Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Wife Joins the Fray!

Anticipating our forthcoming move to Australia, The Wife has started her own blog titled A Canuck Mom Down Under and since I'm the subject of the first post, I can't help but recommend it!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Buffy Comic Project: "Invasion"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 32

Dark Horse (Vol. 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (writers); Cliff Richards (penciller); Joe Pimentel (inker)

Setting: Season Four

T.V. Character Appearances: Riley, Buffy, Giles, Xander, Anya, Willow, Tara, Spike

Major Original Characters: Rebecca Stansberry (librarian); Cole (Initiative member); Warren Whitcomb (entomologist)

Summary: Buffy sits at Riley's bedside, lamenting the fact that he still hasn't awakened from his coma despite her satisfying the ghost's desires in the previous issue. Later, at Giles' apartment, the Scoobies talk about the discovery of a giant insect creature in the park. Buffy agrees to investigate and Rebecca Stansberry arrives to pick Giles up for a date. The two head for a librarian mixer, where they encounter Warren Whitcomb, an entomologist who used to date Rebecca. Meanwhile, Cole returns to the alleyway where he and Riley encountered the ghost only to be attacked by insect creatures himself. The creature attaches a strange beetle-like carapace to Cole, and the former Initiative soldier becomes a mind-controlled killer and attacks Giles and Rebecca as they stroll through the park. Giles tries to fight him off but is thrown into a pond, and when he surfaces both insect-Cole and Rebecca have disappeared. He fetches the Scoobies for help, but Buffy is out patrolling. The Slayer does find the giant insect creatures she's looking for, but even with Spike's help she gets overwhelmed and knocked unconscious.

Review: Dialogue makes it sound like the Scoobies have encountered these insect monsters before, but apart from the famous preying-mantis teacher in Season One, I'm not sure where. Perhaps spin-off comics or annuals? Regardless, I can't say the plot has hooked me or is interesting enough to justify multiple issues, but it's still fun to see Giles go on dates, even if they're to "librarian mixers." This Rebecca character is foreshadowed so strongly as being involved with the insect creatures that it's either a somewhat ham-fisted mislead or the most obvious set-up for a villain ever. Meanwhile, poor Riley remains in a coma, lending one to think even the writers of the comic don't really like him (stay strong, Riley, It Gets Better!). The art remains good, and I appreciate that Richards & Pimentel are able to draw different body types, making Tara look different than Anya, for example. Speaking of Tara, she gets a nice moment with Willow in this issue, though she's still mostly relegated to the background.


* Buffy is surprisingly jealous of Rebecca in a scene that probably launched a thousand Buffy/Giles slash fics . . .

* This ad reminds me of the existence of a Buffy board game. Which I do not have! Soon after I became hooked on Buffy, I remember seeing the game at the local comic store and it looked cool. However, I had only watched the first couple seasons of the show and noticed that characters I hadn't encountered yet were in the game (like Adam) so I decided not to buy it in order to avoid spoilers. Then I forgot all about it and years passed . . . and now it's like $ 100 on E-Bay! What a cruel fate!

Next Issue

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal [GAMES]

SPOILERS BELOW FOR Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal

JHAEMAN: Probably the best seek and find game I’ve played in recent memory is called Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal by PlayFirst Games. The Wife is here to give me her thoughts as well since we played it together. I’ll start things off by saying that what I liked the most was that it actually had an interesting story!

THE WIFE: I’ll say! The murder mystery plot was great - it made me want to continue the game to find out what happened. I found myself surprisingly invested in the game. If it wasn’t so much fun I would be tempted to knock off a few points for the fact that they never revealed what happened to Scarlet’s baby after her untimely demise!

JHAEMAN: The game is set in the prohibition era and has a far more adult storyline than other games of this genre and involves murder, adultery, graft and even secret love children!

THE WIFE: It was actually nice to have a game that was deliberately aimed at grown-ups (although in no way X or even R rated)! Some of the other games we’ve tried have been rather goofy and silly yet somehow risque.

JHAEMAN: I enjoyed the frequent mini-games that helped break up the hidden items screens. My only complaint is that they may have been a bit too easy, but overall I’m looking forward to playing more from this company.

THE WIFE: We will definitely seek them out! As you said, the mini-games were a high point - they were quite fun. I also enjoyed finding the hidden bells on each screen - although we were disappointed that there didn’t seem to be reward for doing so.

JHAEMAN: Anything else to add?

THE WIFE: Just that the voice work was also pretty good. There was a nice sense of who the characters were and they captured the mood well. Basically, I echo your sentiment - best seek and find we’ve ever played!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

NFL 2011 Super Bowl Predictions

So it all comes down to this! Who will Steve have write a blog post on a topic of his choice? The Wife and I remain tied, and we wrote our picks on secret ballots so as not to influence each other's prediction. Here we go . . .

The Wife: Patriots

Me: Giants (my theory: Giants have the best overall balance of offense and defense, while Patriots are only really strong on offense . . .)

Steve: Patriots

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Boomer @ 8 Months

Boomer turns 8 months old in 26 minutes and he is more adorable than ever. Major milestones for his parents' sanity is that he now naps in his crib regularly, is happy sitting on the floor playing with toys for 10-20 minutes at a time, and usually sleeps through the night with no problems. He's inherited the late-night gene from me, as he's usually not ready for bed until almost 10 p.m., which means he often stays up later than his grandparents! But he sleeps in until 7:30 to 8:30 in the morning, so it's a pretty good trade-off as far I'm concerned. He's also a champion eater, and so far we haven't found any foods he won't go for. Although he's not crawling yet--the poor kid hates to be on his stomach--he stands up really well with something to lean on, and I wouldn't be surprised if he learns to walk before he learns to crawl. My happiest moments as a dad are how excited he is to see me when I get home from work, and how I have all sorts of ways to make him laugh. Here's a couple of good photos where you can see him hanging out with his old man and another where he's diligently at work trying to figure out which monkey is his.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What I Read (2011)

First up, this constitutes my 1000th post! More on that in a future post . . .

Second, here's what I read in 2011.

Jan. 2011 Elizabeth George, A Great Deliverance "Great characters & dialogue, as Lynley & Havers investigate a murder in a rural village. Grim as hell ending." [When I was a teenager, I had several of these mysteries and really liked them, but got really annoyed for some reason when one of the books was set out of the timeline with the others--I've been carrying them around for almost a couple of decades now, and thought I owed them a re-read, and I'm glad I did]

Jan. 2011 Marie Laberge, Sans rien ni personne "'Cold case' mystery novel about murdering midwife. Very talky & boring, with biggest twist mostly foreseeable."

Jan. 15 2011 Elizabeth George, Payment in Blood "Disappointing . . . felt like a first novel, dialogue too stagey, first 1/2 too much Agatha Christie."

Jan. 23, 2011 Michael Stackpole, Isard's Revenge "Last of the X-Wing novels, and probably a good thing."

Jan. 27, 2011 Jane Austen Northanger Abbey "A fun, light romance with a great parody of gothic literary tropes."

Jan. 30, 2011 James Joyce Ulysses "The most infuriating, annoying book I've ever read. But then somehow it starts to make sense." [Actually finishing Ulysses is a badge of honor as far I'm concerned, but at what cost! Oh, what cost!]

Feb. 7, 2011 John Marsden Lettres de l'intérieur "Letters between two teen girls, one incarcerated. Realistic, touching, thought-provoking end." [and sad too, once one reaches the natural conclusions at the end]

Feb. 10, 2011 James P. Othmer, The Futurist "What a great, compulsively readable novel. Cynical, idealistic, perfect evocation of globalization and its discontents."

Feb. 11, 2011 Steven Waldman Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America "A persuasive, balanced, and cogent discussion of the religious beliefs of the 'founding fathers.'"

Feb. 13, 2011 Orson Scott Card Ender's Game "An amazing, extraordinary book--one of the best I've read in years. The 20th anniversary audio book is a quality production." [this one, and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, have really stayed with me, and to my mind exemplify, along with Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain, the heights to which a much-derided genre like SF can achieve in exploring the nature of humanity]

Mar. 1, 2011 Otis A. Kline, The Swordsman of Mars "Better than Moorcock's homages, interesting twists. Generic protagonist."

Mar. 12, 2011 Shae Davidson The Gathering Storm "Call of Cthulhu monograph about the Great Depression. Mostly scenarios, but worthwhile."

Mar. 14, 2011 Elizabeth George Well-Schooled in Murder "Good stuff, a big improvement over Payment in Blood. Interesting depiction of prep-school mores."

Mar. 15, 2011 Robert Jordan The Path of Daggers "Solid 8th book. Some good action scenes as Rand fights the Seanchan"

Mar. 17, 2011 Michael Reeves Street of Shadows "Second book in the 'Coruscant Nights' trilogy. Captain Typho is suddenly madly in love with Padme, and gets his dumb ass killed trying to kill Vader."

Mar. 20, 2011 Tim Wiseman Tatters of the King "A Call of Cthulhu campaign featuring 'The King in Yellow.' Purist, RP-heavy campaign. Has some structural problems in terms of adventure hooks and clues, but also some great imagery and themes."

Mar. 26, 2011 Elizabeth George A Suitable Vengeance "A prequel Inspector Lynley book. Dialogue unrealistically introspective, heartfelt, and cogent."

Mar. 30, 2011 Michael Brooks 13 Things That Don't Make Sense "An interesting and understandable discussion of 13 scientific anomalies such as dark matter, cold fusion, homeopathy, and free will."

Apr. 10, 2011 Charles Dickens Oliver Twist "Great characters, but a plot that is all over the place."

Apr. 13, 2011 Nancy Holder Blood & Fog "Buffy book with Jack the Ripper as demon tied to evil faerie lore. Some good characterization, but plot didn't hold interest."

Apr. 25, 2011 Constance Backhouse Carnal Crimes: Sexual Assault Law in Canada, 1900-1975 "Case studies--revealing, if not comprehensive."

May 2011 Philip José Farmer To Your Scattered Bodies Go "The first book in Farmer's famous Riverworld series, featuring Richard Burton awakening on a strange world with millions of others. Fascinating premise, average execution."

May 2011 Eoin Colfer Artemis Fowl "A really fun, original story about a boy criminal mastermind and his intrusion on the Faerie realms. Surprisingly excellent action scenes."

May 2011 N.D. Wilson 100 Cupboards "Well-plotted story, first in a series, about a house with 100 portals to other places. Comes with cool map."

May 2011 Elizabeth George For the Sake of Elena "Deaf university student murdered. Very well done, but I'm not sure if the end of Chapter 1 cheats considering later events."

May 2011 Dean Koontz Darkfall "Average horror novel about evil voodoo priest sending monsters after people."

May 2011 Brian Hayes Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon "Average adaptation of T.V. episodes."

May 2011 A. Lee Martinez Monster "A really funny urban fantasy about a monster-catcher and the impending end of the universe. Should buy more by this author."

May 2011 Gregory Levey Shut Up, I'm Talking and Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government "At times laugh-out-loud funny book about NY law student stumbling onto important position. Very readable."

June 6, 2011 Elizabeth George Missing Joseph "I read the first 200 pages of this during my wife's delivery of our first son. About average for a George novel, and not enough Havers."

June 12, 2011 Diane Duane Omnitopia Dawn "Interesting story about massive multiplayer RPG and attempted invasion by computer hackers. Needs characters less black & white, good & evil."

June 12, 2011 J.K. Rowling Harry Potter et L'Ordre Du Phénix "1,000 page story, as Dumbledore loses Hogwarts to a great villain, Delores Umbrage. Another strong entry." [reading the Harry Potter books in French has been really enjoyable, as I already have a good conception of the characters and plot]

June 17, 2011 Carrie Vaughn Kitty and the Midnight Hour "Werewolf becomes host of late-night supernatural radio talk show. Solid, some originality, worth reading more."

June 29, 2011 Noah Feldman Divided by God "Readable, concise history of church-state relations in America. Good elucidation of conflict between 'legal secularists' and 'values evangelicals.' Proposed solution unconvincing."

June 30, 2011 M.K. Hobson The Native Star "Magic & technology intermingled in 19th century America. Interesting conception of magic and solid story. A bit sappy at the end."

July 1, 2011 Richard A. Muller The Instant Physicist "Short, fun explanation of some counter-intuitive physics principles, primarily focussed on radiation and energy sources."

July 6, 2011 Stiegg Larson The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest "Less a thriller, and no mystery, but still interesting in spots."

July 16, 2011 Michael Capuzzo The Murder Room "Nonfiction story of the Vidocq Society, a club devoted to solving cold cases. Oddly structured and unpersuasive." [I think what irked me about this virtual hagiography of the Vidocq Society and its leading members is that one has to read between the lines before realizing that the club has only really helped solve one murder in its decades-long existence]

July 22, 2011 Jude Watson A Tangled Web "Fifth book in the Last of the Jedi series, as Ferus comes under the employ of Palpatine to save his friends. Large cast of characters hard to keep track of."

July 23, 2011 James Ellroy Le Dahlia Noir "Slow start, average mystery with interesting portrayal of 1940s L.A. policing."

Sep. 2011 E.C. Bentley Trent's Last Case "Interesting deconstruction of the mystery novel, showing how same set of facts can be manipulated by author to create myriad 'solutions.'"

Sep. 2011 Jeff Kinney Journal d'un dégonflé "Hilarious fictional novel of school child, must get more in the series."

Sep. 2011 Charlaine Harris Gravesight "First book in a new series about woman who can sense location of corpses. Well-written with solid characterization. Somewhat rushed ending."

Sep. 2011 Gary Gygax Death in Delhi "Last of the Setne Inhetep novels. Good characters, but plot still needs work and more of a sense of danger for main characters."

Sep. 2011 Kat Richardson Greywalker "Private investigator who can see ghosts. Interesting premise but muddled world mixes vampires and witches into the brew."

Sep. 2011 Jeffrey Toobin The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court "Very readable portrayal of Court politics, individual personalities, and the confirmation process."

Sep. 2011 David Whitaker Doctor Who and the Crusaders "The First Doctor and companions get mixed up with Richard and Saladin. Actually pretty good and entertaining."

Sep. 17, 2011 A. Merritt The Ship of Ishtar "Original, interesting, about man pulled aboard ancient ship locked in battle between gods of love and death."

Sep. 2011 Mica Ostow & Steven Brezenoff The Quotable Slayer "Serviceable collection of Buffy quotes."

Sep. 28, 2011 Elizabeth George Playing for the Ashes "Inspector Lynley mystery involving murder of famous cricketeer. Unconvincing motive, but good subplot involving animal liberation force."

Oct. 11, 2011 Orson Scott Card Speaker for the Dead "Sequel to Ender's Game. Murder of xenographers by ostensibly peaceful aliens requires investigation. Great idea of role for Speaker of the Dead."

Oct. 19, 2011 Jak Koke The Edge of Chaos "Forgotten Realms novel set near the Plaguewrought Lands, a dangerous area of wild magic. Entertaining."

Oct. 2011 Scott Martelle The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial "A very readable overview of the Dennis Smith Act trial that led to the Communist Party's American leadership being imprisoned."

Nov. 3, 2011 René Barjavel La nuit des temps "Interesting and original SF novel. A polar expedition finds two people of an ancient advanced civilization frozen in suspended animation for 900,000 years."

Nov. 2011 Kate Novak & Jeff Grubbs Azure Bonds "Great Forgotten Realms novel with intriguing central mystery. Warrior wakes up with strange, mystical tattoos--who put them there and why?"

Nov. 2011 Various The Halls of Stormweather "Collection of 7 short stories by various authors featuring different members of the Uskreven family in Sembia. Enjoyable throughout."

Nov. 2011 Ray Garton Resurrecting Ravana "Buffy novel featuring Ethan Rayne trying to summon Hindu god Ravana. Competent."

Nov. 2011 Christopher Hitchens Thomas Jefferson: Author of America "Crisp, very readable short bio of Jefferson, with trenchant criticism of past scholarship on Sally Hemmings."

Dec. 10, 2011 Elizabeth George In the Presence of the Enemy "The best George novel I've read yet. A great mystery, a thrilling conclusion, great characters. Excellent & memorable."

Dec. 2011 C.W. Mevius Couching Tiger, Hidden Toddler: A Zen Guide for New Dads "A slim, sometimes humorous book that does contain some good advice."

Dec. 2011 Gamma World Core Rulebook "A fun, light-hearted post-apocalyptic game with some interesting tweaks on d20 rules."

Dec. 2011 Plate The Trial & Death of Socrates "Collects Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. Apology has relevance to charges of corrupting youth and introducing new gods."

Dec. 2011 Gregory Lang Why a Son Needs a Dad "Skimpy book with photos and statements, mostly banal."

Dec. 23, 2011 Kevin J. Anderson The Jedi Academy Trilogy "Excellent trio of novels, detailing Luke's rebuilding of the Jedi Academy, the destruction of the Sun Crusher, and more. Great dialogue & characterization."

Dec. 31, 2011 Jude Watson Return of the Dark Side "Sixth book in The Last of the Jedi series, plot continues to surprise, not 'kiddie' at all."

Dec. 31, 2011 Fluke, Levine, Meier The Gingerbread Cookie Murders "Three short novels with different characters by different authors, recipes (!) interspersed throughout. Fluke's prose is embarrassingly bad, but the other two are solid reads."

NFL 2011 Playoffs Round 3 Round-Up

Billy Cundiff's missed chip shot field goal cheated me out of a win that would have locked up second place in the picks competition. What are the odds that after 267 games The Wife and I would be tied with only the Super Bowl left? Well, I'm in it to win it! (not "win it" per se, since Steve's already done that, but "I'm in it to not lose it!" doesn't have the same ring to it . . .)

Giants @ 49ers
The Wife: Giants
Me: Giants
Steve: Giants
WINNER: Giants (when offenses and defenses are so evenly matched, special teams is going to make the difference . . .)

Ravens @ Patriots
The Wife: Patriots
Me: Ravens
Steve: Patriots
WINNER: Patriots (man, I got ROBBED here!)


The Wife: 2-0
Me: 1-1
Steve: 2-0


The Wife: 159-110
Me: 159-110
Steve: 172-97

Friday, January 20, 2012

NFL 2011 Division Champion Predictions in Retrospect

It's always fun to look back at predictions made months previously to see just how right . . . and just how wrong everyone was about who would end up winning each division in the NFL. In my original post on the 2011 season, I made my own predictions and then listed the predictions of Lindy's, Football Outsiders, and the clear winner of the regular-season weekly predictions, Prognosticatin' Steve. As in the year prior, the goal of our little experiment is to see whether my amateurish efforts are any worse than the big glossy magazines with their paid staffs. Remember, the chances of correctly picking a division winner by random chance is 25% (which is what me and two different magazines ended up with on our picks last year), so anything better than that will, for our purposes, be considered a success. Here we go!


Lindy's: New England
Football Outsiders: New England
Steve: New England
My Pick: New England ("someday we will look back at this decade's Patriots with amazement")
ACTUAL WINNER: New England (a safe bet, and everyone starts out well)


Lindy's: San Diego
Football Outsiders: San Diego
Steve: San Diego ("talk about a bad division")
My Pick: Denver ("my one surprise team to add a little flavour to these proceedings")
ACTUAL WINNER: Denver (I would feel smarter about this upset success, but I didn't foresee Tebow playing at all; I assumed Kyle Orton would have played well for a mediocre team in a mediocre division)


Lindy's: Baltimore
Football Outsiders: Pittsburgh
Steve: Pittsburgh
My Pick: Pittsburgh ("Big Ben just gets it done . . .")
ACTUAL WINNER: Baltimore (that Week One blowout really set things in motion for the Ravens, and they followed through . . .)


Lindy's: Indianapolis
Football Outsiders: Houston
Steve: Indianapolis ("despite Manning's issues")
My Pick: Houston ("if the defense can keep teams under thirty points, the Texans win with 31")
ACTUAL WINNER: Houston (Steve, as good as your picks were during the regular season, your one constant blind-spot was the Manning-less Colts!)


Lindy's: Philadelphia
Football Outsiders: Philadelphia
Steve: Philadelphia
My Pick: Dallas ("they get things figured out this year and pure talent shines through")
ACTUAL WINNER: New York (we all missed the boat on this one, though a Cowboys victory in Week 17 would have swung things my way . . .)


Lindy's: St. Louis
Football Outsiders: San Francisco
Steve: "The division implodes from sucking too much . . . or St. Louis for purposes of this prediction"
My Pick: Arizona ("Kolb gets this team rolling in a weak division")
ACTUAL WINNER: San Francisco (Football Outsiders' heavy-duty statistical analysis came through for this one, as I never foresaw SF winning more than 7-8 games)


Lindy's: Green Bay
Football Outsiders: Green Bay
Steve: Green Bay ("though Det will be good too")
My Pick: Green Bay ("Bears regress, Lions closing, Vikings at a standstill, leaving Packers on top")
ACTUAL WINNER: Green Bay (another unanimous pick and unanimous success)


Lindy's: New Orleans
Football Outsiders: Atlanta
Steve: New Orleans
My Pick: New Orleans ("a coin flip with Atlanta . . .")
ACTUAL WINNER: New Orleans (everyone gets this right except for Football Outsiders--methinks they need to tinker with those algorithms)

Alright, now we can tally up the big winners and even bigger losers (though actually, everyone did pretty good):


Lindy's: 4/8 (50%) (pretty good results, especially for being the only one to pick Baltimore in the AFC North)
Football Outsiders: 4/8 (50%) (also good, with bonus points for being the only one to foresee SF's rise in the NFC West)
Steve: 3/8 (37.5%) (still better than random chance, though worst of the four pickers here; tempted to subtract points for picking Indianapolis and St. Louis, teams that went a combined 4-28 on the year ;)
Me: 5/8 (62.5%) (a big pat on my own back for Denver)

Thus, I am left with only one conclusion: Where my job at, Lindy's and Pro Football Outsiders?!?!

As a footnote, Lindy's and I made Super Bowl picks, neither of which can come completely true. Lindy's went with Ravens defeating Eagles, I went with Patriots defeating Cowboys.

See you again in August!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Cat (1972) [COMICS]

Marvel's short-lived 1972 series The Cat holds an interesting place in comics history, as it was one of the company's interesting, well-intentioned, and perhaps naive attempts to combine standard super-hero stories for a largely male audience with the women's liberation movement.*

Written by Linda Fite, the first issue of The Cat tells how Greer Nelson, the young widow of a macho, controlling cop killed in the line of duty, becomes the lab assistant for the brilliant Dr. Tumolo. Tumolo is working on an experimental device to help bring women to their full physical and mental potential, but the university is unwilling to give her enough funding to continue the project. She brings in an outside investor named Mal Donaldbain, but Donaldbain secretly oversees the construction of another copy of the device, planning to use it to create an army of amazons to run a new chain of health emporiums all over the world, which he can then use to help . . . I'm not sure--conquer the world or something? This part of the comic didn't make much sense.

But anyway, Greer undergoes Tumolo's experimental process and gains somewhat vague super-powers: impressive athletic ability, increased intelligence, and a new "women's intuition" sixth sense. Later, Dr. Tumolo stumbles upon Donaldbain's nefarious plan and he (apparently) has her murdered. Dressed in the guise of The Cat (complete with climbing claws), Greer confronts Mal and takes advantage of his phobia of being touched, driving the man to suicide by gunshot! A surprisingly dark ending, and not the sort of thing I associate with early 1970s Marvel super-hero comics. In an epilogue, Greer does feel torn about what she's done. Except for the ludicrous motive of the villain and the somewhat hackneyed origin story, it's actually a pretty decent comic.

In the second issue of The Cat, Greer visits the surprisingly still-alive but unconscious Dr. Tumolo at the hospital. Somehow, Greer's "women's intuition" super-power allows her to psychically communicate with Tumolo and learn that Tumolo's supposed "nephew" also visiting her is actually a fake! It turns out, actually, that he's an agent for mildly-obscure super-villain and frequent Daredevil foe, The Owl. The Owl sends henchmen to kidnap Tumolo for the purpose of draining her intelligence and memories into an artificial databank of the world's greatest minds that only he can access. Aren't comics fun! As The Cat, Greer rescues Tumolo, but not before The Owl drains the poor doc's memories and then escapes.

The third issue takes place weeks later, with Tumolo a virtual vegetable from having her mind drained. Greer's women's intuition power allows her to detect strange sonar signals. Investigating further, she discovers a massive underwater dome she believes is being operated by the Navy. The villainous Commander Kraken attacks and tries to take over the dome, but Greer and the dome's crewmen fight him off. Later, after Greer leaves, it is revealed that the inhabitants of the dome aren't Naval personnel at all--but space aliens! Yes, I could gave been reading Shakespeare instead of this, but Shakespeare didn't include enough space aliens and Commander Krakens in his work to make it worth my while.

Due to scheduling conflicts of some sort of another, the fourth and final issue of The Cat combines a shorter-than normal Greer story with a reprint back-up featuring the X-Men's Ms. Marvel. In the main feature, Greer is having an afternoon out with an old high school friend named Sally when the two stop for lunch in a tavern. Greer rebuffs a lecherous patron who accosts them, but it turns out that lech is actually the Man-Bull! They have a very truncated fight at a stockyard, in which the Man-Bull is quickly knocked unconscious. The end.
There's no acknowledgements in the letters' page that this would be the final installment of The Cat--indeed, it even talks about what will happen "next ish." Wikipedia says a fifth issue was drawn but never released.

A somewhat pathetic ending, then, for a series that tried to accomplish something good. Linda Fite successfully managed to outfit The Cat with standard super-hero tropes (costumed adversaries, outlandish plots, etc.) while at the same time imbuing the title character with a feminist outlook on life that avoided the shrewish caricatures many male writers had portrayed feminists in the past (and would continue to do so in the future). Unfortunately, mainstream comics have simply not had much success with female headliners, much less female headliners that don't walk around in skimpy costumes and anatomically-impossible large bosoms. As for the fictional Greer Nelson, she's had an interesting history--two years after The Cat ended, Tony Isabella transformed her into Tigra, while another copy of her cat suit was found and donned by Patsy Walker, who assumed the identity Hellcat.

* As a sign of the times, the back cover of the first issue of The Cat is an advertisement for LaSalle Extension University, a home-correspondence course school. In a big list of programs available, there is a smaller list titled "Careers for Women", including, among other things, Dental Office Assistant, Interior Decorating, Secretarial, and Stenotype--absent are presumed male-only fields like Business Management, Law, and Diesel Mechanics.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NFL 2011 Playoffs Round 3 Predictions

Championship weekend!

Giants @ 49ers
The Wife: Giants
Me: Giants (a really tough pick here!)
Steve: Giants ("San Francisco has had a great year, and their defense is very good, however Smith and the offense have yet to prove they can hold up their end to me despite the shootout against the Saints.")

Ravens @ Patriots
The Wife: Patriots
Me: Ravens (another tough pick, but I'm theorizing the Ravens aren't going to be intimidated by Brady as they've shut him down before)
Steve: Patriots ("Baltimore's D just can't stop the NE offense enough for the Ravens offense to keep up...")

NFL Playoffs Round 2 Round-Up

Yes, I picked against the 15-1 Green Bay Packers--and it paid off! I now have a one game lead over The Wife heading into Championship weekend . . .

Saints @ 49ers
The Wife: Saints
Me: Saints
Steve: Saints
WINNER: 49ers (I'm prepared to say that's the most exciting ending I've ever seen in a playoff game; there were probably four times I thought to myself 'Well, this game's over--no way they can come back from *that*' and then each team kept on doing it . . .)

Broncos @ Patriots
The Wife: Broncos
Me: Broncos
Steve: Patriots
WINNER: Patriots

Texans @ Ravens
The Wife: Ravens
Me: Ravens
Steve: Ravens
WINNER: Ravens

Giants @ Packers
The Wife: Packers
Me: Giants
Steve: Packers
WINNER: Giants (a perfect example that even the best NFL QBs can wilt under quick pressure up the middle by a strong pass-rushing D-line)


The Wife: 1-3
Me: 2-2
Steve: 2-2


The Wife: 157-110
Me: 158-109
Steve: 170-97

Friday, January 13, 2012

Defenders (2005 Limited Series) [COMICS]

Marvel seems to try and bring back the Defenders as a viable property every few years, and every few years it doesn't seem to really go anywhere. In 2005, the Defenders were presented in an intentionally light-hearted & silly light, as comic trio Giffen, DeMatteis, & Maquire were given the reigns for a 5-issue limited series. When I first got into comics in the mid-to-late 1980s, I soon stumbled on that creative team's Justice League International and I was immediately hooked--I found it absolutely hilarious, thought Blue and Gold (Blue Beetle & Booster Gold) and Fire & Ice (Fire and Icemaiden) were great characters, and collected the title diligently for years. Unfortunately, what worked so well with then-third string characters fails pretty badly with some of Marvel's biggest guns with long legacies of being serious characters, like Dr. Strange, Namor, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer. There's a few good jokes and funny faces in the the 2005 Defenders, but although a text page says everything is in continuity and the characters will be treated with their established personalities intact, the characterization of the main heroes and the main villain (Dormammu) is far removed from any portrayal we've seen before. I'm probably being a bit curmudgeonly, but in a shared universe it's important to try to keep a reasonable amount of consistency with the portrayal of core characters, and that certainly wasn't the case here. That, and the jokes probably just weren't as funny to me as a guy in his thirties as they were when I was thirteen . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NFL 2011 Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Seven games left, and The Wife and I are still tied . . .

Saints @ 49ers
The Wife: Saints
Me: Saints (I just need to see more of Alex Smith before I put big game faith in him to get it done against what is arguably the best offense in NFL history . . .)
Steve: Saints ("I'd love for SF to prove me wrong but I don't think they will.")

Broncos @ Patriots
The Wife: Broncos
Me: Broncos (I remember back when the pundits were confident Tebow would play for one or two games before John Fox would sit him for the rest of the season; I remember when the pundits said there was no way Tebow could beat the Jets because Rex Ryan had literally written the book on stopping option offenses; I remember how the pundits said there was no way the Broncos would make it past the Steelers and their stifling defense; so hell, I'm picking Tebow!)
Steve: Patriots ("No way, NO way, I see Denver getting past New England.")

Texans @ Ravens
The Wife: Ravens
Me: Ravens (Flacco has more experience than Yates, and, exactly contrary to what I said above, I foresee a Ravens/Patriots AFC Championship game that should be a fun one to watch)
Steve: Ravens ("This is the one this week where I went back and forth before deciding on my pick")

Giants @ Packers
The Wife: Packers
Me: Giants (feelin' an upset comin' on!)
Steve: Packers ("Green Bay's offense is just too much to handle... ")

Doom [Comics]

I'm not one to pass up $ 1.99 trade paperbacks in the bargain bin, and Dr. Doom is one of favorite villains, so . . . Doom! Collecting two three-issue limited series, Doom is overall pretty poor. The first limited series is set on Counter-Earth (a duplicate Earth created/maintained by Franklin Richards) and sees Doom traveling across Mad-Max style wastelands in order to get back to New York where his assistant Lancer is trying to maintain control for him. It's okay, and Lancer is actually fairly interesting. The second limited series is worse by far, as it's a confusing, often nonsensical account of Doom's battles with Franklin Richards over the fate of his (Doom's) mother. I'm a big fan of continuity, but in each case these two limited series have high learning curves that don't seem worth the trouble.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Buffy Comic Project: "Lost and Found"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 31

Dark Horse (Vol. 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (writers); Cliff Richards (penciller); Joe Pimentel (inker)

Setting: Season Four

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Giles, Joyce, Riley, Willow, Xander, Anya,

Major Original Characters: Rebecca Stansberry (librarian); Cole (Initiative member); Ghost of Homeless Man (unnamed)

Summary: Buffy, bored during summer vacation, asks Giles for advice on suitable hobbies but to no avail. Sometime later, two vampires kill a homeless man and take a gold ring from the corpse. That same night, Giles is approached by a fan after one of his guitar/singing performances at the Espresso Pump. The fan, a librarian named Rebecca Stansberry, hits it off with Giles and the two arrange a date. A week later, Riley and a fellow member of the Initiative named Cole walk down an alleyway and are assailed by a ghost moaning "Give it back . . ." The ghost grasps Riley, and he collapses into a coma. Later, Willow's research uncovers a pattern of ghostly hauntings in that same alleyway. Buffy and Willow travel to the scene and rescue Xander and Anya from a vampire attack. The ghost manifests and gives Buffy some clues, which she combines with information beaten out of a bartender and from another vampire to track down the vampire which stole the homeless man's ring. Buffy slays the vampire easily and returns the ring to the alleyway, where the ghost manifests, takes the ring, and disappears. Meanwhile, Giles date has gone swimmingly, as it has ended in a kiss and a promise for future dates. Rebecca, however, wears a necklace with an insect in amber, an insect-shaped shadow seems to follow Giles, and the next morning a strange humanoid-insect creature is discovered by boys playing baseball.

Review: The A-plot, involving the ghost of the homeless man, is simply pretty dumb; we don't know anything about this guy, what the ring meant to him, why he's manifesting as a ghost to get it back, etc. The subplot, on the other hand, is far more fun, as Giles doesn't get a lot of action in the dating scene and it's fun to see him in romantic situations--even if clues indicate it may not last long. The artwork overall remains quite strong, and the likenesses of the characters are easy to recognize--a big improvement over some early issues of the series.


* Riley, you poor sap--making the cover and then getting knocked out in two pages.

* In the letters' page, editor Scott Allie promises "an even higher level of connection between the show and the comics, beginning with this story, set immediately after Season Four." I remain skeptical, but willing to wait and see . . .

* Here's Giles, getting his groove back.

Next Issue

NFL 2012 Playoffs Round One Round-Up

The Wife steals a game this week due to Tebow pulling another miracle, and ties things up with me.

Bengals @ Texans
The Wife: Bengals
Me: Bengals
Steve: Texans
WINNER: Texans (solid if unspectacular QB play by Yates and an awesome Arian Foster makes for a good offense)

Lions @ Saints
The Wife: Saints
Me: Saints
Steve: Saints
WINNER: Saints (for all the hype, Lions D-Line couldn't get any pressure on Brees)

Falcons @ Giants
The Wife: Giants
Me: Giants
Steve: Giants
WINNER: Giants (a lot of people made fun before this season for Eli saying he was an "elite" QB, but he's played some of the best football of his career this season . . .)

Steelers @ Broncos
The Wife: Broncos
Me: Steelers
Steve: Steelers
WINNER: Broncos (gotta admit, that was a damned exciting ending and I was jumping up and down and cheering--and I don't even *like* the Broncos!)


The Wife: 3-1
Me: 2-2
Steve: 3-1


The Wife: 156-107
Me: 156-107
Steve: 168-95

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tyrone Drake, An American Star! [RPG]

Tyrone Drake was a character I created to run in occasional one-shots using the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. Coming off a couple successful "seasons" of running the game in a very serious tone, it was great fun to play a character in an intentionally more light-hearted type of "series." Tyrone Drake is the host of a late-night cable horror movie show, much in the vein of Elvira, though his more direct inspiration was the character played by Roddy McDowall in Fright Night. Presented as an affable, somewhat dim showman with a good heart and little real knowledge of the occult, Tyrone Drake manages to get by with the help of his assistant, the buxom and vapid Delores. After having played him in a couple of adventures, I went on a cruise with The Wife and saw a delightfully earnest and incredibly cheesy performer who fit exactly the persona I'd been trying for with Tyrone Drake. I went on that performer's real-life website and slightly modified the main-page to create the attached advertisement for Tyrone's fictional program, "Midnight Showing". I only run the character once every year or so, but it's always a blast when I do--and word on the street is that The Wife is planning another adventure soon!


Curse of the Desperate Dame (Pilot): Tyrone Drake investigates a haunted house with the help of Delores and Stanley, a production assistant from his show. One thing leads to another, and Tyrone uncovers an ancient mystery involving ghosts, vampires, and even a vengeance demon!

Swamp Bling: Rival horror movie host Edward Johnston is climbing in popularity, and Tyrone has to scramble to stay on top. Investigating secret tunnels dating back to Prohibition at the old Hiram Walker plant, Tyrone finds himself on the trail of murder, mobsters, and rock-like Midas Demons!

The House on Flaunted Hill: Tyrone is invited to stay at Bingham Mansion along with fellow guest stars Jeffrey Weber and Ilia. Before the party can start, the bodies start dropping, and the guests have to team up to solve the murders. Secret passages, demons, and mystic incantations provide a whirlwind of entertainment!

The Headless Sportsmen of Piccadilly Falls: Tyrone arrives in Piccadilly Falls as the honorary judge of the annual Harvest Queen Pageant. When the contestants begin getting bumped off, it's up to Tyrone and special guest stars Jasper Morgan and Jeffrey Weber to discover the culprit. Headless zombies, hellhounds, and vampires make for a festival no one will soon forget!

House of Slacks Tyrone teams up with special guest star techno-pagan Brandon Gallowsong-Smith to help find a missing girl. When the trail leads to a pants store, Tyrone and Brandon think they have everything in hand--until Drusilla turns up!

Curse of the Mumsy  Special guest star Marcus, a man with many secrets, aids Tyrone in uncovering a poltergeist inhabiting the Prohibition display at the Windsor museum.  With a ghost, a vampire, and perhaps even a mummy, trouble abounds; and that doesn't even include interruptions from Tyrone's mum!

Curse of the Wolf-Van  Tyrone teams up with both Marcus and Brandon Gallowsong-Smith as a terror-fighting trio!  Hired to judge a supernatural-themed "Battle of the Bands", Tyrone and his guest stars come upon a mystery involving murder, werewolves, and maybe even vampires!  It's a plot full of red herrings and misleads, but somehow the heroes stumble to victory.

Nightmare on Helm Street  A psychedelic foray into the innermost recesses of Tyrone's mind!  Joined with Brandon Gallowsong-Smith, Tyrone has to escape a world that exists in only his thoughts, but where failure has very real consequences.  Tyrone and Brandon manage to make their escape in always dramatic fashion, ending with Tyrone's touching line "Brandon, you're no longer my sidekick.  I consider you my partner.  My junior partner."

Polter-Heist  A special two-part episode sees Tyrone and Brandon infiltrating Wolfram & Hart's Toronto headquarters!  On the trail of a stolen mystical book, the heist doesn't go exactly according to plan, but the stars have great success nonetheless.  But a real cliffhanger awaits them:  Delores announces she plans to marry Frankie at Niagara Falls!  Can Tyrone stop the wedding in time?

The Bride of Frank N. Stein  Guest stars galore join Tyrone Drake in Niagara Falls as he tries to find Delores before she celebrates nuptial bliss!  Along with Brandon Gallowsong-Smith, the mysterious vampire hunter Mr. Arbalest, and the bookish Chris, Tyrone's efforts are hindered by the presence of the mysterious Dandy Men and their ability to transform people into dolls for their mysterious mistress!  Tyrone and company reach Delores in time for him to profess his love (of her skills as an assistant) and she rejoins the fold.  But what menace has been awakened by the Dandy Men?

Fish Food  The members of Team Tyrone (Brandon, Arbalest, Chris, and Delores) join their leader on a trip to Lake Okanagan in search of the mysterious Ogopogo monster!  Tyrone's become an ironic darling of the hipster crowd, and his role as judge of a mullet contest can only increase his popularity.  Vampires, fish-men, and the Canadian version of the Loch Ness Monster combine into some water-logged fun.

Tyrone Drake, An American Star!
Appearing Fridays on the WGBS "Midnight Showing"

Type: Investigator

Real Name: Hyram Lipschitz

Life Points: 38

Drama Points: 6

Experience Points: 2

Initiative: +3

Perception: d10+7

Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Constitution 2, Intelligence 4, Perception 4, Willpower 4 (-1 to resist emotionality)

Skills: Artist (Actor) 3, Occultism 6, Driving 3, Getting Medieval 5, Influence 2 (+2 to influence or persuade), Notice 3, Doctor 1, Knowledge (Science) 2, Mr. Fix-It 1, Knowledge (Movies) 2

Qualities: Artist: Actor, Attractive, Contacts (National Inquirer), Occult Investigator, Good Library, Hard to Kill (x4), Good Luck (x2)

Drawbacks: Adversary (rival: Edward Johnston), Dependent (Momsy), Unrequited Love (Delores), Obligation (Weekly TV Show), Gullible, Showoff

Combat: Cross +8 d. 2+success; Holy Water +7 d. 5+success, Stake +8 d. 4+success (x2 slash, x5 heart), Pistol Crossbow +8 d. 10+success (x2 slash), Dodge +5 (-2 vs. ranged), Parry +8 (-2 vs. Thrown, -6 vs. arrows)

Fantasy Football 2011 Playoffs Round 2

Me against The Wife in a head-to-head match-up in the final round of the playoffs--couldn't have been any better unless we were vying for the league championship instead of the # 3 spot in the final rankings. Still, it turned out to be a great match-up that came down to the final game of the season with one of my wideouts (Victor Cruz) going head-to-head with one of her wideouts (Hakeem Nicks). Cruz got it done and carried me to a 1 point victory, which is a damned slim margin for a two-week playoff game. I left week 1 with a sizable 97-73 lead, but The Wife came back strong in week two, scoring 114 to my 91. I was lucky to hold on!

The win left me # 3 in the league overall, which is my strongest finish in my three years of fantasy football so far. Good stuff, but somewhat disappointing after a 12-1 regular season finish that left me the # 1 seed and in the driver's seat for the playoffs.


WEEK 16 (97 Points)

QB T. Tebow: 12
RB A. Foster: 22
RB D. Sproles: 14
RB/WR T. Smith: 3
WR V. Cruz: 22
WR A. Brown: 3
TE R. Gronkowski: 7
D/ST Texans: 5
K S. Janikowski: 97

WEEK 17 (91 Points)

QB T. Tebow: -1
RB A. Foster: 0
RB D. Sproles: 12
RB/WR K. Bell: 5
WR V. Cruz: 23
WR A. Brown: 9
TE R. Gronkowski: 22
D/ST Texans: 4
K S. Janikowski: 17


WEEK 16 (73 Points)

QB M. Vick: 20
RB P. Thomas: 11
RB D. McCluster: 9
RB/WR S. Holmes: 5
WR H. Nicks: 2
WR V. Jackson: 4
TE J. Graham: 10
D/ST Bears: -3
K D. Akers: 15

WEEK 17 (114 Points)

QB M. Vick: 21
RB P. Thomas: 6
RB D. McCluster: 14
RB/WR S. Holmes: 0
WR H. Nicks: 13
WR V. Jackson: 12
TE J. Graham: 15
D/ST Bears: 19
K D. Akers: 14

NFL 2011 Playoffs Round 1 Predictions


Bengals @ Texans
The Wife: Bengals
Me: Bengals (neither of these teams should expect to go any further than this game, but each team should be proud they finally made it to the playoffs)
Steve: Texans ("Not sold on Cincy being worthy of a pick ... but then again I'm not sold on Houston as well...")

Lions @ Saints
The Wife: Saints
Me: Saints (could be a closer game than people expect, as the Lions can put points on the board too . . .)
Steve: Saints ("I think the problems we're seeing with the Det D get them in trouble in this one. They should be better than they are. Maybe they'll get Denard in the upcoming draft...")

Falcons @ Giants
The Wife: Giants
Me: Giants (not sure about this one . . .)
Steve: Giants ("I could see this one going either way...")

Steelers @ Broncos
The Wife: Broncos
Me: Steelers (it'd be fun to see Tebow work some divine magic and win this one, but I just don't see it happening)
Steve: Steelers ("Tebow can't save them this week after they backed into the playoffs these last few weeks.")

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NFL 2011 Week 17 Round-Up

A good week for everybody is bad news for The Wife and me, as we're still 11-12 games back with just 11 playoff games left; Steve almost has this one mathematically in the bag, leaving The Wife and me to fight it out for last place--could it come down to the Super Bowl pick?

Panthers @ Saints


The Wife: Saints

Me: Saints

Steve: Saints

WINNER: Saints

Bills @ Patriots


The Wife: Patriots

Me: Patriots

Steve: Patriots

WINNER: Patriots (worst defense, best offense, a great mix!)

Bears @ Vikings


The Wife: Bears

Me: Vikings

Steve: Bears


Jets @ Dolphins


The Wife: Jets

Me: Dolphins

Steve: Jets

WINNER: Dolphins

49ers @ Rams


The Wife: 49ers

Me: 49ers

Steve: 49ers

WINNER: 49ers

Lions @ Packers


The Wife: Packers

Me: Lions

Steve: Packers

WINNER: Packers (sounds like this was a great game . . .)

Redskins @ Eagles


The Wife: Redskins

Me: Eagles

Steve: Eagles

WINNER: Eagles

Colts @ Jaguars


The Wife: Jaguars

Me: Jaguars

Steve: Colts

WINNER: Jaguars

Titans @ Texans


The Wife: Texans

Me: Titans

Steve: Texans

WINNER: Titans

Seahawks @ Cardinals


The Wife: Seahawks

Me: Cardinals

Steve: Seahawks

WINNER: Cardinals (quietly put together a great second half of the season after a terrible start . . .)

Chiefs @ Broncos


The Wife: Broncos

Me: Chiefs

Steve: Broncos

WINNER: Chiefs

Bucs @ Falcons


The Wife: Falcons

Me: Falcons

Steve: Falcons

WINNER: Falcons (couldn't believe it when I saw 42-0 in the SECOND QUARTER!)

Ravens @ Bengals


The Wife: Ravens

Me: Bengals

Steve: Ravens

WINNER: Ravens

Steelers @ Browns


The Wife: Steelers

Me: Steelers

Steve: Steelers

WINNER: Steelers (a merciful ending to a pitiful Browns season . . .)

Chargers @ Raiders


The Wife: Raiders

Me: Raiders

Steve: Chargers

WINNER: Chargers (God wanted Tebow in the playoffs . . .)

Cowboys @ Giants


The Wife: Giants

Me: Cowboys

Steve: Giants

WINNER: Giants


The Wife: 10-6

Me: 11-5

Steve: 11-5


The Wife: 153-106

Me: 154-105

Steve: 165-94