Saturday, June 30, 2007

If this be... Hiatus???

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

As the title of this week's column suggests, Hoopla! is going to take a vacation, due to circumstances that are at least 84% beyond my control.

The good news is, this will be a relatively short hiatus. I'm going to be out of town from July 3 - July 9 and so I'm hoping that I can get this thing going again shortly after I return. In fact, I'm gonna go ahead and say July 15 will be the deadline for the all-new, all-mezany Hoopla!

Reasons why Hoopla! cannot be there for you during the first half of July:

1. Dissertation.

Yes, it's an old excuse, but still a good one, I think. I'm supposed to have my final draft of my field statement (a precursor to the dissertation) finished by July 15. It's not going to happen, but yet it must.

Paradoxical, no?

2. My silly jobs.

Since I'm going to be away for a week, I can either take a week off from work stuff and give up that week's pay or I can work my butt off trying to squeeze in an extra week's worth of work so that I can claim the hours.
Logic dictates that I just accept the fact that I don't have the time right now to do that.

The landlord, however, feels differently.

Logic vs. Landlord... who wins???

That's right.
Landlord wins.

3. Dating Mie again.

I am. It's true.

[See? Those dating tips from a couple of weeks ago really paid off!]
And it's actually quite lovely.

[And no, I'm not saying that to score points with her... she doesn't even read this thing. So, don't you be so darn cynical, okay?]

One of the things about dating Mie, though, is that it necessitates occasionally spending time with her.

Ridiculous, but true.

4. Vacation. Quasi-, that is...

As mentioned previously, I'm going away for a week. It's a family reunion / vacation kind of thing. I'm expecting it to be somewhat painful, but maybe I'll get some entertaining photos from it to share with all of you.

Then again, maybe I won't.

5. Um... I don't think there's a fifth reason.

Anyway, to help you be strong while I'm away, I now present you with the following...

The above is from Azumanga Daioh, one of the animes I mentioned last week. Azumanga Daioh is my current obsession.

And who could blame me, really?

And this next thing here... this is a sneak preview of the upcoming Review of Republican Presidential Candidate column...

For those of you who don't follow these things, that guy standing with the red dog is Tancredo, and he is not a very nice man.

He doesn't like immigrants, he doesn't like Spanish, and he sure as hell doesn't like you.

[He told me so.]


Anyway, I suggest you use this Hoopla!-less time to clean your room, call on old friends, and maybe put in some extra hours at work.

And remember, this isn't goodbye.

It's "until we meet again..."


- Paul Weissburg, sentimental old fool with a blog

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 26: If this be... Anime???

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

As you know, it's June Month Madness and that means no comic-book reviews or discussion or anything for the whole month!!!

Insane, but true!!!

Of course, this raises the eternal question: If you can't talk about comic-books, what else is there to talk about???

And the answer, of course, is anime!!!

Now, lemme tell ya... I have steadfastly avoided anime all my life. It simply doesn't appeal to me.

The big eyes, the speed lines, the whole thing. I don't like anime and I don't like manga.

That said, a couple of weeks ago I suddenly--for no particular reason--decided that I wanted to try out the best that anime has to offer.

So, I searched that world wide web that the kids are always going on about and looked through various anime review sites to see which shows/movies might be of interest to a non-anime-lover such as myself.

[Incidentally, I feel I should point out that if you have any interest at all in anime, or simply want to see how well-organized and user-friendly a web-site can be, I strongly recommend that you check out THEM Anime Reviews.

I visited a lot of anime review sites, but this one definitely impressed me the most. For one thing, they have their reviews cross-referenced so that you can look them up by genre, by alphabetical order, by the year that the anime came out, or by the rating. Besides which, their reviews are very well-written; they give a good plot summary but without giving away any surprises-- which is key to good review writing, I think.

Also, the reviewers are extremely articulate about why they like or don't like various anime, so that I could easily figure out which reviews I would most likely agree with and which I wouldn't.
I can't help thinking that it's too bad there isn't a site of similar quality for comic-books. If I were a newcomer to the wonderful world of comics, where would I find out which series are worth looking at and which genres are out there? I can't think of a single place that comes anywhere near the THEM Anime Review site in terms of being easy to navigate and full of good information.]

[That was a lengthy parenthetical aside, wasn't it?]

[Other excellent sites include The Anime Review and Akemi's Anime World. These two are also super easy to navigate, feature extremely helpful reviews, and just plain rock!]

As it turns out, there is quite a world of anime out there.

On the negative side, roughly 90% of it can be put into one of four categories:

1) Mecha - big robots fighting each other.

2) A girl falls down a well or some damn thing and ends up in a fantasy world of dragons and magic thingies and she discovers that she's a princess and... oop... I just threw up.

3) A teenage boy finds a robot girl or an alien girl or some kind of not-human girl and she's really beautiful and she falls in love with him. Hijinks ensue.

4) Samurai. Lots of swords. Takes itself very, very seriously. People use the word "honor" a lot.

So, I tried very hard to avoid all of the above genres because none of them particularly appeal to me.

[In all fairness to anime, however, it's worth noting that more than 90% of all American comic-books can be placed into exactly one category: Super-heroes.]

Anyway, the first one I decided to try (through the magic of Netflix!!!) was:

1) Texhnolyze

It's hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and ultra-hard to understand.

Every review I found about this show talked about how totally incomprehensible it is for the first several episodes. Those who liked it said that it all comes together brilliantly toward the end. Those who hated it said it was too artsy and slow.

I figured this was as good a place to start as any.

I've only seen the first four episodes of Texhnolyze so far, and I'm just beginning to get a sense of what it's about. It's sort of a dark sci-fi story about a futuristic society where they can create amazingly real prosthetic limbs.

One of the main characters is a boxer (Ichise) who, at the very beginning, gets on the wrong side of the mafia and so gets an arm and leg chopped off.


Another important character is a guy (Yoshii) who spends most of the first episode climbing down this vast stairway to visit the world of Texhnolyze (from where?). When he arrives, someone asks him how the journey was and he says it took him four days longer than he expected.

So, we're talking about a lot of stairs.

Also, while he's climbing down these metal ladders he's wearing a gas mask. It's kind of creepy looking.

Upon arriving in the world below he encounters a young girl wearing a fox mask (Ran) who leads him to her father's house/castle. They drink tea and are attacked by mobsters. Then the girl with the mask (who barely speaks) and Yoshii take a very long train ride together into the city (I think the train ride lasted about two episodes, if I remember correctly).

None of this probably sounds terribly interesting, but the art is absolutely beautiful in parts and the music is very creepy. If you look at their web-site, you'll get a sort of sense of the thing, although even that doesn't quite capture it.

Texhnolyze definitely isn't for everyone. It's probably not even for 1/4 of everyone. It's long and slow and in the first episode (each episode is about 25 minutes long) there are maybe six lines of dialogue in the whole damn thing.


If you're willing to put a bit of time into it, this looks to be a very intriguing series. After I finished the fourth episode, I went back and watched the first two again. And they started to make some sense.

There are art sequences that are simply amazing. At times, it's like looking at a Dave McKean cover... sort of. I don't know. I don't really know what to compare it to. It's not really like anything I've seen before.

And that's part of what I like so much about it.

Anyway, if you're up for a challenge, I highly recommend Texhnolyze. It's not quite like anything you've seen before.

2) Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl has a terrible title. There's no getting around it.

It's frequently described in the anime review sites as a sort of cross between Luc Besson's Le Femme Nikita and The Professional. That is absolutely true. And I would argue that it actually holds its own against either of those movies.

Gunslinger Girl is about a government "welfare agency" that's actually a training ground for assassains. The catch is that each of these assassains is a young girl.

Sounds absurd? I know. But it's actually incredible good. And uber-melancholy.

One facet of the series it that these girls are "conditioned" to become assassains. The conditioning involves cyborg parts and a bit of brain-washing. Each time they get conditioned, they lose a little bit more of their personality and their memories. Oh yeah, and it shortens their life-spans, too.

By all rights, this series shouldn't work as well as it does.

But the stories are superb and the series really sucks you in quickly.

Of the anime I've watched thus far, this is the one that I'm very seriously considering buying a copy of. I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind a bit of action and a whole lot of tragedy.

[Here's a link to a trailer for Gunslinger Girl. It's dubbed in English, which I hate, and it doesn't totally capture the mood of the thing, but it'll give you a sense of what the show looks like.]

Azumanga Daioh

Azumanga Daioh reminds me of Charles Schultz's Peanuts. Only, the characters in Azumanga Daioh are all girls.

And Japanese.

And instead of being sort of slow-paced, Azumanga Daioh is completely hyper-active.

If the Peanuts is heroin, Azumanga Daioh is crack. Japanese crack.

Azumanga Daioh is a slice-of-life kind of story about six girls in high school. There's not really much in the way of a storyline; the series just follows them through their four years in school.

Parts of it are super-cute. Other parts are hilarious.

And other parts simply make no sense at all.

If you hate things that are cute, this anime will probably drive you insane. The girl you see above, Chiyo-Chan, is almost painfully cute. Even the other characters can't stand it at times.

But my favorite character is Osaka:

[There's a better picture of her at the top of this column; it's the second from the top.]

She's sort of spacey and... well, you really just need to see it to understand.

If you like your humor with a very surreal/cutesy edge, Azumanga is the real deal.

Here's a link to a pretty good trailer (though again dubbed in English) and this is a link to a very short cartoon (about five minutes?) of Azumanga Daioh that is a perfect sampler of the series.
As a matter of fact, if I have accomplished nothing else with this particular installment of Hoopla!, I hope I can persuade you to click on that link to the five minute cartoon because, really, I think it's hilarious.
You may not agree, of course.
But then you'd be wrong.

Anyway, if you like what you see at these links, you will love Azumanga Daioh. If you don't like them, however, I can't do nothin' for you.

[Note: If you're planning to watch Azumanga Daioh with young kids, which I highly recommend, I'll just caution you in advance that the one kind of icky thing about the show is the one male character, a lecherous male teacher who is always staring at the girls. I guess in Japan, that's considered funny, but I found it disturbing and I certainly wouldn't want to have to explain to a young kid why the man teacher wants to watch the girls swim in the pool.
Fortunately, he's hardly in the show at all. So, just skip the fourth episode, "Pool, pool, pool" and you should be safe.]

Still to come:

My, how the time does fly! June Madness Month is almost over and I still haven't done my reviews of the Republican presidential candidates, the Employee motivational tips, and oh so much other good stuff!
Well, be here next week when I try to get to as much of it as possible before June is over and we are once again legally permitted to discuss comic-book related stuff.
In the meantime, go watch some darn anime!!!
- Paul

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 25: Reviews of Dating Tips...?

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the comic-book review column that has been forced by legal mandate to cease and desist with all comic-book reviews throughout the month of June.

And let me tell you, it hasn't been easy.

Just a couple of days ago I received my monthly box o' comics and there's so much I'm bursting to tell you about... comics you MUST run out and buy immediately, comics you should avoid like the plague, comics that pretend to be your friends but really just want to borrow your car...

And the list goes on.

Alas, I'm bound by the Rules of the Game, which clearly state that no comic-book review blogger shall review any comic-books or comic-book related items through the month of June.

I don't like it, but that's the way it is.

So, instead of comics this week we will be reviewing some online dating tips...

As some of you may recall, I only recently broke up with my girlfriend, Mie, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Fortunately, it turns out that the internet is full of useful tips for meeting women.

Let's begin, shall we...?

Secrets of Successful Daters
7 ways to supercharge your social life
Special to Yahoo! Personals
Updated: Jun 9, 2007

Toni Coleman's "Secrets of Successful Daters" is specifically designed to help women who want to be more successful daters.

Unfortunately for Ms. Coleman, the first problem she faces in helping women to learn to date the 21st century way is a credibility issue stemming from, of all things, her photo.

I refer you to the following comments by Yahoo! Contributors:

The author, Toni Coleman, looks like she's not been on a date for 30 years. How about using someone who was born in the 29th Century.


Or, how about this...?

I also agree that if Toni Coleman were a hot chick writing this article, we all would feel alot more secure with her advice


Still, he's got a point.

(Note how I'm really, really hoping that last comment was from a guy. Because if wasn't... well, that would almost be too depressing for words.)

Anyway, the general point is right on target: How can you trust the dating advice--or any advice, really--of someone who isn't a hot chick? Or, better still, a hot chick born in the 29th century?

So, let's disregard whatever Toni might have had to say and move right on to the dating advice for men...

Secrets of Women
A dating coach reveals 27 things every man needs to know
Special to Yahoo!
Personals Updated: Jun 9, 2007

One look at my man, Dave, and I know that he's a total chick magnet. I mean, just look at that cocky, devil-may care grin. The man absolutely radiates confidence!!!

There will be no snide comments about Dave not having gotten a date in 30 years. No sirree!

Dave starts us off with 10 Secrets You Need To Know, and they reflect exactly the level of insight and ingenuity that you would expect from an online dating coach. For example...

1) All women like surprises; women believe they should be surprised at least once a month.

See? I didn't know that. I was thinking maybe one surprise per every three months or so.

I was way off base on that.

And that's just the beginning of the insights...

2) All women have fantasies. A man should take the time to find out her fantasy.

3) Women want a man to be sensitive yet fight for them if they needed to.

This last one is a bit grammatically perplexing, but I think we all get where Dave is coming from. And just in case you're not quite getting it, Secret #4 helps to clarify...

4) Women want a man to be gentle and rough at the same time.

Yes, women like it when a man is gentle and rough at the same time. Oh, they may claim to want someone sensitive and gentle, but I think we all know what they really mean...

5) Women want to be told they're beautiful, then after a time told they're sexy.

Here's where more information might have been helpful. More specifically, I wish Dave had elaborated on how much time is supposed to pass between Phase One and Phase Two. Are we talking minutes later? Hours? Months?

And what happens if you tell them they're sexy first, and then beautiful? Will they just totally go bat-shit crazy?

C'mon, Dave. We need some elaboration, here. I'm not a mind-reader...

6) Women want their man to notice when another man tries to pick them up, but refrain from jealousy.

7) Women will alter their appearance with a new hairstyle or buy something skimpy for themselves, not a man.

8) A woman will groom herself that day if there is a chance for her to meet someone that night.

Actually, I'm going to go a step further, here, and say that most women I've known actually groom themselves pretty much every day. Like cats.

Weird, huh?

9) Women believe in the fairytale and will look at most men in the first 30 seconds as if they could be the prince they have been looking for.

Yes, Dave, I think we're all quite familiar with that look! A sort of squinty, stare-y 30 second "Are you my prince...?" kind of thing that can really make for very long, awkward silences and, in a worst-case scenario, may even lead to a car accident.

10) If a woman really likes a man, she will spend all day trying to look good for him and still not feel perfect, yet at times she will not be made up and feel perfect.

Women! So paradoxical!!! Sometimes you just have to laugh...

Dave's good advice doesn't stop there, though. Here are just a couple of his 7 sure-fire ways to repulse a woman:

5. Drink too much or have a serious addiction.

Yup. That's a turn-off.

7. Use stupid pickup lines like: "Do you want to have sex?" "Can I smell your roses?" "Baby, that's the sweetest butt I've ever seen!" "Hey you, come here!"

Good insight there, Dave. I have never had any luck with any of those lines. Sure, they may sound clever when you play them over and over in your mind, but there's nothing like a "Baby, that's the sweetest butt I've ever seen!" to really ruin the moment.

Although "Can I smell your roses?" actually can be made to work, if you lisp when you say it with a sort of subtle, pseudo-French accent, gently swaying your hips as you do so, back and forth, back and forth.

I'm just saying.

Dave, over-achieving Dating Coach that he is, also provides 10 Ways to Make Yourself Attractive to Women. The last two are particularly insightful.

9. Tell her about one time your feelings got hurt.

Oh, yeah. Women love that sh*t. Eat it up with a spoon.


Of course, my problem is that my feelings have gotten hurt way more than one time.

Seriously, it must be in the hundreds by now.

So, the first feelings-being-hurt incident I tell a woman about, she's all like "Oh, wow. That's so..." but I'm already off on #2 and, I'll tell you what, there's a law of diminishing returns for this sort of thing.

Once you've gotten into the double digits, you might as well just pack your bags and head back home.

10. Kiss her softly, then kiss her passionately.

This is another sequentially challenging one. What you don't want to do is, you don't want to kiss her passionately and then kiss her softly.

That would just be seriously messed up.

I've made up a little mnemonic device to help me keep it straight.

"First kiss soft, next one passionate,
In World War Hulk, My green homey be smashin' it."

See? Now you won't forget.

Anyway, in addition to Dave's very helpful advice, there are also some useful tips in the comments section by the Yahoo! Contributors...

Reading this list of things women want (a partial list, really), they strike me as the demands of a child, which is, well -- childish. I'm 60, and in my time I have had more than my share of success with women, and failures, along with lots of great sex.


Now, I still have desire and I can still function well...

Umm... okay. Good that we established that...

but I am so glad that the sexual urgency that was with me from about 17 to around 57 has gone. I'm willing, but not in need; and I don't want to jump though hoops for any woman. I live alone, and I like it that way.

Okay, well, it's been great hearing from you, but I've gotta...

I do what I want, I can choose to be alone or with company, and I am not subject to a running commentary on how well I am pleasing, or not pleasing, someone else. For all the qualities that women feel they are entitled to find in their man, they do not feel bound to reciprocate. They seem to feel that being a woman is all that is required of them in order to deserve the moon.

I think he's being slightly metaphorical here. Women don't really think they deserve the moon.
Or do they...?

And, they are inherently perverse. Not "perverted," but perverse -- meaning, for example, they want a man to provide them with every consideration, complement, and to live to fulfill her every desire --

Interesting distinction, there, between perverse and perverted. Helpful, I think.

and yet the man who actually does that for her will most likely be scorned as "weak."

Ooh. Do I detect a bad experience...?

I think maybe I do.

I think maybe I'm beginning to get a sense of this guy's secret origin story. But let's read on...

In brief, women have a huge set of contradictory demands that no man could possibly satisfy -- or even know about. Women love to keep what they want secret, or even deny it; then when her man doesn't come through with what she has said she doesn't want, she is then indignantly disappointed. Enough, already.

Okay, then.

Got it.

Women: They want the moon and they just aren't very nice at all. And they're perverse. And secretive. And they smell kind of funny, too.

Anyway, moving right along...

Oh, wait. There's more...

I'm not in the least bitter... My "sample" of women, as it were, has been garnered over many decades of experience... Every example I gave comes from my own experience, and I've known quite a few women, and married a couple, and there were in fact no exceptions to the perversity I mentioned, even in the finest of them. It may be that women are reticent to speak out, to be forthright and up dront about their needs and wants, so they just wait for this or that man to magically anticipate or understand. Perhaps it's a part of the "prince" fantasy, I don't know. I like women...


I enjoy women, but I have found that they are more loveable and more enjoyable when they are not around all the time, and that is generally true of all people. I have moved on; I've moved on to a life in which I am happy, and in the course of which I am not disappointing anybody, not even myself.


Well, I was going to include a couple of other reader insights, but reading them started really depressing me, so I've decided against it.

Anyway, I want to end this section with 10 Tips for Approaching Women, which is also brought to us be our good friend Dave.

Here are 10 surefire ways to intrigue her every time:

1. Observe something. Make a comment about something you observe in the environment. This is especially effective at the grocery store. For example, if she is ordering a turkey sandwich, ask her if the turkey is good here.

Make your comment immediate to the situation and it will seem perfectly natural. No matter where you are, there is always something interesting to comment on.

That is so true. And that turkey idea? That's a great opening line. Really. She'll be so delighted when you, a complete stranger, come up to her and ask, "So, is the turkey good here?"

She won't think that's weird at all.


3. Do not hesitate. If you hesitate in your approach, this tells her that you are not feeling confident -- an immediate turn-off. When you see her, walk over to her within a short period of time (the three-second rule). Show her you are a man who knows what he wants and goes after it.

Ah, yes. The three-second rule. This one can be tricky if, for example, she's very far away.

You may have to scurry a bit to make it in under three seconds. But it'll be worth it.

However, you must also be aware of tip number 5...

5. Not too fast. If you walk over too fast, you could likely trigger her internal alarm. A calm, casual approach is usually the best way to make her feel at ease with you.

You see, women are like frightened little animals. You don't want to trigger their internal alarm.

You want them to feel at ease. Maybe approach her slowly, with bread crumbs offered in an open hand, held out slightly in front of you.

Imagine that she is a duck. And behave accordingly.

7. Listen up. Make sure you pay careful attention to what she says. Do not have your response pre-thought out. Women love a man who pays attention to the details of what she says. If you start throwing out random words, she will lose interest fast.

That thing about throwing out the random words? That is so true.

A little confession, here. That's a mistake I've made too many times to even count. I'll approach my target, following the three-second rule but not going too fast, and I'll start off great, with some really relevant comment like, "The sky certainly is full of clouds today, don't you think?" and everything will be going great. I haven't triggered her internal alarms; all her defenses are down.

And then... words start flying out of my mouth at random. I'm all "Triggers! Felt tips! Lubrication! Antwerp! Redrum! Follow the leader! Redrum! Redrum!"

And boom. It's over.

So, watch out for that.

9. Lighten your tone of voice. The tone of your voice is a very powerful tool. Approaching her in a light and playful tone is one of the best ways to start. You could also begin in a serious tone, accusing her of something like "I hope you saved some turkey for me," followed by a quick smile to let her know you are joking. Practice playing with your vocal tone with your friends -- notice the different reactions you get when you say the exact same thing using varied tones and fluctuations.

Actually, I tried this last one out at the store a couple of days ago and it really worked! I was all like "I hope you saved some turkey for me!" but I followed it with a quick smile, so she would know that I was joking.

It was awesome.

She smiled back and said, "I don't understand. Do I know you...?"

And I was all like "I hope you... uh... aren't standing in my space. That's my space. I reserved it. I rent that space out. From the store. It actually... uh... it actually belongs to me. So, you can't stand there anymore."

And I followed it with another smile.

And she stepped out of my space, handed me the bag of turkey she'd just gotten from the guy behind the deli counter, and walked away slowly, smiling the whole time in a manner that might have suggested fear to some, but which I chose to interpret as a sort of sassy joy.

So, thanks, Dave! Thanks for all the good tips!

And don't worry, bro'. I'll take it from here...


Well, I'm afraid that's all we've got time for this week... be here next week when we we will be featuring some very exciting reviews of debating Republicans. Yes, it's all a part of June's No-Comic-Book-Reviews Madness!!!

Until then, try to rememember...

"First kiss soft, next one passionate,
In World War Hulk, My green homey be smashin' it."

- Paul

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 24: June Madness!!!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the (sort of) weekly comic-book review column that sometimes isn't about comics at all.

I'm your host, Paul Weissburg, and I'm tired as hell.

This month - June, that is - is celebrated around the world as a month when people who normally review comic-books take a deep breath, stretch, and think, "Man, I have just got nothing left to say about comics for a while."

In the spirit of this international month-long holiday, Hoopla! will be featuring reviews of non-comic book things.

This may be jarring for some of you who have come to depend on these reviews to tell you where to go and what to do in case of an emergency. You may be thinking, "But, Paul, aren't you going to tell us what you thought about The Umbrella Academy preview? The Astounding Wolf-Man #1? Gutsville???"

Well, the answer is no. I'm not.

Moving right along...

This week we're going to review a bunch of non-comic-book-y stuff and we're going to start with...

Non-Comic-Book-y Review #1: Master Plunger - Black

Ain't she a beauty?

So, a year or two ago, my brother called me up to tell me about this new kind of plunger that goes inside the hole in the toilet instead of outside. You know how with the old-fashioned kind of plunger, you try to create a seal around the hole of the toilet, which is next to impossible because it's not a flat surface, so you end up splashing toilet water all over the place and getting frustrated?

Well, not with the Master Plunger!!! Master Plunger feels your pain; it wants to help you unclog your toilet as quickly and painlessly as possible. So, Master Plunger goes inside your toilet hole, where most plungers fear to tread.

This thing has changed my life forever. I used to dread clogged toilets, but now I relish them as an opportunity to use my Master Plunger!!!

[Well, that last part isn't true. I still hate clogged toilets. But, it is true that they are super easy to unclog with this handy dandy device.]

Thanks for the tip, bro'!

Non-Comic-Book-y Review #2: Traffic Lights

I'll be honest: I have kind of mixed feelings about traffic lights.

On the one hand, I have to respect the design. They're iconic, for god's sake. How many of us can say that?

They have kind of a cool art-deco thing going on. They don't try too hard to impress, like so many modern-day items do.

And, too, they work remarkably well. I don't know how long ago these things were invented, but this simple design has been sufficient for all this time. It's easy for people to read and understand; even stupid people!

Red = Stop

Yellow = You better stop before you get to this light or else really hit the gas, buddy. It's your call.

Green = Go

So, in terms of both aesthetics and function, I have to give traffic lights two thumbs up.

My only complaint, and it's a bit nit-picky of me, is that I can't help feeling that traffic lights have become a bit... complacent. They're not even trying any more. Yes, there was that one innovation of having little timers to let you know how much time you have to cross the street.

And I like those; don't get me wrong.

But I just can't help feeling that there's a major improvement just waiting to happen. I mean, life has changed a lot since the invention of the traffic light. Isn't there some new function it could perform for us?

So, I salute the traffic light. I admire it.

But, I also challenge it... Please, traffic light, think a little bit harder. Are you really doing all that you can do to make this world a better place to live?

Non-Comic-Book-y Review #3: Minnesota

Too damn cold.

I'm sorry, but it is.

My mom lives in Minnesota and I used to live there, for four miserable, frost-bitten years.

It's really, really cold.

"Yes, sure," you say. "But that's only during the winter."
"But," I counter, "winter is a six month ordeal in Minnesota."
It starts to get cold in October and then, by November, you're dealing with below zero temperatures.

December and January... don't even get me started. "Below zero" doesn't begin to describe it.

February is still far too cold, but it has the added benefit of being grey and, by then, everyone is really sick of the excessive cold and the uber-excessive snow. Cars are rusting heaps, slowly being dissolved by the salt that is spread out daily on the streets like butter on toast.

By March, it' still cold, but you're up to zero and everyone's celebrating. "It's zero degrees!" they shout with glee. "Winter is over! Let's have a picnic!!!"

The blind, blind fools.

And it's not just the bitter cold that makes Minnesota so utterly repugnant to me.
No, there's also a whole mind-set that goes with being in Minnesota. Everyone talks about being "hardy." Everyone tries to incorporate Norwegian words into their daily conversation so that they can subtley let you know that they're descended of "hardy stock", dammit, and they are not afraid of snow.

No, they frickin' love it.

"Bring it on!" say the Minnesotans. "Is that the best you can do, Mother Nature??? Ha-ha! I laugh at your puny efforts to freeze the blood in my veins! More cold!!! More snow!!! MORE, MORE, MORE!!!"

I hated living in Minnesota. Truly. But if my words can inspire just one person--just one!-- to not move there at some point in the future, it will have almost been worth it.

Almost, but not quite.

Don't be fooled by those smiling faces. They seem to promise you this...

But what you'll really get is...

Well, I hope you've enjoyed Phase One of our June Madness Hoopla!

Be here next week when we look at a bunch of other stuff that has nothing at all to do with comic-books, including (possibly) how to reward and incentivize your employees and some dating tips that are guaranteed to get you thrown in jail.

See you then!

- Paul