Friday, June 28, 2013

Things you never knew about Superman

(“Seriously? She’s going to blog about a comic book hero?”)

Not exactly. Before Christopher Reeve, I never followed Superman at all. But then Husband called my attention to this cool article in…wait for it…AARP magazine, the June/July 2013 issue. Just arrived. It’s an uncredited piece entitled Five Things You Never Knew about Superman.
Check it out:

1.      He has a social security number. Makes sense. He’d have to have one to work at The Daily Planet, after all. The number, 092-09-6616, was revealed in a 1966 Action Comics issue. The SSN actually belonged to New Yorker Giobatta Baiocchi, who had died a year earlier.  His relatives are still puzzling over this bizarre identity theft.

2.      He doesn’t just fight fictional villains. In 1940, Look magazine commissioned a story in which Superman hauls Hitler and Stalin through the air to a war crimes tribunal in Geneva. In a 1946 radio show he battled the KKK. Then in 1978 he boxed with Muhammad Ali, but that must’ve been as Clark Kent. He lost.

3.      He failed his Army physical during WWII. Wha-a-a-t? Seems that due to his x-ray vision, he read the eye chart in the next room by mistake.

4.      He’s (probably) Jewish. His creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, dropped plenty of clues. Kal-El, his name on Krypton, is Hebrew for “vessel of God.” And, like Moses, he was launched to safety by his parents where he was adopted by gentiles. Cool, huh? Straight out of Exodus.

5.      Superman’s middle name is Joseph. That revelation came in 1997. No, that’s Clark Joseph Kent. Not Super Joseph Man. C’mon, people!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A sci-fi adventure only A Stone’s Throw Away

Had to wrestle with myself on this one. I vowed from the first that if I didn’t like a book I wouldn’t write about it. Well, okay, I did like it, but with a serious caveat. I’m an old-school grammarian, you see – one who likes agreement between subject and predicate, words used according to their meanings, misspellings at a bare minimum (there’s always going to be one or two…), and logical sentence structure. If author Carl Lee ever did take basic high school English Comp, he must’ve slept all the way through it. Worse, this narrative showed no signs of an outside editor. (My editor would’ve totally torn her hair out.)

But maybe that’s just me. A Stone’s Throw Away has garnered, at last count, twelve rave reviews on Amazon.

And I’ll tell you why.

It’s one hellavuh story. It moves. It’s got a great premise. The science is credible and meticulously well thought out. There’s danger, suspense, and unexpected twists and turns all over the place. So even though I had to drop back a few times to figure out what the heck he actually meant, I couldn’t put it down.
The blurb: Brian has just graduated and is trying to choose the least objectionable option from the few offered him: child-rearing, maintenance or research. What it’s come down to, on the earth 500 years hence, is living in secured communities of about 500, each dependent on a Dupe (duplicator) for their needs. Survival depends on providing the Dupe with sufficient raw materials to function. Beyond that…not a lot of opportunities.

Growing up at Installation 107 (always written “One-O-Seven”) was difficult for the brilliant but basically directionless Brian. He simply didn’t like being fenced in. And ultimately, via one frightening escapade after another, he achieves life on his own terms. More or less. And along the way he solves one of the most confounding technical problems of the age.
Carl Lee
Truth is, I have other reasons to like Carl Lee. Several years ago when I joined the Gather networking site, he was the first to friend me. Under his guidance I joined several compatible groups where I made many cyber friends and found an audience for my blog. I knew he was working on this book and was thrilled when it finally came out.

Best of all, I learned through his interview in Denise Alicea’s blog The Pen & Muse that we have the same writing M-O: we create our characters and just let ‘em run with it. And boy can they surprise you!
So…even though A Stone’s Throw Away lacks editing and certain other normal publisher niceties, it’s a great read.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

And on to The Magic Kingdom

Chalk this up to grandparental nostalgia. We feared the girls were probably too old for it. Our last trip, after all, was when their mother was only about ten.

We were wrong. But such is the magic of Disney.

After transferring to a Disney World resort called Art of Animation (the Finding Nemo section) we took an evening shuttle to Epcot. EPCOT, an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is basically a monument to world peace and corporate sponsorship. Inside the giant crystal-like dome, a ride called Spaceship Earth (currently brought to you by Siemens), takes you through the evolution of human communications. We also explored rides and exhibits devoted to The Land and The Sea. By then it was time for the fireworks around World Showcase Lake. Both girls clicked madly away with phone and digital camera, respectively.
Gotta say something about our Nemo suite. It was listed as a “value” accommodation, but I can’t imagine anything being better. The décor was unrepressed imagination – all kinds of colors and shapes: whimsical mushroom end tables, jellyfish lamps, carpet that reminded me of the reef off Grand Cayman. The girls had their own bedroom, bath and TV. It was completely perfect.

The first day at the Magic Kingdom would’ve been a total bust were it not for Captain Jack Sparrow. We made it early enough to catch Pirates of the Caribbean without too long a wait, but then they stopped the park train due to distant lightning and, after over an hour in line, Splash Mountain broke down. As we jostled through the impossible crowds, the girls happened to see Captain Jack. We’d already lost track of Grandpa, but we couldn’t miss this. Lita managed to pull the three of us into his audience. The performer was a spot-on ringer for Johnny Depp. Taking three 5-to-7-year-olds from the group, he proceeded to teach sword fighting to each in turn. It was hilarious.
We then staggered back to Nemo for siesta, returning later to catch more rides and the Electric Light Parade. The girls were kind enough to forego the fireworks that followed because of my aching exhaustion.

The next day we discovered Stitch’s Escape, The Little Mermaid, the Speedway, the People Mover, and (oh, joy!) the spinning teacups. I had to pass on that, but the girls rode them four times. We ended our stay with an ill-advised trip to Space Mountain. I can’t imagine how that was worse than Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey, but I was still suffering when we dropped the girls off in Montgomery. Happily, my daughter provided me with some sort of chew tab that set me to rights.
That brings me to the end of this rather abbreviated account of a fabulous trip. Tomorrow I shall return to the literary purpose of this blog.  Promise.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oh, Yes We Did!

We made it to Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with grandkids in tow

Beauxbatons & Durmstrang students
with Hogwarts host and girls
The Hog's Head
My husband and I conditioned ourselves for months prior to facing the crowds, interminable lines, and torrid Florida heat. And we only took our two oldest grands – Lita, 13 and Erica, 12 – who’ve read all the books and seen all the movies.  But despite all our stellar intentions, the girls had to be very patient with our limitations.  Just the walk from Universal’s parking garage to the attractions surpassed our neighborhood’s jogging trail at least twice over! Our hastily developed game plan: A. from park opening to noon, B. back to motel for recovery, C. back to park around 5:00 PM until closing. It kinda worked!

So much has been written about this experience that I only feel compelled to add that yes, butterbeer is delicious (imbibed at the Three Broomsticks) and so is pumpkin juice (at the very atmospheric Hog’s Head that evening). The Forbidden Journey, however, is every bit as horrifying as it is thrilling. Husband survived the ordeal with eyes squeezed tightly shut; the rest of us by screaming our heads off.

Dumbledore's Penseive

The line leading to the ride is well worth it, though. It’s basically a tour of Hogwarts Castle, entering through the herbology lab. It’s all there: the Mirror of Erised, the sorting hat (the girls are both Ravenclaw), the classrooms, Dumbledore’s office, etc. Along the streets one can see mandrake plants screeching away, Hagrid’s textbook snarling and snapping in a cage at Flourish & Blotts, and a moving Wanted sign for Sirius Black posted in the square. All of it is extremely well done.
But do be warned: Moaning Myrtle is in the girls’ restroom.
Thus far Harry Potter’s world is only a small segment of the Islands of Adventure side of Universal’s park. I hear there are plans to expand it by adding Diagon Alley. I would definitely return for that. In October or February.

The Lodge at Jurassic Park
Next door to Hogwarts is Jurassic Park – also wonderfully rendered. We whiled away several hours there, then browsed around Seuss Landing, Comics Land (as in newspaper funnies) and then came to an electrified halt in Marvel’s Super Hero city. Egad. Captain America, Spiderman, Storm, Rogue, and others I couldn’t name came roaring down the street on motorcycles.  They stopped for photo ops before blasting off again. The girls were thrilled.

After two day’s at Universal, we moved on to Epcot and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. But that’s another story.