Monday, October 29, 2007

Comics 10-31-2007

A quick weekend in Vegas always strengthens one's perspective on things. However, I still love comics and I want a Batman tattoo . . . the classic Batman #20 cover on my left deltoid sounds right.

Action Comics #858 - Gary Frank on art, that'll do quite nicely, thank you.
Batman #670 - art by Tony Daniel, hey Kubert was good but not playing to his strengths
Countdown to Final Crisis #26
DC Infinite Halloween Special #1 - I'm a sucker for holiday specials

Sub-Mariner #5 (of 6) - Last issue was fantastic. Bring on the continued adventures of the 1st true superhero comics anti-hero.

Dynamo 5 #8 - I'm tired of pastiches but the premise of this book is fantastic.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Comics 10-24-2007

A good week, not too heavy but not light.

Authority Prime #1 (of 6) - Might wait for a review on this one
Countdown #27
Gotham Underground #1 (of 7)
Green Arrow Year One #6 (0f 6) - an excellent year one tale
Green Lantern Corps #17 - Sinestro Corps storyline rule
Superman Batman #41
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime #1 - there's nothing in comics like a pre-Crisis Kryptonian, there is some confusion between Diamond's and DC's expected shipping list.

Cable and Deadpool #46 - Issue #50 is the series finale, too bad
Thunderbolts #117 - Norman Osborn is insane whether it's in 616 or Ultimate Universe
Ultimate Spider-Man #115
X-Men First Class #5 (ongoing series)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Baby On Board

I've had to take a few days off to work at my job (I know, outrageous!) so no original posts for a little bit longer. I do however, have a special treat. My good friend recently had a baby and I asked him for a few tips to pass along to another friend who is scheduled to have his first child in the very near future. I was expecting a paragraph of sensible but banal advice. What I got was far more enlightening and vastly entertaining. What follows below is unexpurgated and unedited and hilarious. Enjoy.

Honestly, simply that they should be prepared for the hardest 1-2 months they've likely ever had. I don't say that to be dramatic - it would have made a big difference to Vickie and myself if we had been similarly, and seriously, counseled. Yes, we had heard it as a throw-away description lots of times, and so treated it as such. Had someone gone into some details with us, we would have been better emotionally prepared for the challenge, and not doubted ourselves as much, which frankly made it more difficult.

In that vein, your friend should expect:
The baby will need to be fed every 2-3 hours. You _must_ sleep in between feedings whenever you can. This is all the more necessary as you will often have to change diapers, feed yourself, clean etc etc between many of those feedings. Get to sleep _whenever_ the opportunity presents itself.

The baby can (and likely will) lose weight in their first week of life as they learn to eat. This happened with Luke, and it was very painful and nerve-wracking for us. Keep at the feedings, and consult your pediatrician to keep your nerves steady. They're used to nervous first parents.

Beware Titler. that's what Valerie and I took to calling the "leche league" breast-feeding nazis. Don't know if the mother is planning to breastfeed. If she is, she should know it's a real challenge at first - a wholly new skill for both mother and newborn that takes practice; combine that with the baby's likely initial weight loss, and difficulties with feeding can be very demoralizing. We had a number of breakdowns over this. What you need then is emotional support, and if necessary, formula supplementation (though not with a bottle until a few weeks in, as a rubber nipple too early can confuse the baby, and then they won't take the breast). Unfortunately lactaction consultation attracts a _lot_ of rigid ideologues, for whom the answer to everything, including global warming and the Iraq insurgency, is that formula is unacceptable no matter what, that the problem is that "the baby's latch on the breast must not be right", and that it's somehow your fault. Seriously. If you need help with breastfeeding, talk to your pediatrician, get a _number_ of references to lactation consultants, and screen as many as necessary to find one with a compassionate and _flexible_ approach.

Prepare everything beforehand. Get all the materials you'll need for the first 1-2 months now. Crib, outfits, diaper supply, bottles, frozen TV meals, menus, the works. You want to make everything as easy as possible for those first challenging 1-2 months.

Daddy - Mom's going to need to recover for some time, especially as she's having a caesarian. You've got to step up and handle most everything outside feeding until she's mobile again. Suck it up until you can split the work evenly again - which even then won't be a big change at first, because feeding is a very, very big time commitment. Every 2-3 hours, each feeding can take 20 minutes or more (in our case, we had lots of feeding difficulties, and it could take over an hour to get enough food in Luke), you do the math.

Lastly - and this one I feel is the most-kept secret about your first kid: there will be lots of times when you have dark feelings and even dark thoughts in the first 3 months. Everyone (especially grandparents) always coos and raves about how wonderful it is to have a child, but bear in mind they're delirious about getting a new baby in their lives without the workload. This is definitely what Vickie and I were most unprepared for, and it can make you doubt yourself and feel like a very bad person. DON'T. It's perfectly normal. Consider:

The baby will not reward you with interaction - not even a hint of a smile - until about the 2nd or 3rd month. It's literally just a food tube that eats, pees and poos. On top of that, it screams - loudly - when it needs something. Mind you, what that something is will occasionally take some time to deduce, during which the screaming will not stop. You can't ask it what it needs, you can't ask it to stop.

Now add on top of that prolonged and intense sleep deprivation - the worst you've ever had - the anxiety over being a 'good' parent, and the near-total isolation from your normal life routine that makes you feel like you've given up everything for a demanding small mass of flesh that barely looks human and just won't stop screaming. Yes, that's written with some dramatic license, but it's what will go through your head occasionally.

To really drive the point home: at the hospital it was required before discharge that we watch a video about shaken-baby syndrome. That's the irreperable brain damage that a baby can suffer if shaken with any vigor. Our reaction at the time was: "My God, what awful people. how could someone do that? To your own child?".

Let me just say that the hospital required the video for good reason, and that after the first 2 months, our tone was different. I proudly say I'm a doting father who adores his boy, whose protection is paramount to me. But, as the video wisely counseled, there were times I had to walk away from the crib - just _walk_ away - and hit the wall or my chest or sigh or do whatever I had to do to take a pause, a break, to calm myself down, and so return to Luke calm and attentive to his needs. I don't think Valerie and I would ever shake him, but we understand why it happens - we _know_ the feelings that precipitate it. They're normal. You haven't slept more than 1-2 hour naps in a couple of weeks, seen anything of your heretofore "normal" life, done nearly anything for yourself, eaten take-out and frozen meals for weeks, and after changing a diaper and trying a feeding the baby still hasn't stopped their shrill, skull-drilling scream. It's _normal_ to sometimes get very, very upset, even angry, or doubt your own sanity. It's normal. Just walk away and come back after a few minutes to yourself to calm down.

And now, after that, some encouragement. It gets a ***lot*** better after the 2nd-3rd month. The baby eats less frequently. He _might_ start sleeping through the night. The frequency of poos, initially 5-6 times a day, dwindles to once a day, or even every 2-3 days (the pees keep a-comin).

And most wonderfully - your baby smiles. He magically transforms from a eat-poo-pee tube into a tiny person you can't get enough of. He smiles - for you! There's nothing better than walking into his room first thing in the morning, and he always smiles just because he's so excited to see his parents. And it only gets better from there (turning over, laughing, grabbing your face). The first 2-3 months will be a gauntlet, but they're really, really worth what's on the other side.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Comics 10-17-2007

Let's get to it . . .

Countdown #28
Fables #66
Justice League of America #14 - Dwayne McDuffie - one of the best writers in the biz
Shadowpact #18 - it's long way down after helping take out the Spectre of Vengeance

Captain America #31
Captain America Chosen #3 (of 6)
Mighty Avengers #5 - gorgeous art, long delays
X-Men Emperor Vulcan #2 - Vulcan killed Corsair, unacceptable

Invincible #46 - bring on the Daxamites, I mean Kryptonians, I mean Viltrumites.

In a bit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Roman Empire

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the perpetual drama of the Yankees

The Roman Empire has fallen, again. Right now there is much tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, and there should be. The poor decisions of management have come back to haunt the franchise and Joe Torre will have to bear the weight of having to manage a team which boasted pitching luminaries like: Jared Wright, Carl Pavano, Mike Mussina (he of the 3.96 ERA during his tenure with the Yankees), Kyle Farnsworth, a broken down Roger Clemens and other blunders which lie squarely on the shoulders of management, not the manager. When your best pitcher can't crack the league top 10 in ERA you have a problem. Torre is perpetually granted free passes by the New York media, and yet he has presided over three straight flameouts in the 1st round. Surely, he is somewhat culpable for this trend of under-performance?

The Alex Rodriguez watch begins in earnest. Will he stay or will he go? Yankee management's tone has struck a very reconciliatory note. The hardline Cashman had set earlier in the year is a thing of the past. Steinbrenner has made comments that he wishes to re-sign the slugger and perennial MVP candidate. It only makes sense. The man is a gold glove at multiple positions and one of the five best offensive players in the majors. He is on track to hit at least 700 home runs and in the next 6 seasons could challenge Bonds' career home run mark. If he's not the marquis player in the majors, he will certainly hold that position over the next five years. He will likely establish himself as the top draw in the game.

A-Rod didn't have an execrable playoff. Going 4 for 15 with one home run was better than almost everybody else on the team (notably Jeter) and nothing to wring your hands about. My guess is that A-Rod gets re-upped at $30 million a year and stays a Yankee. What's hilarious about all this, is that the fans who booed him mercilessly for the last few years, are trying to be as positive and encouraging as possible so as not to drive away A-Rod.

In a bit.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What's Moving The Needle? October 8, 2007

What's moving the needle this week? What's resonating with me from last week or just bears watching? Without further adieu:

Marion Jones - A lot of different reactions about the former track and field golden girl. Many folks in the media have commented on feelings of betrayal and others skepticism about the sincerity of the statements currently being made. Journalists seem to be going through the five stages of grief with respect to Ms. Jones. It's actually pathetic to watch the moaning and groaning. More on this later.

Apple Inc - In the last month the stock has gone up 20%, it's rise has been nothing short of remarkable consider the relative maturity of the company. Apple went public on December 12, 1980. It's run up in the past few months isn't unique for a company its age, but it isn't common. Apple has been left for dead many times. However, it should be noted that with the introduction of the iPod articles about "Is this the end of Apple?" are few and far between. The first iPod, which was Mac only, was introduced in 2001. Since then it's become ubiquitous. It's dominance of the portable digital media player is the equivalent of Windows dominance in the OS market, perhaps more so. The iPhone and the new iPod Touch represent further leaps forward. The stock seems like an expensive option, but people have said that for years. I think if you've been a shareholder for the last few years you can't wait to cash out but also must be conflicted about foregoing any potential huge gains in the future. That's a nice boat to be in.

The Yankees - Not dead yet. Despite the predictable post-season flameout of Roger Clemens, the Yankees rallied in a stirring win. This is a flawed team, with mediocre pitching but an excellent line-up. This line-up can victimize any staff, the problem is their pitching can be victimized just as easily. Yankee bats have been mediocre, most notably Jeter's. It's okay, Yankee fans give him a pass, perhaps deservedly, but it's clear that the entire focus of attention is A-Rod. That's how it should be. Jeter is a great star, an excellent player with a lot of post-season huzzahs. Rodriguez is, however, on the short list of the very best position players ever to lace 'em up.

The Patriots - They beat a mediocre Browns team convincingly. Next week is their first big test as they play the, as of now, undefeated Cowboys. In terms of the offense the single most important aspect has to be the fact that over five games Brady has been sacked three times. I would wager that Brady has the most time to deliver the ball of any quarterback in the NFL. Add that and the fact that he has a fearsome wideout corps and you can see why he's putting up career best numbers.

In a bit.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Comics 10-10-2007

Here we go . . .

Countdown #29 - Last week wasn't bad
Green Lantern #24 - I can't get enough Sinestro Corps
Stormwatch: PHD #12 - a fond adieu to this series, it was good while it lasted.

Fantastic Four #550 - Dwayne McDuffie is one of the best writers in comics.
New Avengers #35 - Still the Marvel flagship comic
Nova #7 - best series out out of Annihilation
Runaways #28 - hmm, feels like this is behind schedule in terms of shipping

In a bit . . .

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Treat It Gentle - Sidney Bechet

The Ovation network periodidcally broadcasts a documentary on the life of Sidney Bechet entitled "Treat It Gentle" a wonderful look on the man frequently touted as the first recorded jazz soloist. Bechet's first recordings preceded those of Louis Armstrong and as soloists they were peers. Armstrong's genius went beyond soloing which result in his being the singular figure in jazz. Bechet, well Bechet was his own worst enemy.

Bechet unlike Armstrong was an extremely difficult personality, temperamental and not averse to violence when it suited him. A mercurial human being alternating between charming and vicious he was still an unbelievable performer. To this day his work on the clarinet and soprano saxophone defies imitiation. The great ones all have a distinct voice on their instruments. Armstrong on the trumpet is a study in virtuosity, foot-stomping rhythm, and a gorgeous warm tone that seems like it should be the only way jazz trumpet should sound. Art Tatum's piano inspired disbelief in his fellow musicians, Fats Waller called him God and the Ray Charles biopic "Ray" has a wonderful scene where Ray Charles walks into a speakeasy and in hushed and awed tones asks "is that Art Tatum playing?" Bechet's tone is energetic but sensual. On fast numbers like "I've Found A New Baby" he wows fellow musicians with his techique, rhythm and fluidity. On slow numbers like "I've Got A Right To Sing The Blues" or "All of Me" he'll seduce you.

Bechet was born in 1897 and recorded throughout the 30s and spent much of his adult life in Paris. LIke many other Jazz luminaires of the early 20th century he was a victim of the institutional racism in the United States that prevented many from subsisting solely as professional musicians let alone accrue any measure of wealth. Jazz recorded in the 70s by such greats as Coltrane and Davis is far more attuned to the sensibilities of the contemporary jazz listener. Indeed, it's fair to say Coltrane and Davis inform the modern jazz listener's sensibility more than any other musicians. Bechet's music is a generation earlier than those two giants and is firmly entrenched in Dixieland, early Swing and New Orleans style jazz.

It takes getting used to as our ears and brain aren't as familiar with that style of play. At the same time as Bechet was pressing his first records, Louis Armstrong was recording the seminal Hot Fives and Hot Sevens sessions. If Armstrong had died after recording those works he'd still be considered the most important jazz musician of the era. However, it is Armstrong's later work recorded throughout the 50s and 60s that gets the most play and is more readily identified with him. Aficionados talk about "West End Blues" or "Heebie Jeebies" but everybody recognizes "Hello Dolly" and "What A Wonderful World."

So the next time you're looking to expand your musical taste (a constant goal for me) see if you can give a listen to some "Best of Sidney Bechet" collection, especially if it has some of the aforementioned earliers tracks.

In a bit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

MSG Sexual Harassment Suit - Update 2

The federal jury in the case of Madison Square Garden/Isiah Thomas vs Anucha Browne Sanders has determined that MSG must pay $11.6 million in damages to the former Knicks executive. Quoting from ESPN's website "THe jury found that the Garden owes $6 million for allowing a hostile work environment o exist and $2.6 million for retaliation. MSG chairman James Dolan owes $3 million." So, "go home and get your f***ing shine box."

Predictably, Isiah Thomas has stated his disappointment with the verdict and will appeal. Just as predictably, Anucha Browne Sanders has declared this a victory for all women and for all the people whose voices can't be heard. Hey, maybe she means it.

In a bit.

MSG Sexual Harassment Suit - Update

Quick follow-up to today's earlier post re: Isiah Thomas' legal woes, here's the link for the post:

Here's the latest from The Grey Lady with news of the verdict:

Bottom line: the Knicks and Isiah Thomas have been found guilty of sexually harassing Anucha Browne Sanders. The jury has decided that the Knicks owe punitive damages to Browne Sanders but Isiah Thomas does not. This is a partial victory for Thomas. In general, even highly compensated employees are covered under the general umbrella of their corporate employer so it's not an exoneration that Thomas will not be personally liable. Employers must take ultimate responsibility for the workplace environment and the "tone at the top." This principle of ultimate accountability exists in most organizations including the military.

One final note: there are two types of damages: punitive and compensatory (which is further broken into physical and non-physical). The judge will determine compensatory damages, and the jury will decide punitivie damages. Punitive damages are fully taxable as income. Non-physical compensatory damages are also taxable, though physical compensatory damages are not.

It's not clear to me what tools the judge and jurors will use in determining the damages.

In a bit.

What's Moving The Needle - October 1, 2007

What's moving the needle at the start of this week? This week, just 3 topics. Isiah Thomas,The Patriots and Batman.

Isiah Thomas - It's a hard name to spell for whatever reason. What is it about certain combinations of letters or digits that make them harder to remember? Well anyway, it seems that MSG network may have to wrestle with a digit that has 6 zeroes behind it with respect to punitive damages. Oh, snap! Of course, Mr. Thomas has a tremendous amount of egg on his face, but Anucha Brown Sanders demanded $6M to walk away from the suit. Ronald M. Green, lead counsel for MSG "pioneered the use of preemptive litigation in suing current and former employees, and others, who threaten to bring legal proceedings of an extortionate nature against the firm's clients. He also is an innovator in the use of the federal Declaratory Judgment Act to protect clients' business interests that may be at risk from disaffected employees."

A guy like this does not come cheap and neither is the overhead associated with such an expensive attorney. How long has this case been in courts and what about pre-trial work, what's been the billable cost of it? Mr. Green is a name partner at his firm Epstein Becker & Green P.C. ("EBG"), he could easily be charging $500 per hour. This trial and the pre-trial phase has been on for months, I wouldn't be surprised if EBG had run up billable costs near the $1M mark. All signs point to an unfavorable verdict and the question is how much the punitive damages will be.

Ms. Sanders is not the most sympathetic plaintiff, but it seems clear she was harassed by a superior, and to me, that's sympathetic enough. If punitive damages awarded are even near the $5M mark consider it a big loss for MSG. They will have paid out in tandem with billable costs the same amount as Ms. Sanders demanded to walk away from the suit. In addition this public trial has revealed that as bad as the Knicks may be on the court, the "back office" is in worse shape. Punch it up as another loss for the Knicks. Fans are used to this by now. James Dolan continues to make his case for one of the worst owners in sports.

The Patriots - Wow, let's cancel the season and give these guys the Belichick, I mean Lombardi trophy. It's hard for me to hear the breathless analysts talking about these teams since they seem to be tripping over each other to either fellate Favre or the Patriots. Before we coronate the Pats, let's note one thing. The combined record of the four teams they've played to this point have a 4-8 record NOT counting the losses the Pats handed to these teams, otherwise their combined record is 4-12. The winning percentage of the teams on their schedule for the rest of the year for games they've played this year is 47%, not counting the undefeated teams of the Colts and Cowboys it shrinks to 35%. This is a schedule almost worthy of the '72 Miami Dolphins. The next five games for the Pats will really determine whether they're a good team or a potential team for the ages. The upcoming 5 games pit them against teams that have accumulated a gaudy 12-7 record including undefeated Colts and Cowboys teams. If they get through that stretch 5-0, I'll put a Pat Patriot decal on my jalopy.

Having said that, 4 games into the season isn't a big enough sample size for any sort of prognostication. I'll take a look at Brett Favre's "revival" at the halfway mark and analyze what's up with Brady's Bunch after their game with the Colts (Game 9 of their season). The way both teams are playing, this will, undoubtedly be the big matchup of mid-season. It'll also clearly establish which team are the Super Bowl favorites, all things remaining the same.

All-Star Batman & Robin # 7 - I love this comic and normally, I would review it, however, a gentleman by the name of Stephen Schleicher over at his wonderful website has written a wonderful review that pretty much exactly states what I feel about this much read and much maligned series. That site in general is one of my most frequently visited, so if you love comics, it should definitely be a frequent update.

In a bit.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Comics 10-3-2007

Let's do this, sorry for the intermittent posting, I'm going to get back on a (minimum) daily schedule.

Countdown #30
Detective Comics #837
Green Lantern Corps #16 - best crossover going Sinestro Corps
JLA/Hitman #2 (of 2)
Jonah Hex #24
Nightwing #137
The Question: Zen & Violence (the breakout character of the show Justice League Unlimited)
Scalped #10 - This is written by Jason Aaron and has gotten a lot of love within comics. So much so that Marvel had him do a standlone issue of Wolverine (#56 or #55) with Howard Chaykin on pencils which was excellent.

Nothing! - That might be a first

In a bit. More coming . . .