Archive for the ‘That's Cool!’ category

Comic Art Friday: Frankenheimer’s castle

February 5, 2016

People who know that I’m a film buff sometimes ask me, “What’s your favorite movie?” Which is, of course, an impossible question to answer. I love many movies for many reasons, and they’re not interchangeable. How does one compare a favorite horror film (Psycho) to a favorite comedy (Blazing Saddles), or the appeal of two markedly different fantasy films (say, The Princess Bride vs. Heavy Metal)? Do I love Die Hard more or less than Double Indemnity? Streets of Fire more or less than Enter the Dragon?

You see the problem.

Anyway…

One night I happened to be parked in front of the television watching yet another of my favorite films, John Frankenheimer’s brilliant crime drama, Ronin. It’s a great piece of entertainment, combining a twisty plot; crackling dialogue; understated performances by a fine cast (including Robert DeNiro’s last truly stellar acting job before he dove headlong into self-parody, apparently permanently); and one of cinema’s all-time great car chase sequences. (Although it has his signature style all over it, many people don’t realize that Ronin was scripted by David Mamet, using the pseudonym Richard Weisz.) It’s also that rare film in which Sean Bean appears but does not die, although he does get booted from the story a third of the way in.

As I was viewing Ronin for the umpteenth time, a thought flashed to mind: “Isn’t there a superhero named Ronin?” Another thought quickly followed the first: “Didn’t Frankenheimer also direct The Birdman of Alcatraz and The Iceman Cometh? Birdman and Iceman are superheroes, too.”

And that’s how Common Elements concepts are born.

Iceman, Birdman, and Ronin, pencils by Val Semeiks

Ronin the superhero — as distinct from Ronin the movie — has actually been embodied by several different characters in the Marvel Comics universe, including Clint Barton (the Avenger better known as Hawkeye) and Eric Brooks (better known as Blade, the vampire hunter). Shown here is the original Ronin, Maya Lopez, who herself is probably more familiar to comics readers under her subsequent costumed identity, Echo. Maya is both one of the more prominent Latina heroines in superhero comics, and one of the genre’s few deaf characters.

Iceman — a.k.a. Robert “Bobby” Drake — is one of the founding members of the X-Men, going all the way back to the debut of the franchise in 1963. Historically, Bobby was the youngest in the original lineup, and was often portrayed by Marvel writers as somewhat immature and impulsive. More recently, Iceman gained publicity for coming out as gay — a revelation questioned by some readers as a retcon, given that Bobby has been romantically involved with numerous female characters over the course of his X-career.

Birdman will be familiar to those of a certain age (ahem…) as star of the fondly remembered 1960s animated TV series, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. Designed by legendary comics artist Alex Toth (also responsible for such characters as Space Ghost and the Herculoids), Birdman is actually Ray Randall, a normal guy who receives an array of superhuman abilities from the Egyptian sun god Ra. He can fly using the powerful wings that erupt from his back, and can also fire beams of solar energy from his hands. Because his gifts derive from the sun, Birdman frequently found himself in dilemmas where the lack of sunlight robbed him of his powers temporarily. He was accompanied on his adventures by a pet eagle named Avenger.

Younger readers know Birdman from his comedic retooling in the late 1990s. In the Cartoon Network series Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, the former superhero is presented as a rather dimwitted defense lawyer, whose client list includes a diverse collection of his fellow Hanna-Barbera characters. Avenger is nowhere to be found in this adaptation, likely due to embarrassment.

Today’s featured artwork — #123 in my Common Elements theme — springs from the potent pencil of veteran comics artist Val Semeiks. This marks Val’s third foray into the world of Common Elements. As is true of both of his previous efforts, this one rocks.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: A thousand points of light

January 29, 2016

Let’s get straight to the particulars of today’s featured artwork, officially #114 (of, currently, 127) in my Common Elements commission series, shall we?

Orion_Andromeda_Sharpe

On the left is Orion, one of the key players in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos. On the right, that’s Laurel Gand, better known as Andromeda, of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The artist wielding the pencil is Kevin Sharpe — Kevin has drawn dozens of comics for most of the main publishers, but is probably most familiar for his work on G.I. Joe for Image Comics and Army of Darkness for Dynamite Entertainment.

The more astute among you will have recognized that the “common element” uniting our two mighty heroes is the fact that each is named after a constellation — more specifically, a constellation containing a noteworthy nebula. The Orion Nebula (officially Messier 42) is one of the brighter objects of its kind in the night sky, and is clearly visible to the naked eye as the middle “star” in Orion’s “sword.” The Andromeda Nebula (Messier 31), more accurately referred to as the Andromeda Galaxy, is one of our Milky Way galaxy’s closest neighbors in the universe. (“Close” being relative, when discussing cosmic distances.)

As for our own two superpowered stars…

Orion first appeared in New Gods #1 (February 1971). He’s the son of DC’s ultimate villain Darkseid — coming soon to a movie screen near you — but was raised as the adopted child of Darkseid’s opposite number, Izaya the Highfather, as part of a peacemaking infant-swap. (The Highfather’s son, Scott Free, is in turn raised by Darkseid, eventually rebelling against his foster dad and becoming the heroic Mister Miracle.) Under the Highfather’s tutelage, Orion learns to (mostly) control the darker nature he inherited from his natural forebear and conduct himself in a more noble manner. He is often seen zipping about the cosmos in his Astro-Harness, as illustrated here in a sketch cover drawing, also by Kevin Sharpe.

Orion_Sharpe

To be honest, I was never a huge fan of the Fourth World saga. For me, it quickly devolved into a morass of Kirby’s unchecked worst impulses, with way too much weird and crazy simply for the sake of weird craziness. Kirby was a brilliant artist, a dynamic creator of characters and concepts, and one of the greatest visual storytellers who ever put a pencil to paper, but as a writer… yikes. He desperately needed collaborators to edit and wordsmith his scripts. And no one ever should have let the King compose dialogue. Ever. (This might sound like sacrilege to some, but I’m just keeping it 100%. Your Kirby mileage may vary.)

It’s no accident, then, that New Gods was my least favorite of the Fourth World books, because it was the core of the mythos and as such, the place where Kirby most surrendered to his unfettered imagination and purplest prose. I much preferred the two series that tied more closely into the familiar DC superhero universe — Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (where Kirby first began introducing his Fourth World saga when he moved to DC from Marvel) and Mister Miracle. The fourth book in the line, Forever People, could be fun but was impossible to take seriously — Kirby putting words into the mouths of space hippies read just as badly as that phrase sounds.

Orion, though, like almost every character Kirby ever designed, looks awesome.

Andromeda_Sharpe

Andromeda was something of a Jenny-come-lately to the original Legion of Super-Heroes roster. When Supergirl famously died during Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC decided to replace her in the Legion with a character as similar to Kara Zor-El as possible. Thus, Andromeda — another blonde with an almost identical array of powers — was born. Laurel Gand (as did her Legion predecessor Mon-El) hailed from Daxam, a planet colonized by Kryptonians centuries earlier. Unlike her counterpart from Krypton, Andromeda had a vulnerability to lead, with potentially fatal complications arising from lead exposure.

To my mind, Andromeda epitomizes one of the ongoing weaknesses of DC’s editorial philosophy: namely, cloning its top-line characters over and over again. By the Andromeda came along, DC already had one alternate Supergirl in Power Girl, she of the imposing bosom and keyholed costume. Then again, killing the original Supergirl in the first place was a silly stunt that never should have happened.

But I have to admit — Andromeda, though not designed by Jack Kirby, looks awesome.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Royal Air Force

January 22, 2016

People often ask me, “Where do you come up with all of these ideas for Common Elements commissions?” The truth is that concepts strike me in the most random ways. I’ve literally been driving in the car or watching some non-comic-related program on television when out of the blue comes the thought, “Hey, what if I put [Hero X] and [Heroine Y] together?” Whenever I get one of these ideas, it immediately goes onto the list of Common Elements concepts that I’ve been maintaining for over a decade now, to await its turn to be drawn.

The genesis of today’s featured artwork ties into my other commission theme, Bombshells!, which showcases classic comics heroines (by my arbitrary fiat, a character has to have made her first appearance in or before 1960 to qualify as a Bombshell!) in pinups modeled after vintage aircraft nose art. One day, while brainstorming Bombshells! ideas, it hit me that there was at least one superheroine who shared her code name with a British fighter plane: Spitfire, who first appeared in the 1970s Marvel series The Invaders. Spitfire is too recent a character to use in a Bombshells! commission, but I soon thought of another character who also has a British military aircraft code name: Gauntlet, from the Avengers Initiative storyline of a few years ago.

And just like that, a Common Elements concept is born.

Gauntlet_Spitfire_Bowden

For the benefit of the non-airplane buffs in the audience, here’s a touch of background. The Gauntlet was an open-cockpit biplane used by the Royal Air Force in the 1930s, although a handful were still flying during World War II. The better-known Spitfire came along in the late 1930s, and was an RAF staple well into the 1950s. The Spitfire is notable as the only British fighter whose production run predated, spanned, and continued for years after WWII.

As for our fighter plane namesakes, Spitfire (a.k.a. Lady Jacqueline Falsworth Crichton) gained superhuman speed and healing ability from the combination of a vampire bite and a subsequent blood transfusion from an android — specifically, the original Human Torch. (I know. It sounds crazy. I don’t make this stuff up.) Jacqueline’s father James was the original Union Jack; her brother Brian later took up the mantle. (Writer Roy Thomas had initially planned for Jacqueline to become the second Union Jack, but he and artist Frank Robbins decided that Union Jack’s flag-patterned outfit looked awkward on a female figure. So they created a new identity for Jacqueline, with a simpler costume design.) Spitfire joined the Invaders — a WWII-era superteam led by Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the aforementioned Torch — and a was a key member throughout the series’ 1970s run.

Gauntlet (a.k.a. Joseph Green) turned up following Marvel’s Civil War storyline (coming soon in modified form to a cineplex near you) as a training officer for rookie superheroes. A former Army drill sergeant, he has a massive prosthetic of alien origin permanently attached to his right hand and arm. This robotic appendage provides Green with super-strength and enables him to project a “hand” made of pure energy with powers of its own. (I know. It sounds crazy. I don’t make this stuff up.)

Bringing together our two champions is UK-based comics artist Mike Bowden. I thought it appropriate that a Common Elements starring characters named after British aircraft should be drawn by a British artist. So far as I know, there has never been an RAF plane called the Bowden. But perhaps there should be.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: Always be yourself, unless you can be Mary Marvel

January 15, 2016

A couple of years ago, I met a talented Canadian artist named Sanya Anwar at a local comics convention. Sanya created this gorgeous Art Nouveau-inspired portrait of one of my favorite heroines: Isis, star of the 1970s TV series The Secrets of Isis. (I probably just landed on some national security watchlist for typing the name “Isis.” You people need to chill.)

Isis_Anwar

At the time Sanya drew the Isis piece, we talked about her doing a companion piece featuring Mary Marvel, the inspiration for the Isis character. Sanya and I revisited that conversation last spring at Big Wow ComicFest. It took a few months for Sanya to work the project into her hectic schedule, but in the end, this beautiful rendition resulted.

Mary Marvel, pencils and inks by Sanya Anwar

Since I first discovered the Marvel Family characters in the early ’70s, I’ve always found the concept of Mary Marvel intriguing. Unlike her brother, the original Captain Marvel, Mary’s accessing the powers of various mythological beings doesn’t transform her into a different person (or, at least, persona — for decades, comics writers couldn’t decide whether Billy Batson and Captain Marvel were separate entities, or just differently aged versions of the same individual). When Mary says “Shazam!” she doesn’t grow older or muscle up. She’s the same sunny-spirited teenager whether she’s Mary Batson or Mary Marvel. The latter just has more amazing abilities.

Which always raised the question in my mind: If you could be Mary Marvel and still be fully and completely Mary Batson, why would you ever not be Mary Marvel? What would be the reason for changing back into your non-powered self, and spending most of your life that way? If I had the option of being Just Plain Me or Superhuman Me, I would opt for Superhuman Me all the time.

The lesson is: Always be yourself.

Unless you can be Mary Marvel.

Then, always be Mary Marvel. (Or Isis. That works, too.)

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Comic Art Friday: All my Hexes live in Texas

January 8, 2016

It occurred to me this morning that I didn’t post a single Comic Art Friday in 2015. For a guy who rarely missed a weekly art post for several years, that’s more than a smidgen embarrassing. I will endeavor to do better in 2016. In fact, with today’s post, I already have.

There’s a long and not always cheerful story behind today’s featured artwork, the 127th entry in my Common Elements commission series.

(For the benefit of those joining us for the first time — or old-timers who’ve simply forgotten, because of my slacker posting habits of the past year — Common Elements is a series of commissioned artworks depicting comics characters who are in most cases unrelated, but who share some unifying feature. The “common element” may be obvious — similar names or superpowers, for example. Sometimes, the connection is so obscure that it requires detailed explanation. Ultimately, the point of Common Elements is to showcase characters that might never be seen together anywhere else, for the pure joy of novelty.)

The Scarlet Witch and Jonah Hex, pencils and inks by Pete Woods

I originally planned this matchup of Western antihero Jonah Hex and longtime Avenger Scarlet Witch (whose probability-altering powers have historically been referred to as “hexes”) to be drawn by legendary comics artist Tony DeZuniga, who co-created Jonah Hex with writer John Albano. Tony was a frequent guest at Bay Area comics conventions, where I got to know him and his wife Tina over the years. The last time I saw Tony in person, I’d mentioned the idea to him, and he and I agreed that I would commission him to draw it the next time our paths crossed at a con.

As sad misfortune would have it, that next meeting never occurred. Tony passed away in May 2012 due to complications from a stroke he suffered about a month earlier.

When I heard the news of Tony’s passing, I resolved to give the assignment to Tony’s good friend and fellow artist Ernie Chan, also a regular at our local cons, and a brilliant artist who’d drawn several pieces for me previously. But less than a week after Tony’s death, Ernie also passed. The world had lost two talented creators, and I’d lost a pair of friendly acquaintances.

As for this Common Elements concept, I shelved it, hoping that eventually an artist would come along who would do something truly special with the idea.

Fast forward three and a half years. Pete Woods, an artist whose work I’ve admired since the DC Comics miniseries Amazons Attack in 2007, opened his commission list briefly in late 2015. I immediately thought of the Hex/Wanda pairing, and knew that Pete’s unique style would be perfect for it. Pete must have agreed, because he accepted the project, then proceeded to nail every aspect like a carpenter on amphetamines. All of the creative notions packed into this drawing — from Hex on horseback, to the Witch’s period-styled costume, to the inquisitive reptile observing the scene — came entirely from Pete’s imagination and pen.

The one item that didn’t come from either Pete or myself is the title: “All My Hexes Live in Texas.” Credit for that clever pun goes to my fellow comic art collector Joshua “Doc” McCoy. Well played, sir.

I still wonder what Tony DeZuniga or Ernie Chan would have drawn, given the same two-character assignment. But I’m convinced that both artists — who were always eager to see the fruit of others’ talents (whenever he saw me with my art portfolio wandering Artists’ Alley, Tony’s second question after “How you been?” was always “What did you get?”) — would have admired the amazingly conceived and rendered scene that Pete Woods crafted.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Now 100% Punkin Chunkin Free!

November 26, 2015

Here’s something I’m not thankful for this Thanksgiving: Punkin Chunkin, a staple of my Turkey Day TV viewing, was canceled for the second consecutive year. Some silly folderol about liability or some such foolishness cost the annual event, which involves people hurling pumpkins incredible distances using homemade machines straight out of the Rube Goldberg instruction manual, its venue, and organizers haven’t been able to locate another suitable site.

The bottom line is that some lawyers are making a pot of money arguing, and I’m denied my Punkin Chunkin.

Anyway… I still have plenty else to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day 2015. Therefore, as has been my tradition in this space since 2004, I’ve made an alphabetical list sampling 26 of the thousands of people, places, and things that make my life worth living.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for:

Adele. The British songstress released her first new album in four years this past week, and it’s as lovely and haunting and emotionally riveting as anything she’s done before.

Bruce Lee. My boyhood hero would be celebrating his 75th birthday tomorrow, had he not been taken from us far too soon way back in 1973. Lee was the only movie star whose poster hung on my bedroom wall amid the Star Trek glossies, comic book cutouts, and Runaways album covers throughout my teenage years. Enter the Dragon remains the one film to which I can turn off the sound and voice every line of dialogue. (At least, I used to be able to do that. I haven’t tested myself in a few years.) Rest in peace, Little Dragon.

Clients. Here’s a shout-out to the folks who buy the skills and pay the bills. I’ve worked with and for some really cool people this past year. I hope they — and many others — will continue to hire me. Please.

Dumbarton Bridge. The least famous, and by far the least sexy, of the San Francisco Bay’s crossings, it’s about to become critically important to us because we’re moving within a stone’s throw of its eastern anchorage. The Pirate Queen starts a new job on December 1, and her daily commute will span the Dumbarton. Although, when she’s on it, it will immediately transform into the Smartbarton.

Education. I’m a firm believer that when you stop learning, your brain dies. And you start voting for Donald Trump.

Ferrett Steinmetz. The Ferrett, as he likes to be known, was one of the first bloggers I followed on a regular basis. This year, I got to meet him in person, as he toured the country promoting his first science fiction novel, Flex. Its sequel, The Flux, came out last month.

Grilled lobster tails. If I were writing the menu for my last meal on Earth, I’d start with a few of these, served with Cajun spiced garlic butter. You know you want some.

Houses. For the second year in a row, the Pirate Queen and I find ourselves (for the moment, at least) with two — one we’re moving out of, and another we’re moving into. The new one closed escrow on the Pirate Queen’s birthday. I’m grateful every day to have a roof over my head when so many people have none.

Idina Menzel. Because someone who knows how to say her name correctly should be thankful for the former Mrs. Taye Diggs. We’re seeing her in person Saturday evening in the road company of If/Then. It would probably be too much to ask for her to just throw in a random chorus of “Defying Gravity,” just because I love that song, and her voice on it.

Jessica Jones. I just finished the final episode of Marvel’s latest Netflix series yesterday. As good as I’d hoped the show would be, it exceeded my expectations by a Hell’s Kitchen block. Krysten Ritter, who’d never really impressed me in anything before, absolutely crushes the role of the downbeat ex-superheroine-turned-private-eye. And her chemistry with Mike Colter as the unbreakable Luke Cage flat-out sizzles. I’m already salivating in anticipation of the Cage series.

KM, for being the greatest Daughter any dad could wish for, and to the memory of her mom, KJ, for all of the shared history.

Lucille, the legendary axe of pioneering blues guitarist B.B. King, lost her master this past May. The thrill indeed is gone.

Masterpiece, the PBS vehicle by which Downton Abbey comes to us Yanks. Downton‘s final season premieres here in the States in January. I’m sure going to miss the Crawley clan.

NBA Championship, won this year for the first time in 40 seasons by my beloved Golden State Warriors. Given that they’ve begun the sequel season on a 16-0 run thus far, I have high hopes that the Dubs might bring a second Larry O’Brien Trophy home to the Bay. To Steph, Klay, Draymond, Bogues, Barnes, Iggy, Mo Buckets, Shawn, Festus, and the rest of the dudes in blue (slate on Saturdays): Thanks for all the thrills. You make DubNation proud.

Oysters. Because delicious.

Panama hats. I have a nice one from Goorin Brothers for sunny East Bay days.

Quizzing. Whether it’s my nightly session of LearnedLeague, or my annual trip to Las Vegas for the Trivia Championships of North America (that’s TCONA to you), or teaming up with a couple of buds at the Project READ Trivia Bee (a hard-fought second place this fall, behind the team we narrowly bested to win last year), quizzing is my jam.

Rush. As Geddy Lee once wailed in his inimitable helium-on-steroids voice: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Slippers. Or sleepahs, as we say in Hawaii. Without something on my feet, I might fall down. Nobody wants to see that.

Tsunami Brainz. Did I mention that my improv troupe had a name, at long last? We do, and Tsunami Brainz is it. We’re gearing up for our first show, possibly in January.

Us — the Pirate Queen, the Studio Assistant, and me. I am thankful every day for our little family. I feel the love in the room.

VocalBooth. My gorgeous new-to-me workspace is a Diamond Series Platinum Edition. I’m still getting used to its finer points and tweaking the acoustics, but it’s an amazing place to play.

Waikiki. The Pirate Queen and I spent a week in March in my childhood home, and enjoyed a fantastic time touring, beaching, dining, shopping, and just relaxing. I often forget how much I miss Hawaii until I’m there.

Xi, the Greek letter for which there is no direct equivalent in our Latin alphabet. Not to be confused with the letter chi, which corresponds to our X.

Yukon Outfitters. I own several of their Tactical series carry bags. They make excellent stuff to put your stuff in.

Zillow. When you need to find a new house quickly — as we just experienced such a need — it’s the place to look. I found our new place in a single search session.

As always, friend reader, I am also thankful for you. May you and those you love enjoy a thoughtful and festive Thanksgiving. And stay home tomorrow, for pity’s sake.

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Live From the East Bay

November 27, 2014

Well, it’s that time again: the day we Americans celebrate turkey, football, and sharing a friendly repast with indigenous people as a prelude to overrunning their entire continent. (Okay, maybe we don’t really celebrate that last part. Still happened, though.)

Here at SSTOL, it’s become an annual tradition to reflect for a moment on some of the many people and things for which we have been made grateful over the past year. Because counting one’s blessings can be an overwhelming task without some parameters, in 2004 I developed the device of an alphabetical Thanksgiving — one item per letter.

So, without further ado, here’s my 11th holiday sampling of what’s best in life. (Aside, of course, from crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of their women. That goes without saying.) On Thanksgiving 2014, I’m thankful for…

Apogee MiC. This handy-dandy gizmo served beautifully as my travel microphone on several out-of-town trips this year, including a week in Hawaii that proved to be one of my busiest audition weeks ever. Plug it into my iPad, open my Twisted Wave recording software, and I’m good to go. A sturdy pillow fort helps too.

Battle of the Decades. Even though I lost the Fan Favorite vote to participate in Jeopardy’s 30-year retrospective tournament, I had a blast watching 45 of the show’s greatest champions — including many old friends and more recent acquaintances — return to the stage. It doesn’t always happen this way, but the three best players of all time (Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, and Roger Craig) emerged in the finals. I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten to know all three gentlemen over the years, and each is as good a guy as you’d want your heroes to be.

Comets. Dude, we landed a probe on one this year. How awesome is that?

DVR. Sometimes, multiple TV programs you want to watch come on at the same time, or at times when you can’t be parked in front of the flat screen to view them as broadcast. I know, I know, it’s a First World problem. But it sure is nice to have a solution that works.

Elton John. We saw the Man with the Million Dollar Piano live in concert this summer. His voice isn’t quite the instrument it once was, and he’s toned down the outrageous showmanship of his Captain Fantastic days. Still, Sir Elton is one of the legends of modern music, and he still puts on one heck of a performance.

Frontier — my current League within LearnedLeague. When I look at some of the big-time quiz mavens who inhabit Rundle A Frontier, I’m humbled and honored to play among such estimable company.

Gail Simone, one of my favorite current comics writers. I don’t find as much to interest me in today’s comics as in decades past, but when I pick up a book with Gail’s byline on it, I know that I’m in for an entertaining read. She’s also one of my favorite folks to follow on Twitter.

Hilton Hhonors. Here’s an example of quality customer service. I signed up for the Hilton hotel chain’s loyalty program a while back. I don’t travel all that often, but I make at least a couple of trips each year, and I frequently stay in a Hilton-associated hotel. At my request, the Hilton Hhonors folks went back and credited me for points earned for stays I made before I signed up for the program. They could have said, “Sorry, no,” and been perfectly well within their rules. Their positive consideration, however, makes it much more likely that the next time I travel, I’ll bunk in at a Hilton property.

Improvisation. Always looking for ways to up my acting game, I took an introductory improv class at American Conservatory Theater this year. It helped, I think.

Jellied cranberry sauce. Because it just isn’t cranberry sauce unless it comes out in the shape of the can.

Ka’anapali Beach. Our base of operations for our vacation junket to Maui. From here, we drove up to the summit of Haleakala on Super Bowl Sunday, cruised the Hana Highway, saw some spectacular sunsets and scenery, and dined in fine style.

The Ladies in my life — specifically, the Pirate Queen and The Daughter. My existence would be far less beautiful without them.

Madison Bumgarner. The lefthander from Hickory, North Carolina threw the Giants over his shoulder and carried them almost single-handedly to their third championship in five years. He pitched a shutout against the Pirates in a one-game wild card playoff to start the team on its postseason road. He threw 7-2/3 scoreless innings at the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS, in the process setting a major league record for consecutive shutout postseason road innings. Then, in the World Series, MadBum pitched in three of the seven games, winning Games 1 and 5 and pitching five scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. Many baseball watchers, myself included, rank Bumgarner’s achievement as the most outstanding postseason by any pitcher in major league history.

The Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas. For someone who loves Vegas glitz and history as I do, a nighttime tour of the place where old signage goes to die is like a pilgrimage to Nirvana. (Not the one with Kurt Cobain.)

OpenTable. All restaurant reservations, all the time.

Project READ Trivia Bee. For the 25th annual contesting of this popular charity event, I teamed up with two of the smartest people I know for an evening of Q&A. To our utter surprise, we came away with the championship trophy, against some extremely tough competition.

Quadratini. The Pirate Queen loves these little wafer cookies. I gave her a bag for her birthday. When the Pirate Queen is happy, I’m happy.

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Here in the Bay Area, where we have no shortage of spectacular spans, the utilitarian Richmond-San Rafael often gets overlooked. The fact that the R-SR launches from our most famously crime-ridden communities and terminates alongside the state penitentiary housing California’s Death Row inmates probably doesn’t help. But that isn’t the bridge’s fault. It didn’t ask to be built there.

The Splash Brothers. Sharpshooting Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have the Golden State Warriors off to their best NBA season start in… well… ever. After two decades of mediocrity, it’s exciting to see the Dubs maturing into one of the Association’s premier franchises. You can thank the Human Torch and Kavalier Klay for most of that excitement.

Tazz, my Studio Assistant, who joined our little household in March. He’s half Chihuahua, half rat terrier, and all Tasmanian devil. Hence the name.

USB. Whether it’s my recording gear, my printer, my scanner, or my backup drive, I’m grateful every day for those tiny rectangular ports that allow my computer to interface with the peripheral equipment I need to get stuff done.

Va de Vi, a nifty dining spot where we celebrated the Pirate Queen’s birthday earlier this week. To borrow a line from a former governor, we’ll be back.

Walnut Creek, our new home. As most of you know, we moved this summer, across the Bay from San Francisco to Walnut Creek. There’s yin and yang to life in relative suburbia, but all in all, it’s growing on us. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner today at the Kasbah — as we’ve named our new house — and had to admit the advantages of more living space. It’s not The City, but it is The Creek.

X-rays. I’ve become acutely aware of the importance of imaging in the maintenance of sound dental health. Of course, I’m now radioactive.

YapStone. Meet the YapStones. They’re the modern payments family.

ZippGo. To facilitate our move, we rented reusable plastic totes from a company called ZippGo. They delivered the totes to our previous residence, we filled them with our worldly possessions, the movers loaded them onto a truck and unloaded them at the new abode, we unpacked our material goods, and the ZippGo truck hauled the totes away again. No boxes to acquire or dispose of, no cardboard waste, no muss or fuss. I’m a believer.

As always, friend reader, I’m thankful for YOU. I appreciate your stopping by here periodically to read whatever it is I’m babbling about. I hope you find your visits here entertaining, and perhaps occasionally even thought-provoking. May you and yours experience gratitude for the blessings in your life, and value those special people and things all the more.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 


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