Yeah, so, that may be the longest fallow period in Heathen history — which is, I note, now nearly sixteen years long; my first post here was on the 29th of November in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand. That’s kind of bizarre.
Bizarre, too, is the world we find ourself in today. I’m fearful for the future in a more existential way than I’ve ever felt before; the parade of grotesques certain to characterize the incoming administration is only now getting started, and it’s a nearly certain thing that we’ll look back on absurdly bad ideas like “Attorney General Jeff Sessions” with something like nostalgia before it’s all over. But there it is.
But I’m still trying to be Thankful.
A by-no-means inclusive list
I will, barring unforeseen conflagrations in the next couple hours, partake of a truly excellent Thanksgiving feast hosted by impossibly generous friends and peopled entirely by similarly delightful people. We only get to go in even years — we travel in the odd ones — and actually only made it the first time two years ago. That year, it was my first real trip out of the house following my little medical misadventure; I spent the meal damn near on the nod from the Norco and Tramadol, but by God I was there and not in a hospital bed or worse.
Speaking of which: I have made it out the other side of said misadventure, which started two years ago last Sunday. It was a longer road than it could have been thanks to the now-disturbingly-common complication of a postop infection. Thankfully (there’s the theme again), it wasn’t MRSA, but it still required IV antibiotics for weeks and weeks, and delayed the proper healing of one of my surgical sites for literally months. (Protip: Don’t browse too far back on Erin’s phone; she took pics daily to share with my medical team, because we live in the future.) But it did close, and the infection did clear, and I did heal, and earlier this month I “graduated” — by which I mean I’ve been pronounced out of danger for the last real complication possible. I celebrate, as always, by riding a lot.
I’m absurdly, overwhelmingly thankful for Erin. She was an amazing angel during my recovery, which was better than I deserved for putting her through that. She remains an incredible and stalwart support, and seems to have inexhaustible reserves of love and service to give when called upon. Just ask folks on the Karbach team, or people who’ve reached out for aid when life goes sideways, or my family, or her family. Eleven years on, I’m aware every day of just how much I outkicked the coverage here, and all I can do is be thankful.
My mother, now out the other side off a nearly two year period of Profound Suck that started with my late stepfather’s diagnosis in early October of 2014 and continued through his decline, passing, and her decision to leave my hometown for Jackson after “only” 52 years. She’s entered the next phase of her life, and has embraced it with verve and style. More than one person has told my brother or me about how she’s blossomed in Jackson, and it’s wonderful to see. I’m a little jealous of her proximity to Frank and his family. Erin and I can’t wait to meet her new pals at St Catherine’s this Christmas.
As long as we’re talking about family, let’s talk about my awesome brother. He has been an amazing support and help to our mom these last couple years, and now he’s playing that role again for his wife’s family as they go through a similarly crappy time. Frank is fantastic, and I’m very, very thankful for him — and sad I won’t see him and his family today, but thankful we’ll be spending Christmas with them!
My work, while not without its issues, remains rewarding. I get to do it from home. I work for a smart guy who shares my politics and principles (case in point: disturbed by the results of the election, and the divisions it has laid bare, everyone now gets some additional PTO for community volunteering — it’s a small thing, but it’s a REAL thing). My coworkers are smart and fun. And this year, for the 16th year running, I am free of the awkward command performance inherent in a corporate Christmas party. I WIN.
Our goddaughter (and her family) have moved much, much closer, allowing for drastically more time with her (and her family). It’s impossible to say enough about this, frankly. At 3, she’s in that phase where you’re not entirely sure she’s not a cartoon character, and she’s utterly obsessed with her Aunt Erin. (I get a little halo effect.) It’s delightful to see her so often, and to get to spend grown-up time with her parents once the tyke is off to bed.
MS150 training season has started again, and I’m entering it in the best cycling shape of my life (so far). I love to ride, and I love to ride with this specific set of delightful knuckleheads, ABI be damned. Plus, having missed a whole training season owing to the events of #2 above, I know better than to take any of this for granted.
I’m thankful that, regardless of the end of their lives, we still have the music of Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Maurice White, and so many others. Some of it’s playing now, as I write this.
I am thankful for the few shining lights of 2016 — Hamilton, the Cubs — that it feels like we really ought to savor after this motherfucker of a year.
January 17, 2001: “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over“
Trump is so fucking toxic to some GOP candidates running for re-election that a few have threatened to sue local TV stations for defamation for running ads that connect them to the nominee.
Let that sink in. Republican candidates consider a link to the Republican nominee to be defamation.
These things were EVERYWHERE for a time, especially in very Bible-belty parts of the world. Chick’s peculiar and fundamentalist version of Christianity left no room for any other sort, so his tracts denounced the usual ills (alcohol, sex) as well as things like D&D, Freemasonry, versions of the Bible other than the King James, evolution, Harry Potter, etc. He even devoted at least 20 of his tracts to the evils of Roman Catholicism (because, obviously, they’re responsible for communism, Nazism, the aforementioned Freemasonry, and Islam).
Via this thread at MeFi, I found this live-action re-enactment of the Party Girl tract, starring French Stewart and Judy Greer. There’s an issue with the audio sync, but it’s still fanTAStic. Also, in 2014 a group made a short based on the wildly popular anti-D&D Dark Dungeons tract, and I really, really would love to see it, too.
I got word over the weekend that Warren Dale passed away. He was 90.
The name means nothing to you, probably, but for years upon years in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mr Dale was a demigod. He led what must have been one of the most successful and delightful Boy Scout Troops ever — at least if you measure by how often his Tenderfoots made it Eagle.
Mr Dale taught us to camp, and imparted the mysteries of square lashing, and all sorts of other Scouting ephemera — but the real lessons were more subtle. How to be a good man. What mattered, when working with others. How to lead. How to teach. How to support each other. How to cut loose and have fun, even. He was especially skilled at gaining and holding the respect and attention of both his rambunctious charges and their parents, which is no small feat. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, outside my family, Mr Dale was the most important influence on me prior to high school. I’m by no means the only person in that group.
Boy Scouting has had a hard several years lately, mostly through their own tomfoolery and the outsized influence of right-wingers obsessed with exclusion. That kind of chicanery would never have flown with Mr Dale. I know, without ever having discussed it with him, exactly the sort of irritated look I’d get if I’d suggested it was okay to treat someone differently because of race, or gender, or orientation. It’s out of the question and completely contrary to the ethics of scouting as we understood it. You work together. There’s no together in exclusionary bullshit. It’s certainly not covered in “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”
Here’s his obituary. He was born in 1926, in Iowa, which is something I never knew before. He’d been in the war, stateside, as a cryptologist and clerk before heading to Purdue and, eventually, to the chemical plant in my hometown where he worked from 1952 until he retired in 1989.
Mr Dale never stopped learning, and he helped impart a passion for it to us in Scouting. He was a master of a campfire story, a patient teacher, and excelled in that curious talent of teaching boys to lead themselves. Along the way, he saw 140 of us all the way to Eagle, many of whom have posted on Facebook about their own memories of our troop, or Camp Tiak, or trips to Red Bluff, or his battered station wagon, or various service projects undertaken as a team. It’s all time well spent.
90 years is a long time; my stepfather used to joke that anybody over three score and ten was on borrowed time, but Mr Dale managed to run up the score a bit. (He’d have liked that joke.) I last saw him a little over a year ago; he attended the same church as my mother, and so I saw him when I visited. Erin even got to meet him, which pleased me more than I can adequately explain. He was much older, but he still had quite a twinkle in his eye, and it made me happy to see him.
The obituary notes that the quote Mr Dale chose to be remembered by is from Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Given that metric, there’s no doubt in my mind that he lived very well indeed.
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope..
In which I answer the hypothetical question “how was your weekend?”
“Oh, the usual. Drove to Wichita Falls. Drank a bunch of beer. Rode 100 miles. Couple other things.”
Wichita Falls? A Hundred miles? WAT?
Yeah, it’s a thing. The event is the Hotter’n Hell Hundred up in Wichita Falls, Texas. It’s the largest organized century ride in the country. People come from all over — I rode with folks from Missouri, Colorado, etc. It’s a Big Deal in the cycling world, with at least some bragging rights associated & whatnot.
In which I explain, in part, how this came to be.
Turns out, I have a really, really great cycling team (Karbach Brewing), and a group of them were going and — more to the point — knew how to do this right. There were rented RVs, plenty of pop-up shade tents, and (crucially) folks to ride with. We ended up with maybe 26 or 28 folks there.
All I had to do was register, show up, and pay my share of the RV rental.
Oh, and train for the other two events AND the century.
In which the “Triple Threat” is explained
I figured “hey, if I’m going all the way to Wichita Falls, may as well go full monty.” And the Full Monty at Hotter’n Hell is something called the Triple Threat.
- On Friday, you do a 13 mile mountain bike race. For me, this was my 5th or 6th time ever on a mountain bike.
- On Saturday, you have the eponymous Hotter’n Hell Hundred.
- On Sunday, for good measure, run a half marathon on the mountain bike trail.
Complete the Triple Threat, and you get one hell of a trophy. I wanted that trophy. See pic.
At least I didn’t go middle-aged crazy and buy a sports car or something.
This explains where you’ve been all summer
Right. I ride about 100 miles a week anyway, but I had to fold in some mountain biking AND enough running/jogging to complete the half. This made for a busy summer.
Dept. of Credit Where Credit Is Due
I never would have gotten this done without three big factors.
Number one, as always, is Erin. She’s been an incredible support to me in this. She’s done half marathons, and so in addition to logistical, emotional, and spiritual help she also had words of encouragement, training tips, and even route advice.
The Karbach team. I wasn’t doing this alone; I had literally two dozen friends also ramping up to this.
Longtime readers may recall a slight medical adventure from 652 days ago (not that I’m counting). I hate running, but completing the Triple Threat seemed like an excellent way to say “Fuck you, broken hip!”
Comfort on the Frontier
It didn’t hurt that our camp/compound included air-conditioned RVs, a huge covered area, a pool, and an inflatable movie screen.
Oh, and free beer.
In which we disclose what noises Ryan makes when he leans on the wrong side of the inflatable pool
What’d that look like?
This (artist’s conception):
Important Lessons Re: Inflatable Pools
“Do not store important items downhill from the inflatable pool.”
Key fact re: enormous amounts of previously-in-the-pool water in Wichita Falls
Unlike in Houston, where the water would set up housekeeping and create a new wetland complete with Zika-laden mosquitos, crawfish, and possibly alligators, up there the water just DISAPPEARS. It’s witchcraft, I tell you.
(This will be important later.)
In which OU fans are adorable
One day, the pool water turned red. No idea why; we assumed it was something to do with the chlorine tablet. Only later did we discover that some, um, less observant OU fans camped nearby had seen ONE guy in a UT hat, assumed we were all UT/Austin people, and dumped food coloring in the pool. The joke was COMPLETELY lost on this Houston-based, diversely-educated crowd until the OU folks came by to try and figure out why their joke had gone flat. Oh, Sooners; you’re adorable.
In which we encounter terrible food on Thursday, Pt 1
At lunch, we were faced with the following question: What terrible sequence of life choices could result in being a Wendy’s loyalty card holder?
In which we encounter terrible food on Thursday, Pt 2
That the Tex-Mex restaurant we ate at on Thursday night did not have margaritas, but did serve both frito pie and chicken fried steak, is pretty much all the evidence required to prove that, at least morally, Wichita Falls is best understood as part of Oklahoma.
In which we are able to support the previous assertion with maps
The route on the Hundred did in fact take us perilously close to Oklahoma:
More proof of fundamental hellscape nature of Wichita Falls
Said Tex-Mex joint proudly displayed its local awards for “best chips and salsa” from three consecutive and recent years. The chips were clearly Tostitos, and the salsa was obviously Pace.
Hotter’n Hell, y’all.
Possible tourism slogans available to the greater Wichita Falls metroplex
“What happens in Wichita Falls stays in Wichita Falls.”
The Dean Miller Theory of RV-based Instant Oatmeal Preparation
It is, apparently, impossible. But it takes half an hour to explain why.
Confidential to certain parties regarding RV selection in the middle of the night
It is possible that “has a grill” is not a sufficiently unique key.
I forget the answer, but this is a fine question to overhear while drinking beer.
“Hey Dean, where’d you dive with all them barracudas?”
To Hell With Context, Pt. 1
“I got the meat sweats, Pop!”
In which we re-assert findings first published this summer
Mountain bike racing is hard, yo.
Was it made harder by folks who will not get out of your way, and thus force you to walk up berms you’re pretty sure you could ride up otherwise?
How I feel about being passed by a girl who started 6 minutes later
Absolutely fine, since she is a cat 3 road racer young enough to be my daughter.
Would I do the MTB race again?
And now, a word on Day 2
Shockingly, I found the HTH to be easily the least miserable century I’ve ever ridden.
So was it, in fact, Hotter’n Hell?
If you’re from Colorado, I’m sure mid-90s to 100s in Wichita Falls is trouble for you.
I am from Houston. The general lack of humidity made the temps much, much more managable vs. the weather we train in down here. Drink enough water and you’re fine.
Also, of course, we were kinda sandbagging given the Looming Awfulness of Sunday’s task.
What sucked more than heat
CHIPSEAL ROADS. Holy crap, that stuff will shake you to pieces, and the vibration makes the ride much more fatiguing. Fortunately, no more than 85-90 miles of the century were on chipseal.
A brief digression about bicycle design as relates to crappy roads
There’s no reason for you to know this, but the model of bike I ride is a Specialized Roubaix. It’s named “Roubaix” after a particularly grueling race (the Paris-Roubaix) that is ridden on streets made of cobblestones. Cobblestones are awful to ride on — treacherous, yes, but also bumpy as hell. Super-stiff race bikes make it worse, so Specialized developed a bike designed to be quick and compliant while also providing a bit of insulation from bad road conditions.
That I was unhappy even on this bike should give you some idea how delightful my colleagues on racier, stiffer bikes found the roads.
Remember that thing about disappearing water?
In Houston, when you ride in the heat, you just get sweaty, and the sweat doesn’t go anywhere. It just sits in your clothes like an ambulatory lukewarm bath.
In Wichita Falls, when you ride in the heat, you still sweat, but the sweat evaporates, and thereby provides evaporative cooling. I am told that scientists believe this is the reason we sweat, but as a lifelong swamp dweller I am unable to confirm this hypothesis.
I can tell you, however, that it’s damn strange to get back on your bike after fixing a flat and discover that the resulting wind, sweat, and evaporation combination is making you cold despite an ambient air temp of 95+.
Would I do the Hundred again?
Oh, sure. I know it sounds bananas, but riding 100 miles is something I know I can do. I’ve done it lots, and the conditions in Wichita Falls aren’t bad if you factor out the chipseal.
Evidence of our Rock-and-Roll Cycling Lifestyle
After the century, pretty much everyone in the camp was asleep by 8:30PM.
To Hell With Context, Pt. 2
“When I say house wine, I mean Jaeger.”
Thoughts on rising early to run a damn half marathon
“I have fallen in with a bad crowd, and they are making me do dumb things.”
(l to r: Other-Erin, Kevin, Scottie, David, Dub, Jared, Alfred, the author, No-Oatmeal Dean, Dylan, JRod, Tall Colin, Not Tall Chad, Grant, Fearless Leader LeSage, Seth, Ruthless, Chad, Eric, Theoretical Podcasting Partner Mike, Random Dean, Ryan, Long Lost Jack Soto)
But you did it anyway, right?
You’re damned skippy.
A fun thing to note that is, nevertheless, statistically questionable
“This was may fastest half marathon EVER!”
A sad note regarding our podcast empire
“Chet and Mike’s Nature Hike Spectacular” turned out to be an idea better honored in creation than execution.
HOWTO make Chet very happy and then mildly disappointed but still happy
Hand him a can of his favorite beer as he crosses the finish line, but make sure there’s no more than an inch of beer left in it.
All that said, I think I’ll retire the shorts.
Can you blame me?
This is a pretty great rundown of the history of continuity changes in the DC comics universe.
Non-nerds may wonder what that sentence means, so I’ll take a swing at a quickie explanation. “Continuity” in superhero comics refers to the overarching story. Each issue isn’t self-contained; they reference prior issues, and not just last month’s. Batman remembers fighting the Joker a year ago and ten years ago, and so forth. He knows he’s been friends with Superman for much of his life. These are just facts in the DC world.
Of course, then you have a problem, because both of those heroes started fighting crime nearly eight decades ago, and yet both are frozen in the prime of life despite having literally decades of experience in their roles — and the storytelling burden of a new issue every month.
(It’s worth nothing that the only other form of storytelling that deals with such long-term continuously published continuity is the soap opera, but there, at least, you’re tied to reality because the actors age in real time.)
Comics address this with two main tools:
First, there’s something called a “ret-con,” which is short for “retroactive continuity.” When this happens, some prior fact in a story is changed, but without upending the whole world. Minor retcons happen all the time; a great “mainstream” example is flashbacks in The Simpsons, since they’re frozen in time in a 20+ year show. When the show started, a memory sequence from 20 years before would unequivocally place Homer in the 1970s, but more modern episodes shift his earlier life forward, right? That’s the kind of retcon.
The other one is the reboot, where massive amounts of prior story and history is jettisoned in favor of a blank-slate renewal with only certain base facts retained. That’s what the linked story is about. DC — the comics company behind Superman and Batman — started in the 1930s, and told stories of a bunch of heroes in addition to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But in the postwar years, interest in hero comics cratered and nearly all those hero titles (except the big three) were cancelled until a revival in the 1950s. The revival, though, fundamentally changed many of the characters — the original Flash wore a tin hat, for example, but the version resurrected in the 1950s is the one you probably think of when someone says “The Flash”; he’s Barry Allen in a red suit with a cowl and a lightning motif. (In comics, the original era is referred to as the Golden Age, and the 1950s revival is the Silver Age.)
Another excellent example of a reboot is what Abrams did with the 2009 Star Trek film. We see the same characters, and the same ship, but we’re telling new stories with them. The Chris Pine version of Kirk has never met Harvey Mudd, never seen a tribble, and so forth. The inclusion of “regular” Spock in the film gives us a link to the “normal” Trek universe, but it’s otherwise distinct, with its own threads of story and history to unfold, unencumbered by any of the history that’s been piling up since the original series aired.
Anyway, the storytelling problems that surface in comics are unique to the form (though kin to those faced by any long-running narrative universe, including soaps and certain long-running franchises like Star Trek and Doctor Who). This article is a fun exploration of how DC has addressed them in the last eighty years.
My personal booze hero Justin Vann has some thoughts on the Vulgar Hedonism of Brunch that you really oughta make time for.
Or, musical history, inflation, and AV receivers
Dynaco Tube Amp, 1988
A gift from my uncle, who’d built it from a kit; this stuff was serious hi-fi nerdery in the 1970s, and I was lucky to get it (along with a tuner, a pre-amp, a tape deck, and a pair of really great Fisher speakers).
Thanks to Uncle Bob’s largesse, I was a very well equipped freshman indeed. Perhaps my favorite parts of this era’s rig were that (a) the tape deck was a toploading thing, which interfered with stacking and (b) the CD source was actually a boom box with RCA outs, which made it a great mix of old and new.
Low-end Pioneer, 1988
Sadly, the Dynaco didn’t last the semester; I suspect it had been on a shelf for years, so putting it into constant usage in a dorm room was a bit of a shock. My friend Peter insisted he could fix it, so I let him have it, and have recently confirmed via Facebook that he STILL has it, and it STILL doesn’t work. Hilarious.
Anyway, I scraped together about $250 for this low-end Pioneer, but it served me well until I got out of the dorm and wanted to upgrade. It lived out its final years with Heathen Chief Legal & Pancreatic Counsel Farmer.
Surround comes to town: Onkyo, 1992
This was actually a bit of a debacle. I started out with a Sony, but the Sony kept crapping out, so the 2nd time I drove it back to Birmingham to swap out, I said “fuck it” and dropped more than I should have on what remains probably the most high end piece of kit I’ve ever owned. The Sony was like $600, but stepping up to the Onkyo was a cool grand (about $1700 in 2016 money). You could feel the difference in the weight alone, to say nothing of the feel of its controls (or my credit card bill, for that matter; I didn’t pay that off for YEARS). This guy was SOLID, and made my apartment into my first “home theater” experience with then-novel Dolby Pro Logic.
I actually used this one until 2000, when I upgraded to the next item on the list as part of moving into what remains Heathen World HQ. Even then, I used it as the bedroom stereo and then, later, as the stereo in my office until last year, when space and convenience led me to Sonos.
After that, it languished in the closet until I found a good home for it. (No, seriously. It’ll live out its life in the home studio of a musician friend of mine, which is approximately as close to “your old dog lives on a farm now” as you’re likely to get in this life.)
The Age of Digital Hothouse Flowers, 2000: Arcam AVR100
When I bought the house, I also bought some very fancy speakers and a new receiver, because modern home surround had gone digital, and the Onkyo didn’t know how to do that.
Eschewing more mainstream brands, I bought an Arcam from the same witch-doctor woo-filled audiophile shop that sold me the speakers, and it was a mistake. It was technically cheaper than the Onkyo had been, by which I mean its price tag was the same, but the 8 year gap meant it was about $300 less real money in 2016 dollars. It was British and idiosyncratic, which lead me to note that I could tell it was high-end audio because it was a pain in the ass to use.
It got back at me by requiring factory service TWICE before a third failure in 2008 led to its ignominious end in a recycling bin. Oh, and in this era, the Onkyo had a triumphant victory lap because we’d started buying used vinyl as cheap entertainment — it was the post-crash years — and the fancyboy Arcam had no phono stage. My old pal the Onkyo, of course, did.
Let’s just make the damn thing work: Yamaha RX-V863, 2008
With the Arcam dead, I bought this one quickly. And I think Mrs Heathen may have even paid for it just to get the TV and whatnot running again. It was the third straight box with the same price tag, but time meant that it was the cheapest $1000 box yet: about $1100 in 2016 money.
This one also marked the point when the AV equipment turned towards ease of use, which is great, because at one point when I was using the Arcam I sat down to write a quickie guide for a houseguest and ended up with five pages. To watch TV. Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.
Can’t this be easy yet? It’s 2016!: Denon
Yes. Yes it can. For $399 from Amazon, I just bought last year’s model. We’re back into goofy no-pre-amp territory these days (Denon doesn’t include one on any model south of $1300, so fuck that), so I had to add an outboard one, but even so I was still spending WAY less money than on any previous receiver except the gifted Dynaco and the cheap Pioneer. My $528 this year is about the same as $261 in ’88, $309 in ’92, $379 in 2000, and $470 in 2008.
Oh, and this time around the device is smart enough to calibrate itself with an included microphone AND be controlled by an iPhone app should the remote be too far away. Progress!
(Hilariously, the speaker story is way simpler: from the Fishers to a pair of Cerwin-Vega D3s to a pair of Klipsch towers to the Vandersteens.
The Fishers got lost along the way somewhere when I got the hyperefficient (and thus CRAZY LOUD) CVs in 1988 (sorry, college neighbors!).
In 1997, I gave them to Tim Carroll and bought the Klipsches, which got demoted to surround speakers in 2000 when I bought the Vandys. They’re still there, which makes them the oldest bits in the kit and, come to think of it, eligible to vote. Wacky.)
(This is all over the web, but is absolutely worth your time.)
Deadspin noticed that swimming has lots of ties, which is weird, so they asked why. The answer is really amazing: Turns out, swimming isn’t timed to the thousandths of a second — unlike many other events — because of the imprecision inherent in pools. The lanes themselves may vary by more than the length a swimmer can travel in a thousandth of a second, so timing at that level would be bullshit anyway:
In a 50 meter Olympic pool, at the current men’s world record 50m pace, a thousandth-of-a-second constitutes 2.39 millimeters of travel. FINA pool dimension regulations allow a tolerance of 3 centimeters in each lane, more than ten times that amount. Could you time swimmers to a thousandth-of-a-second? Sure, but you couldn’t guarantee the winning swimmer didn’t have a thousandth-of-a-second-shorter course to swim. (Attempting to construct a concrete pool to any tighter a tolerance is nearly impossible; the effective length of a pool can change depending on the ambient temperature, the water temperature, and even whether or not there are people in the pool itself.)
A year ago, my life was pretty much the same. I was walking and riding and doing pretty much everything I do now. It was a welcome change from the previous winter and spring and the medical adventures they held.
Two years ago, I didn’t know it, but I was only 3 months from the start of that little adventure.
Five years ago, life was only a little different. I wasn’t riding yet. I was actually in a play, believe it or not. But I had the same job, and the same friends, more or less. A month later, I’d visit my niece for her fourth birthday in Jackson; she’ll be NINE next month.
Ten years ago, I’d been married for only a year. It remains the best thing ever. It was also the summer of Speeding Motorcycle, which is hard to even grasp today.
Twenty years ago, I’d only lived in Houston a hot minute — ok, 2 years — but I was still finding my feet here. I was months away from the best job ever and the friends I’d make there, but I knew that Houston was fast becoming home.
Twenty five years ago, I was in Tuscaloosa, freshly 21, living in a terrible duplex with a great friend, on the runway to “real life” and about to take off. I just wasn’t sure in which direction (but it turned out to be “west”).
Thirty years ago — the same year as the Challenger and Chernobyl — this very day, my life changed in a way that nearly everyone’s does at some point: my father died.
His cancer wasn’t as quick as the one that took my stepfather last year, but it wasn’t too slow, either: he had about 18 months from diagnosis to funeral. I was 16; my brother had just turned 11. Loss at that age becomes foundational, a key attribute to one’s character and development. It winds its way through me in ways I’m sure I’ll never really understand. Even though I rarely think of him now — perhaps a harsh thing to admit, but it’s true — I know the hole it left in my early life is still there. And it’s not just because I’m still not used to paying veterinary bills.
I’m 46 now. I’ve mentioned before that, after the delightful milestones we all enjoy in our twenties (graduations, weddings) and thirties (children), the menu for midlife milestones seems to tilt increasingly towards trauma. Divorces happen sometimes, but parental loss looms much larger and more universally. In your mid-40s, your parents are almost certainly into a realm of statistical danger. And, sure enough, I’ve been to parental funerals, so it’s increasingly normal that my brother and I are missing one, too.
What will never be normal is that we got there 30 years ahead.
Cheers, Dad. The list of things you’ve missed is enormous and ever-growing, and now I’m older than you ever got to be. You’ve been gone for two thirds of my life, and nearly 80% of Frank’s, and those numbers will just get bigger. I have no insight or conclusion, but maybe that’s just as well.
Pictured: The author (l) and subject, ca. 1971 or 1972. He’s no more than 32.
Here’s Sammy Davis Jr pitching Suntory whisky. Because you deserve a smile.
Go read this recollection of a teenage girl in California, her little brother, and their first R.E.M. show in 1985.
In the 80s, I kept the tape in the car, unless I needed inside. When I started replacing tapes with CDs, a bonus was that I could keep the CD in the house and the cassette in the car, so I had it everywhere. In the MP3 era, it’s always been on my phone for easy access anywhere. And, obviously, as I write this, it’s playing in my office using technology that was science fiction at its release three decades ago.
Estonian rapper (yes) Tommy Cash brings us by far the weirdest, most freakish video I’ve ever seen, and I say that counting Peaches’ “Rub”.
Stay with it past 2:05 for sure.
(NSFW, btw. As is the Peaches video I mentioned but did not link.)
By now we’ve all seen friends posting (old) news stories about famous people who have died as though it was recent news, right? Something along the lines of “I can’t believe Elvis died!”, followed by several other comments of disbelief before someone points out the obvious: that Mr Presley passed away 39 years ago.
Today, well, it’s not just Facebook; at the Chronicle:
Jesus, check a fucking FACT, why don’t you?
Serena Williams is Fed Up With Your Sexist Questions (at Glamour, of all places).
I’m installing Project, after having installed Office. I got this error. How on earth is this even a thing that you let happen?
I mean, seriously. I’m a giant nerd with 25 years of experience, and I can barely parse what the hell they’re talking about. How exactly is a normal human supposed to respond to this?
Jesus X. Christ.
WALSENBURG, Colo. — Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?
They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.
Turns out, to reduce both abortion and unwanted pregnancies, the best approach is unfettered access to birth control. How about that? Approaches like this don’t just make fiscal sense — obviously, it’s cheaper to provide low-income people with birth control than it is to cover an unplanned pregnancy and all that follows — but also empower women. It’s a giant win across the board.
Given that the program has had an enormous effect on reducing abortion in Colorado, you’d think that anyone with a pro-life mindset would embrace it. Color me utterly shocked that this hasn’t happened! I mean, it’s almost like abortion isn’t the point for these people, isn’t it?
That’s what I’m forced to conclude after realizing, months after cancelling my subscription, that they were still emailing me.
I clicked the “manage email” link at the bottom of their latest message, even though I was pretty sure I’d already unsubscribed and turned all the emails off. There, I discovered this — note the part I’ve boxed in red:
Sure, I unchecked all those boxes weeks ago, but that wasn’t enough to stop the email. For that, you have to CALL.
Ancestry’s plan is to make it hard to get off their spam list; most people won’t bother with the phone, so Ancestry can disingenuously believe they still want to get their babble. It makes you wonder how many folks just gave up and set up filters in Gmail or whatever to automatically delete anything from their domain!
That’s shady as fuck. I cancelled my subscription with them when I realized I just didn’t have time to use it — and at $30 a month, I wasn’t going to just let it ride. I had intended to back, but now I really don’t think I want to do business with these people.
The Department of Canine Security has raised the firework advisory level from “Gray” to “Gray” following credible evidence of human-made explosive devices used to celebrate something called “America.” There is a severe risk of deafening explosions, which have previously resulted in frightened puppies and fingerless masters. Wiener dogs should practice special caution, as the most commonly served food at “America” parties is Dachshund-shaped sandwiches.
So what exactly is this “America”? Masters seem to complain about it all year long and then, for some inexplicable reason, they celebrate it for a day by drinking countless cans of smelly, magical dizzy juice. Dogs have reported their masters guzzling this foul-tasting potion on other occasions such as “Christmas,” “Cinco de Mayo” and “I got fired today.”
The Department of Canine Security urges dogs to remain on high alert and employ the tactic of See Something, Say Something. Remember to bark upon spotting anything suspicious; e.g. firecrackers, sparklers, Roman candles, cats, squirrels, mail carriers, shadows, reflections, other dogs on TV, etc.
Mark Hamill, on TV in the late 1970s.
This piece, from the New York Observer in 1997, completely obliterates John Updike’s Toward the End of Time.
Mailer, Updike, Roth — the Great Male Narcissists* who’ve dominated postwar realist fiction are now in their senescence, and it must seem to them no coincidence that the prospect of their own deaths appears backlit by the approaching millennium and on-line predictions of the death of the novel as we know it. When a solipsist dies, after all, everything goes with him. And no U.S. novelist has mapped the solipsist’s terrain better than John Updike, whose rise in the 60s and 70s established him as both chronicler and voice of probably the single most self-absorbed generation since Louis XIV.
And the conclusion:
Maybe the only thing the reader ends up appreciating about [protagonist] Ben Turnbull is that he’s such a broad caricature of an Updike protagonist that he helps us figure out what’s been so unpleasant and frustrating about this gifted author’s recent characters. It’s not that Turnbull is stupid — he can quote Kierkegaard and Pascal on angst and allude to the deaths of Schubert and Mozart and distinguish between a sinistrorse and a dextrorse Polygonum vine, etc. It’s that he persists in the bizarre adolescent idea that getting to have sex with whomever one wants whenever one wants is a cure for ontological despair. And so, it appears, does Mr. Updike — he makes it plain that he views the narrator’s impotence as catastrophic, as the ultimate symbol of death itself, and he clearly wants us to mourn it as much as Turnbull does. I’m not especially offended by this attitude; I mostly just don’t get it. Erect or flaccid, Ben Turnbull’s unhappiness is obvious right from the book’s first page. But it never once occurs to him that the reason he’s so unhappy is that he’s an asshole.
Among the many proofs available regarding the fundamental capriciousness of the universe is that we’re left with only three (ish) novels from Wallace, and something like an order of magnitude more books from Updike.
This is best possible cover of Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life”, and possibly the finest thing on the Internet to exist ever.
This woman did, and MSFT folded to the tune of TEN GRAND.
Donald Trump is reportedly now an evangelical Christian, or so says noted evangelical liar James Dobson.
Well, maybe you can learn via counterexample, at least.
“Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said on a radio show Thursday.
The logic that Dems favor Muslims/terrorists over gays is coming down from the very top of the GOP 2016 ticket. Donald Trump, in his first major speech after the weekend’s tragedy suggested that Hillary Clinton “can never claim to be a friend of the gay community.”
“She can’t have it both ways,” Trump said. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.”
More at Talking Points Memo.
None of you have given me the LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS, though I understand the reason may be that it’s only marginally less expensive, relatively speaking, than the actual car it represents.
Still: Very cool. 2,704 pieces!
Venerable Montrose tavern Cecil’s Pub — where I spent a nontrivial part of the 90s, and met people who became lifelong friends — is up for sale after 26 years.
It was always a good place back then (and, I’m sure, now). The bartenders learned your name quickly, and became friends; one of them even became a pretend white supremacist on TV, much to our shared glee. Sometimes, celebs drifted through — I literally bumpted into Tim Robbins at the bar one night (“who the hell is this tall motherfucker in my way ZOMG I LOVED THE PLAYER“). The bar survived the early gentrification of the area, and even a fire (which, I’m sure, was probably the only way to clean the carpets at that point).
The Chron has a nice feature about it, and reminds us that it was featured in Dave Attell’s Insomniac back in 2001, the entirety of which is on YouTube so you can see pre-fire Cecil’s.
Owner Kimberly Blythe is selling to retire (and good for her), but hopes someone will take over. Even though I never go there anymore, I hope so, too.
Highlander is now 30 years old, which just kills me. Forget the sequels and the TV show; the original film is a lovely gem of urban fantasy. Aren’t you glad it’s getting a new 4K theater run and updated DVD/Blu-Ray options?
Here’s the 4K trailer. Enjoy. UK release early next month; no set date for US, but you know it’s coming.
Right, so, there have been some Developments.
When I posted my previous entry about Bedrock, I also tweeted it at them hoping to get some kind of reaction. Sure enough, a couple days later, I got a message on Facebook from the manager of the Washington Avenue store. To call it an abject apology would be to understate things by several orders of magnitude. John Scalzi has, somewhat famously, attempted to quantify what makes a good apology, and the Bedrock manager hit all the right notes.
I made a mistake, plain and simple. There is no store policy or company policy about having a phone number for having a box, it is just a requirement that I prefer we have. I like being able to reach people directly concerning any issues with the box. I set your form off to the side, again my decision, making a terrible assumption about when you would next be in the store. I incorrectly assumed you would be in the next week or the week after, I would then get the phone number and then enter the information in our system and get everything started. This, obviously, did not happen. I read your review on your blog and your anger is well justified. I should have reached out to you via email. Especially considering I deemed the phone number so important, but, in all honesty, did not even consider that. Again, this is all my fault and my responsibility, not an indictment of Bedrock City comics.
He doesn’t stutter or prevaricate; he takes full responsibility, and then comes the kicker: if I’d give them another shot, they’ll supply any issues I missed on their dime, even if they have to go to other dealers to do it.
Yeah, I can do that.
I had a bit of business travel last week, but yesterday Mrs Heathen and I went into Bedrock again and met with this manager. We gathered what they had of my pulls in house, plus another trade or two, and took inventory of what I needed that they didn’t have yet. Turns out I haven’t missed many issues after all, which is nice. Nicer still, the missing ones are from big-print-run Marvel books, so finding them will be trivial for Bedrock. (I should have them later this week, actually.) We started over, more or less, and I left there feeling good about the shop and about Eric the manager in particular, which is a long way from where I was on May 25. He didn’t have to reach out to me at all; that took actual guts and integrity, and he deserves praise for having the stones to do it. Moreover, they certainly didn’t have to comp my entire pile yesterday, which rang to the tune of $40 or $50. But they did, to make up for the hassle, and that’s how you recover when you fuck up.
That’s the lesson here, really. Every business will make mistakes, even good ones run with the best of intentions. The trick is all in how you recover, and Bedrock (and Eric) nailed the recovery in a way that’s really only happened to me one other time.
Nearly two decades ago, something similar happened to me with a car detailing shop: they lost my car key, and since it was a Porsche I’d bought used, it was the only one I had. Before I could even say a word, though, they were outlining how they’d fix it. Obviously, they’d pay for my replacement key. But also I’d have the use of the owner’s truck for the duration. They’d guard my car — it couldn’t be moved or locked without the key — until a key showed up from Porsche America, which turned out to be about 72 hours. And after it was all over, they’d clean up the various rock dings on the front air dam of the car for free, which I never would’ve done because it was about $500 worth of work. Ask me now: have I ever used another detailing shop? Nope.
It’s early yet, but right about now my bet’s that I’ll be buying comics at Bedrock for a long time, too.
THERE’S AN UPDATE. SCROLL UP. HERE’S THE LINK.
It’s not so much online, or other demands on our attention. It’s because of gatekeeping behavior, I’m sure in part, but in my personal experience, the biggest single reason?
They are bad at their jobs.
Let me explain.
Comics are a periodical medium; it used to be they were tied to months in the calendar, but that’s not universally true anymore; new issues just come out when they come out. People keep up by dealing with a local comic shop and setting up what’s called a “pull list.” You go in, fill out a form with some contact data, and make a list of the titles you want “pulled” for you when they come out. Then, you go to the store at your leisure to pick up your accumulated comics.
Big fans who read many titles do this every Wednesday, which is traditionally when new comics come out (you may have seen DC fans in your life talking about buying a highly-anticipated comic at midnight last night, i.e. on the first moments of Wednesday; it’s also been a plot point in Big Bang Theory more than once). People like me who read fewer titles probably go in once a month, or even every couple of months, but the principle is the same.
For years I had a pull list at Nan’s Comics and Games. I finally quit when, for the umpteenth time, they just skipped a couple of my issues. This is a “you had one job” kind of situation, right? If I have The Avengers on my list, I expect to get every issue. If I travel a bunch and don’t come in for 6 or 8 weeks, the point of the pull list is that I don’t miss anything. Nan’s couldn’t be bothered to actually do my pulls reliably, and so I just quit reading monthlies because it was too much trouble.
Back in early April, though, I was tempted back by some really great writing by folks like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, and others, plus the Ta-Nehisi Coates-penned revival of Black Panther. Returning to Nan’s was out of the question, but there’s a much shinier and newer shop — a branch of Bedrock City, which has several locations in Houston — up on Washington Avenue. It’s actually next door to my doctor, even (which is convenient for him, since he’s a big nerd too).
I went in and picked 5 or 6 titles, and then filled out their pull-list paperwork. They had my name, my email, my physical address, and I even provided a credit card number after we discussed the fact that I might not drop by for a month or so at a time. “If we have your card, we’ll just charge you for them after a month or two, and nobody worries about it.” Fine by me! Let’s do this! I had the guy review the paperwork to ensure all was squared away — this turns out to be important — and left looking forward to my comics.
I got busy. I ride a lot, and work’s been crazy. I was driving by Bedrock today, though, and — fueled by the knowledge that Black Panther #2 had just come out; n.b. I bought the first one when I was in there in January or February, so this is what “monthly” looks like for some titles — I stopped by to pick up my comics. I was even a little excited!
The girl at the desk, though, killed that with a quickness. “We don’t have a pull list for Farmer,” she said after checking the computer.
“I’m pretty sure you do.”
She poked around a bit, opened a drawer, and pulled my form out of some kind of dead letter file. On the front was a PostIt saying that, because they didn’t have my phone number, they couldn’t set up the pull.
Mind you, they reviewed my paperwork back in April, and pronounced it find. Plus, my email address was RIGHT THERE ON THE FORM, in the box marked “email,” so it’s not like they couldn’t reach me. Even if they were dead set on having the phone number for the pull (which the guy in January didn’t care about), you’d think they could’ve reached out by email to get the phone number. These are people who, presumably, also care about comics, and understand that missing issues isn’t cool.
Apparently not. By now, I’ve missed at least one issue of everything on my list other than Panther, which (as I said) just came out.
I bought that, and only that, and told them not to bother with the pull after all.
Fuck you, Bedrock. I’ll buy the rest of the Panther issues somewhere else when they come out. The other titles I’ll get digitally, or buy the trade paperbacks when they come out. From AMAZON.
Why are comics shops in trouble? Shit like this right here, boyo. Shit like this right here.
(For the record, the girl behind the counter seemed to understand this was bullshit, but made clear the decision to behave this way wasn’t hers.)
This fascinating story details how, in the early 90s, Subaru (a) realized that their cars were surprisingly popular among a certain demographic and then (b) began explicitly marketing to that demographic, but without other groups really noticing.
What worked were winks and nudges. One ad campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It’s Not a Choice. It’s the Way We’re Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity.
Check out the graphics — some of the stuff you’d noticed today (the rainbow flag sticker, e.g.), but plenty of it is very, very subtle. It’s like the evangelical dog-whistling that Bush and Cruz (& etc) have used, except not awful and evil.
Also, this bit makes me smile:
In response to the ads, Subaru received letters from a grassroots group that accused the carmaker of promoting homosexuality. Everyone who penned a letter said they’d never buy a Subaru again.
But the marketing team quickly discovered that none of the people threatening a boycott had ever bought a Subaru. Some of them had even misspelled “Subaru.”
One of my favorite sketches ever is from a super obscure place: something called The New Show, which ran for a grand total of 9 episodes in 1984.
Produced by SNL founder and emperor Lorne Michaels, the show really only existed because of what we might call The Michaels Hiatus Period in SNL history. Sure, he founded the show in 1975, and ran it through 1980, but after 5 years he felt the need to seek out other opportunities. He left the show to Jean Doumanian, who was replaced after a single season by Dick Ebersol (who’s more of note for his role with NBC Sports, but whatever).
Anyway, so, Michaels is off doing other things after 1980. Late in his hiatus — he took SNL back in 1985 — Michaels was back with another sketch show. This one was entirely pre-taped, and had no shortage of serious talent, but for whatever reason it failed utterly.
I remember watching it, but hand to God the only bit I can say I truly remember is this: Roy’s Food Repair, featuring John Candy, Paul Simon, and Dave Thomas (among others). It’s the absurdity and the delivery that still kill, 32 years later.