Killed. it.

You know those days where you can just tell that you’re on from start to finish and you know when you’re done that you’ve left everything you had on the table and done a really good job?

I just had one of those days. My sense is that I absolutely killed it at my job interview today. The screening committee might actually be meeting right now. I could know by the end of the week if the people making the decisions here think I did as well as I think I did.

I had so much fun today, but I’m really glad I’m done. It’s time to go home and relax…

T-minus 11 hours, give or take a few minutes

I haven’t been around here much lately; for the last two weeks or so, basically all of my free time has been dedicated to writing, creating and assembling a presentation I have to give on campus tomorrow afternoon at 2:30. The presentation is going to cap a long day of activities – I will be interviewing for the position of director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State. I’ve been in the position on an interim basis since the middle of October, and tomorrow I get my shot to convince a screening committee to give me a crack at it permanently. To say I’m nervous is an understatement, but I know I can do well on the parts of the interview leading up to the presentation – the parade of meetings with screening committees, meetings with other administrators, meeting with the communications and marketing staff, having lunch, taking the campus tour, etc. I will do very well at that part of the day, because with two exceptions during my entire professional career I have always done very well at that part of the day.

Most of my nerves about the presentation are about actually giving it. I don’t do very much of this sort of thing, so I’m not going to be polished to start. I think I’ll finish strong, because while I am comfortable with the bulk of my presentation, I love my conclusion. I’m going to have a lot of fun with the last 15 minutes, and I think it’s going to be a hit.

One of the things I’ve struggled with this the most is not having a clear picture of what I was expected to produce. My assigned topic is vague, and is something that honestly cannot be properly addressed in a 40-minute presentation (which is about what I’m timing out at on practice runs). So I had tremendous difficulty getting an overall message crafted and assembled. Finally, I just decided I couldn’t do a straight-up classroom lecture type thing. I decided early on to take a page from Steve Jobs’ book and go very minimal with “reading slides.” I wanted visuals and images to support what I was saying, but I do not want people reading the presentation. From there, I decided to just have fun — because having fun was the only way I was going to be comfortable.

I think it’ll pay off, and I’m really looking forward to doing this tomorrow. So if you’re in Bemidji and you’re free from 2:30 – 3:30, stop by the Crying Wolf Room in the upper Hobson Memorial Union and see what I’ve got up my sleeve.

Comic review: “G.I. Joe Retaliation” Movie Prequel #1

G.I. Joe Retaliation – Official Movie Prequel #1
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Salvador Navarro with colors by Esther Sanz
Cover RI: Salvador Navarro (uncolored variant)
Written by: John Barber
Art: Salvador Navarro
Colors: Esther Sanz
Letters: Carlos Guzman
A list of characters and visuals that tie back to 2009’s “Rise of Cobra” film, a few elements from the trailers we’ve seen so far from “G.I. Joe Retaliation” and some surprising toy characters combine to bring the first chapter of IDW’s “Retaliation” movie prequel tie-in to life.
This opening issue is mostly character introduction as writer John Barber gets the group of Joes who will be the key players in this miniseries onto the page, along with their Cobra adversaries. We also get some insight into Roadblock, presumably to help provide some background development for the movie-universe version of the character who by all indications is the focal point of this summer’s Retaliation film. This prequel is going to be his story, as he’s supported by Snake Eyes and, we can anticipate, a few other Joes on a daring mission to rescue another Joe who may be held captive by Cobra — or who may have been killed in captivity.
Storm Shadow’s appearance in this issue places in question how this series fits in with “Rise of Cobra” on a timeline for this universe. The immediate assumption when hearing that this is the “official movie prequel” would be that this series takes place between “Rise of Cobra” and “Retaliation.” However, the Joes are still making their home in the Pit in Egypt, although it’s described in this comic as being “under construction.” Storm Shadow is presumably killed at the end of “Rise of Cobra,” but will be brought back in Retaliation. The events seen here almost have to take place before “Rise of Cobra” — Zartan wouldn’t be taking a break from his undercover role as Cobra’s stand-in for the President of the United States in order to essentially perform a job interview for Storm Shadow’s Red Ninjas. Zartan also makes reference to “the organization I represent” which, if the timing of this series does place it before “Rise of Cobra” would be MARS and not Cobra. It’s going to be interesting to see how this series unfolds, and whether its place in the movie-universe timeline becomes more clear, or whether Cobra even exists yet (early indicators seem to suggest that it should not).
Charbroil and Flash make appearances in their “Rise of Cobra” action figure outfits, which is awesome — some of those “off-screen” character designs that showed up in the movie toy line were pretty good, and it’s nice to see that IDW is creatively finding a way to give some of them an expanded role.
There’s enough here to hold interest in where Barber might be taking this prequel series, if only to see how or if he works in the other Joes we’ve seen in the Retaliation movie trailers. “G.I. Joe Retaliation” continues on March 1.
Salvador Navarro gets the call from IDW to provide the pencils for this movie prequel. It is, I believe, his first work on G.I. Joe for IDW. For the most part the art is fine; the hardest part of doing a movie tie-in is that everyone is going to read this issue and see The Rock for Roadblock; sometimes the Navarro gets the likeness pretty close, sometimes it’s not even in the same ballpark.
There are some other oddities too – Red Ninjas seem to be moving through the spinning rotor blades of a Blackhawk on a two-page spread on pages 2-3; there are some bizarre inconsistencies on Roadblock’s two pistols between panels on pages 9 and 11 (strange revolver-semiauto hybrids with enormous vertical slits for barrels in panel 2; straight semiautos in panel 4; then back to the weird hybrid on page 11). It’s also difficult to figure out what’s going on with the VTOL that has been called in for an evac — it looks like it’s supposed to be transforming into something else, maybe, but the shapes just aren’t right.
These are little annoyances; again, for the most part, the art here is just fine. You usually don’t expect A-list creative teams on a sidebar movie tie-in series, but Navarro’s work here is better than some of the fill-in work that showed up in the trio of main series toward the end of the Cobra Civil War storyline, by far.
Colorist Esther Sanz has worked on G.I. Joe for IDW in the past, and she does a good job here. She’s got a tough job in the early going, with the number of Red Ninjas (covered in black shadows) in action in what seems to be a night setting, but she keeps the backgrounds light enough to keep them from vanishing.
Interior artist Salvador Navarro also drew the cover for this issue; it’s a pretty straight-forward action pose of Snake Eyes in his movie costume with his katana. Colors are provided by Esther Sanz. It’s an interesting opportunity to see the colored cover side-by-side with the uncolored version (the retailer incentive); Sanz does some interesting things with the background lighting to give Snake Eyes a “glow” and make him pop against the background. It’s a nice touch for this image.

The retailer incentive cover is an uncolored version of Cover A.
The Terrordrome has a preview of G.I. Joe Retaliation #1 here.

Comic book review: “Snake Eyes #10”

Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #10
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: David Wilkins
Cover B: Robert Atkins, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover RI: Tom Whalen
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Breakdowns: Alex Cal
Finishes: Beni Lobel
Colors: J. Brown
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Cobra Command, Part 5
Ninjas! Ninjas! Ninjas!
Chuck Dixon continues the steady buildup to an eventual confrontation between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow that has taken place in bits and pieces over the last few issues of the Cobra Command storyline, opening with a flashback to Storm Shadow’s Red Ninjas taking out a unit of United Nations peacekeepers. An overly-expository exchange between Cobra Commander and Savanne ensues, which isn’t a conversation those two would ever have if this weren’t a comic book — it focuses on the details of Cobra’s victory in Nanzhao, which the commander already knows. But the conversation is necessary to update the reader on what’s transpiring that hasn’t necessarily been seen on the page. It’s effective, but in a somewhat clunky manner.
The ninja-battle buildup gives Dixon a chance to put Storm Shadow in front of Cobra Commander; it’s the first time they’ve been together since Krake’s master plan was unveiled at the end of the Cobra Civil War — a plan that saw Krake’s agent, Zartan, kill and replace Oda Satori, Storm Shadow’s master at the time. There’s no love lost between the two, by any means; Storm Shadow is still holding a grudge, and the Commander isn’t pleased that Storm Shadow is off on his own mission and not following orders.
There’s more texting between Snake Eyes and Scarlett, which is a very clever plot mechanic to get those two to communicate with each other. This leads to a seven-page action scene with essentially no dialogue, as Helix and Snake Eyes begin to purse Storm Shadow.
A one-page interlude of Mainframe talking to Dial-Tone shows another expository piece which really offers no new information; it basically exists as a way for the final-page cliffhanger to make sense if a reader hasn’t been following along with the entire Cobra Command storyline, as Destro tips off Cobra’s next significant move in the Nanzhao campaign.
Another solid outing for Alex Cal; he doesn’t use the dark facial shadows as much as he has in previous issues of Cobra Command. This is probably related to Beni Lobel handling the finishes for him in this issue. Both of the primary action scenes in the issue are well-drawn and easy to follow; he handles the superhero-type poses throughout the ninja battles quite well. They’re realism-challenged situations to begin with, but Cal still manages to make them feel grounded and real.
Dave Wilkins’ Cover A is a closeup portrait-style picture of Storm Shadow, who doesn’t quite look right; he seems not… Asian.
Robert Atkins and Simon Gough’s Cover B… Wow. Just… wow.
Tom Whalen’s retailer incentive continues his animated-style series for this month’s No. 10 issues. This one shows a green-tinged Snake Eyes with Skyhawks used as design elements. Another very cool cover.
The Terrordrome has a preview of Snake Eyes #10 here.

Catching my breath

The last week or so has been crazily busy.

The biggest news came late yesterday afternoon. I learned that I am one of four finalists to be Bemidji State’s director of communications and marketing. This is the permanent appointment for the position I have been holding on an interim basis since October. I have been hopeful that I would be able to have an opportunity to interview for the position, but it’s a relief to actually have the interview offer now. The interview is an all-day affair on Wednesday the 29th; I am the fourth of the four candidates to interview. It’s a bit disconcerting to realize this could be over in three weeks.

Last Wednesday, I took a trip to Adirondack Coffee in Nisswa, Minn., to meet with our editorial consultant for our alumni magazine. It was a good trip. I still don’t know that I have a good handle on this issue yet; I feel painfully far behind on getting the contract writers off and running, etc. But the meeting was reassuring; the issue is planned out and stories are selected, and some things are already in motion. Stories are due March 16, which is coming up pretty quickly here.

Then last Thursday, I drove to Moorhead and crashed in a pretty sweet hotel room at the Marriott Courtyard Suites. This was in preparation for an all-day training session at Minnesota State, Moorhead on Friday called “The Science of Supervision.” It was a mandatory training session assigned to me by our state system office, and going into it I dreaded it. I spent just over six hours the previous Sunday completing the online component for it, which was painfully boring and not terribly informative; this did not get me in a good place mentally. The training was actually really good; it was overview-level stuff that didn’t attempt to explain everything we as administrators in a state system need to know (which would be impossible in one day, or even one month), but it gave enough of a framework to give us the basics and, more importantly, establish a roadmap for how we could learn answers to questions that might come up with various situations on campus. It really was a good day.

Part of the reason I have been bad about maintaining this blog is when I encounter something during the course of my day at work, I throw it up on Twitter and/or Facebook so I can share it with my friends quickly. I often intend to come back to the blog later to share some of the same things, or to have an ability to respond in a little bit more depth. But what tends to happen is that by the end of the day, I’m exhausted and have forgotten what I posted, etc., and never get back to it. So today I installed a really cool app on my phone called Momento. It combines all of my postings from feeds I can dictate into a “diary” of updates; and I can add other updates just in Momento. It’s a private app, only bringing things in and not pushing them out, which is exactly what I have been looking for.

The first thing Momento reminds me to come here and talk about in more detail is this story from the Minnesota Daily, “From Facebook to court: U defends discipline.” In brief, the University of Minnesota reacted to some Facebook postings from a student who was taking a class involving cadavers; you can get the details in the story. The U punished this student – harshly – for violating the code of conduct for the class. Her grade was reduced to an F, and she was kicked out of school. Now, the case is being heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court; at stake is whether Facebook postings are protected speech, up against a University’s right to pursue conduct violations against students for behavior or actions that take place off campus or, in this case, in the virtual world rather than the real world.

It seems clear that Minnesota dramatically overreacted in this case. This entire situation could have been resolved with a one-on-one meeting with the student, making her aware that the school had seen the posts, was troubled by them, and give her an opportunity to explain and then ask her if she’d mind taking them down. Then remind her of the code of conduct. In short, first communicate and teach. What the U seems to have done here is first react and strike, then try to communicate. But by then, the damage was done – to the student, and to the school when the student — quite correctly, by the way — took the situation to the media. The U forced this situation to become something far more than was warranted, and now they risk losing what could be a significant free speech case in front of the state Supreme Court.

This sort of situation is precisely why I’m working to develop social media guidelines for BSU — not only to provide guidelines and best practices to follow for departments and programs who want to start social media presences, but also to establish a framework for a sensible way to approach responses to things said about those departments and programs on social media by others.

Friday was a long day

Today’s been a crazily long day. It was Helen’s birthday (various Instagram pics in the sidebar to the right), so it’s been pretty much go-go-go all day. We did her “special birthday breakfast” of chocolate-chip pancakes this morning, then she helped me decorate the cake for her party. We’ve been planning this cake for awhile; she said she wanted a pink, blue and purple rock star cake with a guitar on it that said “Rock On, Helen” — so that’s exactly what I made her. 🙂 The guitar even had a real, handmade walnut body. Or, at least a body made up of chopped walnuts.

Swimming party from 1-4, then straight to Melissa’s parents for dinner and round 2 of cake and ice cream. We got home a bit after 7; Millie was asleep within minutes. Helen was up until a few minutes ago playing with a couple of her new Skylanders — one of her friends gave her the three-pack with Stealth Elf in it, and she’s wanted Stealth Elf for a long time.

Computer problems
My laptop was down for the count for just over three hours yesterday afternoon; I got TKO’d by the MacOS 10.7.3 updater; the update itself installed just fine, apparently, but I was left with a blank login screen — three hours later, I got logged in. But this was the worst problem I’ve had with a point update probably ever, and I’ve been using MacOS X since the public beta of 10.0 in 2000. And, honestly, I can probably attribute this to the Active Directory account garbage I have to use for work than to anything with the actual update. Seems to be working great now, though.

G.I. Joe Wednesday

So, today was a pretty kick-ass day to be a G.I. Joe fan. Observe:

The new 30-second trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, coming to theaters in June (entirely too long a wait)…

…and USA Today’s Brian Truitt gave us the first look at figures from Hasbro’s line of toys to support the film. Nine figures are shown (but no vehicles) – Duane “The Rock” Johnson’s Roadblock; Cobra Commander; a Cobra Trooper; Channing Tatum’s Duke; a G.I. Joe field trooper; Storm Shadow; Snake Eyes; a Cobra Red Ninja; and Zartan.

Plus, best of all, my review of G.I. Joe #10.


Comic book review: G.I. Joe #10 (Cobra Command, Part 4)

G.I. Joe #10 (Cobra Command, Part 4)
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art: Alex Cal
Colors: J. Brown
Letters: Shawn Lee

Cover A: Dave Wilkins
Cover B: Wil Rosado, with colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Cover RI: Tom Whalen

Cobra continues to move its forces into place as its master plan in Nanzhao slowly unfolds around the Joes, who spend the majority of this issue just trying to keep their heads above the water.

The flow of this issue is relatively similar to what has been seen so far in the Cobra Command series — two primary action sequences, a look at the Joes on the ground in Nanzhao, a look at the Joes back at Fort Baxter, and a one-page epilogue-type closer on page 22 that leads into the next chapter of the story.

Storm Shadow’s confrontation with Snake Eyes seems to be getting closer; with the next chapter in Cobra Command coming next week in Snake Eyes #10, Chuck Dixon might finally be ready to reveal the history between them in IDW’s universe.

Cobra gets an opportunity to flex its might in a lot of ways in this issue; after the previous three chapters in this story helped establish the political maneuverings Cobra Commander needed to set up and execute the invasion, here it’s pure ruthless military might. If the Joes’ theory about Cobra’s ultimate goal being the complete destruction of Nanzhao proves to be true, this will be the first indication that they were correct.

Mainframe’s crush on Scarlett that Chuck Dixon has been toying around with for awhile now takes a step… it’s not really a step forward, but for the first time we get to see some acknowledgement on both sides that there’s something there to be explored further. In Scarlett’s relationship with Snake Eyes so far, she’s been pining from the sidelines and not really having her feelings reciprocated; not much has been done to explore whatever exists between she and Duke. This thing with Mainframe gives her character an opportunity to be the dominant one in a relationship, which could be interesting to watch.

There are a decent number of female Joes in IDW’s G.I. Joe universe though (notably, Helix, Cover Girl, Lady Jaye, Chameleon, Dial Tone), and so far Scarlett is the only one who’s getting relationships; hopefully Dixon keeps this limited and doesn’t end up turning Scarlett into the one female Joe the male teammates will go after.

So far, Cobra Command has arguably been the best four-issue run of IDW’s G.I. Joe series so far; there’s been plenty of action; Cobra’s finally out in the open as an overwhelming military force that will require a specialized force like G.I. Joe to counter it; and we’re getting as much attention paid to the vehicles as at any other point in the series. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been really close. And more importantly, it’s just flat-out fun. Whatever changed at IDW between Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command that allowed this series to develop into what we’re getting right now, here’s hoping things stay as they are now for a good long time.

Alex Cal says on his blog that he’s enjoying his current run on G.I. Joe, and this continues to be apparent in the pages that are showing up in Cobra Command. He’s drawing fantastic-looking vehicles and weapons, his facial expressions are getting better, and he’s getting closer to having figures that look like they fit with the photo-trace backgrounds he’s using for some shots (although there’s still a bit of a disconnect there). After spending the first three parts of the Cobra Command storyline getting to pick the parade of Cobra vehicles out of Cal’s work, we finally get a couple of Joe vehicles – Cal introduces the Rolling Operations Command Center (ROCC) and the Mean Dog. Cobra gets to roll out a bunch of Rattlers and, awesomely, many, many, many Buzz Boars. This is G.I. Joe as it should be.

Finally, I think Cal just has fun drawing Scarlett’s hair. He put a lot of work into the four panels she got on Page 18.

As has been done with other work on Cobra Command, there are a few uncolored inked pages up on Cal’s blog.

Dave Wilkins provides the A cover has he has for each of the Cobra Command storyline so far; here, he features a very Terry Crews-looking Roadblock. This would make a great poster.

Wil Rosado’s Cover B is a pretty straight-forward Joe team photo featuring Scarlett and Snake Eyes.

Tom Whalen is going to provide the retailer incentives on this month’s No. 10 issues of all three series; this cover is a highly stylized, almost animated-series style, Flint with Skystrikers in the background. I’m looking forward to his other two covers this month; this is a really neat cover.

Check out a preview of G.I. Joe #10 here.