Archive for February, 2010


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 160: DC’s New Crew and More

There’s a new crew in charge of DC Comics, and this week, Blake and Kenny discuss the implications for the publisher, the comics, the movies, and more! Plus, in the chatter this week, True Blood creator Charlaine Harris comes to comics, a couple of high-priced auctions lead to a discussion of comics as investments, the guys chat about the current season of Lost, and Kenny drools over the new DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe toy line! In the picks, Blake takes Colt Noble and the Megalords #1, and Kenny likes Blackest Night #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 160: DC’s New Crew and More
Inside This Episode:


Blake’s Universal Rule of the Universe #64

64. Sometimes, you just have to shut up and let your friends be stupid, because you know if you tell them they’re being stupid, they’d just be stupid anyway.

Read the rest of the Universal Rules of the Universe right here!


Blackest Night February Roundup

We’re headed into the home stretch, friends. As of this writing,  I think there are only three Blackest Night issues left unreleased. Of course after that we’re heading into Brightest Day, so… well, anyway, we’re closing in on the end. But bfore we get there, I’m going to hit you guys with my reviews of all the chapters released in the last three weeks.

Adventure Comics #7: After taking a month “off” from Blackest Night to take care of that pesky main plot of the series, the shadow of the Black Lanterns falls on this title again. The heroes of the DC Universe who have come back from the dead are returned to that state, turned into Black Lanterns, and Nekron’s sense of irony pits Superboy against the girl he loves, Wonder Girl. Cassie and Krypto try to hold off the Black Lantern Superboy, while we readers ride along in Conner Kent’s head. Conner’s still conscious, you see, watching as the Black Lantern ring forces him to try to kill those closest to him.

Tony Bedard is only on Adventure Comics for this one issue, but he does a fine job of it. He really gets into Conner’s head (no pun intended) and gets across the anguish one would feel in his situation. There’s a nice callback to the story that brought Conner back, Legion of Three Worlds, as well.

Travis Moore does really great work on the artwork. I like his work with these characters, and I’d be very happy to see him get his hands on the Teen Titans one of these days. Conner, Cassie and Krypto all look really good in this book, as good as they read. This isn’t the most essential of the Blackest Night crossovers, but it’s one of the most fun.

Rating: 8/10

Blackest Night: The Flash #3: Finishing up Barry Allen’s miniseries, this issue we see as he and Wally confront the Black Lantern forms of some old friends and enemies, including Kid Flash. Geoff Johns works in some good moments for the Flash Family here, setting up relationships and plotlines that no doubt will continue to play off when he relaunches Barry’s ongoing series in a couple of months.

The Barry stuff isn’t quite as strong, however, as the great scenes with the Rogues. Owen Mercer, the young Captain Boomerang, has been seduced by the idea of a second chance with his dead father. The things he’s willing to do to placate daddy, however, go too far. You’ve got to love a villain with a moral code, no matter how twisted that code is, and this issue really plays it well.

Scott Kolins does his usual good work. I love the cover of this issue, with Barry in his resplendent Blue Lantern gear. But as with the story, the Rogues stuff is even better. There are some horrors to draw in this issue, and he does them well.

When this miniseries launched, I was afraid it wouldn’t have much of a story of its own, but would instead just fill in the blanks the way the Blackest Night: Wonder Woman series did. Fortunately, it worked out well. Although there were some between-the-pages bits here, the through-line of Barry facing his demons was fairly solid, and the Rogues’ plot was great. Johns has always done great work making B-list villains into A-list stars, and that’s what this miniseries did for us too.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern #51: Following up on issue #50, Hal Jordan has once again taken on the power of Parallax, this time willingly, to bring down the Black Lantern-possessed Spectre. Hal and the rest of the New Guardians have combine their might against the spirit of God’s vengeance turned into a power-mad monster.

The confrontation itself is good, but it’s rather reminiscent of the story Johns wrote back in Green Lantern: Rebirth that showed Hal breaking free of both the Spectre and Parallax for good. Doug Mahnke, fortunately, draws a fantastic interpretation of that battle.

The other good moments are those that don’t hearken back to that earlier comic — a confrontation between Lex Luthor and Larfleeze over the power of the Orange Lantern is really good, and I can definitely imagine it building up into a long-lasting rivalry between the two of them. There’s also a very ominous moment that I imagine is intended to set up some things either for Brightest Day or other future Green Lantern stories.

Not the best issue to date, but still a strong one.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern Corps #45: Guy Gardner, the newest Red Lantern, was instrumental in taking apart the Black Lanterns that were invading Oa. Now, though, still gripped by Red Rage, Guy’s comrades in the Green Lantern Corps — along with an Indigo Lantern and a Star Sapphire for good measure — have to try to snap him out of it before the rage consumes him forever.

This issue is all Guy’s, and if there was ever any doubt that Peter Tomasi was the right man to compose the upcoming Guy-centric ongoing Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, this book should do away with that. He’s got the character down and he knows how to paint his relationships with the rest of the Corps. It’s a great story and it really shows that he’s in good hands.

Patrick Gleason still does good work on the pencils. While perhaps not s flashy as Ivan Reis or Doug Mahnke, Gleason’s work on this book has been solid, and his assorted alien and Lantern designs click together well. The contrasting colors really help make the pages leap out at you.

A really good chapter of one of DC’s best comics.

Rating: 8/10

Green Arrow #30: Or “Black Lantern Green Arrow” if you prefer, this is the first issue of this series after the title has dropped the and Black Canary, which I’ve got to admit, bums me out. At least it doesn’t sound like they’re divorcing them or anything, but I just like the idea of them sharing a title together.

Anyway, J.T. Krul — who you may remember did some kick-ass work on the Titans tie-ins to this event — takes over the Green Arrow title beginning with this issue, and if this is any indication of his run, I’m on it with him. Like the Adventure Comics issue, in this issue we see Green Arrow transformed into a Black Lantern and forced to watch as his body goes around doing and saying horrible things to the people he loves, trying to wring their emotions out so he can do what Black Lanterns do and consume their hearts. As dark as this series has been overall, this may be one of the darkest chapters yet.

It’s also one of the best.

The emotions Krul evokes throughout this issue are powerful, deep, and spot-on the right way to pick away at the hearts of Green Arrow’s extended family. He pushes all the right buttons and turns what could have been a totally superfluous crossover into a masterpiece of character examination. Diogenes Neves steps up with the artwork, too, drawing an almost gothic tale that is a flawless match with the best of the crossovers in this event. Krul has won me over, getting me to the point where if his name is on the book, I’ll at least buy an issue to see where he’s going.

Rating: 10/10

Blackest Night: JSA #3: The last spin-off series comes to a close as the Justice Society members face the demons of their loved ones. Power Girl battles Superman of Earth-2, Jessie Quick races against her late father Johnny, and meanwhile Mr. Terrific puts that big brain of his to use looking for a way to stop the Black Lanterns entirely.

The confrontations in this issue are really strong. Although Power Girl was Superman’s cousin, the relationship between them was that of a father and daughter (as opposed to the more “big brother/little sister” relationship between our Superman and Supergirl). Add to that the actual father/daughter pairing of Johnny and Jessie, and you have two wonderfully deep, rich relationships for the Black Lanterns to pick apart.In both cases, you know the women are too smart to fall for the Lanterns’ ploy, but you can understand why they would want to believe their fathers have returned. It’s good stuff.

The Mr. Terrific scenes aren’t quite as good. You have Michael Holt (one of my favorite JSA characters by the way) gathering up some of the JSA’s magic-users to try to create a spell to drive out the Black Lanterns. The result is like one of those scenes in Star Trek where everything is resolved in the last five minutes when Scotty reroutes the power couplings through the Jeffries Tubes into the Dilithium Warp Hinkymadooky and someone looks at the screen and says, “Whew. That worked.” It’s a weak note to end on, which is a shame, because there’s a lot of good stuff in this issue.

Rating: 7/10

Blackest Night #7: The main event returns after January’s hiatus, with Black Hand and Nekron finally revealing their ultimate goal. One of the greatest secrets of the Guardians of the Universe is revealed, and a source of incredible power is uncovered… but who will wield it?

The reveal in this issue isn’t actually that big a surprise. It’s something I’ve been expecting for some time. But just who takes the initiative in this issue is a surprise, and an intriguing one. I’ve got no doubt that Geoff Johns has a brilliant plan in place for this. I love the “Charge of the Light Brigade” scene, I love the explanation behind the Guardians’ biggest secret, and I already intend to order the t-shirt that will inevitably be released to coincide with this issue. I just flat-out loved it.

And I’m gonna get spoilery in a minute, so if you haven’t read the issue yet, stop reading this after the rating.

Rating: 9/10

Okay, spoilery time. To absolutely nobody’s shock, this issue reveals the power of the White Lanterns, the force of light that invaded the universe and drove out the Black millions of years ago. And it’s interesting to see that Sinestro is the one who lurches forward and takes the power. (Even more interesting that, when Sinestro steps up, the avatar he creates is wearing his old Green Lantern uniform rather than his Sinestro Corps duds.)

The big question, though, is exactly what power does the White Lantern have? In describing the Entity that powers the White, Ganthet describes it as “the living light bestowed upon this universe that triggered existence itself.” We’ve also seen a hell of a lot of heroes die during the course of this story, and furthermore, there are a lot of dead ones we expect may well come back (the cover to the upcoming Brightest Day #1 being perhaps the best evidence of that). So, probably for the last time in this Blackest Night run, I’m putting out a theory. The power of the White Lantern is the power of life itself. And when we see a Black Lantern washed in the White Light, we’re going to see that Lantern brought back from the dead. Like, for real brought back, not just reanimated. This is how we’re going to get Aquaman back, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and several others… both those who died during this series and those who have been dead for a while.

Of course, if you’re a Black Lantern that has already been destroyed thanks to the combination of other Lantern lights, you’re already off the board, so no resurrection for you.

Sorry, Ralph and Sue.



Every so often, Erin surprises me by asking me to, and I quote, “tell me a story.” Sometimes she does this in person, sometimes on the phone, sometimes — as she did earlier this week — on Twitter. This always takes me by surprise, and it isn’t always easy. It’s simply not always possible to simply turn out a story off the top of my head, and I usually feel bad when I’m unable to do it.

But this time, I started out a short story — a silly little thing, nothing of any real consequence — and I went a bit into it before she went home from work (where she was getting my Tweets) and went home. I thought nothing more of it until someone else asked me later that night — jokingly, of course — what happened at the end. Somehow, this emboldened me, and I thought it may be fun to try to tell a story in 140 character increments, reading the Tweetback as I went along. This is by no means a NEW idea, of course, this is just the first time I’M going to try doing it.

So I’m going to start over Erin’s story from earlier this week and see where it takes me. If you want to follow along over the next few hours on Twitter, I’m @BlakeMP. If you’re not a Twitterer but you’d still like to read it, I’ll be updating the story right here on this blog post every paragraph or so, so simply keep refreshing.

Okay, ready? Let’s give this a try…


There was once a dog and a polar bear, who set out together to tour all the great amusement parks of the world. While riding on one of the largest indoor roller coasters in Albuquerque, they suddenly found themselves whisked from the main ride and, through a side tunnel, began a plunge that would take them deeper and deeper underground.

Finally, after falling for what seemed like forever, they emerged in an enormous cavern full of gently glowing purple crystals. Their roller coaster car stopped in front of a huge crystal the shape of a giant egg. Before their eyes, the crystal split down the sides and cracked open, revealing an ancient, wizened Crystal King.

The dog and bear told the King how they came to be lost in his world, and the King nodded slowly. “I can return you to your surface world,” he creaked, “but first, you must give me aid of your own.” The king pointed to a tunnel far across the cavern, where a dozen of his Crystal Men were creeping in the distance. Crystals, you see, can change form, but only very slowly and over time. So the Crystal King and his Crystal People could not move any faster than a land-bound turtle of our surface world.

“Ages ago,” he explained, “I lost my crown in that tunnel. My crystal people have sought it for a long time, but we move so slowly I fear it shall never be found again. If you, who move even faster than the Meat People above, agree to help us find the crown, I will return you to your surface world.”

The dog and the polar bear quickly agreed, for they found the below-world of the Crystal king terribly warm and uncomfortable. Together, they marked past the slow-moving Crystal Men and into the caves. The Crystal Men glowed with a soft violet light, and once inside it was easy for the dog and bear to see that the cave took a precipitous plunge downward on their right. On the ground below were shards of purple crystal and powder, the remains of foolish Crystal Men who ventured too close to the edge.

The polar bear gripped the edge of the cliff and lowered himself into the void. Before he let go, the dog climbed down his friend’s back and the two of them dropped safely to the stone floor. Together, they began to explore the massive web of caves. After many hours of wandering through the maze-like cavern, the dog and the bear saw a bright red glow, far more intense than the glimmering violet that surrounded them amongst the Crystal Men. Sitting on a ledge far above them was a crown of purest gold with a ruby the size of an apple set neatly in the helm.

“This must be what the king has lost,” said the bear, “but how shall we retrieve it? It is too far to reach.”

The clever dog had an idea. He told his friend to crouch down, with his head low to the floor and his large back end pointed towards the ledge. The dog backed up and got a running start, charging towards his friend. Using the bear as a ramp, the dog raced down his back and up into the air. He caught the ledge with his front paws and nearly fell away. The nimble dog managed to pull himself onto the ledge, and he picked up the crown in his mouth.

“We have the crown,” the bear said, “but how can you come down from the ledge without hurting yourself? The rocks are too jagged and steep for me to wait at the bottom and catch you.” The dog did not know how he would descend from the ledge, but before he could say so, an array of sparks began to sputter from the crown. A ball of ruby light the same shape as the jewel in the crown appeared around his body. The ball of light began to float in the air and the startled dog almost barked in fright. It is fortunate he did not, however, for if he had released the crown the light would have disappeared and the dog would have been dashed upon the rocks below.

The ball of light drifted up through the stone ceiling, passing through it as if it were insubstantial as a cloud. For long moments, the dog was in the darkness of solid rock, then the ball broke through the throne room of the Crystal King. The dog released the crown and the globe of light vanished. He had no hands with which to place the crown upon the king’s head, but the crystal man was so overjoyed at seeing his crown again that he moved with great swiftness, at least for a man of crystal. After several minutes, he placed the crown on his head. In a flash of light, his crystal form began to melt, turning into a sort of thick, rubbery flesh. He was not quite the same as a man of the surface, but he could again move like an ordinary man.

In the cavern beyond the throne room, each of the Crystal King’s subjects underwent the same transformation, becoming men and women of flesh once again. The king clapped his hands in delight. “Friend dog,” he said, “you have restored my people. How may I repay you?”

“Please, your majesty,” the dog said, “My friend the bear remains in the caverns below.”

“Then we shall find him,” the former Crystal King said. He sent his people out into the caverns, and with their renewed swiftness, they soon found the bear and returned him to the throne room.

The King offered to throw a grand celebration for the two heroes, but they politely declined. “You are used to this below-world heat, your majesty,” said the bear, but we are not. And our fur is making it almost unbearable. Please, send us home.”

The king returned them to their roller coaster car, which he had his people turn so it faced the opposite way on the tracks. Bidding his new friends farewell, the King used his magic to push the car with such force that it rolled back up on the tracks, through the many layers of the Earth, and finally coming to a rest at the amusement park above the surface.

“How did you like your ride?” asked the attendant.

“I have visited amusement parks across the country,” said the bear, “but this is the longest roller coaster I have ever ridden.”


(Feedback, as always, is appreciated. Post your comments here, or e-mail


Everything But Imaginary #341: A Country of Comics-Las Vegas

As promised a few days ago, in this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I take the time to discuss the three comic shops I visited while out in Las Vegas. Popping in on shops across this great land is a real thrill, and I love the rare chance I have to do it.

Everything But Imaginary #341: A Country of Comics-Las Vegas



  • If there’s anything that can — however temporarily — get me to turn my attention from the Olympics, it’s a new episode of LOST. The final season of the show has been one mindbender after another, and I’m loving every minute of it. As I type this, I’m watching this week’s episode a tad late, thanks to a Playhouse board meeting I’m just arriving home from.
  • Wendy’s new “Bacon and Bleu” burger looks pretty good. At least, it does if you like bleu cheese on a hamburger. I do. However, I know in my heart of hearts that the burger in real life will never possibly live up to the image on the commercial. It just isn’t fair, consarn it.
  • After some deliberation about whether or not to get a smartphone, I have decided instead to get an iPod Touch and upgrade my cell phone to a simpler model. The iPod does everything that I would want a smartphone for, and it has no monthly service plan. Granted, unlike a smartphone, with the Touch I’ll be limited to using the internet connection in places I can get a wireless signal, but that’s not really a big deal. More and more public places are getting hooked up for WiFi all the time, including most of the places I’d be likely to use such a device. I think I’ve found an affordable compromise.
  • Started teaching Romeo and Juliet to my ninth graders this week. I’m a little blase on the subject. Not that it’s a bad play, but you’ve gotta remember, the kids only have to learn it once. I’ve got to teach it three times a day, every year. I wish we could rotate our Shakespeare. Do Romeo and Juliet one year in ninth grade, the next year switch to Julius Caesar, the next, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Just something to keep the teachers from getting burned out. It’s easier with short stories and poems, there are more to choose from and you can mix it up. And we cover the same epic every year, but somehow, I never get tired of The Odyssey. It’s just drama that runs the risk of draining my batteries.
  • Like you don’t have enough social media websites to worry about already, earlier today I got turned on to thanks to J.C. Hutchins’ Hey Everybody Podcast. This isn’t an attempt to horn in on Twitter or Facebook like Google Buzz. Rather, it’s a site where you can rate and discuss virtually all forms of entertainment — books, movies, TV shows, music, and so forth. It does combine the efforts of other websites like Goodreads and Flixter, but it’s the first time I’ve seen an all-in-one site like that. It’s cool, though. If you’re on it, go ahead and friend me. The name is blakemp. (And please, “like” my novels Other People’s Heroes and The Beginner so that they’ll start being recommended to people.) And no, I have no idea what “Get Glue” refers to.

Surviving in Las Vegas

Once again, Erin and I have finished one of our too-infrequent visits. This time, though, it wasn’t a case of me going to her or her coming to me. This time, we both dashed off to…

The great city of Las Vegas!

As you may already know, Erin’s father and much of his family live out in Las Vegas, so this was the second time she and I have gone out there to pay them a visit, as well as just plain spend a little time together. This is the thing about being a teacher — yes, you do get more time off than in most jobs, but there’s absolutely no flexibility. You can’t take a vacation whenever you want, you stick with the school schedules, meaning Christmas, Thanksgiving, summer and spring break. Fortunately, I live in Louisiana, which means you can add Mardi Gras to those periods of all-too brief freedom.

Erin and I both flew in on Sunday, Feb. 14, meaning we’d get to spend Valentine’s Day together. We tried to get flights that would arrive relatively close to one another, but neither of us had any idea how close it would be. As I got off the plane at McCarren International Airport, I got a text message from Erin saying she’d just landed as well. I told her I was at gate D53, and she started laughing… because her plane was taxiing in to gate D54.

Seriously, we couldn’t have planned it better.

The hotel our friend A.J. managed to get us a room at (he works for the chain) was just minutes from the Vegas strip, and more importantly, it had an airport shuttle so we could get there without paying for a taxi. Once we were settled in and rested for a while, we took that shuttle out to the strip and walked for a while. The first night was kind of low-key, and that was all to the good.

The next day, we met up with her father and his wife for lunch. As last time, they were good enough to lend us one of their cars for the trip, saving us the trouble and cost of a rental car. If you’re not noticing a theme here, we’re not above letting friends and family help us out on these little get-togethers. Thanks, guys!

We also caught The Wolfman with her dad — he and Erin are both horror movie fans — and had a good time. After we bid him farewell, we took the car down to Fremont Street.

I loved Fremont Street, friends. This is Old Vegas, places like the Plaza and the Golden Nugget, where Vegas began before the strip took over. A few years ago, they placed an enormous LCD screen ceiling over the entire street, where every hour on the hour, they have a different free show full of lights, video, and music.

We caught two of the shows while we where there — Don McClean’s “American Pie,” and a musical tribute to Queen, which Erin took a video of. (You can watch said video, by the way, right here at my Flickr album.) It was really amazing — when the show begins, all the lights on the casinos and shops lining the street shut off and the LCD screen illuminates the whole area. Everybody stops where they are and look up, but just for a second, because once the music kicks off both the children and the drunks alike (and there were many of both) started dancing in time.

I’ve got to tell you, in two trips to Vegas, Fremont Street has become one of my favorite places. Sure, there are a lot of great things on the strip, a lot of cool things to do, but there’s an almost mystical, old-school feel to Fremont Street that you just can’t get anywhere else. This was the place with everything from fake Mardi Gras to the classic Vegas smoking Cowboy to a place where you can get your picture taken with a million dollars.

They do not allow free samples, sadly.

Erin, when we do Vegas again, I definitely want to pay another visit to Fremont Street.

This was also the night we decided to make a pilgrimage out to the legendary “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, which is the first picture at the top of this blog. If you go to Vegas, it may be the kitschy tourist-y thing to do, but you really need to stop and take your picture there. They actually put a small parking lot in the median expressly for that purpose. What kind of human being would you be if you didn’t take advantage of it?

Tuesday was Mardi Gras back home in New Orleans, but we took advantage of that day to escape the madness, taking a drive up to nearby Mt. Charleston. Erin took me from the relative nearly 70-degree warmth of Vegas to…

…the remnants of the Snowpocalypse! At the top of the mountain, there were areas (like this one) relatively clear of snow. Although if we’d turned the camera about 45 degrees to the left, you’d have seen a man with a shovel digging out three feet of snow on an observation deck. Then we went to trails like this one…

Or this one…

…where the sheer volume of fallen snow was far more obvious. It was beautiful up there, and we got a ton of great pictures on the way up, at the top, and on the way down. Speaking of on the way down, we stopped at the west coast mecca of fast food, In-N-Out Burger, for a late lunch. I was stunned, though, to find this next door…

In VEGAS, baby!

If you’ve never been to Raising Cane’s, it’s a Louisiana-based restaurant chain that sells chicken fingers. And only chicken fingers. Okay, you can get ’em on a bun if you must. But it’s just chicken fingers and the sauce of the gods as the main courses here. And the chain is booming. Still, I was stunned to find one in Vegas. Later in the trip, I was stunned to find two more.

We went back to the strip that night, parking at the MGM Grand and walking a ways down to catch a second movie, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Then, it was time for a walk down the strip. We started at a couple of my favorite places…

M&M’s World is exactly what you think: a four-story store devoted entirely to M&M’s candy, toys, clothing, and other merchandise. It’s a fun place, with lots of cool things to see. But they’re pretty devious — they actually pump the smell of chocolate into the store to further entice you to buy some. Erin found proof:

That’s the vent on top of the Vitamin Water cooler.

Our next stop was next door at the similarly-themed Coca-Cola store. We wandered around looking at souvenirs, clothes, and knick-knacks, eventually making our way to the second-floor snack bar, where an intriguing offer caught our eye.

“TASTES OF THE WORLD!” the sign read. “16 International Flavors! Only $7!”

Seven dollars to taste 16 different flavors of Coke products from around the world? Sure, I’m down for that.

As we sipped, we jotted down our thoughts on each of the 16 flavors. They are as follows…

1. Inca Cola from Peru: I thought this one tasted kind of like a pina colada. Erin’s take: a pineapple popsicle. I could see that.

2. Sunfill Mint from India. I think this mint-flavored ginger ale was one of Erin’s favorites. I liked it, but it was too strong for me to drink a whole glass. As something to cleanse the palette between flavors, though, it works well — something that came in handy later…

3. Nestea Peach from France. This one was a bit of a disappointment. It tasted fine, but… well… it’s no different than the peach flavored Nestea you can get here in the states. Or, as Erin so daintily put it, “France my ass.”

4. Sunfill Blackcurrent from Mauritius. This one one of my favorites. Erin thought it smelled like Dr. Pepper, but the taste was more like the black cherry cola Coke produced a few years ago — not quite the same as simple Cherry Coke, but good.

5. Delaware Punch from Honduras? This was one of my biggest disappointments on the tray. It’s Delaware Punch. Everyday, run-of-the-mill, there’s a case of it visible from where I am typing this blog Delaware Punch, just like in the U.S. Curse you, Richards!

6. Vegitabeta from Japan. The name of this soda seems to imply it would have a vegetable flavor, but we both agreed it tasted more like a sort of flat orange Hi-C than anything else.

7. Smart Watermelon from China. A simple watermelon-flavored soda, but really good. I could drink a 20 of this stuff.

8. Kinley Lemon from England. As Erin put it succinctly, it was like a carbonated lemonade.

9. Lift Apple from Mexico. Kind of a watered-down apple juice flavor.

10. Fanta Kolita from Costa Rica. I really loved this flavor, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was. Erin thought it was a combination of “bubble gum” and “antiseptic.” But she liked it too.

11. Krest Gingerale from Israel. Not really impressed by this one. It tasted just like American ginger ale, but weak.

12. Simba Guarana from Paraguay. I thought this one tasted kind of like root beer, Erin thought Red Bull.

13. Bibo Pine Nut from South Africa had a really strong flavor, like tropical fruit bubble gum. Erin thought it tasted like a coconut tanning oil — the smell, that is, not like she actually had tanning oil in her mouth.

14. Smart Apple from China. This second apple beverage was more like a Granny Smith than a Red Delicious, but weak. Erin added, “It’d be good with Sour Apple Pucker, though.”

15. Beverly from Italy. Oh, Beverly. Oh, oh Beverly. I wish you were last, because the final beverage on the list will seem inadequate in comparison. In fact, words are inadequate. Let the power of photographs explain to you the thoughts Erin and I had about… Beverly.

Erin: It tastes like every horrible medicine your parents ever gave you as a kid. God, get it out of my mouth! Where’s the mint?
Blake: I don’t know who Beverly is, but she appears to have some form of debilitating disease.

This is where the remaining Sunfill Mint soda came in handy.

16. Mezzo Mix from Germany. Kind of underwhelming after Beverly, we tasted Mezzo Mix anyway, and felt a “meh.” To me, it tasted like everyday Coca-Cola mixed with something else, but I wasn’t sure what. Erin thought it tasted like Pepsi.

Still, we had a lot of fun at the Coca-Cola store, and if you happen to go there, I strongly recommend you try the tastes of the world yourself.

Please send all photos of yourself trying “Beverly” to

We continued down the strip after the Coca-Cola experience, stopping at different shops, Casinos, and restaurants, including a stop for Erin’s first Ghiardelli ice cream sundae in four Vegas visits. She seemed pleased. Four hours after we began our trek down the strip, we decided to call it quits and walk back to the car parked at the MGM Grand. It took us an hour without stopping to make it there.

That’s a productive night.

Wednesday was more of a low-key day. Erin indulged my comic geekiness and went with me on a tour of three Vegas-area comic book shops, which we talked about that evening when we got back to the hotel and recorded Sunday’s episode of the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast together. Next to one of the shops, Maximum Comics, we made a second really cool find…

The Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop was a small bit of Heaven on earth. The shop stocked literally hundreds of different, unusual brands and flavors of soda and candy from all over America, plus a few assorted collectibles and souvenirs. Erin and I each picked out three bottles of soda to take with us and try later. One of my choices was a chocolate soda that I really enjoyed. The label said it was an “authentic New York Egg Cream.” I’ve often heard of these “egg creams,” but I’ve never actually tasted one, so I can’t say how authentic the soda was. It was good, though.

If you’re waiting for my analysis of the three comic shops… wait just a bit longer. I know not everyone who reads this particularly cares. So I’ll keep my reviews of those for Wednesday’s regularly-scheduled Everything But Imaginary column over at Suffice it to say, we had a lot of fun seeking them out. We also found a cool little used bookstore. After wandering it for a few minutes, I got a feeling of deja vu and realized we’d gone to the same shop on our last trip to Vegas. But the great thing about a used bookstore is that it’s never the same store twice. I picked up two novels to put in my classroom (several of my students, I’m proud to say, have become fans of Orson Scott Card thanks to my intervention) and we moved on.

We did a little more shopping and stopped for dinner at Red Lobster — not the most “Las Vegas” of locations, I admit, but it did have a major advantage over many of the other restaurants available in Vegas… Erin had a gift certificate. We had a nice dinner and went back to the room to record the podcast. We’d intended to go out again after that, but by then it was already approaching midnight and, like a couple of old people, we were getting kind of tired, so we called it an early night. I got the podcast ready and Erin played with my Amazon Kindle, reading Stephen King’s novella Ur and deciding that she wants one of the devices too.

Thursday we got up early to head out to a little breakfast place we found on our previous visit to Vegas. The Egg and I is part of a small chain of restaurants (including two “Eggworks”) that makes some of the best breakfast foods you’ve ever tasted.

I love IHOP as much as the next guy. Considerably more tha many “next guy”s I could mention. But man, this place is just fantastic. Go there, get something loaded with cheese, eggs, and breakfast meat. You will thank me later.

Thursday is one of the few days we had a definite plan before heading out — dinner that afternoon with Erin’s family. We had about four hours to kill before then, so we decided to hit a couple of off-strip casinos. The Rio was a lot of fun. The place is done up in a sort of faux Mardi Gras theme, and the interior really does its best to imitate New Orleans architecture. It’s not my favorite casino interior — that honor goes to New York, New York — but it’s a close second. We also went to the Palms, which we found kind of unimpressive. It was rather small and didn’t offer much outside of the gambling itself, and we were looking for other things to do at that point. It’s a legendary Vegas casino, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem to be working very hard on maintaining its reputation.

After a while of wandering, we met up with her father and his wife Donna, Uncle Dee and Aunt Karen, Uncle Derek and Aunt Marsha and their son Josh for a dinner at the Macaroni Grill. I’d met all of them on my previous Vegas visit, but it was nice to talk to them again — especially since, this time, they all seemed to want to talk about the Saints. A favorite topic of mine these days, to be sure.

As we were leaving the next day, we gave Erin’s dad his car back and again took the hotel shuttle out to the strip for one last night. It wasn’t anything special, really. We walked around to some places we hadn’t gone yet, and managed to catch the classic Bellagio fountain show. I took a video of this one, if you’re interested.

Then back to the hotel to rest up for the long trips home.

After two visits to Vegas, Erin and I have both really gotten to enjoy going. There’s a lot of stuff to do out there besides simply the casinos and the strip, and most of the things there are to do have a lot of repeatability. We can easily imagine making this a semi-annual trip.

In the meantime, it’ll probably be summer before we can get together again. Spring Break doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year, and that’s a shame. But it’ll be okay. No matter how long it is, whenever I see Erin again, it’s like no time has passed at all.

I’ve only put a fraction of our pictures here in the blog. If you want to see them all, you’re welcome to visit my Flickr album!


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 159: Viva Las Vegas

Back in Vegas together, Blake and Erin get together for this week’s episode of the Showcase! The happy couple reviews a pair of new movies, including The Wolfman and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, visit a trio of Vegas-area comic shops, and answer your questions about what there is to do in Vegas if you’re a geek like us! In the picks, Erin liked the novel Star Wars: Death Troopers and Blake gives a thumbs-up to Batgirl #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 159: Viva Las Vegas
Inside This Episode:


A brief airline rant

While I will write up the usual photoblog about my trip with Erin in a couple of days, I wanted to get out a quick rant about my air travel experience this week. While my problems haven’t quite been on the level of Kevin Smith’s (do a Google search about Smith and Southwest airlines if you don’t know what I’m talking about), I did get irritated about something.

When I flew for the first time, over ten years ago, there were actual amenities on flights. Fruit, drinks, even whole meals if you were flying across country. I didn’t fly for a few years after that, until Erin and I first got together. The amenities had decreased. A bag of trail mix, a couple (literally, two) of cinnamon cookies…  on rare occasions, the classic bag o’ peanuts, even though those had largely been done away with for fear of allergy-related lawsuits.

Then when the gas prices started to skyrocket, the airlines started to look for ways to compensate. Charging for checked luggage. Charging per bag for checked luggage. It’s because, as Dave Kellett pointed out in Sheldon, oil was sooooooooooper expensive for a while there. Of course, the price has fallen precipitously since they instituted these policies, and yet somehow, we’re still paying more.

Whatever. And you know what? I’ll even give a “whatever” to the fact that airlines no longer seem to offer any amenities at all. To the fact that, on a four-hour flight, the only amenity you get without paying an extra $7 for a tiny bag of pretzels is a single can of soda. And I’ll be grateful that at least they gave me the whole can. I can adapt. I can buy cereal bars and put ’em in my carry-on so I’ll have something to eat on the plane without shelling out the big bucks. I can play that.

But then, halfway home, I heard the pilot get on the intercom and announce, “As a thank you for flying US Airways, we’d like to tell you about the new US Airways Mastercard…” And the flight attendants began to walk down the aisle with applications.

Charge me for my bags? Fine.

Cut out the complimentary food? Whatever.

But now you’ve got the pilot doing commercials during the flight?

Oh, screw you, US Airways.

Screw. You.


Home again…

Erin and I have both checked in through security at McCarran airport here in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we’re on separate concourses, so we had to separate earlier than we would have liked. As I type this, she’s waiting to board her plane to Denver, which eventually will get her back to Pittsburgh this evening. I’ve got about three hours before my flight takes off, which makes me extremely grateful for free airport WiFi. Otherwise, I may be eyeing the airport slot machines in much hungrier manner.

(If you’ve never been in the Las Vegas airport I need to stress that the preceding sentence is NOT a joke. There are slot machines in the airport. There are slot machines everywhere in the airport.)

As always, it was a wonderful trip. As always, it ended too soon. As always, I’ll miss her terribly.

And, as always, I’ll tell you all about it right here in a few days.

Blake’s Twitter Feed

February 2010

Blog Stats

  • 318,585 hits

Blake's Flickr Photos

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.