Month: March 2009

Dastardly Coughing Deeds

I’ve been hit with a doozy of a cold the last few days.  I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but I’m going to blame my friend Amethyst right now.  She had a cold two weeks ago and while it was mostly clear of her system when I spent the following weekend with her, it is a bit odd that I started feeling the early effects of the cold the next day.  Friends Care!  Friends Share!

The actual head cold was not that bad at all.  It hit on Tuesday and was already making it’s way into my throat and chest on Wednesday.  For me, this usually takes several days.  I had dreams of this illness quickly making it’s way through my body and be back to all systems at 100% by the end of the week.  Wrong!  Persistent cold is persistent and it stuck in my throat giving me one of the worst coughs I’ve had in years.  But the cough didn’t even rear it’s ugly head immediately, but chose to just tease me with the appearance of not being that bad until the weekend.

Friday night the coughs started coming a bit stronger and Saturday night they were really bad.  Sunday night was a repeat of Saturday night, so I upped the strength of my cough medicine for Monday night.  Fail!  Monday night was the worst of the nights, yet.  It’s almost as if the cough took a look at the medicine I sent it and then evolved into a stronger, more evil cough that uses this medicine as fuel for it’s dastardly coughing deeds.

This morning I’m cautiously optimistic.  My coughs, while frequent, are not nearly as strong and deafening as yesterday’s.  As I type that, I had a powerful cough.  I can’t win.  Anyway, I’m sticking to water and hot chocolate today, but more importantly staying away from my beloved green tea.  For whatever reason, that stuff dries out my throat and is exactly the wrong thing that I need to have done to my throat.  I’m also staying away from the vocal tours in both “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero: World Tour”.  That might be more of a favor to my ears than to my throat.

The Not-So-Stony Non-Creek

Recently I took a little road trip after work to visit someone.  While I knew the way to get to my destination via interstate highways, I still punched the address into my GPS to see what it came up with for a route.  Depending on the time of day and traffic, I can get a much different and faster route from the GPS than the one I’m aware of.  This was just such a case, as the GPS served up a mostly rural route of state roads that did not include a single fraction of a mile on the interstate.

As I rolled through the country on a nice, almost-spring evening, I paid more attention to the scenery and my surroundings than I usually do.  Coming into a small town I did not know of, I glanced over to the GPS to learn it’s name.  I couldn’t find the name of the town anywhere on the screen, but I did notice that there was a waterway named Stony Creek.  I found this odd, as I didn’t see a waterway from my window when I was looking out it just moments before.  I checked again.

Nope.  I could not find Stony Creek, but I did find a large ditch that may have carried water at some time in the past.  I doubted that this was the aforementioned Stony Creek.  We were in the middle of a spring thaw, there was water flowing everywhere, even in places that it shouldn’t, yet this Stony Creek was bone dry.

Also, it was not stony.  Not at all.  It was muddy and full of twigs.  Not even branches, just twigs.  And piles of leaves from 2008’s autumn season.  Some trash, too.  All kinds of things were in this ditch, but not one of them was a stone, let alone enough stones that would lead you to describe it as “stony”.

Yet, according to my GPS, this had to be Stony Creek.

I was instantly upset at Mother Nature.  Why give us Stony Creek and then have it not be filled with water and stones?  I wanted to shake my fist at Mother Nature and her poorly named natural occurrence.  Then I had an “oh duh” moment as I realized that it’s not Mother Nature’s fault at all.  Mother Nature didn’t name this spot Stony Creek, but rather, some guy did.  Some guy that had clearly never seen a stone or heard the comforting babble of a beautiful creek.  I’m guessing it was some blind, deaf guy that got tricked into naming a muddy ditch by his idiot friends.

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Link: in the country of the kaurava king

Wil Wheaton is the man.  This blog entry by him is the best thing I’ve seen on the web all week.  I must share it with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

I MUST KNOW THE ANSWER RIGHT NOW SO THAT I CAN FINALLY SEDUCE WOMEN!

Yeah, it’s that kind of awesome sauce.

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Runaways

A few years ago I started getting into comics.  This new interest of mine was mainly fueled by the X-Men and Spider-Man movies that were being released.  Despite having almost no interest in comics, I was really enjoying the movies and characters.  My friend Erik suggested that if I enjoyed the characters so much, I should check out some of the comics.  I picked up some X-Men and Spider-Man books and while I enjoyed them, I wasn’t quite hooked, yet.

I found the heroes of these books interesting, but not having any exposure to heroes as a kid, they weren’t enough to push me beyond being a casual reader to a full-blown comics fan.  Erik assured me that comics weren’t all heroes and tights, so we looked for some other, non-hero stories.  One of those happened to be Brian K. Vaughn’s Runaways.

While set in the hero-filled Marvel universe, Runaways isn’t about heroes.  It’s about a group of teenagers that discover that their parents are some of the worst villains on the west coast.  While the kids come to discover that they have powers of their own, they are far from heroes.  Still, they choose right over wrong, runaway from their parents, and then try to stop their evil plans.  It’s an amazing coming of age story set in the world of Marvel heroes.  It’s just what I needed to push me closer to becoming the comic book geek that I am today.

After writing 42 issues of Runaways, Brian K. Vaughn left the series he created in order to become a writer/producer of the television show Lost.  My fears of losing the title to a writer that didn’t understand the characters that I loved were soon relieved when Marvel announced that Buffy’s Joss Whedon would be taking over the comic for 6 issues.  While I wasn’t quite thrilled with Joss’ work on it at the time, his run on Runaways certainly holds up over time.  Reading all 6 issues back to back as one complete story proves to be a much better experience than reading them in single issues.  My claim is backed up by the American Library Association just recently awarding the hardcover of Joss’ Runaways story as one of the 2009 Top Ten Books for Young Adults.

When Joss left the Runaways title to concentrate on television and movies, I was afraid once again for the future of one of my favorite stories.  My fears were quickly calmed when Marvel announced that Terry Moore would take over writing duties for the book.  Moore’s Echo comic, which he both writes and illustrates, is simply amazing.  I had high hopes, but unfortunately he seems to be struggling with my beloved cast of teens.  The characters don’t seem like themselves and the story just isn’t working for me.  I will admit that the final issue of Moore’s first arc was quite good and renewed some of my hopes, but that was short-lived as the next issue once again didn’t hold up.  It also doesn’t help that the new artists on the project are drawing the kids in an almost anime-style.  They no longer even resemble the kids I care about!  Moore’s 8th issue comes out today.  My expectations are low, so I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised when I read it.

All that being said, I strongly recommend Brian K. Vaughn’s original issues when he created this amazing group of teens.  If you are someone that is interested in comics but not so sure that heroes are your thing, Runaways is a great book to pick up.  It’s also a great title if you are a parent who has teen children that are interested in comics but aren’t sure where to start.  The volume one hardcover edition of Runaways is available on Amazon and it contains the complete original story of the kids and their evil parents.  I’ve read these initial 18 issues over several times now and it just keeps getting better and better.  I can’t praise this story enough.

Update – It was announced just moments before I published this entry that a new creative team (writer and artist) are taking over for Runaways starting with issue 11. Writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Sara Pichelli will be taking over for my favorite group of teens.  I haven’t seen any of the previous work from either of these gals, but I’m excited for a changing of the guard at Runaways.  No offense, Terry Moore.  I love Echo, but you just don’t seem to get these kids.

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iDropped It

I finally picked up an iPhone back in January.  It didn’t take me long to completely fall in love with it.  2 months later and I’m still in awe when I use it.  Just last week I remarked to my mom that it is by far my favorite piece of tech that I have purchased in the last several years.

And then Thursday night I dropped it.  I’ve dropped it before and it’s been fine, but this time it landed almost flat on the glass screen and not on it’s side.  There was a clear impact point and a spidering effect across the glass.  I took a picture but I don’t even want to look at it myself right now.  I was heartbroken.

I took it into the Apple Store and asked if they could do anything about it.  They said they could replace it, but it wouldn’t be covered under the warranty.  Due to the clear impact point, the damage was not due to any faulty iPhone components.  Even though I had paid for the extended AppleCare warranty, it still wasn’t covered because it was clear that the damage didn’t occur through normal wear and tear.  I couldn’t argue with the guy.  He was right.

My only option was to pay $200 and they’d swap out my iPhone with a new one right there.  Well, the other option was to pay $200 and wait a week for them to fix my personal iPhone, but then I’d be out an iPhone.  Now that I think about it, a third option presented to me was to continue using my screen-shattered iPhone, as all of the core functionality still worked, it just looked terrible.  It took me about half of a second to make the decision to have my iPhone fixed.  This will go down as My $200 Lesson ™.

But I’m a little paranoid I’m going to drop it again, so I now pull my iPhone behind me in a rickshaw that has soft, velvet covered pillows and a shock system for the tires that would make the space shuttle jealous.

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Prius Power

99.9 MPG. The Prius shows this when it’s running completely off of battery power and not using any gas. I like seeing it on the screen. It makes me daydream about my Prius taking the next step and developing the ability to create it’s own gas. But then I daydream more about it taking yet another step, becoming sentient, and transforming into a robot while I’m still inside, crushing me into a pile of human-goo. Maybe I should have purchased a Chevy Malibu instead.

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A Second Look: The Hazards of Love

I gave The Hazards of Love, the new album from The Decemberists, a second spin yesterday afternoon and now I need to retract something I said in yesterday’s Gut Reaction Review of it.  That’s why it’s called a Gut Reaction Review, right folks?

In the GRR of the album, I stated that the last few songs were a bit slower than I expected, which lead to me daydreaming during them.  While I may have been daydreaming during them, it’s not the fault of the songs.  While the very final track is a slower number, the two before it are anything but that.  Both of those songs move along at a pretty good pace and have some toe-tapping riffs in them.  In fact, “The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)” has a wonderful sing-along version of the album’s “chorus” as sung by a children’s choir and backed by some sparse electronic sounds.  You can’t help but be singing and nodding along with it.  In hind-sight, I think I was distracted by the increased traffic as I approached my office and was not paying close attention to the music.  I mistakenly attributed this lack of interest to the style of the last few songs, but that’s clearly not the case.  The album finishes very strong.

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Gut Reaction Review – The Hazards of Love

Yesterday saw the iTunes pre-release (and Limited Edition LP to select indie retailers) of The Hazards of Love, the new album from The Decemberists.  The wide release of the CD to other retail outlets and other digital services will be next Tuesday, March 24th, 2009.

The album is a concept album telling the love story of William, a shape-shifting forest dweller, and Margaret, a woman from a city near the forest.  Their love is threatened by the jealous Forest Queen and a murdering knave.  William is voiced in song by lead singer Colin Meloy, Margaret is voiced by Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark, and the Forest Queen is voiced by My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden. (source: Wikipedia)

The Decemberists’s albums are always beautiful and The Hazards of Love is no different in this respect.  The soft and flowing string arrangements transition effortlessly into and out of the albums more rock-inspired moments.  The balance between electric and acoustic instruments is simply amazing.  A stand-out track for me is “The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid”, which not only showcases this balance, but features the arrival of Shara Worden’s mesmerizing voice.  It should be noted that I’m a huge fan of Shara’s, so I may be a bit biased towards this track.

The Hazards of Love really does feel more like a story than a traditional album.  I found myself very closely listening to the lyrics so I could follow William and Margaret’s struggle with the Forest Queen.  Usually I don’t pay close attention to the lyrics until my second or third listen to an album.  I typically spend my first few listens getting drawn in by rhythms and riffs, but the lyrics here are impossible to ignore.

My only complaint after listening to the disc for the first time is that the rock elements seem to disappear almost completely in the last few songs.  This may be necessary to complete the story, but it did lead to me daydreaming a bit.  The songs are not bad, just a bit slower than I was expecting.  Knowing this now, I will probably pay a bit closer attention to them the next time I listen to the album.

The Decemberists return strong with the stunning The Hazards of Love.  I’m concerned the album may be a bit difficult for some to get into, as it’s best enjoyed as one long song, as opposed to more traditional singles.  Still, it is an experience that any fan of music should listen to at least once.  I can’t wait to listen to it again.  I’m also even more excited for The Decemberists concert I will be attending at the end of May, as the band has announced that it will perform the album in its entirety with Becky Stark and Shara Worden reprising their roles as Margaret and the Forest Queen.

A Gut Reaction Review is a review that I write immediately after taking something in for the first time.  I haven’t had too much time to think about it, but instead am just writing my initial gut reaction.

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Trogdor!

A few weeks ago I attempted to draw the infamous Trogdor the Burninator from memory. I’m way too proud of how it came out.

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Welcome to the ICKYWMB

Welcome to ICanKillYouWithMyBrain.com (ICKYWMB).  This post marks my official return to blogging.  If you’re thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know you blogged before, J.R.,” that’s okay.  I blogged anonymously for 5 great years at a site called Mindsay.  I had an amazing time there and met even more amazing people, but it was time for me to skedaddle.  The beauty of Mindsay was it’s incredible community of bloggers.  As the prominent members of the community went their separate ways, my interest in blogging dwindled and I eventually gave it up.  It also didn’t help that Twitter and it’s addictive 140 character limit had managed to replace blogging for me.

A couple months away from long-form blogging was all it took for me to realize how much I missed it.  The community at Mindsay was great, but I liked having a place where I could release my creativity upon the world.  And that’s how this blog came to be.  Head to the About page to learn more about me and where my domain name comes from.  I know it’s a mouthful, so feel free to use the acronym, ICKYWMB (pronounced Icky Womb).

Subscribe to the RSS to get my thoughts, my observations, and hopefully more.  I have grand ideas for the future of this blog, some of which may never happen.  My thoughts include everything from daily photos, videos, original comics, and maybe an occasional return to audio. If you know me from my time at Mindsay, you might have an idea what that last one means.  And feel free to comment.  And tell your friends if you find me amusing (the more the merrier).  And make yourself at home.

Sir, please put your pants back on.  I don’t care if that’s how you lounge around at your home, it’s not what I meant when I said you could “make yourself at home”.  All right, fine, you can keep your pants off.  Just don’t dance… much.

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