Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cracked Closet

In the biggest celebrity non-news since Lindsay Lohan jumped the gun on her 21st birthday by about half a decade or since Paris Hilton did something retarded again, David Hyde Pierce (seen here signing my wife's Playbill after a showing of Spamalot) came out of a very large well-ventilated bay-windowed throw-pillowed closet.

It seems some AP news story made a reference to a partner with a decidedly masculine name. Now if this is news to you, you have managed to miss every episode, promo, and awards show clip ever from Frasier. I have always insisted that show only made sense if you pretended that Frasier and Niles were estranged former lovers and not brothers, not that those premises are mutually exclusive.

I last got this outraged over this trend of petty outings of extremely low hanging fruit (I can’t stop using that pun) when the Washington Post’s Hank Stuever got his panties in a knot because Sean Hayes from Will and Grace continues to coyly act ambiguously talented. Since then Neil Patrick Harris (who was fantastic on Broadway in Assassins not realizing it was his character in the crosshairs) was delicately shoved into the public to declare he was never meeting anyone's mother.

That’s after the shock that only one Backstreet Boy was wasting the time of all those screaming tweener girls. There was also some hunky actor from Grey’s Anatomy that got called a faggot behind his back and had to ‘fess up. You could trampled standing in front of the celebrity closet door lately.

This weekend also marked the passing of Charles Nelson Reilly who, with Paul Lynde, was the centerpiece of my naïve 70s gameshow obsession. I also had no idea as a child how campy the entire Sidd and Marty Krofft Saturday morning line-up was. The gayest moment in TV history could have been made if there had ever been a Lidsville/Sigmund And The Sea Monster crossover and I would never have noticed. Now I just wouldn’t care. I have just gotten beyond worrying about who sleeps with who and why. This stuff just fails to shock anymore.

However, I have learned that if you combine the word ‘gay’ and the name of any random celebrity, you get a certain amount of guaranteed drive-by Google traffic. In the interest of internet irony and blatant search-baiting, I have come up with my own version of the Death Pool I am going to call the Shallow Pool. All you have to do is pick one of the following celebrities and if they are the first to publicly announce their homosexuality, you win absolutely nothing. As a disclaimer, I have no idea whatsoever if any of these people are really gay. I am only interested in the media frenzy over all this silly outing. Repeat: I DO NOT KNOW IF THEY ARE GAY, NOR DO I CARE. Now make your choice.

Jake Gyllenhaal
Anderson Cooper
Kevin Spacey
Bradley Cooper
Richard Gere
Cindy Crawford
Hugh Jackman
Tom Selleck
George Clooney
Ricky Martin
Clay Aiken
Kenny Chesney
Randy Travis
Kanye West
Andre 2000
Derek Jeter
Mike Piazza
Brady Anderson
David Souter
Condoleeza Rice
Senator Larry Craig
Senator Tom Coburn
Tinkie Winkie
SpongeBob SquarePants
Bert or Ernie

In order to “win” the celebrity must declare their homosexuality or bisexuality either in person or through a publicist. In order to lose, continue to act shocked every time some phony newsrag tries to make headlines by outing some poor shmo who wasn't fooling anyone anyways.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Make your own nominations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Random Seven

Nearly a week ago, used*to*be*me tagged me with a meme to post seven random things about me. I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with suitably entertaining randomness that I haven’t covered when I had to come up with Five Weird Habits or Six Weird Things about me. Somebody keeps upping the ante on these lame memes.

Probably about the only reason I fall for these memes is that it gives me a chance to unload some minor thoughts that don’t merit a whole blog entry. It also lets me linkback to older posts to catch people up to date. Here goes:

  1. I’ve ridden my bicycle 137 miles so far this year. I know this because I keep a spreadsheet log of all my bike rides. I 2005 I had only managed 231 miles because I had torn my ACL. In 2006 I rode 251 miles after recovering from my zombie knee surgery but before cracking my helmet in September. The spreadsheet from 2004 got destroyed in a hard drive crash before I rode the Seagull Century. Since I did two 50-mile training rides that year, I probably rode at least 500 miles.
  2. I once shared an elevator with Jerry Pournelle, noted science fiction writer and computer journalist. It was in 1992 at the World Science Fiction Convention in Orlando. I recognized him from his trademark bolo tie and pencil thin moustache. This is not an entirely random memory since he was co-guest of honor at Balticon this weekend. More about my time at that later.
  3. I could probably go a week wearing only Georgia Tech themed apparel. Every time I go to Atlanta I buy one or two items at the bookstore. Currently I own four or five tee shirts, three golf shirts, two dress shirts, three hoodies, one pair of sweatpants, two pairs of socks and a biking jersey.
  4. My childhood home got buried in volcanic ash. From 1976 to 1979 I lived on Mactan Circle on Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. In 1992 Mount Pinatubo erupted and covered the entire base in volcanic ash. My house probably looked like this picture I found on the web. Time magazine ran a picture of my sister’s elementary school with ash up to the top of the doors. You can’t go home again.
  5. I know my high school GPA to the third decimal place. At my fifth year high school reunion our class salutatorian got very drunk and told me how much the 0.004 difference in our GPAs destroyed everything he had worked for. Out 25th reunion is next month. I wonder if he will be there.
  6. I’ve touched the space shuttle. I did an HVAC design project to replace the air conditioning in the elevator machine room on the cargo bay hoist. During one trip they had a bird on the pad and we could look right into the cockpit windows. I used the have a picture of me standing in front of it wearing a Georgia Tech tee shirt.
  7. I own at least four different editions of Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. I have an uncorrected proof, the leather bound Franklin Press edition, the first trade hardback edition, and a trade paperback reading copy. Iown multiple copies of several other Vonnegut novels as well including two different audiobook versions of Slaughterhouse Five.

I made it to seven, barely. Whew!

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Add your own random fact.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rocket Kid

Nerd Month at the Yellojkt household continues. Coming right off the BotBall competition, my son and a team from his school qualified for the Team America Rocketry Challenge (that name makes me want to see the marionette movie spoof). The sponsor of the Rocketry Club is also the teacher of the Engineering Robotics class.

Nearly 700 schools and organizations registered teams at the beginning of the year and about half of those sent up rockets that qualified. Of those, the top 100 teams got invited to Nationals. Fortunately for us, Nationals were in nearby Northern Virginia, so our travel expenses were limited to a night at the Manassas Fairfield Inn and dinner at the Country Buffet, so no expense was spared. Several teams came from Florida and one came from Washington State.

Since you can’t see all that goes in a rocket, my son made a cardboard mock-up of all the parts that are needed. The big ball of tape at the top is a raw egg “passenger” that has to survive the launch and recovery. The egg is very important. Without an intact egg, they don’t even count your score.

The next item from the top is an altimeter. The goal of the competition is to send the rocket to exactly 850 fifty feet in the air. Every foot away from the goal is a point of penalty and the lowest score wins. Every rocket also has to have a parachute and the flight has to last exactly 45 seconds. Finally, no rocket flies without an engine or “motor” in the hobbyist lingo.

Like all these engineering competitions, the contestants tend to be estrogen deprived. The girl in the group picture is the team captain and was single-handedly responsible for the team making Nationals. While my son was off touring colleges, she went out on the last day of qualifications and set off two successful witnessed launches.

One team was all female and each team member had a cute nickname like the Princess of Payload, Engine Empress, and the Diva of Dogbarf. That last nickname was not a slur on her looks, but rather an inside joke about an obscure rocketry accessory. Another team was called 50/50 because half the team was female. Other than that most of the teams had one or two female members if they had any at all.

Team Honeywell (the local sponsors of my kid’s team) drew a late afternoon launch window. By then, the beautiful cool but sunny day had turned a little breezy and a gust of wind right at launch made the rocket fall short of the target altitude. A final score of 69 put them into 57th place, but at least the egg survived unlike the dozen or so teams that disqualified. As good parents we kept insisting that they were winners for just being in the competition, but the kids were disappointed nonetheless.

All-in-all I spent a very pleasant day sitting in a lawn chair in a huge meadow aggravating my hayfever. When the spectators got bored, there was an exhibitor tent filled with a who’s who roster of various cogs in the military-industrial complex. There were colleges like Embry-Riddle and University of Alabama-Huntsville. Plenty of defense contractors were giving out tchotkes. And there were the ubiquitous military recruiters showing off the toys you get to play with if you wear a uniform.

Throughout the day, they were frequent PSA’s about the need for future aerospace engineers. It seems all those NASA era baby boomers are about to retire and the industry needs to fill the ranks. For the awards ceremony, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came out to help hand out over $75,000 in scholarships. Our kids went home empty handed but exhausted.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Name the nerdiest school activity. Extra credit if you took part.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

List Of Lists

I’ve been running across a lot of lists on the internet lately. When I was in grade school, I read The Book Of Lists and its sequels by the Wallace clan and I’m still addicted to that level of trivia. One of my favorite lists lately is Dave Marsh’s The New Book of Rock Lists (which is actually pretty old). Just recently I posted my comments about the Entertainment Weekly List Of Best Science Fiction Movies Of The Past 20 Years. Here are some more lists worth checking out.

25 Books To Make You Look Like A Poseur

The first list I ran across got me angry. It was on a website aimed at recent college grads and was a list of books that would make you look good to have. While the article was called 25 Books That Look Good and Read Even Better, I called it 25 Books To Make You Look Like A Poseur But Might Get You Laid because the while some of the books are good, the reasons they give to have them are so cynical. I’ve read about half the books on the list and I did get a chuckle out of the category called 'Has Anyone Ever Really Finished This?’ because despite my best efforts, I have never finished Gravity’s Rainbow no matter how many times I have started it. And I finally decided that I’m not qualified to even try Ulysses until I go back for that PhD in Literature.

10 Books That Keep Your Seat Clear On The Subway

Christopher Hitchens has a new book out called God Is Not Great. Thanks to the fortuitous death of Jerry Falwell, he has taken the chance to flog this book while letting everyone know what he REALLY thinks of organized religion. This book title inspired Trybecca to list other books guaranteed to get you stares in public. I found the book amusing because I will often try to pick just the right book to read when I am taking a long flight or will be in public. Just yesterday, I had to spend the day at my son’s rocketry contest and I needed a book to read. I’m currently reading Ten Days In the Hills (full report to come during my next BooksFirst post) but since the book is a little racy, I decided to take a science fiction anthology instead.

10 Worst Ten Americans

Captains Quarters is that rarest of animals, a thoughtful and insightful right-wing political blog. It seems there is some sort of wingnut meme out there where you have to name the worst ten Americans of all time. His list is actually well-reasoned and spans four posts that you are welcome to navigate on your own, but his number one pick is very interesting.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Give me some more lists to read.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

...Trapped In A Man's Body

I'm Patty, which ambiguous dyke are you? Quiz by Turi.

I'm not sure I'm that sporty. I feel I am way more Marcie. But this will do.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: And you?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wall To Wall BotBall

Every weekend this month, my son has some sort of activity related to school. My son takes a class where they compete in several local robotics competitions. Pictures from all of these are in this Flickr set.

Because of all of these activities back to back, wife is calling May Nerd Month. This week, we spent all day Saturday at Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland College Park watching my son’s school compete at the regional BotBall competition. For those of you familiar with BattleBots and other Discovery Channel staples, BotBall is the tamer high school cousin. Each year the organizers come up with a bizarre scenario and then teams of kids have to build and program robots to perform the tasks.

This year’s challenge was based on some pineapple plantation motif where the robots among other things had to do any or all of the following to score points:
  • Put cocktail drink umbrellas in little pieces of plastic pipe.
  • Move the plastic pipes into the back area of the field.
  • Put yellow and green fuzzballs into yellow and green cups.
  • Put large blue rubber balls into the cups.
  • Protect the field from orange puffballs that get dropped on the field.
For a full description, you can watch this video.

My son’s team focused on the first two tasks. They had another robot that was a fuzzball sweeper, but it wasn’t quite ready for primetime. As the video shows, the robot does a pretty good job with the pipes and the umbrellas.

By focusing on doing one thing well, the robot was able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen from a field of 42. My second video shows two of the best teams in the semi-finals. The team on the right won because they got both blue balls in the cups even though the other team deflected some of "lava" puffballs.

Nerd Month continues next week as the Rocketry Club goes to the TARC nationals to compete amongst a hundred teams from around the country. More video and pictures to come.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Robots – lame, awesome, or scary?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Baby Blue Blues

Yesterday, Joel Achenbach blogged about the terrors of having a teen driver, which is a very blogworthy topic I will get to someday, but like anything in the Boodle, it veered slightly of-topic into tales of learning to drive and first cars. The first car I drove regularly was a pumpkin orange VW Super Beatle I discuss briefly here and here, but the first car I owned in my own name was a 1979 Toy-auto Corolla.

I had gotten a co-op job in Atlanta but needed some transportation to get back and forth to work since freshman. My dad in sincere generosity (that’s you, flyboy) found me a car and told me to come and get it. I took a sixteen hour bus ride to Tampa and drove it back to Atlanta, the first of many times that car would make that trip.

It was a two-door with a 1200cc engine, black vinyl seats and no air-conditioning. The black-seat/no-AC combo always made a trip to Florida a test in logistics. I either traded fatigue for daylight and drove the eight hours at night or built in extra time to stop at every Dairy Queen on I-75. Several times I investigated adding AC but I think you had to have at least 1.6 liters under the hood to have enough spare horsepower to drive the compressor.

That car went all over the place. I took it to Cherry Hill, New Jersey one year just to mooch some Thanksgiving turkey. It wore ruts in I-85 going back and forth between Atlanta and my wife’s college in western North Carolina. It was on these trips that I learned all the words to every track on Hotel California. One time I ferried four other people at my wife’s college up to an away football in eastern Tennessee. Going up hills on I-40, the speedometer would sag until it bottomed out at about 45 miles per hour. The eighteen wheelers would downshift to pass and honk at me.

After about a year of owning it, I noticed another Corolla in the parking lot whose roof had faded through to the primer was beginning to rust. I got proactive and took the car to Earl Scheib for the any-car any-color special. The dirty secret at Earl’s being that ninety-nine dollars didn’t include colors found on cars in the wild. I picked baby blue, which made my car very easy to find in parking lots.

With the engine being so small and simple, I did most of my own minor repairs. I dutifully changed the oil, distributor cap, and spark plugs as needed. Once right before leaving work for the swingshift run to Tampa, it threw a fan belt. Amazingly, I happened to have a spare in the trunk. I changed it in the parking lot and didn’t even lose any time. For bigger jobs like the water pump, alternator and brake master cylinder, I found a shade tree mechanic that worked for cash. The car was nearly bulletproof.

After three years and 100,000 miles on top of the 50,000 it came with, my beloved car came to an ignoble end. On a rainy morning I was cruising in rush hour traffic to get to class and I hit a huge puddle on I-85. The car bounced off the median jersey wall and spun 540 degrees at it slid across four lanes of traffic and landed facing backwards on the shoulder. The only person I nearly hit was an eight-month pregnant lady on her way to the doctor. She gave me a ride to a pay phone and I had the car towed to a dealer.

They wanted nearly a thousand dollars to replace the bent axle. I made the sad decision to take the car behind the barn. A junk dealer gave me two hundred dollars in cash and a ride back to campus. He claimed he was going to have to break it for parts since there was no market for the nearly indestructible Toyota engines. Three months later, at a traffic light on Buford Highway, I saw a baby blue Corolla with a distinctive rust patch by the trunk key hole. I had been lied to by the junk dealer, but I was glad to see my car back on the road.

Cars hold a special place in a guy’s heart, somewhere between faithful pets and old girlfriends. They may have faults, but they always bring back fond memories. Mine are colored baby blue.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What was your first car and what happened to it?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kool Kinetics

I was back at the Baltimore Museum of Industry again last weekend. This time I was observing my wife's school's entries in the elementary theme park challenge. By an odd scheduling quirk, it was the same day as the American Visionary Art Museum's Kinetic Sculpture Race.

The kids finished their presentation and had a few hours to kill before the awards were presented. Fortunately, that was about the time the sculptures started rolling down the road. These racers have to be human powered and they were so in a number of very inventive ways.


The Platypus Racer was one of the first ones to come by. They really had the spirit of the event with matching costumes. The entourages that rode along with the racers sometimes enormous.


For the next hour a steady parade of racers turned onto Key Highway as the early leg of the race. One of the best racers as far as craftsmanship was Air Farce One.


When the BMI event was over, we moved over to Boston Street near Canton and managed to get an incredible parking spot. I got there in time to catch some of the last racers doing the water portion of the race. This section was perhaps the most challenging. The racer has to go down a boat ramp, float around the dock, and get back up the ramp.


Getting up the ramp was the trickiest part. The ramp was steep and say too many racers didn't have the power or traction to get all the way up. Most required a push and the accompanying time penalty to get onto dry land.


While the bike/boats were getting wet, the other racers were waiting for the next leg. This was a great chance for me to go down the road and get pictures of all the entrants. My favorite was the Wiley Coyote themed racer with all the kinectanauts dressed as the ill-fated predator and one of the crew members all road-runnered up.


I put a bunch more pictures into a Flickr group, so check them out.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is your favorite whacky event?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fedora Adorer

I usually avoid posting pictures of my son out of fear he may someday find them and post embarrassing pictures of me to his Xanga or Facebook or DeviantArt page or whatever social network he is using nowadays. One of the last pictures I posted of him was of him getting his face painted while wearing a jester hat.

For the longest time he has been wanting to get dark blue highlights in his hair. His mother has been steadfast in disallowing this. Lately, he started lobbying for a fedora. We have no idea where this fascination started, but he went so far as to find out where to buy one. It seems a shop at HarbourPlace, Baltimore’s touristy destination at the Inner Harbor, sells all sorts of hats including fedoras, berets, top hats, and those ballcaps with straws that hold two beers. A hat is a far more reversible fashion statement than colored hair.

About a week ago the weather was gorgeous and I decided we hadn’t been tourists in our own town in ages. We went down to the Inner Harbor and paid too much for parking, ate faux Irish food, watched a bad juggler, and wandered around through the crowds.

My son got his fedora and he has been wearing it wherever he can ever since. I do have to admit he makes it work. He actually stood still long enough for me to take this picture with the USS Constellation and the Hard Rock Cafe guitar in the background. Maybe the next picture will be if and when he finally gets those highlights in his hair.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Where do you draw the line with your kid’s fashion statements.

Friday, May 04, 2007

SciFi Countdown

Entertainment Weekly in one of its frequent paeans to its inner geek has compiled a list of the top 25 science fiction movies or series of the last 25 years. The time limit keeps Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back out of the running and the three prequels don’t make the cut. Being a little discriminating and not quite a total a complete nerd, I am only familiar enough with about twelve of the list. Here are my opinions on ones I can give a valid opinion on. Click on the links to see what EW had to say.

24. Galaxy Quest: The best fanboy homage ever. Non-fans can view it as mocking the genre. True believers recognize the truth. The meta-casting of Sigourney Weaver alone is brilliant.

21. Futurama: Unevenly funny. It takes a real shotgun approach to the cultural references by throwing everything against the wall, but only a few things stick.

19. Starship Troopers. Despite it’s attempt at social satire, it’s still a bunch of kids shooting at giant bugs.

18. Heroes: Right now, one of my few must-see shows. The real test will be in Season 2 to see if they can hold the momentum.

15. Firefly/Serenity: Avery good show that suffers from raised expectations by its rather rabid fan base. It’s a very entertaining series, but it’s not THAT good.

13. Terminator/Terminator 2: As a pair, perhaps the best time travel paradox story ever filmed. And plenty of great kick-ass action.

12. Back To The Future: Another excellent time travel story that appeals to all genders and generations. This one was marred instead of enhanced by the sequels.

8. Star Trek: The Next Generation: In quality, breadth, and scope the TNG franchises eclipse TOS. The mid-run episodes (Seasons 3 to 6) were often great 45 minute long mini-movies that were better than most theatrical releases. I prefer Deep Space 9, but I know I’m in the minority. Voyager is where the concept ran out of gas and they should have never attempted Enterprise.

7. ET: A Citizen Kane level work of genius. “Happy” Spielberg at his pinnacle.

5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: I actually prefer ST:IV, but without the second movie showing that a good Star Trek movie can be made, the series would have ended here.

3. Blade Runner: A paradigm shifting work of art direction. The sheer denseness of the look inspired a lot of good (and bad) cyperpunk literature. It’s not often cinematic science fiction affects the written versions this significantly.

2. Battlestar Galactica: The Best Show On Television™. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, it shows what ST:Voyager should have been and then kicks it up another level. For gritty political intrigue and commentary it tops even The West Wing. Season 3 stretched on a little long, but the first three episodes and the season finale are worth the entire season.

1. The Matrix: Another paradigm shifter from a special effects point of view, but not a lot of new grand was broken storywise. The legacy of the original movie will be forever marred by the increasingly awful sequels.

The notable omission on the EW list is Babylon 5. I never watched it enough to become involved in the storyline because the truly dismal acting drove me away. I know Deep Space 9 was a complete rip-off, but the Federation folk did it better. Also missing are Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dark Angel. I guess the editors at EW have something against kick-boxing hotties.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What would you add to the list or demote?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Industry Visionary

Living in the Baltimore/Washington area is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to museums, which sometimes means smaller quirkier places get overlooked. The south side of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has two such places, the Museum of Industry and the American Visionary Art Museum. If you are driving down Key Highway on your way to Fort McHenry you may miss them entirely.

Last Saturday, my son has a competition for an engineering class at the Museum of Industry which is a large converted factory on the waterfront. When the event was over I talked him into going to AVAM to check out the truly bizarre artwork they have there. The juxtaposition made me realize that the two museums had more in common than one would think. Here are some examples:

The Front Door

Large Object In Courtyard

Huge Crane

Abandoned Stuff

Sunken Ship

Ball of Bras

Competition Being Sponsored on May 5

Story Theme Park Ride Challenge
Elementary school kids design and build a theme park ride based on their favorite book. The sculpture must include moving parts showing how the ride works.

The Kinetic Sculpture Race
Art school drop-outs design and build enormous vehicles out of recycled materials that have to go around and across the Inner Harbor without falling apart.

As fate would have it, I will be back at the Museum of Industry this weekend which is along the Kinetic Sculpture course. I hope to get pictures and/or video of both events. Come out and enjoy the fun.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What is your favorite obscure museum?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Books First - April 2007

Books Bought

I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, read by Ethan Hawke

Books Read

Dog Days by Ana Marie Cox
Schrödinger’s Ball by Adam Felber
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel


Since I already own at least one edition of every Vonnegut book, there was nothing I had to run out and buy in the aftermath of the very surprising outpouring after his death. I have had my eye on this unabridged reading of his most celebrated book for awhile, so I finally justified buying it to myself as a grief-reducing splurge.

Back in August, I read Washingtonienne, Jessica Cutler’s roman a clef about her exposure as a floozy working and sleeping on Capitol Hill, occasionally for money. An important character in breaking her story was Ana Marie Cox a/k/a Wonkette, the political gossip blogger. Naturally, Dog Days tells the story of a blogger with questionable morals. Rather than hew tightly to the Washingtonienne script, Cox instead comes up with a tale with a slightly more sympathetic character. Her heroine is working on a presidential campaign but sleeping with a married TV pundit. Her best friend talks her into creating a fictitious slutty blogger to shift the news cycle away from her personal life. Hilarity ensues. Or at least it should have. While the book has plenty of snarky caricatures, the story is a little flat. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the book pulls it’s punches a little in the name of verisimilitude. The characters are real and the inside baseball politics is large plausible. I just expected a little more chaos and a slightly sharper edge.

When I was browsing through the Kendall Square Coop, I ran across Schrödinger’s Ball which is Adam Felber’s mind bending tale loosely based on quantum physics. The book has at least five interlocking stories, one of which is told in the second person plural. When Johnny Felix Decaté kills himself in his grandmother’s basement he sets off a non-deterministic set of events that affect his remaining friends including the hypersexual Debbie and uber-geek Grant who secretly and not too discretely lusts after her. There is also a wacko separatist and a schizophrenic homeless lady. The tone and style is very heavy on the Tom Robbins with just a hint of Vonnegut thrown in. The book finally pulls all the threads together in a clever and satisfying way.

The last time I read a graphic novel, it was a redressed superhero epic. The graphic novel I read this month, Fun House, is way more Angela’s Ashes than Avengers. Alison Bechdel is the author of the long-running and very funny alternative comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Fun House contrasts Alison’s sexual awakening with the discovery of her father’s long closeted homosexuality just before his accidental death. The titular house is the part-time funeral parlor her father runs when not working as an English teacher the local high school. These topics guarantee to be a barrel of laughs. Interspersed into the narrative are long allusions to the works of Proust and Joyce among others. What is most surprising about the book is the pacing. It had a structure and rhythm that added to the bittersweet story. The illustrations are detailed and revealing. She draws herself a little like Mo, my favorite of the DTWOF cast. Watch out for this book and read it if you get a chance.