Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 10

I recently pulled out my trades for "Top 10" and reread them. This was one of the series that was recommended to me by the owner of our FLCS years ago.

For those of you not familiar with the series, it's basically "Hill Street Blues" with superpowers. Our POV character is rookie Robyn Singer, aka Toybox, who is starting at Precinct 10. The series takes us through several cases in the city of Neopolis, which is where all of the "Science Heroes" live.

This is right up my alley, as I love police procedurals, but I'm especially fond of the type that gives you all layers of the force. Here we have patrolmen, detectives, a sergeant that's an intelligent dog in an exoskeleton, everything I could want. So, of course I like it.

If this sounds at all intriguing to you, I'd recommend picking up at least the first twelve issues (see the link above). There are offshoots of those, and I like what I've read, but the original issues give you a really nice story that has a beginning, middle, and end while still leaving it open for more stories to be told. Kind of unusual in comics, which might be another reason that the series appeals to me.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Santa and his Mechanical Reindeer

One of our family traditions every December is to watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode for "Santa Claus", a lovely little Mexican film that pits Santa against his anagram, Satan. There's a whole lot of nightmare fuel here, but Mike & the Bots do a really good job with it. Enjoy!

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Where to Stay

Where to stay when going on vacation to Orlando can be a big question. For us, the answer is simple, we have a time share*. No, we're not members of the Disney Vacation Club (mainly because I'm an idiot), but we have the ability to stay a week in Orlando for <$200. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

However, we are going to be staying "On Property" for the first time this trip, even if it's only for a couple of days, so I want to go into how we decided which hotel to pick.

The first thing I did was consult the experts, and by that I mean Scott & Scott from "Earning My Ears". Both of them are huge Disney fans, Walt Disney World in particular, and they frequently stay on property. So I laid it all out for them and got a couple of recommendations.

Obviously, the Value Resorts are a viable option. They cost the least, but are in no way "cheap" hotels. Heck, Scott Gardner works at one of them, so it must be good, right? ;-)

What they suggested, though, is to try for a Moderate Resort. Yes, they cost a little more, but they are more than worth it, according to the guys. They actually recommended the "Port Orleans - French Quarter" as one to check out, so I did. Not only did I read up on it on the WDW website, but I found several YouTube videos where people showed the rooms, lobby, pool, etc. Watching these pretty much clinched it, and that's where we're going to book.

All that being said, one day I'd love to be able to stay at The Contemporary Resort. Not only is it one of the two resorts that opened when WDW did, 45 years ago, but the Monorail runs through the hotel! How cool is that!?!?

* If anyone would like a good deal on purchasing a time share, let me know. I'd much rather sell this and buy into the DVC. Not that I'm unhappy with what we have, but with the amount of time we're probably be going to be spending at Disney over the years, DVC would just make more sense for us.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

I was finally able to watch Captain America: Civil War recently, since life got in the way when it was out in theaters. I'm not a fan of the comic series, since it was really heavy handed about forcing views on the characters just so that they would serve the story, rather than having them naturally come to that decision. So, I wasn't really thrilled with the announcement of the title of this movie.

That being said, I did like this. It's not going to replace The First Avenger as my favorite Cap movie, but it handled the whole registration issue in a very well thought out way. The best part of this was that I could see both sides of the argument and could agree with Steve or Tony alternatively. Both had very valid points and Tony, as well as T'Challa, was able to revise his position based on new information.

Add to that the fact that this had the single best live action Spider-Man that I've ever seen, and I would have to say that this movie succeeded on most levels. (It gets deducted for shaky cam.)

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Park Tickets

Many people visiting Walt Disney World or Universal Studios, Orlando for the first time can feel a bit overwhelmed. There's so much to see, how do you do it? Well, one option is the Park Hopper/Multi-Park ticket.

If I lived in Orlando, I would be an Annual Pass Holder and spend a good amount of time in just one section of one park each visit. There's so much stuff to see that I could be perfectly happy looking in each nook and cranny. Being on vacation, however, that means that we have certain things that we want to see and, often, we have to bounce back and forth between parks to do it.*

So, fo every visit that I have been a part of, we've purchased the Park Hopper tickets. At WDW, this is would add $207 to the ticket price for us (2 Adults, 1 Child over 4 Days), and that's not too bad for the freedom it gives you. This way you can start at The Magic Kingdom and then, after lunch, head over to Epcot, and maybe wrap up the day at Hollywood Studios for dinner and Fantsamic.

At Universal, the same 4 day tickets would add $150 for the park-to-park option, which allows you to bounce back and forth between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Now, I could spend all day just on the Marvel island, but having that freedom to jump back and forth is worth the money, in my opinion.

If you want to save money and concentrate on one park at a time**, then I wouldn't try and talk you out of it. The multi-park tickets are just the way to go, for our family.

* Actually, on thing that we want to see at Universal Studios is the Hogwarts Express, which REQUIRED the multi-park ticket, since it travels between the two Universal parks.

** If you only want to do one park per day, then might I suggest this special from Walt Disney World.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016


Obviously, Disney has been on my mind a lot of late, which is why I chose this image. There's a lot that I'm thankful for this year, probably the highest on the list, though, is Michelle's new job. Yes, it's keeping us from doing Thanksgiving today, but that's a small price to pay.

Here's hoping that you and yours have a very Happy Thanksgiving this year. Or, if you're not in the US, Happy Thor's Day!

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rocky Run - Year 2 (sort of)

Well, it turns out that my prediction that I wouldn't do as well in this year's Rocky Run was correct. Not because I wasn't able to train (which was true) but because I wasn't able to go.

You see, my wife got a job at the new Amazon Fullfillment Center in our town (Woohoo!) working nights. This is perfect because it means that Kira is never home alone. The side effect of this, unfortunately, is that I can't closet myself in the office and work on podcasts while watching her. So I have 3 episodes sitting and waiting to be edited & released. I promise that I'll get to them, but family will always come first.

Now, back to our story. Since Kira had a Girl Scout camping trip this past weekend, it actually worked out so that I could leave for Philly before Michelle got home. Then a spanner got into the works and the trip was changed from Friday & Saturday nights to just Saturday night. So, I could leave her home alone (not happening), leave when Michelle got home (and not make the race), take Kira wih me (and force her to walk 3 miles in the cold before going camping), or not go.

I think I made the correct decision.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Pet Care

"No mouse ears for us."
Last month I was reading information on the Walt Disney World closures/modifications due to Hurricane Matthew and I came across this line:

"Best Friends Pet Care is closed through Friday, October 7, 2016. A crew will remain with the animals."

My reaction was, "Wait, what?" I had absolutely ZERO idea that WDW had a kennel! This really doesn't change our plans, since we'd have to get two German Shepherds from New Jersey to Florida and back. As I've already established, we're taking the Auto Train, which means this is a no-go, but it's nice to have that option if you're a pet owner and live closer than we do.

So, what are the options that we have? Not many, really. We could either have someone come in and feed the dogs/let them out during the day, but I can't really ask anyone to take that on.*

The only real option for us is a kennel, which is where we take them any time we travel. They like it, it's on the same property as a vet, and they offer grooming. Plus, their rate for large breed dogs (aka over 50 lbs) is only $25 per day, so it's quite reasonable.

* Not that I'd turn down volunteers, you understand. ;-)

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Current Projects

I tend to have a good number of irons in the fire with regard to what I'm doing for entertainment. Having recently finished off listing to The Marvel Superheroes Podcast, and reading the first 250 Marvel Age comics (as listed by The Complete Marvel Reading Order and using Marvel Unlimited), I figured that I'd switch gears a bit.

Inspired by Kyle Benning, Christopher Warden, and Van Zee on Facebook, I'm going to be re-listening to all of the Tales of the Justice Society of America episodes. As part of that, I'm also going to start a read through of All-Star Squadron. Of course, that's not enough for my multi-tasking mind to go with, so I'm also going to be listening to The Amazing Spider-Man Classics podcast for the first time, now that it's been revived. I'm also going to start a re-read of the 1984 Star Trek comic series from DC, for a reason to be announced.

As a family, though, we are currently watching the original Star Trek episodes on the 50th anniversary of their original airing. I've seen them all, multiple times, but Michelle has only seen the occasional one, and Kira normally walks out of the room when Trek is on. Now, though, we're all watching them as intended, once a week, as a group. Some interesting things are showing up, mainly with Kirk NOT being a womanizer in the early episodes, and with some of the discussions we have during & after the shows.

I have no idea when these projects will be completed, or if I'll see something shiny before they are, but I figured that I'd share them in case anyone wants to join me on this journey.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween Time Agian

Yes, it's that time of year again, when ghosts and goblins come to your door and we watch spooky cartoons and movies. This year's installment is the Disney classic, "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow", as told by Bing Crosby. This is one of the high points of Disney animation for me, but I'm also a nut for Halloween, so I guess it's a perfect fit.

One of these days, I'll get down to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and get to see the live action Headless Horseman.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949 Cartoon) by DemonPreyer1

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Podcasting Pet Peeve

I listen to a good number of podcasts. In fact, if I'm not listening to old radio programs, I'm listening to a podcast. Heck, one podcast even plays old radio programs for me.

That being said, I tend to work my way through a show's backlog before I listen to the most current episodes. I find that this gives me a nice background for the show and allows me to get whatever references the hosts are currently making. There is a problem with that way of doing things, however.

You see, if a show is dealing with present day stuff, be it comics, movies, or TV shows, and trying to predict what's to come, it makes it hard to listen to after the fact. Trying to predict the plot of Batman v Superman, for example, is all well and good, except if the listener doesn't hear that episode until after said movie is already out. Now, that's alright for a show to do as a small segment, but if entire episodes are devoted to that, it makes it practically un-listenable later on.

I've actually stopped listening to shows because all they did was review the then-current comic and try and predict what the next issue would hold. Well, that episode only has a shelf life as long as the next issue isn't out. For someone like me who is listening after, sometimes years after, the topic was current it just sounds silly. I'm not saying people can't do that for their shows. These are their shows, after all. I'm just saying that it's something I have a hard time listening to.

That's why the shows I do tend to look at the past. Things I loved growing up, or have rediscovered, but very little on future events. I hope that makes my shows, at least somewhat, evergreen. So that a new listener can start at episode 1 and work their way up to current without what gets on my nerves with shows.

How about you, dear reader? Is there anything about podcasts, or other shows, that just rubs you the wrong way?

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Thursday, October 13, 2016


Back in 2014 we vacationed at Walt Disney World. Since this was going to be Kira's first trip, we went for 2 weeks. Pricing it out (as I tend to do), I found that getting two 10 day passes (for Michelle & Kira) and one Annual Pass (for me) would actually save us money, as the Annual Pass came with free parking. It also came with a MagicBand, but that was shipped to our house and didn't arrive until after I activated the Annual Pass in Orlando.

So, I had a MagicBand, but never really used it. Oh, I unlocked some stuff in Disney Infinity (1.0 & 3.0), but that was it. Now that we're planning our next trip to Orlando, and we're planning on staying On Property for the first time, we'll all be getting MagicBands. Therefore, I decided that I should get used to wearing something on my wrist again, as I've been doing without a watch for a number of years.

I've noticed something now that I've been wearing this regularly. I actually feel better with it on. It's not any "The RFID creates and EM field with interfaces with your chakras" BS. No, it's purely a mental thing on my part, and I realize that. Heck, if I won the lottery I'd move to Orlando and spend pretty much all day, every day in the theme parks. So bringing a little bit of Walt Disney World with me every day just makes me feel good.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Travel

Like most people, I don't live near a Disney Park, so I have to figure out how to get there. We happen to be a just the right distance that there are several viable options, and I've done two of them in my life. So, for our vacation next Spring, I've been looking at all the possibilities, which include flying, driving, and taking the Auto Train.

We (actually, I) drove to and from last time and, while 17 hours behind the wheel is a long time, it wasn't so horrible that I wouldn't do it again. It is also the cheapest way to go, since all you have to worry about is gas, food, and tolls. The major benefits here are that we don't have to worry about how much stuff we're taking and we will have our own vehicle to drive around in.

The second way to go would be to fly. I'm not opposed to flying, even though the last time I did was when Michelle & I got married, I just think it's a little too much hassle for too little reward. Plus, we would have to rent a car and deal with luggage limitations.

It seems to me that the best of both worlds would be to take the Amtrak Auto Train. Yes, it would still involve us driving down to Virginia, and it isn't cheap, but we'd have the car and luggage, and I wouldn't have to drive the entire way from New Jersey to Florida. How does it rate on a dollars and cents basis, though?

Here's our criteria:
Two adults and one child traveling from South Jersey to Orlando Florida

We'll look at the Auto Train first, and pick the Family Stateroom, so we have some place private.

Round trip on the Auto Train would cost $2,035. That includes meals, wifi, and taking the car along. No premium loading/unloading of the car, or anything like that. Total time on the train = 17 hours. Total time getting to and from stations = 4 hours. Total time per directions = 21 hours.

Now on to air travel. I'm going to use numbers from my time share discount, to be fair about it. We'll also be looking at non-stop flights from Philly to Orlando*. For three round trip tickets it would cost us $1,440 on American Airlines. Car rental for this trip, picking up and dropping off at Orlando International, would cost $330 from Enterprise. Parking at Philly would cost around $110 and checked baggage could be up to $210, bringing us to a total cost of $2,090 for this trip. Total time in the air = 2.5 hours. Total time in the airport = 2 hours. Total time getting to and from airports = 2 hours. Total time per direction = 6.5 hours.

Going by by the bottom line of each version, Amtrak is cheaper and has less restrictions on what we can take. Yes, it takes longer, but since much of that travel is overnight, and I'll get to relax during it. I'm willing to deal with it.

* I should point out that we could travel with Spirit Airlines out of Atlantic City as well. Round Trip for the three of us there would be $477 (saving $$963). Parking there would be $130 (adding $20), but the baggage fees could be $530 (adding $320). So net change for Atlantic City would be saving $623, or a total cost of $1,467. Quite frankly, paying the extra money to not have to deal with plane travel/rental car/etc, is worth it to me. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Silent Knight

One of the "lost" characters from DC Comics is The Silent Knight. One of the three characters to kick of the "Brave and the Bold" comic back in 1955, he lasted until Issue #22. He reappeared in the 80's, brought back by Roy Thomas during a "Crisis On Infinite Earths" crossover in All-Star Squadron #54 & 55, along with his costars Golden Gladiator & Viking Prince. He has since by retconned to be an incarnation of Hawkman and an ancestor of Jonathan Kent, neither of which I'm thrilled with.

What I like about this character is that he works both with superhero and Arthurian tropes. Brian is the son of a Lord, Sir Edwin, who shares power with Sir Oswald. Oswald kills Edwin in the first story and Sir Grot, an aged knight, is charged with training Brian. Knowing that Brian will be killed if he's perceived as a threat, Grot makes sure to demean the lad in front of Sir Oswald.

One day, Brian finds a suit of armor in the Forest Perilous, a place known for being enchanted, and puts it on. He's soon fighting off bandits to save Lady Celia, who knows Brian. Fearing that he might be recognized by his voice, Brian doesn't speak and is thus dubbed The Silent Knight.

Brian hides the armor in the forest, where he goes to retrieve it when he needs to. He maintains his secret, even though Lady Celia drops hints that she knows, even going so far as to protect Brian's identity at least twice. Sir Oswald seems to suspect Brian every now and then, but is always thwarted in his attempts to find out the true identity of his nemesis. Later stories move away from Sir Oswald and focus more on the Knights of the Round Table, culminating in The Silent Knight being proclaimed the greatest knight in the land.

I've read all of the Brave and the Bold appearances, as well as his guest spot in All-Star Squadron, and I have to say, I really like this character. The stories are straight forward and well done, working well in the anthology title. If you can find them, I'd recommend picking up these issues.

If you want to hear me talk more about this character, I was on Ryan Daly's Secret Origins Podcast to talk about his appearance in Issue 49.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jack Webb TV Shows

Thanks to streaming services, especially Hulu, we've been watching a good amount of old TV shows. Among those are the 2nd version of Dragnet and Adam-12, both produced by Jack Webb, who also starred as Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet.

One over-riding theme on these shows is the purity of the main characters. Friday and Gannon on Dragnet are by the book, incorruptible cops. They solve crimes, and dish out facts, in a straight forward way. The same can be said of Malloy and Reed, the patrolmen on Adam-12, although they tended to have a little more personality.

I completely understand that these are not nuanced shows. They present the law and order side of things and show why the other side is wrong thinking, almost to the point of propaganda. That appeals to me, though. If you went by D&D alignments, I'd be Lawful Good, so this is right up my alley.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Walt Disney World has Quality People

Those of you that know me (or just read this blog) know that I LOVE me some Disney, especially Walt Disney World. Well, this year WDW is turning 45 and I, like most people, won't be able to make it down there to celebrate on the actual birthday. So, being in a somewhat silly mood, I posted something to Twitter. What happened after that was something that I did not expect, but really made me smile. Here's the entire conversation:

As you can see, the Cast Members at Walt Disney World are some great people who obviously love what they're doing. I don't know who was running the WDW Today Twitter account on that day, but I want to thank them for being a great sport.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

I think that the image above says it all.

OK, it says a lot, but not "all". Yes, today is Star Trek's 50th Anniversary. The effect that this franchise has had on my life cannot be overstated. First of all, it's responsible for my geekiness, as I described on my first ever podcast episode. The main reason for that, beyond that I was young when I first saw The Motion Picture, was that it made me think. Star Wars is a great adventure, as is Flash Gordon & Buck Rogers, and that's fun, but Star Trek gave me stuff to mull over and think about after the episodes were over.

What I would consider even more of an influence, however, is that I became an engineer specifically because of Scotty. I've always been good at math & science, but Scotty, or Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise, gave me a direction to focus those skills in. From that I not only have my career, but I met my wife in an engineering class. No engineering, no Michelle, and no Kira.

So, yeah, my life would have been COMPLETELY different without Star Trek.

Want to hear me talk more about Star Trek? Well, I did some guest appearances on other people's podcasts recently. Here are the links for those:

Super Mates 59: Star Trek 50th Anniversary Celebration

Gimme That Star Trek Ep.1: What If the Cage Went to Series?

Listen to the Prophets #048 - The House of Quark

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Countdown. or is it up?

We've recently started watching "American Ninja Warrior" and something occurred to me. More accurately, re-occurred since I did think about it years ago. That involves the clock in various sports. There are several, Football, Hockey, etc, that have a set time limit, so the clock counts down to the end of the period/game. That makes sense.

In what we Americans call Soccer, but the rest of the world calls Football, the clock counts up. That's not because there isn't a time limit, but instead to account for "Stoppage Time", to time when the clock was running but there was a penalty or some other stop in the play. This time gets added to the end of the half, and you never know how long it's actually going to be. That adds a bit of urgency into the game, since the next second could be the whistle.

Now back to what started this all, Ninja Warrior. When Michelle and I first started watching the show, it was the original Japanese version on the G4 network (which I miss terribly). That and X-Play were "must see TV" for us. In that show, the timer counted down for the stages. If you ran out of time, no matter how good you were doing, you were out. Now, in the American version, the timer counts up and they take the top 30 people, whether they finished or not, to the next level.

I think this displays some of the mindset of the cultures. In Japan, it's set up so that you have to try your hardest and, even then, you could fail. Heck, there have been years when no one has made it all the way to the end of the competition, therefore no one wins. In America, that land of the participation trophy, the idea of having no winner doesn't make sense to us. If you compete in something, someone has to come out on top.

Two different takes on how to do it and, since I haven't seen more than a few episodes of the American version, I can't say which is better. The Japanese version does seem to reflect life a little more, though.

Regardless of all that, these people are amazing ... no, more like AMAZING athletes. The fact that they do this in their spare time is stunning. Heck, just check out this run by Kira's favorite ninja:

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

My Top 10 Superhero Movies

Recently, a friend asked me what my top ten comic book movies were. I looked at this as a mental exercise, because my typical answer is "it depends on my mood". This time, though, I set out some criteria for my choices.

  1. The character(s) had to originate in comic books or comic strips. So, characters like Zorro (books), The Lone Ranger (radio), or the crew of the Enterprise (TV) aren’t allowed.
  2. Comic book adaptions of movies (i.e. Star Wars) don’t count, even if they came out before the movie itself.
  3. Theatrical releases only, no TV movies.

So, with all of that in mind, here's my list.

10. Batman (Warner Brothers, 1989)

One of the first times I saw a "serious" Batman on the screen was when my friends and I went to the two screen movie theater in town and waited in line for THE EVENT of the summer of 1989. I remember being one of the people that wasn't all that convinced that Michael Keaton could pull off a serious role, but I was wrong. This is still one of the great examples of a non-origin movie, even if they had to link the Joker & Batman.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Studios, 2014)

This is one our whole family enjoyed when we saw it. Kira loved the visuals, and the talking raccoon. Michelle loved the story and characters. I was just reveling in the "comic-ness" of the whole thing. I mean, there was a scene with a Celestial for crying out loud! Plus, this was just a fun movie that didn't take itself too seriously.

8. Iron Man (Marvel Studios, 2008)

You want an example of how to turn a comic origin into a movie? Here you go. Updated for the more modern day technology (no, transistors didn't do everything) and a location change, but pretty much everything from the Tales of Suspense issue is here. Plus, Robert Downey, Jr. did an amazing job which has, fortunately or unfortunately, informed the character since.

7. Batman (20th Century Fox, 1966)

Yes, I rank Adam West & Caesar Romero higher than Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and that for the simple reason that we have the Silver Age Batman characters on screen in a hugely fun romp. I love the original Batman TV Series in all it's tongue-in-cheek glory, and this movie is that ramped up to 11. We recently rewatched this for it's 50th Anniversary and I'm happy to say that it's still one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen, right down to the Bat Anti-Shark Spray.

6. Thor (Marvel Studios, 2011)

Marvel puts out, essentially, a movie about Walt Simonson's Thor directed by one of the best Shakespearean actors/directors of the modern age and you can be assured that it will be on my top 10 list. This was the perfect way to approach the idea of a god as a superhero, and bringing the whole humility thing in without resorting to Donald Blake just gets bonus points.

5. The Phantom (Paramount Pictures, 1996)

Look at Billy Zane in this movie and you'll see someone who's just having a blast in the role. Prior to this movie my entire experience with The Phantom was on "Defenders of the Earth", which isn't exactly the best introduction. This film, barring the stupid "Slam Evil" tag, is just great stuff. Keeping Kit Walker in the 30's/40's is probably the best way to handle it. Heck, I'd love to see The Ghost Who Walks run across Indiana Jones. The Nazis wouldn't stand a chance.

4. The Incredible Hulk (Marvel Studios, 2008)

I have no problem with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. In fact, I like what he's done with the role very much. Ed Norton, though, was a great amalgam of the comic book & TV Banner and I will always prefer him in the role. The nods to every version of the Hulk in this movie are terrific, as is the story. Banner's still on the run and trying to find a cure, & in trying to combat him General Ross unleashes an even worse monster. Great stuff!

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Warner Brothers, 1993)

The single best interpretation of Batman, in my opinion, is Batman: The Animated Series. Bring all of that to the big screen, with a take-off on Batman: Year Two, and you have my attention. Kevin Conroy & Mark Hamill will for all time be the voices that I hear when reading Batman & The Joker, and they are at their absolute best in this movie. Add a possibility of Bruce Wayne NOT becoming Batman, and you have one heck of a film.

2. Superman: The Movie (Warner Brothers, 1978)

You look at this picture and just hear the John Williams score, don't you? There's no doubt about it, Christopher Reeve was the absolute BEST at portraying both Clark Kent and Superman. His earnestness just sells it to the point that you do believe that a man can fly. This isn't a perfect movie, between the "can you read my mind" stuff and the flying back through time deus ex machina, but it's still one of the best out there.

1. Captain America – The First Avenger (Marvel Studios, 2011)

I put Christopher Reeve & Chris Evans in the same club, because Superman & Captain America are in the same club. These are the men who do the right thing, no matter how hard it is or how much they have to sacrifice. I whole-heartedly believe Evans as Steve Rogers, a man who doesn't want to kill but to protect. This is Captain America, the hero that everyone in the world, American or not, can look up to and admire.

What do you think, dear reader? With the criteria above, are there any that I should have had on here? Should Flash Gordon have replaced the 1966 Batman? Should Iron Man 2 be on here in place of something? Let me know your opinion.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Disney Dining

As anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm a planner. I like to know what I'm going to be doing on such and such a day pretty early on. It should be no surprise, then, that I'm already into planning our 2017 vacation. Right now the plan is to head back to Orlando, but this time we're going to visit Universal and possibly Kennedy Space Center, as well as Walt Disney World. We won't be going for two weeks this time, but we will be down there for more than one week.

Since we have our timeshare already booked for the first 7 days, we had a couple of more nights that we needed to take care of. Since I have never stayed On Property at WDW, we thought that this would be the perfect opportunity. So, I contacted the experts at Earning My Ears to get their opinions on hotel choices. We've more or less settled on where we're going to stay, but I had another question for them. Staying On Property gives you the opportunity to get a Dining Plan, and I had heard things both for and against this. It also turns out that the Scotts were split on it.

In any case, the discussion came down to comparing costs. All WDW restaurants have their menus online, so all you need to do is a little research. I started out with what would the dining plan add to the cost of our stay. Here are some numbers for you to consider for your trip.

First, the basics. We're talking about two adults and one child under 9 staying two nights. Each Dining Plan has two Snacks per person per night, as well as a beverage cup that can be refilled at any resort. For purposes of this exercise, I'm going to use the price of a Mickey Bar (~$4) as the base cost for a snack and the cup is approximately $17 each*.

That means the snacks for the stay would be $4 * 2 nights * 2 per night * 3 people = $48, and the total cost for the cups would be $17 * 3 people = $51. So we need to subtract $99 from the plan cost to get the cost of just the meals.

Now for the plan breakdown, based on the 2017 options:

Quick Service Dining Plan
(2) Quick Service Meals
Cost for our stay ~ $228
Cost without Snacks & Cup ~ $129
Cost per Meal ~$33

Disney Dining Plan
(1) Quick Service Meal
(1) Table Service Meal
Cost for our stay ~ $320
Cost without Snacks & Cup ~ $221
Cost per Meal ~ $56

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
(3) Meals, Quick Service or Table Service
Cost for our stay ~ $492
Cost without Snacks ~ $393
Cost per Meal ~ $66

For comparison sake, let's look at Lunch at The Liberty Tree Tavern and Breakfast at The Riverside Mill Food Court.

At Lunch, we'd likely have the Kids' Pasta ($9.50), Angus Cheeseburger ($16.00), and Pilgrim's Feast ($19.00), possibly having the Boston Cream Pie ($8.50) and Johnny Appleseed's Tart ($8.00) for dessert. Plus 2 drink ($2.99 each) Total cost of the meal = $67.00

At Breakfast the likely choices would be Kid's Mickey Shaped Waffle ($4.99), Bounty Platter w/ Waffle ($9.49), Grits ($2.99), & Create Your Own Omelet ($8.49). Plus Iced Coffee ($4.69) & whatever juice choice they have (not listed). Total cost of the meal = $30.65

Using these numbers as a basis (~$49 average for the two meals), it wouldn't make sense to get any of the plans. However, if we were to possibly go to Chef Mickey's for Dinner, which is a more expensive restaurant, something else might fall in line.

Let's look at another example, just to be complete. This time it's Dinner at The Liberty Inn. Here we'll probably go for the Kids' Chicken Breast Nuggets ($6.49), The All American Burger ($14.49), and the Classic Cheeseburger ($12.99), as well as a Large soda ($3.69) and a Regular soda ($3.29). Total cost of the meal = $40.95

Combine both of our Quick Service examples and we have an average cost of $35.80 per meal, which is greater than the cost of $33 per meal of the Quick Service plan. In this case, it would make sense to have the Quick Service plan and then pay out of pocket if we want to do Table Service somewhere.

So we need to scope out where we want to eat and the likely cost of the meal, we can see if any of these plans would make sense. If that a bit of work? Yes, it is. However, I'm the guy who not only plans out where we're going to eat but, where ever possible, I make reservations for us, so I'd have to do some of this work anyway.

Will this kind of planning be helpful to you? I hope so. Yeah, you have to put some time and effort in but, really, you'll need to do that if you want to get the most out of a WDW vacation.

Speaking of which, I can't recommend this episode highly enough for planning your trip.

* If you don't think they'll lose money on me having a refillable cup for soda during my stay, you don't know me very well. ;-)

EDIT: We ran the numbers this weekend and it looks like the only plan that would make sense for us would be the Deluxe. There's a caveat to that, though. Since the plan only takes effect when we check into the hotel, that means that we would have to eat all the meals On Property for those days, essentially locking us into visiting only WDW. Since we are planning on meeting up with other people, possibly somewhere else, and that hasn't been finalized yet, this might not work for this trip.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016


One of those cartoon "events" that I remember from being a kid is Animalympics. A movie about anthropomorphic animals completing in their own Olympic games. What's not to love?

I remember this being on HBO every Olympic year, and my sister & I would make sure to catch it. I didn't get all the references, but I remember loving it.

Now I get the references to Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali, Mark Spitz, John Travolta, and all the other celebrities. I also get the paradoy of Olympic coverage, as I have watched a number of broadcasts of the games.

This is definitely a cartoon aimed at adults*, but with enough stuff for kids to enjoy, in the best Termite Terrace tradition. Also, since the Olympics are currently going on, what better time for a re-watch? I've added the video below, for your convenience.

* No, I'm not talking about Kit Mambo or Brenda Springer. Not that I'm complaining about them, mind you. ;-)

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thunderbirds Are Go!

We recently finished watching the new series called "Thunderbirds Are Go!" on Amazon and, as anyone who follows me on social media knows, I LOVED it! One of the reasons for this is that I'm a huge fan of the original, Supermarionation version. That's something that my father introduced me to when I was a kid and, since this was in the days before video on demand, it was always a special event when we got to watch it.

The new series can be seen either as a re-imagining or as a sequel to that series. I prefer to see it as a sequel, just with updated tech for International Rescue. There are differences in the series, the most major of which (and this is a spoiler) is that Jeff Tracy, the father, doesn't appear in the show. We have the boys all running things, more or less, by committee.

Another difference is that Tin-Tin is no longer on the sidelines (or called Tin-Tin). Now she's known as Kayo, for her strong KO punch, and is an operative. I like that she's given something to do in this show and I understand the name change, as Tintin has been copyrighted. She's still the niece of the main villain, though, and the object of Alan's affections.

Once nice bit of continuity is a couple of the voices. You'll notice that the countdown and the line "Thunderbirds are go!" in the two videos below are the same. That's because they lifted the audio from the late Peter Dyneley (voice of the aforementioned Jeff Tracy) from the original series. You have no idea how thrilled I was when I first heard that.

Another returning voice is that of David Graham, who reprised his role as Parker, Lady Penelope's Man Friday. Parker is one of those characters that is just fun to watch. He's got an interesting back story, which is carried over from the original, and Graham is obviously enjoying his role here.

Whether you're a fan of the original or someone who's never watched the show before, I would highly recommend it. It's got some great stories and the premise, a group that rescues people who would have been killed otherwise, is something that we could use more of today.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's A Mad House! A MAD HOUSE!

OK, so it wasn't really a mad house. In fact, the theater was pretty sparsely populated, but that didn't matter. What mattered is that we went to the movies this past weekend and saw the original "Planet of the Apes" on the big screen. I can't explain why, even though I've seen this movie countless times, that this screening was special.

Maybe it was the fact that this was my first time seeing it on something other than a television. The cinematography on the movie is glorious and can really only be appreciated larger than life. Scenes that would normally be riffed on MST3K for being nothing more than walking are rivioting and give you a sense of desperation of these men, lost on an alien planet.

Maybe it was because, even though we weren't in the same theater, I knew that my buddy Scott Gardner was also watching that same showing down in sunny Florida. Scott and I had a long talk on the Apes movies when we first met, face to face, back in 2014. We agreed to disagree on the repair of the space ship for the beginning of "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", but we did agree on our mutual love of this film.

Maybe it was because Michelle and Kira were with me. Michelle has seen the movie before but she said that she liked it a lot better on the big screen. Kira, on the other hand, has seen bits of the cartoon (yes, I'm the guy that watches the cartoon version), but has never seen the movie. We made sure to not tell her the ending, but she wasn't too shocked by it. That's probably because she's had a good amount of science fiction viewing over her short life, and the twist at the end, while unexpected, made sense to her.

Whatever it was, all three of us had a great time.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016


Inspired by a recent episode of Trentus Magnus Punches Reality, I have dug out my old Nightwing comics and have started a reread. While I by no means have a complete run, I have a rather large chunk, especially of the Dixon/McDaniel/Story team. Doing this has reminded me just why Nightwing is my favorite member of the Bat-Family.

That's right. Not Batman. Not Robin. Not even Dick Grayson as Robin. No, my favorite member of the Bat-Family is Nightwing. Specifically the Nighwing as written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Scott McDaniel & Karl Story.

That I like the character under the pen of Dixon is a no-brainer. He's one of the writers that "gets" these characters and it's a joy to read any of his work. Having Dick go to another city, where he doesn't have the Gotham support systems, is wonderful. Not only that, we get some great supporting characters and Dick is able to finally find his own way.

What doesn't jive is that I like the art so much. Those that know me understand that I don't like impressionistic or "wonky" art. Not suprising when my first ever comic was drawn by Sal Buscema, a master. Even Walt Simonson's art, which is a bit more stylized, still is workable.

McDaniel's art, however, with it's odd sight lines and movable anatomy, doesn't fit into my normal box. However, it just WORKS for Nightwing. It kind of works for Robin, and I don't think it works for Batman or Superman at all, but it's just a perfect fit for Nightwing. The Flash/Spider-Man multiple images is terrific (see the image on this post) and allows you to see the grace at which Dick moves through his city. It's just some great stuff.

So the writing and art on this series is great, but why Nightwing? Well, that's pretty simple. Here you have one of the 2nd generation heroes who has grown into his own man. Unlike Wally West, who is my favorite Flash, Dick didn't take over for his mentor. He stopped being Robin and, after a bit of a search, found his own path. He's obviously inspired by Batman still, but also by all the other heroes who he's worked with. Nightwing isn't Batman 2.0, and he isn't Robin in long pants, he's his own hero who's grown into this role. That, and his ability to still smile & joke, is why I like Nightwing the best.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Batman Wears Blue and Gray

From Batman-Online
Whether you're talking about Neil Adams, Jim Aparo, Adam West, or Olan Soule, the Batman that I grew up with wore blue & gray. I'm not going to get into the whole "he was originally intended to be in all black" or "blue can look darker than black at night" arguments. Nope, I just wanted to state that when someone says "Batman" to me, this is the costume that I picture.

Is it realistic? Not in the slightest, but, then, neither is Batman as a concept. The idea that a grown man, dressed as a bat, would go out and fight crime while not being killed isn't realistic at all. However, I've written about that before, so I won't get into it again.

This is a Batman who is The Dark Knight Detective. He's not the world's greatest fighter, but he can hold his own. He doesn't have a plan for everything, and has been tricked and beaten before. However, he never gives up and will eventually triumph through his keen mind and relentless will. This is a Batman who is not afraid to smile or crack a joke, but can be deadly serious when the occasion warrants it.

Your favorite Batman may be different, and that's great, but this is mine.

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