Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet the Met$

As a reward for donating platelets four times between May and July, the NY Blood Center sent me four tickets to a Mets game at Citi Field. Since I have not been to a Mets game in their new ballpark, I was looking forward to it. And since I had a quartet of tickets, I invited our friends Allan and Arlene, both avid Mets fans, to join us.

It has been a number of years since I've been to a Mets game. The last time I recall driving to Shea Stadium, the parking fee was $6. I figured it had probably gone up a couple of bucks since then, but was quite surprised to find that it now costs $19! And this is for the "outer" parking fields; I don't even want to guess what "V.I.P Parking" costs.

It was "Build-a-Bear" day, so we each received a teddy bear with a Mets shirt and cap. Thankfully, Laurie had brought a canvas bag, so we had somewhere to put them. Otherwise, we would have been like many of our fellow attendees, with bears stuck under our arms or on our heads as we walked through the stadium. One family I saw had four children, the youngest of which was displaced from her stroller by six bears.

Having been to the "retro-modern" stadiums in Baltimore, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, I was underwhelmed with the look and feel of Citi Field. As Laurie pointed out, it came across as very corporate in its attempt to seem friendly. The Hall of Fame Museum, though it contained a few items of interest, led directly into the souvenir/gift shop with a focus on "buy, buy,buy."

As we made our way to our seats, Laurie pointed out that every possible spot along the way was filled with a cart or kiosk selling something. And there were certainly no bargains to be had. Two hot dogs and two sodas would take almost all of a $20 bill. One can only imagine how much that family with the four kids spent on their day at the ballpark.

Our seats were pretty good, field level in the right field corner. That they were in the shade on a 90+ degree afternoon for most of the game was a good thing. We could see all of the field as well as the scoreboard. We were about ten yards away from the foul pole, so I had an up-close view of the home run ball that bounced off it.

The Mets beat the Astros, 5-1, thanks mostly to the timely 2-RBI single by pitcher R.A. Dickey. Neither team has any hopes of playing in the post-season, so the game had no real importance other than bringing the Mets back to being a .500 team.

One thing hasn't changed between Shea Stadium and Citi Field. Getting out of the parking lot at the end of the game still takes forever. The entire lot seems to feed into a single two-lane exit. You'd think that with all those $19 fees they collect, they could have afforded more than one gate.

Friday, August 27, 2010

75th Anniversaries

New Fun Comics #1 went on sale in January, 1935. It changed its name to More Fun Comics with #7 and was joined by New Comics in November. It was not until February, 1937 that Detective Comics, the magazine that gave the company its name, joined the mix. It is likely that no one involved with the production of those books expected that the company would still be around seventy-five years later.

Though there had been talk through much of 2009 that DC Comics would be making a big deal about their 75th anniversary this year, it would seem that they have forgotten about it. (There are a couple of books coming out, but they are being published by others.) Maybe they're saving their energy for the 75th anniversary of Detective in 2012, or Superman's in 2013?


On the other hand, Hofstra University has an entire year's worth of events planned for its 75th anniversary. In September, Homecoming Weekend will be a three-day extravaganza featuring a parade, fireworks, birthday party, student talent show, numerous receptions, and more. Everything you'd expect from a gala Homecoming except a football game... because Hofstra cancelled its football program last year in order to save a couple million dollars, which will instead be put towards the new medical school.

One event that is scheduled is the symposium “Kapow! From Pulp Fiction to Google Books” on Friday, October 22, 2010. Says Sarah McCleskey, one of its co-directors, "Since Hofstra’s founding date (1935) coincides so nicely with the rise of "pulp fiction" as a literary genre, we have chosen to look at the evolution of literature and culture encompassing such topics as pulp fiction, comics, graphic novels, anime, and digital culture.
"For the morning session, we will focus on popular culture, with a keynote address and a panel of Hofstra professors interested in some of these topics (crime fiction, anime, graphic novels, etc.). The first keynote speaker will be Michael Sharp, Professor at SUNY-Binghamton who is perhaps better known for his NY Times crossword-puzzle solving abilities under the pseudonym 'Rex Parker.' Professor Sharp also authors a pulp fiction blog.
"The afternoon session will feature a Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications officer at Duke University, to lead off another faculty panel relating to Google Book settlement/copyright issues in education/authors’ rights, etc. and will address such questions as how we protect the legitimate property rights of authors and publishers, but at the same time protect the freedom and creativity of authors and researchers and students."

Of interest to those of you reading this might be the luncheon speaker, with a presentation on the history and evolution of comic books. This will include a mention of how Hofstra and the comic book world were intertwined when HU became the model for Dick ("Robin the Teen Wonder") Grayson's alma mater, Hudson University. And who better to speak of such matters than the writer of those stories, a Hofstra alumnus and veteran of the comic book business?

Yes, that would be me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

CTY 2010

Six weeks, twenty-six students, 140 writing assignments. That would sum up my two sessions of Writing & Imagination at CTY Chestertown this year.

But a mere summary does not include the odd and interesting highlights, such as...

Finding a bat (the live kind, like the one that flew in Bruce Wayne's window), on the third floor of our classroom building. While none of the students were inspired to become superheroes, they did have to write "I am the Bat" and explain how it got there. When I brought the class up to see it, one of the boys, by then well aware that I'll use almost anything as a prompt, turned to me and said, "We're going to write about this, aren't we?"

Seeing one of the most incredible sunsets ever. One evening, my dormmate Jim came in and said, "You have to come out and look at this." With our fellow roomie Troy, we went outside and watched a spectacular mixture of pinks, reds, oranges, purples, and blues in a tapestry that spread across the western sky. At one point, Jim said, "When do we stop watching?" I replied, "I guess when it's dark." Troy was able to capture it on his cellphone camera and, while the pictures don't really do it justice, they are something to remember it by.

Joining some past and present Bay Ecology instructors on a test run of one of their field trips to the Sassafras River. We drove into a preserve that was part forest and part cornfield, hiked down a path to the river and then along the shore to a pond filled with giant lily pads. It was truly something worth seeing.
But, lest you think the site was something never before found by civilization, some boaters had set up a tiki bar and a live rock band on a sand bar nearby.

Dr. Nefarious' plan to take over the world. One of the numerous personalities I adopt in writing prompts, Dr. N. is the world's most evil villain. During the second session, he won the support of the students by promising them an endless supply of cookies, French fries, and soda and each newly recruited minion was assigned a number. (My class even recruited students from other classes to the cause, resulting in kids coming up to me at lunch and in the swimming pool, asking what minion number they could be.)
Of course, this resulted in a writing assignment, an encyclopedia entry about how Dr. Nefarious became ruler of the earth. In my own contribution, a sidebar by Dr. N. himself, he recounts, "And so I have gained control of the entire world without a single shot being fired. Without a single casualty, in fact. Unless, of course, you count my minion army of burping, fat kids."

"...and Other CTY Lunchtime Stories." During one lunch, I overheard one of my fellow instructors saying to a student, "Sheldon, eat the whole banana!" I mentioned it to Amy, my Teaching Assistant, as something that could inspire a writer, much as Agatha Christie was prompted to write the novel Why Didn't They Ask Evans? after hearing someone say it on a bus. Sheldon, Eat the Whole Banana, and Other CTY Lunchtime Stories could become a bestseller.
It became a running gag for us, adding the tag each time we heard someone say something odd or amusing. By the end, it had spread among other members of the staff, to the point where the line was used quite regularly. Now all we need to do is write the book.

The sidewalks and landscaping getting finished the day before we left. As I mentioned in a previous post, the sidewalk in front of our dorms was torn up and was then gradually replaced with brick walkways. In a flurry of activity in the last week, the brickwork was completed and enough flora to stock a nursery or three was planted in front of the buildings.
We never did get to enjoy an evening sitting outside, but it will be interesting when we return next summer to see how much of the foliage has survived.

There was much more, of course -- games of Ultimate Frisbee and poker, kayaking on the Chester River, a game of Word Assassin that seems to still be going on (my co-instructor Lauren seemed to be winning at last report), crab night, magic cookie bars, visits from staffers from prior summers. But, like Brigadoon, CTY 2010 has vanished from sight, living on only in the memories of those who were a part of it.