Archive for November, 2010

30
Nov
10

Thanksgiving Week With Erin

IMG_0396It’s incredible, really, how much things can change in a short period of time. When Erin and I first got together, I began the tradition of marking each of our visits with one another with a photoblog, first on my old LiveJournal, and now here. But thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare, it seems likely that most of you actually followed along with us as the events happened. But Erin and I love having this sort of record of our time together, so I hope you’ll all indulge me as I talk about how we spent last week, the week of Thanksgiving, together.

IMG_0083Erin came in on Sunday and, as you may imagine, immediately wanted to see my sister Heather and her new baby, Maggie. Erin has of course been following the Keller family online, but she was anxious to see the baby in person. And really, who can blame her? The kid is damned cute. She’s already mastered the art of picking up her head and looking at you. She has not, however, gotten the hang of putting her head back down again. Fortunately, neither Erin nor I, nor Maggie’s parents, typically wear sharp objects, so there’s little danger of her hurting herself when her little head invariably flops down on whoever is lucky enough to be holding her at the moment. We went out for dinner with the family Sunday night, where Heather and Will joined Erin and I, plus my parents, as we sat down for a meal at a restaurant and proved that we were all perfectly damn happy watching the baby sleep in her car seat at the end of the table.

The next day, Erin and I went out for lunch at Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, a delicious little place I’ve been telling her about for some months, then caught a screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Erin was seeing the movie for the second time, but I was going in fresh. We both enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Afterwards, we did a little shopping and headed home. We weren’t looking for a busy night, since the next day was supposed to be packed. On Tuesday, we loaded up and drove across Lake Pontchartrain so Erin and I could do something we’ve been planning for quite some time — a tour of the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, Louisiana. Erin loves this Louisiana-based beer, and in fact the only commercially-available beer I’ve ever found that I actually like is an Abita product (their seasonal Strawberry Harvest blend, which typically means I can only drink beer for a brief window between March and June). We had a great lunch at the Abita Brew Pub (their original facility, now a restaurant) before going to the factory, where we made a startling discovery. Erin claims that I didn’t read the website properly before we left home that morning, but my version of the story is a little different. I believe that we suffered a sudden, spontaneous power surge which briefly allowed our wireless router to actually pierce the internet veil of a parallel universe — one almost identical to our own but with one crucial difference: in this parallel universe, unlike our own, the Abita Brewing Company offers tours of its facility on Tuesdays. In our dimension, however, it does not. We decided to return on Friday.

Wednesday was a big day for us, thanks to some smart thinking by my buddy Jason. He and his wife Andrea asked us to accompany them on the New Orleans Cocktail Tour, a great afternoon featured by Gray Line tours. This is a walking tour of the French Quarter, where the guide takes you to several notable bars and restaurants and tells you the history of the building and the company, as well as some of their signature drinks. He also stops at various places along the way, giving you more great information. What makes the tour even better is the fact that there are so many places in New Orleans that are a part of it — the tour is pretty much never the same four stops twice, making it the sort of thing you can do over and over again and not get bored. Our little group visited the following spots:

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Muriel’s French Quarter, a lovely restaurant that we’ve sworn to come to some time for lunch. The place is gorgeous and has a really interesting history, including one of New Orleans’ legendary ghosts. It also has two really good drinks, the Pimm’s Cup and the Fleur De Lis:

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Next was the Court of Two Sisters…

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…another fantastic establishment which supposedly features a famous brunch buffet that Erin and I, again, have sworn to partake of in the future. Here, I tasted a traditional Mint Julep, while Erin got (what I think we both agreed was) the best drink on the tour, the Bayou Blast:

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Next was Arnaud’s, the sort of restaurant I’d love to visit, but I wouldn’t want to spend the money on. It’s a bit more highbrow than my usual fare. It does, however, have a more reasonably-priced adjoining restaurant, Remoulade’s, which is where the four of his had dinner after the tour ended. And the food was great.

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We had drinks at their bar, the French 75. Our drinks included, appropriately, the French 75 and the New Orleans standard Sazerac:

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I was still feeling the Sazerac when we made our last stop at the Bombay Club, a great Martini Bar that featured a live jazz band and an array of dessert-based martinis.

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I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I tasted both of Erin’s Martinis, and I approved of both the German Chocolate and the Mistress (a non-cream based sweet with a Hershey’s Kiss at the bottom):

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With the tour over, we walked back to Remoulade’s for dinner then continued walking New Orleans for a while, Jason showing Erin places she missed and eventually taking us back to a place he’d gone to on a previous tour, Tony Seville’s Pirate Alley Cafe:

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This quaint little place was right next door to St. Louis Cathedral and embraced its Pirate theme wholeheartedly. I got Erin the book our tour guide had written about New Orleans bars, History With a Twist, Lemon and Lime, and Jason treated her to her first drink of real (and, may I add, totally legal in Louisiana) Absinthe:

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I tasted this one too, and may I say, Oh my GOD, what the HELL are you people thinking sweet mother of God I understand now why this drink was illegal until three years ago! In other words, it was kind of strong.

Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving. We watched the parade together, while Erin sweetly allowed me to catch up on the NaNoWriMo writing I didn’t get to do the previous day, and then it was off to spend the day with family. As always, we spent the afternoon with the Petit clan, including my father’s brothers and sisters and their children, then in the evening we went on to my mother’s family, the Faucheux clan. In both cases, most of the photo opportunities mainly involved passing around my niece like a hot potato nobody wanted to get rid of…

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Perhaps the crowning achievement of the night, photographically, was getting my grandmother, mother, sister and niece together for a picture of four generations of Faucheux women:

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IMG_0316Friday was take two on our effort to visit the Abita Brewery. This time, my internet browser was functioning properly and we got there on a day which actually did feature a tour. Or, as my cousin Jennifer remarked, “an excuse to drink free beer.” When you arrive for the tour, which is free, you’re escorted to the bar, where you can taste Abita’s regular brews for free. Again, not being much of a beer drinker, I opted for their fantastic root beer.

Once everybody was checked in — and I do mean everbody, this tour was packed — we were shown an informative video about how beer is made before the tour began. Now I want to reiterate, I really did have fun, so the snarkiness inherent in my description of the tour should not be misinterpreted as a warning not to attend. Basically, all that happens on the tour is that you’re taken into a room full of vats of various liquids that are on their way to turning into beer. Then, the guide tells you how beer is made, which of course was also explained to you in the video you just watched. You then return to the bar for more samples. Fun? Yes. But in terms of expediency, the guide could simply have said, “Remember that video you just watched? This is where we do that stuff.”

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The tour over, we returned to New Orleans for dinner at Star Steak and Lobster house, a fantastic little place Erin found on Restaurants.com, and a little more shopping, before heading home. Saturday again featured family/Maggie time, as we watched the little one while Heather and Will had lunch. It was during this time that I took the greatest photograph I, or anybody else, has ever taken:

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It’s the face Maggie is making, I think. I mean, look at that face. Every time I see this picture I start giggling. Is it just because I’m a new uncle? Because if that’s the case, I’m okay with that. Seriously, guys, I totally recommend becoming an uncle, provided that your niece is as cute as mine, which I’m sorry to tell you probably isn’t possible.

Oh, and just in case you think Uncle Blake didn’t sneak in some time holding Maggie…

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After lunch, we met up again with Jason and Andrea, as well as Mike and Nicole, Daniel and Lauren, and a last-minute addition (as he just got in from working offshore that afternoon) Kenny for a screening of Disney’s Tangled. The general consensus was that the movie was pretty good. If you want more details, may I recommend that you check out the review we recorded of this film and Harry Potter for the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast?

After the film, we all headed out to Christmas in the Oaks at New Orleans City Park. You may recall that Erin and I went there back in January, shortly after New Year’s, which gives us the distinct pleasure of having attended the event twice in 2010, neither of which was in December. If you don’t know what this event is, it’s the NOLA version of the grand outdoor Christmas Lighting display. The lights take up a large section of the park, although sadly, still not as large a section as it did before Hurricane Katrina. Still, we all had a great time, especially Kenny, who in this photograph looks like he’s standing in the front because he’s hired all of us to be his top-secret squad of Ninja Assassins. This is silly, of course, as I am the only certified Ninja in the group.

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From left: Andrea, Jason, Me, Erin, Kenny, Mike, Nicole, Lauren, and Daniel. That big red thing in the background is a tree made of Poinsetta flowers. Not pictured: a large mound of stray cats who nibbled on the tree and had to be carted off with a rake.

 

IMG_0444On Sunday, as sadly happens, Erin went home and I went back to missing her. I think sometimes that the rarity of our time together makes it more precious, and I think that’s fair. But I’m still looking forward to the day (the approaching day, I should add) where our time together isn’t limited to short trips, and instead becomes a way of life. I love you, sweetheart.

Kenny, I just think you’re nice.

These are, of course, only a few of the pictures we took last week. If you want to see the rest of them, they’re all uploaded to my Flickr album: Thanksgiving Week 2010.

29
Nov
10

Christmas Party: Commercials we actually LIKE

We stand now, friends, upon the true beginning of the Christmas season. We’ve only one page left in our November page-a-day calendars, Santa is making a list, and television stations have been showing Christmas-related advertising since Halloween — except now we’ve reached the point where I look forward to it instead of finding it irritating. Some people hate commercials, but not me. A good commercial can be just as entertaining as any short film or cartoon, and I’ll admit it, if I like a commercial I’m more likely to seek out the product or service advertised therein. A good commercial that does its job will sell to me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The best thing about commercialization at Christmas is that there are some ads we look forward to seeing every year. Let’s look for a moment at some of the classic commercials of Christmases Past…

Who can forget the classic Hershey Kisses “Bell” commercial?

Or the time Red and Yellow, our favorite M&Ms, met Santa Claus?

Then there was the time Barney Rubble decided to dress up as Santa Claus to try to get his hands on Fred’s Pebbles Cereal. This was back in those dark days when people were allowed to market children’s cereals to — y’know — children.

Coca-Cola has practically turned Christmas into a cottage industry, with classic advertising bits like the trucks…

And, of course, their polar bears and penguins…

And as Erin taught me, in the Pittsburgh area it just isn’t Christmas until you see this sweet, simple commercial from Eat ‘n Park:

Then a year or two ago, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart began to run this joint musical ad which, I’ll admit, I find pretty damn catchy.

Of course, not every Christmas commercial is great. If I never hear that painful Old Navy rap from last year again, I’ll be blissfully happy. And there are some commercials that are just plain scary — for example anything featuring the Burger King…

Or the absolutely terrifying ad Snickers showed this Halloween…

Now, has the Christmas season yet created anything so disturbing? No. But I fear they’re taking steps in this direction. For example, the new ad Planters is showing this year, featuring a fancier, stop motion Mr. Peanut voiced by Iron Man himself, Robert Downey, Jr…

If you’re not sure just why this commercial is disturbing, I want you to put this into perspective: Mr. Peanut’s party has been invaded by a Nutcracker. A Nutcracker that has previously attempted to crack his shell, and clearly intends to do so again. And yet, it’s all good. Let him walk in. This is the equivalent of calling up a starving vampire that tried to bite you last week and asking him if he wants to come down for the skin cutting party you’re holding for all your Goth friends. This is a bad idea.

So I make this plea to the advertising industry. This Christmas, more ads like this one:

And less that give us the screaming heebie-jeebies.

Thank you.

28
Nov
10

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 198: Harry Potter, Young Justice, and Tangled

Erin comes back to the show this week to talk about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 as well as the premiere of the new Young Justice series on Cartoon Network. Erin goes through a few picks, while Blake stays traditional with Teen Titans #89. Then, they’re joined by Kenny, Mike, Daniel, Lauren and Nicole to review Disney’s latest fairy tale, the CGI film Tangled! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by the Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 198: Harry Potter, Young Justice, and Tangled

27
Nov
10

The Christmas Party is Coming!

Hello, friends! Just a quick reminder that, with Thanksgiving over and December mere days away, it’s time to kick off the 2010 Evertime Realms Christmas Party! Like every year, throughout the month of December I’m going to load down the blog with holiday-themes reviews, columns, features, photoblogs, and classic features brought back from the depths of the Internet Dead. In fact, I’ve already started — if you click on over to The Back Issue Bin you’ll see I’m including at least one Christmas comic review every day this month. Also, you can check out all of my previous Christmas Party features from years past right here: Evertime Realms Christmas Party Category. Although I do remind you that links to other websites, especially those to the now-defunct Comixtreme.com, may not work.

The party will, as always, culminate in a brand-new Christmas story for 2010. This is a tradition I’ve been doing since way back in 2000, a new story every year, and I’ve got no intention of stopping now. And lest we forget, for those of you with an eBook reader, you can buy an electronic edition of my Christmas tales from 2000-2008 for just 99 cents! A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas is available in the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch bookstore, for the Barnes and Noble Nook, and in other formats including the Amazon Kindle over at Smashwords.com!

Merry Christmas, my friends! I’ll be back here with more content very soon.

26
Nov
10

NaNoWriMo: Meeting the Goal

Tonight, my work on The Pyrite War hit 50,404 words. The story isn’t finished, but the 50K word goal has been met, so once again, I can call myself a NaNoWriMo winner.

Now, in the past, I’ve had a tendency to hit the 50K mark, not be finished with the story, and then drift away from the tale and not finish, at least not for some time. I’m bound and determined not to let that happen this time. I’m going to keep working, daily, until this first draft is finished. If you’ll look at the chart here, you’ll see I’ve only skipped one day of writing all month, and since I gave that day to Erin, I think that was more than worth it.

But this book will be finished.

25
Nov
10

Happy Thanksgiving!

A quick, simple message for you today, my friends. Go out today, eat too much food, be with the people you love, and take a few minutes to think about everything in your life that really matters. I’ll be with Erin and the rest of my family, and that in mind, there’s little else that matters.

I do often feel negligent on this blog when it comes to Thanksgiving. It’s easy to come up with lots of movies, books, comics and more to review at Halloween and Christmas. There’s considerably less available for a “Thanksgiving Party.” But if you really want a quick review fix, I’ve popped a couple of Thankgiving comic book reviews over at the Back Issue Bin this week:

Hmm. Evidently there’s a rule about Thanksgiving comics only being identified by initial. Who knew?

24
Nov
10

Classic EBI #139: Giving Thanks For Comics

Hey, friends. No new Everything But Imaginary today, as I’m giving this week to Erin, but I had enough time to post this classic EBI from Thanksgivings past. Originally presented on November 23, 2005, this was a look at what I was grateful for in the first post-Katrina Thanksgiving. Boy, things have changed — Alias Enterprises is no more, Dan Slott‘s Thing comic didn’t make it past ten issues… but hey, there’s still stuff worth being thankful for.

Everything But Imaginary #139: Giving Thanks For Comics

Tomorrow, my friends, is Thanksgiving, and as such I wound imagine most of us will not spend our day sitting in front of our computers. I know I certainly won’t. Sure, I’ll be on briefly in the morning working on my book for National Novel Writing Month (word count waits for no holiday), but the rest of the day I’m going to be with my family, enjoying their company, celebrating the fact that we’re all together and safe (especially after the nasty hurricane season we just went through), and eating gargantuan amounts of turkey, ham, various potato-based side dishes and pumpkin pie. And it will be good.

The day is intended, of course, to give thanks. I’m thankful for my family and friends, for everyone in my life that’s important to me, for the fact that I’ve entered quite a productive period as a writer, and for a lot of other things that people reading a comic book column don’t particularly care about. But there are things out there in the realm of comic books that I’m quite thankful for. Now normally, if I’m going to do a holiday column, I like to talk about comic book tales that took place on that holiday – Christmas and Halloween are notoriously easy for this project. Thanksgiving is more difficult. The only Thanksgiving comic I’ve read in years was JSA #54, a celebration with the Justice Society and the Justice League, and while this was a decent enough comic, it was quickly overshadowed by JSA #55, which was one of the best Christmas stories I’ve ever read in a comic book. (Geoff Johns must have been on a real holiday kick that year.)

So rather than trying to dig up some Thanksgiving stories to shine a spotlight on, I’m instead going to take this column to go over some of the things in the world of comic books that I am, at present, particularly thankful for. Great trends, great stories, great comics, great creators. It’s easy to find things to complain about – and don’t worry, I’ll no doubt get around to that around the first of the year – but today I want to go over some of the things about comic books that make me smile.

I’m thankful for the way DC Comics and a lot of the smaller publishers stepped up to help comic shops here in the Gulf South after Hurricane Katrina. DC offered shops in badly impacted areas their products free of charge for a period of time. Many other publishers and individual creators started working on benefit books or auctions to help aid the Red Cross and other relief organizations. As disappointed as I was that some of the other giants in the industry didn’t do more to help out, I was extremely proud of what DC and everyone who worked on a benefit did.

I’m thankful for Alias Enterprises. In a comic book industry that often seems too focused on drawing the dollars out of those same readers that have been around for years, Alias seems to be making a real effort to reach out not just to new readers, but to younger readers. They’re creating comics for all ages like Lullaby and The Imaginaries, bringing back great comics like Opposite Forces and Tellos that have really wide appeal, and even tapping into an often ignored Christian readership with ArmorQuest and David. Even if Alias isn’t necessarily putting out anything for you, you’ve got to appreciate its efforts to reach out.

I’m thankful that more and more classic comics are finding their way back into print. In addition to Marvel’s Masterworks and Essentials comics and DC’s Archives, this year DC began their Showcase Presents series and the Dark Horse Archives began reprints old Gold Key comics including Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom and Magnus: Robot Fighter, as well Steve Rude’s Nexus. And let’s not forget the reprints of the old Little Lulu comics, the Complete Peanuts series (which was joined this year by Complete Dennis the Menace). There are even reprints in the works for old Harvey Comics like Hot Stuff. There’s a reason classic comics become classics, and putting out old material in new editions is the best way to keep them alive. In the future, here’s hoping somebody starts doing archival editions of great stuff like Tales From the Crypt, more of the Archie superheroes like The Comet, Charlton classics like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom and old kids comics like Richie Rich or Casper.

I’m thankful for how Infinite Crisis is shaping up, again, by bringing back those elements from the past that made the DC heroes such icons in the first place. I’m thankful that the writers across the line took their time and set things up instead of just rushing into the story headfirst. I’m glad that, for once, we’re really getting a story about a universe, about an entire world of heroes that legitimately impacts each and every title, and I’m increasingly hopeful that the new DCU that emerges from the other side will be better and brighter.

I’m thankful that Fables, my favorite comic each and every month, hasn’t lost a single step even since Bill Willingham whipped out the identity of the Adversary. In fact, I’m thankful for all of my favorite comics, including (such diverse titles as) JSA, Uncle Scrooge and PVP. I’m thankful for surprises – books that weren’t even on my radar that turned out to be great, such as Young Avengers and Son of Vulcan. If there’s anything better than finding a comic you had no intention of reading and turning out to love it, I don’t know what it is.

I’m thankful that Marvel had the good sense to give She-Hulk another go. It’s by far the best comic on their roster – one that has a sense of humor about itself and the world it inhabits, and its gentle self-deprecation blends perfectly with classic superhero stories. I’m glad Marvel is recognizing the talent they’ve got in Dan Slott, giving him the fantastic GLA miniseries from earlier this year (and the upcoming GLX one-shot), and I’m really, really happy that they’ve put him at the helm of the new title for my favorite Marvel character, The Thing.

I’m thankful that the big publishers are starting to take chances on genres other than superheroes again. DC is making a big push to resurrect the western with Loveless and the excellent Jonah Hex, and Marvel is dipping their toes in that same water with The Dark Tower, although in that case they are no doubt more motivated by the appeal of having Stephen King write a comic for them. And speaking of which, I’m really grateful that somebody finally got him to dip his pen into a comic book inkwell. As I said before, though, I just hope Marvel really takes advantage of all the potential having him writing a comic book can represent.

And finally, most of all, I’m thankful for this dandy little site called Comixtreme.com CXPulp.com. I love having this outlet to talk about comics, to espouse my feelings, to think about and analyze the trends and direction of the industry, and I’m thankful that I’ve got swell folks like you out there who read along and talk it up with me. It’s the most fun you can have talking about comic books – all right here.

So have a great Thanksgiving, folks – have an extra slice of pumpkin pie for me, and be sure to come back next week when I announce the categories in the Third Annual Everything But Imaginary Awards! See you then!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 16, 2005

That’s right, it’s finally back! I’ve missed having this feature here in Everything But Imaginary every week, and I’ve finally gotten my comic source stabilized enough to start dishing on the great comics every week again. And for my money, the best comic that came out last Wednesday was the first issue of the new Thing series by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito. As I’ve often told you guys, the Thing is my favorite character in Marvel comics, and as far as I’m concerned, the best hero to ever sprout from the collected imagination of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His new first issue was a lot of fun, lighthearted but not as over-the-top as She-Hulk… it really felt like a classic superhero tale. Here’s hoping he enjoys a nice long run.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.




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