January 30, 2013

Bringing everything out into the light

I've had a bin of Lego minifigures that's been getting fuller and fuller for a few years now.

I started the bin at school a few years back when I was in my first stint as webmaster. I had a weird dream of taking the Viking Lego chess set - the only set with red and grey Vikings - and producing a bunch of photos for news items on the webpage. When there was a soccer story, for example, I would post a picture of a red Viking with a soccer ball. That meant hunting down various Lego minifigure accessories via the Lego grey market. From there - and in the addition of the various sets of collectible minifigures - the collection has grown and grown.

Last week I sat down and sorted them, putting together as many unique figures as I could manage, sorting them into categories - spacemen, superheroes, city folks, policemen, collectibles, Vikings, basketballers, soccer players, whatever - and then putting them into category-specific zipper baggies...back in the bin for now.

I'm still in need of some more Lego city folk to hold my awesome collection of accessories - and of five of the nine released series of collectible minifigures (checkin' ebay), but more importantly of somewhere and someway to display the minifigures so that I'm not keeping them buried in the bin anymore.

Here's what I've found as possibilities so far...

Possibility #1 - some version of baseplate in a display case with figures stuck to them...

Because so many of my figures have backpacks, they will require some sort of offset from the baseplate (available in an extra-large size that I like), maybe a stand like one of these. It's a possibility, though, and is currently the second choice

Possibility #2 - individual cases for each minifigures - maybe stuck together

At $2 per display case, though, that makes for something like $300 for me to just buy the clear, plastic cases - much less the framing bricks. Plus they're only available from one vendor in the US (or one in Europe, but they won't ship the me.)

After checking a few forum discussions, I found that there are more options than I would have thought.

Possibility #3 - collectible storage boxes of hard plastic

That might be good for keeping the figures nice, but I can't imagine hanging six or so of those on my walls. Plus the boxes don't look big enough for all the tall accessories that I have.

Possibility #4 - A nicely modified shadowbox

I'm more than a little envious of the Star Wars collection that the builder has there. Luckily, the builder has posted full instructions here.

To get something looking that nice, I'm going to have to do some work hunting down shadowboxes, comparing measurements (interior, most importantly) and cost, and then doing some cutting and spray painting. That's looking more like a Spring Break/summer project. Plus I want to see if I can get some shadowboxes that open in the front so I can take the figures in and out easily.

Possibility #5 - There's no way The Girl lets me hang these things on the wall...plus, honestly, they look like they're for a kid's room, not an adult's wall.

January 29, 2013

January 28, 2013

The best streakers in music

I went looking for which bands/artists had the greatest consecutive-album run. To check, I headed to allmusic.com which is the only site I know of that rates old (pre-internet) albums and assigned quantitative (five-star scaled) ratings to each album.

I initially checked the great artists I could think of - Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Fairport, and others - but needed a more thorough list. The most comprehensive one that I could find was Rolling Stone's 100 greatest artists list. Here's what I have...

Which bands have had three-straight perfect albums?
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival (82) - 4.5, 5, 5, 5 (That's their consecutive albums - 4.5/5 stars followed by three consecutive five-star albums...and then 82 is their ranking on Rolling Stone's list)
  • Black Sabbath (85) - I am stunned...4.5, 5, 5, 5, 4.5, 4.5 
  • Elvis Costello (80) - 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5
  • Beastie Boys (77) - 5, 5, 5
  • Radiohead (73) - 5, 5, 5
  • Al Green (66) - 5, 5, 5, 4.5
  • Allman Brothers Band (53) - 5, 5, 5
  • Run DMC (48) - 5, 5, 5
  • Public Enemy (44) - 5, 5, 5
  • Nirvana (30) - 5, 5, 5
  • Bruce Springsteen (23) - 5, 5, 5, 4.5, 5, 5, 5, 4.5 (That's an amazing run to start his career - six perfect albums out of eight, the other two nearly perfect.)
  • Velvet Underground (20) - 5, 5, 5, 5
  • Led Zeppelin (14) - 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 (six in a row)
  • Jimi Hendrix (6) - 5, 5, 5
  • Bob Dylan (2) - 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 (six in a row)
  • Beatles (1) - 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 (six in a row)
  • Frank Sinatra - 5, 5, 5, 5, 4.5, 5...easily one of then greatest but not Rock...also oddly album-oriented for his time...
  • Miles Davis - 5, 5, 5, 4.5, 5, 5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4.5, 4.5...three in a row, then five in a row...greatest jazz artist ever, from what I understand...all of the five-star albums came in 1956-1960...hell of a period for anybody...others in 1954...1967...1968...1970...1970...1972...maybe more perfect (according to AllMusic) albums than any other artist, 18 total...I can't imagine anyone else coming close...not Rock, so understandable that Rolling Stone didn't include him...(five in a row)
The rest of the top one-hundred is after the jump. Take a look at it and see if you can think of any other artists that I should check.

January 26, 2013

Keep it chill and see what happens

 photo keyy_zps2f558dad.gif

January 24, 2013

Mixed Media

As always, I'm reading and watching and absorbing...

Batman: Earth One - At what point are we just muddying the waters?

For the umpteenth time an author has taken Bob Kane's outline - loving parents, murder, training, revenge - and written the same story with different beats and notes, and I don't see the need for it. Yes, if the story is well told, that's all the matters, but I didn't so much think this was all that well written.

It's fine - with Alfred's prosthetic leg, Mayor Cobblepot, a cowardly and broken Jim Gordon, a handsome Harvey Bullock - it's just not anything special. Meh...

Superman: Earth One: Volume Two - Read above...repeat...

Only here Clark Kent wants to get some action and is regretting the fact that his powers prevent...um...well...coupling with a human woman. It's somehow distasteful to me, even down to Clark and Pa Kent talking about the inevitable difficulties of carnal love. And the fact that they make his love interest an escort/prostitute so that he can turn away and stay friends. It almost feels like the writers here are teasing something far more lascivious than they're willing to deliver here, too.

They also write Clark as more violent - he picks up and threatens one of his 'love interest's' johns when he threatens to get violent with her and then also appears in the bedroom of a general who tells him to get out of his country. Again, I found it distasteful.

Marvel Knights: Black Panther - Things started off promisingly enough with the John Romita Jr art style and the cool music, but things just petered out over the course of these six twenty-minute episodes. Over the course of the two-hour running time, there is probably a very fine, maybe one-hour of story padded out with a whole lot of 'previously on' and 'next time' clips.

Even the Romita style disappears by the end of the series and is replaced with a far more cartoony style, meaning that the only thing worth recommending here isn't even there for the full time. Blech...

Red Hood and the Outlaws - From the casual, trampy, over-sexed Koriander to the ridiculously spiritual Jason Todd, this series should have been aborted from the get go.

Ted - Easily the best work of the weeks.

It's crass and foul and offensive in oh so many ways, but it's surprisingly moving and actually kinda touching when things nearly take a negative turn in the climax.

It's tough to talk about the best moments of this one because they're pretty much all wrong and the kind of jokes that I shouldn't tell on this blog what with the students around and all.

The Bostonian accents; the realness of Ted, himself; the vulgarity...it all works wonderfully

5 Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth - I'm guessing that most folks who are on the web have read some of The Oatmeal's comics, and this is a book-long collection of those. Supposedly there are a few non-web gems here and there, but I couldn't tell 'em from the regular ones. It's chucklesome, but it's nothing that I need to ever flip through again.

Wonder Woman: Blood - Back to the New 52 for DC...

I was surprisingly happy with this, considering how crap I've thought the New 52 volumes have been.

In total, the read of Wonder Woman is good times all around.

Great use of Wonder Woman's Greek mythological family for the reboot and gorgeous artwork from Cliff Chiang...

Sadly, then, Chiang gets replaced by Tony Akins after the first four issues. The artwork isn't bad there, it's just not quite as awesome.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents - Dumb...avoid it...

Twilight Zone: The After Hours - I'm thinking that an Twilight Zone story from the original series (and that was remade in the 1980's version) doesn't need a graphic novel adaptation - even if it was a student project.

This one really doesn't work because the plot - a woman wanders around a department store and eventually learns that she is actually a mannequin come to life and whose time in the world is up so that another mannequin can take a turn (oh, spoiler, I guess) - requires mannequins to come to life. This is a little tough for a still image storytelling medium to convey. In a number of panels it's confusing trying to tell whether the vague sense of unease is because the people are alive or aren't moving.

Skip it...

Pitch Perfect - The plot is thoroughly predictable, mixing up sports cliches (the team almost loses before the finals but is saved at the last moment, a star player on the bad team ditches his teammates but has to be replaced by a benchwarmer who comes through at the last moment, the former star on the good team has to learn to give up control to the up and coming, more creative and free star, shockingly the two best teams in the country are from the same school!) and college movie romantic cliches (the main character finally gets around to watching the movie the love interest had wanted her to see all along, and it brings them together for good).

Luckily, the actors are thoroughly engaging and likable. Anna Kendrick is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, showing a joy in her performance and never quite pulling off the edgy girl so much as the cute girl trying to be edgy. The performances are also a blast - if the alleged spontaneity leads to some pretty spectacular and unreasonably polished impromptu accomplishments...

If those seem too hokey or twee for you, avoid this. I, however, thoroughly enjoyed the film - and especially appreciated the performance commentary from Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins.

Big Man Japan - What the heck did I just watch?

Man, this is a weird, weird film. The trailer for which does absolutely nothing in selling what the film really is: a fake documentary film about the man who transforms himself into Japan's last giant defender.

Instead of the constant, wacky action that the trailer seems to suggest makes up the bulk of the film, we get a sad story of a man whose responsibilities to his nation have robbed him of any semblance of a life more than solitary meals at the local noodle restaurant.

And then the Power Rangers show up to save the day.

Seriously, with absolutely no reason for it, no groundwork laid for it, the conclusion shows a superteam of totally not-previously-mentioned or alluded-to show up to fix everything and then yell at each other.

Freaky weird...and not in a good way...

The Unwritten (vol 1-5) - This one fell into my library queue almost by accident as two different year-end lists had it on their best-of compilation for 2012. I'm not one to avoid the best stuff...if the library has it for free, so I gave the first five volumes a chance.

What I found was an incredibly rich, involved, detailed plot winding its way through the volumes requiring a lot of attention and willingness for me to let the story reel out a bit before I found the true thread. It's not an easy read, but it's a rewarding one.

The plot seems silly and highly derivative as a Harry-Potter-esque main character (Tommy Taylor) seems to have come to life, crafted into the real world from pure story-telling energy by his author father - but without Tommy knowing it. He thinks he's just a real boy whose dad used his name for the most famous stories in the world. The truth, however, is even far more complicated as Dad created Tommy to fight a centuries-long secret cabal of...storytellers, I guess...who have been shaping our world through the magic of stories for longer than anyone can imagine.

Magic, literary references (thankfully explained as most go over my head), friendship, love, and myth ensue...

I'm hooked...

January 23, 2013


Today's shocking, stunning, amazing, bewildering fact of the day...courtesy of the Smithsonian's blog...

The bit.ly link leads to this article on the rebounding population of the bowheads on Alaksa Dispatch's website.

January 22, 2013

Did you hear that actress who got stabbed?


Thanks to Neatorama for getting me started here...

And, no, with a knife...

January 21, 2013

Smack the pooh out of the ball

I kinda enjoyed Winnie the Pooh's Home Run Derby. I don't get why people are crabbing about the difficulty. I've successfully made it to level four...anybody wanna try to do better?

January 19, 2013

Don't you ladies look nice for once?

January 17, 2013

For Calen's Monday mornings

A few songs to make Calen happy on a Monday morning...

I'm thinking I may put a similar playlist together for myself - songs that always make me happy. That'd be something worth having on hand.

January 16, 2013

Awesome People Hanging Out Together

I'm not always impressed with most Tumblrs as they tend to be image postings with few comments and even less thought behind them.

Occasionally, though, a thematic tumblr is interesting and well-thought-out enough that images are enough. One example of this sort of tumblr is the appropriately-titled Awesome People Hanging Out Together.

Eddie Murphy, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor
Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen, and Jay Z

Hugh Laurie, Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch

Louis Armstrong and Niels Bohr, 1959, Copenhagen

January 15, 2013

Rock me, mama...

The song started out as one of Bob Dylan's many half-finished, thrown-away song snippets...(source & source)

The song was finished and masterfully performed by Old Crow Medicine Show on their O.C.M.S. album...

January 14, 2013

Rickman...the truth...

The Girl pointed out this outstanding quote/meme from Alan Rickman - Hans Gruber, Severus Snape, Metatron.

It's a great, wonderful, touching quote...but...

...there's just one problem. From what I can tell, that quote's not from Alan Rickman at all.

My bit of research pointed me to this forum discussion on GoodReads...which sent me onward to this post from user Tiffany which seems to be the first appearance of the above quote on the web...
I've grown up reading Harry Potter. Each and every character has taught me how to be a better person. Whenever I'm feeling upset, I always reread a Harry Potter book and no matter how bad things get, I'll always have the Harry Potter Books to get completely absorbed in and just forget about all my worries. Watching the last Harry Potter movie at the midnight premiere, I starting breaking down in sobs at the Warner Brothers logo at the beginning. I couldn't help but thinking that this movie was basically the end of Harry Potter: from that day on, I wouldn't have anything to look forward to. I know that's not true; I'll always have my worn-out books to reread over and over again. I'll always marathon the Harry Potter movies every weekend. I'll still have fanfiction to read, A Very Potter Musical and Sequel to watch, and Wrock to rock out to. Because, as long as there's still one person that believes in the magic of Harry Potter, this legendary book series will never die. 
I plan on sharing this series with my children and grandchildren. When I'm 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I'll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, "After all this time?" And I will say, "Always."
Remember folks that no matter how good a quote, check your sources.

January 12, 2013

Let's get ready to Ausie

January 11, 2013

So that's what Nixon looked like?

I don't necessarily get art. 

Some of it is pretty; some is fascinating. Sure...

What I don't get is where artists come up with their ideas. Who, for example, thinks to himself, "I'm going to make portraits of all the presidents" then goes way out of his comfort zone to produce sculptures, papercrafts, masks, drawings, paintings, and mixed media products?

Clearly, this guy does...
Nixon (front)
Nixon (back)




January 10, 2013

Pretty pixilated calendar

We're more than a week into the new year, but I've found the 2013 calendar that I want hanging on my wall: the Pantone 2013 wall calendar.

It's a gorgeously designed (not shockingly) twelve-month calendar that focuses on one color each months and includes a drastically pixelated image for the upper half of the calendar. It's pretty stuff and is available from Amazon and other retailers.

There are a few more images where I got these two...

January 9, 2013

Gun control...my thoughts

This is largely coming together as a stream of consciousness. I don't know that I can be entirely rational about this...

The school shooting in Newtown, CT was a tragedy.

I certainly responded to it differently, though, than did many people, partially I'm sure because of my background.

I don't have children of my own. I don't teach at an elementary school, and in all honesty I don't always empathize well with people this distant from me. Our principal was in the hallway crying the afternoon of the shooting. I, on the other hand, was just thinking that these were people I didn't know. It was tragic for them to have died and horrific for them to have died this way, but these were people I didn't know.

Mass shootings like this both are and are not rare.

Since 1982 (source and source) there have been sixty-one mass shootings - at least four people killed by a single shooter - since 1982. Thirty years...sixty shootings...two a year.

That is both far too frequent to be ignored and far too rare to be of earth-shaking concern. Yes, we should legislate to reduce the chances of these events happening again, but we shouldn't focus on large-number killings to the exclusion of the far more frequent gun deaths that occur in drips and drabs - one or two at a time - all year long, every day of the year.

Mother Jones has done a great job of building a statistical profile of these sixty-plus events...

  • 49 of the 62 listed shooters obtained their weapons legally
  • 103 of the 145 total weapons used were semiautomatic handguns or assault weapons
  • gun ownership - as a percentage of population - is declining while gun ownership - as a measure or total guns owned in the US - is rising...perhaps people are becoming more set in their gun-owning, gun-stockpiling ways

You can see an interactive map of all the events and a chronological listing of all the shooters and victims on Mother Jones's website.

After the weekend PHS put out two large banners and invited our students to sign them, messages and condolences for the people of Sandy Hook and Newtown, banners to be mailed to Sandy Hook so that they could...

Because they need to...

I have absolutely no idea why Sandy Hook would want our banners, no idea what they are going to do with our banners or all the snowflakes.

I remember reading about the impromptu memorial at the Oklahoma City bombing site, at the Murrah   Federal Building. People of the community piled thousands of things...stuffed animals, photos, mementos, things...on the chain link fence surrounding the bombing site. The items from that fence were - and as far as I can tell still are - "cleaned, catalogued and used in some way that fits with the mission of the memorial."

With all that we've heard is being sent to Newtown - stuffed animals, cards, wooden angels, snowflakes, giant signed banners - the people there will have to make a decision of their own: whether to keep everything, throw it all away, or pick and choose what matters and what doesn't.

They don't need our banners adding to that burden.

On a spectacularly good day in the United States, a dozen people are killed with guns.

  • January 1 - 24 killed
  • December 31 - 20 killed
  • December 30 - 26 killed
  • December 29 - 32 killed
  • December 27 - 35 killed
  • December 18 - 12 killed - the quietest day since Newtown, four days later
Slate has been tracking these deaths every day since Newtown. They show the deaths in icons, male and female, adult and child symbols.

This is where we should be focusing our policy attention. If we take the nineteen days of full data on that page as an average, we have 416 killings - an average of 22 a day. In a year, that's more than 8000 people a day killed with guns in the United States.

This is the bigger tragedy and the one that should be leading our legislative conversations.

Thanks, as is so often the case, to NPR for pointing this post out.

The Journal News in Westchester and Rockland counties of New York published an interactive map of every person possessing a legal pistol permit in those counties. It isn't necessarily a map of handguns or handgun owners, but it is permit holders.

The public reaction was interesting and almost universally negative.

The map is just information. It isn't condemnation. It isn't celebration, but people clearly saw it as one of those depending on what they brought to the information.

  • How about a map of the editorial staff and publishers of Gannett and Journal News with names and addresses of their families...
  • This is CRAZY!! why in the world would you post every licensed gun owner information?? What do you hope to accomplish by doing this. This is the type of thing you do for sex offenders not law abiding gun owners. What next? should i hang a flag outside my house that says I own a gun? I am canceling my subscription with your paper today!!!
  • So should we start wearing yellow stars of david so the general public can be aware of who we are??
  • We live in a free society. I am not at all ashamed of my ownership of a few handguns. While I understand the right of the local newspaper to post this, given to them by the first amendment of the very constitution that gives us legal license holders the right to possess the firearms they have published for all to see. While I totally agree (in principle) with their right to access this information, I think that the actions and reasoning behind this are not only questionable, but as a subscriber to their local newspaper, I think its irresponsible to post this information.
  • Yeah, but where are the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Communists and Unionists?

Personally, I view this the way I view most sunshine laws. Sunshine, in general, is good. Everyone benefits from sunshine on the dirty cracks and actions, and anyone who is committing good actions shouldn't be worried about a little sunshine.

We require registration for legal ownership of guns. As long as we do that, any records such as these are public - to be seen by any of us.

From Greg Easterbrook on ESPN...
"Today, the number of concealed-carry permits is the highest it's ever been, at eight million, and the homicide rate is the lowest it's been in four decades."

Both facts are true -- but does one explain the other? Read this remarkable pre-Newtown article that escaped notice because it ran in a Saturday edition of The Wall Street Journal (Saturday is the week's lowest readership day). Shootings, the Journal reported, have risen almost 50 percent in the United States during the past decade -- which ought to be perceived as a shocking increase in gun crime. Yet homicides are declining, because fewer people who have been shot are dying of their wounds.

Improved medical care, the proliferation of hospital trauma centers and more helicopter ambulances are among factors improving the odds that a gunshot victim will live. Unlike on TV shows, where a bad guy who is shot expires instantaneously, an adult gunshot victim may survive the initial trauma. If bleeding is stanched and the victim reaches an emergency room in the "golden hour" before complications, chances of living are favorable. Especially important to improved survival of gunshot victims, the Journal reported, is that large numbers of medics who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have come home and taken jobs as EMTs. They have all-too-realistic training in keeping gunshot victims alive -- something the Army and Marine medical staffs have gotten much better at.

It may be that research and training on ways to save people hit by bullets represent an unintended consequence of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But two and two usually equal four, and putting these two articles together suggests it is medical progress, not the proliferation of guns, that is the first cause of declining homicide rates.
Cause and effect is notoriously difficult to guarantee and notoriously easy to misread.

Increase in gun ownership and a decrease in gun deaths at the same time doesn't necessarily mean that one lead to the other.

As always, post hoc ergo propter hoc.

From JoBlo.com...

and a re-edited version...

Final thoughts...

  • I have never owned a gun. I have only shot an air rifle and then at empty cardboard boxes a few times nearly thirty years ago. I don't come from guns. I don't know or understand guns. I don't feel afraid in my home.
  • We must eliminate guns from our society - real guns, fictional guns, toy guns.
  • Legislating real guns retroactively is going to be amazingly difficult to get short of prying them from gun owners' cold, dead hands.
  • I understand that the second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but that doesn't mean that we have the right to bear assault weapons. 
  • When the second amendment was written and ratified, we had just come out of a war with a King, we had just overthrown a tyrant and wanted to ensure that we didn't have to do it again. I'm not sure we have that same need at this point. It seems blasphemous to suggest overturning an amendment to the constitution, particularly one of the bill of rights, but I'm pretty close to saying that we need to do just that.