Tales from outer turnip head...

Tales from outer turnip head...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flying cows, new words, a friend's blog fame, and the sunny skies of pre-storm New England...

Helen Hunt, Flying Cows, Tornadoes: In 1996 a mediocre film came out that brought delight to my world: Twister.

IMDB users give it a 6.2; 57% from Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic weighs in with a green 68 (Users of Metacritic also give it a 6.8).

Helen Hunt, Flying Cows, and Tornadoes; What else do you need for "mindless entertainment" as TV Guide labels this movie?

I really loved this movie back in '96, and haven't seen it since. [I worry that it might suck now that I am almost 20 years older and maybe a little more discriminating.] Nah... Helen Hunt, flying cows, tornadoes!

One of the harshest reviews comes from Barbara Shulgasser of the SF Examiner:
...So that's the plot. Big swirls of computer-generated dirt, a bickering couple and the dead certainty that the fiancee will leave and the bickerers will get back together. An exciting night out, or what? 
Anyway, after "Earthquake," "Hurricane" and "Monsoon," it takes more than a simple tornado to thrill me. I look forward to other great moments in meteorological cinema. "Drizzle," "Sleet," and the real challenge to computer jocks, "Partly Cloudy."...
I May Be a Firefighter, But...: I am not an adrenaline junkie. I have fantasized being a storm chaser. I never actually considered it as a job path, but thought I would love to be on a semi-nerdy team that runs into danger while others run away...

"Bring it on.": I have always loved adverse weather that does not hurt me. I feel guilt when I revel in a storm that I find out later hurt someone's property or person, but it does not change how excited I feel while the storm is happening. I really do love nature's way of reminding me that I am small, and only regret that the reminders are so often tragic for others...

Arm Chair Excitement: So movies about crazy weather let me safely and comfortably think about weather without the guilt of the harm that comes from them. I have so many weather related memories that are cinematic in my mind: sitting at my window on Midhurst Rd. with my father watching thunder storms roll in, getting blown over in my back yard by hurricane David in '79 (I was probably only 40-50 pds), a warm summer storm in Baltimore that produced an updraft that turned my umbrella inside out and then ripped it from my hands, jumping into snowbanks from the second floor balcony after several feet of snow was dropped in Garrett Co. MD in The Blizzard of '83, explosively splitting knotty logs in the White Mountains -20˚F on New Year's Eve in '98, and on and on and on...

So here's a partial list...

  • White Squall (1996)
  • Twister (1996)
  • The Perfect Storm (2000)
  • The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
  • Eight Below (2006)

Now, moving on to language...
We love to hype things and we love to make up words. There are so many examples of trendy words, buzz words, and just plainly infuriating "must-not-use" words and phrases. But sometimes we make up hype-like words that just rock. Such is there case with weather words. Here are two of recent hype that make me happy to use, abuse, ridicule and love!

Last year the newspeople of Wether.com, CNN, Fox, and the myriad of local forecasters taught us a new term that conjured up epic columns of cold, Polar Vortices: As much as I grew to resent how often I heard the word by the end of the winter, and began to sarcastically use it for any chilly moment of the year, I never grew tired of saying the words "vortex" and "vortices" myself.

And it reminded me of "The Day After Tomorrow," which I saw on the plane returning from a wedding in Bath, England while everyone one else seemed to sleep. How could people sleep on a plane when such an extreme weather movie was available to watch?

Snark and Sarcasm: Well, today I learned a new word! Bombogenesis: It seems very exciting, a little scary, and is making me feel the rush of panic that will send me to Stop and Shop to get a months supply of burritos for my freezer along with some Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. While I am there I will try to look as calm as I can while moving my cart at over 4 MPH to the candy section to get more dark chocolate for my children to sneak when I am not looking. (I find the wrappers stuffed into the cushiness of the couch like somehow no one ever cleans there.) Lest you confuse my intent. The panic is not real, but my like of this new word (provided the news people don't wreck it) is genuine; Bombogenesis! I could write a song about it if I had any punk-rock song writing talent. So. I offer you an explanation of the term from the Weather Channel's pages:
The word sounds ominous, but in reality, the process happens fairly frequently in the world of weather.
"'Bombogenesis' follows from 'cyclogenesis,' which refers to the development of a cyclone (which, in turn, is usually synonymous with a low pressure system, or low)," writes senior meteorologist Stu Ostro.
"Bombs are so-named because of the rapidity with which they develop, which evokes explosiveness, and the power that they usually attain once they have gone through the intensification phase specified in the definition (a central pressure drop of at least 24 millibars, or 24 mbars, in 24 hours)."

So what happens when a "weather bomb" strengthens?
Wind speeds increase and precipitation can become more intense, often creating heavy snowfall and potential blizzard conditions during winter storms. Heavy snow rates can also occur during bombogenesis, which is sometimes accompanied by lightning.
This happened in February 2013, when Winter Storm Nemodropped 29 mbars within a span of 24 hours (specifically, a barometric pressure of 1000 mbars was recorded at 4 a.m. on Feb. 8, and it dropped to to 971 mbars at 4 a.m. on Feb. 9). Winter Storm Nemo ultimately "bottomed out" with a minimum barometric pressure reading of 968 mbars at 4 p.m. on Feb. 9.
In 2015, Winter Storm Iola is expected to undergo bombogenesis off the Atlantic coast, possibly impacting the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the weekend.
Tropical cyclones can also undergo rapid intensification, which is a particularly unnerving development especially when it occurs near landfall. An example of a tropical cyclone undergoing bombogenesis is Hurricane Charley in 2004.

GSD: A few years ago a colleague began a blog that has received over 400,000 hits to date: Greylock Snow Day. Much of the blog employs a tone of humor, but is anchored in surprisingly well reported weather. Here is a little text from the sidebar of the site:


The expert weather predictors at Greylocksnowday have been forecasting the likelihood of snow days since the Blizzard of 1978. In that time, we have correctly predicted delays, early dismissals, and full snow days at an amazing 97.65% rate.


Greylocksnowday is only a free service and assumes no legal responsibility for any zeroes you may receive on a botched Snow Day prediction. Users of this site are responsible for their own actions. Any disgruntled users should shake their fists at the Snow Gods and pray harder next time.
Perhaps Bombogenesis will make it into a GSD entry soon... before everyone heads off to the market to get their "bread and milk!"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I have to grade papers and I have a dog...

Max: When I was seven my parents brought home a cat for the whole family. He name was Maximilian. He was a pure bred Persian... like that meant anything to me; but I guess it made him special. He looked like he was hit in the face with a frying pan; I liked his smushed face...

He became my best friend over night, and I was even willing to share him with the rest of the family as long as they knew he was my cat. We three kids played with Max like he was the family dog, [but he was still a cat]. I figured out as a kid that I was a cat person. I wash't really into dogs. In fact, they often scared me...

Max was bold, independent, and very un-feline; I liked how he would walk into a room like he owned it and would sit down in the middle of everything, unbothered by the chaos of the world. When I was in college he died and I felt more sad than when my grandmother had died f few years earlier. I felt guilty for that, but it was the truth. I do not feel guilty anymore, as I have come to realize what a best-friend-pet means to a child, especially when that child is sad...

Dillon: So two years ago (in March) my wife brought home a dog (I am a cat person you see). The arrival of this dog was against my wishes, but he is now our dog. In fact, "he is the best dog... because he is our dog." I am still a cat person and think the idea of being the crazy cat lady is a pretty cool reincarnation for me.

But our dog is pretty awesome. I found a comic by a women in England named Kelly Angel that sums up "the power of Dillon" on a day when I have to do a lot of work and do not want to... [I think I will choose the dog and family-fun over work today]...

"Natural Remedy"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Graphic Novels" Part 4 of 4: Ongoing series (for adults) that I am currently reading...

Let me start by making sure I do not lead people to confuse my blog entries about kid-friendly comics and this week's post. None of the titles that follow are for youngsters unless you wish to offer up sex, violence, horror, and profanity to your young ones. My children have delighted in reading Bone, the work of Shaun Tan, and books like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. They have not read any of the titles below and will have to find their way to them behind my back at the library or at friends' houses at least until they get to high school.

I am currently following five ongoing series of comics. The Unwritten, Saga, Revival, The Manhattan Projects, and The Walking Dead.

The Unwritten: 
Lizzy Hexam is made of words.
The Unwritten  is an American comic book ongoing series written by Mike Carey[1] with art by Peter Gross[2] and published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics.[3][4][5][6]The book follows Tom Taylor, who was the inspiration for a series of hugely successful children's fantasy novels in the vein of Harry Potter. The series deals with themes related to fame, celebrity, and the relationship between fiction and human consciousness. (Wikipedia)
The Unwritten was a gift from a co-worker who bought it thinking it was a Harry Potter-esque comic for a young niece. He quickly discovered that it was not age-appropriate and not connected to Rowling's fiction. Although it riffs a Harry Potter theme early on, this is just a device to access a much more complex story about popular fiction, and offers content that is not for young children.

The story of Tommy Taylor seemed at first to be hugely derivative of J.K. Rowling's work. I was distracted by the parallels as I read, wondering how Mike Carey's work was not copy-write infringement. But by the end of Volume 1, I realized that the story of Tom Taylor was much larger than its initial appearances. All popular fiction became fair game for Mike Carey's story of symbol and fantasy.

The basic theme in The Unwritten is that there is a conflict over who (and why) controls reality. Power lies in the control of "story". Literature is the battleground, and the movement between works of fiction is the mystery that unfolds. Although the reader of The Unwritten does not need to know the plots of Moby Dick, The world of Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis' works, fables and fairytales, Canterbury Tales, etc. It does help to be well read in order to understand the subtlety that Mike Carey employs under a not-so-subtle main plot line.

My Wife knew I was enjoying The Unwritten and searched Amazon for what other people who were reading it were purchasing. There were several titles she tried that did not grab my attention, but two seemed interesting enough for me to buy subsequent volumes, Saga, and The Manhattan projects.
Bounty Hunter "The Will" and his sidekick Lying Cat
Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, published monthly by Image Comics. The series is heavily influenced by Star Wars and is based on ideas Vaughan conceived both as a child and as a parent. It depicts a husband and wife from long-warring extraterrestrial races, Alana and Marko, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their newborn daughter, Hazel, who occasionally narrates the series.
The comic was described in solicitations as "Star Wars meets Game of Thrones," and by critics as evocative of both science fiction and fantasy epics such as The Lord of the Rings and classic works like Romeo & Juliet.[1][2][3] It is Vaughan's first creator-owned work to be published through Image Comics, and represents the first time he employs narration in his comics writing.
The first issue of Saga was published on March 14, 2012, to positive reviews and a sold-out first printing. The first six-issue story arc was widely acclaimed, and was published in trade paperback form in October 2012. The series won a number of Eisner Awards in 2013 and 2014, and the first trade paperback collection won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. (Wikipedia)
Saga is a fun forbidden love story. Young passionate lovers are chased across the galaxy by those who want to impose their constraints on what they see as threatening, true love. The art of Fiona Staples is crisp and colorful, the story soap-operateic, and content naughty, very naughty. There are ample does of sex and violence, sometimes at the same time. Ordinarily my slightly bashful side clashes with my ability to awkwardly deal with moments of others' intimacy in visual stories (watching Game of Thrones pushes me to the edge sometimes). But the almost constant "mature" content of Saga does not bother me as much as I would have guessed. Somehow, it seems whimsical—perhaps due to the fantastic, outer-space, multi-species components of this comic. Nonetheless, this comic is rated "mature" by Image. I do not hang on the arrival of each new volume, but I seem to get re-sucked in to this title every time it arrives.

Note: I struggled to find pages to show that were "safe" for my blog entry. This may pique your interest, but bear in mind... I warned you. :)

The Manhattan Projects:
The Manhattan Projects is also naughty, but mostly as it allows extreme violence in a context of hidden government projects in an alternate, parallel universe to our Cold War history. The characters are real people; historical allusions are real as well; the rest is pure fantasy, and absurd fantasy at that.
The Manhattan Projects
The Manhattan ProjectsThe Manhattan Projects is a comic book series co-created by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra published by Image Comics. It is a story about an alternate history of the end of World War II in which the Manhattan Project was a front for other more esoteric science fiction ideas. The series is a monthly ongoing and began in March 2012 to much critical acclaim.
Manhattan Projects will be relaunching as Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond The Stars on March 11, 2015.[2] (Wikipedia)
How can you play with a cast of characters who are  genius, whose history is known, whose achievements are documents, and twist it all into something perverse? With science fiction, parallel universe and conspiracy theory: The Manhattan Projects offers just that.

I am not entirely sure why I keep reading this title. I find it interesting as a distraction, but do not look forward to the next issue as I do The Unwritten and my next title, Revival. The Manhattan Projects doesn't offend as much as it seems to lack a plot that moves forward. There is a theme that drives the story forward, but the elements have yet to link up in a way that would make me feel smart for reading it.

I stumbled across the cover art for the first volume of Revival and bought it on a lark. I am liking the story quite a bit so far and look forward to finding out what comes next. It is not complex; it is not terribly deep; it is a page-turner, who-done-it, rural-noir that is just fun reading.
Haunting 1st Cover of Revival
RevivalFor one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it's up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. (Amazon Summary)
I found a review on "goodreads" by Tanja Berg that sums up my experience quite a bit:

"Between the age of about 12 and until I turned 35, I did not read comics. I certainly never read comics for grown-ups. Then came "the Walking Dead" - the tv series. Quite soon after I had seen everything there was to see, I ordered the comic volumes and devoured them whole-heartedly. I'm still not an avid fan of comics, but I have begun to see the charm and have rediscovered some of the joy I had with comics as a kid.

"Revival" was recommended to me, for which I am grateful as I do not seek out graphic novels. I was shocked at the fact that it is in color and beautifully illustrated. That added a whole new dimension to the experience."

There are a number of "goodreads" reviews that feel Revival is too derivative of other "zombie" stories that are in vogue these days, but I must disagree. This is a different take entirely of the undead. These are people who come back to life, with their memories and feelings, and personalities. They do not come back the same, though. Revival is more akin to Pet Cemetery by Steven King, than to more traditional brains-eating zombie tales.

The Walking Dead:
Whereas I wait and purchase each new volume of the above titles, I was a little late to The Walking Dead, and so rely on the library and bookstores for this read. The recommendation for this title came to me through a breakdown of pre-formed stereotypes I had. be it resolved that "Parents of my students are supposed to be 'normal' by whatever definition that might mean"... "Parents who are well read are supposed to shun graphic novels"... "Small, sweet, mild-mannered women are supposed to be freaked out by zombie gore"... right? Oops! Well, I stand corrected. A few years ago I feel prey to my preconceived notion that The Walking Dead was for the stereotypical single young man who needs to get off the couch and stop playing his xbox. It seems that well read, sweet, parents of my students can appreciate a good and incredibly well told graphic story. Thank you Mrs. S. for opening my eyes to the world of Robert Kirkman and bringing a love of things zombie into my household.

The walking dead is not a label of the undead, but of the survivors who struggle to deal with the real enemy (other desperate survivors) amidst a backdrop of ever hungry zombies. Desperation, distrust, back-stabbing, always on-the-run survival is what Kirkman has had to offer for twelve years of comic so far.
Issue 50 cover: 10th Anniversary of Walking Dead's Premire 
The Walking Dead is an ongoing black-and-white American comic book series created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. It chronicles the travels of Rick Grimes, his family and other survivors of a zombie apocalypse.
First issued in 2003 by publisher Image Comics, the comic is written by Kirkman[1] with art by Moore (issues No. 1 - #6) and Charlie Adlard (issue No. 7 onward).[2] Moore continued to do the covers through issue No. 24.[3]
The Walking Dead received the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series at San Diego Comic-Con International. The series was adapted into the AMC television series The Walking Dead, which premiered in 2010. The television program loosely follows the storyline of the comic book. The franchise has also spawned multiple additional media properties, including video games (e.g., The Walking Dead video game), webisode series (The Walking Dead: Torn Apart and The Walking Dead: Cold Storage), and various additional publications, including books (e.g., The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor). (Wikipedia)
Kirkman is currently working on volume 23. Early on he wrote that he had more plot outlines than he would probably ever get into print. But since then the series (both as comic and as TV show) has taken off, and the comic keeps rolling out. Few characters have remained through the whole story and Kirkman says that no one is safe. At times he makes almost complete sweeps of his human survivors, opting for the shock of character decimation over continuity of a single story line. So far, the protagonist Rick Grimes and his son seem to be the only complete constants, but even they are fair game in the zombie apocalypse. Although the plots of TV and comic often crisscross, there are substantial reshuffles and twists to keep fans of the comic still guessing as the show unfolds. There is nothing deep or clever about this series. It is just pure serialized zombie mayhem... and a great distraction from reality...

Well, this is the end of my four part series on Graphic Novels. Any recommendations people have are sincerely wanted and appreciated.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A New Year's Break...

Although I was supposed to write part four of a series on Graphic Novels, I am choosing to take the week off. It is only a few days into 2015 and I am behind in my work already... and so I will steal a few hours from writing to catch up before I fall down.  

Here is a 20 year old ditty in lieu of the scheduled post...


the million hands which craft our lives 
exist unaware of our sufferings
and triumphs –
in a feeble attempt we reach up… (but 
to where?)… and fall forward 
on our identities…
– all for a glimmer of hope that 
one hand will reach out…
the one which is foreign… 
to help steady the fall… or if not…
at least to wipe the gravel from our smiles…

Happy New Year folks. Don't forget to be the reachers and steadiers for those who need a smile...