July 2005

  • Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2005)


    Fantastic Four (DVD)Fantastic Four (2005)

    Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans and Julian McMahon.

    Directed by Tim Story.

    I’ve been trying on and off to borrow a bootleg copy of the 1994 Roger Corman version of Fantastic Four. 1Directed by Oley Sassone and produced by B-movie king Roger Corman, the 1994 version features Joseph Culp (son of I Spy star, Robert Culp) as Doctor Doom and stars Alex Hyde-White as Mister … Continue reading This version was never officially released, and Marvel’s Avi Arad claims to have acquired the original print of the film just so he could burn it. This, of course, makes me want to see it all the more. for well over five years now. I’ve never heard a single positive thing about the Corman version, but I figure if I can sit through The Star Wars Holiday Special, I can sit through just about anything.

    If you heard any of the early buzz on the new version, you might have expected it to be every bit as horrible as the one made eleven years ago. When the first trailer was released a few months ago, some fans reacted as though Marvel had committed some form of sacrilege.

    (Some spoilers ahead…)

    1 Directed by Oley Sassone and produced by B-movie king Roger Corman, the 1994 version features Joseph Culp (son of I Spy star, Robert Culp) as Doctor Doom and stars Alex Hyde-White as Mister Fantastic, Rebecca Staab as the Invisible Woman, Michael Bailey Smith as The Thing and Jay Underwood as The Human Torch. Alex Hyde-White, interestingly enough, began his career playing a young boy in the two made-for-TV Captain America movies. Rebecca Staab has been in a number of soap operas, including The Guiding Light. Michael Bailey Smith has done a lot of B-movies and television appearances, and is playing the Michael Berryman role in the upcoming remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (The video cover for the original version features a bald, wide-eyed Michael Berryman. To me, it is one of the most instantly recognizable movie posters of all time.). Jay Underwood played the lead in Disney’s Not Quite Human movies, based on a series of books by the same name.
  • Food of the gods.


    “Breakfast for me,” said Shadow. “What’s good?”

    “Everything’s good,” said Mabel. “I make it. But this is the farthest south and east of the yoopie you can get pasties, and they are particularly good. Warm and filling too. My specialty.”

    Shadow had no idea what a pasty was, but he said that would be fine, and in a few moments Mabel returned with a plate with what looked like a folded-over pie on it. The lower half was wrapped in a paper napkin. Shadow picked it up with the napkin and bit into it: it was warm and filled with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions. “First pasty I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s real good.”

    “They’re a yoopie thing,” she told him. “Mostly you need to be at least up Ironwood way to get one. The Cornish men who came over to work the iron mines brought them over.”


    “Upper Peninsula. U.P. Yoopie. It’s the little chunk of Michigan to the northeast.”

    The chief of police came back. He picked up the hot chocolate and slurped it. “Mabel,” he said, “are you forcing this nice young man to eat one of your pasties?”

    “It’s good,” said Shadow. It was too, a savory delight wrapped in hot pastry.

    —Neil Gaiman, American Gods

    I’ve got to give Mabel credit for not putting rutabaga in her pasty. Nothing ruins a good pasty like rutabagaThe citizens of Cornwall (and maybe a few Yoopers) might be dismayed to learn that the second sure-fire way to ruin a pasty is to serve it with gravy. Pasty should only ever be served with two condiments: butter and ketchup..

    The Cornish may have brought the pasty to the U.P. (maybe they really do pronounce it “yoopie” in Minnesota WisconsinFor some reason I had it in my head that Shadow was in Lakeside, Minnesota. It’s actually Lakeside, Wisconsin., but that seems a little lazy for the Yooper in me), but it was the Finns who kept it there. Today, the pasty is closely associated with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as lobster is with Maine, cheese with Wisconsin or cheesecake with New York. On arriving in the U.P. by way of the Mackinaw Bridge, the billboards advertising are omnipresent in St. Ignace and points west.

    When Laura and I visit my parents in the U.P., pasty is almost invariably the first meal we have at their house (though I haven’t eaten pasty for breakfast in many moons). There are probably a dozen or so places to buy pasties in South Range, Houghton and Hancock, and only one place to buy a Big Mac. That’s the way it should be.

  • The more you know…


    … the more you should probably keep your damn mouth shut.

    NOTE: While this doesn’t technically contain spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, if you haven’t read the book (but plan to), you might want to skip this entry for the time being.

  • Camping in the Rain


    The weekend was certainly interesting. Friday evening, we met the Wiitalas (Matt, Shiela and Drew) and Winklers (Steven, Velta, Mara and Peter) at the Maumee Bay State Park. Laura and I arrived just as the Winklers were finishing dinner (steak and baked potatoes) preparations. We had two campsites, one for the two tents (ours and the Wiitalas’) and the other for the dining fly and the Winklers’ pop-up camper. Almost every other site in the immediate vicinity was occupied by kiters, who had descended upon the park for their annual (?) gathering. There were windsocks, windmills, banners and (of course) kites everywhere.

    Unfortunately for everyone, it rained most of the day on Saturday. We had just gotten the dining fly erected a little before 8:00 Saturday morning when the first rain came in, and the weather just went downhill from there. We spent much of the day clustered under the dining fly, the screened walls of which didn’t offer the best protection from the rain unless you were standing in the very center of the fly (which was occupied by a picnic table). The next dining fly we get will be a bit bigger, I think, and have retractable tarpaulin walls.

    Breakfast Saturday morning was bacon and eggs, cooked in the rain. We spent the remainder of the morning running in and out of the dining fly, as it would rain one minute and be bright and sunny the next. I managed to get a good bit of American Gods read before the sun gave up entirely. As afternoon approached, we determined that a trip to the nearby Wal-Mart was in order. The rain was coupled with stifling heat Friday evening and much of Saturday, so the dry, cool shelter offered by Wal-Mart was very attractive. When we returned to the campground, Laura declared that it was lunchtime (so much of camping seems to revolve around the meals).

    At one point after lunch on Saturday it was pouring so hard that everyone abandoned the dining fly and sequestered themselves away in tents, campers and vehicles. Laura and I sat in the MVoD listening to the first disc of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which we’d picked up from Wal-Mart (along with ice, chips, charcoal and other supplies). After about an hour, we returned to the dining area and began preparations for dinner. In spite of the rain, it was decided that we’d cook dinner in the fire ring.

    Laura was determined to have s’mores for dessert, so Matt and I held our umbrellas over the fire and roasted marshmallows in the pouring rain, both getting thoroughly drenched in the process. The sight of two grown men huddled over a smoking fire roasting marshamallows in a downpour was undoubtedly very amusing. Unfortunately, our digital camera was sitting back home on an end table, so the moment wasn’t captured for prosperity.

    The rain had moved east by Sunday morning, so Laura didn’t get any extra water in her pancake batter. After breakfast, we packed up our gear and headed home. We were all on the road by 10:30, and Laura and I arrived home a bit before 1:00.

    I spent much of the day ripping the 17 Harry Potter CDs to Apple’s proprietary AAC format, renaming all of the tracks to a common format (“Chapter 01, The Other Minister-A”, “Chapter 01, The Other Minister-B” and so on) and then changing the file extensions (from .m4a to .m4b) so they’d all be bookmarkable in iTunes and on my iPod. While I ran between Laura’s computer and mine (her DVD-ROM drive is better for ripping the discs, while the music collection resides on my computer), Laura listened to the CDs in the living room. I had all of the discs ripped and organized by late evening. Laura finished listening to the book at about 6:00pm yesterday, while I finished at about 3:15am today.

  • Just two good ol’ boys…


    Laura had an epiphany while watching The History Channel today. An epiphany about The Dukes of Hazzard.

    You’ll have to get her to explain it to you, though.

  • Evil is on the run!


    While looking through the third box of comic books last night, I hit a veritable treasure trove. I found about two or three dozen issues of The Mighty Avengers, a hefty pile of The New Mutants and probably a dozen and a half issues of What If…? 1I loved What If…? The series required that the reader have a pretty good knowledge of the history of the Marvel universe. Uatu, the all-seeing Watcher who made his home on Earth’s moon … Continue reading

    I even found an issue of Crystar, The Crystal Warrior as well as an issue of the DC equivalent, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. Good grief.

    But the real jackpot was a near-complete collection of Rom, Spaceknight. The series ran for seventy-five issues (plus four annuals) between 1979 and 1985. I’m guessing it’s 80-90% complete (including three of the four annuals. Some issues in the collection may have belonged to my brother, David, but the bulk of them were given (or perhaps sold, the details are somewhat fuzzy) to me by Mike Butcher. 2Mike Butcher was my aunt Susie’s boyfriend. When my younger siblings and I went with my mother to visit my dad (working in lower Michigan at the time) one summer, we also visited Susie and … Continue reading For the most part, they’re in decent shape, but ten-plus years of sitting in a box in the attic have taken their toll. Even sitting in a box specifically designed for them, comics degrade over time. If they’re not bagged and boarded (and these aren’t, though I’m thinking about correcting that), gravity works its evil magic and the bottom of the comics start to curl.

    Condition aside, this is an amazing find. I knew the series was there, but I had no idea how close to complete it was. It might even be possible to fill in the gaps without putting too much hurt on my wallet. Maybe. I have no idea what the comic book market looks like these days. Apart from the occasional issue of Captain America or Ultimate Spider-Man, I’m pretty much out of that particular loop.

    Rom Spaceknight #1
    What’s the big deal about Rom? Well, he sacrificed his humanity to save the planet Galador from the Dire Wraiths. After defeating the Wraiths on Galador, Rom—who was the first Galadorian to volunteer to become a spaceknight—followed them through the galaxy for 200 years, eventually arriving on Earth. Using his Neutralizer, Rom banished Dire Wraiths (who had disguised themselves as humans) to Limbo. Unfortunately, whenever Rom banished a Wraith to Limbo, it appeared that he was killing a human being. This didn’t sit well with the populace of Earth, and Rom was treated as a murderer and pursued by the U.S. Army.

    Marvel did something incredible with Rom. They took a Parker Brothers toy and created a fantastic, compelling story. Rom wants little more than to regain the humanity he sacrificed to save his people, but he cannot rest until the threat of the Dire Wraiths is eliminated. Deep within the awesome armor of the spaceknight is a man who longs to be a man once more. The Rom, Spaceknight comic book far surpassed the toy upon which it was based, becoming a story that explored the depths of what it truly means to be human.

    Plus, that Neutralizer kicked ass.

    1 I loved What If…? The series required that the reader have a pretty good knowledge of the history of the Marvel universe. Uatu, the all-seeing Watcher who made his home on Earth’s moon would focus on a key event (or, in some cases, a seemingly trivial event) in the Marvel universe and show us how different things would be if that event had played out differently. What if Spider-Man had never married Mary Jane? What if Susan and Reed Richards’ second child had lived? What if Rick Jones had become the Hulk? One of my favorite issues is “What if Spider-Man’s clone had lived?” Why? Because it turns out that Spider-Man’s clone never died. In fact, the Spider-Man that many of us followed for years and years is the clone! Not every spiderfan is happy about his development, by the way.

    At any rate, I remember explaining the concept of What If…? to my brother, Keven, many years ago. “Yeah,” he said, “and what if superheroes were real?” I guess he thought the idea of alternate histories for a fictional universe was kind of silly. And it is. It really is. But it’s entertaining, too.

    2 Mike Butcher was my aunt Susie’s boyfriend. When my younger siblings and I went with my mother to visit my dad (working in lower Michigan at the time) one summer, we also visited Susie and Mike. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mike was an avid comic collector. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I (or maybe it was Adam and I) wound up with a hefty chunk of Mike’s collection, including not only Rom, Spaceknight, but the first twenty-five issues of The Savage She-Hulk. Mike, unfortunately, is no longer with us. He suffered a fatal heart attack several years ago, while attending church. I didn’t know him all that well, and only met him on a few occasions, but I always thought he was a cool guy.
  • The photograph reflects…


    I’ve added a few vacation pictures to the photo gallery. I’ve also updated the “Fotografix” link on this page to go directly to my galleries, as opposed to the main gallery page. Hopefully, this should make it a little easier for some people (*cough*Dad*cough*) to navigate.

    The thing about being the photographer is that you rarely appear in the pictures.

  • Happy Birthday, boy-eez!


    Birthday wishes to my brother, Keven (AKA KJwon), who is 39 years of old today.

    Belated birthday wishes also to my brother, David (AKA Thagg), who achieved 42 years of even older on Thursday, the 23rd of June. I apologize for the belatedness. I have a laundry list of excuses for being so tardy, but they are all lame.

  • Not Cool II: The Heat is On


    There are certain things in life that aren’t contagious. I can’t “catch” unibrow by sitting next to someone who’s got one, nor am I likely to contract dentures by sitting next to someone’s grandmother.

    Air-conditioning malfunctivitus, however, seems to transmitted through the air (or perhaps concrete), because the MVoD caught it just by parking in the driveway of a house that had a non-working AC unit.

    Before we left for vacation, I brought the MVoD to the dealer to have them look at a couple of things. First, water had gotten into the left taillight assembly and one of the bulbs was dead. Second, the AC had ceased conditioning air.

    The taillight was no big deal. The bulb was replaced and the assembly sealed free of charge. My wallet says thank you. Ah, but the AC. Seems there’s a crack in the condenser and the coolant leaks out as fast as it can be pumped in. Estimated cost to replace the condenser: $950. My wallet says it’s time to roll down the windows.

    The AC doesn’t work in Laura’s Sunbird, either. Further evidence that air-conditioning malfunctivitus is communicable. In the Sunbird’s case, I think a simple coolant recharge will remedy the problem, at least temporarily. If I’m proven wrong, it’ll be like attempting to treat tuberculosis with a Band-Aid.

    Edit: After some consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the proper spelling is most likely malfunctivitis, with an –is as opposed to the originally presented –us.

  • Vacation: Unplugged


    Laura and I spent the last week in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula visiting my relatives. We left Sunday afternoon and returned last night.

    Sunday: Drove to Lansing, MILansing allegedly won the capital of Michigan by a single vote over Calumet, which is in the northwestern Upper Peninsula.. Spent the evening with the Wiitala family. Ate ice cream, played UNO.
    Monday: Got up early and drove the rest of the way to my parents’ place. We left Lansing at 7:30AM and arrived at Messy Manor Ranch at about 4:30PM. Managed to not get eaten by Onyx, my parents’ German ShepherdOnce Onyx determined that it was not necessary to eat me, she wanted to play fetch at every possible opportunity. The dog is absolutely insane for her tennis ball, and will chase it all over creation for hours at a time, if given the opportunity.. Mom baked two large piesThe pies were baked in half-sheet pans, and I’d estimate them to be about 16″ x 22″. Dad claims to have eaten eighteen pieces of the rhubarb in the course of the next four days. I’m not sure this is possible, as I ate nearly half that many myself. The apple pie was also quite good, but everyone was rabid for the rhubarb..
    Tuesday: Lazy, lazy, lazy. Also, Dad made about eight dozen cookies (oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip) because Mom wasn’t around to tell him not to.
    Wednesday: See Tuesday. Brenda showed up a day ahead of schedule.
    Thursday: Ditto. We did run into town in the evening to get some frozen treats (Lemon Chill, Bomb Pops) to soothe Laura’s sore throat.
    Friday: The big trip into town. Breakfast at the Suomi restaurant, then a visit to Dee Stadium (the birthplace of professional ice hockey) to view the exhibit chronicling the history of Houghton County. Afterward, we went to a junkyard in a failed attempt to find a head for a Dodge Caravan, then took Laura to the emergency room at Portage HospitalLaura had a bit of a sore throat early in the week that developed into a very nasty, wet cough by Friday. At the ER, she was given some sort of inhaler, a prescription for Robitussin with codeine and a prescription for an antibiotic, the latter to be filled only if she got worse. She was feeling quite a bit better by Sunday, but still has coughing fits.. Then it was off to ShopKo to get Laura’s prescription filled. After that, we bought groceries, went to lunch, dropped by the Jeffers High School open house, stopped to see some relatives and went home.
    Saturday: Karen arrived at 1:58AM. She drove in from Chicago after Brenda’s plans to visit her there fell through. Laura and I attended the all-school reunion dinner at Jeffers with my Mom, Dad, one uncle and two aunts. There were only three people in attendance who graduated between 1981 and the present. I didn’t know the other two.
    Sunday: Croquet in the early afternoon followed by a cookout and birthday celebration at my aunt and uncle’s “camp” on Lake Superior. Dad was born on this day in 1939. The water was cold but certainly not too cold for swimming. Alas, my trunks were back at my parents’ place. To make matters worse, the flies were biting, which kept most everyone inside the whole while. Volleyball in the evening. The flies back at Messy Manor Ranch weren’t anywhere near as vicious as those at the lake. Adam and Brenda went back to the lake to watch the fireworks, but Laura and I skipped them due to exhaustion.
    Monday: Drove, drove, drove. Thirteen hours and forty-one minutes from door to door. On the way back we saw one black bear (in the U.P., between L’Anse and Alberta) and fireworks from perhaps two dozen different communities (along the 80/90 turnpike and driving through Cleveland in Ohio). Average speed in the Upper Peninsula over a five hour periodIt took us precisely this long to get from my parents’ house in Toivola to the center of the Mackinac Bridge, including a stop in Chassell (not South Range) for gas.: 56mph.

    Mom is very eager to clean out the attic, so I took four large boxes of comics back to Ohio. I’d guess that’s 800 or more comics. They’re not worth any money, but they sure bring back a lot of memories. My brother, Adam, and I spent a couple of hours sorting through the boxes separating his comics (Silver Surfer, The Flash, The Punisher, Amazing Spider-Man) from mine (pretty much everything else).

    At some point during the week, we were visited by the Toivola Volunteer Fire Department’s new pumper truck. Several members of the TVFD drove to East Jordan to pick up the truck earlier in the week. My father has been a member of the TVFD since its inception, and the entire family has been involved in various events sponsored by the fire department. The firemen were very excited about acquiring this new truck, and I suspect some of them slept in cots at the firestation that entire week.