C2E2 2015

Before we get into this year’s event, you can check out my previous years’ coverage of C2E2 here.

Also, click the video below to hear my C2E2 2015 Rivet report, featuring interviews with Sgt. Slaughter, Mike Norton, Art Baltazar and Gorilla Tango:

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Here we go again… welcome to C2E2 2015.

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Here’s a look at the convention floor before doors opened Friday morning. The space is enormous.

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Once doors opened, a quick left turn led fans to one of C2E2’s more memorable displays:  Acrobatica Infiniti: the “Nerd Circus.” It drew a crowd throughout the weekend, thanks to cosplaying acrobats contorting and spinning in a ring perched above the booth’s table. Here’s one in a Star Trek “red shirt;” unlike typical “Trek” red-shirt crewpeople, she survived.

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From a different galaxy, far, far away came cosplay Princess Leia, perched in her ring with space weaponry at the ready.

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What if this isn’t an acrobatic pose, and I just happened to catch a picture of Wonder Woman crouching in her invisible jet? Suffering Sappho!

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While I’m on the topic of cosplay, I mentioned this in my Rivet report, but this is serious:

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For what it’s worth, the people I saw approaching cosplayers at C2E2 this year were nothing short of respectful.

And, yes, the cosplayers looked amazing this year.

A pair of Spider-Men webbed their way into my path.

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And this guy totally captured the spirit of Beast Boy, from the Teen Titans.

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I AM GROOT (and Gamora).

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I didn’t take as many pictures of creators this year, though I did manage to run into old pal Ryan Browne, just as he was wrapping up a busy Sunday afternoon at the Image table.

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(That’s his cat on the cover.)

I love running into familiar faces at C2E2. It was great to see old Emmis Interactive colleagues Tj Mapes and Paul Friemel kicking ass with their company, RIPT Apparel. Their t-shirt designs are clever, well done, and totally plugged in to popular and comics culture. Tj and Paul are model entrepreneurs, and I’m a fan.

I also ran into Chris O. Biddle, co-owner of the Uptown Underground. We’re working on seriously some fun stuff together, coming soon. More on that in a week or two.

I’m not much for selfies, but I couldn’t resist this:

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One of my biggest highlights this weekend? I won a giveaway prize.

I’m an unabashed Swatch enthusiast and wearer; have been since I was a teenager. Swatch had a nice corner display at the show, and invited attendees to enter a raffle for a free Swatch. I won’t enter contests just to win free stuff, but I will enter contests if the prize is something I truly would like to win. Two hours after I filled out a raffle slip, I got a call from a Texas number: I won a Swatch, and it was waiting for me at the Swatch booth. I finally found out what it was like to be “caller 101.” It’s awesome. Here’s what I won:

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As for my haul, I got a Dr. Strange t-shirt:

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Also a handful of half-price trade paperbacks, and a hardcover collection of Creepy comics.

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Since I tally up my C2E2 expenses every year in this blog, here’s how this year’s expenses broke down for admission, parking, my purchases and lunch (I’m not factoring in what my kids bought, because a lot of it was bought with their money, which they saved for this weekend).

 Item Cost    
Admission (self)  Free (Press)
Admission (son)  $40
Admission (daughter)  $5
Essential Fantastic Four Volume 4  $8.50
Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 2  $10
Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 3  $10
Fantastic Four: Epic Collection  $20
Creepy: Volume Eighteen  $25
Dr. Strange t-shirt  $25
Pre-show donuts at Glazed & Confused  $18
Dick Tracy sketch from Jim Brozman, benefitting Hero Initiative  $2
Robinson’s Ribs lunch for three  $34
SpotHero parking (2 days @ $11/day)  $22

Total: $219.50 (and roughly another $60 spent on the kids). I managed to stick to my $100 retail budget, and saved on parking by skipping the $21 McCormick Place parking for a nearby spot (Indiana and Cermak) which was essentially half the price.

Robinson’s isn’t my favorite lunch option, but I could’ve done a lot worse on the con floor for a lot more money.

As for Glazed & Infused, this is the second year in a row my family’s gone to C2E2’s 3rd day with close family friends. Both times, we’ve started our day’s adventure at the Fulton Market location. It’s a lovely tradition. I’m still lusting over the Green River-glazed key lime pie donut I had this morning.

Nashville trip – 2015

I didn’t go on a vacation–or take any “vacation-like” time off–for the past two years. I was fired shortly after my last vacation (a “Mancation” road trip with my son to Louisville), and this week marked my first opportunity to ditch town since then.

I took my family on a road trip to Nashville, a city I’d always wanted to visit. If you’re not interested in scrolling through the pictures below, I’ll summarize by saying I loved Nashville. It’s a very livable, fun and professional city.

It also seems like it’s undergoing an incredible amount of development. I saw construction happening all around town, especially so in the downtown area.

To summarize in images:

Heading out, we passed through Indianapolis right around lunchtime. Rather than play our odds on roadside fast food further down I-65, a quick Googling led us to Punch Burger, not far from Meridian Circle in downtown Indy. It’s kind of a cross between Meatheads and Epic Burger.

Punch indy

Before heading back to I-65, I needed coffee. After making a quick stop at the Starbucks on Meridian Circle, I snapped a pic of Emmis world headquarters. I hadn’t been there since 2011-ish, when I visited on behalf of Emmis Interactive. I have nice memories of hanging with the staffs of WIBC, HANK-FM, B105.7 and The Fan.

emmis

Four hours after leaving Indianapolis, we arrived in Nashville. After getting settled in the hotel room, we were famished to the point of abject hangriness. The solution? BBQ. I have kind of a thing for it. We tried a place called Martin’s, which came highly recommended. It was solid, but my meal there was easily the least impressive one I had while in Nashville.

martins

Our first (and only) full day in town was a flurry of activity, starting with breakfast at Biscuit Love in the Gulch area.

biscuit love

I had the “Southern Benny”: a biscuit, shaved country ham, two fried eggs and sausage gravy, along with some “bonuts” on the side (fried biscuit dough, lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote). The bill added up fast for the four of us; but … so, so good.

From breakfast, we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Here’s what the sky and landscape looked like when we emerged from the parking garage:

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The roots of American music are on display–and fascinating to see. The visit was unfortunately-timed to coincide with the Kenny Rogers exhibit, not the Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan exhibit starting later in the week. Here’s some Kenny Rogers apparel and a couple of Grammys:

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Moving along in the museum, I was delighted to see Elvis’s gold-plated piano. Excess? What excess?

elvis piano

Here’s Elvis’s Caddy, with a TV mounted in the back:

elvis caddy

I get it: country music sells.

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The Hall of Fame rotunda has a mausoleum-like seriousness to it.

rotunda

But it was cool to see all the inductees in plaque form:

minnie

autry

The famous Hatch Show Print letterpress shop is part of the HOF complex. I saw this on display there and promptly bought a print for my house:

whole hog sausage

After the HOF, we walked over to the John Siegenthaler pedestrian bridge. By that point (10:30 a.m.-ish), the temperature had climbed from 60 to 70 degrees, and the weather was approaching perfect. The bridge goes over the Cumberland River, offering a nice burst of exercise. The views also happen to be fabulous. Did I mention there’s a ton of construction happening in Nashville?

bridge view

After a round trip on the bridge, it was off to the Johnny Cash Museum. The walk-through was decidedly shorter than the HOF visit, but in many ways more rewarding. Johnny Cash, future farmer:

cash farmer

And Christ, how about these cups given to Cash by the Folsom prison warden? Or the explainer, written by Cash?

folsom

Or Cash’s personal Bible?

cash bible

There was a “Legends of Sun Records” exhibit in the back room. My jaw dropped at the sight of this acetate version of Elvis’s “That’s All Right.”

elvis acetate

We left downtown for a bit to visit Nashville’s recreation of the Parthenon:

parthenon

And from there, we went to a restaurant called the Pharmacy, which has an awesome outdoor dining area. Even more awesome: they make sodas and syrups from scratch. My son made the best choice; he went with “The Creamsicle”:

pharmacy

After lunch, we went to the Nashville Zoo. Like the rest of Nashville, a lot of it was under serious amounts of construction. While the rest of the world was learning how to use the Meerkat app, I saw actual meerkats:

meerkat

My favorite attraction at the Nashville Zoo is the kangaroo habitat, where there’s no boundary between roos and humans. The simple rule is humans must stay on the path, but kangaroos can go anywhere they damn well please. We hit the zoo as the afternoon heat was at its peak; the kangaroos were exhausted.

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The creepiest thing I saw at the zoo? Roaches. The picture’s blurry, but those “Christmas light”-shaped things you see with black on them are all really big roaches. Sweet dreams.

roaches

The best meal of the trip was courtesy of Hattie B’s. Their “hot chicken” was also the best fried chicken I ever had. When we got there, the line was modest. By the time we left it was 20-30 deep.
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Before hitting the road this morning, we had one more restaurant to scratch off the list: Pancake Pantry, near the Vanderbilt campus. There are zero frills to be had at this old-school pancake house. To make sure I didn’t end the vacation with a healthy meal, I went with the “Sugar and Spice” Pancakes. In the restaurant’s words, “Five light and tender pancakes made from a special cinnamon and spice batter. Sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Served with applesauce, butter, and hot maple or cinnamon cream syrup.” All yes, no nope.

[amcale

Best Songs Ever #13 – ? and the Mysterians “96 Tears”

“96 Tears” by ? & the Mysterians–a song from almost 50 years ago–still sounds raw and exciting whenever I throw it on.

Recorded in a living room on a 4-track recorder in 1966, “96 Tears” became a blueprint for punk and garage rock. The organ–deliberate and basic–delivers the song’s signature sound, tapping forward as ? threatens, “And when the sun comes up, I`ll be on top. You`ll be way down there, looking up.”

Best Songs Ever #12 – ELO “Four Little Diamonds”

Everyone has a favorite ELO song (unless they’re unfeeling monsters), and most will tell you that the band’s 1970s singles were best.

Forget “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Evil Woman.” “Four Little Diamonds,” a less-successful single from 1983, hits all the right notes.

And if the law don’t get her, then I will…

Fast food cockiness

I cook a lot of meals at home. I really do. More often than not, they even involve green vegetables.

But life moves fast, and it’s not always easy–or possible–to settle into a kitchen routine for an hour or two. Sometimes a fast food solution is too easy to resist.

After an early evening spent at a middle school “away” basketball game, I pulled into a Portillo’s drive-through. My local Portillo’s is always busy, to the point where its parking lot traffic squeezes the business out of neighboring chains Chipotle (totes Chipotes) and Jimmy John’s.

The drive-through line was easily 10 cars deep when I joined it. I was probably six car lengths behind the outdoor menu when a Portillo’s employee came up to my driver’s side window. “Can I take your order?” she asked.
“Sure. I just don’t know what it is yet.”
“You don’t know what you’d like?”
“No. Can I have a menu?”

Her reaction would’ve been less incredulous If I’d ordered a sofritas burrito bowl with tomatillo salsa and corn. She cocked her eyebrow, paused for a moment, then said, “just pull up.” Cars were already stacking up behind me. I did as she said.

Apparently you should know exactly what the fuck you want before you even pull into Portillo’s territory. I had to pick out dinner for my family of four, so I needed to have some reference to work from. I also hadn’t been to Portillo’s for a while, so I wasn’t sure if they served a Maxwell Street Polish. For that matter, I wasn’t sure if I wanted an Italian Beef. Or a beef/sausage combo. Or hell, I heard their salads are good. Point is, I came to Portillo’s looking for inspiration. Instead, I got a sneer.

I pulled all the way around to the pick-up window. The person behind the window started to hand me someone else’s meal. “Nope, that’s not mine,” I said.
“I’ve got a burger, hot dog, shake …”
“No. I didn’t order anything. That’s not mine. I wasn’t allowed to see a menu, so the order-taker had me move on. I finally saw a menu, though. Can I order here?”
“Uh. Sure?”

I placed my order (which came with complementary eyerolls!), and was asked to pull around to one of Portillo’s meat-purgatory reserved spots to wait for my order. I waited there for about 10 minutes until someone brought my food out.

It’s cocky … arrogant, even, for Portillo’s to expect its customers to know exactly what they want, the second they pull up. Even if I had gone to McDonald’s–a place where every menu item is known worldwide–I’d have needed to look at the menu before ordering.

Corporate Nursery Rhymes

I hate corporate jargon. My “ask” is that people stop using it, or I’m going to demand a “come to Jesus” meeting.

To make a point that probably doesn’t need to be made, I’ve rewritten a few nursery rhymes using corporate speak. I expect to fail fast on this effort, because I honestly don’t have the bandwidth to keep doing it.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

I-don’t-know-what-I-don’t-know about what you are.

Up above the world from a 30,000 foot view,

Like a diamond in the cloud.

ttls 

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY

Rain rain go away,

Let’s table this for later.

rrga

HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE

Hey diddle diddle

Herding cats and a fiddle

The cow jumped out of the box

The ducks in a row laughed

To see such sport

And the dish doubled down with the spoon

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One Song Per Day, and the courage to “audible”

I have lots of creative ideas. Most of them are pretty awful (case in point: “Supes totes soup totes,” tote bags for soup), but I generally believe in following creative sparks or inclinations, and seeing where they go. Sometimes those sparks pay off; other times … not so much.

I try to give the “good ideas” time to grow. Case in point: One Song Per Day. As I got older, and was cut off from the music industry, I realized I’d become detached from new music. Music discovery can be a challenge for an adult whose work/life commitments make it difficult to scour for new music, let alone find the time and money to go to shows. My solution was a music blog that featured a new song every weekday. It was done for myself, and (in theory) aging music fans like me.

Relatively speaking, it was a lot of work; probably 10 hours’ worth per week. But I thought I was on to something, so I kept pushing the blog and myself. Beyond that, I was spending a minimum of $10/week on songs, for streaming use and for future consideration. And after all the work, thought and writing … no one paid attention. I tried to augment the blog with a daily “recap” feature on Rivet, but the referral metrics were astonishingly low. In short, I created a dud. And once it stopped being a point of passion for me, it was time to “audible” and move on.

Rather than putting a bullet in the blog outright, I decided to put the blog “on hiatus,” to see if anyone noticed. That was October 14. Since then, I’ve received not one email or tweet about it. Not a “hey, when are you coming back,” or “I want to hear more music!” My decision was the right one. Time to move on and embrace the next “big idea” (which I’m convinced is THIS).

(If you were a fan of the blog, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate it.)

Road Rage and Tailgating

I don’t get tailgating. It’s bullying, only behind the wheel.

It’s a behavior that creates unnecessary stress for a driver and his victim, and could easily lead to an accident. Or in Chicago, a shooting.

I was encouraged by this video that’s been making the rounds this week. A (supernaturally fast) bike rider in Skokie was being tailgated on Oakton Street, and a local cop took notice.

If you’re a habitual tailgater, just stop, okay?

The gleeful mispronunciations of Run For the Cube

Since late last year, I’ve been working as a reporter for Rivet News Radio. As I work each morning to write and produce news stories, it’s critical that I pronounce every name, country and concept correctly. That frequently leads me to do a little online research.

A few months ago, I wanted to be certain I was correctly pronouncing the name of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. A quick Google search led me to a bunch of results, and the first video link on the page was this “pronouncer.”

It was wildly and intentionally wrong (the video’s incorrect pronunciation: Jeef BEE zohs; correct pronunciation: Jeff BAY zohs). I laughed my ass off and played it again. Then once more. And then I brought my co-workers in the studio to listen with me.

Fascinated, we started listening to other videos done by the creator, Run for the Cube. They were all completely insane. Since then, I’ve become obsessed with the Run for the Cube’s “work,” such as it is. Besides pronouncing well-known names, he does on-demand pronunciations for five bucks a pop. I shelled out the cash to have two co-workers immortalized. Here, for your amusement, are Rob La Frentz and Chris Mezyk.  (Rob returned the favor last week. Here’s my name mispronounced.)

Most recently, I’ve discovered that Run for the Cube has branched out to recording twisted, uncomfortable, “I’m not sure I should be watching this” product reviews. This one manages to be unsettling without doing anything certifiably inappropriate.

I needed to learn more about the Oz behind the curtain. I recently tracked down the man behind Run For the Cube and asked him for an interview. His response was the second best thing to actually getting the interview: he politely passed, and said he likes to use the free time he has to focus on his “craft,” and chooses to let his work speak for itself.

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My new idea

Once in a while, I have an idea that I get really, really excited about.

This is one of them:

http://www.carconcarne.com

We’re going to record this week to see if it’s a viable concept. Wish us luck.

C2E2 2014

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(My C2E2 audio wrap-up for Rivet Radio is at the bottom of the page)

Like Giant-Man or Colossal Boy, C2E2 just keeps … growing.

My legs hurt from walking the massive showroom floor. My feet resent me. Each year, C2E2 carves out more real estate than it had the previous year, creating more space to walk and explore. For those of us who eat lots of pizza while reading comic books, the brief flirtation with cardio fitness probably isn’t a bad thing.

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Though the space was bigger this time around, the starpower wasn’t. Outside of Stan Lee, the celebrity guests weren’t necessarily “must-see” or “must-meets.” And from a “why wouldn’t they be there?” perspective, it seems strange that DC Comics was again absent from the showroom floor this year.

So what brings the (estimable) crowds to McCormick Place? Could it be that the idea of the event is bigger than the details? It’s certainly been enough to keep me hooked these past few years; the panels and autograph signings always seem like too much work to consider.

I went on Sunday this year: “Kids Day.” This was the last time my son could get in on the deeply-discounted $5 ticket (To his disgust, he absolutely hated the fact that the Kids Day laminate featured a Hello Kitty design). You take your breaks where you can get ’em.

We went with another family this year (hi, Jack), which helped balance out the costs of visiting the con. I normally plan to spend a max of $100, and fail miserably. Between this year’s two-family entourage, and the fact that my son saved his money and paid for his own stuff this time around, I actually came in under budget. My total expenses for the day are itemized at the end of the post.

I tend to get the most out of walking Artists Alley each year. It’s an oddball mix of known professionals and totally green artists and publishers. There were hidden surprises in practically every row this year, like Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, the Flash). I had him sign a Daredevil comic for me–five bucks all in.

As for the retail side of things, I can’t resist trade paperbacks. My favorite vendor at the con had a massive display of paperback and hardcover collections, all for 50% off. I walked away with three of the b&w, reprint-only “Marvel Essentials” titles–they’re my favorite cheap way to build up a nice reading library.

I’ve been tempted in the past, but this year I finally bought an autographed print from Neal Adams. The man pretty much created the modern Batman, so I figured $20 was the least I owed him.

neal

Nostalgia’s a powerful thing. I stopped in my tracks whenI stumbled across this display of Mego action figures. I owned every one of them when I was a kid. Every. One. And now the Falcon’s worth $450.

Mego

And hey, let’s hear it for cosplay, a comics convention favorite. Is there a Deadpool in the house? Let’s hear it for Li’l Deadpool!

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Batgirl was pretty fabulous:

Batgirl

Captain America takes his job seriously:

Cap

Walking on stilts at a crowded convention can’t be easy:

death

The Rocketeer squeezes out pulpy goodness!

Rocketeer

Not the droid I was looking for:

R2D2

Next year, I’m committing myself to all three days. I’m going to plan a sensible (but allowing for fun) budget, and wear much more comfortable shoes.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how this year’s expenses broke down:

 Item Cost    
Admission (self)  Free (Press)
Admission (son)  $5
Essential Avengers Vol.2  $7
Spiro’s Greek Myths #1 (indie publisher/Artists Alley)   $5
McCormick Place parking  $21
Essential Peter Parker Vol. 1  $7
Essential Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4  $7
G-Man #1 (signed by Chris Giarrusso)  $1
Pre-show donuts at Glazed & Confused  $18
Signed Neal Adams print-Batman #244  $20
Signed Mark Waid Daredevil comic  $5

Rivet Radio audio recap:

http://www.rivetnewsradio.com/share/77757/

Previous years’ coverage:

2011

2012

2013

Taking a break from barbecue

I just made what had to be my 20th trip for barbecue this winter, and I’m pretty sure I need a break. I have pulled pork where muscle should be, and sauce pumping where blood once circulated.

My plan is to try to eat vegetables again, if only for a little while, before again throwing myself at the mercy of brisket and baked beans.

Chicago never used to be a barbecue town; at least not when I was growing up. The only place I remember from my youth is Russell’s in Elmwood Park; my grandparents used to take me there all the time. After making a few nostalgia-driven trips there over the past year or so, I discovered that the food doesn’t really live up to the memories (the sauce, while tasty, is thinner than water).

It’s crazy to me that there are now dozens of barbecue choices in the Chicago area. It’s as if the city finally came to its senses and said, “Hey, we’re a fat city, and this style of cooking involves lots of meat slathered in sauce, accompanied by high-calorie side dishes. How could have we ignored this for so long?”

The best barbecue discovery I’ve made over the past year is Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park. It’s been worth the trip up 41 for burnt ends and sides that are as good as, or better than, what you’ll find at most of the BBQ joints in the city.

I still like Smoque, though I haven’t been enjoying the sauce as much lately. Too much of it can kill a meal.

I liked the entrees, but hated the sides, at Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse. It was recently and briefly shut down, but just reopened for business. Not a bad option for the far north side of the city, but the room fills up fast.

And what about Lillie’s Q? Holy crap, those homemade sauces are amazing (the “Smoky” is a killer, pleases-everybody-at-the-table, gotta-buy-some-for-home sauce).

To all the other places I’ve been in and out of, including Smokin’ Woodys, Smoke Daddy, Bub City and Hecky’s … it’s not you; it’s me. I just need a little break from barbecue. I swear I’ll be back.

rub

 

(Update, 4/28/14-I don’t know who I was kidding. The break didn’t last long at all. I’ve probably had BBQ five times since I posted this last month.)

Bitcoin

How fat is your Bitcoin wallet? What’s that?  You still don’t “get” Bitcoin? You’re not alone. And you may just want to stay away from it at this point.

Just weeks ago, Mt. Gox, the web’s biggest Bitcoin exchange, was essentially wiped off the internet. At the time, it was learned that 850,000 Bitcoins were missing, adding up to over 450 million real dollars. This weekend, the blog of Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles was hacked, revealing account information from the Mt. Gox database. In a show of Bitcoin user solidarity, the hacker(s) wrote on Karpeles’ blog, “no user database dumps have been included … Lots of people, including us, lost money and coins.”

The message on the hacked blog opens with, “First and foremost, this is not Mark Karpeles. Fuck that bitch-titted motherfucker.”  Yep, people who lost money are angry.

The CEO of another Bitcoin exchange was found dead two weeks ago. If you believe the internet, it was suicide. If you trust official sources, the death was “unnatural,” and “no foul play” is suspected.

And then there’s Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. Newsweek just outed him as the alleged creator of Bitcoin. He denies it. The Washington Post says that if he is the guy, he has good reason for denial.

The way I look at Bitcoin is this: imagine you meet someone that seems really attractive. The person is open, accessible–someone you think might have potential. The problem is, you’re not sure about the person’s parents, or where that person came from. And the person’s been linked to sketchy behavior and people.

The person may not be marriage material, and you know your friends will never understand. And that leaves you with a nagging concern, a voice inside your head that says, “maybe this isn’t for me.”

That’s Bitcoin. The promise never outweighs the evidence, or that gut feeling.

bitcoin logo

Suck it, Chicago winter

I can’t stand the sight of my winter clothes anymore. My boots, coat, gloves and hat just piss me off at this point. I resent any day when I have to layer up and see my breath within seconds of walking outside.

Thinking I wasn’t the only one who must be having these thoughts, I decided to have a “winter clothes burning” party; a chance for people to come by and purge apparel that will be forever associated with this year’s awful weather. Then I realized I  can’t be trusted to control a bonfire of clothes. Further, there’s surely a more responsible approach to getting rid of our collective cold weather-wear.

I decided instead to do a “winter purge” for charity. Only problem is, that’s as far as I’ve gotten with the idea. I’m open to ideas as to how to coordinate location/charity. My goal is to do it before Opening Day, Chicago’s unofficial beginning of Spring.

I’d love your input!

Sex and the X-Men

(Some NSFW language and topics follow)

It’s impossible to keep track of Marvel’s X-Men universe and the endless series of X-titles that have wrestled for shelf pace over the years. I tried to keep track of the characters and titles at one point in my life, but realized I’d feel a lot better if I gave up.

This week, I stumbled upon a new X-Men “#1”: Amazing X-Men. The cover stood out because it featured an all-time favorite character (Nightcrawler), and the artwork took me straight back to the early days of the (Cockrum, then Byrne) “All-New X-Men.”

xmen

It wasn’t just the artwork; the story itself was a flashback to those days. Just as I had myself convinced that comic book publishers had forgotten that comics can be fun, I was thrilled to discover that Amazing X-Men was cover-to-cover fun. Take, for instance, this panel with the super-brainy Beast, chasing down some of the villainous, elfin “Bamfs.” They’re accused of stealing equipment and drinking Wolverine’s whiskey:

beast

With panels and direction like that, creators Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness crafted a comic that could have worked for all audiences. All the elements are there: great story, great characters, and a sense of fun. However, because the book’s rating is “T+,” there are a few things that prevent children under…let’s say 15… from reading it.

For instance:

xfore

That’s right–Wolverine and Storm talk about foreplay. Storm is a woman of needs, dammit, and Wolverine is sure as shit going to take care of them before they “do it.” Was this exchange necessary? NOT IN THE LEAST. In fact, the “T+” rating could have been taken down to a “12+” by simply, um, massaging the dialog a bit to not be as overtly sexual. The conversation was completely out of place with the tone set for the rest of the book. 

And just so we’re clear: everyone’s banging at the ole Mutant Mansion:

firestar

Yep, Iceman’s added another cube to his freezer, and there’s another one lined up behind her. You da man, Ice-dawg!

I don’t get the need to sexualize comic book super-heroes. Further, I don’t get why children are being frozen out (Iceman-style) of the target audience. Would the comic have suffered without the sexual references? Of course not. Did it suffer because of them? Well, younger kids can’t read T+ comics, so you tell me. Should kids be allowed to read X-Men comics? What about when the new X-Men movie hits in 2014, and they’re dying to investigate the source material?

I had the same issues with a lot of the garbage flushed out by DC Comics’ “New 52” line of books. It’s just not right to tell a young boy, “Sorry, son, you can’t read Batman until you’re much older.”