Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee

If Stan Lee had *only* been the co-creator of Spider-Man, he would’ve been a hugely important figure in comic book and pop culture history. 

If Lee was *only* the co-creator of the X-Men, he would’ve been a hugely important figure…

If Lee was *only* the co-creator of the Hulk, he would’ve been a hugely…

If Lee was *only* the co-creator of the Fantastic Four, he would’ve….

And on and on with Iron Man, Daredevil, Black Panther, Thor, the Falcon, the Wasp, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, and then the dozens if not hundreds of supporting characters and villains associated with all these characters.  When you take the step back and realize that all of these now-iconic figures came from the same writer, it really is mind-blowing.

It’s no secret that Spider-Man was a childhood hero of mine, and it isn’t untrue that Spidey’s morality helped shape my own sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.  Spidey also taught me that a sarcastic is never out of place, so without Stan Lee, the world might’ve never had my decades of snarky humour.  (This one might rank pretty low on Lee’s list of creations.)

Lee’s legacy has only been enhanced over the last decade thanks to incredible success of the Marvel movies, and it’s cool that he himself has become a known face and name to the general public thanks to his ever-present cameo appearances.  (My favourite: Stan happily listening to some classical music on his headphones, oblivious to Spider-Man and the Lizard tearing the library apart behind him.)  RIP to Stan the Man for his indelible contributions to my childhood and, in many ways, my adulthood.

Nuff said!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trick Of The Year

Imagine seeing a video of the best magic trick of the year (as judged by actual professional magicians) and NOT clicking the link.  Imagine! 

The guy's look of surprised excitement at every stage of the illusion is pretty boss.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

11/11

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Mr. Spectacular Redux

Unfortunately, this isn't a new instance of billiards dominance on my end.  My parents recently sold our old family pool table, so what better time to re-post this classic tale of the time I suddenly grew a fin and became a pool shark.

*******

We had a pool table back at my parents' house and we played a lot in my younger days.  My brother and I have a long-standing rivalry in, well, everything, but billiards was of particular interest to us.  I'll admit (VERY hesitantly) that my brother may have been a slightly better player than I (VERY slightly) but I hold the single most impressive victory ever achieved in one of our games.  It was a victory that should've, by rights, earned me a lifelong nickname.

The situation: in a standard game of stripes-and-solids, he had just the eightball left, while I still had four balls out on the table.  As they might say in O Brother, I was in a tight spot.  Naturally, I responded to my brother's trash-talk not by quietly accepting my fate, but rather by making a boast of my own --- I would sink the next four balls, and then the eightball if I did this, he would have to refer to me as "Mr. Spectacular" for the rest of our lives.  Chuckling, he accepted the bet.

And then I PROCEEDED TO DO IT.

Now, folks, your old pal Mark is not a top-class pool player.  The only thing that Minnesota Fats and I have in common is our shared morbid obesity.  Still, on this day, I was a veritable Fast Eddie Felson, draining five balls in succession from all over the table.  My brother could just stand there like a slack-jawed yokel in amazement that I somehow went from 0 to 100 in the span of a minute.

The downside?  Not once has my brother ever, EVER referred to me as Mr. Spectacular.  Not a single damn time, even as a joke.  He didn't even use the name directly in the wake of our game, as I believe his response to my five-ball streak was just to swear and demand another game.

This welching dog owes me over 20 years of nicknames.  And really, had me used the nickname all these years, naturally someone would've asked about it, and then it might've caught on.  My life would've clearly been at least 7.5% better if I'd been colloquially known as "Mr. Spectacular."  That's a brand name unto itself.  I could've even gotten it tattooed across my shoulder blades, since I presume in this new reality I would've had the confidence to get over my fear of needles.

To make a long story short, if anyone wants to start calling me Mr. Spectacular, I'm just saying I'd be open to it.  If you also have a goofy nickname you're trying to give yourself a la George "T-Bone" Costanza, I'm willing to play ball.  A billiard ball, if you will.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Sticks

Back in grade school, I was very into Ghostbusters.  I’m still into Ghostbusters, for what it’s worth, but my current normal amount of fandom pales in comparison to that of young Mark from ages 5-9.  I watched the cartoons, dressed up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween, even saw the live-action movie after my folks taped it for me off a City TV airing,* and obviously had all of the action figures.  Though theoretically, I didn’t need the action figures or the plastic-and-foam model proton packs, since I just used pieces of wood.

* = you might point out that the Ghostbusters film is a little too adult for a child of my age, but I think it was a case of my parents realizing that once I knew this movie existed, it was an unwinnable battle.  But it was okay, since I turned out perfectly well-adjusted!  Right?! *tumbleweed GIF*

Let me explain, and address the actual “back in grade school” part of this.  During recess, I tended to just hang out by myself in some random corner of the playground rather than play with other kids.  My primary school had an enormous open area (multiple ball diamonds, a soccer field, even a wooded area) that lent itself to nerdier kids like me finding a quiet little spot to play my little imaginary games.  Naturally, these turned into Ghostbusters stories, with my own self cast as usually the lone Ghostbuster against any number of ghouls and creatures, sometimes with the occasional cameo from one or two of the original gang.  My Egon impression is still pretty dead-on, btw.

Any good game needs its props, so what I did was fashion any number of sticks into makeshift toys that would serve as the ghost trap or wand-end of a proton pack.  I say “fashion,” but it wasn’t like I was out there whittling away like Geppetto or anything — I just found sticks that were already somewhat shaped like the gear I needed.  These weren’t giant tree branches, just smaller pieces of woods that were easily handheld, and could be kept in a jacket pocket once recess was over. 

As time went on, naturally some sticks would be damaged, or lost, or I’d simply find better sticks in better shapes and discard older ones.  Finally I came across two that were of particular good quality.  One had a little bend at the end that actually looked something like the handle of a ghost trap, while the other had most of a vague wand shape but also kind of a bulb at the end, which in a pinch could look like a ghost’s head.  If I recall correctly, I think I found these sticks around the fourth grade, or right around when my Ghostbusters fandom started to wane just a bit.

And then I proceeded to keep the sticks for the next 30 years.  They’re actually sitting next to me right here as I type this.

Now, first question — no, I don’t still play imaginary games with them.  I just got used to carrying them around, and that eventually molded into just having them within arm’s reach at most times.  Perhaps in the same way that some people might have a lucky rabbit’s foot or a lucky penny, I just have a couple of wooden sticks.  After 30 years, they’re both still surprisingly sturdy, though one has taken a few cracks and chips.  The “ghost head” is maybe about half-missing at this point, creating a bit of a crest that looks like the “head” has Conan O’Brien’s haircut.  Did child Mark somehow know that I’d eventually become a Conan fan?!  Oooooh, spooky.

I bring this weird affectation up because, for the first time in years, I came close to losing the ol’ sticks for good.  It happened during a recent laundry, when I tossed a shirt into the washer without realizing the sticks were in the pocket.  I realized my error within five minutes and stopped the wash to retrieve them, and no harm was really done.  Interestingly, 30 years of usage had made both sticks feel quite smooth, yet just a brief power wash seemed to eradicate all those years of hand oils and return them to feeling like….well, like pieces of wood.

Not really sure what the endgame is with these sticks.  Should I have a provision entered into my will stating that they be bronzed and buried with me after I pass?  Or should I see that they’re both returned to my public school’s woods, from whence they came?  Or will I, a grown man, realize that this affectation is silly and….hahaha, I can’t even finish typing that with a straight face.