Monday, December 31, 2007

Archival Absence

Looking through DC's offerings for May through August, I see that there are virtually no Archive editions listed--one Seven Soldiers of Victory, one final Doom Patrol, and then nada.

It's a shame. I have a genuine affection for DC's Archives and Marvel's Masterworks line; it's an affordable way to accumulate a collection of some of comics' finest reading without going broke in the process. However, I can also see why the line might be coming to an end; DC has collected much of their finest material, and the $50 pricetag makes it difficult for casual readers to justify the expense when they can enjoy twice as much material (in black and white, alas) for a third of the price in DC's Showcase Presents line.

DC has also learned that some material is better packaged in its own sub-line rather than in the Archives series--Jack Kirby's Fourth World, for instance, is being collected in four self-contained hardcovers rather than offered as a quartet of Archives editions. The same was done with Neal Adams' Batman, Deadman, and Green Lantern/Green Arrow. The packages are great, but they're not Archives--and their existence guarantees that the same material won't be offered in Archives editions. That means that some of their best Silver Age material will never be offered in the collectors' format used for the bulk of their most desirable comics.

Marvel seems to be continuing their Masterworks line full-speed-ahead, with two books per month for the foreseeable future--but even Marvel has run through its prime material and is left with some books that have a strong appeal to me but a lesser appeal to most contemporary readers. I love Marvel's pre-hero stuff like Tales to Astonish #s 1-10, but I can see that sales are far slower on these volumes than on the prime material like the first fifty issues of Fantastic Four.

Marvel has discovered something that the movie and music industries learned a long time ago, however: if you can't keep putting out more great material, then put out the same great material in enhanced packages. Their Omnibus volumes, featuring twenty-five, thirty, or more issues of a classic comic, complete with letters columns, house ads, and more in an oversized format, is actually a better deal and a more appealing package than the Masterworks. I enjoy the Masterworks, but I get more excited about the Omnibus books because they collect so much more, and add extras that I can't get in the Masterworks editions... so I re-buy the same material in an enhanced format.

DC has yet to figure out how to make that jump with their classic material, although they are doing something similar with more recent best-sellers via their Absolute line. These are upscale, high-production-value, enhanced slipcased versions of books like Sandman, Batman: Hush, or Crisis on Infinite Earths--and they have been successful in convincing readers who already have the material to re-buy it in an improved edition. The only catch is, DC is focusing on more recent material with its Absolute line, not on premiere Silver Age material.

(One other drawback to DC's line is one noticed only by those of us in the retail community: Marvel offers their Masterworks and Omnibus volumes at full discount, while DC cuts the discount to retailers by a full 10% on these books, making them more expensive initially and less profitable. DC gets their price on the books, customers get a price competitive with Marvel's Masterworks line... and retailers get pinched in the middle, forced to pay more and make less when they sell the books. And it does hurt; I know many retailer who won't carry a full line of Archives or Absolute editions for just that reason.)

Do I know for certain that the Archives line is going away? No--it's just a suspicion based on rumor and reduced output in mid-2008. If it is coming to an end, though, then I hope that DC has something better in the works... because I'm willing to re-buy and re-sell those same stories if they can find a way to make it worthwhile!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Classic Bond

I've always maintained that James Bond was a cinematic and literary classic... now it's a musical classic as well!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Name That Tunesmith

A couple of days ago, I burned a number of CDs to mp3 so that I could listen to them on the iPod--the list included the latest from Neil Young, John Fogerty, Ann Wilson, Robert Plant & Allison Kraus, the Eagles, Jane Monheit, Mannheim Steamroller, and Anuna, along with a three-disc Matt Monro package (don't worry if you don't recognize him--while he was a major act in England sometimes referred to as the British Frank Sinatra, here he's only known for singing the From Russia With Love theme song), a Bing Crosby Radio Show Christmas set, the first two Josie Cotton albums on one disc, a Celtic cover version of Led Zeppelin songs, the Twin Peaks II soundtrack disc, and an album whose name I can't remember, but it's basically emo-goth Christmas songs.

I put 'em all in one playlist, and the fun began. As Brett and I were driving to the warehouse to pick up our comics, the music began--and pretty soon, we found outself engaged in a game of "guess the artist" from a list of songs that for the most part we hadn't heard. Oh, sure, there were Josie Cotton and Bing Crosby songs we knew, and the Zep tunes were recognizeable--but having Robert Plant thrown into the mix confused things, and it got more complicated because Ann Wilson covered a Led Zeppelin song and a John Fogerty song on her recent album.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Think again, b'wana! After a while, we realized that Neil Young and John Fogerty have a lot more in common than we had ever suspected, and Ann Wilson sometimes sounded more like Robert Plant than Robert Plant did. And there are times when Anuna, Mannheim Steamroller, and emo-goth blur into one strange ethereal subgenre.

Of course, we didn't have too much trouble at all recognizing Matt Monro or Jane Monheit or Bing Crosby, so those were the easy ones. For the most part, Josie Cotton was quick 'n' easy to identify, too--but there was one Josie song that totally threw Brett, so it wasn't always 100% obvious. Since we only listened to segments of the song (unless it was something we really liked, in which case we'd stay with it a bit longer), we managed to go through 167 songs in the hour and a half that we spend in the car round-trip. The strangest mix-up: a Joe Walsh Eagles song that we both swore was John Fogerty for the first thirty seconds or so...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Here We Are, As In Olden Days...

Christmas was bittersweet this year; we all missed Dad terribly, as I knew we would, but everyone seemed to find happiness in the season. We went to Rome to spend Christmas morning with Kimberly, Cole, Christy, Oliver, Jessica, and Adam; too many presents were opened, there was laughter, and there were memories of bygone Christmases both at Kim's and at Mom & Dad's.

Susan and I spent the afternoon at home, exchanging our own gifts and having our traditional Christmas Day pizza. Something about knowing you can't buy a pizza from a restaurant makes you want it all the more; in preparation, we had bought a take-and-bake pizza at Sam's, to which we added some extras (diced jalapenos, turkey pepperoni, olives). It turned out quite well--probably all the better because it was the only pizza we could have that day!

Christmas brought me lots of DVD's, even more dark chocolate, some shirts, a nifty retro-style phone for our second line (it looks like an old-style phone, but it's cordless--I missed the heft of an old-style handset, and the convenient shape that cradled so well between ear and shoulder), and much more. I'm still finding a place for it all... I'm almost to that point where I have to get rid of at least one thing for every item I add!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And so this is Christmas...

May every one of you find the experience the joy of childhood anew, tempered with the depth of appreciation that can only come with maturity.

And if your family is still with you, cherish them; it is in them that you will find the myriad of happinesses that keep Christmas alive for each of us.

Merry Christmas...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This Christmas season, I have bought several gifts at local stores. They're not all locally owned stores, mind you, but they're stores that exist in my general neighborhood and employ people from my area, so the money benefits my community, at least indirectly. And you know what? I've decided that I like doing that.

I've bought several things at the Sears that recently opened in the Merchants' Walk area of Cobb County. This was once a KMart, but the store was closed in September, gutted, and renovated as a contemporary community Sears. It reminds me of the local Sears in Rome when I was a child; compact, but filled with an amazing assortment of items in all product areas. I've spent more at this store in two months than I've spent in the past two years at Sears, and I intend to spend more there; I like having non-mall stores that are convenient for neighborhood shopping, and I want to reward those who build stores away from the centralized mall-hubs.

There's a Target in that area that also gets some of my business, simply because I like the big-store-in-a-suburban-area feel; it has an underground parking deck with an escalator that takes you directly into the store, but it has a smaller, more personal feel of an old department store. Good design, good employees, good atmosphere...

I've been buying more things at the local Ace Hardware, because it has a homey atmosphere that I enjoy. The people are helpful, and I'm surprised at what I can find there. Most recently, I bought a very nice pocket knife there as a gift for a friend who had lamented the fact that he didn't have a small knife. I didn't know where to begin looking for such a knife, then it occurred to me that I had seen an assortment of them at Ace one time; I stopped by during an afternoon walk, and there they were!

I picked up a couple of gifts at a local florist as well; they have some very attractive home decor items, and the quality seems much higher than what you find in the trendy mass-market home boutiques.

I'll never be able to buy everything I want locally--my tastes are too eclectic for that. But I've decided that I'm going to spend more of my dollars locally next year, even if I have to pay a little bit more for the things I want.

What Would You Give?...

... if you could afford to give to your friends any Christmas gift you wanted?

I know we all have our own ideas of what life-changing gifts we might give; here's mine.

(1) A home, all paid for: nothing gave me more of a sense of personal freedom and self-direction than paying off our home for the very first time. It's an amazing thing, knowing that the place in which you live fully belongs to you; I wish I could give that feeling to every one of my friends.

(2) A new car, all paid for. Same basic idea here. A house and a car are the two biggest expenses that most people are burdened with; I am convinced that, once someone becomes free from those, it's relatively easy to arrange one's finances so that one would never have to go into debt again.

(3) A favorite childhood toy. Every one of us has some toy from our youth that holds a special place in our heart; most of us have long since lost that toy, and have no idea how to replace it. Wouldn't it be wonderful to give that gift to your friends? The stories that such gifts would generate would be wonderful; every one of us can wax eloquent about those things that meant so much to us when we were young.

(4) A book signed by a favorite author or artist. Ideally, it would be a book personalized to the recipient, but a signed book would suffice if the author/artist were no longer alive to personally inscribe the volume.

(5) A complete collection of family photos, films, and videotapes, digitally collected, transferred, and organized. I suspect that every one of us has plans to someday assemble all those random photos and tapes and 8mm movies and put them into some semblance of order; unfortunately, most of us never get around to it. Wouldn't it be great to be able to give each person a fully prepared collection of his own family photos and films to be enjoyed whenever one wished?

Alas, I can't afford to give these to all of my friends... maybe someday. I've been lucky enough to give a few of these gifts to people close to me, though, and I can tell you that it's a remarkable feeling...

DHL Doesn't Deliver

Yesterday I made the mistake of believing's "Saturday delivery guaranteed for X amount extra" hype and ordered a last-minute gift (what or for whom, I'm not saying, since they might be reading). Amazon does a great job (with UPS's cooperation) of making their two-day delivery guarantees throughout the year, so I thought they would come through with this gift as well.

Then I found out they were using DHL.

There are delivery services... and there is DHL. I believe their name is derived from their primary method of moving freight: Donkey Hauling Luggage. I have had only a few really bad home delivery experiences... and all but two of them involve DHL. What makes that odd is that DHL only delivers about 5% of the packages I receive, and yet they account for about 90% of the delivery problems I have racked up over the years.

Imagine my surprise when the package didn't show up by three this afternoon, as I was told it would. I logged in, ran the tracking info... and the package was still in Ohio as of 2:27pm.

Called DHL. "Guaranteed Saturday deliver only means it's guaranteed if we get it there," the phone jockey explained. I asked for that to be repeated, and it was.

Wrap your head around those words. "We only gurantee it if we do it; if we fail, we don't guarantee it."

Called Amazon. "Oh. Well, we'll refund your extra costs for next-day delivery." I spent a little time explaining how inadequate this was; Amazon solicited my business with this Saturday guarantee, I ordered based on that, and they screwed up by hiring a known-problem delivery company. "Let me let you speak with a supervisor," the Amazon phone jockey said... and he then put me on hold.

For two hours and seven minutes.

Now bear in mind, I wasn't just sitting there holding the phone; I clicked over to speaker phone and worked on Comic Shop News, so I was doing what I would have been doing anyway. I actually forgot at one point that the phone was still on; after a while, the tinny droning recording blended with background noise. It wasn't until the phone began to beep, indicating the battery was dying, that I consciously realized that Amazon wasn't going to talk to me about this; I'd been "phone-dumped."

Thirty minutes later, I drove to the newly-opened Merchant's Walk Sears (a standalone store that harkens back to the Central Plaza area Sears that was a highlight of Rome shopping in my childhood) and bought the same gift for the same price. And when/if the DHL shipment shows up, I will be refusing it. I called Amazon and told them that, and listened to their apologies, and accepted their gift certificate to compensate for my inconvenience... but I reminded them that this was indeed their fault, not DHL's. DHL did exactly what DHL is famous for: they failed to deliver. Amazon knew that this was their reputation, and they hired them anyway. That makes this an Amazon failure, not a DHL failure.

I have told Amazon that, from here on, I will refuse all DHL shipments from Amazon, regardless of whether they arrive on time or not. I no longer accept DHL as a viable Amazon offer; the phone jockey told me that I wasn't the first to do this, and that they actually had an option that they don't advertise that allows customers to specify that a carrier can not be used.

Maybe if enough people make the same Amazon call I did, they can make Amazon realize that they're the ones who get customer-service fleas when they lie down with delivery dogs...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Unpredictable Parcel Screwups

Okay, here's the strangest (and most aggravating) explanation thus far for UPS's failure to deliver a package from Diamond:


12/19/2007 6:18 AM - OUT FOR DELIVERY

How nice of them to load a full package onto a truck at 5:18 in the morning, only to have the merchandise go missing by the time the truck got to our store at 6:21. Even better, the driver said "I have another package for you," went out to the truck, came back in and said that there wasn't anything else and he was mistaken--and then, according to this post, he threw away the package about which he has just lied to us... a package that somehow lost its contents on his watch.

I think the lie is almost as aggravating as the loss.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Last night was the night when all the Dr. No's gang gathers to exchange gifts and celebrate--and it was such a delight-filled night that I found myself truly celebrating for a few hours. I've mentioned before how difficult this Christmas has been for me (and still is), but everyone helped me overcome the unseasonal solemnity.

Great gifts came my way--a photo-displaying Christmas ornament, a Ross MacDonald collection I didn't know about, a Beatles book, and way too much wonderful stuff to eat (including Chris and Markay's acclaimed meringue cookies, a holiday favorite; an assortment of delicious Christmas treats from Jared; a savory pumpkin cheesecake from Brett 'n' Allyson; a stunning treat-filled holiday bowl from Whitney that included an assortment of cookies, all prepared with her enviable culinary skill; and several different dark chocolate goodies from friends who know my candy-desirous tastes). The fun, of course, was in the giving; while I wasn't able to find the perfect gift for every person, there were a few I was pleased with, and the recipients seemed to like them as much as I had hoped.

As always, dinner afterwards was the highlight of the week; these people are far more than just friends, so it's always a treat to spend a few hours in conversation alternatingly light and serious, philosophical and silly. It's hard to believe we've been doing this every week for almost twenty years now!...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Tale Told by an Idiot...

Every now and then, my mail brings something particularly memorable in its stupidity. Today, just such an item came courtesy of Borland Software Corporation. The mail included a square envelope that obviously contained a CD; when I opened it, I was greeted with a CD sleeve adorned with this noncommunicative blurb:

"Borland's LIfecycle Quality Management solution encompasses a range of technologies, all aimed at supporting a process-driven approach to maximizing quality across the software delivery cycle."

So what does this do again? The phrasing is so empty that it reminds me of my many days as a teacher, when most of what passed for educational training was the same old garbage ideas dressed in then-currently-acceptable jargon. Nothing useful came out of that, either...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Change One Letter...

Another day, another armed robbery at Arbor Place Mall in Douglas County. I really don't feel that I own sufficient firepower to make it safe to make a shopping trip there; I have to wonder if I'm alone.

Perhaps they could create a better public persona if they changed one letter and renamed the mall Armor Place, adding a fortress look to the mall. At least that would give shoppers the feeling they might be safe if they can survive the mad dash from their car through the Lawless Zone to the mall itself...

As a store owner, I feel sorry for the retailers there who are paying hefty rental fees to operate in a mall that has a public perception as an unsafe place to visit and/or to shop. What makes this so odd is that this is one of the newer malls in metro Atlanta; usually crime problems are more common in older malls located in areas that have either become overcrowded or have seen a deterioration in the properties around them. Not sure what makes Douglas County the place to be if you're an armed criminal...

All I Need is a Miracle

Christmas is ten days away. I've done a lot of the Christmas prerequisites, but it's all been done by formula; I'm simply not able to get myself into a Christmas frame of mind this year. Listening to favorite songs has helped me to remember wonderful Christmases past, but I still alternate between feeling empty and feeling sad when I think of this Christmas.

I know how much the holiday meant to Mom and Dad, and I'm trying to invoke their enthusiasm in order to make the holiday season memorable, but I'm not having much success at it. The tree is up, there are a few decorations placed through the house, I've wrapped a dozen or so presents, and I'm hoping that every one of those recipients has more joy this holiday than I'm having.

I've found three presents that I had bought for Dad and had forgotten about; for the last five or six months before Dad's stroke, I had largely quit buying presents for a future holiday and had instead given Dad every gift as I found them, hoping it would add a touch of happiness to his life. However, apparently I couldn't get out of the Christmas habit entirely, because these gifts were ones that I had indeed purchased during those months. None of them were major gifts, but each of them were things that might have meant something to Dad--a family in-joke, a personal memory, that sort of thing. Seeing them now makes me feel immeasurably sad and lonely.

When the Rain Comes...

Today was a genuine rainy late fall/early winter day! It was drizzling by late morning, and it continued to rain all day long--sometimes light, sometimes heavy. Susan and I had already planned to pick up some slices of pizza for dinner; she suggested we make something at home rather than having me go out in the rain, but I was actually looking forward to driving on a drizzly, cold day. Hearing rain on the car roof... watching the back and forth sweep of the windshield wipers... seeing the lights reflecting in the puddles... I had forgotten how much I like rainy weather.

Welcome back, rain--hope you'll stay for a while!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a Whitman Christmas...

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been celebrated with a Whitman's Sampler.

In today's candy-cornucopia world, it's hard to imagine a time when candy choices were much more limited, but the 1950s and 1960s were just such an era. There was plain candy, and there was special candy. During most of the year, all you could find was plain candy--the usual assortment of candy bars, M&M's, Necco Wafers, Bonomo's Turkish Taffy, and the like that filled the candy racks at most grocery stores. Easter had candy eggs and chocolate bunnies, Valentine's had little candy hearts with cute sayings, Halloween had candy corn... and Christmas had the holy grail of candy, the Whitman's Sampler.

Every Christmas, Mom and Dad would bring home a Whitman's Sampler, and each of us would try to identify our favorites from the assortment of candies that filled each of the two layers. (And of course, there was the layer rule--you can't go to the bottom layer until every candy in the top layer has been consumed... even the Jordan almonds that absolutely no one liked, since the combination of hard nuts and a hard candy shell seemed like a sadist's idea of a treat.) Back then, Whitman made it tougher: they didn't include a legend identifying each candy, so each of became expert at identifying personal favorites by shape, chocolate color, and location in the box.

Mom soon implemented another rule: you can't pinch a piece of candy to find out what it was, and under no circumstances can you nibble a corner and then put the candy back if it was something ooky. That meant that I would occasionally have to eat a maple nougat or an orange cream on the quest for that delicious coconut. That was my one must-have piece of candy... and I was lucky, because no one else had laid claim to the coconut.

Each season, we would open the Whitman's sampler box, and each of us would have one piece of candy per day (although I suspect that Mom and Dad helped themselves to extras after we went to bed... never could prove that, because it didn't occur to me to actually count the candy). The sampler would usually run out at about the same time the year did... I don't think there was ever any Whitman's Sampler left by the time school started back at the beginning of the new year, making the return to school doubly sad.

When Susan and I got married, Mom and Dad gave us far more gifts each Christmas than they should have--but that's the way Mom and Dad were. They wanted to help everyone, and they wanted to give people things that they wanted and needed--even if they didn't know they wanted or needed them. They gave us sheets and towels every Christmas--and we still have those sheets and towels, more than a third of a century later, and they mean even more because they came from Mom and Dad.

And each year, they gave us a Whitman's Sampler. The tradition started in the Christmas of 1971, our first as a married couple. We would have never thought of buying a Whitman's Sampler for ourselves, because it was actually far more expensive proportionately than it is today. But from that point on, we always budgeted for one Whitman's Sampler each Christmas. Not for us... no, this one was for Mom and Dad, because I knew that they enjoyed it every bit as much as we did.

A few years later, Dad was diagnosed with diabetes, and he had to give up the Whitman's Samplers he had enjoyed so much. So of course we were elated when, years later, Whitman's began offering sugar-free Whitman's Samplers. I remember the surprise on Dad's face the first time we gave him one: he had no idea they existed until he tore through that gift wrap, at which point his face lit up just like it must have when he was a child.

I can't give Mom and Dad a Whitman's Sampler any longer, as much as I'd like to--but I can continue the family tradition with everyone else, doing just what I know Mom and Dad would do if they were here with us. And I think that, when each person opens his or her Whitman's Sampler on Christmas, Mom and Dad are smiling somewhere, because that once-special candy assortment is as important a part of Christmas as the tree and the lights and the music. It's the one gift that's absolutely not a surprise... but for me, it's the most important gift that I give, because it carries on a tradition that has helped to define the holiday for thirty-seven years now.

The only candy I don't eat now? The chocolate cherry cordials. Mom and Dad always claimed those...

Friday, December 07, 2007

You're Surrounded!

I've been enjoying the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas DVD-Audio Celebration for the past couple of days; composer/producer Chip Davis has a masterful ear for surround sound placement and separation, and the result is one of the most delightful aural experiences I've found on any DVD-Audio. The instruments are remarkably clear and meticulously balanced so that the sound is rich, full, and robust; he uses musical textures as guides for placement, so that sounds in counterpoint play from opposing speakers, while accentual sounds play from complementary speakers. The result is a very encompassing musical experience that is far removed from the all-too-common "primary instruments in the front, secondary instruments or backing strings/voices in the back" approach that many producers use for surround.

And it left me ruminating on the failure of Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A) as formats. Why did two of the most superlative sound reproduction methods fail to catch on with the public? Why, after a strong initial rollout, are both formats almost non-existent today, with previously released titles no longer available and new releases scuttled?

The answer bodes ill for the current HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats. The intransigent refusal of the manufacturers to settle on a single means of high-def music reproduction fragmented a fledgling industry to the point that both formats failed... and I suspect that the same intransigence is going to lead to the failure of both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray as the preferred format for high-def video.

There's no doubt that both formats--and DVD-A in particular--take music to a level that no CD can approach. The clarity of each instrument is so intense that it's as if a blanket has been taken off the speakers--there's a presence that just doesn't exist on even the best CD. In comparing the two (and I can do comparisons because I have a few releases, like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Tommy, on both DVD-A and SACD), I can detect a greater fidelity on DVD-A than on SACD... there's something slightly less distinct and less intense about the sound from even the best SACD. Oh, it's better than CD, to be sure, and it's better than HDCD (an enhanced CD reproduction format), but it simply can't match the verisimilitude of DVD-A.

Anyone who thinks that this is all too subtle to make any real difference has but to listen to three or four songs from Celebration to realize what they can't hear on the CD. What sounds like an amalgam of sound in the CD is identifiable, distinct instruments in the DVD-A; bells and triangles resonate for seconds as their sounds fade away, while the sonic roll-off is much more abrupt and much less vibrant on the CD. And the encompassing sensation created by a well-mixed surround-sound is something that no CD (even with Dolby Digital Sound Processing) can rival.

Good doesn't always win, though. Look at the failure of Beta over VHS in the 1980s, and the later failure of LaserDiscs in the 1990s... in both cases, the superior format failed. (Okay, let's be fair--the superior format of LaserDiscs did win out over the inferior RCA Selectavision disc-based video-reproduction format, but the battle between the two impeded mass acceptance enough that the laserdisc never overcame the public impression that it was a failed format.)

There are still a few artists producing material on DVD-A, and there are still some foreign labels producing SACD surround mixes... but now, I see more labels moving towards two-channel ("enhanced stereo") DVD-A and SACD releases, which is an absolute waste of a medium.

I've picked up what music I can find on DVD-A and SACD, and will continue to do so in order that I might enjoy music the way it should be heard... but I only wish that more of my favorites were available in either format!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Living Up to the Stereotypes

I noticed recently that the Rome News-Tribune ran an editorial critical of the Rome district attorney's possibly re-trying Gordon Lee, owner of a comic shop in Rome, for distributing offensive material to minors on a Halloween trick or treat giveaway. I'm not surprised that the RNT took the stand it did; in their reporting this July, they were so obviously biased that I took the liberty of writing them and the publisher and expressing my dismay at the deterioration of their reporting standards.

Some people have asked if I'm supportive of Gordon, and the simple answer is: no. Gordon already has one conviction for distributing pornographic material, so he should know well enough to make sure that material he gives away to kids on Halloween is age appropriate. Thing is, Gordon has written enough stereotypical "sex is good, war is pornography" knee-jerk stuff in other places that I can't say whether he distributed the material because of error, because he thought it would be clever, or because he didn't care enough to put any time into checking the age-appropriateness of the material he was handing out.

Trick or Treat on Broad Street is a promotion designed to bring families back to Rome's once-thriving shopping area, which is trying to re-establish itself as a family-friendly venue. Actions like Gordon's hurt all the retailers on Broad because they turn a positive, family-friendly event into another political cause, and it hurts the efforts of all other retailer to do the right thing.

I'm obviously a biased source here, since I own a comic shop that has done a great deal to establish itself as a clean, well-lighted, inviting, all-ages friendly business. I am always bothered by squalid comic shops that harken back to the stereotypical image associated with comic shops in the past. I am always bothered by dismal, dingy, dark stores that contribute to the continuation of that stereotype.