Stones. Milestones, that is.

Yesterday I did two things that I was proud of. First, I kept my cadence above 90 (94, actually) for my whole ride (1:30:00). I’ve been regularly riding intervals at the house for the last couple of weeks, and I can tell my legs are definitely improving. I’ve tried to focus on really maintaining a regular cadence above 105 during the interval, and when I first started, I was struggling with recovery afterward. It was hard to drop down after a tough interval and keep pedaling. The temptation is to rest, coast, stop pedaling and “give it a minute”, but the more I concentrated on continuing with my stroke after the interval, the more progress I seemed to make. Now, over the last couple of days of riding on the rollers, I’ve pretty much blasted through them and this week I think I’m going to extend the faster, harder interval time. I’ve started off riding  – 10 min. (warmup)/1 min. (105+)/ 3 min. (recovery)/ repeat. I’ll jump to 2 minutes at 105+ then recover for 3 minutes.

The second accomplishment, and the one I’m most proud of is one that might not sound like a whole lot. For the whole ride yesterday I stayed in the drops. I know, I know, what’s the big deal, right? Well, for me, it’s actually pretty hard to maintain that discipline. If you haven’t noticed, I’m kinda older, and on my previous bike, the Trek Alpha, spending any amount of time in those drops was a recipe for lower back pain. The geometry of that bike was just way too aggressive to facilitate that riding posture. The head tube on that older bike was about 4 and a half inches, and lowering your riding position on that bike meant you were basically folded in half. Not to mention even remotely standing up and sprinting in that position was the textbook definition of “squirrelly”. The other downside to that aggressive, older, aluminum frame was the need to constantly move your hands around. It’s basically like riding a tuning fork for 2 hours and the “buzz” alone is enough to make your hands go numb pretty damn quickly.

The Cervelo, with its more upright geometry, significantly longer headtube, and… ahem… carbon fiber frame, just makes that whole proposition much more palatable. I was able to stay lowered, with my head down, pushing a 94+ cadence for an hour and a half. My hands felt great. No numbness, no tingling, and my back felt terrific.

Trust me when I tell you, THIS is why you get a bicycle. I’m pretty sure that’s the closest you’ll come to flying without having wings sewn onto your back.

I think maybe this week I’ll try and videotape a session on the rollers, too. Might be fun to upload a video of a ride. Stay tuned.

My favorite “Last Paragraph” ever.

On The Road
"That's not writing, that's typing." -- Truman Capote

Every so often, I like to get out my worn copy of “On The Road”. I have an old Viking copy, I believe it’s a third printing. The dust jacket’s all worn and tattered. It wasn’t mine originally and I always liked to imagine who might’ve owned it before me. I bought it around 1987. I was traveling all over the world at the time, visiting strange, exotic places, and the one thing I was laser-beam obsessed with was the idea that I would live every single moment as if I was Jack, or perhaps (and always better) Neal (albeit, without the Benzedrine…). I would suck the marrow out of each experience I had, etch them into my brain, and be oh, so zen, daddy-o. I would stop in the middle of the road in Pakistan, smell deeply, open my eyes as wide as I could, look around and take in everything. Every sense, every sight, every sound. I’d try to freeze time in the middle of the Wan Chai District in Hong Kong and make sure I never forgot the look on my friends face, flush with alcohol, perma-grin in full effect, as some sweaty Chinese teenager tattooed a dragon on his shoulder. I’d turn around while the jeep careened along dirt roads in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, just to make sure Stover was seeing what I saw and that it had the same impact; that feeling of the proverbial wind being knocked out of you by the overwhelming beauty of an African plain packed as far as the eye could see with Elephants.

So the last paragraph has always held a certain bit of magic for me. Place this paragraph in the context of the previous 43 chapters. All that adventure, all that road. All that Dean and Carlo. All that life. It’s just one of those paragraphs that’s so pure Kerouac. If you’ve read the book and tried your best to live life in “the most beat way possible”, all you need to do is pick up a copy, flip to the last page and read those last few lines:

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

How could you not love that whole paragraph? It’s one of those things that can instantly center you. That can immediately place the value in the here, in the now. It reminds you once again that life is for the living, that every moment that flashes across your retinas is for you, and you alone. You can share these moments. You can share these times. You can wallow in the now, but only for an instant, because “the now” quickly (too quickly) becomes “the was” and if you miss it, it’s gone, daddy, gone.

“Up up up and down, Turn turn turnaround, Round round roundabout, And over again…”

Last weekend we went to Family Kingdom Amusement Park. They’re a client of ours, and I had gotten some wristband passes that we hadn’t used all summer. Living at the beach, you tend to avoid the tourist hotspots. Since it was technically “the end of summer” we thought perhaps the crowds wouldn’t be that bad, and the weather would at least be accommodating. They weren’t, and it was. We had a fantastic time. I honestly had no idea they had so many terrific kids rides. My wife and I had the most amazing time just walking around and letting her ride everything she wanted to ride. It was a perfect Sunday, the kind of day you work all week and look forward to, then spend the entire following week looking back on with overflowing happiness. Definitely a day that memories are made of.

While we were there, I thought, “well, I’ve got this wristband on, and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone in line for the rollercoaster, and I DID bring my Flip Video camera with me… I wonder how hard it would be to shoot a video of that rollercoaster?”. Okay, so it was a little more difficult than I thought, but it was fun nonetheless, and it did give me an opportunity to play with my iMovie. I’ve had that on my “to do” list now since I bought my Macbook, but I just haven’t really had anything fun to edit… until now. I definitely think I wanna shoot more videos.

Anyway, awesome family weekend spent with the most amazingly wonderful family on earth… enjoy the video.

Frank Miller’s Speech to the 1994 Diamond Retailers’ Summit

1994 Diamond Gem Awards Keynote Speech by Frank Miller
1994 Diamond Gem Awards Keynote Speech by Frank Miller

[Full Audio Below]

In college, I was hopelessly addicted to comics. As is the case with most addictions, it doesn’t take long before you realize that the easiest and best way to fuel your addiction is by becoming a dealer. So around my junior/senior year of college, I decided to form a “Comic Book Co-Op”. I had some friends in college who shared my passion for comics and had the requisite monthly appetite. I got myself a Tax ID, a Diamond account, and began ordering books for myself and friends, and passing along the 40-50% discount. It was pretty cool while it lasted, and I made a little money on the side selling exclusives, variants, and whatnot at a time when those things commanded a decent price in a hot collector’s market.

It also got me into retailer-only events, one of which was the annual Diamond Retailers Summit. In 1994, this was a huge affair. This was the year that Dark Horse Comics debuted its “Legends” imprint, which at the time, was a SuperGroup of comic imprints. Jim Shooter was also in attendance to promote his new “Defiant Comics” brand, after having just been ousted at one of the hottest publishers of the day, Valiant Comics. It was a crazy time to be in comics, underscored by the fact that the first great talent of my youth, Jack “King” Kirby had passed away and it truly felt like an era had passed, and here, in this convention center, was the future of comics unfolding before us. So there was excitement tinged with melancholy.

So it was with tremendous anticipation that I looked forward to that year’s annual banquet, hosted by Steve Geppi, with none other than Frank Miller… yes, the Frank Miller giving the keynote speech.

It was classic Frank. To set the stage, at the table in front of him sat most of Marvel Comics’ senior editorial staff, and to the right of them sat DC comics. Keep that in mind while you listen to one of the best, “angry men” in comics at the time. It was the first time I ever saw a crowd of people give a comic book creator a standing ovation.

Frank Miller’s Keynote Speech to the 1994 Diamond Retailers’ Summit
[Click Below to Listen]:

“Thor”… ’nuff said.

So here we go. One more Avenger gets his movie. I dunno, I mean, it’s Thor, you know? It’s not Tony Stark, it’s not a suit of armor, it’s not “witty” like Robert Downey Jr. It’s not supposed to be. It’s walking a razor thin line though. These movies are notoriously hard to pull off (Clash of the Titans ring a bell?  Percy Jackson, anyone?) and unfortunately, my only reaction to seeing Anthony Hopkins wearing an eye patch is, “really? THAT’S Odin?”

My only hope is that Natalie Portman could save it, but then again, she chose to star in those horrible prequels for George Lucas…

UPDATE: Guess was apparently bootleg video footage was yanked from Trailer Addict?

I’ve never wanted to go to San Diego… until this year.

I’ve never really been into the San Diego Comic Convention. For years now it’s become an annual pilgrimage of geeks, nerds, and comic book fans alike. An orgy of licensed mayhem. It’s fun to sit back and read/view/watch all the mayhem, and occasionally I’ll get somewhat melancholy about something cool happening, or read about some awesome con-only variant or limited edition bit of schwag that makes me think for a half second, “that’d be cool to have”. Then just as quickly, I remember that I hate clutter, I hate comic “chotchkies“, and a quick trip to eBay confirms my belief that there’s a sucker born not quite every minute, but pretty close.

However, if there’s one person who every year makes me second guess my conviction, it’s Chuck Rozanski. If you don’t know who Chuck is, you don’t collect comics. Chuck is the owner/founder of Mile High Comics, and the man responsible for perhaps the greatest “find” in comic history, appropriately named, “The Mile High Collection”. If you’ve never heard the story of its discovery, then I urge you to read Chuck’s first-hand account here. It’s broken into multiple parts, so make sure you set aside some time and read all of them. It’s amazing. A collection so profoundly “perfect” that it single-handedly adjusted the pricing scale for what’s considered “near-mint”. It actually started the practice of labeling comic pedigrees, and is still the benchmark that all other pedigrees are measured against.

Personally, I’ve never seen a “Mile High Copy” of a book. I’ve seen them on eBay, and I’ve seen them get snatched up at auction for many multiples of guide value (In other words, if the near mint price of a book is, say, $20,000, a “Mile High” near mint copy of that same book would go for upwards of ten times that price).

The thing about the Mile High Collection though, is the books we haven’t seen. The ones Chuck kept. The ones he’s never shown in public.

Until now.

Recently, in Chuck’s newsletter (one of the most eloquent, prolific, consistently entertaining and simultaneously riveting pieces of writing on the subject of comics & the comics business in existence, I believe) he revealed that this year he’s going to take about 40 of his personal “Mile High” comics to display and sell at this year’s San Diego Comic Convention. The collection includes books such as a 1940″Red Raven #1” which is widely considered to be the rarest known Timely-Marvel book ever published, a complete, 22 issue run of Will Eisner’s “Spirit”, published between 1944 and 1948, and a copy of “Feature Book #26”, the highest graded Prince Valiant comic in the world.

Of all the things I am, comic book lover is perhaps the most descriptive. Sure, I collect them, but I collect books I love. I have a deep appreciation for the art form and its history. I wouldn’t normally consider a trip to San Diego, but this year I’ll be truly sad that I’m going to miss an opportunity to see these books. Knowing the pedigree of these books, and knowing the audience of likely buyers, I think there’s a good chance that not only will these books be snatched up and considered a bargain by whoever gets them, but they’ll likely never see the light of day in public again once they’re out of Chuck’s hands. That’s really a shame, but I understand.

So if you’re at San Diego this year, do yourself a favor and stop by Chuck’s booth. Take some pictures, enjoy the experience of the convention, but don’t forget what put that convention on the map in the first place… comic books.