Thursday, March 29, 2007

NCCCC: Best Evil Anthropomorphic Animal

Enough with people. Now it is time to move on to non-human characters in the National Coolest Comics Character Contest. And I don't mean the cute critters like Marmaduke and Heathcliff, we want to look at the talking animals we love to hate.

All comics can be divided into the ones that include talking animals and the ones that don’t. This really has nothing to do with the quality of the strip, it just sets a different tone. Some of the funniest strips are the ones where at least one of the talking animals is a complete jerk. Animal characters get to do and say things real people could never get away with. Garfield once aspired to this territory, but he descended into a Disney-fied marketing machine never to emerge. The real successes are the edgy but funny takes.

Breed Standards: While the exact personality can vary, a “good” evil character is unrepentantly self-absorbed. Think Danny Devito from Taxi. An evil animal should have several recurring victims and never show any remorse. Any actual resemblance in personality to the base animal type is a bonus.

Faults: Cuteness. Any sense of humanity whatsoever.


Pro: Dogbert gets the nod over fellow character Catbert The Evil Personnel Director because he is a more rounded jerk. Between his cynical business schemes, his unethical consulting scams, and his general abuse of the titular geek, Dogbert is always on the prowl for some way to cheat or steal.Con: Sometimes he gets just a little soft and cuddly. Since he spends most of his energy ripping off clueless managers like the Pointy Haired Boss, it could be argued he is doing a public service.
Bucky Katt
Get Fuzzy

Pro: Mean, vicious, and completely delusional, Bucky Katt is everything cat-haters see in the feline species. His sense of self-entitlement is completely out of whack with his actual abilities. He is often obnoxious just for practice and the dynamic between him and dim-witted Satchell is everything Garfield and Odie would be if they were actually funny.Con: Bucky is very dim-witted, which blunts the effect of his more nefarious ideas.
Pearls Before Swine

Pro: Probably the purest evil character in a comic, Rat exists just to torment. He is unrepentantly malicious and will frequently do things just because he can.Con: A little over the top. You would think Pig, or at least Goat, would have caught on by now what a total a-hole Rat is.
The Gene Pool

Pro: Not so much evil as vile and obnoxious, Zoogie is everybody’s worst roommate or frat brother. Gross and obnoxious are his hallmarks and he clearly emulates Bluto from Animal House. His clueless macking on every female character is truly cringe inducing.Con: Like the Animaniacs, but not in a good way, it’s tough to decipher what sort of animal Zoogie is supposed to be. My guess would be koala, but even that is just a stab in the dark.

So there they are. Cast your vote and determine which is the funniest and evilest at the same time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nerd Tools

What is the oldest holy war in the technology world?

Internet Explorer vs Firefox?
Windows vs Mac?
Fortran vs Pascal?

It’s none of these. If you really want to start some bad blood between nerds of a certain age, start an argument about Texas Instruments vs Hewlett Packard. The Calculator Wars was one of the first battlegrounds between ease of use and computing horsepower. What calculator you used was considered a sign of how serious you took your studies.

When I started Calculus my junior year in high school, I was very proud of my brand new state-of-the-art Texas Instruments TI-30 scientific calculator. It had an exponential number display and everything. A friend in the class who would go onto to do great things in robotics (you can see his work in this video) had a Hewlett Packard HP-34C and would try to convince me of its superiority. It had some rudimentary programming ability and he taught it some parlor tricks, but I couldn’t see the big deal.

I decided I needed a new calculator to start college with, so I got the sleek brand new TI-55-II. Well, the TI-55-II was a complete piece of crap. On mine, the “7” key in particular was sticky to the point of rendering the thing unusable. Besides, I saw a lot of fellow engineering students using the newest HP and I had to have one. Per pressure is mighty powerful.

I sweet talked my folks into laying down some gift money so I could get an HP-41CV, the latest andgreatest calculator in the world until the CX model came out This machine was the workhorse number cruncher for the rest of my college career. The 41 had some quirks. It used size N batteries, which are half the size of AA’s and very hard to find. You know you are in a Nerd Nirvana when you can buy size Ns. I’m not sure Radio Shack even carries them any more.

The hurdle that HP calculator buyers faced was learning Reverse Polish Notation (or RPN). Once the concept behind the system was grokked, converts became missionary in their zeal to spread the word of the superiority of this system. RPN completely changes and reorders the way one looks at a math problem. There is a zen simplicity to manipulating a memory stack that makes other entry methods seem kludgy. To this day, I get befuddled by a standard algebraic calculator because the data entry is so convoluted.

I eventually bought along an HP-11C as a back-up calculator and even taught my wife how to use a HP-12C. For awhile it looked like the 12C might finally let HP make inroads into the general population. The HP-12C with its financial functions became the default calculator for real estate professionals. It showed professionalism and class. I think they also like the gold trim. The rest of the world remained unimpressed.

When my HP-41 bit the dust, I was heart broken. I searched for a replacement and found the HP-32S which was true RPN but lacked many of the advanced functions I had gotten accustomed to. I ended up hunting down a HP-48G which had a four-line display and used RPN notation. RPN entry is my theft prevention device. Younger engineers that have never seen a decent calculator take a look at it and put it down in bewilderment. The absence of an ‘=’ button befuddles them. They just don’t understand. It makes me shake my head in disbelief that someone can get an engineering degree without mastering RPN.

I am so brainwashed into RPN notation, that when I got my Treo phone I was frantic that there was no decent native Windows Mobile RPN program. I eventually used my old PalmOS MathU program with an Palm emulator. It doesn’t look pretty, but it keeps me sane.

Am I a true HP/RPN geek?


I never learned synthetic programming. I never used a calculator serial port as a data acquisition tool. I have never downloaded a program (even though somewhere I have a cable to do it with). But to know I could have done these things if I wanted to is enough. Not unexpectedly, there are a lot of web pages devoted to vintage calculators, both HP and TI.

Hewlett Packard has lost the Calculator Wars. Texas Instruments with its graphing calculators moved into the middle school and high school market and overtook the hearts and minds of impressionable algebra and trig students. My son has a whole draw full of TI-83s and 89s and who knows what else. The power of Excel and the ubiquity of laptop computer make all the advanced functions of a true scientific calculator obsolete.

I feel like on of my professor that lamented the loss of slide rules. To him, a slide rule was a badge of honor to be wore on a belt. A phallic symbol that showed you were a true engineer. A craftsman is known by his tools. I may never use anything much more complicated than the square root key, but I continue to use my HP with pride. Like a badge of honor.

BlatantCommentWhoring™:What are the tools of your trade?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

NCCCC: Hottest CILF Soap Division

We now move to one of the most anticipated divisions of the National Coolest Comic Character Competition. Soap opera strips have an advantage over humor strips in that their female characters can be drawn much more realistically. And by “realistic” I mean “just like the cover of a 1950s romance comic book cover.” The soap strips can really manipulate the perspective and action to play up the female characters best, er, assets. Let's take a closer look.

Abbey Spenser
Judge Parker

Pro: Abbey Spenser is an independently wealthy redhead that serves as Sam Driver’s beard. Pouty-lipped and prone to cleavage revealing blouses, she is always the focus of attention. And who out there hasn’t had a Abbey/Neddie tag-team fantasy? Just me?
Con: The adopted kids are a real wet blanket, especially since they are prone to bust in at the most inopportune times.
June Morgan
Rex Morgan, MD

Pro: Another hot woman married to a helpless closet case. June Of The Rack has become so sexually frustrated, she has taken to picking up street urchins to have her “garage cleaned.”Con: Unless you like them a little on the dim side, it doesn’t help that the dog is the genius in the household.
Brenda Starr
Brenda Starr

Pro: Brenda is a star! At least of her own comic strip. Most other soap strip hot women (with the exception of Mary Worth) are supporting characters. She is a wild unattached professional woman with a penchant for getting tied up.Con: Not getting any younger. A lot of Miss Clairol must be keeping the tresses fiery.
Margo Magee
Apartment 3G

Pro: Sure, LuAnn is the cute ditzy one and Tommie is the under appreciated wallflower, but it’s Margo that ignites the passion. She may be a super-bitch, but that must just make her wilder if you can get in her good graces.Con: A relationship with Margo won't end well. She WILL turn on you eventually.
Liz Patterson
For Better Or For Worse

Pro: I don’t know about comic readers, but Liz’s milkshake sure brings foob characters to the yard. The inexplicable allure of Liz has been baffling me and others for years now. I’m putting her in the Soap Division because her story is played for drama and she is drawn increasingly realistic, wide-load butt, puffy lips and all.Con: You just KNOW she is ending up with Anthony and do you really want those kind of sloppy seconds?

‘Fess up and vote and leave fantasy scenarios in the comments.

Update (7:00 p.m.): In the comments, Josh (THE Comics Curmudgeon) suggested that I was sandbagging June and Abbey by using unflattering pictures of them. The original pictures came off the official websites of their strip. When I got to Brenda Starr, the official picture was so hideous, I went to the strips themselves for the other three finalists.

In fairness, I have added extra pictures to each character, one "official" one and a recent clip from the newspaper. I even threw in an extra one of Abbey's tush. The one of Liz is particularly frumpy and is a serious downgrade from the picture of her sitting on a teacher desk in a short skirt and swinging her legs that used to grace her official site.

Besides, I'm sure nobody was judging these characters solely on physical attractiveness and were dilligently evaluating poise, intelligence, and personality as well. Right?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

NCCCC - Hottest CILF Comics Division

The second weekend of hot, and I do mean hot, National Coolest Comics Character Competition. We have covered teenagers and little kids and now it's time for the grown-ups. We are now looking for the the hottest CILF (Comic I would Like..., oh, go rent American Pie if you don't get it) in the intentionally funny comic strips. And sorry ladies, no men made the cut. Maybe next year we can do Hunkiest Closet Case.

First off, let’s clarify who is not eligible in this category: The entire female cast of Liberty Meadows. Jen, et. al., while the best drawn GGA-style characters ever to grace the funny pages have been gone from the first run newspaper comics for several years. Fanboys can roll up their tongues and move on. The no dead comics rule also takes out Daisy Mae from L’il Abner. Moving on, let’s take a look at the hawtest girls in the funny papers.


Pro: With mammaries that make Barbie look like a double masectomy victim, Blondie has been raising the temperature of the comics page since the days of bathtub gin. She has been many a young reader’s first clue that boys and girls are different.Con: She’s getting a little long in the tooth and the hairstyle makes the Apartment 3G girls look contemporary.
9 Chickweed Lane

Pro: Edda is a young hottie living in the city with a hunky gay roommate, but still fixated on her hometown dorky musician beau. She spends a lot of time stretching in her ballet tights and lounging around suggestively. Arguably the horniest strip in print.Con: The whiff of jailbait is unavoidable. She started life in the comics as a teenage Catholic school girl and the will-she/won’t-she routine is getting tedious.
Rose Is Rose

Pro: While Rose is just another comic mom of a cute kid, she has a biker bar alter ego that makes leather look very attractive at a PTA meeting. We all have a wild side and Rose’s is wilder than most.Con: Vicki just doesn’t show up very often. She needs to ditch Jim and run off with Sally Forth on a Thelma and Louise rampage.
Miss Buxley
Beetle Bailey

Pro: Miss Buxley is the dumb blonde to beat all dumb blondes. As the only attractive female on a military base, she draws enough attention to keep a sexual harassment lawyer busy for years.Con: Some people like their women on the dim side. I don’t. The constant nail filing and complete obliviousness make her no less an offensive stereotype than anyone else at Camp Swampy.
Aunt Fritzi

Pro: Nearly as old as Blondie, but recently redone to emphasize her vintage good looks.Con: The stylistic juxtaposition between Fritzi and Nancy is jarring enough to induce nausea.
Toni Daytona

Pro: Toni is a cock-tease par excellence. She has managed to string herself along as Brad's stalker obsession into a recurring character. Her on-again/off-again relationship with abuser/boyfriend Dirk just adds to her slutty but unattainable vibe.Con: In the Luanniverse, Brad is stuck with blue balls for decades to come. Just what she sees in him is inexplicible to all except the pervy wish-fulfilment mind of Greg Evans.

Pro: Okay, I threw her in as a ringer just to take the sexual tension down a notch. Nevertheless, some guys are chubby chasers. Maybe she is fantastic in the sack. Obviously she had something going for her to finally land Irving. Con: The sight of Cathy in fishnets is enough to deflate any man.

So vote with your heart, or whatever organ you are evaluating the comics with and explain why in the best PG-13 language you can muster.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's Academic Sneak Peak

A few weeks ago, my son came home with a permission slip. If it weren’t for permission slips, we would have no idea what he was up to. He nonchalantly mentioned he was captain of the school It’s Academic team.

It’s Academic, as a recent Washington Post article on stupid game shows explained, is the last of the 1950s style quiz shows where teams of high school students compete in academic trivia, hence the name. If you have ever seen The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes or the greatest episode ever of Boy Meets World, you know what I mean.

I was baffled by the synchronicity of it since I had just finished reading two books on quiz shows. A lot of Jeopardy champions get their start on the local high school and college trivia circuit.

My son had never even seen the show. Ten in the morning on a Saturday is not in his schedule. Fortunately the miracle of the interwebs means you can find anything. WJZ has a whole section of previous episodes available on line.

The day of the taping, the three team members, the alternate and the school madrigal group all boarded a bus to head over to the station. My wife and I had breakfast at a diner in nearby Hamden and caught up to see the taping. The staff handed out posterboard to all the parents and friends that came along so they could make signs. They coached us on when to scream and when to golf clap.

And then the competition started. The questions seem easy, but they come so fast it's tough to keep up. A twenty five minute quiz show goes by real fast. The pace is nerve-wracking to watch, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of the lights.

The show airs on Baltimore’s WJZ Channel 13 this Saturday (March 24) at 10 am. I’ll have both a VCR and a DVD-R running so that every second can be preserved for posterity. I won’t spoil the suspense by telling you who won, but would I be posting this if it were humiliating?

Have you ever been on TV or involved with some sort of game show?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Torqueberto: The Musical

Earlier this week, in a snarky Wonkette comment, I gave our current (check for latest status) Attorney General the nickname "Torqueberto". Comparing the author of the discredited government torture policy to the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody ever expects) is not a new idea. But I think I am the first to create the portmanteau “Torqueberto” . It’s a great shorthand for the real reason why Gonzales should not be holding the highest law enforcement office in the country, he has no respect for the rule of law or the rights of individual.

I hereby register the phrase “Torqueberto”Creative Commons License under a Creative Commons license (must attribute, no commercial use) and allow unlimited free use in diatribes, rants, invectives, and calls for resignation. If you want to understand why I am so vehement about this latest in a string of incompetent and unethical Bush cronies, read this four part comprehensive litany of Gonzales’s failings by Washington Post legal blogger Andrew Cohen.

If you want cheap shot parody, read on.

In addition to the much-quoted Monty Python sketch, the hilarity of the Spanish Inquisition was immortalized in Mel Brooks' The History Of The World, Part I with an upbeat dance production. With a little updating it can also be modernized to show how much fun religously motivated torture can still be.

(Nobody Expects) The Bush Administration

[Hooded monk speaks to the camera, and introduces
the lead singer for the next number...]

All pay heed! Now enters his holiness, Torqueberto,
the Attorney General of the Bush Administration.
Torqueberto - sends retards to the electric chair.
Torqueberto - fires lawyers for no reason at all.
Torqueberto - calls torture just a frat prank.
Let's face it - this guy is gonna take a fall!

[Al Gonzales and his lackeys singing...]

Bush Administration (We run the nation)
Bush Administration (Let’s have a celebration)
We had a mission to invade Iraq (‘Raq, ‘Raq, ‘Raq, ‘Raq, ‘Raq, ‘Raq, ‘Raq)
We're gonna rule them for certain.
We're gonna hire Haliburton
and take all the oil fields away. (Just take them away)

Confess, don't be boring.
Say yes, don't be dull.
A fact you're ignoring:
It's better to lose your keffiyeh than your keister (Allāhu Akbar!)
Bush Administration (run by Rove)
Bush Administration (Scooter says so)
We know you're wishin' that we'd go away.
But the Bush Administration lies and it lies every day!

[Cut to two old Muslim mullahs hanging by their wrists
who start talking to each other]

"I was sitting in a mosque. I was minding my own business.
I was listening to a lovely Koran mass.
Then these Neocon persons plundered and they throw me in a dungeon
and they shove a red hot poker up my ass.
Is that considerate? Is that polite?
And not a tube of Preparation H in sight!"

"I'm sittin' knittin’ prayer rugs
and I'm renditioned by some thugs
and suddenly these infidels chain me to a wall.
I didn't even know them
and they grabbed me by the scrotum
and started hooking batteries to my balls!
Ooh, the agony! Ooh, the shame!
To make my privates public for a game?"

[Back to Al and his lackeys singing...]

Bush Administration (run by cronies)
Bush Administration (that's no baloney)
We know you're wishin' that we'd go away.
But the Bush Administration's here and it's here to-

[Someone calls over to Torqueberto while in the middle of a routine ...]

"Hey Torqueberto, walk this way."
"I just got back from the Abu-Ghraib."
" Abu-Ghraib? What's an Abu-Ghraib?"
"It's where waterboardin’ ain’t torture, babe!"

[Torqueberto speaks to a row of prisoners]

Will you convert? "No, no, no, no."
Will you confess? "No, no, no, no."
Will you revert? "No, no, no, no."
Will you say yes? "No, no, no, no!"
Now I asked in a nice way, I said, "Waste more money."
"I let them hang Hussein, now I'll hunt down Sistani!"

[Someone calls over to Torqueberto again ...]

"Hey Torqueberto, walk this way.
We got a little game that you might wanna play,
just say ‘WMD’ and invade foreign soil."
"Who knows, Al, you might win some oil!"

[Torqueberto, spins a huge slot machine, with Arabs in place of the cherries, lucky 7's, etc. on the slot wheel. It comes up a winner, and gold starts pouring out of the machine. Torqueberto leans over to a flunky and says, "Give it to Cheney..."]

"How we doin', any terrorists today?"
"Not a one, nay, nay, nay."
"We flattened their fingers, we branded their buns!
Nothing is working! Send in the pun-dits!"

[A bunch of Fox News pundits appear surrounding a pool of water. They shad their robes to reveal bathing suits, dive into the pool, and perform an old-style aquatic musical number. Some Iraqis are seen shooting down slides and into the water. The pundits surround the Iraqis, and pull them under water. Than the rest of the cast joins for the big chorus line at the end of the song..]

Bush Administration, way down in the polls.
Bush Administration, cause we sold our souls.
We know you're wishin' that we'd go away!
So all you Iranians and you Iraqis
We got big news: listen to the fact-i’s:
You'd better change your point of views TODAY!
'Cause the Bush Administration lies. Just ask Tom Delay!

Disclaimers and Pleas For Mercy
Mel Brooks: Don’t sue. This is fair use satire. Besides I’ve seen The Producers three times.
Islamic Fundamentalists: Please do not issue a fatwa. This is parody and I don’t approve of torture.
Torqueberto: Don’t use this as a pretext to read my mail, record my phone calls, or check my library records. (I’m probably too late here.)
Our Next Attorney General: Please do something to restore our nation’s reputation as the champion of human rights and individual liberties.

Hat tip to Funny Farm for the original lyrics.
Also see bc's playhouse for a first draft of the Torqeuberto resignation letter.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I’m not very good at keeping trap of the milestones that I pass as a blogger, mostly because I’m not very good at keeping track of them. Sometimes I don’t even know which one to mark. This is my 300th post since I started this particular blog. I let the 100th and 200th slip by entirely unnoticed.

My first blog post ever was nearly two years ago on April 4th of 2005, but I didn’t start posting regularly until July of that year. I’m not sure which to celebrate as my blogiversery, so I just ignore both. I certainly have gotten a lot more verbose since that time.

One milestone I have been keeping my eye on was the 100,000 visitor. I was hoping to catch that person and figure out which random Google phrase brought them there. I pretty much figured it would be a LostGoogler, since I tend to blog about Google-bait kind of topics.

My Sitemeter stats only go back 100 visitors, so visitor 100,000 slipped right past me sometime last week. I did notice that a reader right around the 100k mark was from Ypsilanti, Michigan. I only know one person from Ypsi and that is trusy getto. Trusty (not his real name) first commented on my blog back on August 10, 2005 on this rather lame post, proving that I was obsessed with my stats even back then. In some ways, trusty is one of my blog heroes. If a big hot shot lawyer raising two of the cutest little girls in the world can find time to blog, so can I.

It always surprises me when I look at very old posts and see names of commenters that are still around. It’s part of the community develops. I like hearing from people whose blogs I like. I even welcome blurkers that just come by once in awhile to see what’s new.

As I write this, of the last 100 visitors, 72 found there way to my blog from Google or another search engine. Thirteen came from a link on some other site. It’s the other fifteen that are the readers I really want.

Thanks for coming by.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: How long have you been reading my blog?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

NCCCC: Most Precocious Kid In The Comics

The second division of the 2007 National Coolest Comic Character Competition aims its sights at a younger age group than the teenagers. Ever since The Yellow Kid, comic strips have been full of kid characters. Some are defanged menaces, but others are just fodder for dirty diaper jokes (I’m looking at you, Marvin). Some of the most amusing kids in the comics are the wise beyond their years cynics that speak truth to power. It often becomes clear that these pint-sized pundits are really artistic alter egos for their authors.

Normally, this category would be Jason Fox’s to lose, but I’m still bitter about Foxtrot going to Sunday-only. Besides, there are a lot of other worthy moppets out there. Let’s pick the cream of the crop.

Breed Standards:
Realism is not a requirement. The kid should be more sophisticated and worldly than real children. A strong familiarity with current events or pop culture is necessary. There should be a mild dark streak, but an underlying sympathy.

Faults: Extreme preachiness. Complete disassociation with childhood experiences. Kids that only talk to straw-man animals are disqualified.

Non Sequitor
Pro: When it comes to cynical smart mouthed kids, none come more iconoclastic that the pint-sized mouthpiece of Wiley. What started life as a oddly shaped Far Side imitator has morphed into the continuing saga of budding bomb-thrower Danae and her odd assortment of family members that includes a talking horse foil. Con: At times the strip veers real close to becoming a liberal Prickly City. And Lucy the Horse is a pretty pale Hobbes rip-off. The strip also has long digressions unrelated to the main characters.
Big Nate
Pro: At first glance, this is just another Peanuts-sized strip about a bunch of grade school kids with existential angst. Nate always has a scam going that inevitably backfires. Beneath the silly gags there is a surreal sensibility that takes some rather oblique punches at pop culture.Con: I have a hard time telling the supporting the characters apart and Nate’s character is a little amorphous. Is he the world’s biggest dunderhead or an under appreciated genius?
Pro: The newest addition to the Washington Post comics page is another smart talking half pint with a gaggle of foils. She is a trailer park grifter in training. Another schemer, her oddball scams show a little more competence than Nate.Con: The artwork is pretty minimal. Not Stantis scribbly bad, but fairly murky. The cast of supporting characters is pretty thin.
Heart Of The City
Pro: Heart is a feisty little girl that is independent without losing her girliness. While this strip is more gentle than some, Heart is just bratty and self-centered enough to always get straight to the heart (pun intended) of the matter. Con: Knowing that Mark Tatulli also draws Lio creeps me out a little bit about the true nature of some of Heart’s friends. I keep looking for a giant squid in the background.
One Big Happy
Pro: Six-year old Ruthie treads a fine line between quirky and complete bat guano insanity. Her frequent malapropisms often sneak past the censors. Con: She is destined to grow up to be a serial killer.

Cast your vote and leave reasons in the comments. This voting software requires that you vote to see results and they sometimes take awhile to post, but your votes are being counted.

Friday, March 16, 2007

NCCCC: Most Realistic Comics Teenager

In the first division of the 2007 National Coolest Comic Character Competition, we are looking for the most realistic teenager. Making fun of teenagers is trickier than it looks. Review the criteria for a funny comic strip teenager and make a choice.

Breed Standards: That right combination of ennui and self-entitlement must be balanced. A good teen character is timeless yet contemporary. Fashions, musical tastes, and fads must keep current even if the character themselves never age. A teenage character and his friends must be instantly recognizable types, but not cliches.

Faults: Corniness. Anachronistic clothes or slang. Tone deafness. Patronizing attitude by the writers to real teenagers.

Jeremy Duncan
Pro: The comic strip Zits is a stealth success, lagging behind more famous strips but somehow piling up syndication in over 1500 newspapers. Jeremy is a slacker’s slacker with a compelling cast of supporting characters.Con: While the pop culture references try to stay current, the unbuttoned flannel shirt look has been cliché since back when Kurt Cobain’s brains were still in his skull.
Luann DeGroot

Pro: Luann has been growing at Peter Parker speed from a bubbleheaded tweener into the high school student she is now. Along the way, the strip has tried to gently stay topical in a Very Special Episode way without becoming preachy. This strip has the widest cast of supporting characters, some of which aren’t just insufferable stereotypes. Just don’t try to pin me down by asking which ones.Con: The endless love triangle have pretty much exhausted every permutation of characters possible except for a Gunther/TJ/Aaron Hill slashfest that surely exists somewhere on the web. Also, more and more time has been spent on doofus brother Brad’s nonexistent love-life lately than on the classroom antics of Luann and company.
Chip Flagston
Hi and Lois

Pro: Chip is the teenage son of Hi and Lois which has tried to become edgier under the second generation of Walker-Browne artists. Over the years, the fashions and lingo have changed to keep pace and avoid Brady-ish anachronism.Con: Chip is a pretty minor character in the ensemble and the overall Velveeta on white bread feel of the strip makes some of the better gags off limits.
Baldomero Bermudez

Pro: Baldo is the teenage son of a multigenerational Hispanic family. Like other teenagers his life revolves around school, girls, and cars. The Baldoverse milieu is one of the more realistic settings for a family strip. In infrequent fantasy sequences, Baldo can exhibit telenovela good looks, providing much needed fanservice to female comics readers.Con: Let’s face it, Baldo is often just Zits with a Spanish accent.

Now it's your turn. Vote and leave your opinion. It may take a while for your vote to register, but it will get there. Check back later for results and standings.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Madness Comics Style

Last year about this time I did a 11 part series I called the National Crappiest Comics Competition or the NCCC™. The competition was a 16 comic single elimination tournament to determine the comic most deserving of elimination from the comics page. BC was about to carry off the trophy when Gil Thorp stole the crown in a very controversial call by the judge, namely me.

This year I am running a different NCCCC or NC^4 which I have called the National Coolest Comics Character Contest. Rather than model it on the NCAA, it will be based instead on the Westminster Kennel Club. I have come up with six archetypal comics characters categories and I will nominate at least four characters in each grouping. Then all the winners of each type will compete for best of show.

Best of all, to avoid last years fiasco, the voting will be public and all readers of this blog are eligible to vote. While I have already determined most of the candidates, I am open to nominations from the floor, subject to approval. The ground rules are pretty simple:

  1. All characters must be a featured regular cast member of a comic strip currently in newspaper syndication.
  2. No webcomics, discontinued comics, or comics solely in reruns are eligible. This disqualifies all characters from Peanuts, Liberty Meadows, and Pogo, among others.
  3. Write-ins are allowed at the sole discretion of the judge. Write-in candidates must otherwise meet all other eligibility criteria.

Without further ado, the categories are:

Remember, instead of last year where I was trying to determine the crappiest comic, this year I want to find the BEST character. Contestants in each category will be kept confidential until the blog post goes live. At that time, I will announce the approximate time voting closes and I will declare the winner in the comments. There will be two categories posted a week with the final competition tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 2. The final week of competition is contingent upon me finding adequate internet connectivity while I chaperone my son’s annual band trip.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Feel free to make nominations from the peanut gallery.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pi R Square

Today is March 14th, or as it is known among nerds of a peculiarly silly bent, Pi Day. And the best time on 3-14 to celebrate Pi Day would be 1:59. My dad was a math major in college of the gentleman’s “C” variety and belonged to a fraternity slightly less prestigious than the Deltas of Animal House. Thus it can be forgiven when he loves to chuckle and say “Pi R Squared? No, pie are round; cake are square.” It is his second favorite joke behind teaching the dog to answer questions like “What’s on top of the house?”, “Who was the greatest baseball player?”, and “How does sandpaper feel?”

Thus when my son decided to make a snack for the math team practice which coincidentally was on Pi Day, it was only fitting to make a square pie. The recipe calls for a 9” diameter pie pan which is 63.6 square inches. Instead we bought an 8” x 8” baking tin which is a much bigger 64 square inches. The pie itself is a no-bake chocolate pie with a peanut butter crust that my son found on the web.

Other people are doing much fancier pies for Pi Day. Fellow boodler Yoki is running a Pi Day contest where seven people sent in pie recipes and you can vote in a bunch of categories. Voting may be closed by the time I post this, but the recipes all look too delicious (except for maybe the mountain oyster pie, which has real oysters, not mountain oysters). While it’s tough to pick favorites among your friends, I am always in search of good apple pie recipes and kbetocci's’s As American As version looks great.

My alma mater also has a long running (no pun intended) road race called the Pi-Miler, which is billed as a 5k charity run. I’m not sure whether the route is really 3.159 miles, which is 56 meters too much or exactly 5 kilometers, in which case the runners are slacking off for 61 yards. Perplexingly, this event is not on Pi Day, but is being run a month later on April 14th. Such are the mysteries of life,

Enjoy Pi Day. I am now very hungry.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kittyhawk AK987 Fan Club

One of my maxims about the web is that there is nothing too obscure to not have a following. I was reminded of this the other day when I noticed I had a new comment on my Flickr site. Hawk914 had formed a Flickr group for pictures of a P-40. Not just P-40s in general (I have a P-40 picture from the Udvar-Hazy Center on this post), but a specific P-40: the one with tail number AK987 that is on display in the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. This plane flew as part of the Flying Tigers in China, which was a squadron of American volunteers flying lend-lease P-40s for the Nationalist Chinese before Pearl Harbor.

I had visited the Air Force Museum as a side detour on my cross-country round trip last summer. Everyone had told me that the Air Force Museum was way more comprehensive than the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in DC. In many ways they are right. The AFM is four hangers of planes just jammed everywhere. From the dawn of flight to the latest stealth planes, they seem to have one of everything. Some planes like the twin-cockpit F-82 were only legends from my youthful OCD obsession with military hardware, but they had one on display.

The AFM has a much narrower focus than the Smithsonian. The National Air and Space Museum covers the entire of history of flight and tries to delve deeper into the science and technology of flight. Still, the AFM has plenty of interpretive displays, including a very poignant one about Vietnam War era POWs. We only had a few hours to tour the place, but I had a great time. I sat in the cockpit of an F-4 like the one my dad flew. I got plenty of pictures of great planes that I put in a Flickr set, but never blogged about until now.

One of the most famous fighters in history were the P-40 Fighting Tigers. With the shark mouth cowl, these planes are the archetypal ferocious image of a World War II fighter. Hawk914 had noticed that there are a lot of pictures of the one in the AFM but they all seemed to look alike. That’s because the way they have planes stacked in there, only two angles make any sense. As a tongue-in-cheek joke he started a Flickr group dedicated to this particular plane and somehow found my picture.

I am proud to be a part of the Kittyhawk AK987 fan club and hope many more will follow Hawk914's lead and celebrate this famous plane.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is the most obscure thing you have been a fan of?