Monthly Archives: February 2014

What I’ve learned from super heroes

This morning on Facebook, I saw radio host Darkness Dave post a status regarding  the life lessons he has heard from science fiction, specifically the different personality traits he has learned from different super heroes throughout his life.

I’ve listened to Dave’s show for years and he has become one of my heroes, especially when it comes to interviewing sources.

Yet there is something to what he said about being inspired by super heroes. Some think that the idea of super heroes and silly and we should be focusing on the real heroes in our lives. There’s nothing wrong with that. The efforts of police officers, firemen, doctors, and folks in the military are inspiring and should be looked at in the same vein we regard the modern day gods of fiction. However, I think it’s also fine to be inspired by fictional characters in capes, costumes and masks. I’ll bet there are plenty of real life heroes who were inspired by super heroes.

So in homage to Darkness Dave, I will list the different traits and lessons I have learned from heroes. Some of these lessons I have learned from more than one hero.

Superman has taught me that it’s fine to be nice and forgiving in situations. He has also shown me that it’s important to do the right thing.

Spider-man has taught me that great power does in deed come with great responsibility.

Batman has taught that dedication, observation, hard work can help prepare you to face any challenge.

Wonder Woman taught me that it’s important to venture into the unknown, but still keep to your roots.

Green Lantern has taught me how to use imagination and willpower to overcome obstacles. They – all four of them – have also shown me that you are going to encounter people of different races, shapes and sizes in your line of work.

Wolverine has taught me that you can recover from all kinds of scars if you’re given enough time. He has also shown me that there are times when you have to take the reins and be a leader.

The Flash has taught me that it’s okay – sometimes necessary – to go super fast, but sometimes you need to slow down and take in everything else before you act.

Aquaman has taught me that you should be yourself, even if the rest of the world is laughing at you and your abilities.

Martian Manhunter has taught me that it’s okay to be different because you’ll still find love from the people around you … that and cookies are delicious.

Deadpool has taught me that it’s fine to inject humor into the most serious of situations … and that chimichangas are delicious.

The Fantastic Four  has taught me that your coworkers and classmates can turn into your family, both in good and bad ways.

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A Slice of Al – Feb. 27

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My apologizes for posting this a day late. Like the rest of the world, I sometimes get wrapped up in things. Still, this past week had its ups and opposite of ups. I’ll keep it short.

Harold Ramis passes away
Although I didn’t post a column yesterday, I rewatched “Ghostbusters” in honor of Harold Ramis, who passed away this week. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his movies, but the film where played the scientists Egon Spengler and fought ghosts is my favorite. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

One step closer
This weekend I wasn’t able to practice driving with my sister, but I was able to get a permit so I can drive on the road. I am also in the process of buying a vehicle – PT Cruiser – which means I will be able to drive.

Jazz and Praises
This weekend I was a bit spoiled when it came to good music. At the Java and Jazz Fundraiser, Craig Johnson thanked me for being there. This goes with all of the feedback I’ve been receiving since I started at the Free Press. It’s always humbling to hear that people like your work.

William Regal
This week on the “Steve Austin Show” the former WWE champion interviewed his former traveling partner, friend and current superstar William Regal. The two discussed Regal’s journey in the life of pro wrestling.

I have always regarded Regal as one of the top ring technicians in the industry and his match with the Ultimo Dragon for the TV title is one of my favorite memories in WCW.

UFC
Congrats to Ronda Rousey for once again retaining her UFC Women’s Bantamweight title against Sara McMann. Although I thought the stoppage from Herb Dean was a little bit early, things like that happen.

Congrats are also in order to potential contenders Alexis Davis and Daniel Cormier. I could see both of these warriors getting championship bouts within the next two years.

WWE
I’m not so much invested in the main event between Randy Orton and Batista or the match between Daniel Bryan and Triple H – though I’m sure it will be a good one. For me the feud between John Cena and Bray Wyatt and match between the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar would be my two picks for Wrestlemania.

Hypatia of Alexandria

 

Note: This is one of my oldest essays I wrote for a math class awhile back.

Hypatia is regarded as one of the most important mathematicians in history. She is known as the first notable woman involved with mathematics and was active during the fourth and fifth centuries

There was some mystery surrounding Hypatia’s birth. The year of her birth ranges from around 350 C.E through 370 C.E. What is known is that she was born to the philosopher Theron (335 C.E.- 405 C.E.). She was born in the city of Alexandria, which was one of the richest cities of the Roman Empire.

Growing up Hypatia was exposed to much knowledge by her father, who was one of the last recorded scholar-member of the Library of Alexandria.

Unlike most women in that time period, who were mainly subjective to their husbands while receiving little or no education, Hypatia was immersed in subjects like astronomy, mechanics, philosophy, and mathematics.

In addition to exposing her to so much knowledge, Theron also made sure his daughter grew up to be a healthy woman. Some speculate that Hypatia’s surpassed her father in intellect at an early age.
She studied at the Neoplatonist school. In 400 C.E., Hypatia became the head of that school.

Hypatia’s most notable contribution to mathematics is her editing of On the Conics of Apollonius, which is a book by the Greek geometer and astronomer which describes how cones can be divided into different parts by a plane. With her work on this book, she helped develop the concepts of hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses. She also helped make these concepts easier to understand.

She also collaborated with her father on such books as The Artihmetica of Diophantus, who is regarded as the father of Algerbra, and Elements written by the Greek mathematician Euclid.
In addition to being a teacher and writing, Hypatia was also a popular lecturer who drew crowds from all corners of the Empire who would come to hear her speak. Like her father, she spoke about promoting and preserving traditional Greek thought.

Hypatia lived in the midst of the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, and the persecution of older religions. She was friends with Orestes, a fellow pagan and the civil governor of Alexandria. They were both subject to rumors by Cyril, the pope of Alexandria. On her way home one afternoon, Hypatia was dragged out of her carriage by a mob. The mob then took her to the church called the Ceasareum where she was stripped of her clothes, and killed with pieces of broken pottery. Her body was dragged through the streets, then took her to the Cinaron and burned her corpse.

Although she lived over a thousand years ago, Hypatia was a standard for many women mathematicians to follow and both influence and legacy lives to this day.
Sources

“Hypatia” by Larry Ridde. http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/hypatia.htm

“Hypatia of Alexandria: Defender of Reason by Jim Haldenwang. members.cox.net/jhaldenwang/Hypatia.htm

A night of live music

This past weekend I was spoiled by live music.

After my friend Jackie dropped off my new bed, I decided to head to Winterfest in downtown Cheney. The original plan was to get there early and enjoy the various musical acts.

Unfortunately I would only get to enjoy the performance of one band as my intentions of arriving early became a reality of arriving late. Still, I managed to arrive during a lovely performance by a two-person band. The lead singer performed covers of several hits before she ended with an original song.

Following the quick escapade to Winterfest, I grabbed food at Eagles’ Pub where there was open mic night. The songs were performed by guys who lamented about ex girlfriends. Although I didn’t enjoy the tunes as much as the band outside, the music was a nice distraction from the conversations at the bar where friends ordered shots for each other.

The singer Markus dedicated a song to his friend who was getting divorced. While I thought the gesture was noble – and a bit awkward – it wasn’t the most unusual dedication I’ve heard. That distinction belongs to Valiant Thor, where the lead singer dedicated a song to the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

As Markus was getting ready for his last song, one of the guys from the bar sauntered over to the stage and asked if he could play. Markus graciously offered his guitar to the man, who strummed it gracefully.

I’ll admit, the guitar playing wasn’t bad, but the singing – or what I thought was singing – made me wish my food arrived faster.

After the man was finished, he left the stage while Markus came back and finished his set. After he was done, Ryan announced there was karaoke coming next.

I felt a jolt to leave the bar, which I dismissed as the feeling from my pitcher of “Mystery Beer.” I should have listened to my gut as the first round of karaoke tunes performed by the bar patrons featured some of my favorite songs, particularly Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

After I finished my beer and food, I left for home.

Random thoughts on journalism

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Note: This is a journal for one of my editing class I took a year ago. 

Today I will be journaling about a couple of quotes I came across over the summer that relate to journalism.

Journalism is telling what they don’t want you to tell, everything else is just P.R.

I saw one of my friends post this quote on their wall and while it does have some truth, I don’t necessarily agree with it. Maybe it’s just because it hits a little close to home.

Being a feature writer the main goal is to tell a story, whether it is about the local actors at a theatre or the farmer who grows the largest tomatoes.

Sure it is P.R. in a way because you are telling everyone about these people. Yes a good story does have conflict, but it doesn’t have to be focused on the giant conspiracy that “Big Brother” is out to get us.

The conflict can be as small as the farmer trying to make money to save theatre.

The point is that journalism is not about trying to teach readers about the different happenings throughout the world, both the good and the bad.

In the case of a feature writer, their job should be to bring the human element into a story whether we are writing about the karaoke scene or the different happenings at a public school…of course there is always the exception to this rule might be restaurant reviews.

Every writer has an agenda

When I first saw this, I shook my head, but then I began to think to myself “Maybe that person is right.”

Think about it, whenever we have go to write a story we are not only putting ourselves in our writing, we are telling it for a reason whether it is because we are passionate about the subject (avid sports fans who write columns about how mad they are at replacement refs) or stories about education because we have children and want them to get the best schooling possible.

There’s also the idea that we feel a certain way about an issue and that not only want people to know about our feelings towards the issue, but also we want them to feel the same way we do.

I told this to one of my former coworkers and he asked me what my agenda was. I told him,” To make sure that chicks who fight in cages get the national recognition they deserve.”

 

Al-Man on Batman: Bat-answers to Bat-questions

As you all know, the inspiration for the blog “Al-Man on Batman” came from the Kevin Smith podcast “Fatman on Batman.”

One of the older episodes was titled “The Comic Book Men Go Bat Shit Live” and featured the show live at a comic book convention. As the episode says, it features appearances by Smith’s costars on the show “Comic Book Men.” I haven’t seen the show before, but after being entertained by the different stories and answers from these guys, I’ve made a mental note to try and find the show.

In the middle and toward the end of the program, Smith and some of the audience members about their earliest memories of the Dark Knight and some of their other favorite things about the Caped Crusader.

So in the interest of putting out content and hearing myself type and talk, I decided to answer the Batman-related questions that were asked on the show.

1. Earliest memory of Batman
It would have to be the 1966 Batman show featuring Adam West and Burt Ward. Whenever we would stay at hotels, Batman was the show that seemed to be on the television. I remember the first episode I watched featured Mr. Freeze. It was a cliffhanger, so as Batman and Robin were trapped, I gasped in horror, wondering about the fate of the Dynamic Duo.

2. Favorite adaptation of Batman
It would have to be the Batman who is one step ahead of everyone, has a solution to every problem, including his Justice League teammates. Grant Morrison figured this type in his JLA and Batman runs. You also see this character a little bit in “The Batman” that was on Kid’s WB in 2004. Some people refer to this incarnation as “Bat-God.”

This version of the Dark Knight seems to have a superpower, according to one reader. He somehow inspires “Super incompetence” in the other heroes.

3. Favorite Batman memory?
Honestly, I don’t have a solid favorite Batman memory. There are times where I’ve shared laughs with friends and relatives about aspects of the character. This one time at a casino I was explaining to my friend Tom about the Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne team up. The mild-mannered Batman and the brooding badass Robin. He stopped me and said “you realize you just said ‘mild-mannered Batman.’”

4. Favorite villains and villains origin story.
My favorite villains would have to Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Maxie Zeus. I also have an affinity for other characters like Firefly, Black Mask and Owlman.

As far as origins go, I think Ra’s has to be my favorite. Of all Batman’s villains, it deals with the supernatural, which you don’t see a lot in the comics.

5. Favorite Batman storyline
Again, hard to pick just one favorite. I’ve been intrigued by the stuff that has come out in the last 10 years. Grant Morrison’s run has been great. I also enjoyed Scott Snyder’s arcs, especially the Court of Owls.

As far as the older stuff goes, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s trilogy is good.

I’ve also made a note to try and read some of the older stories, as well as stories with various teams that feature Batman.

6. Favorite Batman The Animated Series episode
It would have to be “Heart of Ice” or “The Demon’s Quest” two-parter.

 

If you want to listen to the episode of the “Fatman on Batman” podcast, follow the link.
http://smodcast.com/episodes/the-comic-book-men-go-bat-shit-live/

 

What are some of your favorite Batman memories, episodes or stories? Let me know in the comments or email alstovermma@gmail.com. 

A night of jazz

I attended the Medical Lake Junior High, High School and Red Clay Combo jazz concert fundraiser the other night at the Medical Lake Middle School.

The band holds the fundraiser every year to raise money for trips and competitions out of town.

The theme of the night – as it was written on the lovely cake – was “Swingin’ Under the Stars”

Band director Craig Johnson had told me it had been a busy week with going to state band competitions and solo and string shows in the past few weeks. As I am writing this, the band is coming off of a performance at the Lionel Hampton Festival in Idaho.

Friends and families filled up the middle school auditorium as band members hid behind the red curtain, tuning their instruments before showtime.

After the curtain rose, the high school band appeared on stage, bathed in a neon blue light.

Johnson thanked everyone for coming and then the band played a set.

In addition to the high school band, the Red Clay Combo, comprised of five high school students and Johnson, played on stage as people piled onto the dance floor.

In between the sets, guest dance instructors Howard and Kathy Peake demonstrated some swing and waltz steps for the audience. Standing on the sidelines, I couldn’t help but cringe a little. It was a bit chaotic at first, but people seemed to get the hang of it. Those who were not awkwardly stepping and shuffling along the dance floor were munching on cake and gulping coffee and punch.

During a break I approached freshmen Daniel Miller, who had performed at the previous year’s fundraiser. He said it was fun to see people dance and that the event helps out their trip.

Following the combo band, the middle school students played a set of five tunes. Before the last song, Johnson thanked everyone for coming and said this year’s fundraiser was “the best event yet.”

After the middle school, the high school band once again took to the stage, this time playing songs they would perform at the festival in Idaho. During the song “Willow Weep for Me” Chris Eshermail (don’t quote me on that) performed on the saxophone. This was my favorite performance of the night.

The evening closed with the Red Clay Combo performing their title song.

I spoke with Annette King, whose son Nathan plays in the saxophone in the high school band. Annette said she wished more people came.

“It’s the funnest concert of the year,” Annette King said.

Johnson repeated his affirmation that it was the best concert of the year.

“This is the best turn out we’ve ever had and the most people we’ve had dancing,” Johnson said. “It was a good night.”

Johnson repeatedly thanked me for being there and expressed his disbelief that I had stayed for the whole thing. What can I say, I was happy to be there. I’ve spent the last couple of years getting into jazz and it was cool to see budding musicians working through the kinks in their adolescent years before they take that next step.

Last night’s event also gave me a chance to relax and have fun covering an event rather than just go through the same motions you would go through at a city council meeting.

I also took the time to record some music for my friend Jackie, who loves jazz and played during high school. I’ll have to warn her about any ambient noise that may have come through on the recorder.