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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Comics Page

Sal and I subscribed to a few papers post election because we want to be more informed on what's happening that doesn't come from an internet link where we have to verify the credentials of the site and make sure they aren't writing from an extreme bias.

One of the side benefits is that I have access to the comics page again. 

When I still lived with my parents and even when I had access to newspapers in college, I loved grabbing the comics, sitting down with breakfast on Sunday morning, and reading through everything. 

This is where my undying love of Calvin and Hobbes came from. This is where I was treated to the bizarre wit of Gary Larson and The Far Side. Non-Sequitur, Baby Blues, Zits, Foxtrot all grabbed my attention with content and art. 

I haven't looked at the comics page in over a decade, but there's some weird things out there. 

Mark Trail - What's up with this? Does it take place in the 40s still? Does it take place in modern day and there's just this group of really weird people with 1940s haircuts?

And what do they do for a living? These people are traveling to Africa and South America and all around the US. Is this a "Catch Me If You Can" situation where Mark sneaks on planes by pretending to be a pilot?

Zits - I actually really like Zits, but I sort of figured that Jeremy's parents would at least understand their lovable slacker teenager a little more than they do. Still every day we're treated to Jeremy listening to music too loud, spilling across a couch, or eating enough food for 3 people while his parents go, "Uggghh, I'll never understand teenagers."

Family Circus / Garfield / Dennis the Menace - Do these comics just have a lifetime contact for
syndication? I never particularly loved these comics, but I read them now and they barely have jokes. 

Some kid in Family Circus has his dad's coat on and approaches the kitchen saying, "Honey I'm home" to the mom. Garfield lays in his bed, still hating Mondays and Jon. And Dennis is mostly weak puns like, "Margarate has a crush on you." "That's why I've been feeling so squished lately."

I could do that. Like, are they even trying anymore?

Reply All - I don't get this one. The art looks like it's made in paint and just copy and pasted. There aren't really any jokes. It's just really bad block people talking about nothing. Or maybe it's not nothing, it's just inside jokes that make sense to this one person's group of friends and some news editor was like, "Meh, looks good enough."



Baby Blues - I was sort of excited to see Zoe with longer hair. It seems like she grew up at least a little bit since the last time I checked in. Hammie on the other hand, still seems about as young as he was. It's always that weird comic / animation question of, "do we let these people grow up at all?" Usually no, or every cartoon year is 5 real years or something like that.

Peanuts - Peanuts somehow stays lovable after decades of publication. Like, none of the jokes are making me laugh out loud, but I just sort of look at Snoopy and Woodstock and coo, "awwww, Woodstock is going to shovel snow off of Snoopy's house."

Dilbert - I like Dilbert a lot. I wish I didn't find out that it's creator is sort of off the rails. This is one of those instances where I can separate art and artist to still enjoy everything.

Foxtrot - Foxtrot is still the best. It's probably the closest thing to Calvin and Hobbes in the modern comics page. They just did a week long story line about how comic artists deal with sickness and did a range of jokes from having other comic artists take over, phone it in by using the same image over and over again, and stick figures.


Monday, February 13, 2017

A Star War

I was burning some time at Target a few nights ago and was spending a ridiculous amount of time looking at LEGO Star Wars and Star Wars action figures.

I started wondering why I liked Star Wars so much more than say Indiana Jones or Ghostbusters when I was younger. (For the record, I think I like Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters as much as Star Wars nowadays)

Looking at the 6th set of characters released as action figures I figured it out. Star Wars told a great and concise story, but it also let my imagination fill in infinite amounts of gaps.

Who was the space man in the cantina? Why did he require a pressurized suit and no one else did? I'd spend hours imagining his adventures and bringing them to life with my GI Joes. BTW: He was a pirate that needed a pressurized suit because he often disabled other ships including their oxygen supply and would raid it.

There were certain scenes where I would pause the grainy VHS and just scour. The scene where Vader hires the Bounty Hunters in Empire, the Cantina scene, and the Jedi council in Phantom Menace all were ripe for my adventures.

And that's how you end up down the path of buying everything you can.

My adventures made me want to seek out actual information about them.

I started with the Decipher trading card game. Not only did I have a game, but I'd get little snippets that were considered canon about each of the characters. Turns out, that spaceman has a name, and it's Danz Borin.

So I started collecting these cards... and then nerdily writing the information down on note cards and filing them away in a small note card filing cabinet I had. I wanted to memorize everything there was to know about Star Wars.

Then the two lines about the characters on the cards didn't quench my thirst.

I next went to the Dark Horse comic books. Here I got stories from thousands of years before Luke Skywalker was born. I could see what sort of trouble Han Solo got into before he was hired to carry Luke and Obi Wan.

Then I went to the full novels where I got to read about Boba Fett crawling out of the Sarlaac pit.

Action figures, Taco Bell toys, posters, Micro Machines... I just consumed everything I could until I found myself a 32 year-old that has been carrying around two giant boxes filled with Stars Wars stuff.

Disney has done well with the Marvel universe, but there is a part of me that is worried about getting too much Star Wars. Rogue One told a story that I knew, a bunch of rebels get killed getting the Death Star plans, but that adventure was all in my mind and played out slightly differently every time I ran through it.

Now because of Rogue One, the mountain base I imagined being swarmed by Tie Fighters is now a tropical island with lumbering AT-ATs.

And Boba Fett became so much less cool when you realized he was nothing more than a clone and you had to hang out with his dad in Episode 2.

There is such a thing as too much Star Wars and I worry the Han Solo spinoff movie will be it. Why not stay away from the main characters and tell the stories of Admiral Ackbar or Greedo. Han is such a successful smuggler because my mind made up all of his and Chewbacca's adventures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Eggs and I

Today, among all the fighting and anger and stress in politics lately, I want to talk about eggs.

That's right... eggs.

I was never the biggest fan of eggs.

They were always a mechanism for me to eat salsa or mop up leftover syrup. Or they went into baked goods or the crust on a Pad Thai.

 I just find them boring on their own. I've spent my entire life watching people pour salt and pepper on their eggs and just eating them as is, and I just don't understand it. (Also, not a huge fan of pepper)

Until I met Sal, I thought eggs came three ways: scrambled, hard boiled, and sunny side up.

The only reason I knew about sunny side up is because it's what's most often ordered in movies and I think that's because it's an easy egg for the prop department to create.

Hard boiled was reserved for Easter when my brothers and I would run around trying to find the hard boiled eggs with dollar amounts written on them.

And scrambled eggs were part of the special holiday breakfasts we got. Typically my brothers and I woke up at 6 am and ate cereal immediately. So on occasions like Christmas, we'd get eggs, bacon, toast, maybe some ham and onion thrown in the eggs.

So even though I didn't like eggs, they were always associated with special times.

Sal on the other hand loves eggs. Her love of eggs is so well known that she gets gifts like egg socks, egg recipe books, and the Japanese Gudetama action figure, the lazy egg.

So where am I going with this?

I discovered another thing that eggs are good for. They can really bring a breakfast sandwich together.

I go on kicks where I'll eat the same thing for breakfast many days / months in a row.

Lately, it's been a bagel, cream cheese, bacon, and egg sandwich. It's delicious. It keeps me full until lunch time.

Today, I toasted my bagel, cooked the bacon, and reached in for the egg...Sal and I forgot to get eggs.

We only had one left. I stood there with a moral decision, do I eat the last egg while Sal is on a conference call and just not say anything, or do I leave it for the wife that is probably wear egg socks right now.

Ultimately I left it. And that folks... that is what love looks like.

Friday, February 3, 2017

I'm Mad, I'm Tired, and I'm Fighting

It's been two weeks into the Trump administration and I'm exhausted.

The only thing that gives me solace is that he has to run out of bad ideas eventually right?

Let's go back to two weeks ago, inauguration day. Sal and I were in Madison. We watched the events of the inauguration and were pleased to see sparce crowds and protesters. The moment Trump took the stage Facebook exploded with vitriol on either side and it's continued for the past two weeks.

More and more news started pouring in. Trump putting a gag order on the EPA and National Parks. Trump going back on climate change deals. Trump banning Muslims. Trump appointing a white supremacist to his cabinet. Trump pissing off Australia. There was a made up terrorist attack in Bowling Green. Maybe it's alternative facts. Maybe it's a straight lie. Maybe it's a distraction to see how far Trump can push.

I find myself exhausted cause I'm trying not to take things at face value. So I see something that seems extreme, I research a few sources to see where this information came from, figured out how much truth there is in it, and typically after taking each situation by situation, I find myself often disgusted, angry, and I can't emphasize enough, tired.

We've gone so far to the extremes that those people that were quietly racist only a month or two ago, feel like they can be loud and proud about their idiocracy.

I've got a former co-worker that changed his Facebook picture to a ghostly confederate soldier with two smoking guns, and posts daily from "whites first" sites like Britain's First and Never Again Canada, two anti-Muslim sites. Usually it's a video of a Muslim person talking about how they are dogs and don't need the white people's help and they should live in the Middle east. Or it'll be of a Muslim calling to incite violence. And his caption is usually, "See, this is what the President is protecting us from."

I've got a cousin that posts almost weekly about how the Black Lives Matter people are a bunch of thugs that have time to protest because they don't have jobs.

The truth of the matter is, we are all American. Black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, gay, straight, Asian, martian. If you move to this country, if you get citizenship or a green card, and you pledge the allegiance to our flag, you are American.

It hurts my heart that we even have to have these conversations anymore. We should be moving on and actually solving issues that will be affecting future generations like climate change, massive unemployment, health crisis's, And the current administration seems to be taking us three steps back on each of those very topics for what seems like personal gain at the sacrifice of the world.

So after the inauguration, Sal and I felt like we had to do something. We had all of this pent up energy.

We joined the women's march in Madison. We walked with 100,000 angry people. It was one of the greatest gatherings I have ever had the honor of being a part of.

Strangers were hugging. People were giving coffee to the police officers working the event and thanking them for their service. Tens of thousands of us were in sync with our protest songs.

And the protests will keep happening. And my great aunt will keep saying we're a bunch of jobless bums. But we're not. We're college grads, 75 year old grandmas, single fathers, angry daughters, scientists, students, teachers.

And my former peers may continue to made snide comments about how those protesters need to suck it up and love America like they do. Well guess what, I love America so much, and believe we are taking so many steps back that I'm willing to sacrifice my Saturdays to send a message to the White House that there's a lot of us, and we're organized, and we're angry.

I'm going to give money to environmental groups, Planned Parenthood, and immigration groups, not because I'm some "snowflake liberal."

And I'm going to continue to have deep discussion about next steps in the multiple political groups I've been invited to.

Because I love America and I want everyone to love it as much as I do. And I want my America to be available for everyone.

Take it from the all-american man, John Cena, we are America.






Sunday, January 15, 2017

The South is not for Me

I was in small town Alabama for a week. I've never felt so far out of my element, stranded on a martian planet as I did in this small town.

There's this weird sense of pride everyone has here. Like, "We've managed to remain a small town and function, so screw you." But it's this weird, somewhat functioning, small scale social experiment. The one thing that everyone I talked to really wanted to drive home was, "we don't care about the people that don't live here."

Time and time again they complained about neighboring towns. They made fun of the north constantly. They loved calling my lead and I Yankees and sort of poking fun at the software guys. Most of these people had never left their small town except to go to some lake further in the middle of no where. To them, their town was the entire planet. They didn't care about Syria, globalization, the droughts in California, drug cartels in Mexico.

Their only cares were, how was Alabama doing in the championship and if that new Dollar General was going to put their home town grocery store out of business.

I'm jealous because they have this local grocery store that makes good enough food where half the town eats dinner there. Everyone knows each others name.

But then like a Dollar General and WalMart opened next to it. And the few people that have commented have been like, "It really sucks that Dollar General and WalMart are going to put our store out of business cause the Hampton family are great people and their grocery store has been around forever, but it's cheaper. So I go to WalMart."

Food is the other thing. My buddy and I got into town Monday night and drove around looking for just some local bar and grill.

We stopped at 3 places before we found a place that was clean enough for us to trust chicken wings from. We had 2 beers, watched the Alabama game with a bunch of locals, and went back to the hotel by 8.

The next day, when we were on site with our client, we asked them about where the best places to get a drink and some food were, scouting out for dinner, and their answers were Applebees, TGI Fridays, and Chilis. When we asked for something more local, they again said the TGI Fridays was the cleanest place in town, but then directed us to a BBQ and Sushi place.

We ended up eating lunch with them over two days which involved just massive amounts of burgers and fried food, every one of them being overweight, breathing hard, and complaining about how much work they have to do.

I can see why they are overweight though. After just being there for 4 days, I feel so bloated on salty food and meals built around meat that all I want is a salad. Side note, I ordered a salad at one point and got some browning iceburg lettuce with a couple tomatoes and ranch dressing.

And everyone we talked to drives an hour or more to work. They have what sound like massive complexes they live in, but don't have basic utilities I've come to under-appreciate like true plumbing and internet. And I don't know if they talk about this when the "Yanks" aren't there, but the often talked about how, "that's just the way I live my life, and if other people don't like it, tough shit."

It was just so weird to see how little they cared for anything outside of their little town. Several of the people we talked to had never left their town, even a couple hours away to Panama City or Huntsville or Montgomery.

And my hotel was mostly nice, but there were things about it that just felt terrible. Like the stairs were all warped in the middle of they sort of formed a "U" shape. There was an abandoned grocery store with roof tiles falling of it next door.

My lead was going to have to leave a day early because he had to rent a car and drive in from another airport. I looked at the weather, saw an ice storm was coming to St. Louis, and and immediately tried to find a way out quicker. I flipped through the cable channels, eventually only finding Alien vs Predator 2 as entertainment, and just started feeling really depressed with the idea of being in this town alone for a night and possible getting stuck in the airport for the weekend.

The town's airport had no flights on Thursdays, so after some planning, I changed my flight to go out of Panama City, had my lead drop me off at the airport, and spent the next 6 hours barely making all of my connections.

If this is what the apple pie, Americana life is like, I'm not meant for it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Winter Classic

I started writing this the day after the Winter Classic, but it was one of those events I needed to chew on a little longer.

I wanted to live in the moment as long as I could before I turned it into a memory.

We arrived and saw the giant pucks with Blues players and banners everywhere. It was raining, which was mildly irritating as I was looking fantastic in my Winter Classic jersey, but my giant poncho was covering it up.

Thousands of people were forcing their way into Ballpark Village to see the Nelly show. This was our original plans to, but as we neared Busch Stadium, the energy and excitement was too much to stay away from. Sal and I went in.

There was only a few thousand people in Busch at the time, which was great. We got to take in everything before it was overrun with 40,000 other people.

It was raining pretty hard, but it was still incredible to see the ice down in Busch.

The pictures and camera shots made the ice look so far away from the nosebleed seats. I expected to not really see the game and was prepared just to take in the energy. Actually, it was the best view I think I've ever had.

They managed to pipe in a blues band over the stadium PA and had some pop-folk band playing without issue, but the refs microphones still were not working. We were sitting in a Blackhawk heavy section, so anytime a penalty was called, the entire section sort of looked around at each other to see who was happy.

And after the Hawks scored on very muddy looking ice a minute into the game. There was this brief moment early on when I realized how much I spent and didn't consider that the Blues could get blown out. I would've felt terrible. Luckily, things went the right way.

The Blues scored 4 unanswered goals by Berglund, Tarasenko (2), and Steen.

Bring out the Zamboni, the Blues won the Winter Classic.

I lived in the moment. taking in the Winter Classic as much as I could. I knew this was a once in a life time event and it really lived up to it.

The fans were loud, excited, and willing to support their gritty hockey team in the rain, in January.




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Mizzou I Knew

It's interesting hearing about Mizzou from people that didn't go there.

For the longest time, my post-college circle of friends was 90% Mizzou grads. We all had the same fuzzy memories of McNallys, Addisons, and Flatbranch, the house parties, the first time the cops came to our house, the second time the cops came to our house, concerts, Henry Rollins, Halloween, New Years, and good beers.

But now that my friend circle has expanded, I get to hear a lot of outside perspectives, mostly around the drop in enrollment at Mizzou and what caused it. Usually it starts with the sport teams not being able to recruit as well.

Depending on who you talk to it's either because of the Black Lives Matter people or the racism that exists all throughout mid-Missouri.I rarely hear people talk about how dismal the basketball team has been for a decade. They rarely talk about how Gary Pinkle apparently was one of the greatest coaches, punching way above his weight class in the SEC and now that he's gone the weaknesses of our football team are highlighted.

I've heard people say that the Black Lives Matter protests drove off students from wanting to deal with un-necessary drama. Fair enough, if protests scare you, you probably should go to your local community college. From what I remember, protests were constant at most the universities my friends went to, especially during the Bush era and war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I've heard people say that the racism that has existed in the area for centuries has finally started turning people off, especially athletes who tend to skew African American don't want to deal with the media portrayal of red necks and crooked cops in Missouri.

Honestly, I didn't see much of this while I was at Mizzou, but I also curated an incredibly diverse friend group. Honestly, if this was a card collecting game, I was only missing some sort of trans-gendered hologram card.

We had the Pakistani journalist, the Indian engineer, the gay teacher, the Jewish business major, the foreign exchange students from Britain, France, and Australia, all mixed with people from Hannibal, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Louisville. We were a pretty diverse group and were ride of die.

I didn't get exposed to the darker side of Mizzou.

Both types of people will talk about it as if what they are saying is the total truth.

It's not, there's a lot of missteps done by the Mizzou board of governors. Mis-allocated money, alumni donations ear marked for the business school, rising salaries for the administrators while driving away young and determined professors. They thought they would keep adding students forever and direct result is apartment complexes dotting the downtown skyline like blemishes on skin. But now we have a crap football team, continue to have a crap basketball team, have too much empty housing, prices that have continued to go up, and non-stop construction on what could be a beautiful campus if not for all the bulldozers.