Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Once more unto the breach...

Tomorrow morning I head off to Washington College in lovely, bucolic Chestertown, Maryland, for another six weeks teaching Writing & Imagination for the Johns Hopkins CTY summer program.

Some odd bits of information about my CTY summers:

Laurie and I tag-team taught the course for five of the first six years. I've been doing it solo ever since. Chuck was a Teaching Assistant for two summers. Sammi was a Resident Assistant and then Senior RA for four.

In the first ten years, I had ten different Teaching Assistants. At the end of that tenth summer, Lauren said that she planned to come back. She did, as TA, co-instructor and then as instructor of her own section of the course. Last year, I had the first new TA since 2003, though Lauren and I co-instructed the second three-week session. This year I will have another new TA -- the first male TA since way back in 1994.

I've taught more than 375 students over the years. There have been a number of siblings who took the class in different years, as well as at least two sets of twins who were there together. The eleven- and twelve-year-olds who made up our first class are now turning 30!

I have lived in the same dorm room for eight of the past nine years. In total, I have spent about 76 weeks at Washington College. That would put me into my junior year there.

Long-time staff members have a "CTY t-shirt countdown" over the course of the three-week session. Starting with the current year's shirt, we go backwards a shirt a day. As you might imagine, I am always the last man standing. However, I now have more shirts than we have class-days, so there are a couple of times when I double up, changing shirts at lunchtime. Some years, the kids notice fairly quickly; other years we get to the last week before one of the students asks, "Just how many CTY shirts do you have?"

Since the Chester 5 Theater opened, we have been getting a special Tuesday night discount for CTY staff members. We'll go see pretty much anything... and there have been some awfully bad movies released in the past dozen summers! It is agreed that "Legally Blonde 2" is the worst movie we have ever gone to see, with "Miami Vice" in second place.

Of all the strange things I have seen students do, perhaps the greatest number of them involve the toasters in the dining hall. Over the years I have seen watermelon, potato chips, and ice cubes put in them. (Not surprisingly, none of these "experiments" went well.) And a summer doesn't pass without at least one pre-buttered slice of toast or pre-cream-cheesed bagel.

So here comes CTY Chestertown 2011. We shall see what delights and surprises it brings...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Original Originals

orig·i·nal noun \ə-ˈrij-ə-nəl, -ˈrij-nəl\
1 archaic : the source or cause from which something arises; specifically : originator
2a : that from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made b : a work composed firsthand
3a : a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity b : a unique or eccentric person

From time to time you hear about someone being "most unique" or something "reverting back" and, if you are like me (or my dear wife, the English professor) you wince. These are classics from the Department of Redundancy Department.

It was not until I was employed in the construction industry that I encountered the concept of "multiple originals." After all, I worked for twenty-five years in the comic book business and original art was just that, a single piece of artwork created by the artist(s).

Not so in construction. When I was working at Preload, handling the billings, we would occasionally have a customer that would ask for more than one copy of the invoice. We were building a tank in a small town in Maine when I first encountered the need to provide "six originals" of the bill. I joked at the time that it seemed that everyone in that small town wanted his or her own copy of the bill, but I was serious when I said that there could only be one original. "The second one, even if it is an exact copy, is a duplicate," I explained. "The third one is a triplicate." And so on. It fell on deaf ears.

Well, I made my point, at least to my own satisfaction. I made six Xerox copies of the original and we signed and notarized each one. Then I put the original in our file and sent the six copies off to Maine. Each month that we billed them, I did the same thing. They thought they had six originals; actually, they had none.

As the comptroller at Combined Resources Interiors, I still handle the billings. And the demand for multiple originals is far more prevalent. And they want multiples not only of the invoices, but of the waivers and releases as well. Just this afternoon I had a conversation with an accountant at the General Contractor we work for; she said she would need four originals of the paperwork. "You realize that, by definition, only one of them can be the original," I said. She wasn't getting it and replied, "Okay, but I still need four."

As I did at Preload, I handle the need for multiple originals the same way. However many they want, the photocopies are made and all of them are signed and notarized. That seems to keep them happy.

But every now and then I threaten to go into the fine print in the waivers and releases and affidavits and change a few words in each copy. Because that would make each one original!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

It feels like I just posted my most recent blog entry, yet it is three and a half weeks later. In the interim, I've scribbled notes to myself about topics I want to explore here, but haven't found the time to do so. Among them...

Big Apple Con
Had a nice time there, as Chuck and Rebecca joined me for the day. Unlike I-Con, where I spent most of my time doings panels, my only obligation seemed to be to show up and sit at the table they provided.
I signed some comic books -- quite a variety of the books I've written, from 'Mazing Man and Hero Hotline to various Superman and Batman Family tales and even a copy of Heroes for Hunger, a fund-raiser comic DC published.

Suddenly, Summer
It stopped being April on Tuesday, May 24th. We went from having 50-degrees-and-raining to having temperatures in the 70s and above. It worked out nicely because that was also the first night of volleyball at the beach.
The pool has been up to 90 degrees on a couple of days and I've had the opportunity for a few "midnight swims" in the past couple of weeks.

The End of the World
Well, it didn't happen on May 21st at 6:00 p.m. I was on a train heading home from Big Apple Con at the time, so I'm glad my final moments weren't spent on the Long Island Railroad.
On the other hand, given the earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, et al happening lately, maybe it's just taking awhile.
There was one man in Times Square on "Doomsday," surrounded by reporters and non-believers, who was quite surprised that he was still there at 6:01. I'll bet he was wishing he really could disappear!

How Do These People Get Elected?
Congressman Anthony Weiner does inappropriate things online, lies about it, and says that not only will he not resign, he's still planning to run for Mayor of New York City.
Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered how many children with women other than his wife?
Sarah Palin continues to demonstrate her lack of knowledge, screws up on Paul Revere's ride, and insists she's right. To top that off, someone -- presumably a Palin-supporter -- tried to edit the Wikipedia entry on Revere to support Palin's version of history.

Happy 30th Birthday, Chuck
I don't feel old enough to have a son who is thirty years old. To put it in perspective, though, my mother says the same thing about having a son who is sixty!

DC Comics Reboots Their Entire Line
The fanboys are ticked off by this, saying they feel like DC is kicking them to the curb. On the one hand, the people with the disposable income to buy $3 comic books, the trade paperback and hardcover books, and outrageously expensive statues and geegaws are those same fanboys. On the other hand, they are a shrinking number and if the comics industry doesn't find a way to bring in a new generation of readers, it's just a question who is going to be left to turn off the lights.
Far more important than rebooting all the characters -- and lost in most of the hubbub -- is DC's announcement that they will be making all these new books available "date and date" as downloads. Will this capture the attention (and money) of a new generation of readers? Or will it end with DC having no audience at all?

One More Chapter of the Secret History
A bonus chapter of The Secret History of AA Comics will finally see print in Alter Ego #102, on sale later this month. Editor Roy Thomas had expressed an interest in seeing a fuller explanation of the transition away from superhero titles in the late 1940s and, with the aid of artists Larry Guidry and Shane Foley, I provided even more than he expected.

I'm sure there are more topics scribbled on notes that haven't turned up yet. And there will be new ones to add as well. Hopefully, it will be less than three weeks before I'm back to address them.