Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

More than words.

..and not in the ultra-lame  “Extreme” sense, either.

No, I mean this kind of “more than words:”

Me, excited.

Me, excited.

Which seems an appropriate way to express enthusiasm over Owly’s cartoon debut.


July 13, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, writing | , , , | Leave a comment

I went to Caledonia, Ohio…

…and all I got was this AWESOME T-shirt:

General Mills Fun Group forever.

General Mills Fun Group forever.

Okay, so I also got a very cool vintage Kenner Canada Star Wars coloring book packed with illustrations that are just made for some rainy-day scanning fun.

The OSWCC Summer Social never disappoints. EVER.

July 12, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , , | Leave a comment

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode V

Double digit distance for the first time! My brother and I ran a 10.18-miler this morning in 1:27:57, which works out to about 8:38 per mile. This absolutely stunned me because the last two miles felt utterly punishing, and for several seemingly endless moments, I felt barely ahead of shambling zombie pace during that stretch, with my upper legs and knees groaning in resistance.

Afterward, though, it didn’t take me long to realize I felt much better after this week’s run than the nine-miler we did last Saturday. And weirdly, crossing the 10-mile mark felt much less like a Frontier and more like a somewhat arbitrary goal on paper, while last week’s actually did feel like a tangible, breakable barrier. I don’t know if it’s because last Saturday’s long run represented a jump of 4 miles over the previous week’s, or if it was because that one allowed me to head into the ten-miler more prepared mentally and physically.

I made sure to eat something before hitting the road today – just a piece and a half of wheat toast with peanut butter, but I’d packed down a big pasta dinner last night in anticipation of this morning, and remember, I unintentionally ran that nine-miler on no breakfast. I was also less hesitant this week to drink my water along the way. Not to the point of constant sipping, but just trying to stay hydrated during the run as opposed to waiting until I really felt whipped. I think I took my first quick gulp between around two-and-a-half miles in, then again around the halfway mark, and another in the final two miles.

Don’t get me wrong: This was a long damn run, and I was really feeling at my limit during the lengthy climb that took up the first half of mile ten, but I also didn’t feel like I was fighting anything near the mental battles I was waging from almost the start last week.

This was also a wholly new running route for me, and had a completely different vibe from most of the runs I’ve done so far. Instead of heading out into the fields and back roads, we ran down into North Canton, so there were some nice stretches of sidewalk for a change, and jogging through neighborhoods maybe has a different mental effect because yards and houses and stop signs pass more quickly than sprawling farms and distant treelines.

July 12, 2009 Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , | 4 Comments

>sigh.< I know I'm not going to win this, but…

…I’m going to write it anyway.

So my buddy Adam – a huge music enthusiast – wrote this blog entry about Michael Jackson’s legacy, mentioning my Tweet about Jackson and U2.

Look: I don’t stand a chance in a musical debate with Adam. He knows his stuff inside and out while I tend to write about music – on the rare occasions that I do – from a very “in my gut” standpoint that’s rarely defensible through means other than, “I dunno, I just like it.”

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not saying Jackson was culturally insignificant, and I’m not saying that he wasn’t, infact, at his peak, probably the most powerful popular culture force on the planet. I admit that I never understood the weird, panting, teary-eyed throngs of devoted admirers, but I’m not denying that he shaped pop music and the music video like nobody else.

All I meant in that Tweet was that I think U2 is a better musical force and in the long run, matters more in a bigger sense. (Also, for what it’s worth, I don’t think being relieved by the fact that more people wached Barack Obama’s inauguration than Michael Jackson’s funeral counts as “poo-poo”ing the latter’s legacy. If anything, doesn’t it just bolster the importance of the former?)

Here’s the U2 disclaimer: I’m not even a huge U2 fan.The only albums I own are The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum, and Achtung Baby, and the second two were freebies. My wife owns How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

And yet I have said for years that I think pound-for-pound, U2’s long-term importance and impact surpasses most other rock bands and rivals even The Beatles. (My wife, a huge Beatles fan, will have none of this, of course. My argument in that case rests almost solely on longevity, but it’s not one I’m making here. That’s another day.)

As it happens this year marks 29 years since U2 released its first album, Boy, and coincidentally, Jackson’s solo discography spans 1972-2001, also a 29-year period.

The way I see it, nobody ever touches the way Jackson’s popularity spiked in the 1980s. For some reason, I keep visualizing this concept like icing spread on a cake, with the thickness of the icing at a given point representing popularity and influence. In Jackson’s case, the piece from the 1980s is just freaking smothered in it. Nobody else’s cake is ever going to have a piece so monumentally buried in this icing.

But after Bad, Jackson’s relevance starts its law-of-diminishing-returns cycle: His music becomes less important even as the sideshow aspect of his life takes over, and while that keeps him in the spotlight, I don’t think it keeps him culturally relevant.

U2 will never have that much icing on a single piece of its own cake. But then, neither does their presence and influence wax and wane as severely. Theirs is a cake with a moderately thick layer of icing, but far more uniformly spread, and frankly, it’s over a bigger cake, since their nearly-30-year album career is a cohesive band effort, while Michael’s first solo albums were still done within the context of the Jackson Five, and it’s only with Off the Wall that he comes truly into his own.

U2 released 12 albums from 1980-2009; Jackson ten albums in 29 years (and I’m not counting compilations and similar repackagings). And while Jackson’s Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987) without a doubt represent the domination of a decade, they also serve as a reminder that at best, Michael Jackson was truly and expansively relevant for roughly a single ten-year period.

The U2 music catalog, by contrast, is far more consistently meaningful and impactful over almost three full decades. Thematically, the group has almost always tackled far more difficult issues through its music than Jackson did, and stylistically, its members have never shied from drastic changes in sound and approach. (What knocked Thriller from its #1 album spot on the UK charts, by the way? War.)

Jackson was a genius at writing and performing and crafting pop, no doubt whatsoever. I’ll even say he may be the best ever in that regard, because despite my never having owned a Michael Jackson album, his songs will spiral up in my brain out of nowhere and sit there for DAYS. I will find myself whistling “Dirty Diana” for no reason, though I know maybe three words in the whole song. I’ll hum random segments from “Bad” when I’m in the car, though I haven’t heard the song in months.

But I’ll also say this: I’ve never heard a Michael Jackson song that really moved me. Never had a Michael Jackson song put a lump in my throat. Never got that gut-punch, heart-racing oh-my-God-I’ve-got-to-listen-to-that-again-RIGHT-NOW from a Michael Jackson song. I’ve never cranked the volume, rolled down the windows, hit the gas and sung along out-of-tune and at the top of my lungs because it felt so damn good to a Michael Jackson song.

Again, not even being what I’d call a U2 fan, I can name songs that hit those emotional notes without even thinking hard: “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, “Desire” and “All I Want is You”, right off the top of my head.

Explain the current soaring Jackson music sales? Doesn’t the spike almost, in fact, prove how much his relevance had faded? Where was his relevance in April? Everybody’s getting their fix because the last time they bought a brand new Jackson album was in 2001, and their Thriller cassettes and first-release Bad CDs are long gone.

There’s also this: Our generation, the one which grew up on old-school MTV and fueled the Michael Jackson ’80s, is one well-noted for its obsession with that decade and the pop culture of our youth. We flock to VH-1’s parade of retro shows, and we carry touchstones of that age into today’s realm. I point you to the fact that my daughter and her friends all know the words to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’“, and this was before she even knew I had the Greatest Hits CD in the car.

Again, I’m notnotNOT a music scholar, and when I try to write things like this I always feel like I’ve jumped around and not supported myself very well, especially coming up against Adam. And again, I’m not saying that at his peak, Michael Jackson wasn’t a pop song revolutionary and spectacular presence who just about ruled the freaking world, and I’m not saying that his death isn’t awfully damn tragic, especially given his musical magic and his troubled roller coaster of a life.

But I think that life will wind up casting the longer shadow. And that’s sad.

July 10, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Music | , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on Syfy’s “Warehouse 13”

Kelsey & I decided to give Syfy’s “Warehouse 13” a shot, since we were bombarded with promos running during the last few weeks’ worth of “Twilight Zone” episodes. I wrote up some thoughts for a post at GeekDad.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | geek, Television, Weblogs | , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to Candleshoe

Last week, I recorded Candleshoe on Turner Classic Movies, and I watched it during breakfast over two consecutive mornings this week.

I remember catching this movie in the theatre as a little kid, but I don’t think I’d seen it since, unless it was on the Sunday night “Wonderful World of Disney” sometime when I was growing up. All I really recalled was Jodie Foster’s tomboy character, David Niven in a swordfight, and a clue to the mystery that involved the sun shining through a library window.

Revisiting it sparked a feeling more than any concrete recollection: Seeing the old Buena Vista film logo tugged a sort of emotional thread to being at an age where these live-action Disney movies felt packed with stuff and hilarity and just enough emotional weight to make an elementary-schooler care a little bit.

It made me dig around and look at other Disney flicks of the era that I remember seeing on the big screen: Pete’s Dragon, for instance, which feels “earlier,” but actually came along about the same time as Candleshoe; Freaky Friday (1976) – a cop car splits in half! This was almost pants-wetting funny to me at the time; Gus; and The Cat from Outer Space, which I saw on a surprise trip to a drive-in. I also distinctly rememver seeing Never A Dull Moment, which must have been re-released, since it dates back to 1968.

What really struck me about Candleshoe this time around was its unexpected shelf life. I mean, honestly, it’s got that Disney-dated look to it (though it’s somewhat less pronounced because most of the movie takes place in England on an old estate and an appropriately quaint village), but really, it felt like a lot of the new-era Disney Channel movies I’ve watched with my daughter over the past few years.

The story and characters and twists and situations, from the long-lost heir to a fortune to the bumbling con man and his crew to the fighting-kids-destined-to-become-friends development all fit right in with the likes of Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior and Princess Protection Program.

Of course, Candleshoe had the credibility of Foster and Niven and Helen Hayes working for it, so from the start, it’s got a more big-screen pedigree, but still, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow. Disney’s still making the same movies they did when I was a kid.” They’re just straight-to-TV-and-DVD these days.

(Know what was on right after Candleshoe? Escape to Witch Mountain. Yes, I recorded that one, too, though I mostly remember seeing the previews for its sequel, when the little telepathic kids were teenagers.)

Here’s the other thing that kind of stunned me: Candleshoe seems very much a trip to early-kid-dom for me, and it seemed to belong in that vague, fuzzy pre-kindergarten era of my life, like Snoopy Come Home and The Apple Dumpling Gang.

But it came out in 1977.

December 1977. In other words, by the time I saw Candleshoe, I had already seen Star Wars and was busy rewiring my brain for a few decades of obsession in that realm. Yet despite my mental division between one age and the next, and the wholly separate feelings that each movie triggers, they came along at about the same time.

Now, have I ever mentioned that I saw The Godfather when I was two? No? I’ll save that one for later.

July 8, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tiki Two: Screaming Boogaloo

I really enjoyed last October’s inaugural Screaming Tiki Con in Niles, but with all that’s gone on the past few months, I’d pretty well forgotten that organizer Peter Smith was, even then, working on a follow-up for this summer.

It was only in mid-May that I remembered to check up on it, and in fact, the second Screaming Tiki is coming up this weekend near Playhouse Square in Cleveland. Another impressive guest list, too: This time, they’ve got Admiral Frakking Adama himself, Edward James Olmos, and Erin “Col. Wilma Deering and Hot Woman from ‘Silver Spoons’ whose Character Name Escapes Me” Gray.

They’ve also tied aspects of the con strongly to the successful effort to save the house where Superman was born, and will host not only a panel with members of both the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster families, but a ribbon cutting ceremony at the house on Saturday.

Of course, I have plans this weekend which will most likely keep me from reaching the Screaming Tiki this year, but I had a blast last October and wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone that Peter put together a good con on a relatively small stage. Hopefully he comes through even better on a bigger one.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode IV

(This was written the afternoon of Saturday, July 4.)

I was strangely energized when my alarm went off at 6 this morning. Six-plus solid hours of good sleep helped, I’m sure – Friday was kind of out-of-whack because I was over at my friend Keith’s until 4 a.m., woke up at 8 a.m. and never got that decent nap I was angling for.

This morning, though, I felt a little like I usually do on race days. Not fully keyed-up, for sure, but with a little nervous adrenaline flowing: Today marked a personal distance milestone; what Keith calls a Frontier Run.

Nine miles.

I’ve done sixteen days of running so far on this training schedule, and while establishing the regularity of the four-days-a-week pattern was definitely an achievement for me (even back-to-back running days were rare, much less three-day stretches week in and week out), I hadn’t yet pushed into new territory, distance-wise.

I marked out today’s route online last week, messing with different loops and tweaking it to reach about nine-and-a-quarter. (I’m not figuring on building that big a cushion on the long runs anymore, though.) It was an easy enough path to memorize, covering a lot of familiar ground, but with a new three-mile section in the middle.

And though I filled the water bottles for the running belt Jenn gave me last month, I didn’t eat anything for breakfast. It wasn’t an intentional skipping: Most days I’m hungry before running and put some toast or a banana in my stomach just to keep it from growling. Today I was thinking only about the distance. Food never entered my mind until my brother Adam and I were in mile six and he asked me if I’d eaten anything.

My goal this morning was simply to finish the run, Pay No Attention to the Stopwatch Behind the Curtain.

As usual, Adam and I talked while we ran. Mostly small, forgettable stuff just to keep the time passing: his recent two-day family trip to Idlewild in Pennsylvania; the weather while he was gone; what I’d done over the past couple days since our last run; the Junior World Football Championships going on in Canton this weekend.

It was a nice morning: Cool for July, but sunny and mostly still, although every so often we’d get a nice breeze across the fields.

Mile three took us on a little sidestep through a small neighborhood I’ve driven past countless times but never visited. It reminded me a lot of our street, tucked off to the side of busier roads, fields and treelines behind the houses.

The fifth mile, east-to-west along the northernmost edge of our loop, ran along a street that leads to a couple housing developments where both my brother and I had friends living when we were kids.

I felt briefly like I hit a wall while climbing a hill on this stretch, but around then is when Adam and I started revisiting our memories of the area.

Off to the left, I told him at one point, in the woods behind the houses we were passing, there’s a big swamp that my friend Mike and I used to try and cross every so often. We’d make an expedition of it, shouldering small backpacks and carrying snacks and canteens. Once I even brought a can of Sterno and some cherry pie filling and bread, intending to use our family’s campfire pie-cooker to make a mid-hike snack. (Mike was way more practical than I was and rolled his eyes at this. And the little canned flame was hardly up to the challenge of baking a hot pie. I wound up eating the filling straight from the can.)

I told Adam this story, and he talked about riding these back roads on his bicycle with friends, going back and forth to each others’ houses, and another mile passed beneath our feet.

We were most of the way through mile seven when I started really feeling the run like I hadn’t in awhile: My lungs were fine, but the knees and the calves and the upper legs started twinging and complaining, and my pace had slowed accordingly.

The final 1.2 miles were the most difficult stretch I have run in a long time: The big hill that marked the start of mile nine, a hill that had felt as though it had been shrinking lately, reared up with a vengeance and beat the hell out of me. And once I was over it, I was very much in “just keep going” mode, though I managed to avoid falling into a zombie shuffle and kept my stride decent if not powerful.

We finished with a time of 81 minutes, 8 seconds, which for 9.35 miles works out to about an 8:41 pace, and I’m more than OK with that.

And for the first time since starting my training, I had some post-run soreness in the knees and quadriceps, and there was a tightness in my right calf muscles that I’m not keen on. Nothing hobbling, of course, but enough to have me walking a smidge gingerly for a couple hours afterward. In a strange way, it felt good, though, because it felt like, “Hey, I worked today.”

Oddly enough, I wasn’t really sure this was a true Frontier Run until I started writing about it. I could have sworn that sometime last year, Adam and I did nine miles once, probably when I was helping him split the long runs in his final month of marathon preparation. Looking back through my journal, though, I discovered that 8.1 was really my old distance record. I ran it for the first time on Father’s Day 2008, a solo route with some nice long stretches on narrow, unlined roads out among the fields. I did eight-milers three more times last year, all with Adam in the fall.

Until this morning, though, it had been 384 days since I crossed my Frontier. Eight new ones lie between now and October 12, the day after the marathon, and I can kind of see them out there in abstract, a series of concentric circles, like black pencil lines on a white sheet of paper.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , | 2 Comments

Ha! Someone else DID see “Space Jam!”

It’s a couple months old, but I just found this pretty nice review of “Collect All 21!” today. I think my favorite part is that the writer admits to actually going to see Space Jam almost solely for the purpose of catching the Star Wars: Special Edition trailer and then theater-jumping to watch the preview again. (Which is, of course, exactly what I did.)

July 1, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Weblogs | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Mice and Clones

I met Sean Forney last summer at the Buckeye Comic Con and ran into him again at Screaming Tiki in October, when he showed me some designs he was working on for a possible Lucasfilm-licensed T-shirt. And a few months ago, he came to mind when I got a BGSU alumni newsletter mentioning him. (So, bonus points for being a fellow Ohioan and a Falcon!)

Click to enlarge.

Sean emailed me recently to share the final product, which he did for Disney’s Star Wars Weekends 2009 in conjunction with Blue Planet Gear, and though I can’t find any information on where these shirts may have been sold – I wonder if they were some sort of exclusives for the 501st or the Rebel Legion – I still think it’s awfully cool. (I particularly like the detail on the leftmost clone in the trio.)

Now that the shirt’s done, Sean, who grew up a Star Wars fan, told me a little bit more about the whole process in an email:

“I received an email from Bill at Blue Planet out of nowhere about doing a Stormtrooper shirt. The initial design was a Stormtrooper and two Clonetroopers for a shirt for the 501st. After that design I was asked to do a Mickey Mouse in Stormtrooper gear for the Star Wars Disney Hollywood Studios Weekends. I finished this design and Disney passed on the idea of Mickey as a Stormtrooper. So I was asked to re-do the first Stormtrooper design and it was approved for the Disney Hollywood Studios Star Wars Weekends.”

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

“The idea for the design came from Bill at Blue Planet, but I came up with the poses through a series of sketches. Blue Planet was in contact with Lucasfilm and had the license to do the shirts. The final product came out just like the original designs and there weren’t many revisions.”

“It was thrilling. I have to admit it was a little nerve-racking making sure all the details were correct on all the troopers but in the end it was definitely worth it.”

To me, one of the neater aspects of the “new” Star Wars era – which is actually pushing two decades old itself, if you put its birth around the time of Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” release in 1991 – has been seeing this incredible array of artistic takes on the saga and its inhabitants, as compared to the relatively limited number of interpretations in the original trilogy era.

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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