Friday, August 7, 2009

Salvaged Pictures

Today's post isn't quite as content rich as yesterday's, but it's late and I'm tired so you're just going to have to deal. I thought I'd share a few of the pictures from our trip to Disney World in June. We lost the majority of the pictures from the first six days in Florida (two with Meaghan's grandparents, four in WDW), but we still had everything from the last morning we spent in the Animal Kingdom with Meaghan's parents.

People always get a little slap-happy when they've spent so much time in a theme park, as evidenced here by our attempts to emulate cavemen, bugs (those are 3-D specs), and African drummers.

For those who haven't been before, the centerpiece of the Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life, a gigantic (145 ft) artificial tree that towers over Discovery Island in the center of the park.

The tree not only houses a movie theater amongst its roots, but it's also a fantastic work of art. Over 300 different animals are carved into its trunk, branches, and roots. You could easily spend an entire day walking around it to see how many carvings you can spot.

It also wouldn't be the Animal Kingdom if it didn't feature some animals. As well as being a theme park, it's also a top-notch zoo. There are a lot of neat critters there like this crested porcupine from Africa.

One of the best places to spot animals is the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction. You ride in a 40-seat open-air vehicle back through various African habitats. All of the animals (including rhinos, lions, and the like) there are free ranging with the ability to walk right up to your vehicle if they want to. Sometimes there are traffic jams when a herd of wildebeest crosses the road. Other animals, like this here giraffe, are just curious.

To wrap up this Disney saturated post, I thought I'd mention a website that I just discovered in the past week. If you sign up a free account, D-CoT has a jukebox where you can listen to various pieces of music that have been played in the Disney parks throughout the years. This includes things like the Country Bear Jamboree, Fantasmic!, the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, and Finding Nemo: The Musical. If these sorts of things put a smile on your face, I strongly urge you check it out.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

From the Long Box: Shadow of the Batman #1, Part 2

Note: Click on any of the images to make them larger.

Shadow of the Batman #1
(reprinted from Detective Comics #469)
Writer: Steve Englehart
Art: Walt Simonson & Al Milgrom

Could it be? It's been long awaited...

"The Origin of Dr. Phosphorus"

If you're wondering what the heck any of this is about, you have some catching up to do. First of all, I need to do some catching up of my own. It turns out that last time around I forgot to introduce a character that plays a bigger part in this second installment, Dr. Bell of Gotham General Hospital. Here he is in a brief moment with Commissioner Gordon. A real mover and shaker, no?

Anyway, back to the story at hand. The night after Batman and Dr. Phosphorus fought to a standstill at the Gotham City Reservoir, we join the vengeful doctor as he bursts in on the private residence of Dr. Bell. Apparently before he became the walking, talking embodiment of living phosphorus, Dr. P was an old colleague of Bell's: Dr. Sartorius. The catch being that everyone thinks Sartorius is dead. I'm a little relieved to be honest. This keeps me from asking the question of where a glow-in-the-dark skeleton could possibly have obtained a doctorate.

Sartorius used to be a mover and shaker, too. He had a posh $200,000/year ($700,000/year in today's dollars) private practice, and he was a member of the powerful Tobacconists' Club. Not having lived through the 70s, I can't attest to the existence of clubs centered around the smoking of pipes and cigars. In today's increasingly smoke-free society, however, this concept is either unpopular or so underground that it doesn't surface on the Internet. Here it's presented as a place for powerful men to get together and broker back room deals with one another. I'm sure places like that still exist today.

The government apparently took a sizable chunk out of Sartorius' Park Ave lifestyle every year, so he went to one of Gotham's most powerful, City Council President "Boss" Rupert Thorne, to see what he could do about that. Thorne proposed that he sink his money into Gotham's proposed new nuclear power plant. It was going to be set up as a tax shelter, but only the insiders at the Tobacconists' Club knew about it so far. This was right in the middle of the nuclear plant building boom of the 1970s, so I'm sure it seemed like a wise investment.

But the people of Gotham protested, as people are wont to do, and a referendum was placed on the ballot. Despite some brutal electioneering by Thorne and his people, the proposal was approved and the nuclear consortium was forced to build their plant outside of Gotham City on an offshore platform three miles out in the Atlantic. Building the plant offshore with a new design requires more funding and higher costs lead to cutting corners. Never a good thing when it comes to playing with nuclear power. You can see where this is headed, right?

The night after the reactor core was installed, Dr. Sartorius was out at the plant inspecting his investment. I don't know what a medical doctor knows about generating nuclear power, but an investor needs to inspect what an investor needs to inspect apparently. Conveniently, he was out there alone during some kind of unmanned test fire of the reactor. This setup seems like the soirt of thing OSHA should be notified about. I don't think you'd find me skulking about a nuclear reactor that was still under construction. Heck, I probably wouldn't skulk about a fully operational nuclear reactor. As a result, he was the only one there when the core cracked open and the whole thing exploded.

In a futile effort to escape the blast, Sartorius dives behind a pile of sand bags for cover. When the reactor blows, the silicon in the sand is blasted up the periodic table one notch (gaining a proton and at least three neutrons) to become a radioactive isotope of phosphorus which is driven through his body creating his new ghastly, glowing skeleton. We'll overlook the facts that sand isn't made from pure silicon and atomic science doesn't actually work that way because hey, this is just a comic book and a goofy origin story at that. In truth, this is a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear power and the corrupting power of big business. For a 1977 story penned before the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it turns out that it was a rather prescient warning. Not that there are any walking, talking skeletons of living phosphorus out there as a result of those. Are there?

You see, Dr. Phosphorus just wants revenge against those that ruined his life and turned him into this monstrosity: the City Council for encouraging him to invest in the nuclear plant and the citizens of Gotham for forcing the plant to be built offshore. Not a big believer in personal responsibility, Phosphorus has added a new item to his agenda of revenge: Batman. I guess if you foil somebody's revenge plot you're likely to just get added to their list. And that's why Phosphorus has come to Dr. Bell. Being a member of the City Council with a way to contact "Boss" Thorne, Bell is just the sort of weak-minded individual who would help "remove the Batman" from Phosphorus' path. On that note, we're forced to wait until our next installment of Shadow of the Batman to see what's in store for our caped hero. Just how does Bell intend to remove the Batman? Tune in next time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

(500) Days of Summer

Meaghan and I went to see (500) Days of Summer a couple of weeks ago in the midst of all of our moving preparations. It was inevitable that we'd see it eventually as it stars two of our favorite young actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("3rd Rock From the Sun", Brick, Mysterious Skin, The Lookout) and Zooey Deschanel (Elf, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Bridge to Terabithia) as Tom and Summer, two star-crossed lovers... or not.

(500) Days is a romantic comedy. Tom lives in LA and has a degree in architecture, so naturally he writes greeting cards for a living. He hates it, dead end job that it is, but it's a living so he sticks it out. One day, his boss gets a new assistant named Summer and his life will never be the same, but not in the way you think. Unlike almost every other rom com ever committed to celluloid the guy doesn't get the girl this time. Instead, the film simply documents the 500 days that Summer is in Tom's life. Don't worry, I'm not giving anything away. We find out that Summer breaks up with Tom in one of the early scenes since the movie jumps around and time, clearly delineated by clever interludes labeled "Day 364", etc.

Along the way we see the highs and lows of their relationship, encouraging the viewer to try to piece together what went wrong, and what they each could have possibly taken away from the experience. Despite the premise, and the ultimate outcome, (500) Days is hilarious and uplifting throughout. Some of the high points include not one, but two scenes featuring drunken karaoke and the best use of split-screen in a movie since The Rules of Attraction. I was lucky enough to see it at a mostly full theater in Uptown, and the audience was in good form. It's always best when you watch a funny comedy with people willing to laugh.

I highly recommend (500) Days to anyone with a pulse. If nothing else, it'll make you reflect upon the landscape of failed relationships that has brought you to the place you are today. Oh, and I'd recommend viewing The Graduate prior to seeing this. Just saying.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

House Pictures

There was a slight clamoring when I posted about our new house last week. The problem: where were the pictures? Well, I'm certainly not about to show you a bunch of boxes strewn throughout the place. You had to be one of the lucky few who helped us move Saturday (Thanks everyone -- you know who you are) to get those visuals.

Let's make a deal. I'll give you a picture of each room as it gets finished until either you or I get bored with it. That's right... no pictures so far. Hmm, maybe I should be unpacking instead of writing this.