Monday, August 25, 2014

Four Old Guys Talking Comics

(l-r) BobRo, Alan Gold, Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg
  Laurie and I hosted a barbecue on Saturday that split along gender lines pretty quickly. Not so surprising, since four of the guys -- Bob Greenberger, Alan Gold, Paul Kupperberg, and yours truly -- have more than a combined one hundred years in the comic book business, most of it at DC Comics.

  We talked about our days in the DC offices, folks we had worked with who we wouldn't mind seeing again (and some we never want to see again), the state of comics today, and various crazy things we'd been a part of.

  At one point, while the other ladies were occupied, Deb Greenberger ended up with the four of us. She quickly retreated, saying, "I don't want to talk about comic books."
  "How about this whole situation with ISIS?" said Paul. "What should we be doing in the Middle East?"
  This did not entice Deb to stay, so, not missing a beat, Paul said, "Every time I hear something about ISIS, I think of The Mighty Isis (a 1976 TV series that DC published a comic book version of)."
   And we were right back on topic...

Bucket Brigade

Yes, I was invited to take the Ice Bucket Challenge.
No, you won't see any video of me getting doused. Anyone who has seen my cell phone knows that it doesn't take pictures, let alone videos.
What you also won't see are the checks we've written over the years to sponsor a friend who takes part in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS in New York City.

It's great that the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and that many millions of dollars have been donated to the fight against ALS.
One giant influx of cash is unlikely to solve the problem, however. It is a steady flow of donations that keeps the fight going, so it will be great if everyone who donated this year does so again next year... and the year after that... and the year after that.

Preferably without having to have another bucket of ice water poured on them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hey, Look! It's Dr. Wolfgang!

Dr. Wolfgang tells the class about examining the glowing students
  Dr. Wolf W. Wolfgang, "ze head of Science at Vashington College and an expert on ze Marianas Trench, vhich, as you know, is the deepest part of ze Specific Ocean," has been a mainstay of my summer teaching stints since the very beginning. Every year, his bioluminescent jellyfish samples from the Trench end up in the dining hall refrigerator, from which they are served up as Jell-O by Ima Server and eaten by CTY students. When said students end up glowing green in the middle of the night, the writing prompt begins.
  For the past few summers, Giselle, our Assistant Academic Dean, has been trying, unsuccessfully,  to photograph Dr. Wolfgang. By the time she showed up with the camera, the good doctor had invariably wandered back to his lab. That was not the case this year, as she arrived in time to catch the professor answering questions about his examination of the glowing children.
  Many students notice a resemblance between Dr. Wolfgang and Mr. R., the writing instructor, but it is quite easy to tell them apart. Wolfie wears a lab coat (with a name tag that clearly identifies him) and glasses.
Dr. Wolfgang (Note glasses and lab coat with name tag)
Mr. R.

  Surprisingly, no one seems to notice any similarity between Wolfie, Mr. R. and Ulysses S. Feedum, the head of Dining Services. Maybe it's the hat.

Ulysses S. Feedum, with his assistant Ima Server

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Alas, Poor Buzzy

Buzzy the Fly, who reached notoriety in a blog entry just last week, has passed away. He went quietly, perched on a tissue on my classroom desk, undoubtedly of old age. He had been buzzing around the classroom for just about four weeks.

I was prepared to give him a simple funeral -- wrapping him in the tissue and dropping him in the wastepaper basket -- but the students insisted that Buzzy deserved a more formal burial. Well, since everything really is a writing prompt, I told them they would each have to write a eulogy to be delivered at graveside. And, indeed, they did.

My pal Bob Greenberger, visiting for the day, served as our gravedigger, scooping a hole under a tree outside the classroom building while the students read their tributes to our class mascot. "I have never liked flies," wrote one of the girls, "but you were the first fly I liked." Another apologized for trying to swat Buzzy when he landed on her head: "I should have realized you were just interested in my writing."

Once we'd all said our farewells, I pushed the dirt back into the grave and erected the marker, made from a pencil and a piece of paper. We had a moment of silence and then the kids went off for their afternoon break.

I can only imagine the reactions of the parents when they asked their kids last night what we did in class and were told, "Oh, we had a funeral for a fly."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Ultimate Else

Dining hall conversations among the instructional staff at CTY can go pretty much anywhere and such was the case this morning at breakfast.
Arsalan, our robotics wizard, was telling me about a woman in Great Britain who came up with a way to teach computer programming to young children by turning the if/else statements into stories that begin with "Once upon a time..." Each new choice would take the story in a different direction and create numerous versions of the tale.
It is, I pointed out, a spin on the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, in which the reader is asked at various points to choose action a or b, and is then directed to a different page depending on that choice. But since the computer is not strapped by the physical limitations of a printed book, there is the availability of many more options to any given choice.
There did have to be, however, an end to the story and that would be the "ultimate else." It is the same in any video game; at some point you make a decision to do or not do something and you are killed/ destroyed/ whatever and the game ends. The ultimate else.
And, in fact, isn't that how to describe life itself? You make choices that lead you to more and more choices until you reach that ultimate else and then your "game" is over.
At this point, the discussion intrigued our tablemates, Brittany, Holly and Zach, who joined in. I postulated that Arsalan was actually an agent from the future, here to prevent the ultimate else of the entire universe from happening. Each time we reach that final if/else, we further speculated, he is able to "skip that line of code" and come back to reset things to change the outcome.
Ah, but is it something one of his students does? Or a number of students? Or one of us?
The possibilities, it would seem, are endless...