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The Night Shift

Posted in daughter, ella, fatherhood, music, parenting, sleep on January 29th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu

My daughter Ella was, at best, reluctant to join us out here in what we laughingly refer to as society. Twenty days past her due date, a Cuban surgeon pulled her from a blood-covered incision in my wife to bring this diaphanous angel to us, still enjoying the protection of vernix and fairly a little surprised to be sucking down oxygen with the rest of humanity while 2009 was still churning on down the tachyon-strewn road of time.

She’s still not adjusted to what most people consider a normal circadian rhythm. She sleeps about eighteen hours a day, but sometimes chooses to make the waking hours in the dead of the night. “Just like her father,” my brain tossed up at 3:30 AM one night, remembering the years and years of nocturnal activity, sitting up writing or watching Star Trek reruns, navigating the digitally hazy streets of Vice City or simply staring into the crisp void of a blackened sky. Unfortunately, many nights this burden falls on my wife, who wakes up to breastfeed our littlest girl and try to comfort the furrowed brow back to something resembling slumber.

Fun side fact: when I was little, I’d place my thumb between my index and middle finger a lot, sometimes sucking it, sometimes just sitting around with my hand that way. Turns out that whenever she’s hungry or eating, Ella does the same. Weirdest damned thing. Wonderful, though.

Somebody’s not ready to sleep just yet …

However, there are nights when my wife can’t take it, and I gladly leap into service. I have, as many would suspect, a method. Since Ella responded to both motion and me singing very, very early, I set up my wife’s iPod docking station next to my black leather recliner in the living room — a wide open expanse of hard wood and earth tones — I tended to cradle Ella in the crook of my arm, parallel to the floor, and “walk it out.”

“… cause you know, I can’t live without my radio …”

Moving slowly but rhythmically, I moved in a lazy oval (I learned sharp turns slowed down her path to sleep) around the living room, often singing in a low voice so there was less concern about my voice carrying (very different from my karaoke hosting days) and more about the vibrations of my voice in my torso, sticking to my lower register as much as possible. I have literally sang every song I know to this girl — “As” by Stevie Wonder, “The Scientist” by Coldplay, “My Girl” by the Temptations, “Smile Like You Mean It” by The Killers, “Raspberry Beret” by Prince, “Alone” by Heart, “Hold My Hand” by Sean Paul and Keri Hilson, plus so many more — and learned that I know far fewer songs by heart than I thought I did (rap songs, sadly, didn’t do anything for her). If the music’s playing, even an instrumental, sure, I can pick up the thread and sing probably fifty or sixty songs … but in the silent coolness of a winter night, sleep-addled size twelve slippers treading along a hardwood floor, my knowledge is considerably less comprehensive.

Hence the iPod. At first, I had music playing through my phone’s earpiece as I sang along (which immediately upped the number of songs I could pull off geometrically) but I realized the ambient nature of the sound helped, as Ella was used to the swishing and sloshing of her mother’s innards performing their duties, sustaining life, and the unnatural quiet of the world was sensory deprivation that distracted.

“Why not just sing the same songs over and over?” Good question. The answer: I tried that. Much like her father (again), hearing the same song (or even snippets of the same song, as “Hard” by Rihanna got stuck in my head for almost a week, and I kept interpolating riffs of that, which made her live up to her nickname, Fuss) too often can annoy. Her sister Mooch? That girl can hear the same song, over and over, for … heck, probably days on end, and she’s fine with it. Mooch drove my wife nuts with “We Will Rock You” because it’s on some commercial … which I didn’t realize until after I put it on Mooch’s playlist in my iPod.

But we digress …

So there I am, mostly after 3AM (and unfortunately often on nights before I have to work in the morning), I’ve been making my orbit of empty space, humming and singing along to mostly jazz, slower alternative rock and soul music. As Ella settles down, I am not so confident I could safely lay her back down in the bassinet (sp?) and get back in bed without taking precious moments of rest from my wife. I’ve found it easier to just grab a couple of these “throw” blankets populating the living room, sit down in the recliner, prop a pillow under whichever elbow is supporting Ella’s head, lean the chair back and keep humming until I fall asleep myself. My phone nearby (and Mooch waking up and wandering in as sunlight sneaks through the blinds) has kept me from dangerously oversleeping so far, and I actually spent many nights conked out in this chair after a session of Grand Theft Auto, so I don’t even mind. and it’s a little thing that I have with my new daughter, something I can cherish and embarrass her with as a story when she’s at her rehearsal dinner.

There’s baba’s little angel …

I thought that taking a “normal” job and giving up my night life working schedule (save still doing comics reviews on Wednesday nights) would mean an end to my enjoyment of the quiet of night. Thanks to my new daughter, I have an all new joy in the period when the earth turns away from the sun, and it only cost me a little coherency and my seratonin/melatonin balance …

“… I can’t get to sleep … I think about the implications …”

Playing (Music): “Taking Chances” from the first volume of the Glee soundtrack

NOTE: Since this blog is automatically imported into my Facebook page, I apologize if you comment on it and I don’t respond, as I am taking a sabbatical from social networking for 2010. So me not responding is not personal, I just won’t see the comments … until 2011. Maybe. Also including this disclaimer on blogs, but you’re welcome to go to the blog itself and speak your mind, as I may look there …

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Commentary Track for The Buy Pile, January 27th 2009

Posted in comics, comics reviews on January 29th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu

This week’s reviews were kind of like wading through hip deep mud, but it’s better than actually wading through hip deep mud for reasons of cleanliness and coolness. Plus, a bad day reading comics is better than a good day doing real work, or so I’ve always believed.

So there was a handbook style issue this week, and people always ask me,”why do you buy all of these things?” I had to let somebody know once: buying handbooks is like buying the right to be right. When somebody says, “I know for a fact that D-Man guest starred in issue seven of Invincible Iron Man,” or if they posit, “Well, everybody remembers how Spidey had sex with that chicken after he switched sides in ‘Civil War,’” there’s two ways you can shut them up. Have the actual issue or have a guidebook that tells them otherwise. It’s an argument stopper, it’s like having the old Encyclopaedia Britannica on the shelf and going to it every time there’s an argument about aardvarks (and really, how many of us haven’t had an argument about aardvarks?) — well worth the money. The mix of issues was weird this time — leading with modern SHIELD-era stuff for Tony Stark and then stepping back in time for Rhodey’s first weird War Machine run (which was similar tonally to the start of this incarnation) — but it had its benefits. I was shocked with how little of the real character and flavor of Fraction’s run translated in this cut and dry presentation when so much of, say, the Clone Saga’s idiocy came shining through.

In any case, there’s that. Also, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s immersive Astro City experience is worth the ride, almost every time, even when it isn’t. Yes, that didn’t make sense. I have a newborn at home, shut up.

Lessee, event comics … I still can’t believe how badly things are going if the last issue of Captain America: Reborn hits stands after Steve Rogers has been shlepping around the 616 for a few issues, with Bucky still looking moon-eyed at his side. The “Avengers Reassembled” shtick (bring back Cap, rebuild Tony as a hero, bring back Thor from his exile) is superbly transparent in the face of Norman Osborn’s much more interesting machinations (his flaws make “Dark Reign” work as well as it does, although when they get predictable it’s easy to take a pass) but that’s just the way it is like Bruce Hornsby was on deck.

Back when I was on Twitter (oh, you didn’t know about my yearlong sabbatical from social networking spanning my 37th and 38th birthdays?), there was this one guy who would at-sign me the angriest, wildest stuff after my reviews hit, especially in regards to anything Green Lantern or “Blackest Night” related. I found it hilarious — he didn’t follow me, didn’t wanna engage in dialogue, he just wanted to curse at me. As previously noted, that’s just fine with me — hate mail is awesome. Any passionate response to my work is fine, because there’s such a thin line between love and hate (apologies to The Persuaders) — indifference is what I hate to see.

So when I got Green Lantern #50 in my hands, I could just imagine veins throbbing on foreheads and frustrated grappling. It amused me a little, because given the tools at hand, it’s hard to make a “Blackest Night” story I’d like. Me, I appreciate the more mature perspective of another, older comics writer, who emailed me once saying that he wished I liked some of his work more but he appreciated the directness of my opinions. It was nice because he appreciated that they are opinions. I can’t guarantee that anything I write will help or hurt anybody’s sales. I certainly don’t know anybody personally to the point where I’d have that much of a vendetta against them (well, nobody in comics anyway). I may toss a lob towards the rowdier sections of the peanut gallery if I’m already deep in the “this won’t work” grass, but that’s largely for kicks. If there’s anything the internet loves, it’s hyperbole. Maybe even Hyperbole and a Half.

So that was the big event comics this week, what else happened? Oh, despite the fact that I’m most likely to run him over with a car (mostly kidding, that’s actually Brandon Jerwa), John Layman’s writing some interesting stuff in Chew that has a lot of fans talking. It’s always close to the mark, and when it makes it, it’s really a delight.

I was happy to see Prometheus back as the galaxy-class bad guy I respected when he whispered, “… here comes justice!” There’s still something critically wrong with Justice League Elite, er, Justice League: Cry for Justice that never connects. It’s partially Congorilla, admittedly, but Hal’s self righteousness doesn’t help. Prometheus took a lot longer to improvise when his Wikipedia stylings failed him than I expected, but his overall plan made it kind of all right. The fight scenes looked so stiff, though, and his actual plot was like an old 1980s Dr. Doom scheme — even Doom’s gotten smarter after all these years. Just saying …

Another thing … ooh, what’s that shiny, gotta go …

Watching (Hulu): White Collar “Bad Judgement”

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Commentary Track for the January 20th, 2009 Buy Pile

Posted in comics, comics reviews on January 23rd, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu

There were a number of challenges with this week’s column due to a variety of influences. It was my 37th birthday on Wednesday, and my normal inclination for my birthday is to stay in bed the entire day. That was unlikely, given that I drove my stepdaughter to and (if memory serves) from school and also had some interesting times with our new daughter Ella, who doesn’t exactly sleep during what mortals call “night time.” So, sleep deprivation, up front.

Then, I made the announcement that I was retiring, Jay-Z/Jordan style, from social networking for 365 days as of Wednesday, also. Given that, in many ways, I practically lived online, that was an amazing challenge to even consider, much less engineer. So there’s all that.

Up until the last moment, I wasn’t even sure I was gonna go buy comics. The comic store was, luckily but challengingly, not in my bed. It was also cold and nasty out. I may have been drunk. It’s hard to remember. But, there were no fewer than three Buy Pile regulars, so out I went.

I really like the working class grit of Gravel and when Warren Ellis feels like it, he can turn out one hell of a procedural. Toss into that his avowed and easily provable love for all things British and a dash of magic and murder, well, that’s just good. I do wanna see more of the verve and sass that made the founding members of his Minor Seven, as the two that appeared here didn’t do much, but otherwise I love the idea of “the king of all magic” being a kind of foot soldier who simply put one spell in front of another (yes, I’m wearing that metaphor out) until it all worked out. That’s something I can relate to.

This crossover in Incredible Hercules is taking a little bit of time to get there. I said it. I love the interplay between Herc and the always entertaining Amadeus Cho (possibly even more as a hapless hero than as a nascent villain) and adding Athena and even a prepubescent Zeus to the mix was surprisingly effective. The creative tension there — Amadeus’ flustered charm, Hercules grinning certainty, the planning skills of Athena and Zeus’ incredulity at it all … that’s good stuff. Really, though, the pacing could pick it up just a step.

Speaking of great ideas, Warren Ellis is chock full of them. Interdimensional flying vikings. Teleporting super powered busy female spy. How could you not love that? Ditto for Fables, which was good but likely also a little slow.

But to the meat of the matter — no read pile? No bile and vitriol for anything, not even Transformers: Bumblebee or Phantom Stranger? No grudging nods for Incorruptible or Doctor Voodoo? Nah. Too much work, especially for my birthday. Easy to get back on the horse next week.

But yeah, that social networking thing? Crazy. Two days out, I already feel the pangs of it. In the elevator at work, I didn’t reflexively click to Twitter on my phone. I turned off SMS updates from everybody — no Tweets, no MySpace messages, nada. My phone has been eerily silent.

I’m not sure I dislike it.

But anyway, kind of introspective this week. I didn’t get forty mil like Conan, but I’m okay, a year older and hopefully getting a little smarter as I go.

Playing (Music): “All The Above” by Maino feat. T-Pain

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