Thursday, July 26, 2007

Book Recommendation of the Day

'Frozen In Time', by John Geiger and Owen Beattie, is an impressive (if intense) book about the Franklin Expedition, and its final fate. Franklin set off to discover the Northwest Passage, a northern sea route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, during one of the last great eras of exploration. He had two ships, 129 men, the latest equipment and provisions to ensure his survival, and the hopes of England behind him. He and his men were never heard from again.

The book contains contemporary accounts of the Franklin expedition--its planning, the historical context of the search for the Northwest Passage, and the reaction from Franklin's countrymen as it became apparent that something had gone wrong. It then shifts to almost 150 years later, as forensic scientists (Beattie included) attempt to find out exactly what happened to the men of the Franklin expedition, using the only evidence remaining...the bodies of three of the crew, buried by their shipmates but containing vital evidence that the Canadian ice preserved.

Really, a genuinely gripping read, if a little sad and unnerving.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm One For One

In a previous column, I predicted that Michael Vick would end his NFL career without having won a Superbowl.

I think that prediction's looking stronger and stronger...although I have to say, I find it more than a little disappointing that Commissioner Roger Goddell's stance of "We'll suspend them as soon as news of the crime goes out, no more letting them stall the case out until the off-season to get it out of the public eye, we're sick of these guys giving the league a bad image" dissipates as soon as the person he has to suspend is actually someone whose name sells tickets. (And T-shirts, although some of his still say "Mexico" on the back.)

They're letting Vick play because he's a superstar, and despite claims that they plan to get tough on thugs and crooks in the NFL, the truth is that superstars play by different rules than anyone else. But that only holds true for the NFL's system, not the legal system, and the case against Vick looks pretty seriously air-tight...and with a maximum six-year sentence, he might not see the field for a while, suspended or not.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I just wanted to take a moment here to express my thanks for everyone's expressions of condolences and support during a difficult time for myself and my family. The past week has been hard, and it's helped my sister Tessa and my brother-in-law Sean a lot, I think, to have people there for them. At this point, it seems likely that Cordelia died of SIDS; it doesn't seem likely that Kate is in any danger, but I think we'll all breathe a sigh of relief once she gets out of the danger zone.

Again, thank you all for your kindness and support.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I just keep getting reminded of this Harlan Ellison quote, because it was one I always used to tell myself whenever I was angry, or sad, or upset about something. He said, "Real pain only lasts ten minutes. Anything else is self-pity."

And he's right. He's so right. But he never said that those ten minutes don't all come at once. They're sharpened down to seconds, and each second of pain is like the stab of an icepick, and they just keep coming.

My niece, Cordelia Faith Henry, died today while sleeping. There will be no blog entries next week, as I will be out of town dealing with family concerns.

I don't know what else to say right now.

Insane Comic Moments, Part 3

I actually wasn't planning to do another of these, but I saw that people enjoyed the last one, and while I do write this blog for my own personal amusement, never let it be said that I'm above shamelessly pandering for reader attention. So, without further ado, I present another example of how logic took a backseat sometimes in the Silver Age.

This one looks at Green Arrow, who could easily fill a year's worth of columns on his own (the "fake uranium arrow" is one of my favorites...but for now, we'll look at the story, 'A Cure For Billy Jones', originally published in World's Finest Comics #131. In it, we see young Billy Jones, who shows no interest anymore in books, TV, movies, his favorite sport of archery, or even reports about his two favorite heroes, Green Arrow and Speedy. He just sits there, moping. And unfortunately, Confuse-A-Cat is species specific. So what's a loving parent to do?

Naturally, they take him to see a psychiatrist, who believes that the best cure would be to have young Billy actually meet his heroes (good idea) and go out for an evening fighting crime with them (excuse me?) Green Arrow at first assumes that the good doctor must mean for them to stage a mock battle with hired actors, so Billy can see them in action, but Doc insists, "No--nothing phoney! If Billy found out, it would break his heart! It's got to be the real thing!"

Rather than check his credentials or seek a second opinion ("Yes, I also recommend an intensive course of child-endangerment therapy!"), GA and Speedy go along with the plan. They give Billy a bow and some trick arrows (like the bolo arrow, the firecracker arrow, the boxing glove arrow, and the rope-trip arrow...but don't worry, they saved the boomerang-balloon arrows for themselves.) They drive him in the Arrowcar and launch him from the Catapult...because this is actually how Green Arrow and Speedy get to rooftops quickly. The seat of their car is spring-loaded and launches them thirty or so feet in the air. And it says a lot that this isn't the craziest thing about the story.

Naturally, Green Arrow and Speedy get caught by some crooks, and they're worried--not just because they're going to get shot in the back of the head execution-style and buried in an unmarked grave, but because little Billy still doesn't have that pep in his step! But at the last second, Billy realizes that the reason that Green Arrow is getting his butt kicked is because he's more worried about Billy than himself, and proceeds to rediscover the joy of life through subduing violent criminals twice his size. In the last panel, we see that Billy is once more filled with energy, hanging out with friends and playing games. Perhaps the "bring friends over with games" strategy might have been employed before the "give him lethal weapons and catapult him onto a rooftop to fight hardened criminals" method. Ah, well. Can't argue with success.