Friday, September 30, 2011

The New 52: Green Lantern: New Guardians

Title: Green Lantern: New Guardians
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Tyler Kirkham and Batt

Image via DC Universe: The Source

It is a dark time for the floating Oompa-Loompas...

New Guardians
is a brand new series, expanding on the Emotional Spectrum concept first introduced by Geoff Johns a few years back. In reading these New 52 books, I've come to realize that the appeal of particular characters is less important to me than hitting a story at the right time. As such, I really shouldn't be surprised that Green Lantern is the storyline which has resonated most with me. Quite a lot of creative energy has been poured into the GL world over the past few years, led by Johns who is now the creative director for all of DC Comics. In the past, when I've gotten into a particular comic book character or story, Wolverine or Spider-man for instnace, I've been eager to go all the way back to the beginning and learn about their development. I don't feel that way with Green Lantern. I feel, instead, that the best time to latch onto the GL story is right now.

In the Emotional Spectrum, there are Lantern Corps in colors beyond green, each representing a particular emotion. Red = rage. Orange = avarice. Yellow = fear. Green = willpower. Blue = hope. Indigo = compassion. Violet = love. The New Guardians is a teaming of emissaries from each of these bands, Green represented in this case by Kyle Rayner. While I still contend that a single complex character would be preferable, this expanded pallet does provide ever increasing possibilities.

And so, Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 does pass my curiosity test. The GL world is 3-for-3 so far.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let's Talk Baseball: My Playoff Wishes

On the eve of the playoffs, I offer not my predictions of what will happen but instead my wishes for what might. And so...


Tigers over Yankees
Rangers over Rays


Phillies over Cardinals
Brewers over Diamondbacks


Rangers over Tigers


Brewers over Phillies

Series for All the World

Brewers over Rangers

Image via PRO Rumors

My rooting interests almost never pan out so we can all expect the exact opposite: Yankees over Cardinals to win their five gazillionth World Series.

The New 52: Teen Titans

Title: Teen Titans
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

Image via Bleeding Cool

Up to this point with the New 52, I have compared all of the team titles with the Justice League. The JL is, after all, the lead team from which most of the others stem. So if the supplemental teams such as Justice League International or Stormwatch don't add significant flavor to the party, I don't see much point in following them any further beyond an occasional tangent. Before this week, the only team book I read that could match JL was the Green Lantern Corps.

Teen Titans, on the other hand, is a definite winner - a team that can stand perfectly well on its own with only occasional support from the elders. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I preferred this book to JL#1. Many of the characters are, indeed, knockoffs of JL heroes. But if anything, they've been given a little more personality than has been bestowed upon the originals. Kid Flash is obnoxious. Wonder Girl is determined to be independent and hates her name. Red Robin is cocky but harbors lingering resentments. They're just like real teenagers!

Our Girl is an occasional fan of the TV show. I really like the theme song, as performed by Japanese pop megastars Puffy AmiYumi. First, the full Japanese video:

Now the full English version, less interesting visually but more familiar to the American audience:

So, Teen Titans #1 passes my curiosity test. As with the JL, I'm interested to see how all the characters are introduced, most of whom I don't know very well anyway. I get to start fresh.

The New 52: Justice League Dark

Title: Justice League Dark
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artists: Mikel Janin

Image via Se acera el invierno

Justice League Dark is new to the DC universe. All of the members of this team have previous appearances but the group is new, evidently existing to handle the supernatural jobs which the regular ol' Justice League cannot. While there are things I enjoyed about this book, just as with Justice League International and Stormwatch, I don't see any reason to invest in this particular band of heroes when the standard JL suits me just fine. If I were more into occult-type stories in general I might feel differently. So, this one did not pass my curiosity test.


The most interesting part of the book is the defeat of the Justice League by Enchantress. Unfortunately, I feel this does more to undermine the JL than it does to bolster the need for the JLD. I did enjoy a lot of the artwork in this one, particularly the layout for pages 14 and 15 (I do wish comics had real page numbers).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Stafford

College League: lost 81.69-47.84 (2-1 overall, 5th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won 93.92-75.50 (2-1 overall, 3rd out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Matthew Stafford (Quarterback, Lions) with 378 yards passing with 2 touchdowns plus -1 yard rushing

Photo via Sports Crunch

Stafford is off to a very fast start in this, his third year in the NFL. Everything seems to be clicking for Detroit right now. They've begun the season 3-0 for the first time since 1980.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Adventures: Broomball and Harvest Market

After dinner at The Village Cup on Friday, I headed into Burlington for my first ever broomball game. A teacher team was formed last year and Mock finally talked me into giving it a try. It was fun, if humbling. Moving around the ice is quite a challenge in itself. I wiped out at least twice. Trying to change directions was my constant undoing. I assume I'll get the hang of basic movement with practice but it almost felt like an anxiety dream at times. I could see where I needed to go and what I should do once I got there but just...couldn't...get there...quickly...enough...

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed we don't use actual brooms - more like aluminum and plastic broom frames with no bristles. They are, no doubt, more practical than real brooms would be but it would be fun to try it with the real thing sometime. Alas, we lost: 4-0, I think. But a fine time was had by all, self included.

The big event in our community this past weekend was the Harvest Market, a combination garage sale, concert, playground and carny food emporium. We fulfilled our municipal obligation by spending most of Saturday there. I usually take the opportunity to pick up cheap used videos but didn't find anything I couldn't live without. Wife and daughter both found some fine treasures. Our Girl paid all of $2 for this perfectly nice dollhouse:

More from the Harvest Market:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Tennis Fantasy: Mayer

Current Overall Standing: 15th
My MVP for the Week: Florian Mayer (Germany) with $90,661, defeating Pablo Andujar (Spain) for the title at the BCR Open Romania

Photo via Quickly-Community

Surprisingly, this is 27-year-old Mayer's first ATP title. Mayer is that rare player who is better on both grass and clay than he is on hard courts. His best Slam run was a quarterfinal effort at Wimbledon 2004.

I'm with the Band: Florida A&M

Band: Marching 100
University: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Founded: 1946
Current Director: Dr. Julian E. Wright

Trust me, watch the video. It's worth my whole series. Listen to the reaction of the crowd. That's a road game, folks!

Without a doubt, the most powerful cultural force in the music world over the past 100+ years has been African American culture. Blues, jazz, hip-hop and their many derivatives are heard all over the planet and have influenced pretty much every other style in existence, popular and classical genres alike. College marching bands are no exception. The historically black colleges of the American southeast have, for decades, brought a dazzlingly different interpretation to the concept and Florida A&M's Marching 100 have long been the trailblazers. They've performed in the Bastille Day Parade in Paris, Presidential inaugural parades and Coca-Cola commercials. In 1992, Sports Illustrated called them "The Best College Marching Band in the Country."

Don't think marchers take what they do seriously? Check out this excellent piece by SI:

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 11/20 (3rd place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 52/80 (3rd out of 3)

The Florida A&M Rattlers also boast a proud football tradition. Their all-time winning percentage is .670 and includes a national championship (Division I-AA) in 1978. They won this weekend, defeating Southern U. 38-33. They're 2-2 on the season.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

12 Books in 12 Months: A Classic Work of Children's Literature

Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Author: Madeleine L'Engle

Image via The Warden's Walk

Just how long does it take for something to become a classic? By the early '90s, classic rock stations were already claiming U2 as one of their own. ESPN has its Instant Classics, an excuse to replay a game from Sunday again on Monday. As such, I think a book written in 1978 can stake claim to classic status. That's 33 years, a generation-plus, after all.

I have long been a skeptic of time travel narratives. For one thing, they are rarely done well. For another, I often get the sense that TV shows turn to time travel when they've run out of other ideas. With Lost, there's no question that was the case. Even with a sci-fi classic like Star Trek, I can't help feeling that their time travel stories are a bit awkward. I'd prefer a showdown with the Borg anytime. In short, a time travel story must have well-established rules and must abide by them. In fact, the same can be said for fantasy and sci-fi literature in general. Even an imaginary world must have limitations in order to be plausible.

Settling in to read A Swiftly Tilting Planet, I quickly realized that a big part of why I'm so particular about time travel stories is this very book. I think I must have read it for the first time in my early teens and it has always been my favorite of L'Engle's Time series. She clearly put a lot of thought into time travel and as such, she did it right. Her explanations of the five dimensions and tesseracts in A Wrinkle in Time have stayed with me my whole life.

I'm not sure what it was about this, the third book in the series, that was so meaningful to me. Perhaps as a boy, I was better able to relate to Charles Wallace than to Meg. Perhaps as a young adolescent, the socio-political issues addressed in the book fueled my own developing social consciousness.

But then, there is so much to like about this book. I love how the chapter titles follow the lines of the rune. I love the fact that science and spirituality are not treated as mutually exclusive concepts. I love Gaudior, the unicorn who serves as Charles Wallace's guide. He is not an Aslan/Gandalf equivalent. He reminds me more of Clarence, George Bailey's guardian angel in It's a Wonderful Life: vulnerable, uncertain, yet unfailingly devoted.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I have learned that there are two further sequels in the Time series that I didn't even know about before: Many Waters and An Acceptable Time. I may need to check those out at some point.


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:

My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)

Two friends of My Wife are also participating: TonTon via Facebook and The Hermitess via Goodreads.

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

The New 52: Green Lantern Corps

Title: Green Lantern Corps
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Ferdinand Parsarin and Scott Hanna

Image via

The Green Lantern Corps actually predates the Justice League. The GLC first appeared in 1959, the JL in 1960. Both were preceded by the Justice Society of America, alive and well since 1940. Interestingly, the JSA did not get a New 52 relaunch. It's amazing the things one can learn from Wikipedia!

I seem to have found my DC storyline of choice. This book has only increased my curiosity about the Green Lantern world which began last week with GL#1. What I initially found troubling about the GLC, the fact that they all wear the same threads and have the same powers, has actually demonstrated itself to be a narrative advantage. With so many similarities, the pressure is on the writer to develop other differentiations between the characters. Guy Gardner and John Stewart are genuinely different from each other, and not just because one is the white guy and the other the black guy. There are, according to Gardner, 7200 GLs throughout the universe. While there are risks in having too many characters at one's disposal, that number does allow for boundless variety.

I love the idea of the rings seeking out their own bearers, allowing for the possibility of the chosen one not wanting it. The set up reminds me a lot of The Greatest American Hero, a show I loved back in the day, not least for the fact that I had a similar hairstyle at the time. The best part of that show, of course, was the theme song. Here's the show intro:

The full song, performed by Joey Scrasbury, accompanied by none other than the Solid Gold Dancers:

So, Green Lantern Corps #1 did pass my curiosity test, the third New 52 title to do so. One more week to go, and I'll definitely give a few of the 9/28 releases a try, Green Lantern: New Guardians among them, naturally. Barring a late surprise - always a welcome possibility - I think I've found my winner.


Just a couple things here. My favorite single line from the New 52 so far is John Stewart's "Thanks for helping me learn a valuable lesson today. Even a GL can't fight City Hall."

I am, of course, very pleased to learn that Guy Gardner is an Orioles fan. Apparently he is, like me, a Marylander. No wonder he's so cranky!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The New 52: Batman

Title: Batman
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

Photo via Comic Book Resources

Batman is DC's most interesting individual character, or at least he should be. As discussed in my Action Comics post, I find Superman to be rather limited. Clark Kent/Superman is pure good - ideal for a cultural icon but not so inspiring as a literary protagonist. Batman is different. He has no super powers and is not invincible. He is just a very rich man with really cool toys and a highly malleable sense of justice. Bruce Wayne is good but he's not perfect. He must survive by his wits more than anything else. Survival is expected, but not a given. That is why I take such offense at the recent passing off of Batman to other aliases. My feeling is that if you can't build upon Bruce Wayne/Batman, you don't belong in the character development business.

Robin is another matter. I've never quite grasped the need for Robin. Alfred is a stronger intellectual foil. Is Robin simply the realization of a universal childhood fantasy of hanging out with a superhero? Plus, I don't think changing Robin's alias has done much to change the character one way or another as far as the Batman storyline is concerned - still superfluous baggage.

Batman #1 did not pass my curiosity test. The book is good and the artwork strong but not enough to interest me in issue #2. The twist at the end is a great one but it's a little too easy to see how it will play out. More after the...


Surely, Dick Greyson isn't really out to kill Bruce Wayne. Mind you, that would be a very interesting story but I just don't see it happening. There has to be something more going on, some other reason for Greyson's DNA to end up at the crime scene. If Greyson really did leave the message, he's being controlled somehow - something happened during his extra night in the prison, perhaps. Like I said, it's pretty easy to imagine how this all plays out. If anyone reads further issues and finds differently, feel free to write to me with an I-told-you-so. The how and why of the matter is almost enough to pique my interest but not quite.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Austin

College League: won, 110.62-104.98 (2-0 overall, 2nd place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 157.76-128.62 (1-1 overall, 5th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Miles Austin (Wide Receiver, Cowboys) with 9 receptions for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns plus 1 rushing attempt for -2 yards

Photo via Fantasy Knuckleheads

Best case scenario in the Vermont league: I win the title. Next-best case scenario: Mock wins the title. As such, I do feel a little bit bad for him regarding our matchup this past week. If he'd been playing anyone else, he'd have won. I'd say both of our teams are in pretty good shape going forward.

I've got Austin in the college league but Mock has him in the Vermont league so he was a double-edged sword for me this week.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Family Adventures: Letterboxing

My Wife has discovered a new family hobby for us: letterboxing. Learn all about it here. The basic idea is, someone plants a waterproof box somewhere. They put a rubber stamp and a small notepad in the box. They post clues to finding the box online. The searcher finds the box, stamps their own notebook and marks the notepad in the box with their own stamp or signs it. Done. It's basically a treasure hunt. The boxes are planted throughout North America and beyond. There are 178 listed for Northern Vermont alone, including quite a few within easy striking distance of our house. So, we decided to give it a go.

We started with the Mills Riverside Park Series. Sadly, we were only able to find two of the three in the series. We couldn't find #1. One of the clues for #1 is "Check out the amazing tree." This is Vermont, for crying out loud! Throw a rock in any given direction. It'll bounce off of one amazing tree and hit the one next to it. There has been some flooding in the area, as you may have heard, and it's not difficult to imagine that box might have been washed away. We did find #2 and it was in excellent shape. #3 hasn't fared as well. The box had been crushed and the notepad was completely soaked. The stamp was in good condition, though.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I think it has a lot of promise as a hobby for us. It's hiking-light compared to our Long Trail and Side-to-Side projects. It's also driving-light, which I definitely like. Some supplies to bring for next time: gloves for poking around in the dirt and underbrush for the box, hand wipes and/or sanitizer and perhaps some extra Ziplocs to reinforce boxes that have sustained damage.

We also went "apple picking." Apple picking the past couple of years has basically involved driving to Chapin Orchard, buying a couple bags of apples, then finding a nice place to sit with our cider and doughnuts: perfect.

Finally, we stopped by the Jericho village green to see the new sculpture display by Our Girl's after school arts program. This is her section of the larger whole which follows:

Overall, it was a great, adventurous weekend. The equinox is near!

My Baseball Fantasy: On to the Finals

Private League: won 10-0
Public League: 1st place out of 12 teams, 6.5 points ahead
My Player of the Week: Matt Kemp (Center Fielder, Dodgers) with 2 home runs, 7 runs, 6 RBI, 2 stolen bases and a .385 batting average

Photo via TheFizzBuzz

I certainly can't complain about my week in the private league. On to the finals we go. I hold a tie-break advantage so I only need five points out of ten. Here we go!

Meanwhile, the situation in the public league is making me nervous. The end game in a rotisserie league is tricky. The guy behind me made up 7.5 points in one week. If he does that again, he takes the title.

If Kemp doesn't win National League MVP this year, it will only be because the Dodgers have been mediocre. He's been a fantasy baseball dream: 34 home runs, 113 RBI, 103 runs, 40 stolen bases and a .320 batting average. He still has a week-and-a-half to build on those totals!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm with the Band: Ohio State

Band: The Ohio State University Marching Band
University: The Ohio State University
Founded: 1878
Current Director: Jon R. Woods
Fight Songs: "Across the Field" and "Buckeye Battle Cry"

The Ohio State University Marching Band is an all-brass and percussion ensemble, the largest such band in the world. "Across the Field" is the older of the two fight songs, composed in 1915 by William A. Dougherty, Jr. "Buckeye Battle Cry," however, is the one played after touchdowns. It was composed by Frank Crumit in 1919.

All This and Football, Too!

My Picks for the Week: 13/20 (tied for 1st place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 41/60 (3rd place out of 3)

I picked five upsets this week: Auburn, Temple, Vanderbilt, Miami (OH) and Ohio State. Only Vanderbilt won.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The New 52: Green Lantern

Title: Green Lantern
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy

Image via Comic Booked

This one was a pleasant surprise. I was entirely prepared to dislike Green Lantern. The series embodies many of the things I find frustrating about the recent DC Comic story lines, namely heroes taking on new aliases. Are you really going to make Batman more interesting by making his alias someone other than Bruce Wayne? Why not work to develop the Bruce Wayne character instead? Dynamism is good. Why is Huck Finn a stronger character than Tom Sawyer? Because he changes.

Just in the New 52 books I've read, I've encountered three different Green Lantern characters: Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner and Sinestro. To add to the confusion for the newbie, they all wear exactly the same uniform, too. And yet, I have to admit, somehow it works. The three I've mentioned are all very different from each other. While I still contend that one character with a complex personality would be preferable, the idea of team members offering different aspects to one unifying concept is compelling in its own way.

And so, Green Lantern #1 passes my curiosity test, the second New 52 title to do so. It is not lost on me that this book and Justice League #1 (the other one to pass my test) were both written by Geoff Johns. I think I'm willing to give next week's Green Lantern Corps #1 a try as well.


I honestly did not see Sinestro's appearance at the end coming. For starters, I'd gotten caught up in Hal Jordan's real life love and money issues. I'd briefly forgotten about the whole Green Lantern thing. Plus, I assumed that the Jordan and Sinestro stories would be developed slowly and separately, not to be intertwined until further issues. As such, Sinestro's arrival was genuinely startling for me. I really like the set up of one character who desperately wants to be a Green Lantern and another who's just as eager to be rid of the burden.

I love the floating

Image via DC Comics Planet

Family Adventures: Ballet I

I believe it's important to include other caring adults besides the parents in a child's life. We have been particularly lucky with Our Girl's teachers - and not just the ones at school, though they've been wonderful, too. We have managed to find gifted and thoughtful instructors in art, soccer and swimming almost entirely through luck and proximity. One of the most important adults in her life beyond our family has been her dance instructor.

Photo via Fusion 802 Dance

I have written some about Our Girl's passion for dance before. We found her wonderfully talented and thoughtful teacher entirely by chance. My Wife had heard good things about a particular dance school so we signed her up for a one week summer camp. Miss N was one of many teachers at the school and just happened to be the instructor that week. She has been a big part of our family life ever since. Miss N has since opened her own dance studio and we eagerly followed her to her new digs. If you live near Colchester, Vermont and you're looking for a dance class, I cannot recommend Fusion 802 highly enough.

Our Girl is doing Ballet I this year and it is such a joy to watch her dance. She clearly loves it so much and really takes it seriously. As I've written before, I worry about what happens once puberty hits and body issues come to the fore. But I'm confident that as long as we stick with Miss N, dance will continue to be a very positive part of her life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Season #3

College League: Squid wins, 68.36-55.47 (1-0 overall, 6th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: Squid loses, 110.02-76.78 (0-1 overall, 11th place out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Kenny Britt (Wide Receiver, Titans) with 5 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns plus one solo tackle

Photo via National Football Authority

The NFL season kicked off this past weekend and with it, my third year in fantasy football. I am in the same two leagues as last year with essentially the same set up for each. I am now the commissioner of both leagues. In the college league, they rotate each year. I intend to use my pulpit to initiate some discussions about the long-term parameters of the league, perhaps even to write up a league constitution. We're mostly in discussion stage at the moment, but it's a league filled with people with clearly strong feelings but nothing permanent in writing. So the league is essentially reinvented each year. I'd like to establish some order to the proceedings. It's a tall order but it can be done!

I made only one minor change to the college league parameters: the elimination of divisions. I don't like the way Yahoo! uses - or, more to the point, ignores - divisions when it sets the league schedule. So, why bother?

The Vermont league parameters are exactly the same this year. Due to scheduling issues, I had to auto-draft in that league this year - a first for me. Who knows? If I have a better season, I might stick with it.

I'm also trying to apply my very successful fantasy baseball strategy to football this year. It's admittedly difficult to discuss without divulging too many specifics but the dynamics of individual positions are very different in football. This, along with the increased prevalence and severity of injuries, complicates things. It's impossible to judge from one week. If I improve on my final standing in both leagues, I'll know I'm on to something.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The New 52: Justice League International

Title: Justice League International
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan

Image via Inside Pulse

Justice League International (JLI) was first launched in 1987. According to Wikipedia, part of the idea has always been a lighter, more comical interpretation of the superhero team concept. One notable difference between this book and the other New 52 titles I've tried so far is that this one is generally set against a light-colored background. Most are set against dark colors. There is definitely a jauntier feel to it all. Booster Gold, leader of the team, is a buffoon.

I have no problem with the idea of satire, of course. But I figure, if you're gonna go in that direction, go all the way. One of the many books Mock has sent my way was Alpha Flight v.3 #1 from May 2004, a comical interpretation of a Marvel group dating back to 1979. It is genuinely funny from beginning to end. Apparently, the idea wasn't too popular with most readers, though. That particularly series only survived through 12 issues.

Image via

Four of the eight original team members in this relaunch are female. That's a definite plus, though I hope at least one of them will offer something more in the personality department than the "sex kitten" role currently assigned to Godiva.

JLI #1 did not pass my curiosity test, making it 0-for-3 for New 52 Week #2. Just as with Stormwatch, I don't see that this team offers anything better than what one would get from the original Justice League. That said, I do think this series has some potential. I'll address specifics in the spoilers section.

It's been fun to follow this series with Mock, of course. He commented with a very interesting link regarding Action Comics #1. He also clued me into the purple-hooded lady who makes Hitchcock-like cameos in each of the New 52 #1s. It took me a while to find her in JLI, but she's there.


I see a lot of potential in the contentious relationship between Booster Gold and Guy Gardner. It could also be interesting to follow Batman's role in the story. The bombing of the Hall of Justice is certainly a shocking development and flies in the face of the series's light-hearted nature. That's not necessarily a bad thing, either.

US Open Day 15: Leaving No Doubt

Curtain Call

Player: Novak Djokovic
Age: 24
Nation: Serbia
Current Ranking: 1
Today's Result: defeated Rafael Nadal (2nd seed, Spain) in four sets

Photo via CLBuzz

Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world. If there were any doubt before tonight, it's all gone now. Nadal put up a beautiful fight but in the end, Djokovic's victory seemed inevitable. Will he be able to even come close to matching this effort next year? It will be a tall order. He'll have significant points to defend at nearly every event he plays. He is the king until proven otherwise but I actually see Federer mounting a resurgence in 2012 - just when no one expects it.

My Tennis Fantasy

Current Overall Ranking: 16th
My MVP for the Week: Novak Djokovic with $1,800,000

My Baseball Fantasy: Playoffs

Private League: bye week
Public League: 1st place out of 12 teams, 14 points ahead
My Player of the Week: Ian Kinsler (Second Baseman, Rangers) with 3 home runs, 10 runs, 4 RBI, 1 stolen base and a .423 batting average

Photo via Nolan Writin'

I had the week off in the private league. Friend and fellow blogger Marc won his quarterfinal matchup so now we go head-to-head in the semis. In the meantime, all is going swimmingly in the public league. Kinsler has been nothing short of awesome recently. Over the past 30 days: 10 home runs, 28 runs, 21 RBI, 3 stolen bases and a .303 batting average.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

US Open Day 14: Serena

Curtain Call

Player: Serena Williams
Age: 29
Nation: USA
Current Ranking: 27th
Notable Conquests: Caroline Wozniacki (1st seed, Denmark), Victoria Azarenka (4th, Belarus), Ana Ivanovic (16th, Serbia) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (17th, Russia)
Today's Result: loss to Samantha Stosur (9th, Australia) in straight sets

Photo via

She is the world's greatest female athlete - end of discussion. That said, her behavior on court today was absolutely inexcusable. The chair umpire made the right call. Even if she hadn't, resorting to personal attacks on the umpire's character is well out of line. Nonetheless, Serena Williams had an outstanding tournament.

Samantha Stosur is a deserving champion. Let that, too, be the end of the discussion. Between Li, Kvitova and Stosur, there were three first-time Slam champions on the women's side this year. That is well worth celebrating.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I'm with the Band: Illinois

Band: Marching Illini
University: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Founded: 1907
Current Director: Barry L. Houser
School Song: "Illinois Loyalty"
Fight Song: "Oskee Wow Wow"

The Marching Illini boast many firsts: the first college band to use Sousaphones, the first to play a halftime show, the first to sing acapella on the field, etc. Not surprisingly, any band in America which has ever earned any form of praise from J.P. Sousa himself is eager to trumpet the fact. The great band leader once called the Marching Illini the "World's Greatest College Band."

This is Professor Houser's first year directing the organization. Amazingly, he is only the eighth director of the Marching Illini in its 104-year history. There's nothing quite like tenure to get someone to stick around.

Illinois has not one but two school songs. "Illinois Loyalty" is the main school song but "Oskee Wow Wow" is the one they play after touchdowns and such. I couldn't find composer info for "Illinois Loyalty" but "Oskee Wow Wow" was written by Howard Green and Harold Hill (he of The Music Man fame?) in 1911.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 15/20 (tied for 1st out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 28/40 (3rd out of 3)

I picked three underdogs this week: Hawaii, Cincinnati and Michigan. Michigan was the only one that won, though it didn't help me too much as the other two guys picked them, too. Once again, I would have done better just to pick all favorites.

US Open Day 13: Kerber

Curtain Call

Player: Angelique Kerber
Age: 23
Nation: Germany
Current Ranking: 92
Notable Conquests: Agnieszka Radwanska (12th seed, Poland) and Flavia Pennetta (26th, Italy)
Today's Result: loss to Samantha Stosur (9th, Australia) in three sets

Photo via Intentional Foul

Prior to this event, Kerber had never even made it past the third round of a Slam. In last year's US Open, she didn't even make it out of the first round. This result will give her ranking a huge boost.

Golden Squid Update Jurgen Melzer - I love the second career Melzer has found for himself in doubles. I think doubles could prove a career extender for loads of top singles players as the doubles specialists tend to have longer careers - less mileage on the wheels. Melzer and his pal Philipp Petzschner (Germany) won the US Open men's doubles, their second Slam title as a team. They defeated Mariusz Frystenberg and Marcin Matkowski (6th, Poland) in straight sets.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The New 52: Stormwatch

Title: Stormwatch
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

Image via Inside Pulse

Of the three comics I bought this week, this is the one I enjoyed the most - and mostly for the artwork. If you're a visuals first comics fan, I was pretty impressed by this one. I'll definitely keep an eye out for Sepulveda in the future.

I knew nothing about the Stormwatch story beforehand but I was intrigued by the New 52 books which DC has categorized as The Edge. Like many in this group, Stormwatch originated with DC's WildStorm imprint. Stormwatch is an organization which exists to protect Earth from alien threats. At least in this relaunch, they've operated in secrecy for centuries. Of course, alien threats can include superheroes such as Superman, which presents implications for the rest of the DC universe.

Like Action Comics, this book failed to pass my curiosity test - no real interest in issue #2. I like the basic premise but if I'm going to follow the formation of a superhero team, I think I'd just stick with the Justice League. I don't see that this particular collection of characters offers anything better.

While most DC titles are rated T for teen, Stormwatch is rated T+. It's not immediately apparent why. Maybe a double entendre late in the story? I'm not really sure. Of course, it's a rating for the entire series, not just the one issue so it is possible more mature themes will emerge in future installments.


I feel a little silly classifying comments on the artwork as spoilers but I don't want to ruin the novelty on the off-off-off-chance that anyone might have read my review before reading the actual comic. Several of the images on offer are genuinely dazzling. A claw-bearing moon:

Image via Comic Book Resources

There are also a couple of thoroughly satisfying depictions of Martian Manhunter's transformations:

Image via M.C.WOLFMAN

Plus there's this, whatever it is, they find in the Himalayas:

Image via

There is one image that I enjoyed less for style than for content. It is made clear in the book that Stormwatch has existed for centuries. One frame contains what appears to be a Roman centurion with a telescope, an apparent early member of the group. Now, there's a storyline I could get behind: Stormwatch through the centuries. Why not?

US Open Day 12: A-Rod

Curtain Call

Player: Andy Roddick
Age: 29
Nation: USA
Current Ranking: 21st
Notable Conquest: David Ferrer (5th seed, Spain)
Today's Result: loss to Rafael Nadal (2nd, Spain) in straight sets

Photo via TopNews

Amazingly, Roddick and Nadal had only faced one another at a Slam one other time: the second round of the 2004 US Open. Nadal was all of 18 years old, mostly a source of curiosity at the time. The tone of the discussion from the commentators was along the lines of "who is this punk kid who dares challenge the defending champion?" Little did anyone know what was in store. The Slam total since then: Nadal 10, Roddick 0.

That match was a straight sets victory, too - for the American. While I have never been a Roddick fan, he deserves props for his performance here. This was his first time in the US Open quarters in three years. I'm going to go out on a pretty strong limb and say that Roddick will never win a Slam again. It's too late and everyone else is too good. But it's been an awfully good run.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The New 52: Action Comics

Title: Action Comics
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Rags Morales and Rick Bryant

Image via iFanboy

DC bills this one book as no less than "the cornerstone of the entire DC universe." Mock also clued me into the legendary stature of Grant Morrison within the industry. Given all that, I think high expectations are more than fair.

I have to admit to being generally underwhelmed by Superman. I don't just mean this book, either. Superman was first created in 1938 and has been the world's biggest comic hero pretty much ever since. And yet, with all of those decades of development potential behind him, I've never found him to be a particularly interesting character. Were there a Hamlet Scale of great characters in world literature, I think Superman would rate fairly low compared to, say, Wolverine. He's good. He's strong. He's invincible. He's pretty static. Even within his own storyline, he's less intriguing than Lois Lane or Lex Luthor, for instance. If there are stories of a morally ambiguous Superman or an emotionally complex Superman, I haven't seen them.

Before I get to the spoiler section, I will say that Action Comics #1 did not pass my curiosity test. I'm not particularly interested in what happens in issue #2. That is not to say that I don't think it's a quality piece of work. It is. But I'm really looking to get hooked into one of these stories and it just didn't happen for me this time. I do, however, love the "Guided View" in the Comixology interface. With both this book and Justice League, I caught a lot of details that I missed with the normal view.

For the record, My Wife is not impressed by the short sleeves and blue jeans costume.


For poster-worthy images, the one with Superman jumping down from the zeppelin is a nice one. It's a shame comics don't have page numbers for easier reference but on the seventh page after the title page, there's an image-within-an-image shot of the wrecking ball coming towards the building. General Lane and Luthor are watching on a large TV screen and the image is black and white, a notable contrast with the rest of the page.

As for the story itself, I'm not too worried about Superman. Even pinned against a wall by a train engine, we all know he's going to be just fine. Whatever is going on between General Lane and Luthor is a lot more intriguing, but not enough for me to run out and buy the next issue, I'm afraid.

US Open Day 11: The Rain Subsides

Curtain Call

Player: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Age: 26
Nation: France
Current Ranking: 11
Notable Conquest: Mardy Fish (8th seed, USA)
Today's Result: loss to Roger Federer (3rd, Switzerland) in straight sets

Photo via Famewatcher

Even with tonight's loss, it's been a fantastic summer for Tsonga. He didn't play the US Open at all last year so his ranking will get a nice boost with this result, his career-best for the event. It's my second Slam in a row to feature him in this space. Tsonga won the US Open juniors title in 2003, defeating Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) in the final.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm with the Band: Michigan

Band: Michigan Marching Band
University: University of Michigan
Founded: 1896
Current Director: Scott Boerma
Current Drum Major: Jeffrey McMahon
Fight Song: "The Victors"

Major university marching bands are serious business. I can virtually guarantee that on any given Saturday of football season, there is just as much talent on the field at halftime as there is during the game and with a small fraction of the budget. Marching band programs offer scholarships and are lead by professors with real doctorates and everything. These groups work hard and take enormous pride in their efforts, both musical and physical. While television usually ignores them, I can tell you as a graduate of a college that didn't have a marching band, a live football game is far less interesting without one.

In the world of college marching bands, the Michigan Marching Band is the Beatles: the standard by which everyone else is measured. In addition to being a football powerhouse, Ann Arbor has one of the finest music programs in the country. While I don't know if many or any of the marchers are also in the conservatory, musical standards at the university are very high indeed.

"The Victors" was composed by Louis Elbel in 1898. John Philip Sousa himself called it "the greatest college fight song ever written." I'm rather partial to a different one but we'll get to that another week. Gerald Ford, U.S. President and star footballer at Michigan, was a big fan of the song. He frequently requested it be played for him rather than "Hail to the Chief." He also requested it for his funeral procession.

All This and Football, Too!

My Picks for the Week: 13/20 (3rd place out of 3 players)

I started a college pick'em group on Yahoo! in order to follow the regular season more closely in preparation for our larger bowl pick'em group. Two other guys joined. I don't know either - friends of friends of friends. No problem. The setup: Yahoo!'s default games each week, no point spread, no confidence points, just a running tally over the course of the season. I only picked three upsets this week - UCLA, East Carolina and Rice - and they all lost. I would have done better just to pick all favorites. How disappointing!

Family Adventures: Turning Eight

Today is my daughter's birthday. She, like her mother, is an early riser. We knew she would be anxious to open presents so we told her she could wake us anytime after 6. She made it to 6:45. After she opened the presents we told her we would do whatever she wanted for the day. Naturally, she wanted to stay home and enjoy her new loot, which meant hanging out in her room reading. It seemed a fitting end to what has been a quiet, rainy holiday weekend for us.

But I have stumbled upon what I believe may be the key for getting my family out of the house, even when we'd all just as soon laze around in our pajamas. My Wife suggested we go out for a birthday lunch, Our Girl's choice. On the way to the restaurant, My Wife pointed out the orchard where we'll be picking apples soon and the notices for upcoming church dinners. The message - intended or not - was pretty clear: if you really want to get us out, the promise of food is a powerful lure. It's like planning college study breaks all over again!
Image via

Our Girl chose Joyce's Noodle House, our family standby for Chinese food. The main draw for her was the fortune cookies. It was a good choice for a special occasion, but too expensive as a regular weekend excursion. My ideal outing is one that costs us little to nothing and eating out isn't exactly economical. But if pastries and hot chocolate are what it takes to get us out of our lair in January, I say it's worth it. We agreed that lunch is probably the most cost-effective meal at a restaurant so I'll keep my eye out for the best place for an affordable Sunday lunch - something other than McDonald's (aka The Scottish Bistro), that is.

US Open Day 8: The Mosquito

Curtain Call

Player: Juan Carlos Ferrero
Age: 31
Nation: Spain
Current Ranking: 105
Notable Conquest: Gael Monfils (7th seed, France)
Today's Result: loss to Janko Tipsarevic (20th, Serbia) in four sets

Photo of a younger Ferrero via Tennis24Seven

How quickly the tennis world forgot about Ferrero. Eight years ago, he was en route to a US Open final and about to become the #1 player in the world. Then Federer happened. Then Nadal happened. Then there was a seemingly endless barrage of injuries. His days as a serious contender are a distant memory. Still, by most human measures, he has had a brilliant career: 16 career titles including the 2003 French Open, significant contributions to Spain's Davis Cup dominance and a none-too-shabby $13.5 million and counting in prize money. Now in the twilight of his career, he turned in his best Slam performance in two years by reaching the fourth round.

My Baseball Fantasy: Marcum

Private League: won 6-3-1 (regular season finished, 1st place out of 10 teams)
Public League: 1st place out of 12 teams, 8.5 points ahead
My Player of the Week: Shaun Marcum (Starting Pitcher, Brewers) with 1 win, 12 strikeouts, a 0.00 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP

Photo via

That's right. Over two starts covering 14 innings, Marcum did not allow a single earned run. I don't think anyone's going to want to have to face the Brewers in the playoffs.

In the private league, our regular season is finished. I'll have a first round bye so I get the week off. I can now finish no worse than fourth in the league. Apart from the bye and tie-breakers, the regular season is now essentially meaningless. After leading the standings for most of the season, I could still finish without a trophy. That puts an awful lot of pressure on two weeks!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

US Open Day 7: Niculescu

Curtain Call

Player: Monica Niculescu
Age: 23
Nation: Romania
Current Ranking: 68
Notable Conquest: Lucie Safarova (27th seed, Czech Republic)
Today's Result: loss to Angelique Kerber (Germany) in straight sets


In reaching the fourth round, Niculescu achieved her career-best singles result at a Slam. To this point, she has found greater success on the doubles circuit. She is currently ranked 49th in the world in doubles and has one Slam doubles quarterfinal on her resume: Roland Garros 2010.

Catching Up with Old Friends

Sabine Lisicki (Curtain Call, Wimbledon Day 12) - While Lisicki's meteoric rise up the singles rankings has certainly been impressive, the Squid latched onto her at Wimbledon for her performance in doubles. At the US Open, she teamed with Samantha Stosur (Australia) and the two lost in the first round to Eleni Daniilidou (Greece)/Polona Hercog (Slovenia) in three sets. However, Lisicki didn't play doubles at the US Open last year so it still counts as an improvement. Meanwhile, she turned in another strong result in singles, attaining the fourth round, her career-best for the event. Her tournament came to an end this evening against Vera Zvonareva (2nd, Russia) in straight sets.

Let's Talk Baseball: Bold Proposal Early September Standings

We are heading into the home stretch for Season 2. For those new to the program, here is my original post for the idea and here is how things shook out at the end of last season, setting up the two divisions I'll be using for the 2011 season.

Photo via Fanpop

The current standings are as follows:

First Division

1. Phillies (unchanged from mid-August)
Yankees (+1)
3. Red Sox (-1)
4. Braves (unchanged)
Rangers (unchanged)
Tigers (+3)
7. Rays (+2)
8. Angels (-2)
9. Cardinals (-1)
10. Giants (-3)

11. White Sox (unchanged)
12. Reds (unchanged)
13. Rockies (+1)
14. Marlins (-2)
15. Padres (+1)
16. Twins (-1)

Second Division

1. Brewers (unchanged)
2. Diamondbacks (unchanged)
3. Indians (unchanged)
4. Blue Jays (-1)

5. Dodgers (+3)
6. Mets (-3)

7. Nationals (-1)
8. Pirates (-1)
9. A's (-1)
10. Cubs (+1)
11. Mariners (-1)
12. Royals (-1)
13. Orioles (unchanged)
14. Astros (unchanged)

Biggest rises: Tigers, Dodgers
Biggest falls: Giants, Mets

The teams in italics are the six different teams to win the past six World Series titles. I am hoping that trend will continue and yet a different team will win this year.

To me, the most interesting thing in looking at these current standings is the fact that six of the top eight teams in the first division are in the American League. That is partially explained by the fact that there are two real-world division leaders in the second division: the Brewers and the Diamondbacks. Last year, I had two second division teams who led their real-world divisions for much of the season: the Reds and the Padres. I don't want to read too much into this but I do think it speaks to the greater consistency of the top teams in the junior circuit.

As I have stated before, I want my hypothesis to be proven wrong. I want to be convinced that more than a handful of teams have a chance to win the World Series in a given year. As such, it looks like both Milwaukee and Arizona will provide me with strong rooting interests come playoff time. Both teams head into the stretch with solid leads.