…and win this limited edition Brian Wilson bobblehead!
First off, let me thank Jimmy Chew for talking me into this year’s The Giant Race half marathon. And even after I said I’d run it, his incessant “have you registered yet?” reminders ensured that I got a bib number before it sold out.
Of course, it’s been a good long while since I’ve run any kind of marathon, full or half, and getting my legs up to speed has been a drag (especially since my old marathon training team has either moved to the east coast; given up running shoes for a bicycle; or just opted for the most sane alternative to running which is, simply, not running).
When training alone, scintillating conversation needs to be replaced with music. The iPod Shuffle figured to be a great running buddy: it’s lightweight, clips to my shorts, and holds two gigs of tunes. What really sold me was the way it could auto-fill itself from your iTunes library, guaranteeing an exciting randomized playlist and miles of “guess the artist” fun.
I went from thinking this was a clever little device, to thinking it was stupid, to thinking it was cleverly sadistic in the span of three runs. Granted, it’s been pulling from over 35,000 songs, but this miniature robot prankster somehow manages to jumble in as many forgotten spoken word tracks, bluegrass banjo disasters, and instrumental lullabies that it can find on my hard drive. Instead of having fun being surprised by a song and wondering, “who sings this again?” I yank out my earbuds wondering (sometimes audibly, which can be embarrassing if there are other runners about), “what the hell is this and why was it on my computer?”
It should be an easy question to answer, a simple topic to elaborate upon. I love comics, and I love talking about the medium. And despite the fact that some of the best, most literate expressions of this artform have nothing to do with superheroes, I can’t ever deny the deep-seated passion I’ve had for capes-and-tights adventures since my first Avengers so many decades ago. But – why superheroes? What is it about this mythic cross of science fiction and fantasy that had not only enthralled me from a young age, but has also turned into huge business, dominating popular culture in movies and video games in the twenty-first century? Should be simple to answer. Shouldn’t it?
Grant Morrison, one of the most renowned and respected comics writers of our day, is far more equipped to tackle this subject than I. Thankfully, at least, as his new book Supergods shows us, I wasn’t wrong in thinking that there is no simple answer to the question. I’m just as thankful that the exploration of superhero culture, in his capable hands and guided by a life similarly captivated by the genre (as well as being twisted through years of genuine chaos magic and intense psychedelia), is a tremendously fascinating and rewarding one.
Supergods explores the history of superheroes, from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation of Superman in 1938 through the modern era and the infusion of superheroics into the “real world,” both in Hollywood’s forays into more realistic portrayals, and the advent of real world superheroes, like Portland’s Zetaman and Atlanta’s Crimson Fist. As each decade and each era is explored, Morrison beautifully connects current events with the responses of popular culture, demonstrating how the world of comics, and superheroes specifically, became both accurate reflections of the times as well as prescient oracles of developing fears, dreams, and ideals.
It’s been little over a year since my most recent trip to Italy, which means I’ve already started thinking about how soon I can get back. The da Vinci-esque scrawls that fill up my Moleskine on traveling adventures are perfectly useless (and not just because of the illegibility) as a guide through foreign cities, but chronicling ruminations and observations about anything interesting in our lives is an Idle Time virtue, and one which I ceaselessly promote.
June 29, 2010
A week ago today we made our first trip into Firenze. The five of us, led by Margaret (our rental car’s soothing British-accented navigation device), parked at Piazza Michelangelo above the city, fairly near San Miniato en Monte. As promised by my Rough Guides guidebook (I’m now a big proponent of RG — dispensing with the juvenile snapshot summaries of DK and weary of the snarky pretension of Lonely Planet), parking was free in the piazza, and for €1,20 each we could ride the bus into town (which, honestly, wasn’t that far… we could really have handled a lot more walking on this trip…)
I was happy to show the kids (and Matt) what I remembered from my time here in ’06. Street-level, outdoor views of the Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Maria Novella, Ponte Vecchio, and numerous other churches that I had something to say about — all marginally interesting, and in play later that evening.
The highlight — and easily the most memorable moment of our time in northern Tuscany — came during our exploration of the Duomo. After exploring the inside of Santa Maria del Fiore we decided to appreciate Brunelleschi’s accomplishment up close by forking over the €8 apiece to climb up into the dome itself. The stairwells were even narrower than the climbs in Siena; the exertion double what we experienced in San Gimignano. The initial egress put us on the first of two narrow walkways encircling the inside of the great dome. A sheet of plexiglass kept us from tumbling down the twenty stories onto the altar below, and above and all around us, the spectacular fresco of the Last Judgment in all its glory. Heads of demons and devils fifteen feet across were just above us — Hell being the lower rung of the artwork — tormenting poor souls with flaming cudgels and flaying skin from sinners’ bones.
At the EarthFair Festival in San Diego this past weekend, I was struck by the logo for the San Diego Pagan Pride organization. All these pagan religions united against discrimination and prejudice, reminding us all the while that crosses and Stars of David are fine as religious symbols, but if you’re really looking for iconography to rally behind, consider the ankh or… the hammer of Thor!
Which then made me wonder whether or not the half-dozen or so people in San Diego who actually claim to be adherents to the Norse faith had any problem with Marvel Studios’ upcoming summer blockbuster. Was Thor being seen as a trivialization of their beliefs? An insulting depiction of their deity dealing with the modern world like, I don’t know… The Book of Mormon or something? Or was this going to be their Passion of the Christ? Would Teutonic neopaganists start losing their shit in theaters nationwide (starting at midnight on May 6, naturally) watching their God of Thunder suffer at the hands of the divinely crafted Destroyer armor? Continue reading The Passion of the Thunder God→
On the last day of the 2010 regular season, with all apologies to that scintillating infield of Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams, I realized that, no matter how this Orange October would resolve, this team was my favorite Giants team of all time. This band of castoffs and misfits, this gritty homegrown pitching staff, this Buster Posey kid and thong-swinging Aubrey Huff, went on to create one of the single most intense stretches of anticipation, tension, and excitement in my life. A stretch that ended, of course, in pure joy.
It’s been a long time coming. A lot of heartbreak and a lot of frustration. But a lot of exuberance too. Winning the World Series was not just about chasing away demons from so many failed seasons past. Throughout this entire postseason I had exultant flashbacks to teams, players, and even broadcasters from the past. So forgive me if I’m not quite ready to move on completely from that magical season.
On the eve of Opening Day, 2011, I need to take a minute and count down my
Top Five Postseason Moments of 2010
5. Tomahawk Whiffs
The Giants won the West. We were hosting the Wild Card winning Atlanta Braves for the first two of a five-game NLDS. So why was the world ready to send the Braves off to another LCS before the first pitch had even been thrown? Why am I hearing on KNBR that our pitching measures up about equally, but the Braves have the edge in hitting?
This east coast bias monstrosity was just starting to build. And in the opposite corner, an orange-and-black northern California heartbeat, freak-powered and boldly defiant. You want to see pitching?
Tim Lincecum struck out fourteen Braves in Game One of the NLDS. Fourteen. Equal my ass. That one run? All the Giants needed. There’s a reason this kid won two straight Cy Young awards. And if the rest of the country hadn’t caught on yet, this was just the kind of call to attention they needed. Continue reading Top 5 Postseason Moments of 2010→
When I was a freshman in high school, my social studies teacher, Mr. Stiegler, recounted a story to our class about lifelong sports fandom triumphantly rewarded. For years, including every pathetic campaign during the 1970’s, he placed a five-dollar bet on the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. It was a symbolic gesture: he rooted for the team, and naturally wanted to see them win the title, even if in his heart he knew the gesture really only amounted to flushing an Abe Lincoln down the toilet every August.
When Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Dwight Clark stunned the country in 1982, Mr. Stiegler was five hundred dollars richer.
The story was inspiring. My good friend and classmate Nelson Wong was likewise intrigued, so as soon as we turned twenty-one, one of us, sometimes both, would place five bucks on the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series. On occasion the bet was a bit more (we were both in possession of five-dollar heartbreaks in 2002, but Pudge Rodriguez’s ’03 fistpump in my face cost me twenty bucks and a shot at two hundred), and the bet location often had a lot to say about the odds. Most of my money was dropped in Tahoe, but the odds were generally better during Nelson’s formerly regular treks to Las Vegas. Continue reading The Sportsbook Dilemma→
Texting “redcross” to 90999 is certainly an easy way to donate ten bucks to the American Red Cross and its relief efforts overseas. As Stephen Colbert pointed out on his show last night, however, iPhone users need to prevent the overzealous autocorrect function from turning the well-intentioned “redcross” into the somewhat snide rejoinder, “reactors.” Colbert: “In which case I believe all the money goes directly to the radioactive leaks.”
The community-driven online t-shirt company, Threadless, in addition to being responsible for a good portion of my wardrobe, offers a chance to help the cause and promote awareness at the same time. Jason Yang’s design, “Rebuild Japan” is just twenty bucks and 100% of the net proceeds goes directly to the Red Cross.
Snag one for yourself and one for your significant other. The only time wearing matching anything isn’t tacky is when it’s all about solidarity.
It’s the signature Idle Time event, the annual tradition that started this whole beautiful mess: The List. After deliberations and discussions, roulettes and rancor, The Institute is happy to unveil our Favorite Forty for 2010.
This is a bit of a first for our collective. Since 2002, the year-end Best Of has always been shared primarily via print media, whether in jewel case booklets or the short-lived Idle Times zine. Now the rankings and rambling blurbage are presented online first, which means the requisite what-we-missed and what-were-you-thinking comments can fly unfiltered straight from your keyboard to our ears. Feel free to call us assholes if you’re still into that; but rest assured that our calloused hearts have long ago been rendered immune to insults. Besides, anything rude you have to say about our musical tastes (I’m looking at you, Dizza), has more than likely already been exchanged amongst the five of us.
On behalf of Will (WH), Isey (MI), Rex (RF), Donno (DH), and myself (MDG), thanks for humoring our obsessions all these years. Or thanks for checking us out for the first time. Let’s make some mixtapes.
Beginning January 2011, DC Comics will implement a line-wide pricing adjustment, lowering the prices of all standard length 32-page ongoing comic book titles currently priced at $3.99 to $2.99.
“This announcement reaffirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.” Continue reading Bravo, DC→
Originally published in Justifications on December 10, 2007:
This past Saturday night I was huddled near an electric spaceheater in a makeshift room of a live/work loft in the Vulcan Studios community in Oakland, just off San Leandro. Charlie was clinging to a vanishing pang of nostalgia, something he remembered loving about being a boy… something about growing up and the way things were. Unable to properly recollect the memory, he resorted to a description of a typical day growing up with two brothers and a sister: wake up, fight, read comics, fight… “it was so great.”
He asked me if I read comics growing up. “I still do.”
My love affair with comics is similarly rooted in those carefree days of youth. Both of my parents worked when I was growing up, so, during my elementary school years, my grandfather would often pick me up after school and take me to his house in Cow Hollow. At least once a week we would walk down to Chestnut Street – a place decades removed from today’s trendy nightspots and Apple stores – and wander into Jack’s, a magazine and tobacco store between Scott and Pierce. Nonno would set himself up in the back, elbows on the counter, and talk to whom I can only imagine was Jack himself, leaving me at the entryway of the store to peruse the comics racks. Continue reading Loving the Funnybooks→