Archive for the ‘Blogosphere’ category

Just a reminder

September 29, 2010

For those of you keeping score, I’m still on jury service through next week. Hence, the paucity of posts.

That’s all that’s going on. I’m perfectly fine. And it’s not that I don’t love you, honest. (Well, perhaps one or two of you. You know who you are.) So, please don’t worry.

I’ll get back to a more regular update schedule once the trial is over.

In the meantime…

…how about those Giants?

Burn this!

August 16, 2010

I’m not a huge fan of holidays. (Well, except for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. But that goes without saying.)

Burn a Confederate Flag Day, however, sounds like a celebration I could get behind.

After all, racist whackos have been burning things — like, say, crosses — for decades. Turnabout is fair play.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should go so far as to burn racist whackos. That would be taking things a little far. Then again, if you wanted to throw a photo of your favorite racist whacko (there are so many to choose from these days — Limbaugh? Beck? Dr. Laura? Mad Mel Gibson? — you many need multiples) on the pyre as you’re toasting your rebel banner on September 12, that would be all right with me.

Just be sure to clean up the mess afterward. Don’t forget, Talk Like a Pirate Day is only a week later. You don’t want random ashes lying around on the big day.

Dominance and Submission

March 2, 2010

We don’t do memes very often here at SSTOL, but every once in a blue moon, someone on my blogroll will post one that looks kind of fun.

The man known only as the Mysterious Cloaked Figure served up this intriguing challenge a while back: Answer a series of 20 questions about yourself, using titles of songs recorded by one of your favorite musical artists. I immediately came up with a couple of possibilities, but ultimately went with the one whose catalog offered the most entertaining possibilities.

So, without further ado, here’s my life as told by Blue Öyster Cult. (For the record, I’m using titles only from the period during which I was actively buying BÖC records, which ended with their 1983 album The Revölution By Night.)

1. Are you male or female?

2. Describe yourself:
Veteran of the Psychic Wars

3. How do you feel about yourself?
I’m on the Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep

4. Describe where you currently live:
Shadow of California

5. The first thing you think of when you wake up:
This Ain’t the Summer of Love

6. If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll

7. What is your favorite form of transportation?
Wings Wetted Down

8. Your best friend is:

9. What is your favorite color?
Heavy Metal: the Black and Silver

10. What’s the weather like?
Feel the Thunder

11. If your life were a TV show, what would it be called?
I Love the Night

12. What is life to you?
Goin’ Through the Motions

13. What is the best advice you have to give?
Don’t Fear the Reaper

14. If you could change your name, what would it be?
Baby Ice Dog

15. What is your favorite food?
Unknown Tongue

16. How would you like to die?
O.D.’d on Life Itself

17. Your soul’s present condition:

18. The faults you can bear:
7 Screaming Diz-Busters

19. How would you describe your love life?
Before the Kiss, a Redcap

20. What are you going to post this as?
Dominance and Submission

Postscript: People who know me as a middle-aged adult are often surprised to discover that I was a huge Blue Öyster Cult fan in my younger days. To them I say…

You’re Not the One (I Was Looking For)

Citizen of eWorld

November 30, 2009

A random post to an online forum I frequent jolted into memory a fact that I hadn’t considered before today…

I’ve been online for 15 years.

That’s almost as long as the World Wide Web itself has been around.

I bought my first computer way back in 1988, with a chunk of my original Jeopardy! winnings. This wonderful addition was an Apple Macintosh Plus, equipped with what seemed at the time like almost unlimited memory — a full megabyte of internal RAM, supplemented by an outboard hard drive boasting 20 (yes, 20!) MB. Heck, on my current Windows Vista-powered Dell notebook, a single keystroke exhausts 20 MB. (I’m exaggerating, but not by much.) But back in the day, that kind of juice meant I was living large in the cybernetic age.

Even more bizarre, I equipped that microscopically brained Mac with a slightly used floor-demo laser printer that cost more than all the computer hardware I’ve purchased in the 20 years since. Combined.

My Mac Plus and I chugged along happily together for six years, blissful in our word-processing glory. Then, in 1994, I started hearing about some newfangled “Internet” thing, and this “World Wide Web” that made it accessible to the common man. So, being about as common as men come, I invested in a fancy new Mac that not only possessed scads more computing power than my charming old relic, but even came with a color (!) monitor. Best of all, by connecting a snazzy dialup modem, I could launch myself out onto the WWW and communicate with folks near and far.

Talk about living large.

At the time, Apple offered its own self-branded online service for Mac users only, known as eWorld. I was, I’m fairly certain, one of the original handful of eWorld subscribers, joining shortly after the service went live in the summer of ’94. When eWorld debuted, it featured a quaint graphic interface that collected all of the possible online destinations under a handful of category umbrellas, organized to make the Internet feel like a global village.

Newsstand enabled one to connect with news and sports resources. What few e-commerce sites existed then were grouped under Marketplace. Such nexuses as Arts and Leisure Pavilion, Business and Finance Plaza, and Learning Center collected other types of sites. Computer Center offered Mac technical support. Community Center was eWorld’s native aggregation of forums and bulletin boards. If you couldn’t figure out where to go or what to do, you tapped the Info Booth icon.

Navigating eWorld was clunky and far from intuitive. in those halcyon days, though, one thrilled at the mere notion of linking to a world of information with a few clicks of a (single-button) mouse.

Frankly, there never was more than a smattering of citizens populating eWorld. That explains why Apple pulled the plug on the service less than two years later, fobbing us loyalists off on then-nascent America Online. In March 1996, my electronic address changed overnight from my very first, SwanShadow-at-eWorld-dot-com, to the somehow less cool-sounding SwanShadow-at-AOL-dot-com. (I imagine that latter e-dress is probably still extant, even though I haven’t accessed it in a half-decade or more.)

Without question, I’ve seen incredible change along the information superhighway over the last 15 years. It’s faster, infinitely more diverse, and innumerable ways exist to find what you’re searching for.

It’s just hard to believe I’ve been out here in the ether this long.

Sick thoughts

September 3, 2009

If you were on Facebook today, you probably had at least a few friends — and I’m using that word in the broad, accommodative way that Facebook does — who posted the following item on their home pages:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

I didn’t throw this up on my Facebook wall — mostly because, as you already know if you know me, I’m just not much of a follower.

I, however, do agree with the sentiment.

In fact, I’ll go a step further: If you don’t agree with both halves of that first sentence, there’s something seriously kapakahi with your thinking muscle.

We might debate how to accomplish these goals. We might differ on whose responsibility, and whose program, and whose nickel, and all that sort of folderol. But if you think either of these concepts is simply wrong, I don’t have any problem in telling you that there’s something wrong with you.

Because your Uncle Swan is just blunt like that.

Oh, and before you decide to pick an argument with me over this, you should know a couple of things.

One: My wife is permanently disabled with incurable, metastatic breast cancer.

Two: I worked in the healthcare industry for a dozen years, and in the seven years since, I’ve maintained several clients in that field for whom I work on a regular basis.

I know all of the arguments. From all sides. Up close. Personal.

Here’s the good news, though.

Even if you’re wrong…

…you can still be my friend.

At least on Facebook.

The threes of me

July 23, 2009

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog over the five years of its existence know that I’m not a fan of memes. You know, those little questionnaires or lists that are intended to give you something to write about on days when you can’t come up with something to write about (when I have those days, I — duh! — simply don’t write), and with which you’re supposed to “tag” your blogosphere buddies so that they, too, can participate in the merriment. (I’m not big on suggesting to other people what they ought to be writing about, any more than I’m a fan of being told what to write.)

I’m not, however, a total stick in the mud on the meme issue. Once in a blue moon, someone will tag me on a meme, and I’ll do it either because I like the person or the topic or both.

In this case, my friend Nathan tagged me with this list on Facebook. I enjoyed reading Nathan’s list, so I thought I’d return the favor. Ever the iconoclast, I’m doing the meme here rather than on Facebook, because this is where I write. And you can breathe easy — I’m not going to tag anyone, though you’re certainly welcome to pick up the ball and run with it if you’re thus inclined.

So, onward.

Three names by which I’m known.
1. Michael. This should be obvious, given that it’s my first name.
2. The Mic Guy. One of my chorus mates hung this one on me a dozen or so years ago, and it’s stuck so resolutely that I’m now using it as the brand for my voiceover business.
3. Uncle Swan. If you’re here, you know.

Three jobs I have had.
1. Receiving clerk. The year and a half that I was between colleges, I worked in a drug store. For most of the time, I was a sales clerk in the electronics department (we called it the camera department back in those pre-PC, cell phone, and iPod days). But for about six months, I ran the store’s warehouse, because the job was a prerequisite for management and someone above me was foolish enough to think that I might eventually aspire to managing a drug store. That person was sadly mistaken.
2. Radio advertising salesman. In my first job out of college, I worked in outside sales for a country music radio station. This will be hilarious to those of you who know that my affection for country music ranks somewhere between my fondness for serial pedophiles and my love for flesh-eating staphylococcus.* Right as I was arriving, the station was sold to some faceless corporation. One of the new owners’ first actions entailed firing half of the sales staff, yours truly included. In my case, the move was a relief — I sucked at advertising sales, and as for country music… I think we’ve covered that.
3. Radio Shack manager. In need of gainful employment following the redneck radio debacle, I wandered into my local Radio Shack store and filled out an application. (After all, I hold a university degree in broadcast communications.) Within a week, I had a job. Within three weeks, I was an assistant manager. After nearly a year of refusing promotion opportunities, I let them make me a store manager because they were going to fire me if I said “no” again. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Radio Shack.

* Nathan, who happens to be an actual card-carrying microbiologist, informs me that the flesh-eating bacteria is actually a strain of streptococcus, not staphylococcus. Here at SSTOL, we never allow scientific accuracy to get in the way of a good joke. As long as it’s not olympiaducoccus, it’s close enough for me.

Three places where I have lived. (Because I grew up in a military family, I could easily make this “Ten places where I have lived.” But in the spirit of the meme, I’ll pick three. And I’ll skip Hawaii, since I’ve written about that fairly recently.)
1. Iraklion (or Heraklion, if that’s how you roll), Crete, Greece. We were there for two years in the early 1970s. Lovely place, warm and friendly people, great food. Those sand fleas are murder, though.
2. Angeles City, Luzon, the Philippines. Another two-year stint for Uncle Sam, somewhat later in the Disco Decade. We arrived shortly after local despot Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. We left just as the Vietnam War was ending. Strange times indeed.
3. Abilene, Texas. I spent a decade there one year. At least, it felt that way. The most hellacious place I’ve ever lived, and there isn’t even a close runner-up. If you’re from Abilene, I apologize for airing your dirty laundry in public, but… deep in your heart, you know I speak the truth.

Three favorite drinks.
1. Cream soda. The good stuff — Thomas Kemper, Virgil’s, et al. — when I can get it on sale, but even the supermarket brand suffices in a pinch.
2. Vanilla Coke. Are you sensing a theme here?
3. The vanilla milkshakes Jack in the Box used to serve when I was in high school, before Jack botched the recipe and turned them into syrupy swill.

Three TV Shows that I watch.
1. Burn Notice. Hopefully they won’t have to stop production due to star Jeffrey Donovan’s recent DUI arrest. The world needs more Bruce Campbell. More Gabrielle Anwar isn’t a bad thing, either.
2. Chopped. I’ve been a devotee of competitive cooking shows since the original Iron Chef was on the air. Food Network’s latest entry in the genre is more of the same, with a fun twist or two. Plus, how could you not love a show called Chopped?
3. In Plain Sight. Who knew that Albuquerque was so exciting?

Three places I have been. (This, I suppose, as contrasted with places where I’ve lived for any length of time.)
1. Taipei, Taiwan. My family went on vacation there while we were in the Philippines. More people crammed into less space than anywhere else I’ve ever seen, aside from Tokyo. Beware the lunatic taxi drivers.
2. Athens, Greece. We made several jaunts to Athens during our years in Crete. Aside from San Francisco, the most visually compelling city I’ve ever visited.
3. Cities I’ve only seen from their respective airports: Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Anchorage, Alaska; Agana, Guam. But at least I can honestly say that I’ve been there.

Three of my favorite foods.
1. Sushi. Among my top choices: unagi, tako, saba, ebi, tobiko, and when I can find the good stuff in season, otoro.
2. Mashed potatoes. Sometimes, the simplest things in life are best.
3. Chili — preferably my own, served with rice and plenty of hot sauce.

Three things to which I’m looking forward.
1. Pat Fraley’s workshop on voice acting for video games two weeks from Saturday. I had a terrific time in a workshop with Pat earlier this year, and am thrilled to have another chance to study with him.
2. The long-anticipated completion of a quartet of commissions that artist Darryl Banks is drawing for my Bombshells! gallery. Each depicts one of the four key female characters in Will Eisner’s legendary comic series, The Spirit. Darryl’s work on the first two pieces in the series has been stunning.
3. A manned landing on Mars, and a cure for cancer. When I dream, I dream big.

Comic Art Friday: Back to the egg

July 10, 2009

All right, already. I know that I took a few more than seven days off. But I’m back.

Just in time, in fact, to celebrate SSTOL’s fifth anniversary.

That’s right, friend reader — five years ago this weekend, your Uncle Swan first spread his mighty wings over the Internet. The cyberverse would never again be the same.

Although our signature tradition of Comic Art Fridays wouldn’t begin until several months after SSTOL’s debut, I thought that in honor of our quinquennial, we’d revisit the very first piece of comic art ever posted on these august Web pages. (Actually, if you want to get picky about it, the august pages at the old e-dress. But you know what I mean.)


This Mona Lisa-like portrait of Wonder Woman inaugurated my comic art gallery, and in particular my collection of pinups dedicated to the Amazing Amazon. Both the pencils and inks are the work of longtime comics stalwart Dan Adkins, considered by many one of the greatest inkers in the history of comics, but also a penciler of significant distinction. Adkins broke into the industry as the assistant of legendary comics artist Wally Wood, then went on to a stellar career on his own merits.

For whatever reason, Wonder Woman is one of Adkins’s favorite pinup subjects. Today I own three of Dan’s Dianas, but this was the first one I purchased. Ironically, I bought it less because it was a great Wonder Woman drawing than because it reminded me a little of my good friend Donna, another statuesque brunette with a remarkably similar first name. (I’ve never actually seen Donna sporting a bustier and tiara, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.)

Five years later, this piece is something of an anomaly in my gallery. I don’t usually collect closeups or medium shots — to borrow the cinematographer’s parlance — and these days, I rarely buy a new drawing that I didn’t commission personally. But even though this Adkins WW sticks out like a cowlick in my Temple of Diana, and even though I own better representations of the character by the same artist, I’ve hung onto this one because it’s the cornerstone upon which the entire rest of my collection was constructed.

Not to mention a continuing legacy of Comic Art Fridays.

Speaking of which…

This has been another one.

[View the back catalog of Comic Art Friday posts here.]


June 17, 2009

Hey, I know I haven’t written anything here in a couple of days. Not to worry, nothing’s wrong. I’ve just been hard at work on other stuff.

And I really haven’t had anything new to say.

Not writer’s block, exactly. Because I’ve been busy writing all week. Just not this kind of writing.

So, I know I can write.

I just don’t have anything to write here.

I feel as though I probably will tomorrow, though.

Time will tell.

He made it do what it did

June 14, 2009

My friend The Real Sam Johnson would have been 43 today.

I say “would have been” because Sam passed away back on April 21, after a long hard struggle with end stage renal disease.

I call Sam my friend because, even though we never met in person — Sam lived all the way across the continent in Savannah, Georgia — Sam was one of the first bloggers whose writings I followed on a regular basis. He was also among the first to read my incessant babble when I began spouting forth nearly five years ago.

Sam and I shared a number of factors in common — our backgrounds in radio broadcasting, our affection for obscure television programs, our mutual fondness for comic books, off-kilter humor, and bizarre pop culture references. We regularly commented upon — and now and again, even wrote about — one another’s blogs. From time to time, we also corresponded off-blog. Sam was the only person in the blogosphere who ever sent me his home telephone number, and said, “Call me anytime.” And I knew that he meant it.

Because of Sam’s kidney disease, he underwent dialysis three times a week. He desperately needed a kidney transplant, but for a number of reasons I won’t go into here, he never received one.

Despite his poor health, Sam lived a full life with robust good humor and joie de vivre. He was loved by most who knew him, and by many who didn’t know him as well as they would have liked.

Count me among the latter.

I’m proud to say that, though we never sat across a table from one another or slapped palms in celebration, Samuel Marquieth Johnson was my friend.

I miss him.

Happy birthday, Sam.