Saturday, January 29, 2011

Product Warning

Rarely do I desire the feeling of having a pulsating face. In fact, this week, I sought dental attention to try to remedy such a condition. I find it funny that just the day before my excursion to the dentist,  I came across this product at a local market for some type of beauty product claiming to provide the sensation that had given me agony for a few days.

Yes, people pay for this stuff.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comic Books that Shaped My Life: Who's Who Update '88 vol. 3

If there is anything that has spawned my desire to be an encyclopedic source of comic book knowledge, it was reading this book when I was nine-years-old. It was a book with no story, a ton of characters, tons of artists, and huge blocks of texts packed with the trivial pieces of knowledge that I still store in my head.

The Who's Who in the DC Universe are one of the great missing pieces of comic book literature in this age of wikis and instant internet information. By no means was it the first index of comic book characters, but it was the first to make them look really damned cool with a really cool cover. Fleischer created comic character encyclopedias in the seventies, but nothing as beautifully illustrated as this. Maps, character descriptions, schematics, this comic had it all.

I think this speaks to my certain aspects of my personality--my desire to understand the history of a character, my anal-retentive need to index trivial things, my borderline attention deficit span of focus that keeps me going back and back to read entries over and over. 

In more recent years, I took this issue, one of the very first comics I ever purchased, and the full run of the Who's Who in the DC Universe issues and had them bound into hardback books. Essentially, I created my own reference bible to nerd out on and find the random obscure characters that even the internet seems to forget. 
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just Words

Repeating phrases. Sometimes that is all that comes to me when I try to sit down and post to this wonderful little blog of clutter. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, that means that what you are exposed to is an inordinate amount of inane ramblings that are better fit on a cocktail napkin and then tossed after it has absorbed the bar's evening accumulations. But I digress.

Two days ago, I woke to the words of the greatest expository speech ever produced. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream," speech is widely known and often praised as one of the greatest works of contemporary oration. Perhaps it is the one of three pieces of the last century's only notable and quotable pieces of public speaking that the public can turn to and reflect upon and find some message in at any given time. While parts of the speech were scripted, other parts were spontaneous. The portion we have come to know was pieced together from previous works of Dr. King made into a new entity, the way proper oration and extemporaneous speaking should be done. While the message is powerful and the words significant, I am not going to post about that whatsoever.

Instead, I plan to post about tapeworms and toasts.

Yes. Tapeworms.

Bare with me now, it all has to do with extemporaneous speaking and the ability to take ideas from different places, form cohesive sentences, and then make a lasting impression. I will get to the tapeworm in just a moment.

Years ago, when I was a smart-ass freshman in college, fascinated with the determinist workings of sociobiology and the writings of Nietzsche, I was trapped in a colloquium course. For those unfamiliar with this pedagogic style, at my institution,  colloquium courses were attempts to combine writing composition, public speaking, humanities into one cohesive year-long course of study. In other words, "Everything you should have learned in high school, if your school had bothered to teach you, or you paid attention."Not to sound like an elitist, but the class was far beneath me, and I had little ability to leave. Instead, I went through the motions, wrote my "A" papers, played devil's advocate, and presented logical arguments in debates. I also played the roll of agitator.

At one point in the year, it was decided that we were going to work on extemporaneous speeches. I thought this would be a great exercise. I had once been on my high school speech team and competed quite successfully. Extemporaneous speaking was a fun challenge, I loved having to riff on challenging ideas, literature, poetic thoughts, or obscure concepts. As a class we decided to come up with topics.

The first suggestion: What is your favorite color and why? I gagged. Immediately I protested, this isn't how extemporaneous, or, "On-the-Spot" as we were calling it, speeches should go...We need something timely, topical, challenging. The professor quieted me down and took another suggestion: If you were running out of your burning house what three things would you grab?


And so the class went on until they, not I, had decided upon fifteen topics. All of my suggestions were tossed out as too serious, too obscure, or too complex for a five minute impromptu speech. When I protested, I was met by blank stares. The discussion was over. Our little colloquium continued on.

A few weeks later, our professor offered students to try their hand at extemporaneous speaking. No one would take the chance on being the first to subject themselves to this experiment so I offered. The professor looked through a list of topics and picked one at random, "This will be good," he plainly stated, "Your topic is, 'What is your ideal pet?'"

I rolled my eyes and a woman in the class named after a sports car, no lie, chimed up, "Let's see him do something with this," hoping for a benign tale about kittens or puppies.

I cleared my throat and began my speech, "While many animals are warm and fuzzy, the cost and clean-up can be such a hassle to deal with. Do we really want to handle kitty litter? Or what about the expense of dog food? In this day and age when finances are tight for me as a lowly college student, few pets seem more practical than a tapeworm..."

For the next five minutes, I expounded the glories of the parasite; how the elite used to seek out certain types of tapeworms for diet control; the animal's extreme length; their little need for care; and never a need for walking. Logical, factual, fascinating, and captivating: It was everything an impromptu speech should be.

I came to my conclusion and ended with a simple, "Thank you." The people in the class sat somewhat aghast at what they had just listened to. It wasn't a tale about fluffy, it was and ode to the fish tank. It was a proudly hoisted middle finger to their mundane tiny world. When I reached my seat, I then stated, "Next time, ask me something serious."

After that speech, no more opportunities for impromptu speaking were offered. Whether that was my doing, I have no idea.

In the next few months, I have the opportunity to toast two of my best friends on their wedding days, though given the unconventional nature of things, I don't know whether the male-bride's maid will actually offer a toast of some sort. I have been debating for sometime on how I should properly handle this standard of the American wedding. Do I script out my ideas for a brief conversation on my friendship with these two individuals or do I speak with once the mic is handed to me with little preparation? The rambling toast is a trap at any wedding, and I am certain they would not want an ode giant squid or whatever fancies me a few months from now.

Full circle time. The great orators of the past all draw from their own previous speeches to create new works that transcend time. The mundane can be contorted into marvelous shapes and figures that perplex even the most unfazed if we can shape our language in just the right way. Now I have a mission, to accomplish this for two very special people on two separate occasions. And I can't talk about tapeworms.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Comic Books that Shaped My Life: The Infinity Guantlet

Thanos wearing the Infinity Gauntlet on the co...Image via WikipediaFor the next few posts, I have decided to return to one of my truest loves and most steady relationships over the past twenty-two years of my life that isn't my asthma inhaler, comic books. Certain comics I've read have shaped my existence as a nerd and as an adult, hooking me like a shark drawn to chum or some other faulty metaphor that I cannot collect the words to piece together at this point in time.

The Infinity Gauntlet was one of the first comic books I ever purchased with my own money. I had comic books before, but I had never really read a book and become completely mesmerized by a single title until I had this one in my hands.

I found the issue, issue number two to be precise, on a spinner rack at the French Creek Marina and Store while my family was on vacation up in Canada. The cover featured a number of characters standing in front of a giant computer console showing the image of missing heroes. The number of characters found on the cover drew me in. I hadn't read issue one. I had no idea who was writing the story. There were lots of characters, and this was way fucking cool to the ten-year-old me.

Little did I know that this would trigger my love of comic books and the love of the cosmic cross-over. The basic premise of the story is thus: Thanos, a death-obsessed being from the planet titan has just acquired six gems that when held together form the infinity gauntlet, a weapon that has the power to reshape reality to the wearer's whim. To appease Death, Thanos then kills off half of the beings in the universe, declares himself a god, and pretty much pisses off all of the other deities in the universe, and makes the super heroes of earth aware that the universe is doomed.

But how do you stop an omniscient mad man? Well, you really don't. And that is the great thing about the story. All the heroes lose, at least for a while. Since the story is twenty years old, I don't think I am spoiling it by giving away most of the story. One of Thanos's arch-enemies a many-times dead-and-resurrected highly evolved human named Adam Warlock has just been re-incarnated, and rallies everyone just to sit back and watch them get their asses handed to them like the spare change you get from buying a candy bar. Wolverine: turned to rubber and ass kicked. Cyclops: head encased in crystal and ass kicked. Captain America...well he was actually the last one to have his ass kicked, but it happened with him getting flicked with  a finger and collapsing into a heap of deadness.

And then a bunch of stuff happens. Thanos eventually loses the Infinity Gauntlet to his niece who tries to pull the same reality shaping goofiness on the universe. And with one of those comic book twists of fate, Thanos has to team up with Adam Warlock to save the universe. Eventually Adam succeeds. And Thanos is left to his own devices on a planet where he lives as a farmer. It is kind of a poetic ending, having been a god, he dwells humbly until the next giant comic cross-over.

So what is it with this book? Why do I have to re-read it every year for the past twenty years and why is it that it is one of the only things that I have still in a plastic bag while everything else I own is stacked up bent and eventually repurposed for collage material? I love the ambiguity of the story. I love a tale where the bad guy is misguided by hubris and driven by obsession rather than a true hatred of the world around him. I love a story with a cast of millions even if in just cameos. The only characters that seemed to be missing from The Infinity Gauntlet were Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy, and I am certain that George Perez tried to sneak them in there somewhere.

I also love that it was the first story that I really wanted to follow through from start to finish. Most comics I had read in the past were done-in-one. I never had to pick up a second issue to figure out what happened next. But with this, I wanted to know how the story continued. Often this is not the case, even with the ongoing sagas I trudge through today.

So as funny as it may seem to my friends who know me now, my first comic love was a Marvel Comic. And Thanos will always be my favorite character.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Plaques, Markers, Maps, and Signs around Oregon

The following random photos were throughout Oregon.

This cross-cut image is a map of the Oregon Caves. If you haven't been there, I highly encourage visiting.

Regulations at Sauvies Island. So many rules for this place.

This plaque is one the wall of the former Cascade College campus. If you would like to see an prime example of 1950s architecture and poor design, visit this cinderblock building.

And finally a historical marker on the Deschutes River. Unfortunately this image is quite blurry, but these little history lessons always amuse me when I encounter them.
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Monday, January 3, 2011

Buddha is Super Happy!

Even though it's well beyond Chirstmas now...and it has been quite some time since my trip to Chicago, I thought this was somewhat appropriate to post today.

Jesus is born! And Buddha is raising the roof. So there. Happy early Epiphany everyone.

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