Emotional hit

•April 18, 2013 • 5 Comments

We had a big flood in our basement. It looks like the water peaked over a foot high. It’s sewage, not stormwater. All books on bottom shelves (raised about six inches) are completely compromised, as are the bottom boxes of comics (which I kept on cinderblocks). Losses include all of my Third Edition D&D books, all my Green Ronin books, and the vast majority of my TMNT comics. Thousands of dollars and literally decades of collecting shot to hell.

I know it’s “just stuff” and I have a sense of perspective with other stuff going on in the world, but this is a massive emotional blow to me personally. I had a lot of money, time, and soul invested in that stuff. It’s a kneejerk reaction, but I’m swearing off collecting. If it’s not digital, it’s not worth it.

Please do not comment with “it’s just stuff” or anything suggesting that. That’s NOT what I need right now. Thanks.



The anachronism of the New York Times

•November 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

[Normally I’d post this sort of thing to twitter, but 140 characters ain’t enough.]

I’m a huge Nate Silver fan. I feel that quantitative analysis (especially statistical analysis) is sorely undervalued and underutilized in all aspects of the contemporary world and I love that his work has more people thinking about it. I’ve followed his work since the early days of the 2008 election and have done everything I can to popularize it. So you can imagine how elated I was when he gained the backing of the New York Times. His audience and resources were instantly increased exponentially.

I’ve never read the New York Times before. So I wasn’t familiar with their “Mr/Ms” policy. Basically, people aren’t referred to by their last names, as is standard practice in nearly every other form of expository writing. A “Mr” or “Ms” MUST precede every last name. This bothers me a lot, for two reasons.

First, it makes the writing read far stodgier than it needs to. This matters. I get the concept of journalistic register. I also get the concept of connecting with your readers. Maintaining an archaic style that your contemporaries have done away with accomplishes nothing beyond making you sound like an old coot who refuses to change with the times. It might seem inconsequential, but readers pick up on that kind of nuance whether they realize it or not. It affects the color of the writing and as such it affects how it’s interpreted and understood by the reader.

But maybe that’s just me being pedantic. Here’s where it matters more: “Mr” Obama and “Mr” Romney. OK, fine, you decide you’re not just going with “Obama” and “Romney” for whatever reason. Shouldn’t they be “President” Obama and “Governor” Romney? In what other context is a sitting US president NOT referred to by his title? I find it extremely disrespectful. I’m not a huge fan of politicians holding their titles after they’ve left office (i.e., President Clinton ain’t president any more), so if you don’t want to call Romney “Governor,” fine. But Obama is in office!

It might be a minor, inconsequential detail. But in an age when traditional newspapers are struggling to maintain their presence and importance, details matter.


Adventures in Bucktown

•December 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My awesome wife bought me a Groupon to a comic store on the outskirts of Bucktown. I decided to use it yesterday, so I embarked on a rare solo excursion. The comics store itself was rather unimpressive. No back issues and a surprisingly sparse selection of indie TPBs. (For those keeping score at home, I bought Animal Man, Vol. 2 and Tumor.) The most remarkable thing about the place was the guy manning the register. If he were any more hipster he would’ve hurt himself. He had the requisite black-frame glasses, along with a black suit, bright red shirt, and black tie. In a comic shop. What business does a guy have looking like that and not stocking The God Machine, that’s what I’d like to know.

After my shopping, I wanted something to eat. I wasn’t far from Damen and Milwaukee, so I decided to go to the Earwax Cafe. The place has good vegetarian food and I hadn’t been there in forever. (One quick aside: Chips and salsa only work as a side when the salsa is good. Mediocre salsa just doesn’t cut it.) It should be mentioned that this place is in the heart of Bucktown, which, along with Wicker Park, is hipster central in Chicago. I didn’t expect to fit in; I have no delusions about my age. But it really struck me how little I would’ve fit in back in my twenties. My black leather biker jacket and work boots wouldn’t at all have cut it with this crowd. But wasn’t I a weirdo? Am I not as weird as I thought? Then why haven’t I fit in anywhere else?

Then it struck me: I’m certainly weird enough. It’s not me that’s changed, it’s the weirdos. Back in the day I could’ve done this crowd. The difference is that there would’ve been more black leather biker jackets. And I would’ve been a weirdo among weirdos — that aura of lowbrowness among artsy hipsters, even though I can hold a conversation about books or music or what have you. That realization made me smile, as I’ve always been proud of keeping my roots and my intellectualism in balance and harmony with each other. And, for the record, I had a great conversation with my waitress about indie comics — I still got it. 🙂

The pièce de resistance was my final stop at the auto-parts store to buy a headlight. My worlds merged beautifully in one trip.

Marathon caveat

•October 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I hereby retract the last line of the last post. I don’t want to disrespect all those people who accomplished the mammoth feat of running a marathon by saying I “get” what they went through. I don’t. I can’t even come close. What I get is the experience of being part of running culture. And even that I only get as a spectator, as an outsider looking in. I’ll never experience what those runners did, and I have nothing but deep respect for each and every one.

I am not a runner

•October 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

But a few people who are very close to me (including my wife) are. It’s not just that they run, or even that they run as a hobby. They’re all runners. They’re part of a running community. They read running magazines and train for races. They’re committed runners. Being a committed lazy fatass, I’ve kept myself pretty distant from that, just figuring that I’d never understand.

Well, I think I’ve come closer to that understanding. This past weekend, one of the dear-to-me runners ran the Chicago Marathon. My family and his met to cheer him on. We arrived early and found a great spot in Chinatown near the 21-mile mark to settle in. Wow, were my eyes opened. The camaraderie, the community, the culture of running really hit me. These people all understood each other. For the span of a few hours, they were all one. It didn’t matter if they came to cheer a particular person, they were cheering everyone. Everyone could feel the pain, the effort, and the perseverance it took each and every one of those runners to get that far in the race. The runners themselves fed off the energy that all of us on the sidelines gave off. I finally got something I’d never understood — why people run 26.2 miles at given races rather than just doing it on their own. It’s because of this sense of community, of oneness. Because of random strangers yelling out your name and telling you you can do it. Because of the thousands of others in the same boat that will pick you up as you need it.

The closest I can personally come to that sense is being at a comic or gaming convention. Sure, I can buy back issues online and read about the goings-on at my favorite publishers. But that’s not the same as being on the floor in the thick of it. Being surrounded by thousands of other geeks who are as passionate about the same things you are. Feeling that energy, that vibe. It was the same thing at the marathon, but amplified by the grandiosity of the accomplishment of these thousands of people.

I am not a runner, but I get it. For the first time, I really truly get it.

Schoenhof’s light

•September 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This past weekend my wife ran the Chicago Half-Marathon (which you should read all about at http://runningforom.blogspot.com/2010/09/chicago-half-marathon.html). Her aunt graciously let us stay at her condo the night before the race. I’d never noticed before, but the building next to hers has a little bookstore called Europa Books. Naturally, I had to stop in and check the place out.

Imagine my glee when I discovered it was dedicated to foreign-language books. Sa was with me and we spent some time in the children’s section reading Spanish and Italian books. Then I noticed a poster noting an affiliation between Europa and Schoenhof’s! Schoenhof’s is a bookstore in Boston, widely acknowledged as the most expansive foreign-language bookstore in the country. Their inventory is very impressive, especially for language-learning materials.

This made me want to explore even more. We went into the store’s basement and found the language-learning section. I almost wept. Books on Amharic and Czech and Latvian, as well as those old stalwarts like Chinese and French, jumped out at me. Having never been to Schoenhof’s in person, this was the most language books I’d ever seen in one place. I simply basked in it as long as Sa let me (and she was very patient), looking book by book. I even found a Waveland book on the shelf! (http://www.waveland.com/Titles/Rivers.htm) Truly a thing of beauty and a spiritual experience. Incredible that I hadn’t found it earlier.

Lack of activity

•September 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I think my lack of posting might be at least somewhat related to my lack of finishing any new books. Both of the books I’m reading now don’t look to be finished any time soon, and my books are what inspire me. Perhaps it’s time to seek inspiration outside the literary world.