Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book List 2011

Non-Fiction
  1. Role Models - John Waters
  2. The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean - Susan Casey
  3. Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City - Nelson Johnson
  4. You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story - Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn
  5. Freddie Mercury: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Knew Him Best - Peter Freestone
  6. Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends - Barney Hoskyns
  7. The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe
  8. Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I Went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair - Gary David Goldberg
  9. Just A Geek - Wil Wheaton
  10. Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg
  11. It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) - Duff McKagan
  12. Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny - Nile Rodgers
  13. I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution - Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum
  14. Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” - David Bianculli
Fiction
  1. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
  2. Star Wars: Fool’s Bargain - Timothy Zahn
  3. Star Wars: Survivor’s Quest - Timothy Zahn
  4. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
Trade Paperbacks and Hardcover Collected Editions
  1. My?tery Society - Steve Niles, Fiona Staples
  2. The Last Days of American Crime - Rick Remender, Greg Tocchini
  3. North 40 - Aaron Williams, Fiona Staples
  4. Chew, Volume 3: Just Desserts - John Layman, Rob Guillory
  5. American Vampire, Volume 1 - Scott Snyder, Stephen King, Rafael Albuquerque
  6. Proof, Book 4: Julia - Alexander Grecian and Riley Rossmo
  7. Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars Omnibus - Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck
  8. Star Wars Adventures: Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya - Jeremy Barlow
  9. Marvel Essential: X-Men, Volume 5 - Chris Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith
  10. The Walking Dead, Book Six - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
  11. Dead @ 17: The Witch Queen - Josh Howard
  12. Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures, Volume 3 - Various
  13. Hellboy, Volume 1: Seed of Destruction - Mike Mignola, John Byrne
  14. Avengers: Hawkeye - Mark Gruenwald
  15. Avengers: West Coast Avengers Assemble - Roger Stern
  16. Thor Omnibus - Walt Simonson
  17. Sweet Tooth, Volume 1: Out of the Woods - Jeff Lemire
  18. Empowered, Volume 2 - Adam Warren
  19. Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition, Book Five - Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra
  20. I Kill Giants: Titan Edition - Joe Kelly
  21. Ghost Rider, Volume 1: Vicious Cycle - Daniel Way
  22. Ghost Rider, Volume 2: The Life & Death of Johnny Blaze - Daniel Way
  23. Ghost Rider, Volume 3: Apocalypse Soon - Daniel Way
  24. Ghost Rider, Volume 4: Revelations - Daniel Way
  25. Ghost Rider Omnibus - Jason Aaron
  26. Marvel Essential: X-Men, Volume 6 - Chris Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith
  27. All-Ghouls School - Marc Sumerak, David Bryant
  28. Bomb Queen: Woman of Mass Destruction - Jimmie Robinson
  29. Bomb Queen II: Dirty Bomb - Jimmie Robinson
  30. The Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga - Chris Claremont and John Byrne
  31. The Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past - Chris Claremont and John Byrne
  32. Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher - Jonathan Mayberry and Goran Parlov
  33. The Homeland Directive - Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston
  34. Mystique: Ultimate Collection - Brian K. Vaughan
  35. Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine - Jonathan Mayberry and Laurence Campbell
  36. Fantastic Four Omnibus, Volume 1 - John Byrne
  37. Queen & Country: Definitive Collection, Volume 4 - Greg Rucka
  38. The Walking Dead, Book Seven - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Concert Regrets

One of the things about learning to brew your own beer from somebody is you better get along with them because that first session takes hours! Thankfully, my first brewing session meant I was able to hang out with my buddy Jeff. Killing time in his garage on a brisk Saturday afternoon in early October, sitting around the kettle as my winter spiced ale brewed, the conversation wandered at that nice, familiar pace that only comes from having been friends for over 20 years. Of course, considering our history, music was a big topic of the day, including concert regrets. I have two concert regrets – not shows I wish I’d never seen, but shows I missed.

My Number One with a Bullet is Roger Waters’ Radio K.A.O.S. tour stop
at Blossom Music Center in August of 1987.

It was the summer before my seventeenth birthday, and I was working a couple of jobs, including mowing the lawn at the local community park and busing tables at a crappy restaurant. Up to that point in time, I had only attended two concerts – David Lee Roth the previous fall, and Mötley Crüe earlier in the summer of ’87. I seem to remember it being a combination of my own money management issues and my parents not being all that comfortable with my concert going activities yet as the main reasons I was unable to attend the show. I’m sure the normal teenage notions of independence and arguing with my parents about “freedom” and “space” came into play, too.

I don’t remember who I was even going to go to the show with, but I knew even then that this was a show I really needed to see. And, by all accounts, it was a spectacle. Radio K.A.O.S. wasn’t a huge hit, but it was and still is one of my favo
rite albums. (I did an in-depth piece on it back when I wrote for PopMatters. You can check that out here.) Waters took DJ Jim Ladd on tour with him, and the show was staged as a giant radio show, complete with phone booths set up around the venue for audience members to “call in” and ask questions. Of course, it was never filmed and the likes of it will never be seen again, but, man, I think it would have been amazing.

Of course, a month or so after the Roger Wate
rs show, I did see Boston at the Richfield Coliseum. I’m sure my parents’ fears and my money woes were cast aside because I saw the concert with my older sister, my health teacher (who my sister was dating at the time), and my best buddy Mark. I wouldn’t attend my first concert at Blossom until a year later when I saw The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, and John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band on a triple bill the next summer. And, for what it’s worth, I did see Pink Floyd on their Momentary Lapse of Reason tour in the fall of ’88, so I guess that’s something.

My other concert regret is a little different and much more recent, so the wound is still fresh. Jack has been taking private drum lessons for just over a year now, and he just started up with fifth grade band this school year. He loves percussion, and I’m always eager to share anything I think he’ll appreciate – like The Black Keys, The Who, and Rush.

So when I saw Rush was touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Moving Pictures, I knew I was going to take Jack. I was able to get in on the presale and get us some amazing seats in the lower bowl, stage right, near the stage. I was ridiculously excited. Then, after purchasing the tickets, I realized that there was a good chance we were actually going to be in Hawaii the day of the show.

This was a trip Tracy was trying to earn through work, and you don’t turn down free airfare, five-star hotel accommodations, and all food and entertainment included. I get that, and I was not then, nor am I now, ungrateful for the opportunity to return to the islands and enjoy a fantastic family vacation. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there is a tiny little part of me that is still disappointed that Jack and I didn’t get to share that concert-going experience.


I have seen Rush numerous times throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but this was different. The band was playing Moving Pictures in its entirety, I was taking my kiddo with me, we had killer seats from the pre-sale, and the band was taping the show for release on DVD and Blu-Ray. I have never, to my knowledge, attended a show that has been officially released like that, and even though we weren’t at the show, you damn well better believe that Blu-Ray is on my Christmas list this year!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Living Large

Tony Bennett
29 October 2011: State Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio

So for the third time in ten days, I found myself at the State Theatre in Playhouse Square Sunday night. Playhouse Square is made up of five primary theatres: the Allen, Hanna, Ohio, Palace, and State. Combine those v
enues with all the other options in Northeast Ohio, like the Akron Civic, House of Blues, and EJ Thomas, and it’s pretty remarkable that I would end up at the same place for all three shows.

While not the quite the 3 Shows In 3 Nights endurance marathon Tracy and I embarked on in early 2010, the events I attended this month were certainly as varied. Duran Duran the previous Wednesday with Tracy kicked things off, continuing with the Kathy Griffin show Sunday night with my buddy Alan, and concluding with Tony Bennett Saturday night.


The night began, fittingly, in Little Italy at the Trattoria on the Hill, an institution in the neighborhood that Tracy and I have been to numerous times over the years, just not often enough because of proximity. Located east of downtown Cleveland near University Circle and Case Western Reserve University, Little Italy is a great place to stroll and dine and soak in atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s not really close enough to be convenient enough to just pop over for an afternoon. It is a destination location for us when we have a show or special night out, and we had both Saturday night. The Tony Bennett tickets were a gift to my in-laws for my father-in-law’s birthday.


The in-laws had never been to the Trattoria, so it was fun to share this unique bit of Cleveland with them before heading down Euclid Avenue to Playhouse Square. Bennett’s show was scheduled to start at 8, and a few minutes after the hour the house announcer welcomed us to The Tony Bennett Show and asked us to first greet Antonia Bennett. I don’t think Antonia would be singing professionally if she weren’t opening for her dad. Her short set was disappointing in that it was unexpected and because she clearly did not inherit her Father’s vocal chops. Unremarkable is the nicest way to describe Antonia’s voice. Thankfully, she worked her way quickly through a half-dozen or so standards and brought her dad on stage without an intermission.


Bennett, the elder, has not missed a beat. He perfectly nailed every song through the nearly hour-and-a-half long set. His rendition of “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret was simply stellar, probably my favorite of the night. But matching his song selection was Bennett’s easy banter with the audience. Following his run through of “Cold, Cold Heart”, he told the story of songwriter Hank Williams calling to give him a hard time for “ruining” his song. And Bennett introduced an amazing rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s classic “Smile” by talking about the handwritten note he received from the songwriter thanking him when he recorded the cover.


There was a dedication to Lady Gaga, who performs with Bennett on his Duets II album, and at one point Bennett’s daughter returned to perform a duet with her dad. There were age-appropriate jokes about how the 85-year-old crooner and Rosemary Clooney were the first American idols, and pop music trivia history lessons delivered through tales of his being discovered by Pearl Bailey and how (Clevelander) Bob Hope came up with his professional name.


The crown jewel of the evening, however, was Bennett’s show closing “Fly Me to the Moon”, performed without a microphone while his band quietly backed him. I have extolled the virtues of Playhouse Square’s SmartSeats in the past. Most shows at all of the Playhouse Square venues tend to offer the $10 cheap seats tickets for the last row or two of the theatre, and Tracy and I take advantage of the offer anytime it’s available for a show we want to see. The Tony Bennett Show was no different. You get what you pay for, and we were appropriately seated in the very last row of the auditorium. However, as testament to both Bennett’s vocal ability and the amazing acoustics of the venue, we heard every word, every note, perfectly. The man can sing. Period.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Orienteering

I recently reread Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga. If you’ve read my book, Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan, then you know this was the trade paperback that jumpstarted my long-dormant love of comics. Reading this classic X-Men tale again was a real treat, and I find that each run through of the material yields something new to me. This time, what really struck me was the brilliance of writer Chris Claremont and penciller & co-plotter John Byrne’s work, specifically, the recap on page two of issue #134. It’s preceded by the expected splash page, but by itself the second page is impeccable. The simplicity of it belies the complexity of where we are in the story. It’s both a visual feast of color and a descriptive bit of storytelling to orient the reader. Perfect.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mini Marvels Magic

Jack loves Chris Giarrusso’s G-Man books and his Mini Marvels work (which I’m also a fan of)! So having the opportunity to meet the man in-person at Mid-Ohio Con was a pretty big deal. The kiddo took his copy of G-Man for Giarrusso to sign. Walking away Jack looked inside the book to find that not only did Giarrusso sign it, but he also did a little G-Man sketch in it, too! So the kiddo had to run back to the table to thank him again!

When I saw that Giarrusso was doing 8 ½ by 11 sketches for just $20 a pop, Jack and I talked about it and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I have had Hawkeye on the mind since wrapping up the piece I just wrote for the upcoming s
pring issue of Back Issue magazine, so I knew right away what I wanted. For Jack, who has always loved the three-legged Iron Spider-Man gag in “The Iron Avengers” Mini Marvels story, it was also a no-brainer. We couldn’t be happier with the results!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mid-Ohio Con Quick Recap

I have always heard great things about Mid-Ohio Con, but have never had the chance to attend. It’s now a Wizard World show, but that didn’t stop us from heading south for the day to commune with our comic and geek brethren!

Some highlights…
  • Being at the show with my wife, kiddo, and Alan!
  • Getting to spend time catching up with creator friends like Marc Sumerak and Dean Stahl. (Oh, and Alan picked up a copy of Marc's All-Ghouls School trade paperback, which I read last night. What a fun read that's definitely worth checking out!)
  • Meeting cool creators like Chris Giarrusso (kiddo got his copy of G-Man signed, and we commissioned a couple of great Mini Marvel sketches!), Beck Seashols (talked Star Wars and dachshunds with the fellow native Northeast Ohioan!), Brian Atkins (Robert’s little brother!), and Bill Sienkiewicz (signed my Elektra Omnibus!), among others.
  • Running into so many fellow POP! Comic Culture Club members throughout the day.
  • Filling some holes in my ROM run from the back issue bins.
  • Watching my wife turn to goo while meeting James Marsters (and getting to meet him myself – he was a really cool guy).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Like a Birthday or a Pretty View

Duran Duran
19 October 2011: State Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio

I have had Duran Duran’s new album in heavy rotation for months now. I love All You Need Is Now as much as any of their classic stuff. Completely against the cultural norm, I have been listening to the entire album as opposed to just the singles, whereas, back in the day I focused primarily on their hits. The result is All You Need Is Now has become one of my all-time favorite Duran Duran albums and one that I know every song from top-to-bottom.

Tracy and I have been excited about the show since we bought the ticket
s, so much so that I even convinced Jeff and Anna to pick up tickets when we got together for some home brewing a few weeks ago. Although we weren’t seated together, they were just in the next section over, so we got to hang out when we arrived, after Neon Trees’ opening set, and immediately following Duran Duran’s show. A good concert experience with good friends is hard to beat, and that’s just what we got as Adam & Jeff’s ’80s Alternative Rewind Adventure rolled on Wednesday night!

The celebrating throng was evenly distributed between men and women, and none of the guys in the audience looked like they were there under duress. The entire crowd was appreciative of the show, rising to their feet when the house lights first dimmed a few minutes after 9, and the only time they sat back down was during the brief mid-set “Tiger Tiger” instrumental off of Seven and the Ragged Tiger, giving lead singer Simon Le Bon’s voice a rest.


It’s hard to find any complaints at all with the song selection. I
would call it perfect; Tracy would have liked to have heard “Girls On Film”. Seven of the twenty-song set were pulled from All You Need Is Now, and those cuts really shone. The title track and “Girl Panic!”, my two favorite tracks off of the new album, may not eclipse the classic stuff, but they certainly matched those songs with their hooks, delivery, and energy.

I was startled by how powerful and moving
“Come Undone” was live. The other big surprise was just how damn fun “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise” was. Off of 2004’s Astronaut, it’s a song I’ve never paid much attention to, but it was a raucous main set closer!

My two favorite classic Duran Duran songs – “A View to a Kill” and “The Reflex” – were expected highlights that absolutely delivered, but, honestly, none of their definitive stuff fell short. “Is There Something I Should Know?”, “Careless Memories”, “Notorious”, “Hungry Like the Wolf” were all second half highlights. And the encore was above reproach: “Wild Boys” with a bit of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s classic “Relax” mixed in, and “Rio”.


My only complaint on the night: We were in the first row of the upper balcony, and the static stage backlights were seemingly aimed right at us. My eyes still hurt the next morning from staring straight into the blinding lights for two hours.

Although Tracy has seen Duran Duran before, 13-year-old her was still squealie and happy, and I had an amazing time. The combination of good friends, an excellent current album of material to work with, raw energy, an in-the-moment crowd, and a perfect song selection made for a great night!

(All photos by Tracy Besenyodi.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saving 12-Year-Old Me from the Avengers

Twelve-year-old me is positively beside himself about the Avengers movie coming next spring. And, I have to admit, 41-year-old me is pretty excited about it, too. I have never done an opening night, midnight screening of a movie, but I told Tracy and Jack when we left the theater after seeing Captain America that I am all about it for the Avengers premiere!

The interwebs and Twitterverse were abuzz last week when the first official trailer for Avengers was released. I was so excited when I finally hit the “play” button on my iPad, but, if I’m honest with myself, I was ultimately pretty let down by it.



There were three things that played against it for me...

First, the bulk of the trailer’s action sequences consisted of the explosions filmed in Cleveland this summer. When director Joss Whedon and his crew descended on Northeast Ohio earlier this year the Avengers hype reached a pretty high mark. I was fortunate enough to hear all kinds of cool behind the scenes details about the big budget production from a fellow POP! club member who was an extra during filming, and I don’t think I know anyone who avoided long and short clips of the action filmed here playing on the local news and YouTube months ago.

Second, the use of Nine Inch Nails’ “We’re in this Together” off 1999’s The Fragile felt horribly out of place. It was similar to my reaction rewatching the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie recently: The soundtrack dated the movie horribly. My affection for Nine Inch Nails, though deep, apparently does, in fact, know bounds.

Finally, there’s the thing that really rubbed me completely the wrong way about the trailer: Samuel L. Jackson’s first line in the trailer as Nick Fury is the answer to Agent Coulson’s off screen question, “What do we do?” And instead of a “We kick some ass!” or “We defend Earth!” or any number of bad ass quips you could hope for, you get a completely neutered, “We get ready.”

Wait.

What? We just... get ready?!

Every time I hear that line, it’s delivered in my head in Eddie Murphy’s mocking-the-up-tight-black-cop “You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe” voice from Beverly Hills Cop.



Now, I realize this is a “getting the band together” movie, and the overall theme of it probably is actually about, well, getting ready… the heroes we’ve seen in all the other great Marvel movies being gathered by S.H.I.E.L.D. and preparing for battle against this movie’s Big Bad. But, man, I really expected more badassery out of the gate when Nick Fury first opens his mouth.

I guess I need to avoid any more promotional hype for this juggernaut whenever I can, for my sake and the sake of 12-year-old me who really, really wants to love this movie.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Deus ex Comica November Author Visit

Seems like forever since I last did an author visit, but when the North Canton Library reached out to me to do a reading from Deus ex Comica and talk about the writing process, my self-publishing experience, and comics in general, I couldn't pass it up.

What better way to celebrate a new comics Wednesday than by coming out to the North Canton Library, located at 185 North Main Street, on November 2, and supporting a local author and the local library system?

The program will start at 6pm with some prepared thoughts and selected readings from Deus ex Comica, followed by an open discussion. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Play Along with the Charade

Rick Springfield
04 September 2011: Akron Civic Theatre, Akron, Ohio

Let’s get this out of the way up front: I love Rick Springfield’s music. Love it. It’s of a time, but I’m ok with that. And, as I have said before, “Jessie’s Girl” might be the single greatest Power Pop song ever recorded.

Without having an older sister, I doubt I would have ever gotten into Rick Springfield. She was getting out of high school as I was just starting middle school, so the age difference was always a factor between us, but there are certain artists and songs that remind me of her. I remember her going to see Springfield in concert back in the day at least a couple of times (and thinking it was cool that Corey Hart was the opening act for one of thos
e shows). When I told my sister that Tracy and I were going to the show, her reaction was first, “He’s still touring?” And second, “Does he have enough songs to fill an entire set?”

Maybe my expectations were too high, but, I mean, come on! It’s Rick fucking Springfield! All he has to do is come out, play his greatest hits collection, and everyone leaves satisfied. How do you screw that up?!


I guess the answer is by opening with a 2007 non-album track that only the die-hards will know. Hello, ironically named “Who Killed Rock
N’ Roll”! You follow that up with a couple of decent tracks off 1983’s Living in Oz (“Affair of the Heart” and the title track), then play a cover song (I dig Paul McCartney, but if I want to hear “Jet” I’ll listen to a Wings album), and a track off his 2008 album called “What’s Victoria’s Secret?” (seriously).

But then came Mr. Springfield’s most egregious error of the night: the mid-set MegaMix
. Five songs into the show, he rips through the choruses of eight of his hits in a horrible, giant mashup. “I Get Excited”, “Bop ‘Til You Drop”, “Celebrate Youth”, “Calling All Girls”, “Jessie’s Girl” (just a one line teaser), “Don’t Walk Away”, “State of the Heart”, and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” were all represented. Tracy and I were dumbfounded, and rightfully worried we weren’t going to hear those songs again that night in anywhere close to their complete form.

Coming out of this bizarre A.D.D. warp, he played “I’ve Done Everything for You” (yea), “Venus in Overdrive” (which I’m pretty sure is about his sexual addiction – meh), “Rock of Life” and “Love Is Alright Tonight” (almost back on track), and some unknown Blues tune (which I’ve since realized was Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” – but, another cover? really?!).


On paper, looking at how he wrapped up the main set might make you think he finished strong, but you’d be mistaken. I get that he has a shtick, and that he does it every show, but going into the crowd and passing the mic among very drunk women in their late 40s to badly sing “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is just a really bad idea.


“Love Somebody” was good, and “Human Touch” was... um, interesting as he waded into the first ten or so rows of the main floor seating area. “Jessie’s Girl” closed the main set, but by then we were almost too disillusioned by the previous 75 minutes of music to even enjoy it. And the distraction of the myriad drunken women hoisting themselves on stage and onto Springfield got old quick. (This coming from someone who’s seen Tom Jones in concert. Twice!)


The band returned for an encore. Unfortunately, we have no idea what the first song even was, and the second song was an album cut from Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet that neither Tracy nor I recognized until we looked it up.


Driving home from the show, Tracy and I continued to marvel over our disappointment. Tracy said the show wasn’t as bad as the one we saw Huey Lewis put on in Maui this Spring (a show we didn’t pay to see, or particularly want to see, but that I probably need to write about sometime), but it also wasn’t as good as the one the Limousines’ put on as an opening act back on Memorial Day weekend.


I told Tracy that there’s just no reason for him to put on a bad show, but he somehow managed to do it. And maybe that’s why his star didn’t continue to burn as brightly as it once did in the ’80s and why he’s not a superstar now.


And the MegaMix
really honked me off more than it probably should, but, damn. Just play the songs, Rick.

(All photos by Adam and Tracy Besenyodi.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cosplay Vigilantism

I finally had an opportunity to watch the documentary Superheroes on HBO this week. I also read my friend Will’s write-up on the movie, and I think he was far too easy on the filmmaker and his subjects. What these people are doing is dangerous. They are endangering themselves, the people around them in public when they attempt to fight crime, and potentially their families and loved ones.

Nearly all of the subjects had a history of having been physically abused, witnessed physical abuse, or a personal account of drug abuse and/or violence. I would have preferred the filmmaker explore the psychological issues that may have led these people to put on a costume and, oftentimes, hide behind a mask and attempt to fight crime. The impact this pursuit has had on the “heroes” real life – day jobs, relationships, family – would have been far more interesting than following them on “patrols.”

The obvious path these people should be taking is to follow a career in law enforcement, but given the histories of many of these “heroes,” that simply isn’t a viable option. But there are other opportunities to do good in one’s community instead of the bait-patrol tactics some of these folks use. The Jewish hero calling himself “Life” in NYC and the couple in Portland, Oregon – Zetaman and Apocalypse Meow, didn’t come off as superheroes so much as people reaching out to their respective homeless communities while wearing costumes.


While San Diego’s Mr. Xtreme seems to have his heart in the right place in his attempts to raise awareness of violent crimes and sex criminals, I think it was stunningly irresponsible of the Deputy Mayor to honor this “superhero” and provide a forum for him to promote his activities. Mr. Xtreme’s parents were compelling in their disapproval of their son’s hobby, and Apocalypse Meow was fascinating in that when her significant other revealed his Zetaman hero identity to her she protested, then not only enabled him, but has joined him.


By definition, vigilantes believe their government/police force is ineffective, and many of these “heroes” expressed that exact sentiment as motivation behind their pursuit. Superheroes could have been a fascinating psychological exploration and a cautionary tale, instead it comes off as a confused film that can’t decide if it wants to glorify a group of vigilantes or mock them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

POP! Life

When I first got back into comics I frequented a few online forums. I made some good friends from all over the world and getting to see them is what makes going to cons so great these days. But there are the other folks on forums that make things unpleasant hiding behind their inflated egos, careless derision, and safe anonymity. Those people, along with a very busy family life and a job that involves travel, have moved any kind of online forum activity completely off my priorities list. But POP!: The Comic Culture Club is a different animal.

Back in February, in the middle of the day, I saw a tweet from Marc Sumerak about a local comic club meeting taking place that evening in Parma Heights. Literally, the day of the first meeting, I heard about it and decided to take a chance. I had met Marc on a couple of occasions (and even wrote about the first time we met in my book Deus ex Comica – page 113 for those of you playing along at home) and knew him to be a good guy, so I figured I’d give it a go.

I love the openness of the group – even at that first meeting, it was obvious that most everyone else in the room knew each other previously, but I never felt like an outsider. And even though there are clear “Marvel” and “DC” lines drawn among the group, there is no animosity or mean-spiritedness about the discussion. The conversations are often more about curiosity (“Tell me what DC did with this” or “Hey, how did Marvel handle a similar situation” kind of talk) than anything even remotely resembling trash talk. I think that’s a credit to how Marc and fellow club organizer Jae Fitch established the meetings from the get-go. That I could say I’d never read the Death of Superman or fellow club member Dave could say he’d never read Miller’s Daredevil run and no one goes into over-the-top histrionics is a testament to the sincerity of the group.


I have no problem making time once every couple of weeks to drive 40 minutes each way to meet up with some likeminded people to talk about a culture we love for a couple of hours. POP! is like having the best of all worlds – the comic-centric discussions of forums without the snark and the great face-to-face interaction of hanging out at a comic shop or con.

Having said all that, life does sometimes get in the way of comics. I did pretty good making the first few months’ worth of meetings, but work travel and family obligations do still take priority when scheduling conflicts arise. While these are all very good reasons to miss POP! meetings, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss being a part of this great community when I have to skip a gathering.


Most meetings begin with an open forum on current events – a newly released comic-based movie or trailer, whatever comic-related news is the current hot topic, or maybe a follow-up thought from the previous meeting, or anything else on your mind. From there, the conversation moves to the chosen main topic of the night. Themes are just specific enough to generate conversation, but generally broad enough to never feel too confining. Past topics include Death in Comics, Cosmic Comics, Genre Comics, and Comic Worlds. Upcoming meetings will focus on Legendary Battles, Superheroes without Super Powers, Anti-Heroes, and more.


I want this club to see continued success, which is why I do what I can to promote the group on the web and in conversations and try to recruit new members wherever possible. As a direct result of the meetings, I’ve gotten to know Marc better. It’s also been great to reconnect with my other buddy Mark (who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years prior to getting him to show up to a POP! Club meeting!) and meeting Chuck from Star Joes podcast (who I’d never met in person, but had been corresponding with and trying to coordinate meeting for over a year). And there are people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet exclusively through the club, like Jason and the aforementioned Dave, who I have tremendous respect for and see as the DC yin to my Marvel yang.


Over the months I’ve watched our club grow from a handful of us at that first meeting to upwards of two-dozen attendees each meeting. Gatherings officially run from 7 to 8:30 on designated Wednesday evenings, but conversations invariably linger until the library closes at 9. It was obvious from almost the very beginning an “after-meeting” venue was necessary to keep the conversation going into the night, and the post-meeting gatherings around town are a good thing.


But with all this interpersonal contact, that’s all not to imply there isn’t an online presence for the club. There is an official Twitter feed and, although I’m not on Facebook, there is a Facebook group. I’m hopeful we can get a lot of the members on Google+ soon, too, because I think the circles and huddles concepts lend themselves beautifully to what this club is all about and would be another way to be an active part of the club between meetings. There has been talk of recording meetings for a podcast, but I think by virtue of our size that probably just isn’t a realistic option any more (a happy problem to have outgrown the idea already).


I recognize that among comic cities, New York, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon, seem to be the hotspots, but with POP! I like to think we’re carving out our own respectable, organized community of comic book fans and professionals here in Northeast Ohio. Everyone’s welcome!



POP! Summer 2011 Schedule


August 03: “Fight of the Century: Legendary Battles”

* Parma South Library (7335 Ridge Rd., Parma)


August 17: “Rise of the Everyman: Superheroes Without Superpowers”

* ParmaTown Denny’s (8111 Day Dr., Parma)


August 31: “I Walk The Line: Vigilantes and Anti-Heroes”


September 14: “Toys! Adventure in the Palm of Your Hand”


September TBA: “POP!Corn Movie Night”


October 19: “How to Make Comics (The Sumerak Way!)”


POP!: The Comic Culture Club meetings take place from 7-8:30pm at the Parma Heights Public Library (6206 Pearl Rd, Parma Heights) unless otherwise noted. All meeting dates are Wednesdays (new comic day!).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Revolution

I didn’t actually see MTV when it debuted on August 1, 1981. Oh, I’d heard about it. I had friends in the next town over who had it, and I’d seen the “I want my MTV” ads (but that must have been while at my friends’ houses because I have to think that was a basic cable ad).

When I finally saw MTV, it was at my buddy Dave’s. I can picture his parents’ house and just where the television was positioned and the feeling of hanging out there. And I remember the very first video I saw at his house: Saga’s “On the Loose”. It was pretty typical fare for early MTV, a basic performance shoot interspersed with a literal (and somewhat pedestrian) prison break storyline. But that was my first, and it did exactly what the corporate music industry wanted it to: It prompted me to buy Saga’s Worlds Apart album on cassette tape (my first – I’d bought 8-tracks up to that point).

There are all kinds of retrospectives about MTV turning 30, and I remember how revolutionary the station really was in the early ’80s once we actually got basic cable in our house and could watch the artists come to life in short-form anytime I wanted. And I remember the release of the “Thriller” video being an event, and watching the channel’s coverage of Live Aid, and witnessing the beginning of the end for MTV as a music video channel with the debut of Remote Control and the final nail in that coffin a few years later with the premiere of Real World. But it’s the personal details that frame the larger cultural touchstones and bestow importance upon them, and a previously unheard of and long since forgotten Saga is among those particulars for me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Who We Used To Be

Nine Inch Nails
27 June 2006: Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor is a folk hero in these parts. A musician friend of mine once observed, “Everybody in Northeast Ohio has a Trent story.” And she’s right. My wife has hers (tales of Trent dating her best friend and of watching Trent play in his garage), I have mine (memories of Trent frequenting the record shop I worked at, bringing in and playing demos of what would become Pretty Hate Machine) and our friends have theirs. Even now, over 20 years after he arrived in Cleveland, Reznor’s impact on the local music landscape is as legendary as the way he changed the face of industrial music on a global scale. Given all that history, when he plays here, the shows seem to be about more than just the music.

I have seen Nine Inch Nails in concert more times than I can count, and all of them at assorted hole-in-the-wall Cleveland bars and venues in support of Pretty Hate Machine in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The debut album was a perfect storm: The fury and passion behind the lyrics mixed with a completely different sound that bled into my world; I found it at a time when I was also discovering new sides of myself. The album came along at just the right time to be the single most influential collection of songs in my life before or since. For that reason, I originally approached Reznor’s homecoming show with reservation. But at the urging of my wife, and the opportunity to see Goth godfathers Bauhaus, I was persuaded.


And when Bauhaus strolled on stage amid fog machines and white light for their hour-long set, I knew I had made the right decision. It was strange to see the founders of the Goth movement playing while the sun was still up. The rains and humidity had created real fog just off to the left of the amphitheater stage, carrying the theatrics into the crowd of Goth girls in black prom dresses and punks who weren’t around when Bauhaus originally formed. We were close enough to the stage to see the band well, but far enough away to preserve my original images of the group in their heyday.


Songs like “Double Dare”, “In the Flat Field”, “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores”, and the one-two closers “Stigmata Martyr” and “Dark Entries” all sounded as fresh as they do on 1982’s live effort, Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape. Thoughts of an album of new material danced through the heads of the faithful as the new tunes, “Adrenaline” and “Endless Summer of the Damned”, were unveiled -- although the latter was slight on substance and long on cliché (as evidenced by the title), even for these guys.


The sibling rhythm section of Kevin Haskins and David J carried the show, and you could feel the muscular beats pulsing in your chest. Peter Murphy’s singing was spot on, and he sounded every bit the English gentleman, even as he bitched out the lighting people from the stage – pointing out the differences between left and right and telling them not to fuck it up again. Daniel Ash, sporting a white shag carpet vest and oversized bug-eye sunglasses, was the consummate glam rock guitarist. And his on-stage shtick was the same as it was 25 years ago – stalking the stage, playing guitar on his knees, and punctuating songs with his saxophone skronk.


During Bauhaus’ set, the rains stopped and the temperature dropped. Blossom’s lawn took on mudslide qualities and visions of Reznor’s infamous Woodstock appearance were replaying in my mind. Although the mosh pit in front of the stage was complemented nicely by a mud pit at the base of the sloping lawn, a recreation of the literal mud-slinging of that ’94 incident never materialized here. Shortly after sunset, the house lights dimmed, and the deafening roar of the crowd was supplanted by the slow build of “Somewhat Damaged” – the first of five songs off of 1999’s The Fragile. (The song selection was the most curious aspect of the show. Apart from the new song, “Non Entity”, the band only played three songs off of the support album, With Teeth, and three off of the critical and popular darling, The Downward Spiral. Four songs each were played off of Pretty Hate Machine and the stop-gap Broken EP.)


Hearing songs that I had never previously experienced live was a treat. The folding cage of lights that was lowered and raised throughout the show was partially down during “Closer” – where the center section slowly “filled” with red Matrix-style dashes and blips of light, but it was the funky workout of Broken’s “Suck” towards the end of the set that really stood out. The touring band, which includes Jordie White (formerly Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson’s band) and Josh Freese (who has played with Akron’s Devo), allowed the song to retain its aggressive nature while stretching and breathing in a groove.


While “Hurt” was an expected showstopper, it exceeded expectations. Reznor was exposed, alone on keyboards, and it was as intimate as any of the 100-listener shows I saw him perform over two decades ago. Something about the ringing piano and Reznor’s melodies never seem quite right, they always seem broken – musically, emotionally. Although the song isn’t a sing-along, per se, the crowd made it one in the most reverential of ways and as the band came in at the end for a beautiful slow burn, there was nothing left but passion.


Of the new songs, “Only” could be the next “Down In It”. From its emphasis on synthesizers to Reznor’s more-rapping-than-singing approach to the “tiniest little dot” lyrical reference, the song is a throwback to the Pretty Hate Machine material.


Things got arena-rock clichéd, though, during the chorus, when too-clever lighting took the focus off the band and put it on the crowd during “There is no you” and reversed the effect during the “There is only me” lines. The clap-along to “The Hand that Feeds” also treaded the cliché, but that is today’s Nine Inch Nails – including a Reznor who has transformed himself from skinny kid into Henry Rollins’ little brother, complete with ’roid-y muscles, sleeveless shirts, and a buzz cut.


Although I understand what Reznor has done with his music (and image, for that matter), I have had a love/hate relationship with him since the early days, when he wrote the soundtrack for my life and then turned around and marketed it to frat boys. And “The Hand that Feeds” almost seems like an acknowledgement, an apology for it – “What if the whole crusade’s a charade / And behind it all there’s a price to be paid... Just how deep do you believe? / Will you bite the hand that feeds?... Are you brave enough to see it? / Do you want to change it?” – wrapped in a neat industrial-pop package, of course.


This night, it was the Pretty Hate Machine cuts that were the most amazing. I had forgotten how powerful these songs are when played live. The synths of “Something I Can Never Have” were mixed behind the chest-rumbling bass and stripped-bare vocals, complete with a cough by Reznor that made it all the more real. Synths poked through the guitars’ wall of sound like glass stabbing at skin on “Down In It”, and the party spun out of control during the set closing “Head Like a Hole”. Ferocious, angry, exhilarating. Hands and voices were raised as one: “Bow down before the one you serve!” The crowd noise was deafening as the house lights came up, the cage lowered, and the “NIN” logo was flashed in lights on it. No need for an encore.


Regardless of the mixed up nostalgia and confusion that accompanies growing older and watching your heroes do the same, everything about this show felt right. And between songs, Reznor summed it all up perfectly when he told the crowd, “It’s good to be home. All grown up.”


(Edited versions of this piece have been published by PopMatters and Field’s Edge.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Setting Sail

Disney Live in Concert – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, with the Blossom Festival Orchestra and Chorus (Conducted by Richard Kaufman)
16 July 2011: Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga
Falls, Ohio

Summer in Ohio. If you can stand the humidity, it can be pretty amazing. Bike rides, hiking, lightening bugs, farmers markets, and outdoor concerts. Nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Blossom Music Center has been around since 1968 and the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra for all those years. Although I was originally exposed to Blossom through contemporary music acts, in the years since returning to Northeast Ohio, we have enjoyed the orchestra in their summer home on numerous occasions, like seeing and hearing them score Looney Tunes on the big screens and attending Star Wars in Concert. And this past Saturday night, the orchestra provided the full underscore to a screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Say what you will about the sequels (because, boy,
are they hard to watch), the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie is clever and funny and intense and full of action! We were very excited to have a family night out to experience one of our favorite movies at one of our favorite venues in such a unique way.

When you attend a rock concert at Blossom
, you aren't allowed to bring anything into the amphitheater and are searched and bags are inspected and the whole nine. When you attend a Cleveland Orchestra Blossom Festival event you are encouraged to bring your own food and drink (yes, alcohol, too), come early to picnic, and are never searched and no bags are ever checked. Oh, and kids under 18 are FREE. So, we had a light early dinner, and packed up some cheese and crackers, grapes and plums, some bottled water, a couple bottles of Longboard, mixed drinks, some folding chairs, blankets, and a Frisbee, and headed out to Blossom around 7 for the 9pm show.

Divided between pavilion and lawn, Trac
y and I generally prefer pavilion for rock concerts and lawn for orchestra shows. It's nice to spread out with your blankets and lawn chairs and coolers and enjoy a night under the stars. The lawn was moderately full at 7:30, and was jam-packed by 9, but we had a sweet spot where we could see one of the jumbo screens and the orchestra doing its thing on stage. The kiddo and I killed time between our arrival and show starting by heading over to the north lawn to toss the Frisbee around among the other attendees with their footballs and baseballs and volleyballs and such.

By the time we made our way back to Tracy and our spot on the lawn, the late-day humidity was pretty thick (especially after chasing a Frisbee around for half an hour!), but nothing a beer for me and bottle of water for the kiddo couldn't cure.


Just as Mother Nature provided her own dramatic “dimming of the house lights,” we broke out our glow sticks, and the show began right on time. The mosquitoes never bothered us, although there was a nip in the air after the sun w
ent down. It was a damp chill that must’ve had as much to do with the humidity as the temperature, but we had blankets and each other to help stay comfortable.

The orchestra was amazing, as always. Tracy and I ended up commenting throughout the entire weekend how amazing it is to realize the music was being played right there in front of us while we watched one of our favorite movies! With the intermission, the movie didn’t wrap up until nearly midnight, but the late night was absolutely worth any exhaustion we felt Sunday. The score for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is so iconic and recognizable; it was a natural fit for an exercise like this, and a perfect way to spend a summer Saturday night in Northeast Ohio.

(All photos by Adam and Tracy Besenyodi.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Generic Blog Post

I love hanging out with John. And a few Saturday’s ago, we had some time free of family responsibilities and decided to meet up at the Hartville Flea Market. It’s in the town where we grew up and, although it lacks the charm it held when we were younger, it can still yield the random, unexpected treasure.

Working our way through the stalls, we found a vendor selling comics. As I flipped through row after row of bagged and boarded single issues, I stumbled on Marvel’s Generic Comic Book. When I pulled it out of the longbox and held up the stark black and white cover, John glanced over at it and then me and asked if I’d ever seen that comic before. I answered, “no,” gobsmacking him right alongside me. It’s cover dated 1984 – clearly right in my wheelhouse, but remained under my radar for nearly 30 years!

I’m not naive enough to believe I know every Marvel comic of the era, but their quirky one-offs and stunt publishing endeavors always seemed to h
old particular sway over me. Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men. Marvel Tails, Starring Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. Marvel Team-Up #74 between Spider-Man and the Not Ready For Prime Time Players. The adaptation of the TV show Sledge Hammer. The entire Assistant Editors’ Month run. (A collection of comics I adore so much, I devote an entire chapter of my book, Deus ex Comica, to the event!) But Generic Comic Book was an unknown quantity.

The price was right, so I decided to give it a go. I pulled it out of the taped-shut bag when I got home, and found no writing or art credits in it, only a “Stan Lee presents” banner across the splash page. I’m ok with that, actually. I mean, it’s generic, so nameless seems appropriate. It took some digging online, but the ever-reliable Comic Book Database tells me that Steve Skeates wrote the book and Larry Hama edited it. No idea who drew it, though.


According to the interwebs, Skeates worked for the legendary Warren Publishing in the 1970s (Creepy, Eerie, etc.), then wrote Generic Comic Book after being out of the industry for a brief time. One story claims Hama asked Skeates to write the book and that led to him getting the writing gig for the Peter Porker ongoing of 1984 that spun out of that Marvel Tails mentioned earlier.


As I was sitting down to read the book, a few thoughts swirled through my head... I wondered if the contents would be geared towards my 13 year-old self, or if it would be a more sophisticated satire that my present, adult self would better appreciate. Turns out, neither version of me found it all that remarkable. Even though I didn’t feel the book succeeded (the story wasn’t particularly entertaining and the art was dodgy throughout), maybe it actually did. I mean, maybe it’s entirely appropriate for a generic comic book to be somewhat bland and to play broad.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reclaiming the Past

At various points throughout Super 8 I asked myself, "Is this movie better than E.T.?"

Where E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial was my childhood world in real-time, Super 8 was still just a recreation of my youth through the clever use of childhood artifacts. That's not to say Super 8 is derivative. An homage? Yes. A love letter to the imprint Spielberg left on our collective childhood? Absolutely. But it stands on its own, rarely trying to be too clever; trading on its 1979 authenticity for a cheap nod-and-wink only once with some brief, non-essential (and unfortunately anachronistic) dialog about the Walkman.


With Super 8, writer-director J.J. Abrams has reclaimed the ’70s. Not as the camp joke it has become in our shared memory through disco, bell-bottoms, and That ’70s Show, but as it really felt when we were living it, unassumingly woven into the fabric of everyday lives.


From start to finish, Super 8 enveloped me. I knew the smell of Joe’s bedroom and the feel of Charles’ family’s kitchen. The familiarity of small town Ohio and the freedom of spending summer on your bike were as tangible here as they were my everyday reality 30 years ago. Abrams somehow captured the wonder of a late ’70s Midwestern childhood, fused it with Spielbergian tropes (like a single-parent household and extra-terrestrial elements), and came up with something so authentic, so genuine, it transcends the sentimental.


So, is Super 8 better than E.T.? I can only seem to answer the question this way: E.T. was the perfect movie for 11 year-old me, just as Super 8 – cut from the same cloth in terms of story, tone, and execution – is the perfect version of E.T. for 40 year-old me.


When the credits began to roll at the end of Super 8, Tracy turned to me and said, "That was awesome." Plastered to my theater seat with a nostalgic lump in my throat, I knew what she meant.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who's Crazy?

Next to Normal
16 June 2011: Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio

We were fortunate enough to have my oldest son, Mikee, up to visit with us last week. He is a huge fan of the theatre and all that goes with that world. And his favorite musical not so coincidentally was playing at the Palace Theatre the same week – Next to Normal.

Tracy and I had never seen the production and didn't know what to expect beyond it being a musical dealing with the very serious issue if mental illness. I think it's safe to say we were both blown away.


The show traces the emotional journey of a family trying to deal with a wife and mother who suffers from bipolar disorder (Diana, played by Kent State University grad Alice Ripley). Of the characters, my favorites were the husband/father (Dan) and the daughter (Natalie). The husband because I could relate to him – not because my wife or our family has been touched by this sickness, but because the struggle he endured trying to be that rock and maintain some kind of normal family structure is something with which I could identify.


The daughter was a heartbreaking character, treading delicately between scared girl and complete bitch. This balance was never more exposed than when you realized just how scared Natalie is – selfishly and honestly – at the realization that she could turn out just like her mom.


Among the various “Broadway Buzz” events Playhouse Square offers is Thursday night post-show chats with the cast. Immediately following the performance, we made our way down to the main floor for the dialog with the Emma Hunton (“Natalie”), Caitlin Kinnunen (understudy for “Natalie”), Pearl Sun (standby for “Diana”), Preston Sadleir (“Henry”), Bryan Perri (Musical Director), and Rachel Zack (Stage Manager). It was an interesting half-hour Q&A that theatre major Mikee ate up.


Next to Normal is not "feel good" theatre, having more in common with Spring Awakening and Rent than Mamma Mia! or Chicago. Not every Broadway musical is or needs to be a Mel Brooks or Disney adaptation. There is a place for this kind of serious and deeply sensitive art, and when done right it can hit every emotionally raw nerve while still being entertaining and satisfying.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Perfect

Midday yesterday I tweeted that it was "Pretty much a perfect day so far."

Tracy and I took the day off work to hang out with the kiddo and my oldest son, Mikee, who's been visiting this week.

We went out for a late breakfast at First Watch, and while there Tracy and I ordered tickets to take my father-in-law to go see Tony Bennett this Fall.


Then it was off to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where we spent a few hours of the gorgeous day marveling at the Blue Heron rookery and hiking the Ledges, the Octagon, and Brandywine Falls. Refreshingly cool under the canopy of trees and among rock formations that were moved into place by glaciers h
undreds of thousands of years ago, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Country Maid Ice Cream was all that we needed for lunch – kid’s-sized chocolate peanut butter scoop in a cake cone, thankyouverymuch!

We made a couple of stops on the way back to the house, and I snuck in a quick nap while everyone was getting cleaned up for dinner and the evening.


Then it was fabulous sushi at House of Hunan on the square in Medina that was accidentally but perfectly timed with getting to the theater in time for the 6:40 screening of Super 8.


After the movie, the boys discovered the Star Wars marathon on Spike, while Tracy wrapped some Father's Day gifts, and I began capturing my thoughts on seeing Next to Normal the night before and Super 8 that night.


Yesterday felt like a whole weekend in one day, but never rushed or over-planned. We rolled with each other and the weather and were rewarded with a perfect day. They can't all be, but yesterday was.