If Your Train's On Time You Can Get To Work By Nine

The following is a letter sent on Wednesday by Townblog to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G., as an open response to a letter to Liddy from Jake DeSantis that appeared in today's New York Times.

Dear Mr. Liddy,

After reading Mr. DeSantis’ letter as published in today’s New York Times Op Ed section, I too feel a deeply regretted need to submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G.

Like Mr. DeSantis, I had nothing to do with the company’s credit default losses and I feel I am being treated unfairly by the company and our state and national lawmakers.

I suspect my troubles with the company first began when I realized that I was not even an employee of A.I.G. In fact, while Mr. DeSantis may have agreed to take a yearly salary of $1 (in addition to a $742,006.40 bonus, making his net income a measly $742, 007.40), I did not, sir, receive any salary at all. I was not even informed, personally, that A.I.G. was hiring.

Luckily, I am a tax-paying citizen of a nation that hoped to solve some of A.I.G.’s troubles by giving you some of the money our nation's government generated by taxes. Maybe you see already where I’m going with this. Some of that tax money may well have come from me, which I suppose means I’m part-owner of A.I.G. (Sorry I did not make the last board meeting, Mr. Liddy, but babysitters have been hard to come by.)

I therefore presume that I, like Mr. DeSantis, will soon be getting my 2008 bonus. Don’t forget to include that extra dollar! (By the way, what do the state, local, and FICA payments amount to in a $1 yearly salary? Is making 742,006.4 percent of your salary in bonus-form a good way to avoid having to pay those sorts of things?)

When I do get that bonus, I’ve decided to give it all to programs for those suffering in the current economy, just as Mr. DeSantis has pledged to do. My first plan is to give $739,007.40 to myself, since I’m currently – by my math – about $742,006.40 in arrears. (See, by not getting any money, I’ve become affected by the current economy , if you're smelling what I'm cooking.) Anyway, an additional $300 will go towards a Playstation 3 for the exclusive use of those like myself who have suffered most from the A.I.G. bonus scandal. The remaining $2,700 will go towards an account held by the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, NV, and will serve as a nest egg towards rebuilding the $742,007.40 I will need for the 2010 annum.

In the spirit of civic responsibility evidenced in Mr. DeSantis letter, I’ve just hit upon a deal that I think is going to benefit both of us, by appealing to your budget and my over-blown and blow-dried sense of entitlement: why don’t you go ahead and keep that dollar you owe me, and just give me the $742,007.40 instead?




Check Ignition and May God's Love Be With You

From "Findings," Harper's Magazine, March 2009:

Physicists looking for gravitational waves may have discovered instead the noise of space-time breaking down into individual grains; these quantum convulsions, said one physicist, would confirm the theory that the universe is a blurry holographic projection of a distant two-dimensional plane.

Thought you'd want to know.


I've Been Riding Them Fast Rattlers, I Thought You Know'd

The Big Backyard had several slides, one of them incredibly fast.  Kids tended to land on their feet, while the adults ended up arears, and further away than you'd think.  Your faithful correspondent received a heat blister from dragging his hand along the side as he came down. We managed some pictures of party guests as they landed -- I wish there were more of these...

Uncle Eric and Cousin Aidan






...and Me.


Good Times C'mon

On Sunday, we celebrated the boys' birthday with a party at the Big Backyard, an indoor playground in New Berlin.  All the kids seemed to have a blast, and there seemed to be nary a tantrum.  Here are some photos:

Caleb climbing the chair.  I won't tell you how he got those beads.

"I'm BatSam.  Tell all your friends."

Cousin Aidan, Uncle Eric, and Caleb recreate the "Chicken" scene from Rebel Without A Cause.

Olin won the prize for Sportiest Cap.

Sam and Olin drag it out.

Having blown out his own candles, Caleb lends some wind to Sam.

Mary and Kyle.


Sophia on the tot slide.

Sam and Thomas drove their cars into the play house.

Caleb considers the climbing wall, with Maia in the background.


I'm Not Going To Stop The Rain By Complaining

Caleb watches the snow fall on a Saturday morning.

While working with watercolors, Sam took to painting his own face. In using his face as canvas, and in using reds and blacks to suggest the ruddy-cheeked, unshaven countenance of a hobo/clown, the artist is clearly referencing the return of 1930's-style financial woes and freight train-hopping.

We took advantage of Friday's near-60 degree weather to visit the park, where we discovered giant, icy mud puddles.

Caleb in mid-splash.

At the top of the slide.


Sam on the run.

Two of us wearing raincoats.


Clown Time Is Over

Well, I liked it.

Very much, in fact. The main criticism I've seen seems to be that the movie version of Watchmen doesn't carry the same emotional or intellectual heft that the graphic novel version has. To me, this is no more or less a criticism than suggesting that the Mel Gibson Hamlet or the Elijiah Wood Adventures of Huck Finn don't quite encompass all that can be found in the source materials.

That the movie is not as good as the book is a trope long accepted. That the movie is not as good as the comic book is a notion that film critics seem to be having trouble with. There seems to be a prevailing sense that movies, which are a mature and nuanced art form, should be able to accomplish more than comics, which are supposed to be juvenile and gaudily-colored. It may be that these film critics are equating comics with storyboards, but the two things are very different, which I hope to demonstrate.

I'd like to skip over the requisite bit where one argues that "Bang! Pow! Comics Aren't Just For Kids Anymore!" If you're unconvinced that the printed combination of words and pictures can't, in some combinations, carry the same literary/intellectual/emotional/whatever impact as words and pictures are thought to convey separately, then there isn't any point in reading further. Watchmen, as a comic book originally printed in twelve monthly installments between 1985 and 1986, is as good a consideration of mid-eighties nuclear paranoia and post-Watergate politics as any novel, despite -- or indeed because of -- its cast of costumed superheroes.

Moore and Gibbons draw connections between costumes, secret identities, and sexual peccadilos in a way that reflects and comments upon the clandestine geopolitical acts of the nation and it's (super-powered) armed forces. At the same time, the graphic novel reflects and comments upon the history of the comics medium, in an equal-and-opposite attempt to portray that history with enhanced "realism" but also to use the medium's tropes (the super-powerless costumed vigilante, the millionaire's gadget-filled basement lab, the god-like and alien powers of the Super-Man) to take a short-cut towards the earth-shattering political consequences.

Film, an entirely different medium, can't do many of the things that comics can do. (Just as surely as comics can't do things that film can.) Film is limited to what can be captured in motion and sound, and requires a fluid continuity of scene, while comics can force a perspective that allows the reader to only get part of a scene or to force the construction -- between comics panels -- of a larger picture. As one example, the comics version of the death of the Comedian is dealt with in flashback panels which simultaneously suggest how the Comedian actually dies and how the character Rorshach imagines the death, all without showing the form of the Comedian's attacker. That is, you essentially see things from the attacker's point of view. So the panels are doing at least three things at once. The film version can really only do the first thing: show you how the Comedian dies.

The storyboard, a comics-like medium that can establish shots and sequence and camera angles to later be utilized in filming, is constrained in the same way that film itself is -- that is, it's limited to what a camera is able to show. Films can't get at interiority -- a character's thoughts and feelings -- in the same way that text-based mediums like novels and comics can. Film depends almost entirely upon what can be shown, whereas comics can get great mileage out of what is not shown. (Early in Acme Comics #19, Chris Ware illustrates a character with red hair while the text identifies the same woman as a brunette. Rather than a mistake of coloring, this inconsistency is borne out later in the over-arching story, and we come to understand that what we're seeing is a difference in how an author envisions a story and how it is borne out in text. I can't think of any other medium that can traffic so well in classical definitions of irony.)

So, as a translation from one media to another, I found the Watchmen film successful and engaging, faithful to the original in important ways, and making its own road when it made better sense to shed the original. If all the concern about nukes and Nixon and "truth" seem a bit past their sell-by date, or perhaps even quaint in the era of global terror networks and worldwide recession, that perhaps may be the Comedian's ultimate joke.

I should note that, after the movie, the first feedback I heard was from a guy in the men's room at the Rosebud Theatre who, after he'd finished peeing in the urinal clearly marked "DO NOT USE," said, "Well, that was a waste of time." When I said that I'd liked it, he complained that it took too long to get to the action. And I suppose I can see the point of that criticism, from those who thought they were going to see a "comic book movie." There's not a lot of Pow! Bam! Socko! in the movie, nor in the comic book. As a story, it's definitely closer to The Manchurian Candidate than to Batman Begins. On the other hand, that guy was a Bluetooth'd, leather jacketed cyborg who clearly doesn't respect the indie theatre owner and their faulty plumbing, so who cares what he thinks?

A next-to-final note: the Foley sound effects -- slamming doors and kicks to the jaw and cracking finger bones -- were way too loud in the mix.

A final note: Jackie Earle Haley, I'm your fan.


Time Has Come Today

Daylight Savings Time was a conspiracy fostered upon Americans by Einsteinian relativists in the early part of the 20th century, with the express purpose of disassociating the ideas of time and constancy, thereby calling into question any unit of measurement (a teaspoon is not always a teaspoon) and a lassiz faire approach towards time itself (it'll get done when it gets done), leading to a worldwide existential dread and, ultimately, world domination by the Timex-Casio-Rolex cabal. You ever wonder how the little old men who repair watches at the mall can possibly stay in business, particularly in a global economic downturn? They don't just fix time, they control it.

Who else but the nefarious, hooded Time Keepers in their Chrono-Castle built just on the other side of the hours has the power to compel you to wake up an hour earlier than you did yesterday? Does your spouse have that power? Your children, your boss, your God?

You will recognize your master by his bushy eyebrows and his jeweler's loupe.

(It's probably important to note that this conspiracy extends past clockmaker-controllers to retail establishments spread throughout the land expressly designed to collect, store, and redistribute one's personal time. Walgreen's, for example, routinely tells me that they need ten to fifteen minutes to "finish up" a prescription, regardless of when the prescription is called in. The time I spend wandering the store or avoiding the odors of the opiate-eaters is shoveled into the semi-trucks idling in the alley behind the pharmacy. And Stride Rite Kids, who boxed up the wrong pair of shoes and thus ensured a second whole trip to the mall on a rainy day? Surely they packed our wasted hours tightly into a parti-colored shoebox placed high out of reach on one of the storeroom's furthest shelves for later transubstantiation into gold, uranium, or a Clive Cussler paperback...)

My mind's been psychedelicized.


(Birthday) Take a Ch-Ch-Ch-Chance

Caleb cracks up, either at the family's attempt at the Happy Birthday song or in anticipation of blowing out candles.

Sam gets his turn.

Sam, with Gradma Cathy, reads a book sent by his cousins Alex and Andrew about the Chinese New Year. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

During his speech class, Caleb will sometimes sneak into the Physical Therapy room to jump around.

At speech class, eating the cupcakes that their mom made for their birthday.