1 Adult, 5 Under 6…I Swear

Tomorrow is the best day of the year, at least for my kids. The final day of school has arrived for this household and the anticipation is high. After the school trip to Cultas Lake Water Park yesterday we have crossed that summer fun time activity off the list, though i do want to make a trip to Splash Down since it is the final year for that park from what I’ve heard. The great thing about Summer is that there is time for all the fun things out there to be done, local tourist season is upon us and south coast BC has no shortage of things to do. There is only one real flaw in all of it, it isn’t cheap.

I think we’ve all done it whether  or not there are children involved. “HOW MUCH TO GET IN!?” Zoo, Aquarium, Water Parks, Go Karts and a vast array of other local tourist and fun spots are all sporting admission prices that  bulge eyeballs. Seems unfair to a lot of us that are trying to create memories with our children, we only have so many summers where they can truly appreciate it and be OK with hanging out with Mom and Dad at the same time. Honestly though I have to ask myself, are they being unreasonable charging the prices they are, perhaps not. Let’s consider the land mass of some of these places, for Playland an Water Parks we are talking dozens of acres, property taxes and leases are not cheap either, five or six figures a month would not surprise me in the least. What about utilities? Consider the electric bill for Science World or the common multiplex theatre, food outlets, lights, constant exhibits and displays, there’s anther four or five figures a month. Want hot water or gas fed cooking appliances, pay the gas man too. Obviously is you in food preparation appliances you need the food, not hard to get but not cheap either. Just the basic requirements of running a massive facility can be astronomical. That doesn’t include the specialized stuff like, insurance, tickets, computer system, security, office and transaction supplies.

At this point most people would be doing a bit of mental math and considering the basic costs. What about the cost of staff? In many of these places there are two types of staff, specialized and non-specialized. Honestly there should be a large payroll gap between the two. There are jobs that do not require a special skill to do, fast food attendant, cashier, janitorial staff, those entry level jobs are designed to keep short term employees and give them experience and perhaps inspire them to find a specialty. The specialists should be paid more, period. If you are at a pool of water park there are people there trained to keep you alive, hopefully their day is more pacing and repeatedly saying “stop running” but if something bad happens those people have the sills to save lives. Many places need an in house mechanic or handy man capable of repairs, perhaps here is a sophisticated projection system that needs a dedicated operator, sea or air tours need a properly trained and accredited driver and mechanics. Let’s stop that and dial it down to a numbers thing, even if one of these facilities has a low specialty level there is still the fact that places that are larger need more staff, even at a very low wage payroll may be for hundreds of people. Hundreds of paychecks or even more than a dozen that means a good accountant or two, especially at tax time.

For me to take my family to thee tings it can cost hundreds of dollars at a time. I can say it isn’t worth while to do these things as a family. The case can be made that there are a lot of field trips that kids can go on to see these places but there is the family aspect that is important to add to it, which is expensive, it isn’t an empty expense, there is a tremendous amount of value to these trips. The thing to remember is that these places do have overhead expenses and there are people at the top that do need and deserve to get paid for providing them, if you owned them you would too. The thing that occurred to me standing in a line several dozen feet off the ground over looking the water park is that the most common term for these places is “over priced” I watched various staff and considered the amenities around me, that doesn’t seem right, expensive maybe but taking it all in perhaps “over priced” is an ignorant term. I have to choose wisely this summer and pick the trips to make, you might have to as well, just remember there is a difference between expensive and over priced, the gap is in the value not only of the facility but in the time spent.

 

 

If I Could Be Serious For A Minute

If I Could Be Serious For A Minute

I don’t want to get off on a rant here but before I get in to this week’s musings I want to address a couple of things that have plagued me the last few weeks. 1) This is mine, not anyone else’s. I will write what I want and that’s all there is to it. I will takes suggestions and pointers from more experienced writers and if a reader would like to read my view on a certain topic feel free to get in touch, I may not have thought to write anything on it. At no point will anyone tell me what I can or cannot write here. Ever. 2) In that vein I go out of my way not to be negative here, I do not target anyone maliciously for any reason. Lately it has come to light that a reader has taken it upon themselves to extrapolate something and turn it in to drama that has affected many other people. If I should ever chose to vent on anything or anyone negatively and publicly there will be no need for extrapolation or conjecture as I will name names and publish evidence to back up my claims. The odds of that happening are small enough that I need a protocol droid to calculate them. Now then, on to fun stuff.

Laying in bed last night (yep procrastination struck again) I was asked by my fiancée if my return to comic books was purely because of nostalgia or had something in them changed. She would probably regret asking (she didn’t say she did) on some level because the can of worms she opened was not small. Things had changed since the mid 1990’s, first off feature films are making billions of dollars off of stories about superheroes and have been since the turn of this century. The writing has improved, many of the old tropes that began to turn readers off as they matured faded away. If I go back to stories from the 1990’s I find myself wondering why I spent the money on certain books, other times I recall a better story being told  and once in a while the story holds up. I stated that the writing has improved…then I corrected myself, it hasn’t improved it has become more diverse. There are names in the industry whose work from the 1980’s and earlier are being adapted for the film and TV projects we are throwing money at, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, Peter David, Neil Gaimen, Alan Moore are a select few whose work not only holds up but has built franchises out of words and drawings that captured multiple generations of fans. Before anyone gets upset, YES I do count Stan Lee among them but he did not build the industry alone, nor was he the only one that contributed to Marvel Comics. Stan’s ideology was ground breaking and infectious, real problems and real life scenarios that affect super heroes? Ludicrous at the time but that ideology built an empire, the reality is not everything Stan wrote was timeless, it also suffered from the tropes of over explanation and needless exposition that I believe starts to patronize readers at a certain maturity level and that is where we move on, that is no commentary on Stan’s skills but his work load at the time.

The writers today are also not restricted nearly as heavily as the writers of the past. The general public may not know that there was a regulatory body for comic books that sprang out of the McCarthy era in the US, The Comics Code Authority heavily restricted the creators abilities and crushed several titles and companies the readers were enjoying. The limitations imposed on the creators are a huge reason for the audience maturing out of the enjoyment as the major companies capitulated to the CCA, smaller companies and independent creators still rebelled and produced so more mature titles but the distribution was difficult on a large scale. As the decades wore on and titles that pushed the envelope or found a small foot hold in the market gained a cult like following the major companies began to adhere to the code less and less and today it is a defunct thing. This has given us better stories for characters that the code hinders, Wolverine, The Punsher, Batman, Deathstroke, and the new face of Marvel (at least in the print versions) Deadpool could be in stories that suited their design. Dialog could be stepped up to conversations that adults would have, picture yourself chained to a table with immanent death hovering over your head “Oh darn.” and “You fiend!” probably won’t come out of the majority of mouths at that point. Super-villain about to drop a stadium on your head? I think “Oh shit” is an appropriate reaction. essentially the code made a PG world out of what are essentially war stories.
image

The stories aren’t all mature readers and adult content though, that’s what I love, there is a diversity to the current titles that has embraced the age ranges from 6 – 60. I can go and get Old Man Logan, Carnage and Moon Knight and read compelling stories. Daredevil, Darth Vader (Star Wars geeks pick this up before it goes away with issue #25) and Uncanny X-Men are geared toward an all ages audience with great new content for established characters. Daredevil in particular I fell is perfect fodder for the NetFlix series at this point. then you have the titles like Squirrel Girl and Spidey that are for new readers to get on board with. The creative teams have been able to take a movie studio mentality and make titles with specific ratings and demographics involved and still keep true to the shared universe. They can produce something for my kids and me, that’s not just good business but good story telling. In fact in some cases GREAT story telling.

I don’t want to discount the art involved here either. I remember back in the 1990’s there was great art from Jim Lee (my personal favourite, X-Men, WildC.A.T.S.) Todd McFarlane (Spawn, Spider-Man), Mark Texeira (Ghost Rider) brought distinct styles to their books where for many years and frankly over at DC comics the art seemed almost uniform across all the titles. These days, I am loving the art in Daredevil, not just the pencils and inks but the colouring style makes it leap off the page, Old Man Logan, has a gritty style perfect for the content of the book, Moon Knight..to discuss it further I would have to get deep in to the story but the unique lines and colour style make the book pop out and stands as polar opposite to the dark art in Carnage. The Star Wars titles are designed to mimic live action films so they are all similar but extremely well done for that style. I have yet to put names to styles in my head as I once did in the 90’s but I can still find my old favourites working away on things I never thought to see (Jim Lee draws a hell of a Batman).

So to sum this up there is a nostalgia factor involved in this mid-life crisis but it has been fueled by a renaissance in the industry that I out grew.  The quality and diversity of the work being put out today is unparalleled to the past, if you went to the comic shop back in the day, have a favourite hero or series from the past, have enjoyed the recent films or TV shows I strongly encourage you to head to a local shop and find a collection to pick up, read a full story like The Ultimates, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Alias (Jessica Jones) or the new Star Wars books. Check them out and see what is going on back in the ink and colour worlds you used to love.

If you would like to see exactly what the code was the link   is:  http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Comic_book_code_of_1954

 

 

 

Going…Going…GONE!

Going…Going…GONE!

Woooooo,  what a weekend. BBQs, family dinners, new friends, old friends, singing, cleaning,  adult beverages,  nightmares, news of legends passing, gibberish and propaganda in the world of politics and horrific tragedy. I’m not about to get off on a rant about any of that stuff though, for me this weekend marked the end of baseball season and my first outting as a coach for my kid’s team.

I’m not a baseball guy and I did not leap at the chance to do this either. A friend of mine was the head coach and I repeatedly said I was willing if he needed help, his assistant coach was a little over committed in his life and volunteer work doesn’t pay as much as “real” work. I showed up at home one Thursday night and he was sitting at my patio table with mh fiancée waiting for the BBQ to start “Hey Coach!” He yelled at me.

“That’s my line.” I retorted

“No bud, I need you to get your criminal record check.”

So I did. I had to learn the drills and names but I think I did ok. I herded chickens and tried to keep names strait. I kept my eyes and ears open, learned the game from other coaches, tried to keep the line up and batting order current, maybe keep a few negative attitudes in check. It was a good group of kids, most remained coachable, very few “yeah but” moments. If you aren’t familiar with those moments they happen when you try to advise or correct someone and they respond with “Yeah but…” and proceed to justify doing something incorrectly or ill-advised, honestly there was one kid that use it like a catch phrase on an 80’s sitcom and I hope it changes before life gets rough.

Honestly a week before Father’s Day I finally get what my Dad as a career hockey coach dealt with, sure there are a few moments with each kid, perhaps a few kids not on the same page  but for the most part the issues came from pushy parents or over zealous coaches, not always in the other dugout either. Frustration may have reared it’s ugly head from time to time but it was far out weighed but the enjoyment of seeing the kids play. I’m not going to claim I was perfect in my own attitude everytime because some of those early Saturday games were tough to get moving for after working Friday night.

All said and done I’m proud of that team, the new players learned a lot, the veterans improved and stepped into a leadership role that will serve them well, drills in practice became plays in the game. I only asked two things of the kids, have fun and improve, which I think they all did. We didn’t win our tournaments, Mother Nature screwed us on both of those, didn’t make the finals of the league either but I’m proud of those 13 kids. I don’t think I would coach again unless the same friend asked me too and my kids were on the team but I did enjoy it all. Blue Jay’s
on 3…