Monday, September 27, 2010

Colts/Katie/Kaylee, Week 3

The Rules

Don't tease a baby;
Don't traumatize a beagle;
Don't tick off Peyton.

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Methinks our 17-syllable triumvirate closely resembles a Jim Croce song this week.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Return of Review Ragout

I'm just collecting up a few reviews from some fun reading of the last month. There's no hard sledding here, so away we go...

King Conan, Vol. 1; The Witch of the Mists and Other Stories by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Ernie Chan, and Danny Bulanadi -- It's not remembered as fondly as the original Conan the Barbarian or Savage Sword of Conan comic books, but I was always a fan of Marvel's King Conan comic of the 80s, especially the earlier issues. The comic recounted tales of Conan's rule after Robert E. Howard's barbarian hero became the ruler of Aquilonia, the greatest kingdom of the Hyborian Age. It usually had a nice mix of court intrigue and great battles between vast armies, with a good dose of evil sorcery thrown in for fun. So this collection of issues #1-#5 made for a fun trip down memory lane. My recollection is that the quality of the comic itself quickly sagged as Thomas and Buscema moved on to other projects, so this probably the best bet for anybody who wants to know what this comic was about.

One note of interest: unlike Dark Horse's Conan the Barbarian re-issues, this has not been recolored with modern digital colors, so the coloring is the original four-color comic, which looks pretty primitive when compared with the recolored versions from the other book. Even so, John Buscema's art still looks terrific.

The Bloodstained Man by Christopher Rowley (Netherworld, Book 2) -- The second book in the Heavy Metal Pulp sci-fi noir series takes the same central characters further down their danger-filled path, as they try to stay alive while possessed of the secret that could overthrow the right-wing dictatorship that has taken over the United States. Really, it's a continuation of the first book, and true to the series name it offers much the same straightforward pulp sci-fi fun. This one mostly plays out as a long chase into the depths of uninsured New Jersey. Good fun.

(Here's a link to my review of the first book in the series, Pleasure Model, if you want to know more about the series.)

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon and a host of artists -- Is a collection of origin stories for the cast of characters from Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long blog. If you haven't seen that cinematic gem this will make no sense whatsoever. It's hardly must-read material, but for fans of Dr. Horrible it makes an enjoyable collection. I mean, where else are you going to learn the secret origin of that henchman of high humidity, Moist?

The Year's Best Science Fiction: 25th Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois -- This is always the science-fiction collection that I look forward to most every year, and this collection of the best from the year 2007 was no exception. Somehow I set it aside when I still had a half-dozen stories left, which is why this review appears a couple of years after it came out. So, I won't try to recall the first 30 stories, but will instead mention that I really enjoyed "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear and "Roxie" by Robert Reed, both of which appeared near the end of the book. If you don't read much science fiction and would like a good overview of the best short work in the field, Gardner Dozois's annual collection is the best place to start.

The Under Dog; and Other Stories Featuring Hercule Poirot, by Agatha Christie -- Collects nine Hercule Poirot stories from the early 1920s. Really, do you need me to tell you that this was a great read? Of course not. So what I will tell you about his the oddest thing in this book. Near the end of some of these mysteries a note suddenly appears reading:

(It is suggested that the reader pause in his perusal of the story at this point, make his own solution of the mystery -- and then see how close he comes to that of the author. -- The Editors.)

I've never seen anything quite like that in any of these Agatha Christie collections. Trying to figure out whodunit is the unwritten rule of the genre, except that this time ... it's written! This was a 1975 Dell paperback printing, but I really have no idea if the note entered in the original magazine edition, the original book edition, or some collection afterwards. The note is in several stories in this collection, but not all of them. I assume it came from somewhere at some point in their history. But it's curious. Frankly, where it comes from is a mystery, and I wish I had a convenient moustachioed Belgian detective to solve it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Charlotte's Web Original Art Auction

As most of you know, I like to collect comic-book art. As hobbies go, it's a bit off the beaten path but pretty understandable since I grew up reading comic books and still read a few favorites. I think it's a pretty fun hobby. Some of the pages are a nice trip down nostalgia lane because I remember reading them in the original comic twenty-five or thirty years ago. Some of the pages are from new comics that I've enjoyed. And some of them just look cool.

I also like that it's production art. I've always liked things that are of use. And these pages are a tangible relic of the work, care, and creativity that went into what is generally considered to be a one-month-and-forgotten art form.

If you've never seen original comic-book art, the original pages often have a lot of detail that doesn't come out on the comic page, especially the pages of older comics published before digital printing came into vogue. Monique and I have framed a few of the best pieces and hung them on our walls at home. I've also taken quite a few in to work and put them up on my cubicle walls over the years. I like to rotate them in and out there. It ensures that I haven't just stored them away forever in a dusty portfolio book, and I think they look pretty cheerful in my cube.

It's a relatively inexpensive hobby as collector hobbies go. Most of the pieces I've bought have been in the $10-$25 range on e-Bay. I've gone up over $100 for a couple of particularly cool pieces that ended up on our wall at home, then reigned myself in for a few months afterwards to make up for it. That's not to say that you couldn't spend a lot more if you wanted to -- some of the truly iconic pages of comic-book history could easily cost upwards of $25,000. Honestly, though, for $25,000+ I'd rather have a nice, new boat.

In fact, I've never really felt the collector bug that says I should spend anything like significant money on what is, after all, a silly little side hobby.

Until now, that is.

That's because part of the estate of Garth Williams -- the illustrator of Charlotte's Web -- is being auctioned off on Oct. 15, and more than 40 of those original illustrations are up for sale. (Yes, most of my pages are from comic books, but children's book illustrations have much in common and many of the top illustrators worked in both fields. In any case, I suddenly find that my inner two-year-old collector has wriggled free, and to my annoyance it's yelling, "MINE!")

Alas that most of the pieces have opening bids of $750 or $1,000. The cover illustration is estimated to go for $20,000 - $30,000. Since Charlotte's Web is (I believe) still the top selling children's book in history, my guess is that the cover illustration may very well go for more than that. Doubly alas that all the free funds for a foreseeable future were frittered away frivolously on hooking our house up to the sewer. In retrospect, I'm sure we could've just rolled with a Port-A-Potty for the next few years, right? Triply alas that I just spent my bonus from work on ridiculous stuff like paying off the bills.

(Okay, full disclosure in the midst of my whine. Remember those truly iconic $25,000+ pages I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? I spent a wee tiny bit of my bonus on the cover art from Silver Surfer #7 by John Buscema. No, I didn't suddenly qualify for a ridiculous Wall Street bonus. It was a freshly inked reproduction that cost about 1/500th what the original page would've cost. But it looks cool, and I can put it up on my cubicle wall without worrying about locking it up every night.)

The original spectacular, iconic cover of Silver Surfer, Number 7 ... um, sort of.

So, despite the fact that my birthday is just a few months away and a truly loving blogosphere would understand my need, I've sadly concluded that the only way original illustration art with a pig gets up on my wall is if somebody puts a few pages from Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham up on e-Bay. But in the meantime, I copied a few of my favorite Charlotte's Web drawings into my "Screen Saver Photos" folder, and I thought I'd share them with everybody, just for fun.

Fern with baby Wilbur. One of my favorites.

Well, of course he's terrific. Just look at him!

Charlotte checks out the competition at the fair.

"Some Pig." Kind of an odd one to be my favorite of all, but it is. Perhaps it speaks to my love of the written word, wherever it may appear.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Excuses, excuses...

Our Colts/Beagle/Grandbaby haikuist Mary Campbell-Droze was tardy with her weekly contribution this week. Rest assured we have fined her a large portion of her salary:

Yeah, I know I'm up against my deadline

Watcha gonna do
When I lag on the haiku??
Bad Mary! Bad Mary! (ooo!!)

Expect Indy-Katie-Kaylee Week 2 contribution in your Inbox by tomorrow a.m.

--Mary Campbell-Droze


Or, I guess I could just send it to you now

Bro Bowl Bowl-Over

Giants lose; Colts win!
Eli needs Kaylee's burp cloth.
Tom needs Kate's poop bags.

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Monday, September 20, 2010

Random September Doggerel

Just a few lines that popped into my head as I drove to work today -- not so much a poem as maybe part of a stanza. But today, it'll have to stand on its own:

Autumn bursts in colored tones,
Leaves bright red on branch's bones,
Yellow, orange, and maroon too,
A scenic feast for me and you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why I'm Running for Reelection on the Wolverine Lake Village Council

I generally try to keep village politics off this wee blog, but as many of you know I am running for reelection on our village council this year. One of my favorite tasks in the election season is writing up my candidate responses for the League of Women Voters' candidate's questionnaire because their 150-word limit for responses forces me to distill my message to its essence.

So, for those of you wondering why I'm taking the leap for another four years, here's what I had to say to the LWV:

Question 1: Please provide biographical information and explain why you are running for village office and relevant qualities and skills you would bring to the position.

As your Village President for the last four years I’ve led a full restructuring of our village government to provide the best possible services for us residents with a much smaller budget. Four years ago our village stood on the brink of financial disaster. We’ve emerged with a strong fund balance, an improved bond rating, improved infrastructure, a strong police presence, and more cost-effective village services. We’ve done this both with our own innovations, and also by working together more effectively with our neighboring communities.

I am proud of your council’s record over the last four years, and I stand on that record. If reelected I will use my experience as your Village President, my previous village experience as Council Member and Water Board Chair, and my professional experience as an editorial manager to keep making this village a great place to live.

Question 2: What are the top 3 Priority Issues that your Village should address and what actions would you, as a village officer, take regarding each of them?

Budget – Our long-term restructuring plan balanced our books and rebuilt our fund balance, despite Michigan’s economic woes. We must continue to look for innovations and improvements to ensure that the painful sacrifices of the last four years are not frittered away by wasteful spending.

Police – We need to continue to improve our joint policing arrangement with Walled Lake. The current arrangement has kept a strong patrol presence on the streets while providing better detective and dispatch services. Now we need to create a permanent management structure for this arrangement.

Real Estate Prices – Home values have plummeted across our region. We need to focus attention on rebuilding our home values. Our pathways and improved infrastructure have made this a more walkable, more livable community. Our real-estate outreach program will let everybody know that Wolverine Lake is a great place to own a home and raise a family.

... and that's pretty much it. I think we have a darned nice community, and I aim to keep it that way. I don't have a campaign slogan yet, but it might very well be: "Keeping cops on the streets and on patrol, and getting kids off the streets and onto sidewalks."

I'm not going to do much fund-raising for this election, but there are some expenses involved for lawn signs, flyers, and a few other things. If you'd like to help out, please send a check (not to exceed $500 per Michigan law, but even $5 will be a great help) to:

John Magee Campaign Committee
814 Wolverine Dr.
Wolverine Lake, MI 48390

Sorry, but we don't have an online payment option for our little campaign account, so if you do want to contribute, it'll have to be by check and a stamp will cost you another 44 cents.

If you want to help without writing a check, we'll need some help to distribute our flyers in October, so just let me know that you'd like to lend a hand.

And most importantly, thanks everybody for all your support over the last four years. We couldn't have accomplished all that we've done in the last four years without everybody pulling together and making a lot of sacrifices. I'm extremely grateful.

See ya on the campaign trail!

Of Doggies, Diapers, and Defeat

Week 1 of the NFL season is almost in the books, and as promised, our Indianapolis Colts haikuist-extraordinaire Mary Campbell-Droze has encapsulated the Colts' opening game performance together with Katie the Beagle and her new granddaughter Kaylee:

Of Doggies, Diapers, and Defeat

Indy? Lose. Katie?
Snooze. Kaylee? Poos. These aren't the
Season's signs I'd choose!

--Mary Campbell-Droze

I would try to capture yesterday's Detroit Lions season-opening atrocity in a haiku, but frankly it would best be depicted in a short horror story by Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, or Stephen King.

Monday, September 6, 2010

2010 Lost Souls Fantasy Football League Preview

Hard though it is to believe, another fantasy football season is upon us. And so, without further ado, here are the projected standings for the Lost Souls league.

1. Death Mutants - 11-1, 1557 pts., 97.3 ppg.
2. United Loonies, Inc. - 8-4, 1402 pts., 87.6 ppg.
3. Puking Buzzards - 8-4, 1396 pts., 87.3 ppg.
4. Wraiths - 7-5, 1350 pts., 84.4 ppg.
5. Savage Iguanas - 7-5, 1336 pts., 83.5 ppg.
6. Spaz Corps - 6-6, 1319 pts., 82.4 ppg.
7. Howling Huns - 5-7, 1306 pts., 81.6 ppg.
8. Screaming Babies - 5-7, 1279 pts., 80.0 ppg.
9. Rapid Molasses - 4-8, 1262 pts., 78.9 ppg.
10. Custom Critters - 4-8, 1261 pts., 78.8 ppg.
11. Spandex Stallions - 4-8, 1260 pts., 78.8 ppg.
12. Sirenian Sisters - 3-9, 1225 pts., 76.6 ppg.

(All point projections courtesy of

This season shapes up as the story of Snow Mutant and the Eleven Dwarfs. Bryan has once again put together a powerhouse, while the eleven other teams look more closely matched in talent than ever before. Usually there's a vast pre-season disparity between the contenders and the pretenders, but it looks to me as if everybody has cause for hope this year.

Honestly, you could take my projected 2nd-through-12th place teams, put them in a hat, draw them out randomly, and you'd probably do about as well as this forecast. I know many of you think I do that already, but I assure you that this preview is conducted with the sort of statistical rigor that's usually reserved for rocket science, nuclear physics, and the running count of Lindsey Lohan parole violations.

Let's take a look at the team-by-team outlook:

1. Death Mutants - 11-1, 1557 pts., 97.3 ppg. - Stud City 2010: Bryan brought back QB Peyton Manning, RB Adrian Peterson, RB Steven Jackson, WR Andre Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, and TE Antonio Gates. Yet he somehow managed to weasel his way once again to the #1 overall pick, which he used to add stud rookie RB Ryan Matthews. The Mutants also have some potent protection against the injury bug at their other key positions with QB Joe Flacco and WR Anquan Boldin. Frankly, picking up future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez as his backup tight end was just rubbing salt into the wounds.

We've all got our work cut out for us if we're going to catch him this year.

2. United Loonies, Inc. - 8-4, 1402 pts., 87.6 ppg. - The perennially overrated Loonies are probably overrated once again. Some pieces are in place for a potentially good team with QB Jay Cutler, RB Frank Gore, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Reggie Wayne, and TE Vernon Davis. But the Loonies' WR2 Dwayne Bowe doesn't look like he'll be able to keep pace with his counterpart on the Mutants. And the depth on this roster looks dubious at best with an assortment of bad New England RBs, WRs who aren't even top WRs on their own team, a pre-broken Oakland Raider RB, and QB2 Matthew Stafford coming off an erratic rookie season. The Loonies usually break down early and often, and if The Curse of the Loonies strikes again this year they might fall far and fast.

The Loonies could make a run if Cutler, Bowe, and Miller all post surprising seasons. But it's more likely that backup TE Todd Heap leads a charge to the DL as the Loonies fade back into the pack after a couple of seasons in the top three.

3. Puking Buzzards - 8-4, 1396 pts., 87.3 ppg. - The Puking Buzzards are another squad that looks ready to make a run, thanks to QB Philip Rogers, WRs Roddy White and Marques Colston, and TE Jason Witten. But the running game could come up short with second-tier RBs Pierre Thomas, Matt Forte, C.J. Spiller, and Darren McFadden.

The Buzzards could challenge for the top spot if two of those young RBs break out. However, the outlook at the start is that the inconsistent running game will keep the Buzzards from soaring.

4. Wraiths - 7-5, 1350 pts., 84.4 ppg. - While a dubious running game may keep the Buzzards on the ground, the Wraiths might not have enough receiving talent to break out of the pack. There's a nice, studly base with QB Drew Brees, RB Ray Rice, and RB Rashard Mendenhall. But the WR corps of "The Wrong" Steve Smith (NYG), Mike "Hey, I'm a rookie who was a fourth-round pick" Williams, Dez "Hey, I was a first-round pick rookie who was already injured for all of training camp", and Vincent "Pshht ... rookies. I'm just going to take the whole season off" Jackson could be a real problem. Add in a likely statistical dropoff from TE Greg "What do you mean Mike Martz doesn't believe in throwing to the tight end?" Olsen and a general lack of pass-catching might haunt the Wraiths.

5. Savage Iguanas - 7-5, 1336 pts., 83.5 ppg. - I hope you're all sitting down when you read this: Ron's team could be good again this year. There's a lot of talent with QB Tony Romo, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Randy Moss, and TE Brent Celek. With that start bounce-back seasons from RB Cedric Benson and RB Brandon Jacobs could easily push the Iguanas back into the top three again.

6. Spaz Corps - 6-6, 1319 pts., 82.4 ppg. - The Good: QB Aaron Rogers; RBs Chris Johnson, Beanie Wells, and Justin Forsett; and ace K Nate Kaeding. The Bad: WR1 Mike Sims-Walker, WR2 Wes Welker; TE1 Heath Miller. The Spaz-tic: The Oakland Raiders defense somehow ended up on this team.

Jared may need to fire the interim GM who finished off his draft after he had to leave early. Oh, wait. That was all of us. Good job, folks!

7. Howling Huns - 5-7, 1306 pts., 81.6 ppg. - The Huns aren't really bad, but they don't look particularly good, either. The RB and WR corps looks strong with RBs Michael Turner, Shonn Greene, and Knowshon Moreno, and WRs "The Right" Steve Smith (CAR), Chad Ochocinqo, and Michael Crabtree. But to make it out of the pack they'll need to get unexpectedly good years out of QBs Carson Palmer and Chad Henne; TE Kellen Winslow, Ks Billy Cundiff and John Kasay; and the aging Baltimore defense.

Put it all together and it looks as if the Huns will probably be mumbling this year instead of howling.

8. Screaming Babies - 5-7, 1279 pts., 80.0 ppg. - Chris continues to confound the fantasy football geek-a-razzi by investing in boom or bust players who could lead his team to the top of the rankings or to the depths of the basement. Guys like QB Matt Schaub; RBs Arian Foster, Felix Jones, and Ricky Williams; WRs Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin, Johnny Knox, and Robert Meachem; and TE Jermichael Finley could all finish anywhere from first to worst at their position. The most perplexing selection of all? The Cleveland Brown defense. What does Chris see that the rest of us don't? Brown fans want to know!

If Chris hits on his picks to click, the Babies might scream up the standings, but this analyst thinks they're more likely to end up with a diaper full of doo-doo.

9. Rapid Molasses - 4-8, 1262 pts., 78.9 ppg. - There's just not enough top-end talent here to project the Molasses any higher. The starting lineup looks like this: QB Matt Ryan or QB Eli Manning; RBs Jamal Charles, Jerome Harrison, or Cadillac Williams; WRs Miles Austin and Greg Jennings; TE Visanthe Shiancoe; K Rob Bironas; and the New Orleans Saints defense. Other than the WRs, this looks like one of the weaker starting lineups in the league.

The slow decline of the Molasses leads us to conclude that Eric has been doing the drafting lately. Stacy, where are you? Your front office needs you!

10. Custom Critters - 4-8, 1261 pts., 78.8 ppg. - The Critters are a second-division team that could surprise us all before the season is over. There's a lot of upside on the roster with QB Tom Brady; RBs Ahmad Bradshaw, Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown, and Reggie Bush; WRs Santana Moss, Mike Wallace, Terrell Owens, Hines Ward, and Jeremy Maclin; and TEs Owen Daniels and John Carlson. Footballguys doesn't project any of those guys other than Brady for a big season, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see any of those names near the top of the list at their individual positions at the end of the year.

The statistical projections say the Critters will be consigned to the second division, but there's too much talent on this team to really expect a 10th-place finish.

11. Spandex Stallions - 4-8, 1260 pts., 78.8 ppg. - Welcome to the league, Susan. The previous owner of this franchise liked the Raiders. Unfortunately for you, he was the last person in America to still believe in Al Davis's drafting acumen. Oh, so many high draft picks spent on Raider projects. So very, very many high draft picks. Since Paul lives in Detroit, the only other general manager that he had a chance to emulate was Matt Millen. When you think about it that way, following Al Davis's lead seems like a good idea.

There are some genuinely talented players on the newly named Stallions this year: QBs Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb; RB Ryan Grant; WR DeSean Jackson; and TE Dallas Clark. It's probably not enough to get them into the top half of the league this year, but at least Darrius Heyward-Bey has been consigned to the bench, and that's a good start.

12. Sirenian Sisters - 3-9, 1225 pts., 76.6 ppg. - Monique continues her rebuilding scheme, now in Year Two of her 10-year plan. Honestly, this was one of the most perplexing drafts I've seen in a while. Her selection of Kenny Britt in the second round wasn't as bad as if she had stuck with her initial impulse of "Ol' One Hip" Sidney Rice, but it was almost as if she just chose Britt because he was 31st on a list of available WRs and she likes the number thirty-one. But that would be ridiculous.

However, her youngster-laden draft did accomplish her main goal of sweeping out the remnants of an aging team some of us had taken to calling the Sirenian Grannies. Now they're more like the Sirenian Justin-Bieber Fan Club. The Sisters may struggle early in the season -- especially with the suspensions of QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Santonio Holmes, and the PUP stay of injured WR Rice -- but young players like QB Mark Sanchez, RBs Maurice Jones-Drew, Jahvid Best, and LeSean McCoy; WRs Hakeem Nicks, Dexter McCluster, Britt, Holmes, and Rice; and TE Zach Miller might make the Sirenian Sisters the team that none of the top seeds want to face in the playoffs.

... and that's the preview, folks. Don't like what I wrote about your team? You have sixteen weeks to prove me wrong!