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Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (allow me to geek out for a moment)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2013 by Mike

Warning: here there be possible spoilers.

Ever since the first teaser for “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” appeared, one of the more popular talking points about ABC and Joss Whedon’s series has been”How the HELL is Agent Coulson in this series? He’s dead! I saw him die!” Of course, comic book superheroes never really DIE for good – there’s not a superhero out there that hasn’t died in the pages of his/her comic book a few times over. But Agent Coulson’s no superhero – prick him, he’ll bleed; poison him, he’ll die and all that – so after Whedon ripped our hearts out in Avengers (as he did in Serenity) it was reasonable to wonder how he’d pull off the trick of bringing Phil back to life without blatantly cheating.

Image

“I am a leaf on the wind.”

The first episode of “Agents…” doesn’t completely answer that question. Sure, Coulson tells us about how he “saw a bright light” and was apparently on death’s doorstep before being revived miraculously (the heroes needed that “push” and weren’t told that Coulson survived) – and that’s certainly plausible – but it also cheapens the moment from the movie considerably. Coulson’s death becomes a trick, a ruse, not only fooling the heroes but also the audience. Beyond that, it suggests that mainstream superhero movies won’t let ANY protagonist actually die, which, if Marvel goes this direction, takes away any dramatic tension because there’s no risk anymore. Innocent bystanders are at risk of falling debris, of course, but never anyone with, you know, a name.

And I can’t really believe Whedon would do that.

There are hints in the episode that he didn’t. After Coulson discusses the bright light and being brought back to life, he goes on to talk about his recuperation in Tahiti, “a magical place.” Again, plausible, but Whedon brings in Firefly/Serenity alum Ron Glass (Shepherd) as one Dr. Streiten, who, upon hearing Coulson talk of Tahiti, looks on with amazement/mild bewilderment and, after Coulson exits, says something questioning Coulson’s lack of knowledge about what really happened. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders reprising her Avengers role) responds with something along the lines “He can never know.”

The plot thicks.

Fortunately, there’s a perfectly Marvel-ous answer for this, and, if true, would restore the integrity of Coulson’s death in The Avengers and enrich the cinematic Marvel universe through the use of comic canon: Life Model Decoys.

For the uninitiated, Life Model Decoys (LMDs) are androids that serve as perfect duplicates of VIPs in the Marvel Universe, right down to DNA and memories. They are SHIELD creations, and the original Nick Fury in the comics has several running around at any given time. Using one to replace Coulson would be in keeping with Marvel tradition and could possibly lead to some very surprising reveals later in the series. In fact, they’ve already been name-checked in the cinematic universe: Tony Stark tries to play himself off as an LMD when Coulson arrrives at Stark Tower to bring him his “homework.” So there is precedent.

But what about that whole “he can never know” business? LMDs in Marvel comics have been known to believe themselves to be the real thing, rather than a copy. The last run of Secret Avengers used a Nick Fury LMD who believed himself to be the real Nick Fury, and ended up going a bit insane. The idea that Coulson is actually an LMD who doesn’t realize that he’s artificial is, in my eyes, a distinct possibility, and sets up some fantastic possibilities/drama for the future. What would happen if Coulson realizes he’s an android? That SHIELD kept this from him because he’s so valuable (Fury: “I lost my one good eye”)? As Stark explains in the Avengers , Fury is “THE spy. His secrets have secrets.”

I think Whedon has one, too.

/I published this first on comicbookdiscussion.com – check it out!

The benefits of having cute daughters…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 18, 2013 by Mike

About a year ago, I was traveling with the family to my parents.  We were in my wife’s Highlander, and, because its ride is very smooth and its acceleration impressive for a small SUV, I didn’t really notice that I was going about 83 in a 75…okay, maybe I did, but no trooper is going to pull me over for just 8 over, right?

Wrong.

Just before Hearne, a trooper (WHO CAME OUT OF NOWHERE, I SWEAR) pulls in behind me and flashes his lights.  I pull over, groaning because my wife is right beside me and smiling smugly because she was the last one to get a ticket and I hadn’t had one for years.  She also said she told me to slow down not ten minutes earlier.  Right.  Like I believe that.

Anyway, the trooper gets out of his car and makes his way to my window, which I’ve rolled down in preparation for the “Do you know why I pulled you over?” conversation. Before he says a word, though, Suzie, my cute, silly little five year old daughter sitting behind me in her booster seat, looks at the officer and says, “Hi!” in her cute, silly little five year old voice.

I’m looking at the officer and see his stern face break into a slight grin – he tried his BEST to suppress it, but couldn’t.  It was at that point that I thought to myself, “Hot damn, I’m not getting a ticket.”

I didn’t – he let me off with a warning.  My wife and I laughed about it the rest of the way to my parents, and she told me I owed my daughter big-time.

Cut to this morning, and I’m driving Suzie to school in my silver SS Camaro, not paying ANY attention to my speed as I go down the main drive from my house.  I honestly didn’t think I was speeding – the thought never crossed my mind.

That is, until the motorcycle cop set up at the end of the street flashed his lights as I came over the crest of the hill.

Digression: From time to time since the state trooper escape, I’ve told Suzie that if I were to ever get pulled over again, she should again say “Hi!” to the officer as he gets to my window (“what the hell?”, I think, it can’t hurt).

Suzie performs admirably. In fact, she says “Hi!” about four different times as the officer tells me he clocked me at 38 in a 30.  I expressed some surprise at the speed and he asks how fast I thought I was going.  In one of my more impressive moments of stupidity, I say I wasn’t paying any attention at all to my speed.  Nice, Michael.

He walks back to his bike with my license (Suzie says “Hi!” a couple more times) and I’m wondering how I’m going to hide this ticket from my wife.  When he returns, he tells me he’s giving me a warning, and asks me if I’ll slow it down next time.  “Absolutely,” I say, and he kind of laughs at that.  Then he tells me that some neighbors have complained about speeders on the street and then says he’s “looking for bigger fish” that morning.

I drive off relieved, of course, but also amazed at two things:

1) Motorcycle cops NEVER let people off of tickets.  I’ve never heard of it happening.

and

2) I’m in an SS Camaro – I’m not one of those “bigger fish”?

Still, I think I owe Suzie again.

So we’re building a pool…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 18, 2012 by Mike

…and up until this morning things were going rather well.  Because of the rain last week, our builder couldn’t get started until the middle of this week, but over the past few days it’s been a well-oiled machine.  They excavated the hole Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday were spent putting down the rebar and the various pipes in preparation for the cement (“gunite”), the most complicated of the processes.

And, I should also add, the noisiest.

Now, I have to go back a bit to before the construction began.  I’m a member of my HOA’s Architectural Review Committee, and our bylaws ask homeowners to submit plans for such projects like pools and fences and sheds for review/approval before construction begins.  I believe we were the first family to actually follow this guideline, as there have been at least two other pools spring up in our neighborhood without any prior by-your-leave. That sounds a bit snooty, and as a committee we’ve always been considerate to our homeowners’ requests, but still…we have guidelines for a reason, people.

I excused myself from the review committee for our plans, of course, while the other two guys on the committee (who I really like as people, I’m going to say right now, and consider them friends) reviewed the plans and made sure we were taking into account all the variances and such.  That took some time. Perhaps because the previous pool owners did not go through ANY steps before building, and we were determined to do this right (and hopefully establish some precedent for future pool construction in our neighborhood), we were asked to go around to all our neighbors (not just adjacent houses; nine households, total) and inform them of the upcoming construction and have them sign that they were informed.  Finally, the chair of our committee told me before he signed off on the plans, we would have to agree that there would be no gunite work on the weekends (our HOA guidelines don’t prohibit work on Saturdays, though, and the city allows work beginning at 7:00 A.M).

Now, we had submitted plans to them in mid-December, and their approval came in the middle of February.  But, okay, we could get rolling now that that was done.  We had every intention of abiding by that final request, and so, after the rain and our builders’ schedules lined up, we got started this past week.

Here’s where things went south.

The weather has so far been cooperating with our building schedule, but there are thunderstorms forecast for the first few days of next week.  We are also having a pool house built (scheduled to start next week), but that start date depends on the pool having the gunite process completed.  So…what to do?  If we didn’t go ahead with the gunite on Saturday, the schedule for EVERYTHING would be pushed back by at least a week.  Also, and more importantly to us, heavy rain could effect the pool excavation, leading to possible structural concerns due to erosion, affecting the rebar skeleton and so forth.  So we made the call to it get it done Saturday.

So you, reader, can decide for yourself if we made a reasonable decision, or are horrible neighbors.

The gunite people got started early – at 7:00 A.M they turned on the machines and damn, if it wasn’t loud.  Not continuous, mind you, but there was a loud buzzing signal that occurred regularly as the gunite was being sprayed into the pit.  My wife and I were conscious of this, and I was just praying that it wasn’t as loud to our neighbors.

It apparently was.

Laura decided to go for a run since she was up, and about 10 minutes later the head of our ARC, the one who asked us not to have gunite work done on weekends, rang my doorbell. I walked out to the porch and he immediately started yelling at me. Screaming at me, really, asking me what was going on, why they were working, insulting me and saying I had just made an enemy in him.  I’m not confrontational – I apologized time and again, attempting to explain why we made the decision, but he wasn’t interested in that.  And I could understand the aggravation, if not the screaming.  Then he told me his wife had just lost her mother this past Tuesday and had just gotten back last night. Yeah, I felt like shit. He stormed off, leaving me to wait for Laura and feeling pretty damned bad about, oh, everything.  Then, 10 minutes later, he and his wife came back and continued the berating.  I asked our pool guy if they could stop for a while – he had them stop for about an hour.  My neighbor and his wife left, leaving me alone once again.

It took so long for Laura to get back that I recognized she must have run into them after her run.  She had, and when she returned my neighbor was with her.

One of the MANY reasons I love my wife is her ability to stay calm/rational in tense situations.  One of the reasons she’s a doctor, I suppose. She had apparently been informed by another one of our neighbors about the confrontation at our house, and went to talk to Mr and Mrs. ARC (<–  not trying to be flippant here, just want to clarify pronouns).  She went through the reasons why we made our decision, and the fact that we had to make the gunite decision late made it impractical to let them know.  Told them that we were willing to put them up in a hotel for the day, if that would help, and basically smoothed enough feathers that Mr. ARC came back to apologize to me for his behavior.  He was very apologetic about it, telling me he knew we were good neighbors/not self-absorbed/trying to do the right thing, etc.  As I said before,  I consider him a friend, and I apologized in return (again) for the situation. It still didn’t keep me from being tense for the rest of the morning. And that was before I found out that our neighbor across the street called the police at about 8:45 about the noise. Yes, that actually happened. Our pool guy had a brief conversation with the officer who showed up.

So, basically, it was a perfect storm of events that led to this morning’s unpleasantness.  Yes, I think we were at fault for going ahead with the gunite process on a Saturday morning, but with the circumstances being what they were, there was some justification for doing it.  Also, not to make light of the decision, but, as my wife said about the request not to have gunite work on the weekends, it was  “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” (We love the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie).

Above all, I’m very glad our relationship with Mr. and Mrs. ARC is still intact.  They are wonderful people.

So I’m on the last half mile of my run tonight…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 29, 2011 by Mike

…and I’m running up a street a couple blocks from my house when I see a purse on top of a car, apparently left there by accident. I don’t want to stop my run as I’m making pretty good time (for me) and I’m bare-chested and sweaty (ladies, don’t get excited – I’m married). So I decide to run back home and get a shirt on, drive back and be a hero to the nice lady who lives there.

I get back to the house and tell Laura what I saw – she thinks I should have got the house number so she could have called; the people might not open up this late at night. I assure her that they’ll answer the door – it’s not even 9:15, and I pull a shirt on and hop in my car to go save this lady a few moments of panic the next morning.

As I drive back up the street I spot the purse from a distance – it looks a bit “flatter” than I remembered it when I ran by not five minutes earlier. Then it starts stretching its legs and cranes its neck to look at me as I drive on by, round the corner, and head back home.

In my defense, it was dark and there were no street lights close by. Fat orange cats look like purses in the daylight, too.

TMI: Thoughts on my recent vasectomy…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 16, 2011 by Mike

This may be (probably is) a post you have no interest in reading.  By all means, don’t.  Just putting down some random thoughts about the procedure. Don’t worry, no pics on this post.

…the decision was made b/c my wife and I have decided we’re done having kids, and the vasectomy’s more of a sure-thing than my wife having to remember to take her pill each day.

…I like to say I’ve taken myself out of the gene pool without actually dying.

…since my wife’s a vet, I can’t stop thinking I’ve been “fixed”, minus the whole removal of anything.

…as I wrote earlier, I’ve been reading the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, and can’t help but think that had vasectomies been available to kings, it would have helped keep the reign of Westeros from being so damned complicated.

…the worst part of the procedure? The injections of the local anesthetic – they were uncomfortable (and this, kids, is what we call ‘understatement’). Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t painful, just not pleasant (I suppose a shot to the scrotum shouldn’t be).

…my wife was in the room while the doctor performed the procedure.  They were talking about neutering dogs while he was working on me.  It was a bit disconcerting.

…guys, if you ever undergo a vasectomy, frozen peas and a jock strap are your dear friends.

…after two days of rest I was back on my feet (literally). While horizontal I started watching “The Wire” – fantastic show so far.

…actually, now that I think about it, the worst part was getting the two stitches removed, particularly the first one, which involved some tugging.

…went for my first run since the procedure this morning – I was a little tentative for the first 5 minutes or so, but everything seems back to normal.  Except, of course, for the capability of making babies thing.

…if you’re ever over for dinner at my house and you’re served peas, don’t worry, the bags I used were thrown away.

The tragedy of suicide

Posted in Uncategorized on February 27, 2011 by Mike

A young man at my school killed himself Monday.  I didn’t know him, but I probably had seen him in the halls at some point – he was apparently a pretty good kid…respectful, hard-working, a cowboy who liked nothing more than working on his grandfather’s ranch, as his obituary described him.

As I said, I didn’t know him, and details about his death are, of course, limited b/c of the circumstances. As I understand it, he was parked in front of his girlfriend’s house when he died, leading me to believe something happened between the two of them, perhaps a break-up.  He killed himself with a shotgun while locked in his car and while a couple police officers who were called by the girl’s father attempted to talk to him.

I didn’t know him, but can’t help but feel a sense of loss.

This kid had his whole life ahead of him.  He had a family who loved him dearly.  He had younger brothers and sisters who probably looked up to him (this thought haunts me). And he had touched any number of lives at school, where he was active in FFA. I saw friends of his hurting this week. I saw teachers of his crying.

His suicide ended whatever pain or difficult circumstance he saw no way out of, but it wasn’t a solution. Suicide rarely is, and never for such a young person.  I wish he had been able to look beyond his pain and seen possibility instead of an ending.

I don’t write this to judge him.  I write this to mourn him –  a kid I never knew – and the loss this world suffers when a young person takes his/her own life.

It’s never worth it.

I’m giving up softball…

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2010 by Mike

For the past, oh, nine years (and three years before my time in Arizona), I’ve played on a city-league softball team. The team formed when I was in grad school, and was comprised of a bunch of English grad students. We may not have fielded the best teams, but we had the most clever team names (“Fielder’s Indifference” was a personal favorite).  Don’t get me wrong, we were competitive in our Thursday night D league, but I played because I liked hanging out with those guys.  After games we’d sit around drinking Miller Lite in the parking lot, talking about literature and dissertations and profs until the lights at the park were turned off.  Yeah, we were geeks.

Of course, being a team of grad students we lost members regularly to scheduling conflicts and graduation.  I left for Arizona with my wife where we stayed for two years, and when I came back to College Station I found the team still active, but with a completely new set of faces, minus two or three guys who were still working on their PhD s.  Still, I kept playing, fall, spring and summer.  I’ve played every position regularly except first base and catcher, mostly without incident.  I did, however,  manage to break my nose six years ago playing third base when a grounder took a bad bounce, leading to a trip to the emergency room.  My wife was non-plussed.

For the past three years I’ve been the pitcher for the teams (we also have  a co-ed team), but now the team is not an English department team; in fact there are only three guys who have ties to the department.  But that’s not the reason I’m hanging up my cleats.  This past fall wore on me.  I’ve been team manager for the past couple of seasons, and between getting money from the team members (some of whom I didn’t know before they stepped onto the field for the first game) and trying to make sure we had enough guys each week, which has been a real chore for the past two seasons, softball has ceased being fun and been more of a hassle.  And maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been the “old man” on the team for the past five years, but the “jerk” factor on opposing teams has ballooned considerably.  Most teams we’ve been playing against these past couple of seasons have been mouthy bastards, it seems.

While still competitive, we haven’t really been a team so much as a collection of individuals for which Thursday night softball is convenient.  Many of the players go their separate ways after the games and while there’s still drinking in the parking lot, it’s a small, irregular group, and I’m only able to stay occasionally.  Wives, kids, and jobs take precedence among us.  There are a couple guys I’ll miss seeing on Thursday nights, though outside of softball I don’t see anyone on the team regularly. But I don’t know that I’m going to miss the game all that much.

And that’s the best reason I can give for my retirement from softball.

New Year’s Resolution

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 by Mike

I’m not too big on resolutions (another chance for failure), but I’m making one now: this blog is going to see regular updates. I’m aiming for three times a week.

Stay tuned.

My wife lost her Aggie ring…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 9, 2010 by Mike

…and we’ve spent the past day looking around the house for it.  She seems to think that our 4 year old daughter got a hold of the ring while in the bathtub, and perhaps it’s now down the drain.  Still we’re turning the house upside down looking for it.

She had to leave to help out with the Wienerfest this morning, but when she left she said she’d be “extremely grateful” if I could find the ring.

This is how much of a loser I am: I keep thinking that if I find it, she’ll let me buy the Marvel Universe Galactus figure.

So I stopped at a late yellow light…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2010 by Mike

…on my way to work the other day.  The driver in the Suburban ahead of me had tapped her brakes before going through the light so I had already slowed down on approaching the intersection and, seeing that I’d be going through an early red if I gunned it, decided to stop.

That’s when driver in the truck behind me honked his horn.  I crane my head around to take a look and see Mr. Patience raising in his arms in frustration.   I was not the bigger man – I mouthed a few choice comments his way and then turned back to wait for the green light.

Of course, as I make the turn and drive onward, the driver of the truck decides he has to roar down the road in the left lane to pass me.  But there’s a red light not even a quarter mile later so he has to stop and wait…again…while I drive past him to take a right turn.

As I passed him I rolled down my window and proceeded to send some sarcastic comments his way – to my credit I did NOT flip him off.

There are times that I really hate people.  One of these days someone is going to catch me on a very bad day at exactly the wrong time and his bad day will begin.