Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Big Wrap: Now We Move On

This morning, in the back bays off Fort Myers Beach, my father's ashes were laid to rest according to his wishes - although when we were done, no one in the family was in the mood for fishing. We just hugged one another, and shared our mutual support. So it's all over now, and I'm glad we're all moving on (as in forward).

I'm flying home to Chicago tomorrow with the requisite t-shirts and tacky fridge magnets I make a point of collecting when I'm out of town. I also got in a round or two of disc golf, the first course at Bonita Springs Rec Center being god-awful (the layout, not my game, perish the thought!), and the next at Florida Gulf Coast U being dramatically better - although I must admit it's a treat reaching for a wayward disc under a patch of palmetto bushes not knowing if a rattlesnake is there waiting to tag you.

Good times, I say. Good times.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Vegan's Nightmare....In Song

Ink & The Sunshine State

I’ll be taking off for Florida on Thursday for my Dad’s services.

Quite frankly, I’ll be glad when it’s all over. The sense of loss will never completely go away, but this past week has been a bizarre whirlwind. On the drive into work, I actually had to think about what day it was.

But last night, I enjoyed a time-out at Insight Studio in Chicago where I got my memorial tat (of a seahorse) commemorating my father. The job (coloring included) took about 25 minutes, performed by the lovely and talented Jennifer Trok, and was fairly painless…or at least as much as a tattoo can be. To distract myself, I babbled to Jen about everything from Cubs baseball to the artwork on the studio walls - of which (regarding one painting just a few feet away) I asked: "Is that supposed to be Batman?"

Jen responded: "No, I think that's a guy being tortured by demons."
I said: "Are you sure? It looks like Batman."
Jen paused, looking up from her needle, and answered: "Put your glasses on."
Me (a few seconds later): "Well, just call me Velma."

At any rate, I felt much more sorry for a girl beside me who was getting her first tattoo - a large claddagh on her lower back. Try as I might to distract her mind during the job, beads of sweat soon formed on her temples, and tears rolled down her cheeks. But I'll give this gal full credit: she gutted it out like a US Marine.

I’ll be checking in from Florida during my trip where I'll be showing off my brand-new ink to any nutjob on the street who'll listen.

Until then, take it sleazy…beazy...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

DG Review - Eagle Ridge (Oswego, IL)

My disc golf pals and I could not have picked a more gorgeous early fall day to play our usual Sunday.

This time, we followed the Fox River south to Oswego's Eagle Ridge (recently expanded from a 9-holer to an 18), and damn, was it a beast - having no water hazards, but offering a heavy tree cover and deep, weedy roughs. Plus, on top of this, there was a good breeze out which is always a treat when trying to throw straight discs.

But I'll give Eagle Ridge's groundskeepers credit: the site was lovely and clean, and the fairways (most all Par 3's) more than a challenge. Not that this is a bad thing (i.e. the challenging part); it's just frustrating at times.

On the lighter side of the game, however, I managed to hit Mark twice with my shots - once in the lower back, and again in the tuckus as he walked downfield - a feat I don't think I could repeat if I tried. I'm just glad that none of our discs have serated edges - otherwise, today's game would have resembled a Rob Zombie movie.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friends (And Disc Golf and Baseball) As Therapy

Many thanks to those friends (online and off) who have expressed their support at the passing on my father this past Tuesday.

My brother and I will be traveling to my Dad's home in Florida next week to meet our step-family, and conduct a memorial service - ended on Sunday, Sept 30, with spreading his ashes at sea in a private ceremony. My Dad made this specific request long ago (including that we go fishing after his ashes are left behind), but quite frankly, I don't know if I'll be in the mood to fish. Instead, I'll probably spend my time sharing with my family members, and keeping an eye on the horizon for turtles and wild dolphins.

Oh, and disc golf...don't forget that. No, I won't be playing at sea. But I will be checking out a couple of Fort Myers-area courses. In saying this, I don't mean to sound cavalier; I just want to allow myself an emotional escape hatch from the heavy tone of the weekend.

A final note from The Field of Dreams: Yesterday, I purchased a customized brick from the Chicago Cubs to be placed on a walkway outside Wrigley Field this spring, alongside many others purchased by fans. The reason for this is to memorialize my Dad.

Let me explain: as a kid, he attended Lane Tech High School on Addison (not far from Wrigley itself) where he played a couple of years on the school baseball team - including one where his team went undefeated and won the state championship. After this game, Lane was invited to play in the Chicago Public League Championship, which in that year (1956, I think) was set at Wrigley Field versus Dunbar High. I'll spare you the gory box scores, but the bottom line was that Lane got whomped. And I mean badly. As in Dunbar made them their prison bitch on the diamond with a lot of aggressive play.

But honestly, I don't think the Lane players (including my Dad, who managed to hit a long pop fly to Wrigley's warning track) cared much about the loss. They were probably too tired, and wanting to go work on their cars, or make out with their girlfriends to do so.

But I digress....

On the memorial brick I ordered, the following will be engraved and set alongside Wrigley Field at the corner of Addison and Sheffield by Opening Day 2008:

George Varney
Lane Tech 1956
BB State Champs

I hope he likes it....I love you, Dad.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Time Passes

Generally, it's always been my intent to keep the tenor of this blog on the light side, with the occasional rant about topics I am passionate about.

Earlier today, I had written a blog entry about a Planned Parenthood clinic facing some legal challenges in my current hometown of Aurora, IL, from a pro-life group out of Chicago. However, I later chose not to use that posting because I felt it was just too serious.

So it's ironic that tonight I'm using the blog to write about my father dying at age 69 from a massive coronary. I found out about 30 minutes ago when I went down to my car to fish out my cel phone, and put it on the charger. When I picked the phone up, there were five voice mails on it: four from my mother (my parents divorced in 1982), and one from my brother Scott.

When I contacted my mom, I was told our Dad had gone into the hospital today near his home in Fort Myers, FL, to be looked at for pneumonia and had his heart-attack during the visit. Doctors attempted to revive him, but they were not successful - all of this word via our stepbrother Mike.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel right now - I'm kind of shell-shocked. Part of me feels like I have to go into all-business mode, and help Mike (who also lives in Florida and was very close to my Dad) with the funeral arrangement - which is to say there are none. A while back, my Dad said that when he dies he wants no part of a funeral or wake; he considered both to be "barbaric." Instead, Dad wanted the family to charter a fishing boat, takes his ashes along, dump him into the sea, and then go fishing (one of his favorite pastimes).

His father taught him how to fish, one of the rare things they enjoyed doing together, as my Dad and his didn't get along. But they are together now.

I can just see my Dad in Heaven now; ten bucks says the first word out of his mouth when he realized he'd passed on was "Shit..."

He was a softie, but also a man's man - going by the nickname "Butch" in his teenage years on the northwest side of Chicago, before getting into hot rods and bikes, and joining the Army after graduating Lane Tech High School (in roughly 1956), then traveling Europe and Japan on leave when he wasn't stationed at Scofield Barracks in Hawaii. After he mustered out of the military, my Dad lived in Monterey, CA, for a while before coming home to Chicago, where he met my mother in the early 1960s at a party she crashed.

They married in 1963.

I came along in 1968, and my brother in 1971 - shortly after which we moved from Oak Lawn, IL, to Lisle (about 30 miles away). In 1976, Dad ran for mayor (ironic since he hated Civics class in school) and beat a longtime incumbent. He was re-elected twice, and retired from office in 1988 - during which time, (at the risk of repeating myself) my parents divorced, and Dad remarried in 1985 to a woman with four kids. I went off to college and my own thing, and Scott did his thing as well before Dad and his wife (Dot) moved to Florida to retire.

In looking at he and I, it's now easy to recognize how much my dad and I had in common. We both hit line drives versus long fly balls. Our politics were also similar (anti-Bush). But at the end of every phone conversation (dating back to last Thursday), Dad would always tell me two things: that he missed my brother and I, and that he loved us - a sentiment I always returned.

Tomorrow, I have to figure out how to get to Florida, and resolve all the loose ends of my Dad's estate.

Sooner or later, the gravity of his death will hit me (right now, it's still a blur), and I may cry. But I have zero regrets about our relationship.

I will miss him terribly, but as half of my Dad's DNA rests inside my every fiber, I can take heart in knowing he's with me all the time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

He's Drunk! Superman Is Drunk!

In what amounts to the most postmodern scene in all the Chris Reeve-era "Superman" films, is the following from "Superman III" (1983) after Kal's exposure to a substance intended to kill him, but instead has the effects of red kryptonite - which as any comic fan knows removes Superman's inhibitions.

After his moral code is switched off, Superman's mind goes to Atlantic City: he gets laid, he pulls a few pranks at the Olympics, punches a hole in an oil tanker, and at the height of his spree of self-loathing, goes down to Moe's to get snockered.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Photos courtesy of Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet NewsCorp

Although one would think his super-physiology would prevent him getting drunk on Jack, get drunk Kal does - only to stagger out into the street after vandalizing the bar, and snarl: "What are you looking at? Huh?" at passing gawkers before Superman's new best pal, the extremely annoying Ricky Lang, stages an intervention and forces our hero to literally confront his demons in....a wrecking yard, where he goes through a moral rehab of sorts and conquers the bad guys.

Whew, back to reality.

And speaking of reality, I understand Chris Reeve once had a reputation as a capable drinker. I wonder how many of those "Leaving Las Vegas" moments were funneled into his performance as drunk Superman?

Methinks, more than a few...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What's In The Fucking Box?

In its previous five issues, Se7en(Zenoscope) has proven an intriguing creative project – this, by filling the narrative blanks of the arguably classic 1995 film by emphasizing the crazed nature of serial killer Joe Doe’s “work” versus the police trying to catch him.

To be honest, none of this mini-series’ previous issues (Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth) have exactly blown me away. Yes, these “missing chapters” have been visually arresting, yet none have carried nearly as much dramatic weight on “Se7en’s” plot as “Envy,” wherein John Doe murders Detective Mills’ pregnant wife Tracy as the next-to-last rung of his righteous murder spree.

In a masterful (if sadistic) stroke, the only insight Se7endirector (David Fincher) and screenwriter (Kevin Andrew Walker) permit into Tracy’s off-screen demise comes from Doe himself in the film’s climactic final minutes – thus, allowing us to paint that scene in our minds (whether we wish to or not).

In the Director’s Cut of Aliens(1986), James Cameron used this same theatre-of-the-mind device by showing the bustling space colony Hadley’s Hope (inhabited by “60, maybe 70 families”) before it was infected by the alien horde – and then jumping us a few months later as Ripley and her marines arrive to find the site ghoulishly empty. Soon enough, we learn what happened in-between. We never see the colonists’ overwhelmed by the alien swarm, but based on evidence of the fight, we can imagine how it ended – with images of women and children being snatched to serve as hosts for the Queen’s next offspring.

Nasty stuff, indeed.

Thus, I couldn’t wait to see “Se7en” (the comic) author David Mack’s theory on how Tracy Mills met John Doe, and “her pretty head” became one of the most gruesome (and least seen) bombshells in movie history. How Mack pulls it off is brief, a bit simple, and surprisingly bloodless, but I think, effective.

Next month, “Se7en” ends with its final chapter “Wrath,” which I’m curious to see how Mach manages considering we’ve already seen how the story ends.

And believe me, brother: it ain’t too sunny.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This past month, I did something I had never done before during my lifetime: I threw away a comic book.

Or more accurately, I recycled it.

In former days, doing something like this would have been nigh-unthinkable - yet it's only a comic, right?

Was the book offensive? Well, yes, if one considers being bloody dull as an offense.

But pitching the book almost felt cathartic, perhaps via separating myself from an old (now former) belief dating back to age twelve that every comic purchased must be stored and catalogued for future reference.

I finally realized, however, that this is ridiculous.

A friend of mine has a good idea for comics he's grown sour on: stacking them in a box throughout the year, and giving them to trick-or-treaters each Halloween along with the usual candy. This way, little goblins get their requisite sugar buzz, plus a little superheroic story which might spark their reading habits.

I think it's a fine idea. But of course, not all comics are for kid readers, so turning over my undesirables to my friend's Halloween giveaway is not an option.

But I digress...

Yesterday was trash day, and I threw a few more comics into the recycler. I even watched the collector pitch them into his truck with my used cans and bottles. But this time, I felt more at ease about doing so - for the reasons cited above.

Will my friends ever speak to me again for committing such a heinous act among comic geeks? I hope so.

Will I ditch a few more boring comics inthe future, sending them off for a new life as recycled legal pads? Probably, but not many.

Either way, I'll get by.

Mama! Mama! Look At The White Trash!

In theory, everyone in the U.S. justice system is presumed innocent before being proven guilty. But these fine folks (charged this week with the sadistic, week-long torture of a 20 year-old black woman in West Virginia) must be the exception.

I don’t envy the public defender assigned to stick up for these off-shoots of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family in court.

But on the DA’s side, aiming for life in prison sounds like a good start. Either that, or everyone’s local Department of Conservation should start issuing hunting licenses to bag racist hillbillies (with no limit) alongside quail and deer.

No wait, strike that.

Leave the quail and deer out of it. They’re really innocent.

Monday, September 10, 2007

DG Reviews (The Oaks & Madison Meadows)

Yesterday, my pals and I took advantage of a glorious early fall day to motor down to Mokena, Illinois (due south of Chicago), to check out the site of July's DG State Championship: The Oaks.

For one thing, the name is accurate, as the site's 27-hole course meanders (and I mean meanders) around a grove of tall oaks and scrub points, with a small creek running through it. But on the whole, The Oaks was easier I expected, which I was frankly surprised by as not far away Joliet's West Park--while shorter than Mokena--is a much, much tougher course, and a site I'd figure would be much more fitting for the state championship.

But back up in the western 'burbs, Lombard's 18-hole Madison Meadows is wide open, and thus, a big challenge on windy days - calling for players to keep their shots low and level - less (like mine) they get caught in a breeze and sail into someone's backyard. A small lake is in play in one area, however, so be advised.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Early Christmas Wishes

Dear Santa:

Could I please have a tire iron and five minutes in a locked room with the fine, upstanding individuals responsible for this?

Officials with a local animal shelter said they are concerned after accepting puppies with intentional burns down their backs. Officials with PAWS Atlanta said they have accepted and treated six separate dogs suffering from burns on their backs. PAWS said the burns appear intentional and appear to be caused by lighter fluid or a similar flammable. They believe the substance is being poured onto the dog and then lit. All of the dogs are puppies, ranging in age from 8 weeks old to 5 months old. It has been reported to PAWS Atlanta -- though unsubstantiated -- that setting a dog on fire is possibly being used as an initiation rite for some local gangs. PAWS has provided care for the animals. The shelter has accepted several dogs from other county shelters as well after being contacted by their staff.

Sincerely (you have no idea),

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Bored Now

This month, writer Brian K. Vaughn (Lost, Pride of Baghdad) takes over script duties from Joss Whedon for Season 8 of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (Dark Horse).

And quite frankly, I'm grateful for the change.

Yes, Joss skillfully (for the most part) guided the Buffyverse in its TV incarnation, and wrote some truly brilliant episodes ("Hush," "The Body"), but his current story arc for "Buffy" (the comic) has felt tiresome and thin - like copies of a copy. As such, despite a seemingly solid concept featuring the Scoobies moving overseas and Buffy leading the new Slayer army activated on the Season 7 finale, Whedon's first five issues have been a largely dull game of "Guess The Grudge" - with old Sunnydale foes Amy and Warren popping up for payback on our heroes because, y'know, they're just evil and pissed off all the time.

Okay, so what happens? Buffy whips their asses, and sends the bad guys away whimpering in defeat? Or in other words, nothing new?


Here's hoping Mr. Vaughn can recycle Season 8 into something fresh - a tall order considering "Buffy" (the TV series) was running on creative fumes when it retired in 2003. If Vaughn cannot work the crash cart, however, I recommend "Buffy" (the comic) be cancelled (as if Dark Horse cares about my input). This is from someone who loved following the Buffyverse throughout its history, yet wants to avoid witnessing a once-brilliant story abused into something sad and unrecognizable a la "Twin Peaks."

We'll just see what happens now....

PS: By the bye, have any readers of "Astonishing X-Men" (also by Joss Whedon) noticed how Kitty Pryde has recently adopted several Buffy-like characteristics (e.g. a heroic 20-something chick with superpowers, a hip wit, and ramped-up sex drive)? Or is it just me?

Kitty Pryde: Mutant Horndog

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Big Picture

On the drive into work this morning, I was listening to WLS radio--Chicago's longtime AM station which currently sports a conservative talk format--when a man who claimed to be a scientific expert (forgive me, I never got his name) posited that global warming could indeed have an upside when one considers it may reduce the annual total of people killed worldwide by exposure to freezing winter temperatures.

I kid you not.

So using this same "logic," I guess one could also argue that dumping medical waste into the ocean could be a great thing if fish are stuck by, say, hypodermics laced with penicillin - thus, upping the fishes' immune systems, and making them healthier for us to eat.

Wow, Grandma and Dick Cheney were right. There is a silver lining in every situation is you look hard enough.