Words fail me.

There are times when I hate people for how they use language, and I'm including myself in this declaration.  Yeah, as a former English Major I have been known to completely butcher the language, but I figure having a B.A. in English doesn't mean I have to be snooty about it.  Sometimes though I like to use words and language as they are supposed to properly be used.  When that earthquake caused the terrible tsunami in Japan I told my buddy I thought it was awesome how the effects of that quake could make it all the way to the west coast crossing the entire Pacific.  I then caught grief from him about how could I refer to anything having to do with that quake as "awesome".

"Awesome" is currently the "cool".  "Cool" is nearly antiquated now.  Thank you, Bill and Ted.

When I referred to what happened as "awesome" I meant it in the classic sense.  I was in awe of the effects of the quake.  I saw the video of the waves coming into California.  It really made me consider the power of our planet.  Certainly I would not refer to a natural disaster which killed many people as anything ressembling "cool".

I'm bringing this up because of something that I talked about today with Federali and Joey Part Deux up at Kings.  We were talking about Marvel's INFINITY storyline
and event.  Last post I made a joke about how it was a tie in to the new Disney video game since they both kicked off inside of a week of each other.  Here's the thing, this storyline is offically three issues in, but its been building in multiple books for a while.  Hickman's set the stage for something that's really huge.  

Let's look at what's going on.  

A group called The Builders are taking out everything in their path.  The Avengers have ties to the Kree and the Shi'ar, and the Builder's path is heading forwards Earth.  Captain America has taken a team into space to join with the major players in the Marvel Universe to combat this.

Back on Earth the Illuminati have been busting their butts to try to save Earth and the Universe from the collapsing of the Multiverse and parallel Earths crashing into our earth.  This process destroyed most of the Infinity Gems.  And we have Namor and the Black Panther going to war with each other, so there's back-stabbery afoot.

To top things off, Thanos is looking to put the curb stomp on the entire planet and has sent his generals, the Cull Obsidion, to get the last Infinity Gem and put away anyone who gets in their way.  As such, ironman and the Illumanati, instead of prepping to take on the Builders in case Cap's team and the rest of the Universe can't stop them, are in it up to their necks dealing with one fired-up mad Titan.

Seriously.  Holy crap, that's a lot going on.  And that's just a brief overview. 

There we are talking about this storyline and there's just one word that I could think of to describe, and I didn't even want to use that word because of every goober online using it to describe anything remotely above average: "epic".

This thing is freaking epic.

This is like Hickman is saying to the funnybook fandom and the internet, "Yeah, that word you've been misusing?  I'm taking it back."

Because, as the Missus said earlier and paraphrasing THE INCREDIBLES, "When everything is epic, nothing is epic."

To Infinity and... something...

This past week Disney released it new DISNEY INFINITY game on multiple gaming platforms.  Game Informer is saying this is going to be one of the top 5 games this year.  Lots of hype, but the game itself is pretty remarkable.  Characters from Disney and Pixar movies that everyone loves coming together for us to play with and giving us the ability if create worlds to run these characters around in.

Its not surprising that Marvel, being owned by Disney, would put out a tie-in comic to really get as many people as they could on board.  The first issue of INFINITY came out last week, and Jonathan Hickman has guided his AVENGERS series to this event, much like the nice folks over at Gamestop have been collecting thos pre-orders.  The cross marketing has been subtle, and fortunately Hickman has been very careful not to overplay things.

Both the comic and the game deal with multiversal concepts.  The game does branch out a bit more as it allows players to explore multiple Earths wereas the comic just sticks to the Marvel U that we know.  There has been a lot in NEW AVENGERS dealing with "incursions" which stem from a chain reaction caused by on universe in the multiverse being destroyed and the other universes reacting to that void.  Has of yet I have found no such destruction of a Universe in the video game, although to be fair I haven't played through the MONSTERS UNIVERSITY segment of the game, nor purchased the CARS and  THE LONE RANGER expansions.

The big feature in the video game is "The Toy Box" which lets you create, customize and populate your own world with various things you earn in the adventure protions of the game.  You have ability to alter and erase elements as well.  Hickman cleverly inserts this element into the comic with the Builder characters.  These are essentually gamers on a cosmic level whom really enjoy Sim City and Civilization type games in which they guild and nudge species towards goals.  They also seem to like a bit of Pokémon as they'll work to evolve species as well.

These builders have gone a bit nutters and are wiping out worlds.  They go after the Space Knights and the Kree in the comics.  This is a clear cut message to old school ROM fans, there's a new age upon us and they have not qualms about breaking out the magic wand from the game tools and deleting whatever they don't like.  However, it must be noted that these Builders are not the good guys.  In fact Captain America is leading the Avengers into space to help confront them.  This echos something unwritten in the game but the message is clear throughout much of the gameplay: "Its better to create and nurture an idea than to just wipe it away."

So my compliments to Disney and Marvel for such a great game launch and tie-in event comic.  Many people were worried that Disney would lean on marvel a bit after the acquisition to put out book that push the Disney brand, but I'm happy to report that even though Marvel is paying its due to its parent company, its doing so in a very entertaining fashion.

The New Alternative

I got a homework assingment from Lee Foster over on 96X: listen to this song and tell him what I think.

96X is the local alternative rock station.  I like that song.  Its very good, but does it belong on an alternative station?  96X is very much the radion station for me as right when I was coming on age this station challenged my ideas of rock and roll.  Seattlle had just exploded and you had Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam blasting like anthems for us Gen-Xers.  There were other bands like Hole and Sponge that caught my attention.  The station changed as the genre changed.  Ska came into vogue.  Weezer kicked off a whole new wave of nerd rock.

Alternative music has changed a lot over the years, but now we're looking at something that doesn't quite fit the mold.  Alternative Country music.  They played a track today on there "4:20 Buzz" that's along the same line.

Alternative rock came about when we looked at what was being sold to us as "our music" that was supposed to be youthful and fun and said "bullshit, this isn't us."  It was pop garbage, and carefully constructed images and dudes in spandex wearing girly make-up with bug teased hair which was supposed to be what drove girls wild.  We didn't care.  We didn't want that.  We tuned into the radio because that's where the weird, interesting music was.  Music that was different than the recycled crap that was played over and over agian n the rock stations.  We wanted different and alternative music gave it to us.

Now we're a couple decades down the road and another genre has turned to pop garbage: country music.  Let me get this straight, we went from Hank Williams and Lorreta Lynn, to Travis Tritt and Reba McEntire, to Scotty McCreery and Tayler Swift?  How the hell did that happen?

So we have an uptick in what is known as Americana.  Bands like the Avett Brothers, and Old Crow Medicine Show which utterly forsake the pop route in favor of soulful, poerful music that resonates.  Lee told me yesterday, "There are people who love the Avett Brothers and people who just like the Avett Brothers, but nobody hates them."  People are resonding to this music just like the Gen-Xers responded to the Seattle sound.  They don't like what they are being told is country music so they're going with the alternative.

This brings us back to our main thought, if Americana is alternative country music, shouldn't it be played on an "alternative" station even if that station made its bones in alternative rock?  96X seems to be a station in flux.  Has been ever since they cut loose the Mike and Bob Show.  They have to decide where they go from there.  Do they want to fully embrace this alternative idea?

At the very least, could they bring back "The Punk Show" on Sunday nights?

Random Acts of Education

Last go around I wrote about how the Gifted and Talented programs I had been involved in did absolutely nothing for me, and pretty much put me off wanting to be involved in any of them.  I do wonder if those things served more as some weird networking type tool that if I persued would give me good contacts that would allow for social and professional advancement later.  I'm also pretty sure that the programs now have a lot more to offer kids.  That said, while I think those programs did nothing for me, that's not to say that my time in school was all a waste.

I mentioned Coach Donovan in my last post.  He was the phys ed teacher when I was in the Philippines.  He always gave off the vibe that use kids were the reason his hair was turning grey.  "Kid, I swear you're going to send me back to the oil fields."  I don't know if he ever really worked in any oil fields, but him saying that and shaking his head at me as my latest stupidity utterly exasperated him gave me a chuckle.  He did delight in getting one up on us little punks too.  Like in a game of Simon Says when we were ordered to jump up, but he called everyone who came back down 'out'.  That's right, to beat the old man we had to break the laws of physics.  A few of us even managed to pull it off.  Here's the thing: Coach loved us.  This guy honestly gave a crap about each one of the little twerps that came through that school no matter how long or short a time we were there.  He'd take time to actually teach us and encourage us when he knew we needed it.  I model much of the way I teach after the way I watched him teach.

With all my many interests, some of them I did not discover without the aid of a teacher.  One of those teachers was one I couldn't stand: Ms. Warren.  Her class was miserable.  She was an English teacher who could not pronouce the letter "R".  She'd just stand there in front of us like the ultimate know-it-all, and it was insufferable.  One of the most easy-going mellow guys I knew in high school finally got up and stormed out of her class never to return.  But, one of the short stories that we studied was "The Red-Headed League".  Yes, the classic Sherlock Holmes story.  This wasn't the first Holmes story I had read for a class, but Ms. Warren did a group exercise to teach about detective work.  Each student was given a fact about a case.  We all have to work together to get the clues in order to solve the crime.  We did two of these, one was a murder, and the other was a theft.  I solved them both, easily.  This sparked my love of a good mystery and love of detective work.  I've been watching that "Whodunnit?" show on ABC this summer and absolutely salivating, collecting the clues and lining up that cases.  That's something I'd love to be in the thick of.  I'd have it won in a walk.

My big interest came from another English teacher: Mr. Babb.  This was not some advanced placement class.  This was the standard M1A1 English composition class.  Mr. Babb was a younger guy who joked around with us and his class was pretty easy going.  He gave me an assignment that probably changed my life. "Write something."  The stuff I turned in ended up being twice as long as what he asked for.  He said we were going to spend about two weeks writing a short story, going through all the steps, and learning the process.  It only had to be about four pages long.  I came back the next day with eight pages.  I became obcessed with writing that story.  I could not stop that night until it was done.  Looking back, it was crap.  That's not some weird modesty or me being self-depricating.  The story was really horrible.  But Mr. Babb liked it.  My classmates liked it.  The girl who did not like me at all, liked that story.  I've written much better ones since then, but that class and that teacher put me course to write all the stories I had in my mind. I'm still working on that.

I then got to college, and for a while was not sure why I was there.  Grades weren't good at all.  Lot of stress.  I wanted to quit, but my folks would have had my ass if I did.  Then I learned some very important stuff.

1: I'm a moron who doesn't know everything, but I can pick it up if necessary.

2: Stress will kill your ass sure as cyanide.

3: When faced with overwhelming anything, don't panic, pick the most pressing target, and just start slogging it out.  Hesitation is not an option when there's a deadline.

4: You can get through damn near anything as long as you've got your buddies with you.

I've had a lot of teachers during my time in education.  I remember many of them very fondly.  But it wasn't some special schooling or gifted program that did it.  It was teachers putting out ideas that I could latch onto.  It wasn't he tests or memorizing stuff.  Those are important, but that's not what changes a student.

Its inspiring the students.  They don't have that in study guides or teacher's edition text books.

Pass the Dunce Cap

When I was a kid, someone got the notion in their head that I was smart.  I don't know where this came from.  My coloring skills were miserable.  I showed no leadership ability at all, nor any interest in leading much of anything except a lunch line.  My grades were alright, but not top of the class.  I liked reading comic books so maybe they figured me nerding out early was some sort of sign as to a superior intellect lurking within me.

In fourth grade I was placed in the elementary school's "Gifted and Talented" program, or GAT, due to what must have been a clerical error.  This entailed me and a few other fourth graders being sent to the library once a week to engage in activies to feed our young gifted and talented minds.  One the first day we were asked what we wanted to be when we grow up.  Of course the answers of scientist, and doctor, and astronaut and such were written down.  I do indeed remember what I wrote down.  

"I want to be a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestler."

Of course my parents were mortified, but as Lewis Grizzard wrote, "Wrestling is like eating collard greens.  When you're hooked, you're hooked."  My hero was Jimmy "The Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant.  I was on the edge on my seat when he was feuding with "Exotic" Adrian Street.  Unfotunately, I never filled out and suck at wrestling.  Another young dream dashed.

So I sat in GAT class with my dreams of the squared circle, and I don't remember anything about the class aside from being shown those pictures that are really two images depending on how you look at it.  There's that picture which is an old woman, but also a young woman looking away.  Never did see the old woman.  Drove me nuts for a long time.

Fourth grade gave way to fifth grade, and it was on to middle school.  The GAT program continued by this time it was once a week being loaded onto a bus and taken to a whole other school.  It was a bit more memorable in that we had a computer class.  We knew computers were the way of the future, but I really didn't care.  The teacher did his best to teach us a bit about computers, and I sat as patiently as I could waiting for the end of class when he'd let the class play a few games on the old comps.

This only last a few months as midway through my fifth grade year my family moved to the Philippines.  They did not have a GAT program at the Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary school.  They had a TAG program.  Same old soup, just re-heated.  I also somehow formed an intellectual rival, Gladney Asada.  Gladney was smarter than me.  Looking back, my desk was smarter than me.  There we were in the TAG program, which met one afternoon every other week.  I hated it.  The only thing I remember from that was the question getting posed "That would be a more sensible color for a road to be other than black?"  That's what we were supposed to ponder with of talented and gifted minds?  

This began the my first practices in skipping class.  We all went home at lunchtime, and I'd fake sick and stay home to watch cartoons featuring giant robots doing giant robot type things.  My grades started taking.  I didn't care about the classes.  Didn't care much for my teachers aside from Coach Donovan who was great guy.  This got me out of any giftend and/talented programs for the time being.  I never got anything out of them.  But then, I was a lousy student.

Upon returning from the Philippines I started to get myset back in order.  My folks said that my transcripts got lost in the move.  Yeah, right.  The TV did, but those transcripts with all my lousy grades got buried somewhere.  I started fresh, and worked a bit at school.  My grades were good, but not great.  Some people still labored unted the notion that I was smart, which was crap, but I didn't dispute it.  Things were moving along smoothly enough.  I managed to make the honor roll on a regular basis.  If you made honor roll, you got the skip out on a class for a pizza party.  I usually skipped those.  Went one time my senior year.  Quickly realized why I skipped all the previous ones.  There was nothing there for me.

Junior year I was offered to join the National Honor Society.  What was weird about that was if you did not want to be a part of it you had to sign a form and turn it in to the school's NHS director who was my old biology teacher.  There were meetings to go to and some sort of club fees.  I had no car and wanted no part of it.  My folks both worked and would have had to take off to pick me up from school after the meetings.  They'd have done it, but I didn't want to ask them to do it.  So I signed the form opting out and placed it on Mr. Regan's desk at lunchtime, when he was out of the room.  That part wasn't intentional, but I was just dropping off a form.  Later that day in Chemistry class, Mr. Regan slipped into the room, spotted me, and quietly moved to where I sat in the back of the room.  He held the paper in front of me wanting to know why on earth I would opt out.  He did this as discretely as possible, which I respected.  I told him the truth.

"I can't get a ride, and don't really want to."

Academic achievements are important.  Working hard in school is important.  Grades are important.  But to me, I just wanted to get by.  Not the best attitude.  If I had a better one then maybe I wouldn't be a laborer for a living.  Ah well.