verdict in a most grotesque and publicized crime)  religion, class systems, bureaucracy.  How shivery, honor and duty can be at the same time both respectful and evil.  The beauty of her work is exemplified in the pleading of the creature upon encountering Victor in the mountains to hear his story.  I found myself re-reading his diatribe, even lending a flair of dramatics to his eloquent discourse on his right to exist.  His story of self discovery unfolds and we learn of his desire to integrate into society only to be violently repelled by the village folk upon witnessing his countenance.  He resides himself to shelter himself in an encloser near a pauper families cottage.  As he is covertly exposed to their comings and goings he learns not only the complexity of humanity but through close observation learns how to communicate.  With the arrival of Felix's Arabian love we learn even more of the poor families history and through a pair of alien eyes, both the monsters and the foreign beauty (with little understanding of European ways or language) the conflicting world concepts of what is considered honorable and norm are brought into stark contrast. 
    And that's where at about 2.00 in the morning I had to get some sleep. 
    But I have no doubt I will finish devouring it tonight!

    See ya soon!

    OPPs!  Almost forgot!  Put out four new goodies yesterday!  Check out these beauties below!

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    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    Da, na, na, na,na,na,na NAH, na, na, na....BAT-FLEK!

    WOW!  Talk about vitriol! 
    Spent n exorbitant  amount of time online yesterday following the Bat-Flek controversy!  It was quite obvious I was no where NEAR alone in my disdain for the casting choice of Ben Afflek as the new Batman!  The only supporting comments I could fin were from Kevin Smith and Chris Rock.  It was hilarious on the verge of insanity kind of dismay! 
    Here's a few of my favorite comments (and the only ones suitable for printing here)

    Wil Wheaton         @wilw
    Really looking forward to seeing Affleck bring the depth and gravitas to Batman that he brought to Daredevil and Gigli.

    Friday, August 23, 2013

    What. Are. They. THINKING!!!!

    So, anyone waking this morning and checking into their news may have already caught this but for those who have not?  Well DC/ Warner Brothers have announced which actor will be portraying the next Batman to be premiered in the upcoming sequel to the stellar "Superman: Man Of Steel". 
    DC has chosen to go the way of Marvel-esque continuity and bring all their heavy hitters into the same "Universe".  In an obvious bid for the eventual release of the long awaited "Justice League" movie all the obvious main players, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter (and some inkling to Cyborg, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle perhaps) will need to be established within the same world, with the cross over characters (think Nick Fury and shield weaving in and out of the latest Marvel film) linking the stories together. Obvious references were made to S.T.A.R labs (Dr. Hamilton being a key player and STAR having created Cyborg)  and the Daily Planet.  But Easter egg's were there too  hinting to key future roles such as Blaze Comics (Booster Gold) Carol Ferris (Green lanterns long term love affair AND eventually the super bad ass Green Lantern enemy "Star Sapphire") even LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises.
     DC's problem is they set the bar WAY to high with the last three Batman films with Christian Bale wearing the cape and cowl and that' a mighty big cod piece to fill!  (a little inside joke, google George Clooney response for taking over for Val Kilmner in the ridiculous "Adam West" inspired sequels of the past incarnations!)  So after such an illustrious run that set the bell curve for super hero flicks, who do they choose to carry on the torch.....?
    I'm gonna let that sink in for a minute.
    This hearkens back to emotions I was feeling in '88 when it was announced that Tim Burton was casting Micheal Keaton to play the Caped Crusader.  Sam Hamm who wrote the original screenplay was a regular visitor to the comic shop I managed in Boston.  He even let me have a first draft copy of the script (originally Robin was slated to be in it) and the overall tone was darker and grittier and I think BETTER then the final product.   He even  had very vocal reservation over that casting! 
    I got the Facebook post yesterday and before I had a chance to read it over 1100 people had chimed in and gave their two cents.  By the time I was hit with shell shock it became apparent that my opinion would have been redundant as I flipped through the first hundred or so comments and not ONE was positive!  Quite frankly were I casting director on that film I think I would invest in a flack jacket and armored Humvie considering the degree of venom spewing forth from this decision!
    Don't get me wrong, I like Ben Affleck as an actor, and from what I've read he's a very good Dad and husband as well.  I've enjoyed him in everything I've seen him in.  From his uncredited cameo in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to his latest works (haven't seen Argo yet though)   All the work he did with Kevin Smith was great, and "Good Will Hunting" is one of my all time faves ( took place in Boston) and yes, fighting the backlash I liked him in "DareDevil"!  (Really though, if you want to experience that movie watch the directors cut extended version!)  The problem is, most of his charterers are a bit of a dick.  Playing a rich playboy jaunting about town in the guise of Bruce Wayne?  Yea, possibly.  But can he pull of the altruistic nature inherent in Batman?  Sure, Batman is mono directional, and rather intense.  BUT there is always an underlying current of self sacrificing reason behind what he does.  Just think of Christian Bale in the final installment, hobbling about on a cane because his nocturnal exploits have left him so badly broken he can barely stand.  Yet when the chips are down and his city needs him?  He straps on some exo-armor and endures the crackling cartilage to get his ass handed to him by Bane!  Then when he could have just as easily thrown in the towel force his recovery from a broken back to overcome it ALL to go back and kick Banes but!  Bale pulled it off masterfully I just can't see Affleck meeting that standard!
    Sure, once again this is a NEW universe and all that came before in "movieland" didn't happen (God PLEASE don't let them feel it necessary to ONCE AGAIN rehash his origins!  OR worse yet, feel they have to RECREATE them!  John and Martha Wayne got shot.  That's.....IT! NO alien conspiracy, NO magic, NO radioactive waste!  SHOT! .....That...Is....IT!)  DC, TRUST me when I say this..."the movie going audience and fans WILL have that trilogy on their minds when (and IF) they go and see this film and will judge it as such!  You are putting a blight on the expectations of ALL the fans who have been yearning for this team up!  In this atmosphere of instant information and an enormous community of online communication you have the enviable gift of instant input from the folks who will be seeing it, buying the tickets,  making YOUR paycheck!  LISTEN TO THEM!  I'm sure studios in the past would have KILLED to know what their patrons were thinking BEFORE they sunk the capital into the difference of a blockbuster and a bomb.  Think recently of Lone Ranger, John Carter of Mars, Cowboys and Aliens?  The world could have told you Johnny Depp or NO Johnny Depp, folks nowadays are just not that interested in a Western.  It would be advisable that you go the way of Supes and cast a relative unknown in the part.  Or hey....PERHAPS NOT shrug off the Nolan franchise and put Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the suit!  It was clear at the end of Dark Knight Rises he was set to take up the gauntlet!  Sure, it's not the brooding Bruce Wayne BUT it would tie the series together and allow the possible return of Bruce in some capacity!  I just have a hard time rationalizing Hollywood's incessant need to keep reinventing the wheel!  Looking for the next bigger, better mouse trap (to be euphemistic!) The constant need to "re-boot".  Sure, comics have and do recreate themselves every couple of decades BUT they really have to.  As a new generation comes in it's best to get them in on the ground floor to retain interest and loyalty, but why do it every few years in movies?  You can tell fresh stories without having to constantly shift back stories, origins, continuity? 
     OK, I'll stop!  Suffice to say DC,  get your "guano" together and RE-CAST before it's to late! 
    NOW, on the positive side of production companies listening to fans...
    Note:  I have to make it clear the following is based somewhat on rumor and speculation on my part.  And you can blame my lovely wife, as she is the one who convinced me to get an android phone, which I have whole heartily embraced for instant access to the latest fan news!  I have all the people and companies I am interested in linked to my Facebook and the dulcet tones of my pre programmed alert tone of "Fruity-Oaty Bar" (the jingle from "Serenity"...go figure) chimes constantly with fresh info!  So here goes!
    Anyone reading this blog may remember I've been pushing HARD for the character of Dr. Strange (to be released presumably in '16) to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  WELL, apparently I was by far not a lone voice!  Seems a huge outcry has been going on online for just such an appointment (in part due to some of the other "potential" actors that were announced and met with  a resounding "thud!") and it appears that there may be some movement.  I present for your inspection the following.  Back in 2012 Cumberbatch was summoned to the offices of Marvel Entertainment and it was slipped that his visit was due to him being "up for" a role in an upcoming project.  Check out these pics of the visit and notice all the prints fudged out....

    In this last photo look over the shoulder of the gent on the left in the gray sweater.  You'll notice a sketch, blurred but with a distinctive red and blue costume with a high collar! 
    In a recent interview Kevin Fiege, the man in charge stated they had "ramped up" production on Dr. Strange.  Shortly thereafter it was announced yesterday that Benedict had backed out of the next Guillermo del Toro film "Crimson Peak" that he was slated to appear in due out in '15  and NO reason was given and his agents are being very tight lipped on the subject.  Benedict is currently working on season three of "Sherlock" due out later this year, and his stint in the Hobbit trilogy.  All setting him up to have a clear calendar right around the time it would be start time for filming of Dr. Strange.
    WAS his exit from the del Toro project due to Fiege's "ramping up" of production!
    Like I said, speculation.  BUT if I were a detective.... all evidence seems to point to that conclusion.
    I await announcements with bated breath!
    As far as work goes.....?
    As the weather has been posing a real hindrance to folks outdoor leisure activities it has been rather boring around here (hence why I had all the time to dig up all this conjecture) and nothing new has been coming in (sad face).  I found myself pacing yesterday trying to keep busy but eventually just gave in.  I have never been a fan of "busy work" and as I have the place as clean and as organized it has ever been I am NOT falling prey to the old McDonald's adage "if you got time to lean you got time to clean!"
    So plan your day accordingly!  The weather has pretty much established it's current pattern and by about 4 pm we get hit with a monsoon.  SO get out there in the AM and get a ride in and come check us out before the skies break open!

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Mandatory Minimums!

    First things first.  Angi and I were informed yesterday that our high schooler has become an academic non-entity.  As his less then stellar academic performance has left him out on the street.  Quite literally.  Things are rather different now then when I was in school.  As they allowed him to progress through the first three years of high school but once he came to senior status it was revealed that he did not have enough credits to enter his twelfth year.  It's not that he's stupid, or didn't understand the material, he just didn't want to do it.  No amount of cajoling or threats from Mom and Dad could change his approach upon entering class.  Unfortunately there are few options left open to him.  He was offered the opportunity to enter a computer school, but that requires even MORE discipline then standard schooling!  So with much reluctance we had to discharge him.
    I spent the better part of yesterday suppressing a great deal of disappointment and tutored him in the art of looking for work.  The application, the classic "pounding the pavement" and even tried to educate myself on the "new" job search tactics of online app's.  In essence teaching an old dog new tricks.  My hope is, he'll land a job, start putting away some money then before to much time passes, grow disenfranchised and seek further education on his own accord.  Perhaps then he'll have the drive to succeed.  It's sad though.  I never finished school myself, although the situation was different.  In the final two weeks of my senior year I was summoned to the vice principals office and informed that due to a clerical error I was 2 credits short of graduation and that I would have to come back the following year and complete another semester.  This was a major problem for me.  I had spent the better part of two months on several negotiation phone calls to California and frequent trips to their shop in Boston in order to obtain a position in the field I'd desired to work in since I was eight.  I had FINALLY secured the position three days before this ill fated meeting and there was NO way I was going to jeopardize my future.  So with no recourse I thanked the vice principal.  OK...thanked is a nice way to try and make me look diplomatic.  Rather, in the impetuousness of arrogant youth I believe my sentence was short and started with an F and ended in you.  I bid my friends farewell and the rest is history. 
    The disheartening reality however is that decision proved to be a real stumbling block when after my 13 year tenor in my chosen field ran it's course  I found myself right back down to the bottom, 30 years old, 4 kids  and struggling to find work.  I'd wanted more opportunities for my kids.  And he doesn't posses the drive and goals I had.   I often lament the non direction of some of today's youth and it hurts when it hits home! 
    I'm gonna move on to something else.
    As any reading this can attest I have spent some words on exalting the virtues of Netflix.  One such choice find was "West Wing" .  Rapidly it became one of my all time favorite shows and with all due respects to my allegiance to the Star Trek franchise, I dare say it has to be one,  if not THE best show ever written!  Last night marked our viewing of the final four episodes!  I grant you the following is in remembrance of a show that finished it's run in 2006 but as we'd never watched it before it was fresh to us.  Both Angi and I had a severe case of "runny eye" when the final episode closed with President Bartlett uttering the last word "tomorrow".  I'm still having shivers at that final scene, and with not a small amount of regret.  I lament TV producers who follow the equation for run time on a show, relegating popular shows to the warn out principal that seven years is the optimum block of episodes.  Broken down, it offers syndication a large enough package, without a considerably overburden amount to be sold.  Allowing for a beginning, middle and end.  Problem is with the brilliance of this show, and virtually unending amount of stories to tap into in the quasi fictional offices of the president there was no reason this show could not have continued on.  It had already  proven that a continually shifting landscape of fascinating characters could be effectively followed by the audience, and just because the two term President Bartlett had step out of office, the incredibly charismatic Jimmy Smits stepped in as the first Latino president Matthew Santos.  In the final two seasons one of my all time favorite actors Alan Alda came aboard to portray Arnold Vinick, the progressive Republican front runner in the  intense campaign!  He is a truly compassionate Republican whose ideals and principals  actually had me reconsidering my opinions on the Republican party and I could have found MYSELF voting for such a man! (although given the reality of the LAST Republican we had in office I quickly came to my senses!)  Then after the election is over he is invited to Santos office during the transition and offered the position of Secretary of State.  He wrestles with the idea of continuing to serve his country while doing it in a democratic White House.  This episode was BRILLIANT as you see Alan Alda masterfully portraying the losing side of a heated race going through the paces of his post campaign day.  Seemingly lost, visiting his congressional office with little to do.  Trying to find purpose as he pours through exit polls to figure out why he lost.  At one point he's standing in line at a busy Washington coffee house and upon placing his order the clerk looks at him directly and asks "your name?"
    OUCH!  Watching him wander the halls lost made me feel so sorry for him! 
    THAT'S good TV!
    They could have EASILY pulled a "Law and Order" and successfully milked at least another 3 to four years out of a Santos administration!  SO much was left unresolved! (although in a seventh season episode they have a brief "future" look at what happens to some of the charactures three years forward on the steps of the Bartlett Library)  The fragile mid-east peace brokered by Bartlett, the American intervention begun in the last few weeks of President Bartletts final term pitting a meager force of American troops sandwiched between advancing Russian and Chinese troops in Kazakhstan.  The burgeoning relationship between Josh Lyman and Donna Moss, the relationship between C.J Craig and  Danny Concannon,( an eight year love/ hate,  press secretary/press affair)  The return of Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Will Baily's bid for Oregon Congressman not to mention the impact that move would have on HIS fledgling love affair with National Security Advisor Kate Harper.  Not to mention the possible impact the new Kennedyesque presidency would have on the very "down to earth" new first lady and their two children!  The unfolding story of Toby Ziegler and how the last minute presidential pardon would impact his life!  There were SO many stories to be told I just don't understand how they could have walked away from such a milestone of television!  I also can not understand the waining of support for the show after Arron Sorkin handed over the creative reigns!  I feel his successors not only carried the torch well, but in some cases even better (all due respect to the brilliance of Mr. Sorkin!) delivering some magically hand wringing excitement! 
    I fear, that there will never be a show as brilliant as this one.  I am however interested in starting to watch Arron Sorkins latest "Network"
    WHEW!  Thank you for humoring my rant. 
    Yes we did in fact get some work done yesterday and put out three new goodies.  But before you get TO excited, two of them old already, I need not even pic them below.  We do however have the last one I built last night and she is a beauty!!  A GORGEOUS classic Specialized
    Rock Hopper"  FULLY re-furbed and with a new sealed bottom bracket to boot!! 
    So we will see you all soon!

    ONLY $145.00!!!

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Immortality Possibly More Then Just A Legacy?

    The beauty of growth is we never loose the thrill of learning.  And with it's many faults the Internet does allow those utilizing it for more then Facebook, games and porn to obtain knowledge that otherwise would not be readily available.  Such as this article I caught that sent a shiver up my spine.  And more surprising was the fact that I can not determine whether it qualifies as ominous or thrilling!  Read this and I'll comment after...

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    (Good Morning America)  Gabby Williams' mysterious genetic condition keeps her from aging, prompting one researcher to investigate biological immortality.
    Gabby Williams is 8 years old but has the skin of a newborn and only weighs 11 lbs. An ultra-rare genetic condition, for which doctors have no discernible explanation, keeps Williams from physically aging and has her parents caring for her nearly the same as the day she was born.
    Williams shares her rare condition with only a handful of people around the world, including a 29-year-old man from Florida who has the body of a 10-year-old and a 31-year-old Brazilian woman who appears no older than two. While the medical community hasn’t yet established a cause for Williams’s or the others' conditions, research into the genetic disorder has promising implications for overcoming the inertia of aging.
    "In some people, something happens to them and the development process is slowed," said medical researcher Richard F. Walker. "The rate of change in the body slows and is negligible."
    8 Anti-Aging Foods That Help Fight Cancer And Heart Disease

    The Science Behind Gabby's Agelessness

    Walker has been researching Williams’ condition for the last two years. Retired from the University of Florida Medical School, Walker now performs his research at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He reports having spent his entire career studying the causes of aging. The patients he deals with live with other conditions such as deafness and the inability to walk, eat, or even speak. But most notably, they all age at one-fifth the rate of a normal person.
    Williams’ case is particularly noteworthy given her feature spot in the 2012 TLC documentary, “My 40-Year-Old Child.” Since the show aired, Williams’ parents told ABC News, their daughter has stayed relatively the same.
    "Gabrielle hasn't changed since pretty much forever," said her mother, Mary Margret Williams, 38. "She has gotten a little longer and we have jumped into putting her in size 3-6 month clothes instead of 0-3 months for the footies.”
    “Last time we weighed her she was up a pound to 11 pounds and she's gotten a few more haircuts,” she said, but other than that, things have remained the same.
    Walker attributes Williams’ lack of aging to what he calls decreased “developmental inertia.” Her body’s normal physiological changes and maturation haven’t occurred because of the genetic condition. Normally when people age, their bodies mature until age 20 or so, and then begin to erode, or succumb to developmental inertia.
    "If we could identify the gene and then at young adulthood we could silence the expression of developmental inertia, find an off-switch,” said Walker, adding that “when you do that, there is perfect homeostasis and you are biologically immortal."
    Scientists Turn Off Down Syndrome’s Extra Chromosome In New Experiments

    What Does 'Aging' Really Mean?

    Part of the reason humans can’t live forever is that as chromosomes split during cell division, the telomeres capping the chromosomes begin to shorten. Scientists often liken telomeres to the plastic tip on the end of a shoelace, as they keep the frayed ends of the chromosome from fusing together and degrading the cell’s blueprint.
    Broken DNA is dangerous, and because of this a typical cell has the ability to repair chromosomal damage. Without telomeres, the cell would mistakenly sense broken DNA in the frayed chromosome. Doing so would cause the chromosome to stop dividing along with the rest of the cell and eventually die.
    The result of overcoming developmental inertia isn’t living forever. It simply means old age wouldn’t come with greater risks of cancer, disease, and illness.
    “You wouldn't have the later years,” Walker said. “You'd remain physically and functionally able.”
    Aging isn’t only a process of telomere-shortening. Scientists include other factors such as oxidative stressglycation, and chronological age. Oxidative stress, like glycation, is the compounding pressure put on DNA and lipids from oxidants. Glycation differs in that glucose is the main culprit, binding to and inhibiting DNA, proteins, and lipids. Chronological age refers to the number of years a person has been alive, and it reflects an increased risk for disease and illness.
    In Gabby Williams’ case, her chronological age has little bearing on her outcome, although doctors cannot say with confidence how long they think she will live.
    Devout Catholics, her parents accept their daughter’s fate however God intends it.
    "When He is ready to take her back, it will be sad," her mother told ABC News. "But what a glorious thing it will be for Gabby to go to heaven one day. I know it will happen, but I am not hoping it's any day soon

    First off, any of my comments must be tempered by the acknowledgement that the article was not clear as to whether or not this disorder was accompanied by any physical or mental dysfunction.  And I could only imagine the strain it puts on the parents, if for nothing else having to care for an infant for an undefinable length of time.   But with that the possibilities and consequences are astounding!  What if, in fact we as a species tapped into this, figured out how it worked and bottled it?  If you do the simple math you'd come to the conclusion that the average human life span, in the developed countries is currently 81 years.  So does that mean that  person inflicted with this disorder could potentially life to be over 400 years old?!  I may be over simplifying this, but what kind of quality of life is there.  Furthering the equation, the average American retires at 65.  So in effect these folks would be a retiree for 70 years!?  OK, OK, I know, the equations abound not to mention cringing at the though of 15 years of puberty but I think you get the point.
    How different would we be as a society if we all lived for centuries as opposed to decades?  Would such advancement be available to only those of substantial means?  And how would that knowledge set with all those disenfranchised?  Don't want to get to much into the realm of fantasy, but not unlike the settlers in "Star Trek: Insurrection" who had lived for hundreds of years, would we, with time find the beauty of just "being" and perhaps come to appreciate what we have round us and with the knowledge that what we do to our home today will not only effect our descendants, but us as well?
    Food for thought. 
    Yea, I think being forced to live with the mess we are leaving our Grandchildren would make for good incentive to start behaving a little nicer, a little cleaner....

    Monday, August 19, 2013

    RING IN THE NEW YEAR!! OR "Parent's doing the Happy Pants Dance!!

    The majority of the world celebrates the new year at midnight on January first.  Around our house it's a tad different!  The celebration of a new dawn comes on the first day of the return to school for the wee ones! Behind us lay the darker days "There' nothing to do!!!!" and "he/she won't stop touching me!!"  No more are the languishing battles between 17 year old and 10 year old regarding Lego property rights!  The opportunity to maintain a relatively clean house ABOUND!  And the painful shock of our daily food budget diminishes!! 
    Ahhhhh.  To once again breath in the heady scent of freedom! 
    Surprisingly all went off without a hitch this morning!  Our high schooler got up ON TIME (5.45 am) and off (thanks to Angi, as she is his alarm clock.  I am not qualified for THAT job!) Then, to even greater amazement I actually got up on time!  (7.00 am) A feat of monumental proportions I assure you!  Thanks to Angi ALL the kiddos have ALL new clothes, shoes, back packs, socks and undies!  Especially impressive is the artful way in which she now has separate totes for their socks and undies (I give that about a week).  We have to keep all the kids school clothes in separate totes in the living room near the diaper station.  To give them the responsibility for keeping track of them their own to court disaster!  Within 24 hours each morning would herald in a new, strenuous  bout of  "WHERE'S MY SOCKS!?!?" and "that's MY shirt!"  Not something to look forward to as my throat would strain from the constant yelling!
    My fingers are crossed for Kaleb, who also got out in time, as he is going to an intermediate school (which lies in a different direction from the way the other kids and I travel) to an 8.5 class in hopes of making up the credits for both 8th and 9th grade so next year he'll be a sophomore and back on track.  There is a glimmer of hope for him however.  I never thought I'd be the kind of parent to sanction this, but he has expressed a desire to go into the military.  Much to my surprise my first reaction WAS NOT to say HELL NO!  I actually think it would do him some good.  He has a good work ethic, and he is in good physical shape, he just lacks discipline.  And lets face it, college material he is not, and given the state of the job market today?  At least he can acquire some marketable skills.
    I'm just pushing for the air force.  The thought of him being a grunt on the front line of some other far away conflict is a little unsettling.
    SO, once again the shop falls quite.  As the summer ritual of kiddo visits has past I know find myself appearing to keep occupied, awaiting the inevitable busy season with bated breath!    LORD knows we need it as this summer has been BRUTAL!!!  HOORAY for Global Warming!!  Only the bravest of the brave venture forth on their bicycles in this heat, humidity and rain! 
    So without further pa lather I now begin on a fresh truckload I just got in this morning!  All a little rough but they are a much appreciated donation!
    See ya soon!

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    Parenting....AMERICAN STYLE!

    SO OK, I've heard the joke's "today's concept of parenting begins and ends with the checkbook" and the like.  Sadly, like all good humor it is a razor's edge of truth who's effect is not felt until reflection.  Cutting deep to the heart.
    OK, enough metaphors.
    I'll be the first to admit I don't know EVERYTHING about parenting.  To enter into my house is to enter a table read for "Malcolm in the Middle" NOT "Father Knows Best", so short of witnessing any abuse, I keep my nose out of other folks parenting (doesn't keep me from COMMENTING though!)
    I've got a couple of recent occurrences that found there way into our lives I just have to poke fun at!
    When my wife and I first started breeding we had some progressive and rather naive concepts of how we would raise our children, honesty being a key factor.  Of course over the years any approach has been tailored to each child, but being up front with them still was paramount.  This extended to being honest to ourselves about them!  A factor brought into sharp focus the first time one of them got in trouble at school.  Now all kids do stupid stuff, and things they shouldn't but it's the parents job to KNOW the shortcomings of their children and make attempts to rectify them.  A sure fire way of NOT accomplishing this is to deny their own child's culpability in ANY matter.
    We'd been called into our first child's 1st grade glass (yep, started that early) She  had a propensity for being stubborn and self absorbed and was not interested in listening to the teacher.  Behavior we witnessed daily at home.  As we sat down with the teacher she seemed a tad meek and somewhat intimidated as she outlined our daughters issues, all the while interjecting almost apologetic observations as to what a bright girl she was and how much of a joy she was to have in the glass otherwise, and how helpful she could be....blah, blah, blah.  After she laid out her list of concerns she sat timidly, almost bracing for some expected tirade from us.  Instead  I admitted that we indeed had the same problems and we were behind her in any way she saw fit to help rectify the situation and any form of discipline she deemed appropriate, we would support and reinforce at home.  She expelled a heavy sigh as her taught shoulders relaxed and a look of bewilderment crept over her face and she stammered "really?"
     It was her epirience that MOST parents reaction to problems with their children range from denial to outright hostility.  Parents accusing the teachers of "not doing their jobs" or being "racist crackers" or what have you, she had not been prepared for our willingness to except our own child's shortcomings.  Question is,  who are we serving when we fail to except our children may not be the little angels we imagine they are.  Children are NOT born innocent.  For all intense and purpose, void of any input save what we show them they are feral creatures.  They are only civilized through studying their surroundings.  Their sole thought is of themselves and what THEY desire.  Compassion, tenderness, love, sharing etc these are LEARNED behaviors. 
    It's with this long winded introduction I submit to you, gentle reader  the following, and lets think on what THESE children are learning!
    Three weeks back we'd "rented" a bike to some folks visiting friends.  The mothers young pre-teen picked out an old school Mongoose Expert after test riding a Mosh BMX. ( Now, I should have had trepidation after watching him test drive the first bike for as soon as he got it in the parking lot he was doing bunny hops and a variety of other stunts).  About a week later they were back in to have it repaired.  At this point the family friend had brought the bike in with the concern that the rear wheel was rubbing the frame.  At close inspection we discover the rear axle had been bent.  As the rear end had pegs  both sides of the axle were bent just outside the frame mount, we knew he'd landed HARD a few times while pegging.  He of course denied this and stated "they just bent"
    THANKFULLY, the local woman knew that to be false, and willingly paid for the repair.  Honestly, I would have made the kid pay for it, BUT....
    Well, on Monday they brought the bike back in to return for their deposit.  I made a cursory inspection (as any damage is taken from the deposit) but it didn't take much scrutiny to notice this...

    I know the pic may not do it justice but lets just say that a wheel is supposes to be fully ROUND!  It DOES NOT come with a flat spot for easy parking!  It came as no surprise however when the Mother was put off by the fact that she would have to pay for a replacement wheel.  Now I give her full credit for remaining pleasant, calm and diplomatic but she began to express dissatisfaction with the bike as they already had to fix one problem and now this.  To her recollection he'd only rode the bike a "few" times and NEVER harshly.  The son of course was there and repeated the assertion that he had done no stunts, no jumps and gave the impression that he only rode it ever so slowly across a blanketing of downy feathers.  I could only continue to reiterate the fact that wheels don't just "bend" like that.  It requires force, and a great deal at that.  Sure they will eventually go out of true, but not dent.  Well, after the third round of debates the mothers friend, the local gal came in and after hearing the back and forth for a few minutes spoke up stating that, yes indeed he had been doing hops on the front wheels, took several jumps and hard landings and hit a few to many curbs.
    The Mothers only response was in effect, "Aren't they built for that?"
    Now on to the second gripe, and this has to do with mothers daughters.  I am a bit of a history buff and throughout the last century many women have been held in high esteem as role models.  From philosophers, to diplomats, scientist, doctors, suffragettes and even hippies but apparently the ones inspiring some of today's young women are porn stars.
    If you think my opinion sexist just look at your own high schools and see how these girls dress nowadays!  I mean, even my own teenage son thinks it's disgusting!  Half shirts, plunging necklines, shorts exposing bottoms?  It's fine if an adult woman wishes to dress however she deems appropriate, I can avert my eyes but there is just something wrong about a mother taking her daughter clothes shopping and suggesting a corset would make a nice top to go with her skirt!  Now this is not a cute anecdote but what was witnessed by my wife this morning while school shopping!  Apparently the young girl, possibly no older then 14 was already sporty a green pair of short shorts trying really hard to do an impression of dental floss! I mean LORD people!  What career are you hoping she pursues?   The only thing I can say is I hope you like  dry heat 'cause Las Vegas is the only place I know that that line of work is LEGAL!  Or maybe it's starring in the kinda movies where acting ability is optional!  No, I'm not suggesting berkas and that women not be allowed to drive but just to show that you daughters contribution's to society extends beyond that of her flesh.  At what point did we loose the battle and make the objectifying of young women not only justifiable but a prerequisite?  At what point did the majority of parents give up.  All I know is the garment industry must be in hog heaven as they now can charge a premium for WAY less fabric! 
    Look, it's up to each and every one of us to decide what's best for our OWN children, but I say these things as a warning.  Don't be afraid to tell your children "No".  To teach them decency and to care, not only about themselves but what they do that effects others.  I fear for a generation that's sole motivation is one of self gratification at the cost of all else, with no sense of propriety or responsibility. 

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013


    Hearkening back to yesteryear Saturday mornings were the stuff of dreams for pre-adolescent children everywhere!  Long before the advent of Cartoon Network and the like a child's dose of animated fun came in the guise of three competing networks running there own brand of product endorsements "Saturday Morning Cartoons!"   During the school week you could however catch some of the classics on your local UHF channels (remember UHF?)  In my neck of the New England woods, coming out of Boston was channel 56.  They were famous for one other long standing Saturday television tradition and that was "CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE"!!
    Mind you, at times you'd have to sit through some mind numbingly BAD early American made "horror" films (although by today's standards you see scarier stuff on "Bill and Mandy" or "Courage the Cowardly Dog"!) But it was when they RE-Ran the classic Japanese Monster flicks that you entered into joyous Styrofoam Heaven!  The list abounds but suffice to say these Kaiju (literally translate to "Strange Creature" or "nameless actor with zipper up back") were the sole reason this program was invented!  Eye candy for the young and as one grew older excellent fodder for add libed living room dubbing!  A precursor to the genius of Joe/Joel and the Bot's on the Satellite of Love! (Google MST3K).  SO it is with a great deal of affection that I graciously thank Guillermo del Toro for there 21st Century Resurrection!
    Elijah and I have been dying to see this flick since we first caught wind of it last year.  But, as times are a little thin right now I couldn't justify the expense of the excursion.  Well, much to his credit (and with a great deal of pride and appreciation from me) he scored some cash for a baby sitting gig yesterday and the first thing he thought to do with it was treat me to a viewing. 
    So with the blessing of my lovely wife he and I ventured out last night to fill our eyes to the brim with candy!
    We were NOT disappointed!
    (spoiler alerts!)
    (although it's been out for almost a month so I'm sure those intent on seeing it probably already have)
    I have to preface this with acknowledgement of Guillermo's assertion that this film was NOT in homage of the classic creatures.  That being said...
    it really was.
    No clearer proof could be given then the first Kaiju you see has a head remarkably similar to that of Guiron (a nemesis of the giant turtle Gamera).
    But I'm getting ahead of myself...
    In the not to distant future a fissure appears in the Pacific ocean.  Turns out its a trans-dimensional rift.  Originally thought to have been a naturally occurring phenomenon it turns out the creatures spilling forth at surprisingly predictable intervals are actually genetically engineered by an alien race hell bent on eradicating humans then swarming in to pilfer our natural resources (shades of Independence day) These revelations are provided by two quirky scientists, Newton (Charlie Day), a hyper active Fanboy "Kaiju Groupie" sporting them in a multitude of body art depictions and Hermann (Burn Gorman) a fastidious mathematician.   Humanity quickly realizes that conventional weaponry while eventually effective, proves to costly in volume and human life.  In a unilateral effort all nations of the world develop the Jaegers (German translation, "Hunter") Giant (and I mean SKYSCRAPER giant) Robots.  Piloted through a neuro-link requiring two or more pilots sharing a common mind, these jockeys reach rock star status and a little tilt of the hat to capitalism as "Monster Mania" sweeps the globe from Action figures to bed sheets!  Even the trade in Kaiju remains is booming!  Similar to the harvesting of Rhino horn and testicles, all the workings of these creatures catch a hefty sum, treatment for all that ails you!  Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy)  does a fun job as king scavenger Hannibal Chau (named after his favorite literary character and Chinese restaurant)
    It quickly becomes apparent that the attacks are becoming more frequent and the Monsters bigger and more deadly.  The bureaucracy, in it's unsurprising wisdom, declares they will stop the funding for the Jaeger project and instead rely on a massive wall built to keep the critters out (proven ineffective as one critter burst into Sydney in about an hour).  With only four Jaegers left they call on a washed up pilot, Raliegh (Charlie Hunnam, "Son's of Anarchy") who had lost his brother and co pilot 5 years earlier and was now working on "The Wall") to take control of the US robot "Gipsy Danger" in a last ditch effort to destroy the rift. 
    Despite his assertion that he wished to create something original and fresh, and was in fact NOT drawing from the genre, his love for it is apparent in much of the film.  Granted, the storyline (what little there is) is much more coherent then the traditional and cliché "Bad Monster shows up, destroys city (surprising how quickly they can rebuild Tokyo) then screwy idea from bland scientists drives off or destroys creature" Capped with a brief morality tale of the "ignorance of man" or some such.   No, the whole inter dimensional alien Conquistadors at least lent an explanation as to why the critters were attacking.  A happy inclusion were several Sci Fi references including "Star Wars" "Blade Runner" and Alien (no surprise one character was named Newt).  The creatures were a cross between classic Kaiju and H.P Lovecraft, Cthulhu inspired monsters (hence the writhing tentacles) with a dash of drift cars thrown in (check out the neon graphics on their hides).  The battles are epic with a healthy dose of the prerequisite destruction.  I give Mr. del Toro much credit as the Collateral Damage, while most assuredly was present was not depicted.  It was all about the monsters and the robots, no need to see broken bodies, and Rodan popping commuters like popcorn shrimp. (speaking of Rodan...yea, he was pretty much there as well)
     I have one gripe though, minor as it is.  Whether it was cause he wanted to show off the superior post production CGI or is just a fan of close up's I don't know, but there were not enough pull backs for me.  When the Jaegers go into battle they are escorted and flanked by a squadron of helicopters hanging on the periphery lending visual support.  It would have had more of an impact to have more views from there, depicting the swath of destruction.  Especially in battles between multiple combatants.  At times the screen is filled with an intense whirlwind of action so close it could be overwhelming. 
    There was some trepidation that the market for this film would be narrow.  Costing 200 mil to produce (not including marketing cost) not featuring any a-list actors, and courting a relatively small fan base margin it opened with a handicap.  Worldwide, it's numbers topped 290 mil, seemingly not even to the break even point.  It played very well in China dominating the number one spot, but was lukewarm in the states.  Is there potential for sequel?  Well, according to its overwhelming international dominance the answers seems to be a go.  We'll have to wait and see!  But there is hope for the continuation of the giant monster epics as the next installment of Godzilla breaks in 2014!
    Oh..yea.  I did some work yesterday as well.  Check out the pic below!

    ONLY $120.00!!!