Thursday, November 27, 2008

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Gratitude Times Five

I can scarcely believe this is the fifth edition of our annual alphabetical outpouring of TurkeyFest appreciation here at SSTOL. There were moments when we didn't think we'd live to see this day. But here we are, on the fourth Thursday of another cool, misty Wine Country November, celebrating the kindnesses that the good grace of the Almighty has brought us since last we tallied. Let's launch into this year's 26 nuggets of thankfulness, what say?

America's Test Kitchen
. Thanks to bow-tied Christopher Kimball and his charming, cheerful staff of foodies, I can pretend that I actually know how to cook.

Bombshells!, my gallery of Golden Age superheroines masquerading as vintage bomber nose art pinup girls. Thanks to all of the artists who created new Bombshells! for me this year: Dan Veesenmeyer, Gene Gonzales, Anthony Carpenter, Terry Beatty, Jeffrey Moy, and my friend Bob Almond.

ClubUBT, the online poker and blackjack room where I'm exercising my cardplaying muscles these days. It'll still be legal after the dimwits in Congress ban every other avenue.

Dr. Greg Lyne, the man who teaches me — and 90 of my close personal friends — how to make music every Tuesday night. You're the Man, Maestro.

Ethiopia Sidamo. That's some mighty fine coffee there, Starbucks.

Friday Night Stand-Up. There's no more hilarious way to kick off the weekend than with Comedy Central's mini-marathon of funny men and women shocking the microphone.

Girls — specifically mine, KJ and KM. They make the universe a better place just by being in it. That goes for my adopted niece Shelby, too.

My Heavenly Father, who daily provides more blessings than I can list.

International Orange, the color of the paint adorning my favorite man-made marvel, the Golden Gate Bridge. Driving across it is wicked cool, even after all these years.

Judge shows. Here's to the black-robed arbiters of justice who provide us with so much entertainment, sage wisdom, and gratis legal counsel: Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Marilyn Milian, Judge Alex, Judge Greg Mathis, Judge Hatchett (sorry you got canceled, Your Honor), Judge Christina, Judge Penny, Judge Karen, and Judge David Young. You all rock.

Kirkland, the house brand of Costco, the home of conspicuous consumption. I need twenty of something, and I need it right now.

LinCYcum. You're the baddest pitcher in the National League, Timmy. Don't go changing.

Meat Loaf. Because some days, nothing gets me through the madness like Marvin Lee Aday, roaring at maximum volume in all his sweaty, bombastic, Wagnerian, Jim Steinman-produced glory. What's for dinner? Meat Loaf.

Nashville, Tennessee, where Voices in Harmony and I spent a week enjoying Southern hospitality, and from which we brought home third place International bronze medals. Thanks, y'all.

Obama. That doesn't even need commentary.

Parker, Robert B. My favorite author. There's a new Spenser paperback on my desk, which I plan to dive into today.

Quantum of Solace. Not quite up to the incredible level of Casino Royale, but still pretty cool. Can it really be a bad year when we get a new Bond film?

Raley's, our local supermarket. We've shopped there for the past 20 years. We're on a first-name basis with most of the staff. We probably know the merchandise better than some of the employees.

Sushi. Tiny little rice-clouds of culinary heaven. My favorites: tako, unagi, ebi, hamachi, and good toro, when I can get it.

Time. I believe it was Augustine who said, "What is time? If no man asks me, I know; but if any man asks, clearly I know not."

United Health Care. As big a pain in the tuchus as they have been to deal with — and they have been a colossal pain — I'm glad they've paid for everything they've paid for. I don't know how we would have.

Voicetrax San Francisco (which is actually in Sausalito... but then, San Francisco International Airport is in San Bruno, so I guess it works), where I'm learning the fine art of voice acting from some of the most talented folks in the industry. Thanks to all of the coaches who hammered knowledge into my cranium this year: Chuck Kourouklis, Frank Coppola, Thom Pinto, Lisa Baney, and the amazing Samantha Paris. And a special thanks to Shirley the office manager, for figuring out why I belonged there.

Wonder Woman. Princess Diana of Themyscira rules.

Xander Berkeley, that fine American character actor who lends class to every film and TV show in which he appears. You may not recognize his name, but I guarantee that you know his face.

Yahoo! I'm glad I didn't own any of their stock, though.

Zorro. Johnston McCulley's masked hero resurfaced this year in a terrific comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment, written by Matt Wagner and drawn by Francesco Francavilla. Great read.

I'm thankful, friend reader, for your time, your attention, and your comments and e-mails throughout the year. May you and your loved ones — or someone else's loved ones if you don't have your own — find much for which to be grateful on this day of gratitude.

Slather an extra ladle of gravy on your turkey and stuffing. Tell your cardiologist that your Uncle Swan said it's okay.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

"Unwrap the Holidays" on Saturday, November 29

So, there you sit, planning your post-Thanksgiving weekend assault on your friendly neighborhood megamall, and you're thinking...

Okay, I've got Black Friday covered. But what am I going to do with myself on Saturday?

Have I got an idea for you, bunkie!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, anyway.

Voices in Harmony, Northern California's premier men's a cappella chorus, is hosting its annual holiday music spectacular on Saturday, November 29, at the historic California Theatre in beautiful downtown San Jose. It's a 3 p.m. matinee concert, so you'll have plenty of time to hit the morning sales before the show and the nightlife afterward. Is that strategic, or what?

In addition to VIH, you'll enjoy the scintillating sounds of our sister chorus, Pride of the Pacific, and the crowd-pleasing male quartet Late Show. It's more entertainment than any one afternoon should offer, quite frankly, but we'll let you come because we like you. I can't think of a better way to begin the festive season — at least, not one that you could share with Grandma, Grandpa, and Cousin Fred and his new trophy wife.

You can order advance tickets via this link. At $35 for excellent seats so close to the stage you can practically feel the body heat, and a mere $25 for almost-as-excellent seats a few rows further back, this fusillade of holiday cheer would be cheap at twice the price. (If you feel obligated to pay extra, I'm positive that our treasurer will not object.)

Tell the ticket people that your Uncle Swan sent you, and you'll probably get a warm handshake and a sincere smile of Yuletide gratitude.

Incidentally, this year's concert is entitled "Unwrap the Holidays." I wonder whose brilliant idea that was...?

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday, part one

In the world of retail sales, the day after Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as "Black Friday." It's the day on which many retailers get into the positive, or "black ink," side of the accounting ledger, due to the post-Turkey Day shopping boom.

Here at SSTOL, we're dubbing today (and one week from today, also) "Black Friday" for a different reason. For the next two Comic Art Fridays, we're going to focus on the importance of black ink in the world of comic art.

Specifically, we're showcasing four recently commissioned works by one of our favorite inking specialists, artist par excellence Bob Almond. Bob was also gracious enough to consent to an e-mail interview about these projects, excerpts from which we'll include as we go along.

So, in the words of the Black-Eyed Peas (keeping the "black" theme going), "Let's get it started."

DC Comics artist Matthew Clark — he's drawn such acclaimed series as Batman and the Outsiders, Wonder Woman, and The Adventures of Superman — drew this lush, graceful pinup of Ms. Marvel on a commission earlier this year.

Here's the same drawing, after embellishment in ink by Bob Almond.

Comic Art Friday asked Bob:
What challenges do you face in inking an artist with a fine line like Matthew Clark's? Are there artists whose line is less or more difficult for you to interpret, and if so, why?
Mr. Almond replied:
Some pencilers are very careful to include all line weights in their drawing; some others, not so much. Matthew fits into the former category. It was very clear that he was implying that many of the lines would be super-thin; in fact, I could barely make out some of those lines (they didn't show up in my photocopy of the pencils). But I love the extreme range and delicate approach to the work.

Some artists fit in the latter category, so you don't always know what they're looking for. It means that, as the inker, I need to structure the line weights as I see fit.

I enjoy both approaches. The first is a challenge to try to simulate the graphite lines in ink, to capture what the artist intends, while the second group allows me freedom to try different things.
The other single-character pinup in this quartet of commissions was this Wonder Woman sketch by Brazilian artist Al Rio. As mentioned previously on Comic Art Friday, this was Al's preliminary drawing for his contribution to Wonder Woman Day 2007, a benefit for women's shelters and domestic violence awareness.

Bob Almond finished Rio's sketch in ink, resulting in the pinup you see below.

Bob and I have done nearly two dozen commission projects together. At various times, we've had occasion to discuss the raw materials involved — in particular, the widely varying grades of art paper used by different pencilers. I asked Bob:
Talk a little about the challenge of inking on different types of art board — a moving target that an inker constantly faces.
Here's Mr. Almond's take:
I rarely have a problem with lesser-quality boards since I don't use quills much at all, and bleeding is a factor mostly with pen usage.

Sometimes, the pencils won't erase well off the finished work (but the ink, sadly, will). And if I need to use a frisket sheet to cover up areas while I spatter ink over other selected areas, sometimes when I lift the 'low-tack' sheet, it will lift some of the artwork with it.

All you can do is be prepared, and roll with the punches.
We'll feature two more projects from the Almond inkwell, along with more commentary from Bob, next week.

That's your Comic Art "Black Friday." If you're headed to your nearby mall or Mart (either Wal- or K-) today, be careful out there. Those bargain hunters can be bull-goose loco.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Collector's Edition

We come once again, by the grace of the Almighty, to the fourth Thursday in yet another November. With the aroma of roast turkey and pumpkin pie wafting in the air, let's peruse our annual alphabetical analysis of the diverse things your Uncle Swan is thankful for today.

Acetylsalicylic acid — aspirin, if you please. Still one of the world's great wonder drugs after 150 years.

Back Issue, that spectacular bimonthly magazine edited by Michael Eury. It chronicles the comics of the 1970s and '80s, and the people who created them. It's like a mainline infusion of blissful nostalgia every eight weeks.

Coffee. Nothing's better — or more vital for survival — in the morning. Except maybe air.

Denzel Washington, the finest American actor working today. I'm watching Inside Man as I compose this post. Look up charisma in the cinematic dictionary, and there's Denzel's picture.

Exchange Bank. So far, they've managed never to lose a cent of my money. The drive-through tellers at the Rohnert Park branch always remember my name.

Fitz and Brooks, kicking sports talk old-school weekdays from noon until three on KNBR 680, "The Sports Leader." Bob Fitzgerald and Rod Brooks may well be brothers from different mothers. Only Rod is actually a brother, but you know what I mean.

God. He's the reason everything else exists.

Horses, my daughter's favorite animals, next to Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom.

Inkers, making comic book pencil art come alive. Thanks to Bob Almond, Joe Rubinstein, and Bob McLeod, who all did splendiferous inking commissions for me this year.

James Bond, MI6 Agent 007. Shaken, but never stirred. I'm still a Connery man after all these years, but that Daniel Craig fellow isn't half bad.

KJ and KM, my raisons d'etre.

Loco moco, the best in Hawaiian plate lunch. Sticky rice, hamburger patties, with fried eggs on top, smothered in brown gravy. I'd drive up to Ohana right now if they were open at this hour.

Mugs, chronicling the places I've been, the events I've witnessed, and things that just plain fascinate me. I need more wall space to hang them, at least until the next big quake.

Newsarama, bringing you all the comics industry news that's fit to download.

Ocean's Eleven, either the Sinatra-Dino-Sammy original or the Clooney-Pitt-Damon remake. It's Vegas, baby.

PokerStars. I'm SwanShadow. Come play with me.

Quizno's. They got a pepper bar! We love the subs, but we miss the spongmonkeys.

Reading glasses, my constant reminder that these old eyes ain't what they used to be, and they were never any great shakes to begin with.

Southwest Airlines, for not drilling me into the earth from 35,000 feet — or losing my luggage — on either of the trips I took with them this year.

Target. You need stuff, and they have it.

Underwear. I'm a briefs guy. Fruit of the Loom. Plain white. I know: Too much information. Sue me.

Voices in Harmony, my chorus. I love all 100-plus of you guys, in a strictly male bonding sort of way. We make magic every Tuesday night. Most weeks, I don't even mind the 200-mile round trip commute to rehearsal.

Wikipedia, not always accurate, but mighty handy.

Xenophilia, because I love strange things. Even you, if you're strange.

You Don't Know Jack, the funniest online trivia game ever. I look eagerly forward to a fresh dose every Monday.

Zombie Jamboree: Back to back, belly to belly; well, I don't give a damn, 'cause I'm stone dead already. Do it, Rockapella!

Enjoy your Turkey Day, friend reader. (Or your Tofurkey Day, if you happen to be a vegetarian. I think you're crazy, but that's on you.) Hug the people you love. Let them know how grateful you are for the blessings they bring to your life.

And don't make them wait until next November to hear it again.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Electric Boogaloo

As the sights and sounds of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade billow from the television, and as the enticing aromas of roast turkey and its various accoutrements filter in from the kitchen, I pause to honor a long-standing annual tradition here at SSTOL. Herewith, an alphabetical sampling of that for which I am grateful on this Thanksgiving Day 2006. (Yes, my Canadian friends, I'm aware that you all did this a month ago. Indulge your southern neighbors for a moment, won't you?)

A cappella. No instrument creates more expressive music than the unadulterated human voice. My chorus, Voices in Harmony, helps remind me of this every Tuesday night. (Incidentally, if you'd like a rousing dose of vocal excitement to kick your Christmas season into high gear, and you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, join us for our holiday show at Flint Center in Cupertino on Saturday, December 2.)

Blogger Beta. As you may have noticed in recent days, I'm now able to categorize my posts. Of course, Blogger waited until I had written over 1,100 posts before they released this functionality. So far, I've categorized about one-third of the backlog. The benefit to you, friend reader, makes the effort worthwhile.

Commissioned art. Thanks to all of the talented artists who added custom creations to my comic art collection this year: Ron Lim, Ale Garza, Rags Morales, Charles Hall, Michael Dooney, Al Rio, Roy Cover, Ron Adrian, Anthony Carpenter, Buzz, James Taylor, Lan Medina, Darick Robertson, Luke McDonnell, and the redoubtable Bob Almond.

DVD Verdict. Still the Internet's finest resource for reviews of films and TV shows on DVD. Site owners Mike Jackson and Michael Stailey keep breathing new life into the venerable site.

eBay. Whatever "It" is, you'll find "It" on eBay.

52. DC Comics' weekly blockbuster is the highlight of my comic shop visit every Wednesday.

Google. Quite simply, the most valuable tool in cyberspace. Yes, they've gone all corporate now, but the important thing is -- the darn thing works.

Heavy Metal. The one movie I throw in my DVD player every few weeks, just to be reminded of how much fun it is.

Internet Movie Database. Next to Google, I love IMDb best. When you absolutely, positively need to know who appeared in or worked on a movie or TV show you're watching, and you need to know now.

Jeopardy! Still adding seconds to my fifteen minutes of fame, more than eighteen years later.

KJ and KM, my girls. A better wife and daughter, no man deserves.

Las Vegas Advisor. The definitive locus for all things Vegas, their Question of the Day teaches me something I didn't know about my second-favorite city every day of the week.

Michael the waiter at JK's. Whenever I walk into my favorite lunchtime hangout, Michael always has my Diet Coke ready.

Notepad. Perhaps the simplest program on my computer, yet one I rely on more than almost any other.

Olfactory sense. Smells evoke memories that life would be lessened without.

Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits. We finally got a franchise in my home town. Love that chicken! (The red beans and rice, and the fried crawfish with Boss Sauce, aren't half bad, either.)

Quarterflash. I heard "Harden My Heart" on the local classic rock station just the other day. I wonder what Rindy Ross is doing these days.

Rachael Ray. Because a woman who can prepare a complete repast in 30 minutes and eat three meals in any city in the world for under $40 is my kind of woman.

"Save the Cheerleader, Save the World." Until 24 returns in January, Heroes is consistently the most compelling hour on television.

TV with MeeVee. A fun and informative TV blog that helps me get in touch with my inner couch potato. Plus, they have a terrific copy editor... if I do say so myself.

United States Postal Service. Say what you will, it's still one of the world's great bargains. Donnie, the clerk in our local post office, greets every customer with a cheery "Good morning!" no matter what time of day it is.

Vixen. I was thrilled when Mari McCabe, one of comics' first African-American superheroines, made the revamped roster of Justice League of America this year. I predict she'll be making a special appearance for Comic Art Friday tomorrow.

World Series of Poker. One of these days, I'm going to play in the Main Event.

Xerographic technology. If we couldn't photocopy stuff, life would be a lot more complicated.

YouTube. The online repository of more funny, interesting, and just plain bizarre videos than you can shake a mouse at.

Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute. Because someone, somewhere, ought to be thankful for Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute. Today, I am that someone. You blow, Zamfir.

Whatever your blessings may include this day, friend reader, I hope you are genuinely and expressively grateful for each and every one. Thank you for stopping by here, and for continuing to open the Pandora's box of my mind. May you and yours have a pleasant, peaceful, and tryphophan-bombarded Thanksgiving.

(If you're interested in discovering what some of my fellow bloggers are thankful for, check out the sharefest at The Art of Getting By.)

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: The Sequel

Continuing a tradition we began here at SSTOL last Thanksgiving, the following is a far-from-comprehensive, alphabetical sampling of things and people for which I'm grateful on this Gorge-Yourself-on-Poultry Day.

Art of the comic book variety, and the gifted people who draw it and write the stories behind it. Thanks especially to all the artists who created art on commission for me this year: Darryl Banks, TGK Sangalang, Jeff Moy, Buzz, Ron Lim, Brian Douglas "Briz" Ahern, James E. Lyle, Christopher Ivy, Bob McLeod, Scott "Shade" Jones, Scott Rosema, Herb Trimpe, Robert Q. Atkins, Trevor Von Eeden, Michael L. Peters, Michael Dooney, Ty Romsa, Kyle Hotz, Steve Mannion, Cully Hamner, Ernie Chan, Chris Rich-McKelvey, Jean-Paul Mavinga, Ron Adrian, Rich Buckler, Bob Almond, Josef Rubinstein, Anthony Carpenter, and Michael McDaniel. My fantasy life is richer for your talents. (My wallet is another story.)

Buttermilk pie. I baked one for Thanksgiving dessert. Yum.

Christ, my Lord. It's a cliché, but it's true: Without Him, I'm nothing.

Dell. They make a fine, dependable computer product. The upgrade to a Dell system this year was money well invested.

The Elements of Style, one of the most indispensible books ever written.

FARK, where weird news goes to be disseminated. Duke sucks. Your dog wants turkey.

Geof Isherwood. More than just an amazing artist — a friend I've never met. My sincere appreciation for all the incredible art you did for me this year, Geof.

Health. They say you don't know what you've got until you don't have it. So far, I have it, and I'm grateful for it.

Ice cream. Dreyer's Home Style Butter Pecan, especially.

Jerry Rice. I'm glad he finally retired. Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Flash 80.

KJ and KM, my girls. It goes without saying, but it needs to be said anyway. Often.

Law & Order. "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."

Mazda, makers of quality automotive transportation. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Natalie Cole. Unforgettable, that's what you are.

Online poker. I'm SwanShadow at Come play with me.

Penn and Teller. Seeing their show at the Rio in Las Vegas on our 20th wedding anniversary was the entertainment highlight of the year.

My quartet, Shades of Blue. Throw our ace vocal coach/designated alternate into the mix, and I couldn't ask for four nicer guys to sing with. Jim, Jeremy, Eddie, and Unca Phil: Thanks for putting up with the prima donna every Tuesday night.

Ronin, still my favorite film by the late John Frankenheimer, with marvelously terse and evocative dialogue scripted by the incomparable David Mamet (using the pseudonym Richard Weisz).

"Stormy," the 1960s hit by the Classics IV, covered with smooth style by Santana on their 1978 album Inner Secrets. Bring back my sunny day.

, the Black Panther. Nice to see the King of Wakanda back in a monthly book, even if I don't always like the paces writer Reginald Hudlin puts him through.

The Ultimate Tournament of Champions. What a thrill that was — meeting a cadre of Jeopardy! legends, renewing some long-ago acquaintances, and strapping on the Buzzer of Doom one more time! The $41K was pretty sweet, too. Thanks, Sony Pictures, for the opportunity to prove that the Cardiac Kid still had at least one more rabbit in his hat.

"Viva Las Vegas," the strains of which introduce each week's episode of American Casino. It's 60 minutes of the most curiously engaging reality soap opera on television. I'll miss it when the last of the episodes plays out soon on the Travel Channel.

World Talk Radio, which brings me a new installment of Vincent Zurzolo's interview program The Comic Zone every Tuesday afternoon. Vincent is the world's most inept interviewer — he imposes his (often inane and ill-informed) perspective on his guests, ignores their answers to his questions, mangles their names (how many times did Val Semeiks have to correct him before he got it right?), and basically does everything an interviewer shouldn't do — but he always lands marvelous guests.

Xena, also known as 2003 UB313, the planet-sized body in the Kuiper Belt outside the orbit of Pluto. Its existence reaffirms the truth that we never know all there is to know.

Yan Can Cook. Because if Yan can cook, so can you.

Zeppelins, as seen in the splendiferous double-page splash from Doc Savage, Man of Bronze: Monarch of Armageddon #1 that adorns our living room wall. Beautiful linework by Darryl Banks and Robert Lewis. What else do I appreciate about zeppelins? Spongmonkeys really like them.

And as always, I'm thankful for you, dear SSTOL reader. You make the constant scramble for new material worthwhile.

I hope that you and your loved ones are enjoying a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving. Be sincerely grateful for all that you have.

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Thursday, November 25, 2004

SwanShadow gives thanks, from A to Z

For last Sunday's church bulletin, I wrote an article listing a few of the things for which I'm thankful. You can pop over to the church site if you're interested in reading it.

In a concerted effort not to repeat myself, I'll do the blog's list in alphabetical format. Thus, a few things (hardly an exhaustive recitation — more like the gratitude sampler plate) for which I'm thankful today:

Advertising, because if people didn't need it, I'd be making my living doing something else.

Baseball. As Thomas Boswell once wrote, life begins on Opening Day. Here's hoping the Giants enjoy a postseason run in 2005, as Barry "U.S." Bonds (another "B" for whom I'm thankful) continues his assault on the Babe and the Hammer.

Comic book creators, past and present, for all the wonder they've shared with me over the past 37 years. Thanks especially for the stalwarts of the Marvel Age of Comics: Stan the Man, King Jack, Sturdy Steve, Big John, Jazzy Johnny Sr., Roy the Boy, Gene the Dean, Sal, Herb, all the Jims, Woody, George, Don, Marie, and for a few spectacular, shining moments, the mighty Steranko. We'll never see their like again.

DSL, without which life would be excruciatingly slow.

Everlast, the company responsible for the handy stopwatch that manages my working life. And for all those gloves they provided to Muhammad Ali in his heyday.

Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonalds. Heaven on a bun.

Green growing things, like the grass and shrubbery and redwood trees I see every day outside my office window.

Humor, and the sense with which to appreciate it. If I couldn't laugh, I'd be crying a lot.

Iron Chef, still one of the most entertaining hours in the history of television. Nothing beats watching Sakai, Michiba, Chen, Kobe, and the nonpareil Morimoto turning weird ingredients like anglerfish, sea urchins, natto, and cod roe into gustatory magic, spurred along by the gangbusters commentary of Fukui, Doc Hattori, floor reporter Ohta, and the giggling female guest of the day. Allez cuisine!

Jesus Christ, because without Him, none of the other stuff matters.

KJ and KM, my girls. Two finer young women no man deserves.

Linda Fiorentino, because someone ought to be thankful for Linda Fiorentino. I watched Liberty Stands Still again the other night, and she really is something.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 15th Edition. The book that saves my bacon several times a day, every day.

News from ME, Mark Evanier's superlative weblog that, more than any other single factor, inspired me to attempt my own. An essential cornerstone of my online experience every day. It's everything SSTOL aspires to be, and more.

Orion. He's my favorite object in the night sky, and I look forward to his reappearance every autumn. It's awe-inspiring to realize that Rigel, his left foot (on our right, as we face him) is over 300 light-years away, and that the reddish glow we see from it tonight left there before George Washington was born.

Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Ask the man who owns one. Or ask the Queen. Speaking of which...

Queen. KM is now, for whatever reason, into the music of Freddie and the boys. Lately she's been digging my old Queen albums out of the massive rack of neglected vinyl that occupies a corner of the living room and taking them to her grandparents' house to play them (we haven't assembled the stereo since we moved into the current house nearly eleven years ago, so there's nothing on which to play records here). KM's favorite Queen song: "Somebody to Love." My favorite Queen song: "Fat Bottomed Girls."

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on...well, not kittens, because I don't care much for cats. Walruses, maybe. Because, as we all know, the Walrus was Paul.

SwanShadow Thinks Out Loud, the Internet's virtual window into the deep dark recesses of my brain.

Trivia quizzes. Because I like learning new stuff. And proving to myself that I still have my old Jeopardy! chops.

Usual Suspects, after nearly ten years, still the greatest film of the 20th century's last decade; it's constructed like a house of cards, yet never falls down. Featuring star-making performances by a soon-to-be-all-star cast: Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollack, Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, and the incredible Kevin Spacey as Roger "Verbal" Kint: "Keaton always said, 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him.' Well, I believe in God — and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze." And whatever happened to screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie? Was this the only great script he had in him?

Vegas: looking forward to our 20th anniversary sojourn in January.

White markerboards, because some of us forget stuff if there isn't a big purple note about it right in front of our faces. And because I can never, amid all my clutter, find a piece of scratch paper when I really, really need to scribble something.

X-Men: stronger than ever after 40 years. Cyclops is still my favorite — even if in the movies, he's been reduced to a whiny second-stringer.

You, you wonderful, marvelous, fabulous SSTOL reader, you.

Zacchaeus, who, like myself, was a little man who found himself up a tree on occasion. His story reminds me that even such a poor lamb as I can be valuable in the eyes of the Good Shepherd.

I hope you and yours, gentle reader, count your blessings today, and discover how innumerable they truly are. And I hope that, for those of you who stop in here regularly, that SSTOL is, in its own minuscule way, a blessing to you. Thanks for your support, your comments, and the gracious use of your eyeballs for a few moments. Shalom!

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