Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I recently saw this bit from Rachel Maddow quoted on a friend's Facebook page:

"Here's the thing about RIGHTS. They're not supposed to be voted on. That's why they call them RIGHTS."

... and I had one of those "Hey, that's clever and -- wait a minute... that doesn't make any sense!" moments.

I think Rachel Maddow is generally very smart and funny and has her heart in the right place. This statement of hers, however, is none of the above, and betrays sloppy thinking employed for the ill-conceived creation of a "snappy" quote.

"Rights" are what a majority of our fellow human beings agree upon, and vary by region, state, country, etc.. To put it another way, as a society, we all "vote" on what rights we think we should have. For example, do I have the right to go to someone's house and smash all their windows? No… we, as a society, have "voted" and the majority has decided that it should not be anyone's "right" to do that. 

Do I have the "right" to smoke in a restaurant in Northampton? Do I have the "right" to take the contents of another person's book and publish it under my own name? Do I have the "right" to drive my motorcycle on the sidewalk? Do I have the "right" to dump my bags of trash in someone else's front yard? Do I have the "right" to buy a slave? Do I have the "right" to flatten the tires of other people's cars? Do I have the "right" to prevent someone from voting?

The answers to the above questions are no, no, no, no, no, no and no. (Well, NOW, anyway -- some of the aforementioned things once WERE, sadly, considered "rights".) And that's because as a society, we have "voted" and decided that there are a lot of things that SOME people might like to do, but we don't want to let them have the "right" to do those things, for a variety of reasons.

It goes without saying that we, as a society, have not always gotten this "rights" thing… well… right. It's a work in progress. There is still room for improvement. But pretending that the "rights" we enjoy are simply somehow a part of nature is misguided.

That being said, I do agree that there are a number of things which SHOULD be "rights", but are as yet not considered such. That's unfortunate, but I believe there is room for hope that this situation will change. -- PL

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Steve Lavigne's new venture

        My pal Steve Lavigne is boldly branching out into a new phase of his life -- this June, he will be opening a store he's calling "Shellback Artworks", which will be a combination of art supply store, art gallery and comic book/memorabilia shop. 

        The location is at 1590 Post Road in Wells, ME, a town which is not too far from Westbrook, ME, where he and Kevin Eastman once attended high school together.

        As many of you know, Steve was the first employee of Mirage Studios, moving down from Maine to Sharon, Connecticut, where he began lettering the TMNT comics. Later, Steve expanded into other areas of creative work in the TMNT universe, penciling, inking, and especially coloring, and ended up working on a lot of the art which appeared on licensed TMNT products. He even got into a Turtle costume for a TV talk show appearance!

        I will be at the grand opening of Steve's new store, signing stuff and probably doing Turtle head sketches, on Saturday, June 16 between noon and 3PM. There will also be an exhibition of original art from my collection, much of it TMNT work, including some comic book pages. Here are a couple of examples...

        Should be a fun time! -- PL

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Email mining

Regular readers of my blog (I think there are still a few) have probably noticed I haven't been posting as often lately. That's because for several months I've been involved in a project which I have termed "email mining".

Basically, I have been going back through all of the old emails I have on my various computers, as far back as I can find them (which seems to be 1996), and pulling out various emails to save for posterity. The are ones which I feel had to do with something important in by personal and/or business life, or just simply reminded me of things I used to do do.

The main reason I am doing this is that I realized some time ago that over the years, especially the past decade, I have put a lot of my time and energy and creativity into email communications, with family members, friends, and business associates… and I also realized that if I don't do something to archive those emails -- or at least some of them -- it is quite possible that over time they will simply vanish, perhaps with a computer crash. Email does seem so much more ephemeral than old-school written or typed letters. Some of it is deservedly ephemeral, I know, but some of it is worthy of preservation, in my view.

So for the last couple of months, I have been doing a lot of "grunt work", sifting through the old emails and converting them from the proprietary format of my email software into text files which I can open and combine in my word processor into long text documents suitable for printing. I am probably going to go through these long documents (I've made one for each year since 1996), and annotate some of the more important or significant parts. Then I will print these documents out on the new printer I bought for Jeannine last month, which does duplexing (two-sided printing) quite nicely, and after that bind those sheets with my comb binding machine.

It's been an interesting process, partly tedious, but also revealing. There are things in these emails which I had totally forgotten, a few of which are still somewhat mysterious. But it has also helped to give me a clearer sense of what my life was like during some extremely busy and trying times. -- PL

Sunday, May 6, 2012


So I was in the local BJ's Wholesale Club on Friday, and I wasn't intending to buy a new camera, but passing by the camera display my eye was caught by one of the small signs advertising each camera's most appealing features. This one, on a Nikon model, said "42x Zoom".

I was immediately interested, given all the fun I've been having of late with the 25x zoom lens on my Leica. So 42x… well, just call me an impulse-buyer.

An hour or so later, I had pulled the camera out of the box and set it up so I could bring it with me on another bicycle ride over to check out the heron and eagle nests which I wrote about a few days ago.

But this time, I didn't just capture a shot of an eagle's head by accident -- this time, with the extra magnification of this new camera, I could actually see and shoot several photos of the whole bird.

Or I should say "birds", because there were two adults and one fledgling in the nest, and I managed to take some pretty neat shots.  -- PL

More about "Avengers"

I just remembered one of the many nice details which Joss Whedon and his crew put into the "Avengers" movie -- a brief bit where Tony Stark answers his phone and pretends to by his own "Life Model Decoy".

It's a very small thing which will almost certainly go zooming right over the heads of most viewers on the movie… at least, the ones who are not acquainted with the minutia of Marvel Comics lore.

"LIfe Model Decoys", or LMDs, were android duplicate of human beings, used for various purposes, including misleading assassins, as is seen in these first few pages of this installment of "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." from the old "Strange Tales" comic published by Marvel. This was in issue #135, in a story penciled by Jack Kirby and written by Stan Lee. (If I had to guess, I would say that the idea for the LMD technology came from Kirby's imagination.)

I remember that first page so clearly, as it was such a strange image… partly due to  the fact that Kirby drew Nick Fury in this high-tech "Master Matrix" LMD mold with his trademark cigar still in his mouth! -- PL

Friday, May 4, 2012

Avengers assemble!

It truly is a golden age for geeks.

Thirty to forty years ago, when I was reading the new Avengers comics every month and trying to find back issues I'd missed, I never considered it a real possibility that a movie such as Joss Whedon's live-action "Avengers" (which opened in wide release today) would ever see the light of day. It just seemed preposterous to even consider, given the staggering difficulty of realizing any kind of convincing superheroic action on screen and the enormous costs associated with even getting halfway there.

Fast forward several decades.

Computer-generated imaging has made the realistic visualization of ANYTHING possible, and -- though expensive to do right -- economically fits with the movie-making model.

People in high places are wising up to the fact (long known by  those of us who read them) that a lot of comics have great characters with compelling story lines which -- in the right hands -- can make great movies… which can also bring in huge profits.

And so we come to "Avengers", which I had the giddy pleasure of viewing today with a group of MIrage Studios friends. Simply put, it is an amazing piece of work -- satisfying on virtually all levels. I congratulate everyone involved, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for turning out such a wonderful treat.

I look forward to seeing it again, soon -- I think the next time will be within a few days, and I'll go with my wife. I haven't told her much about the movie, although I did mention (without describing what happens) one scene -- a confrontation between the evil Asgardian Loki and the Incredible Hulk -- which had us breaking out in gales of laughter in the theatre. And not because it was unintentionally funny, but because it was a PERFECT reading of what would happen if those two characters went head-to-head. Even now, just thinking about it makes me smile. -- PL

The things you miss when you don't know where to look…

A couple of days ago I was talking to Gary Richardson, and he was telling me about a nature walk taken by him and his wife. They saw numerous blue herons in their nests, as well as an eagle.

As he was describing where this took place, I realized that he was talking about an area past which I often ride my bicycle… but I had no idea these sights were there!

So yesterday, during a lull in the rain, I pedaled out to the spot and took a look. I didn't see the eagle or its nest, but I certainly saw the herons and their nest perched in some very tall trees.

(Actually, in looking at the photos more closely just before I posted them, I think I did get a shot of the eagle…

… even though I didn't realize it at the time.) -- PL