Web Search nikon coolpix digital cameras The Miserable Annals of the Earth: The days are just <i>packed</i>

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The days are just packed

In a previous post, I referred to how little time I have on weekends, now that I actually have a life. This weekend has, to date, been no exception. Here's the list of wedding stuff we've accomplished since Friday afternoon:

* call officiant and reserve time
* schedule cake appointment and tasting
* order the medallion pendants for the girls
* get a new printer cartride (for invitations)
* get gel pens (for invitations)
* start looking at rings
* pick up sheet music for the older two SuperKids to play/sing from
* get tablecloths
* get shirt and belt for groom
* get stamps for invitations
* get stuff for groomsmen

All this is stuff crossed off a much longer list, and more stuff will come up and be added to the list as we move forward, but with the wedding itself 15 weeks away, I think we're in pretty good shape, and I say, as I have said so many times before, thank Whoever for SuperFiancee. I cannot imagine any other woman I have known whom I could have possibly ended up marrying being able to take care of all this stuff as competently or capably as she has and is.

My contributions are, essentially, I get in the car, go where she drives me, and then I let her load me up with shit that I then carry around for her until she points out where she wants me to set it down. She advises me often that this makes me an invaluable and indispensible member of the wedding team, but, well, I suspect she's just being nice. I mean, it's not like these places she's going to don't have shopping carts.

A lot of the stuff on this list came at me straight out of outer space. I'm supposed to buy presents for my groomsmen? Uh... okay. And she asked me, did I really want a groom's cake? Because it wasn't mandatory at a second wedding, but she'd make one for me if I really wanted one. I had never in my life previous to that moment even heard the phrase "groom's cake", so I had no difficulty reassuring her that if it wasn't mandatory at a second wedding, I could certainly live without it, and even if it was mandatory at a second wedding, well, I had no idea what it was and honestly couldn't have cared less.

But, apparently, as with this deranged rule that only women know about regarding exactly when during the year you can and cannot wear white, so too are there hundreds if not thousands of arcane and obscure laws, or, traditions which have the force of law, as regards weddings. These are things that I, as a male, know nothing of, nor should I, and as such, I am content to let SuperFiancee handle all of it, with such unskilled brute force efforts as she condescends to tolerate from my directional.

She is clearly the expert here, and I never argue with an expert, unless, of course, there's ice cream involved, in which case, it's hats-over-the-windmill, every Anglo-Saxon for themselves, and devil take the lolly-come-see-me's trudging stolidly in the rear.

While we've been out in mad pursuit of matrimonial merchandise, however, we've also managed to wedge in here and there a few side trips, and on said trips, I've scored a couple of packs of Magic cards, a booster of Supernova, four individual HeroClix, and a week's haul of comics. And we'll be discussing all of these, assuming I have time to bang all this crap out before the SuperKids get home from the Cave of the Bio-Dad later on tonight, after which, my life goes off the rails and straight into the hobo jungle at maximum velocity once again, whistle blowing like a televangelist in hell, wheels grinding and throwing huge side-arcs of golden-white sparks as I plow across the cinderyard, people screaming and flinging themselves everywhere in a mad orgy of frenzied self preservation, and loose coal cascading from the back of the firebox like rats hurling themselves from the decks of a just-post-iceberg Titanic.

As to the Magic cards, nobody reading this cares, so I won't bore you with all of that. I did get a few dual lands, which was nice, and a gigantic 12/12 trample creature that I look forward to using to pound my opponents into bits with at some point in the near future. But now I'll pass on to other matters.

I was going to talk about this week's sneak peek of Origins, the next HeroClix expansion coming out from WizKids in, I believe, March. However, Mike Norton has already done it, with graphics and dial charts, no less, and in doing so has said nearly everything I'd want to say better than I'd ever manage to say it. So, all I have to add to what Mike has already written about the new Supergirl REV is, well, I wish she'd give Dr. Strange his cape back. On the other hand, it is for matters such as this that we keep our old figures, and swapping the Unleashed Supergirl sculpt out for the new one, on her much better dial, certainly won't be difficult.

As to the four new figures I picked up this weekend (well, actually, yesterday) they are as follows:

Dimitri Bukharin, the LE version of the X-plosion Crimson Dynamo. At 147 points he is 13 points more expensive than his Veteran version, and largely the same -- the only real difference is, the LE has a single click of Running Shot (in his first slot) on a 10 Speed Value and an extra slot where he has a 10 Attack Value with Super Strength.

That single click of Running Shot is worth the extra points, though, especially since his Ranged Combat Expert, present for the first six slots of a ten slot dial, lets a canny player add Trick Shot to him. Do this, and he becomes a fabulous early round force projector. Under WK's rules, he can move out five spaces and peg a shot at anyone within his formidable range, as Trick Shot will allow him to ignore most things a likely target might be hiding on or behind. Under my House Rules, he can move his full opening speed of 10 out onto the board and shoot, giving him access to nearly any spot on a standard map. Just hide your Batman on a piece of shrubbery or behind his big buddy Superman against my Dimitri and see what happens to his ass. He'll be five clicks down his dial with little cartoon birdies flying around his head before he can say "Holy Russian Repulsor Rays, Boy Wonder!"

Other figs I picked up as singles -- Binary, the last of the Supernova Uniques I really had much interest in (I also still need a Thanos, but I don't much care about the character, despite the new version's pretty awesome dial and PC TA). In addition, I also got a Len Snart, the Captain Cold LE, and a George Tarleton, the AIM Agent LE.

Len has a shorter dial and a shorter range than his Vet version. For 5 points less, that's a trade off I can live with, especially when you throw in his 2 range targets vs his Vet version's one, his opening click of Incapacitate (where his Vet has no attack powers in his opening slot), and an opening click of Leadership that his REV doesn't get at all, to reflect his alpha male status amongst the Flash's Rogue's Gallery.

Len has the same two clicks of Running Shot that his Vet gets, although the Vet's opening speed is a 10 compared to Len's 8. Still, the extra range target on a character loaded with Incapacitate is a fabulous plus.

The only drawback is, under my House Rules, Barrier squares can be set up in occupied spaces on the map. This makes Barrier much more consistent to how such things are used in comics. Superhumans with such powers do indeed use the ability to create ice, or webbing, or gelatin, or glowing solid energy shapes, so that it forms barriers in front of, behind, or to the side of, their opponents, or to block doorways and other access points, which is how the power works under standard HeroClix rules. However, superhumans also tend to use such powers directly on their opponents -- Spider-Man encases his villains in webbing, Green Lantern puts big energy crystals, or sometimes bird cages, around his bad guys, and Captain Cold has a tendency to embed his opponents in gigantic icebergs and/or cubes, given the opportunity to do so. And by allowing Barrier squares to be set up on top of opposing figures, well, my House Rules simulate this much more closely than WizKids' rules allow for.

So, under my House Rules, Barrier is a much MUCH more effective power than it is under normal WK rules. Which means the extra range target on the Len Snart LE really doesn't matter as much to me, as I will hardly ever bother with an Incapacitate attack when I could use Barrier instead.

Barrier effects four continuous squares and requires no attack roll; Incapacitate, even when multiple targets are involved, requires an attack roll on each. Barrier effectively fills the entire square it hits with solid material (known in the game as Blocking Terrain), thus surrounding any figure in that square on five sides (front, back, right, left, top) with an immovable barricade. Barriers can be broken by either 3 clicks of damage or Super Strength, but the act of breaking the barrier would cause the imprisoned figure to take an action token, and it wouldn't be able to take any further actions, including moving, for the remainder of the turn. Thus, someone with the Barrier power can effectively imprison up to four enemy figures (if they're all adjacent to each other, and within the attacking figure's range) for the next turn, without making an attack roll. It doesn't cause them damage, but they can't move.

About the only way a figure can pretty much ignore being Barriered, under my system, is if they have Phasing/Teleport, or if they have Super Strength and the Unstoppable Feat Card on them. Otherwise, they're stuck for a turn.

Incapacitation, on the other hand, simply gives a figure an extra action token. This will cause that figure to be unable to move the following turn, and to take a click of damage, if they already have an action token on them. However, it requires a successful attack roll to do it, and if the target figure didn't already have an action token on it, then it can go ahead and move next turn anyway, it will just take a click of damage for doing it. Overall, Incapacitate is much much less useful than Barrier, at least, as Barrier is written up under my House Rules.

So, while it's nice to have the 2 range targets, I'm unlikely to ever use them. The Leadership, though, could come in handy, as I don't think anyone else in the Rogue's Gallery has any.

George Tarleton is a 16 point AIM Agent whose only distinguishing feature, on a pretty average four click dial, is a single click of Barrier. However, as I've already pointed out (and I wrote them up in this order just for this reason) Barrier is a pretty handy power under my House Rules, so George could see some play -- even alongside his own future incarnation, M.O.D.O.K.

In the single Supernova booster I picked up, I got a lot of crap I already had -- but my heart leapt up when, down at the bottom of the box, I saw a distinctive blue figure with yellow solar-sails arching from his shoulder blades. Yep, it was Starhawk, an extremely difficult to get sort of Unique (he's the Vet version of a REV whose Rookie and Experienced figures are the character's less powerful female form, Aleta) and one of the figs in Supernova that I still want the most.

Alas, I realized something was wrong near-instantly, when I saw that the base stuffed into his packing cube with him showed a yellow dial rather than a red. Sure enough, closer inspection showed that my Starhawk sculpt had been mispacked with a rookie Weapon Alpha dial. Grrrrrr. Well, I'll have to send him in, and hope that eventually WK mails me a corrected replacement. Grrrrrr...

That's enough HeroClix stuff; I see your eyes have long since glazed over as you've sunk into a somnolent torpor, said torpor being the only thing keeping you from crying out to me "for the love of God, for the love of GOD, please, PLEASE, stop talking about Heroclix, PLEASE". But I will, and instead, I will talk about the comics I bought this week.

First, there's the sixth issue of Neil Gaiman's ETERNALS series. You may note that I did not say "the sixth and FINAL issue", because, despite the fact that each preceding issue of this supposed miniseries has been numbered "1 of 6", "2 of 6", "3 of 6", etc, etc, suddenly this one is labeled as "6 of 7".

It's not that I mind; in fact, I think this is a brilliant idea, if only for Neil Gaiman miniseries. "Suuuuuure, Neil, you only have to write six issues for us, absolutely, just one little miniseries, boyo, then you're out again"... but, hey, if Neil will hold still for it, by all means, keep tacking 'em on. Maybe next issue will be "7 of 8", and we can just keep doing this until Gaiman finally catches on, realizes that he's actually writing an ongoing superhero series again, and stomps out in a huff once more.

As to the issue itself, well, I liked it okay, although I'm certainly not wild about a few things in it. First, I hate all the fucking Civil War references, and it should be noted just how embarrassing and cumbersome these will all seem to future generations after I write my big time travel crossover for Marvel next year in which a band of heroes who are nearly as sick of the whole thing as I am go back in time and prevent Nitro from ever blowing up that goddam school in the first place.

Second, I'm absolutely not crazy about seeing Iron Man and Yellowjacket casually mind controlled by Eternals who have never displayed the slightest capacity for mind controlling anyone before. Gaiman generally treated DC's mainstream heroes with respect when they occasionally showed up in SANDMAN; it would be nice to see that same respect accorded to the vastly superior characters of the mainstream Marvel Universe, when they show up in ETERNALS. If a writer has no respect for Tony Stark or Hank Pym, he or she shouldn't be allowed to write Tony Stark or Hank Pym... and god knows, I wish Marvel had adopted that policy about twenty years ago and stuck with it, especially when Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis came staggering into their lobby with their resumes in their teeth.

Despite all this and the always crappy John Romita Jr. art, I enjoyed the issue and look forward to the resolution, or the next installment, whichever comes next.

52 #38 was an emotionally powerful installment of the ongoing serial/anthology series, most likely because it was near entirely driven by Rene's ultimately futile attempt to save Vic Sage from terminal cancer. We all knew she would have to fail, as clearly it's on the boards for her to take over Vic's heroic identity and become a new Question, something she can't do until he finally dies. And, as a general rule, modern comics shy away from depicting miracle cures for terminal cancer cases; it's just too much wish fulfillment for the grim n' gritty constructs that these imaginary worlds have largely become.

A brief check in on the island where Ozymandias is building his pseudo-alien... er... I mean, the island where all the supervillains are creating massive megaweapons... shows that Will Magnus has gone totally off his meds again and is recreating "the Plutonium Man", about which I really know nothing at all but it certainly doesn't sound like a good idea, while a bunch of other villains have followed instructions found in Apokolips' Crime Bible to recreate the Fourth Horsemen of legend, who look really really ugly.

Meanwhile, Steel's niece, Steel, has decided to turn against Lex Luthor and gather evidence against him for her uncle and the Teen Titans. If someone were to tell me that Steel's niece Steel is not slated to survive to see the end of 52, well, I would not wager any money on them being incorrect.

The next comic I bought this week was Checkmate #10, featuring Shadowpact. The last issue of this comic also featured Shadowpack, although all they did was magic up an illusion of a great many Checkmate characters dying so that a covert Checkmate agent could infiltrate the ranks of Kobra. That particular sequence was uncharacteristically cliched and transparent for Rucka, so I tried to just let it ride, and in this issue, he manages to nearly redeem himself. I'm not wild about Shadowpact and would be just as happy if we never had to see them anywhere in the DC mainstream at all, especially that dumbass Republican monkey (although I will say that the Enchantress looks a great deal better in the Emerald Empress' spare costume and should never, ever give it back to her). However, overall, this storyline is working well for me, although I have to say, DC badly badly needs to get itself another generic villain/terrorist organization besides Kobra, and Checkmate needs to start fighting someone else pretty quickly, too. Either that, or just team up with GI JOE and get it over with.

Last but not least, we have WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY, some Wildstorm comic which Gail Simone is writing. I picked it up only because it had Gail Simone's name on the cover, and to be honest, I found issue #2 on Friday, at Great Escape, before I found issue #1 at Book and Music Exchange on Saturday. So I read issue #2 first, and was absolutely baffled as to what the fuck was going on. Finding the first issue and reading it on Saturday helped to straighten some shit around for me, so I now have a vague clue as to what is actually happening in this title.

It's all interesting, and if you're a big fan of Top 10 and you don't mind seeing pretty much the entire concept ripped off and reset in a small town instead of a big city setting, well, you should probably pick this title up. Simone does a surprisingly good Alan Moore riff, and, in fact, in many places her dialogue is better than anything Moore would turn out under the same circumstances, as Moore finds it nearly impossible to write about superheroes without doing some kind of tongue in cheek meta parody on them at the same time. Simone understands the genre well enough to satirize it, but she's capable of taking it seriously when she has to, too, which means you can sometimes go four or five pages at a time without feeling as if the writer thinks you're an emotionally retarded asshole for enjoying any of what you're reading at the moment.

Other than that, and the small town setting, this is pretty much what you expect from any Alan Moore imitation -- interesting concepts, fun dialogue, no captions, no thought balloons, bewildering storylines, and dreadful character names. Simone brings it off better than most of the usual Moore wannabes, though.

The art, by someone named Neil Googe, is much more cartoony than I normally like, but the style works well for this particular strip.

Late yesterday afternoon, just because we could, SuperFiancee and I went and saw Dream Girls. As the movie is directed by Bill Condon, I didn't expect much except another expertly crafted, overtly manipulative movie about an enormously talented and gutsy underdog inevitably triumphing over some sort of corrupt industry establishment. That's pretty much exactly what we got in this movie, but, well, there's a lot of really fabulous acting, dialogue, singing, and dancing along the way, and that final moment, when Jaime Foxx's character is abruptly discovering something he thought he'd never have, and has no idea how to deal with or accept, is an absolute knock out punch. Everything Condon has learned making every movie he's created prior to this is up on the screen in this one. I enjoyed it enormously. Of course, your mileage may well vary.

And that's what I've done this weekend. Well, okay, I haven't even talked about the presents we got the SuperKids for Valentine's Day, or the grocery shopping expedition we went on today, or the fact that we rented EL NACHO LIBRE Friday night, because it was the only thing we could all decide on. (And, let me tell you, a Blockbuster gift pack is a wonderful and thoughtful and generous Christmas gift, and we all appreciate it, but when you're trying to get a concensus on a single film among two mid 40s adults, a 17 year old female gay girl who likes anime, her 16 year old sister who likes geeky SF stuff, and the 7 year old doesn't like anything that wasn't made by Disney, well, it makes for an interesting hour or so at the video store, to say the least.)

Next time, we'll give the candy to the kids and rent the movie on one of those weekends when we're home by ourselves.

I still have all kinds of minor changes I want to do to my HeroClix House Rules (like, making the Green Lantern Team Ability one that cannot be copied by other TAs or Feat Cards) but as I predicted on Friday, this weekend has fled before me like a Republican running from a tax increase, and the horrifying maw that is another workweek with mandatory overtime yawns before me. Pray for me, as I go once more into the belly of the beast.

And I hope everyone out there had a good weekend, unless you're somebody I don't like, in which case, you probably did anyway, regardless, because that's just how that seems to go.


At 6:58 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...


If I had to deal with one tenth of the aspects of a traditional wedding -- and by "deal with" I mean "be expected to have any part in at any time, in any setting" -- then I would be single to this day instead of coming up on a 22nd anniversary this mid-year. I'm tempted to customize scripture to say how it would be less painful for me to pass through the eye of a needle... but, then again, I'm notoriously asocial.

Perhaps the words of Bluto Blutarsky are those best-suited to the situation: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."

Honestly, I couldn't even define who would be counted as groomsmen, and I don't wanna know! It sounds more to me as if it's part of the vocabulary of the stable and horseman. So it's no surprise that I am with you on the deck of the USS Testosterone as one who has never before read the word's "groom's cake" before. For the moment I'll place it, as a cautionary measure, in the same category as necktie party and prairie oyster.

It's probably one of those Southern things. Be sure to find out there's no obligatory duel to be fought somewhere during all this.

Thanks once more for the kind words on my hastily knocked-out, timekiller look at the upcoming Supergirl REV.

Some nice LE additions, including Dimitri Bukharin and George Tarleton, neither of which I've picked up -- though I almost traded for George once, deciding on a different piece in the end, though. Dimitri's one I hadn't gone looking for before, though, so I had no idea what his dial was like. Nothing to add to your run-down of each, though.

Len Snart I picked up at last year's Wizard World, my primary interest in him at the time being the Leadership.

Good luck with the Starhawk replacement -- and good luck to all of us (Wizkids included) in having the mismatched sculpt and base problems of Supernova not follow us into Origin, Avengers, etc.

Eternals has been set aside in favor of a trade -- possibly a hardcover edition, depending on whether or not the order price through Westfield drops it below my 10 cents/page criteria -- so I have a couple months before I'll be taking that in. I knew that they would be involving Civil War matters before the end of the series (we were told as much at the Marvel panel last year) but as the rest of Marvel's "editorial" staff didn't want to step on Gaiman's toes they pointedly kept all things Eternals out of the rest of the crossover event.

52 38 (Ha! That's Instant Geek, isn't it?) and Checkmate 10 were among the comics received and read this weekend.

At the moment I don't have anything immediately coming to mind to add to your comments on them aside from not being sure whether or not to be irritated or not with the Morrison-fueled path that's come up for Animal Man. Seemingly stranding him out in space, his Earthbound comrades carrying with him the message that he's dead, and the aliens responsible for his powers reappearing, apparently responsible for what has and is about to happen to him.

I may yet get to write up something about those and the other comics that hit this weekend before the weekend's out, as I'd planned. I have a few other tasks to do before I can start to settle into that weekend endgame mode, though.

My condolences on the task of coming up with a crowd-agreed movie selection, especially given the gender imbalance and the sprawl of ages. (Last part sounds like a hymn, doesn't it?)

Even as someone who made the terrible mistake of seeing Epic Movie this weekend I can't easily see that I would have felt so much better about Dream Girls. Okay, I probably would have. At least in Dream Girls they attempted to apply talent to it and shoot for something higher than unmoderated pre-adolescents in the script.

(Side note: It's interesting how all of the pre-Oscar hype appears to have backfired on it, though, isn't it? No nominations for it for Best Picture, Director or Leading Actor/Actress. As a side-sidenote I'm wondering if Peter O'Toole's nomination for Best Actor in a leading role in Venus presages the academy's inclination to finally give him the award before he drops out of filmmaking. Eight nominations over 45 years and the closest he's come was an honorary award in 2002.)

Dream Girls does look like one I will enjoy when I'm in the right mood and can catch it on the small screen some months from now.

At 12:48 PM , Anonymous SuperFiancee' said...

Mike -

You are a crack up!! Well, at least about the wedding stuff. I'm attempting something akin to the 'Triple Lindy'. Something with some tradition for a first wedding...for him...without being more than is appropriate for a second wedding...for me...while trying to keep it all fun for us AND our guests...all on a shoestring budget.

What kind of wedding did you guys have? Of course, now I'm gonna HAVE to do a blogpost. Have to.

At 3:36 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Us? Justice of the Peace.

We knew the two witnesses but had never met the judge before. We were married a month before her parents knew. Neither of us wanted a big wedding, and by "big wedding" we meant anything more than the bare, legal minimum. The price paid was that we didn't get wedding gifts.

I've beat an engine fire out with an old shirt, run into traffic to save someone from being run over, and I'd like to think I'd be willing to take a bullet for a loved one, but I don't believe I could deal with a spectacle wedding. (Or "circus" as I've generally referred to them.) The dress-up, music and march, the public declarations... no, none of it's for me. Every instant would have been an ordeal, as immature as that might seem. I'll get up in front of an audience and give a speech or a presentation on some subject, but a public declaration of commitment... it feels crass to me, like Reality Television.

A funeral is for the extended family and friends. A wedding is for the two people being married. That's been my perspective.

At 3:54 PM , Blogger SuperFiancee said...

We're planning to have a Justice of the Peace, too. Your comments about the private declaration of committment are sweet. Really. Knowing your feelings about socializing, I have no doubt that you'd try to eschew the formalities of a traditional wedding service.

I don't think we're pulling a "circus" together (not that I felt you'd inferred as much), but I REALLY need to get caught up with you in email, as there are plans I'd prefer not to make public here for reasons of which we are all INTIMATELY familiar. I know I owe you email anyway and I'll try to have Martha bring you up to speed on the plans in the next day or so...;)

At 4:26 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...


As you say, I didn't intend any disrespect in my "circus" comment. My threshold for what constitutes a circus is likely far, far lower than that for most.

It's merely one of those philosophical points concerning perspective. If Heaven and Hell exist, there are likely many identical rooms in both places as one person's Heaven is another's Hell. If it's right for you, you'll likely know it.

At 5:04 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Some nice LE additions, including Dimitri Bukharin and George Tarleton, neither of which I've picked up -- though I almost traded for George once, deciding on a different piece in the end, though. Dimitri's one I hadn't gone looking for before, though, so I had no idea what his dial was like. Nothing to add to your run-down of each, though.

I have clix Mike Norton doesn't have! I'm a GOD! WORSHIP ME!!!!!

At 6:39 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Though I wish I could cut back on the use of though, though. Y'know? :/

I'm a constant source of embarrassment to myself.


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