Thursday, May 31, 2012

Third Person Thursday: Lawn Care & Concerns

The young man in the bright green shirt with its crisp collar and the vividly colored logo on the chest rang the bell and stepped back down off of the porch to wait.  He found potential customers considered it less pushy if he created space between himself and their door.  He was seconds away from making his decision whether to ring the bell again or move on to the next house when he detected movement.

The door unlocked, several times then there was a pause before the knob turned.  The door creaked open just an inch and the young man in the green shirt squinted slightly against the afternoon sun as he tried to determine if he really saw a set of eyes peering out of the barely cracked open door.

“Yes?” came a voice from behind it to confirm his suspicions.

“Good afternoon, sir,” his pitch started instinctively.  “I’m with Benson’s Lawn Care and I’m wondering what your plans are for your lawn here this summer.”

The door swung open wider and a man in pajama pants and a white t-shirt stained with what appeared to be a mixture of coffee and mustard stared wide-eyed at him through thick glasses.  Even if his sales pitch had not called for him to wait for an answer, the sudden sight would have stopped his train of thought.

“Plans?” asked the man.  He stepped one foot out on to the porch and looked up and down the block.  “What do you mean plans?” he asked as he did so.  “Who says I have plans?”

“Well, sir,” the young man began again, right the ship of his potential sale after the brief interruption, “you seem to have a pretty healthy lawn, but you and I both know that takes a lot of work.”

“Yes,” the homeowner muttered to himself and wrung his hands, “a great deal of work indeed.”

“Benson Lawn Care would like to work with you to keep your lawn healthy.  We have a fertilizing plan that would keep your lawn free of weeds and growing strong all summer, guaranteed.”  He removed a flyer from the folder he carried, which was also bright green, and held it out to the man on the porch who reluctantly accepted it.  “Should you sign up for one of these plans, one of our technicians would come out every other week and apply our patented chemical mixture to promote growth and prevent weeds.  The prices are listed right there on the flyer.  Do any of those packages look like something you’d be interested in?”

The eyes peering through the thick lenses never met the flyer.  They stayed transfixed on his visitor as the hand that held it dropped to his side.  Slowly, a smile spread across the man’s face.

“I’m sorry, young man,” the man on the porch spoke, “but you ask what my plans are for my lawn this summer and I actually already have plans.  Very big plans and I regret to inform you that those plans are already underway and that I have no need for your services.”  When he finished speaking, he grinned a toothy grin at the baffled and now slightly frightened man in the bright green shirt.

“Okaaaaaaay,” the young man collected himself, “well you go ahead and hold on to that flyer.  My contact information is on there and should your needs change, please give us a call.”

“Thank you,” the man said an abruptly stepped backward into his home and shut the door in front of him before the young man had a chance to say anything further.

But that was fine by him.  He turned to head to the next house, feeling fortunate that the encounter with the strange man was over.  As he walked away, he thought he heard a stretching sound behind him.  He turned to see what it was and swore the grass on the lawn was an inch higher than it was when he had arrived at the porch.

The young man in the bright green shirt walked slightly faster, straight to his car and made no other stops on that block.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Promote Synergy...

Rediscovered Weekly Features

With the busy start to the summer, I am further behind than usual in updating our weekly features.  The good news is that my house cleaning and organization projects have resulted in my setting up my old Nintendo systems in my man-cave, so let’s begin with the top 5 Super Nintendo games I have rediscovered:

5. NBA Jam – Subsequent incarnations of this game never lived up to the original high flying, ball incinerating good time that the original held.  And all the old school players remind me of what the NBA used to be at its peak.

4. TMNT: Turtles in Time – The best TMNT game on a home console.  It’s just a shame the SNES could only accommodate 2 controllers.

3. Super Mario World – The flagship game when the new system was released is still one of the best Mario games of all time.  The cape was a great addition.

2. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – The last of the great “overhead view” adventure games.  This game also introduced a lot of amazing weapons and gadgets that continue to inspire future editions of the Zelda franchise.

1. NHL ’93 – The most replayable of all the games I personally own.  Any game that’s nearly 20 years old and can still make you sweat and make your thumbs sore must be amazing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finding the Tipping Point

I have long been an apologist for movies that tweak the details of a classic character (be it from comic books, toys or literature) to make them work on the big screen.  The original Transformers film was acceptable in my mind.  I gave Watchmen a shot and mildly enjoyed it even though I knew all the essential details from the graphic novel could never fit into a movie any shorter than thirteen hours.  I am even holding judgement on Michael Bay's conversion of the Ninja Turtles into aliens.

But I know a lot of other people, call them nerds if you want (because it's probably accurate), are sticklers to detail.  When Optimus Prime's front end stuck out instead of being flat in vehicle form, they were enraged.  When Wolverine was obviously taller than 5'7", they cursed Hugh Jackman, then subsequently embraced him as the films, most notably Wolverine: Origins, drove the character and several others (*cough* Deadpool *cough*) into the ground.

It is the great debate over just how much change is too much change that is now on my mind after watching the newest trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, which is due in theaters July 3rd and which you can watch here.  I recall that when the Tobey Maquire's first Spider-Man movie was released, many a geek was upset over the fact that Spidey's web shooters had become biological in nature rather than his own invention.  It didn't seem a major deviation from the original character to me, but it made a lot of enemies at the time.  So how will Spidey fans around the world react now that a slew of other changes are apparently being made to the story-line?

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it myself.  For once, it appears that the changes made for the sake of conversion to film may even be too much for me.  Sure, they got it right by making Gwen Stacey his first girlfriend and having Peter Parker build his own web shooters, but there now exists the suggestion that Peter's real parents are somehow linked to Oscorp.  Also, the specific choice of words is that his parents "left" when he was a kid.  Is there a big Darth Vader reveal moment in mind down the road?  Because that would be lame.  What's more, listen closely and you'll hear the one-armed Dr. Curt Conners suggest that it was no mistake that Peter acquired his Spider powers.  Is this to suggest that Spider-Man is being rewritten as a biological experiment?  Has Marvel gone Weapon X all over Spider-Man's origin tale?

More questions than answers have arisen from the newest trailer and it makes me feel all icky inside as I fear what the new movie might do to my beloved Spider-Man.  I suppose I'll let you know what I ultimately think after going to see it in the theater at the first chance I get.

You can lead a nerd to a super hero movie, but you can't make him see it more than three times.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Third Person Thursday: The Mew of C(a)thulhu

“Hi Mr. Wilcox.”

“Hello, Raymond, nice to see you again.  Has Henry got you doing his work for him?”

The two young men were each carrying loaded cardboard boxes in their arms and stopped to respond despite the weight held inside each.  “Mom mentioned she needed these put out in the garage, dad,” Henry defended himself, “and when Ray heard her, he volunteered to help.”

“Well, if this weather would ever clear up, I’d mention that the grass needs cutting and maybe he’d help you with that too,” Henry’s father said with a look to the grey sky.  “It’s been raining for days now.  Seems a plain old cloudy day is the best we can expect.”  He brought his attention back to his son and his friend.  “Well, those look heavy.  Go ahead and do what your mother asked, Henry.  See you guys later.”

The boys went on their way without a word as they labored beneath the weight of the boxes.  Eventually, they reached the side door of the garage and Henry set his box on the ground with a thud and a rattle.

“Careful,” scolded Raymond.

“What is in there anyway?  It feels like rocks.”

“That’s none of your concern,” Raymond snapped.  “Just show it to me.”

“Okay, okay,” Henry said and fished around his pocket for a moment before producing a key.  Then, after glancing around to be sure the coast was clear, he opened the door.

As it creaked open, a sliver of clouded daylight allowed them to see the dust hanging in the air of the garage interior.  Immediately, the repugnant smell met them.  While Henry recoiled and pulled his t-shirt to cover his mouth and nose, Raymond breathed it his, inhaling all of its musky, rotten stench with anticipation.  Immediately, Raymond pushed in past the doorway and began inspecting the floor of the garage, at first with a patient reverence and then with the furtiveness of a growing panic.

“Where is it?” he asked aloud, then, without Henry’s answer coming quickly enough, he lunged at him and grabbed him by his shirt.  “You said it was here.  Where is it?”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Family Name or Cause of Death? You Decide.

Wordless Wednesday: A Wordy Beginning

Unbeknownst to me, there was a trend amongst bloggers to participate in something they call "Wordless Wednesday."  It wasn't until friend and fellow blogger Iron Salsa began participating on his blog, the spectacularly named Mamihlapinatapei (want to know what the hell that means, so did I so I followed this link at which point the ever so satisfying explanation was revealed to me), that I became aware of the trend.

For many many months now, I have attributed the Wordless Wednesday phenomenon to his creation.  I watched as he posted only a picture with a title, no further explanation on his blog and left the reader to determine what was going through his mind.  He humbly alerted me recently that it was something he had heard of and deemed clever enough to use on his blog, but he is still its creator in my mind because that's how I heard of it.  What's more, if it's clever enough for him, it is clever enough for me to steal.  Thus, today marks the first installment of Transformer Generation Dad's Wordless Wednesday posts.

I know what you're thinking, there are an awful lot of words being posted here today for a Wordless Wednesday, and I would have to agree (I am a sucker for raw statistics).  So, without further ado, thanks to Iron Salsa, I bring you in the very next post, my own version of Wordless Wednesday.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You Are What You (R)Ea(d)t

Writing non-fiction or satiric commentary on this blog requires sensory input.  Things of that matter are easy enough to come by.  Someone famous on television annoys me, I hear of an awesome new movie to be released, my kids say something funny or ridiculous or an average day to day event causes me to obsess over the twists and turns my life has taken through a neurotically judgmental lens.

However, much like our digestive systems, the output is directly affected by the input.  If that taken in is all stuff and nonsense like mental junk food, that which is produced will be just as unpleasant like mental diarrhea.  Sure, it flows out freely, but it really stinks.

I write this as my wife and I have taken a jaunt (there’s a bygone word…let’s all resurrect it together, shall we?) to our old college campus.  I look around at the young scholars and hallowed halls of learning that I once navigated and realize that I used to be smart enough to attend school here.  My next thought is, “What the hell happened?”

So, for the remainder of the late morning and early afternoon, I’ll be soaking in the springtime weather, the gothic architecture and menacing looking paintings of former university administrators while reading some H.P. Lovecraft (expect a sci-fi/horror story this Thursday).  Perhaps it will inspire me and I’ll get a chance to update the weekly features before it is time to return to my life as chauffer and baseball coach when the kids get home from school.

Of course, if my writing process is anything like the digestive process as I suggested (and as I suspect it is) then regardless of what I take in, the product is still going to stink, just not as badly.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Assembling the Avengers

My youngest son's birthday saw him receive the full compliment of Lego Marvel Super Heroes sets based on the Avengers film.  He was extremely happy, but not quite as happy as I was.

Over the several days following, we began assembling the sets together.  The minifigures themselves are most certainly the prize of the sets, Iron Man's mask flipping open, Cap's shield, a mini-Mjolnir for Thor to carry as his flowing golden locks frame his bearded face and the oversized Hulk figure make the sets worth it on their own.  But during the completion of one set in particular, I discovered the sort of nugget of insight that makes obsessive nerds smile on the inside with glee.

Below is our finished set of #6868 Hulk's Helicarrier Breakout:

At this point, I must throw a quick warning out there.  SPOILER ALERT: the references to be made below this point in this post reference events from the Avengers movie.  If you are so lame that you have not seen it yet and want everything to come as a surprise, then do not read further.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now Anarchists Take Over

This weekend, my beloved city of Chicago will see numerous world leaders and far more protestors descend upon it, each hoping to achieve their agenda.  But for those of us caught in the crossfire, things can get awfully inconvenient.

Enter the wisdom of the comic shop owner.

I happened to be passing by my local comic shop the other evening, happened to have my good camera in the car with me, happened to be at a stoplight and saw his message to those in town for the festivities and wanted to share it.

Good luck to any of you in Chicago this weekend.

Unsportsmanlike Sentiment

Before I was the walking, talking encyclopedia of sports etiquette that I pretend to be in front of my sons and the rest of their pee wee baseball teammates, I was a young boy with a few thing to learn about sportsmanship.  For a time early on in my fleeting sports career my frustration over my own lack of skill or teasing from my older brother (whom I have yet to beat in a one on one basketball game and at this point doubt I ever will) would leave me wanting to stomp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs that I swore off playing whatever sport I was currently participating in for good.

It took time before the greater lesson of sports sunk in through my thick skull.  Only after experiencing both losing and winning (but mostly losing) repeatedly was I able to do either with grace.  Eventually, I realized it was about playing the game and challenging oneself to become better each time, not just about winning.  Over time, I came to be able to hold my head high based not on my performance but solely on how well I handled defeat or victory (but mostly defeat).

No matter whom it was I lost to or how badly I lost, I never held any ill will toward my opponent.  It was all, “Good game,” and, “Good luck,” on my part then I would retire to the solitude of my locker room or dugout before cursing and breaking things.  Even as a spectator I try never to talk badly about or wish bad things on an opposing team.  When my team loses, I generally root for the team that defeated us so that I can claim we were beaten by the best.  If my team is out of contention, I will pick a team I like for a certain reason and root for them, but, as a rule, not against any specific team because I dislike them.

At least that’s how I used to feel until Lebron James went to the Miami Heat.  Correction: until Lebron James made such a shameless spectacle of the fact that he chose to grace the Miami Heat with his presence.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Action Figures, Assemble!

Back before The Avengers were in the coolest movie since Star Wars, yours truly already had an obsession with them.  That obsession manifested itself as I began collecting memorabilia whenever I could sneak some in the house.

I was subscribing to the comic books, slowly "accidentally" breaking the stylish glassware from our cabinets and replacing them with Marvel character tumblers and buying action figures here and there under the guise that they were for my sons.  Needless to say, I was prepared to have my sons supplied with plenty of Avengers swag before any of their friends realized how awesome it was.

But the prize items in my collection stayed on the shelf in my office, out of their reach.  The flagship of my Avengers love, although un-boxed (because I can't help myself) remained in mint condition where my sons knew they dare not reach lest they invoke my wrath.  Thanks to eBay and a few closing toy store who knew not what they had in stock, I have managed to collect the four major characters from the film in 12-inch legendary action figure form over the years and I reveal them to you now, posed in my best attempt to recreate the movie poster:

Yes, I know.  Drink it in and be not jealous, true believers.  Assembling such a mighty group was no simple task.

Even more difficult has been keeping it from the hands of my sons and I have finally broken down and allowed them to play with them in an effort to cultivate their love of all things Marvel.  But the rules have allowed no friends to touch them and no smashing them against anything.  Also, they are to wipe them down with a damp cloth and mild soap after each session.

Most importantly, I always get dibs on Captain America.

Return of the Weekly Features

My youngest son turned eight yesterday and the weekend festivities left me little time to reflect on just what an amazing addition he has been to my family.  My need obsessive to write blog posts doesn't leave me with much time today either, so the least I can do for the best little brother I know (I come in a close second) is to pay homage by making this week's top five list a collection of my favorite pop culture brothers:

5. The Blues Brothers - Jake and Elwood Blues are a bit outdated now, but I remember my cousin and I looking forward to family weddings only because it gave us the opportunity to showcase our Blues Brothers routine on the dance floor.

4. The Hanson Brothers - Another older movie that means little to the current generation, but the three brothers from Slap Shot were classic.  My favorite scene came when Paul Newman walked in on them in the hotel room playing with their race cars.

3. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - You know what they say, the family that mutates together grows to study ninjutsu, eat pizza and fight both teenage angst and underground japanese gangs together.

2. Thor & Loki - With The Avengers blowing up the box office, the God of Thunder and his adoptive brother are a hot pair right now.  But as a lifelong lover of the Avengers, I have to appreciate how the sibling rivalry between these two brought the team together in the first place.

1. Mario & Luigi - They started out looking more like twin brothers and their appearances changed dramatically over the years.  Since then, they have run through dungeons, explored new galaxies, battled ghosts, won go-kart tournaments and played countless sports together all while repeatedly saving one another's lives.  That's brotherly love.

Busy Weekend

My weekend was filled with activity.  My youngest son had his birthday party with his friends, we celebrated Mother's Day and then my son had his birthday party with his family.  We try to keep the friends and family separate for everyone's sanity.

But the busy weekend is over and the busy week is now before me.  Lots of work and lots of baseball commitments loom on the horizon.

In the meantime, I hope to catch up with all of you by updating the weekly features and maybe throwing another post of two on here, so stay tuned.  If I can pull myself away from my son's birthday spoils, I may actually have a productive day of writing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It All Comes Out in the Wash

As most people out there are well aware, parents of younger children perhaps even more acutely so, there are some days when free time abounds.  You make every green light.  Your carry out order is ready faster than usual.  You head down to the laundry room to find that the clothes you were going to throw in the wash have already been cleaned and your kids come home and say they were assigned no homework.

On such days, one gets to enjoy the extra time to relax.  The book that's been sitting on the nightstand is cracked open.  That last episode of your show gets watched.  You finally get passed that level or maybe you just take a nice long nap.

 There are days when the world makes you its b----.  You wake up late to take the kids to school.  The errands you had to run take longer than they should have because of the two cars that seem to be purposely driving at exactly identical speeds right alongside one another.  You don't realize you are in over your head on the do-it-yourself project you undertook until nearly every piece of your driver's side door is laid out on the street and you realize you have no clue how to put it back together again.  That giant television you picked up from your in-laws' house was much harder into your garage than you anticipated it would be (because your age is more of a factor than you anticipated it would be).  The tent you promised you would set up for your sons is found to have broken poles and you still have to get ready for the baseball game you're coaching.

But here's something you might not know, though parents of young children may figure it out sooner: It works out.  It always seems to anyway.  Somehow all the stuff you needed to do gets done and you still end up spending time with the people you love.  And the win for your pee wee team ends up as the icing on the cake.

When you lie down in bed that night, you will definitely be exhausted and you will probably be sore from all the running around, but there will be that sense of accomplishment.  And when you wake the next morning, you will feel like a million bucks.

You will smell like humid gym locker because you completely forgot to shower in your exhaustion at the end of the previous day, but you'll feel like a million bucks.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Third Person Thursday (Throwback Edition): Body Works

Brain watched the twin video monitors intently, taking in the footage from both Left and Right Eye simultaneously, processing them together to calculate depth.  He leaned forward and pressed the button labeled Right Arm on the large control panel in front of him.  This caused several of the buttons to light up at once.

“Right Bicep, extend the entire arm so that the Right Hand Division can get around the back of the pipe,” he said into a speaker.

“Aye, aye, sir,” called back Right Bicep as Brain watched his instructions followed to the letter on the monitor.

Brain hit the Right Arm button again and the lights extinguished.  Right Bicep, Tricep, Forearm, Hand and each of the Fingers worked in unison to loosen the nut from around the drainpipe.  They struggled and strained for a few minutes as Brain watched the water seep from around the gasket.

“This isn’t working,” he mumbled to himself.  Then he snatched the microphone from its stand and made an announcement.  “Attention all body parts.  This is Brain speaking.  We are aborting this project effective immediately.  I will need the assistance of Right and Left Hands and both Eyes in order to conduct some Internet research.  All personnel are hereby instructed to execute the getting up from the floor protocol.  And please be careful.  This ship’s not as young as it used to be.”

Sweet Distraction

Producing material worth posting here is not always my top priority.  As a husband, father and pee wee baseball coach, it simply can't be.  Other things are constantly popping up that take priority.  Of course, even when I have some spare time on my hands, the quality of my posts could still be questioned (and I would be the first to question it).

Then again, even with time and a willingness to post crap, I still find myself sitting in front of my computer from time to time with absolutely nothing to say (hard to believe, I know).  I am reminded at times like this of advice I received from my fiction writing professor in college.  "Creating quality output requires quality input."  This was said to remind us to read while we write and heeding this advice has served me well over the years.

But, when you are wide awake at one in the morning because of your terrible work schedule and your wife is sleeping next to you on the bed that you don't feel much like getting up from, turning on the light to read a good book is not a viable option.  When the television remote is within reach, however, and you know that's something she can sleep through, you hope that at least one of the eight thousand channels has some quality programming available in the wee hours of the morning.

So it was that I navigated past infomercials (a word that does not get underlined in red when I type it, which scares me), took in some late night talk show interviews, caught up on episodes of Modern Family and became puzzled by the trend of NBA players wearing nerdy glasses during post game interviews (now there's some fodder for a future post, but in the meantime...those belong to us, jocks!  Give 'em back!) before I found the way I was going to end my night.

Thousands of torchlights burned in the valley and an ominous thunderbolt burst across the dark sky.  Beads of sweat broke out on the foreheads of several hundred soldiers at once as they stood along the wall and prepared for battle.  With a monstrous cry providing the signal, the Uruk-Hai marched forward on Helm's Deep.

And that's all she wrote.  Good night, everybody.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Scores of Weekly Features

The portion of my weekend that wasn’t spent watching The Avengers multiple times was spent reliving the glory that was watching The Avengers via discussions with my sons and other fellow fans.  However, watching the movie led me to a grave realization.

For all the special effects that have been added to super hero films, there is one thing that has all but disappeared.  The soundtracks of these films rely more heavily on popular bands creating music for them instead of an iconic orchestral score.  The memorable super hero theme songs seem to be a lost art and I, for one, miss them.  And so, I have decided to make the best of the super hero theme songs the subject of this week’s top five.

Friday, May 4, 2012

TGD Movie Review: The Avengers

I'll begin by telling you, if you didn't know already, that I have been looking forward to The Avengers for years.  So much so, in fact, that I have already seen the movie twice within the first 24 hours of its US release, once last night at midnight with my wife and again this afternoon with our kids and a few of their friends in tow.

Of course, having seen it twice already, perhaps that gives me a unique perspective.  Or maybe I'm still just a fanboy.  Either way, I will get into the review and leave it for you to decide.

May the Fourth Be With You as George Intended

It is May the Fourth, which, as all good fanboys and fangirls should know, means it is Star Wars Day (May the Fourth..."May the Force"...please tell me you get that).  Many of you may be looking for a way to celebrate.  Perhaps you are holding a Star Wars movie marathon (ill-advised due to the Avengers being released today), organizing a round robin lightsaber duel tournament, playing one of the many Star Wars video games (hopefully Lego Star Wars because, let's face it, it's the best one), perusing eBay for collectible memorabilia (finally that embossed Empire Strikes Back lunch box shall be mine) or hosting an Ewok style barbecue in your backyard which will conclude with the burning of an effigy Darth Vader corpse.  Note: I suggest using a Vader made of wood or some other simple material as dressing up an actual corpse and burning it creates an awful stink.  I speak from experience.

Well, if you are doing any of the things listed above, stop immediately.  Unless you want your fan card revoked immediately, you ought to begin celebrating the most celebrated science fiction film series of all time the way the creator would have you spend it.  George Lucas didn't create Star Wars so you could sit in your basements and watch old movies.  He didn't film his space opera epic in the hopes that millions of nerds would leap at any opportunity to dress as the characters portrayed within it.  Nay, Mr. Lucas intended for the films to stir inside you one of the most basic and necessary principles of mankind.  He meant for you to be moved by the ever-lasting motivation of all good things: Consumerism.

That's right, folks, scads of online stores are holding May the Fourth sales today and Transformer Generation Dad means to hold true to the oldest Star Wars tradition of all, buying stuff, by helping direct you to some of the best.  So without further ado, here is a list of just some of the extra special deals on Star Wars goodies out there today:

To be sure, there are more out there, but this is a pretty prime sampling and ought to put a sizable dent in your bank account.  If you need further help, let me know.  When I'm finished taking the kids to see the Avengers, I'll research a bit more, just for you.  That's the kind of blogger I am.

Most importantly, I think this proves my point.  At the bright, shiny center of the Star Wars universe lies a dollar sign, but we all knew that from the start.  Of course, if the action-figurization of every single character shown even in the background of every scene of the movie didn't convince you that consumerism was at the heart of the Star wars franchise, then I'm not sure how big a fan you really are.

So go out and spend all you Star Wars fans and May the Fourth truly be with you.

Note: Transformer Generation Dad claims all creative rights to the term "action-figurization"

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Third Person Thursday (Throwback Edition): The Bird & the Fly

Most people would have thought they were looking at a cardinal. George knew better.

It had startled George when it landed suddenly no more than ten feet from him but he instinctively held very still in order to observe it. The bird seemed equally startled. It stared sideways and motionless at George as if to say, “Oh my! I didn’t see you there.”

The bird was entirely red, say for its black eyes and dull yellow beak. The color even ran down into its legs before giving way to a grayish brown at its feet. There was no black mask and no pointed crown atop its head. These are the characteristics that allowed George to recognize it as its proper species. It was most definitely not a cardinal. It was a summer tanager.

Having properly classified it, George could appreciate how rare it was to see one this far north, only twenty miles from the Illinois-Wisconsin border, especially in the early spring with the temperature just recently above forty degrees on a consistent basis. Furthermore, the fact that it had come down from the treetops where it usually feeds just to happen to land so close to George was a blessing. This was a truly rare sighting and George found himself wishing he had tucked a notepad into his back pocket before he had ventured out into the field.

You wouldn’t know it from his quick recognition of the tanager, but George was relatively new to bird watching. In fact, it wasn’t a hobby he had picked up intentionally. Rather, his newest assignment happened to bring him regularly to open grassy areas with nearby trees and it also happened to involve a lot of sitting around and waiting. Being rather susceptible to boredom, after only a few days it became apparent to George that he would need to start doing something to keep his attention.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Proper Attire

My tickets have been purchased for the Thursday night midnight premier of The Avengers.  Gift certificates for popcorn and pretzel bites have been procured.  I have the extra wide mouth Gatorade bottle prepared to avoid bathroom breaks.

Now, only one question remains.  I will not be attending in costume, but which t-shirt shall I wear?  Captain America?  Thor?  A mash-up shirt?

So hard to chose.  I am open to suggestions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dreams & Nightmares of Pee Wee Glory

During a rainy evening in March, the inklings that I had made a grave miscalculation began to creep up on me.  I sat that night on a rusty metal folding chair in a large, echoing room in a musty park district field house and listened as the names of the children who would constitute my Pee Wee baseball team were read off to me.  I had only begun to realize how completely managing said baseball team would consume my life.

But I remained positive and shortly after our team’s first practice, I began to have the dreams.

We had won the league championship and the tiny arms of my players, strengthened by the adrenaline of their victory, hoisted me into the air as the crowd cheered wildly.  The parents who had been skeptical at first of my abilities as a manager rushed to be the first to pat me on the back and I rode off into the sunset on the motorcycle they had all chipped in to buy me in appreciation for my hard work and dedication throughout the season.

The night following our first game, the nightmares took over.

Revenge of the New Poll

I must finally come down off the high of the Geek Tournament.  The winners have been decided, the final celebration rightfully celebrated and the prize of the Cobra iRadar handed out (congratulations to Patrick and a hearty, “Thanks for playing,” to everyone else).

I was so wrapped up in the afterglow of the second annual coming of the event that I neglected to come up with a poll question for April and also was at an all time low in generating posts last month.  It is time to turn the tide.  May promises to be a month full of promise and excitement and our monthly poll question should return in order to signify that.

So let’s get right to it.  With The Avengers sure to be the hit movie of the month, let’s look forward to the future and vote on which Avenger ought to be included in the sequel.  Your choices are:
  • Giant Man & Wasp
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch
  • Vision
  • Wonderman

A few of the choices include two heroes just because one can’t imagine adding one without the other.  But more is not better, so I encourage you to choose wisely.  Who knows, the minds behind the Marvel films might be reading and take our advice to heart.  (We know this is not true of course because if it were Chameleon would have been the villain in the new Spider-Man movie instead of Lizard and a second Ghost Rider starring Nicolas Cage would never have been made…but we can dream, can’t we?)

Happy voting.