Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Bunny vs Santa Claus

When I was a child, Easter wasn't the kind of holiday you got really excited about. (this post is not going to look at the religious aspects) Of course, all the holidays were fun in their own way; Easter meant getting out of school on Good Friday, mom's potato salad, deviled eggs and ham, and the Easter Bunny leaving me lots of chocolate treats.

I would always get a basket for Easter, with a chocolate bunny, jelly beans and other small candies. Occasionally a small toy like a Matchbox car or GI Joe figure. In the years that have passed, somehow Easter turned into Christmas in Spring - my wife and I just bought my daughter the $20 My Little Pony Castle (which was the only way to get her the "Prince Shining Armor" toy), another $4 MLP toy, in addition to candy. So it was basically like a birthday, or Christmas, in March.

I spent a considerable amount of my working life in retail, and I noticed the trend at that time as well. Not having a child however, I didn't reflect too much on it. Not having to foot the bill tends to make one complacent in regards to certain bits of knowledge, you know. And like most of my recent life, things look so very different viewed through the lens of fatherhood. Anyway, over the years, Easter has become another day in which parents invest time trudging through stores looking for a certain toy or video game, etc., to satisfy their child's expectations. That's right, I said "expectations." My daughter, all of 4 years on this earth, told me several times exactly what the Easter Bunny was bringing her. And she was right.

Another time I'll discuss why we caved into the expectation. But that is not for today's post.

What's changed? What did I miss? Has the Easter Bunny launched some grand plan to horn in on Santa's business model?

Let me know how your Easter Sunday went with your children.

Monday, March 25, 2013

If I Only Had a Name

If I only had a name... this blog would be more interesting. If my name were Brad Pitt or Justin Bieber, then whatever mundane topic I decided to write about would suddenly be all the more interesting, wouldn't it? I've certainly fallen into that trap - it's easy. I adore Pete Townshend from The Who and if he said "I really enjoy listening to Justin Bieber" then I would run out and get everything I could. Why? Because Pete speaks to me in a way that few people have - and I would certainly be interested in who speaks to him.

This topic came into my head earlier as I was listening to Songza while doing guitar repairs (a side business for me). I chose "bedtime - acoustic relaxation" as my concierge choice and let the Calgon-like tones take me away. It is 11:00 pm, you know, so I have to go to sleep sometime. In the midst of acoustic music I've never heard before (and one song from the under-appreciated John Denver) came the familiar intro to "Landslide" by Stevie Nicks / Fleetwood Mac. I instantly became excited, thinking I was going to hear a live version or some rare demo track of the song. But no - it was Landslide, alright, but it sure wasn't Stevie Nicks singing it. In fact, I couldn't bear to turn away from the repair bench to see the performer's name.

See, Stevie Nicks is another special musician to me. I love her voice. I love the songs she writes. She's permanently engrained in my life: when my daughter was born, we were struggling to pick out a middle name for her. We knew her first name was going to be Bindi, (yes, after Steve Irwin's daughter) and we had basically settled on Zuzu as her middle name. Zuzu is the name of the smallest daughter of Jimmy Stewart's character George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life," which is my all-time favorite film. (coincidentally, Stewart is my all-time favorite actor) I always loved that little girl in the film, and my need to be slightly different demanded that I name my daughter something that was fairly certain not to be common among her peers. Of course, our families argued that "Bindi" was unique enough, and we didn't need to saddle our daughter with two "weird" names.

Which brings me to Stevie Nicks. On the way to the hospital, or on one of my trips back home to feed the dog, I heard "Rhiannon" on the radio. So we compromised and named her Bindi Rhiannon. We have, at times, had to correct people that the name is not "Rhianna" which is becoming more and more common, and I always bring up Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac as proof of the name's origins.

Where is this story going? Well, here's the point: I only hope that someday I can be the influence over my child instead of whatever pop star or actress is all the rage at the time. I know that's probably wishful thinking, but my own parents were very influential on me, and I hope I can hold that same influence with Bindi - and that I use it for good.

That's why we don't listen to Justin Bieber around the house.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Growing up, after all these years... Maybe

One of the hallmarks of my life, as I compare it to other people my age, is that I haven't "grown up" yet. Oh, I have held a job consistently since I left school. I have a mortgage, 2 car payments, a family. Still, I have held on to some tenets of youth that I have refused to give up... until now. (or have I? You can see I'm still struggling)

For those of you who know me well, you'll know that a passion of mine throughout my life has been comic books. There's just something about the comic format that draws me to it. I love the way a story is told with static images and a few word balloons. I've read at least 1 comic title monthly for as long as I can remember; mostly, it was Amazing Spider-Man, and at times, (and when financially feasible) I have picked up as many as 20 different books a month. That's not counting trade paperbacks, graphic novels, or whatever you want to call the book format that is becoming increasingly popular. Most of my reading has been Marvel Comics, although I have flirted with Batman and Superman books from time to time. Over the last few years I've tried to keep my monthly pulls (that's a comic geek term for "pull list," books which your local comic shop - mine is Dewayne's World in Kingsport - "pulls" your favorite books off the rack and keeps them in the back for you, so that when you come in to pick them up there's no chance of it being sold out) around 5 or so. Almost 2 years ago, and with a lot of soul-searching, I dropped Amazing Spider-Man after basically 30 years of reading it.

Today, I read a couple of titles that are reminiscent of my youth: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. I also read The Rocketeer, although that is not currently an ongoing monthly book. These are good books, and enjoyable to read - shouldn't comics be enjoyable? Let me introduce you to the real problem: the comics I grew up reading and loving aren't fun and enjoyable anymore. They have to be "dark" and the characters are basically altered to fit whatever mood the publisher is currently promoting. When I was a child, how I dreamed of one day seeing Spider-Man in a movie, actually swinging between buildings in the New York skyline and climbing walls. The concept of a movie like The Avengers, wherein I would actually see more than one hero on screen, was so abstract that I just assumed I would never live to see it.

Now that I have seen those things, I feel less connected to the comics those ideas sprang from than ever; not that they were bad films (the last 2 Spider-Man movies not withstanding). On the contrary, Spider-Man 2 made me so happy and warm inside that I saw it 5 times in the theater. I enjoyed all the Marvel films leading up to last summer's Avengers; during The Avengers, I literally had to hold back screams of delight as the 10 year old in my heart cried with joy at the realization of his fantasies. So why, in a time when super heroes, Marvel comic books and "geek culture" are at their zenith, am I unhappy?

I wish I could tell you. I have examined multiple reasons:

  • I'm jumping off to avoid the band-wagoners that have jumped on
  • I'm growing up, and as an adult I'm just not that interested anymore
  • I'm the kind of person who jumps from one interest to another, and this is just a "down phase" for me with comics
  • the industry doesn't want me to keep reading because I, as a demographic, worry too much about silly things like "continuity" and "character consistency" so they have directed the books away from my likes and interests.
I could write (and probably will sometime) an entire post just on the problems I see within the comic business now, but this post is not for that. I'd really like to know what's behind my gradual change in attitude toward what has been my only hobby all these years. One of the reasons I started this blog was to help myself talk through these things, like journaling; hopefully, I will get some feedback that makes me think, examine, and work through some of the junk floating in my head.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


You'd think that in today's modern world, connecting something like this blog to Facebook, Twitter, etc., would be exceedingly easy. Apple integrated Facebook into IOS6 for crying out loud... (although I'm certain not without financial incentive to do so) so why make it so difficult to integrate Blogger with Facebook? I understand that Google considers itself a competitor of Facebook, but seriously, how many people are using G+?

In this case, it would be much appreciated and a matter of customer service to make this process painless. Instead, I've had to resort to a third party software to do this operation for me (short of my own ability to simply post the link in my status on FB after every post, but this is so much simpler) and in the process I've built up yet another layer of resentment towards Google. A shame too, as I love Gmail, Calendar, Picasa, and so many other Google features; however, don't think I wouldn't jump ship if something better came along now. Google has done nothing to earn my loyalty.

Especially after Android. But that's another story for another day...