Monday, April 30, 2007

Getting My Geek On

I am reveling in the fact that I am able to head to Kansas City (the Kansas side) for the annual Planet Comicon comic book convention. It’s an event that I’ve made before. Same crew plus a few. Friend Larry usually goes with me and we have a great time. Teen cousin, Austin, and friend are also going with us. What is a comicon without a teenager or two? Real teenagers that is, and not just grown up teenager wish-they-were like Larry and I.

Can’t speak for the rest of the bunch, but I have business to tend to. Some are aware, due to my obsessive talking on the subject, that I am writing my Master’s thesis on using comic books in the elementary classroom.

I have a blog dedicated to the subject, which is going exceptionally well for being nearly two months old. Comic creators, writers and publishers are contacting me and sending me books to review. I have a small pile that will get away with me if I don’t kick it in.

Jack’s wife is hacked off. She reports that her graduate paper was not quite so fun-filled. She churned stats while I go to comic book conventions. Such is the life of the old social worker. I’ve told the crew to expect an early arrival and late departure. We leave Springfield early in the a.m., probably about 7 a.m. I want to hit the tables and talk to creators and writers and publishers and let them know what I am doing. The free books is always nice, but more importantly I want to promote the use of quality comic literature in the elementary (and secondary) classroom. The only way to do that is to review the books so that other teachers and school librarians will have a resource to use when choosing their own books.

One writer that I am dying to meet is David Petersen, the writer and illustrator of the ever-popular MOUSE GUARD. I haven't reviewed this book personally; it is on my list. My personal budget is small and I can't afford too buy too many books. I have books sitting on the shelf that creators have sent me, so those come first.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Free Comic Book Day 2007

The first Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day. Been that way for several years now, but the event gets little coverage even though this year marks the sixth year.

The skinny: There are a load of comics that are printed just for Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). On that day, you can go into any participating comic book shop and pick up one or more free comic books. And they are free; no purchase is necessary. Some stores will limit you to a certain number of comics so that everyone can participate. It’s a marketing event to help promote a wonderful literary form.

Locally, I have heard from two comic book stores that they will be participating: Games To Order a.k.a Games, Comics and More (by Fudruckers off East Battlefield), and Dragon’s Lair (next to Hollywood Video on West Battlefield.) In the past Vintage Stock has also participated, but I haven’t confirmed that for this year.

You can get all kinds of information at the FCBD web site. There is a problem with all of this. I won’t be in town. There is a comic book convention (Planet Comicon) in Kansas City that weekend. I will be there making headway on my Master’s Thesis (for real).

Here is a list of the comics publishers that are participating in FCBD. If you want to know which titles they will have, you can click here. Be aware that not all stores will have all of the comics from every publisher.

  • Archie Comics
  • Bongo Comics (The Simpsons)
  • Dark Horse
  • DC
  • Dynamite Entertainment
  • Gemstone Publishing
  • IDW
  • Image
  • Marvel
  • Tokyopop

  • Anartic Press
  • Ape Entertainment
  • Arcana Studio
  • Aspen MLT
  • Blatant Comics
  • Boom! Studios
  • CastleRain Entertainment
  • Comic Genesis
  • Comic Shop News, Inc.
  • Devil’s Due Publishing
  • Digital Webbing
  • Drawn and Quarterly
  • Fantagraphics Books
  • First Second Books
  • Heroic Publishing
  • Impact Books
  • Keensport Entertainment
  • Legion of Evil Press
  • Maerkle Press
  • Oni Press
  • Renaissance Press
  • Rude Dude Productions
  • Sky-Dog Press
  • Too Hip Gotta Go
  • Topshelf Productions
  • TwoMorrow Publishing
  • Viper Comics
  • Virgin Comics
  • Wildcard Ink
  • Wizard Entertainment

A Fun-Filled Night of Non-Learning

She makes me want to shove a shiv in my ear and drain the blood from my skull. I’m not the only one who is irritated by her constant shrieks of nonsense during our three-hour night class.
I shan’t name her. Not because I am fearful of hurting her feelings, as if they get internet down under that rock of hers. Mostly it’s because I haven’t bothered to learn her name – her real name, that is. I have plenty of nicknames for her. Fret not; I have no plans of sharing the majority of them. Most are for me, only.

I will tell you that she came to class last week smelling particularly odoriferous. She breezed a delicate bouquet of cigarettes and eau d’ pesticide. Besides being a teacher, God save the children with disabilities she “instructs” (read that as controls), she must also be the school janitor because the smell of roach poison was ever so strong. Her friend had to get up and move to the front, making up some nice reason why she couldn’t sit by Lady Raid. Everyone else knew better.

Class had barely begun when she shot that hand up, thrashing it about as it if were simply attached to her wrist with twine and duct tape. She couldn’t wait to thrill us with the daily happenings of her classroom, complete with student names.

We were ever so lucky last week. Not only did we have a guest speaker but this person had not been privy to the Lady Raid’s screeches. So we had an exceptionally interrupted class of off-topic outbursts. It was lovely. The good part is that she slowed the speaker down so I could write notes. Seeing I was down to one hand on account of holding my sock up to my nose to keep from ingesting the fumes of her poisonous aroma.

The best part, oh yes the very best part, was the fact that the guest speaker’s topic had nothing to do with the class. Oh no. This person’s lecture, the second one mind you, was about Latino culture and how to teach English to non-native speakers: an important and vital topic for classroom teachers, no doubt about it. It was actually interesting as well, but that’s not the point. With the instructor’s admission, we are very behind in our class and we are already cutting out material that is pertinent to our class because of time. So why, oh why, would we insert two class periods of non-relevant information? Because college professors have what is called “academic freedom.” They can pretty much do anything they want, including wasting our time and money by not actually teaching us the subject. Forget about learning about such an important topic as how to instruct students with disabilities in the regular classroom. It is upsetting and aggravating. I want to learn so much about instructing student with disabilities and my professor is padding our curriculum with other things. For most of the teachers and future teachers in this graduate, this is the only special education class they will ever take.

Professors talk all the time about student accountability and responsibility. There is always discussion about the laziness of students and how they simply want to get the grade and forget about learning. There is little talk, and no action, when it comes to faculty accountability. When it is the professor’s idea to skip class, write poor tests, care little about the actually course and learning, and refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes, then we students are supposed to just sit back and take it. Get your grade and move on.

Yes, yes. The university has instructor evaluations, but they aren’t taken seriously despite what faculty maintain. If it were true, then these poor teachers would be phased out. They are not. They are allowed to keep on teaching, until they get tenure. Once that happens, then forget about the evaluations at all. Those forms mean nothing to the tenured teacher. I’ve even had one tenured teacher, who made us take our evaluations at the beginning of class and give them to that instructor unsealed. Who knows what happened beyond that. Everyone talks about how that is not supposed to happen. If that was true, then the department head would have thrown a fit when the instructor turned them in himself. Maybe they were never turned in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Searching for a Cause That is Not There

Mental illness is all the blame for school shootings these days, that and easy access to guns. Two easy fixes according to the talking heads of cable news, but the fact of the matter is that mental illness is not the evil of society that our television celebrities would lead us to believe. Banning people with mental illness from college campuses will not make the world a safer place to live. A belief that it will is no more than a fa├žade meant to placate a society that is uneducated about persons with mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the more likely scenario is for the person with mental illness to be the victim of violence as opposed to being the perpetrator. According to the Surgeon General, “the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally low.”

There is nothing easy about understanding why a person decides to gun down those standing in a schoolyard. There is not one thing that we can point to in order to make sense of it all. It is a senseless tragedy. The biggest myth is that we can prevent it from happening again. We can no more prevent such a tragedy as we can the number of homicides that occur daily in our country. Look at the statistics of sexual abuse of children in Greene County or the atrocities in Africa.

For whatever reason, humans commit unspeakable acts of violence against one another.
Barring persons with mental illness from attending colleges will not make us safer. It might make a lot of people feel better, but it will only serve to discriminate against an entire group of people and further alienate them from society. I suppose there are those who would consider such an act of discrimination a tick mark in the win column. Ostricizing groups of people, be they women, people of color, people of faith, people without faith, or people with disabilities, is never a good thing for a society.

For more information regarding NAMI or the Surgeon General’s report on mental health you can click the links below:

NAMI website
NAMI Virginia Tech Tragedy Press Release
Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Illness (1999)
National Institute on Mental Health

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Rite of Passage

Yesterday was a rite of passage for my daughter and me. In an impromptu decision, we jumped on the motorcycle and headed to Silver Dollar City. It was her first real bike ride, beyond the training-wheel trips to the video store or school.

She loved the ride and wasn’t scared at all. She was so unconcerned for her safety that she fell asleep on the way back home. I realized she stopped moving back there and so I asked how she was doing. I knew what was happening when she didn’t respond. My Dad rode up beside me and confirmed her little snooze. We took the next exit and got her a bottle of cold milk at the convenience store. That did the trick and we made the rest of the trip with eyes wide open.

Silver Dollar City wasn’t that great. It took us two hours to get there from Springfield and that was using the High Road (Highway 476). Mostly the day was spent waiting in lines. Waiting to get there. Waiting an hour to eat. Waiting in line for rides, although those lines were pretty small considering.

The destination wasn’t really the point anyway. The day was all about getting there and back. My little girl is growing up.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

JUDAS PRIEST! Campus Life Was Never This Crazy

Threats are the name of the game today, Thursday, April 19. An individual made threats against categories of people this morning at MSU. The police were called and he was apprehended at Craig Hall. According to one of FAT JACK's operatives, The Missouri Department of Transportation was also in lock down today after they received threats. The News-Leader has the story.

And this is why NBC was fretting over what and how much of the Cho Seung-Hui video to release. The public wants and needs to know, but there is also some accountability and responsibility. Some are nauseated at NBC's dilemma of what to release of Cho's video. Of course these same people have much more talent and experience when it comes to journlism than this short-timer from that field. Be that as it may, FAT JACK is not so sure that NBC should release all of the vile. What they have shown seems sufficient to describe the man's mentality. If the FBI, real psychologists and real psychiatrists need to know and study, then they can get the full monty for themselves. As for the rest of us, it seems only to fuel more hatred and craziness with little good to be gained. I am tired of the pop-tele-psychologists spouting off about his state of mind without having really studied all of the information. It simply makes for poor journalism and confuses the masses about what mental illness is.

Copy cats are inevitable. At first I thought we were giving Cho just what he wanted by giving him all of this media attention. Maybe that is thinking too rationally. Someone with a history of mental illness who is currently in psychosis may not be thinking about media coverage in the same way we do. Hopefully, the ramifications of this Virginia Tech shooting are over and we can begin to think and heal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is the Devil Mad that God Killed the Dinosaurs?

My daughter (6-years-old) has made some serious life choices over the past few months and she is also starting to question things she has learned. We are excited and terrified all at the same time.

First off, she has decided to be a scientist like our friend, Stacy, and my biology teacher, Gigi. I say Gigi because that is how she introduced herself to my daughter when they first met. I would not address my professor by her nickname unless she specifically told me to. Anyway, my kiddo thinks that science is great, and we need more female scientists and mathematicians in the world.

Her spiritual sponsor at church gave her a dinosaur egg the other day. At our church, all the children have anonymous spiritual sponsors that write them notes, cards, and offer small gifts to make the child feel special. This little egg has given my daughter a week’s worth of discovery and wonderment. You put the egg, which is bigger than a chicken egg, in a large container of water. After about 48 hours or so, the dinosaur hatches from the egg. It’s a pretty slow process so you can watch it hatch – very cool. We think we have a triceratops, but we are not sure. It makes my daughter feel like a real scientist watching – as she calls it – her experiment.

Speaking of dinosaurs, my little cub wants to know why God killed the dinosaurs and if that made the Devil mad. That is a big question to answer and the funny thing about it is she never trusts what I tell her. She wants to check it out with the preacher first. I suppose that’s a good thing and it will benefit her later. She also doesn’t believe me when I tell her that the Devil was one of God’s angels way back when. She just cannot comprehend that. While we are at it, she wants to know why the Devil is red and has horns. More questions for me and ultimately for the old preacher man.

She has also decided that she wants to be baptized when she is 16 years old. We’ve told her that she could do this much earlier (11 or 12) but she says that 16 is the age. She also wants to be baptized by Johnny. I could not figure this one out. Who is Johnny? We don’t have a preacher named Johnny or any church staff by that name. I can’t think of anyone at church who is known as Johnny. My wife finally let me in on it: Johnny The Baptist. She has learned about John the Baptist and she wants to be baptized by him.

This past Sunday she was looking at the tithing envelope. She decided to give money herself, so she used her change from her purse. She put the 28 cents in the envelope then asked what the “designation” was about. My wife told her that line was used if you want your money to go to a certain thing like mission trips, Sunday school, or another project. My daughter happily wrote our preacher’s name on the envelope and sent it in. Now that has got to make a preacher feel loved.

It’s been an inquisitive time at our house lately.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Even Idiots Can Be Right

See previous post.

You may not believe it at first, or at all, but JB is right about two things (maybe even three). The national tragedy that occurred yesterday at Virginia Tech is not the fault of the university and it is not the fault of the gun industry. Talking heads on the news programs might want to us believe as such, but they are only in this for themselves, despite the insincere blessings and calls for prayer. First of all this news coverage makes for great ratings, possible awards and lots of money, and the news is always about ratings and money as opposed to quality news coverage. I suspect you already knew that, so I’ll leave it alone.

Tony Messenger, Editorial Page Editor for the Springfield News-Leader wrote about this on his blog today. So many are quick to judge the work of the school for its response. That criticism may be justified and it may not. It is simply too early to tell. But to be the first to say so is what the news business is all about. Messenger is right in that it is disgusting to jump to conclusions. Journalism isn’t supposed to be about that.

It will not be long until the gun industry is blamed as well. Forget the fact it is already illegal to kill people. I would suspect that most universities have policies in place regarding the carrying of weapons on campus. Getting the gun is the easy part, legally or illegally. The blame should rest solely on the part of the perpetrator. It is he that caused the tragedy. Who knows why. Sometimes there are no real answers to why things happen. Sometimes stuff just happens. The rest of JB’s rant is what it is. As awful his perspective might be, there are plenty who agree.

Them There Foreigners

A Guest Post
by JB Coffelt, Owner/Instructor
Jim Bob’s School of Welding & Taxidermy
Lampe, MO

The problem ain’t guns and the problem ain’t the school. The only problem in the great state of Virginia (and the rest of the United States of Americans) are all the foreign people. The liberal media likes to call them foreign nationals as a way to try to confuse us, but that is no more than a bait-and-switch for what those people really are: illegals one and all.

The only thing the national news is doing correctly is telling us the real story behind this terrorist. I’m surprised they released his nationality to us, seeing how they want to coddle all those that don’t really belong here. They have probably figured out their mistake but it is too late. We all know that he was not an American. He’s just another crazy illegal hell-bent on killing innocent Americans, as is the current trend in today’s so called global society.

Why we think we need them to come over here to our schools is amazing. When will America wake up and realize that foreigners do nothing for us but bring us death and disease? When will America take a stand against those who wish to kill us because the majority of us follow the path of the one true God? It’s a shame that we continue to feel sorry for those who hate us.

It’s a good thing this Asian killed himself and saved us all the trouble. Now we don’t have some lengthy trial where our liberal justice system would stand in a quandary as to what to do with a terrorist. Just listen to the news to find out that’s how it goes. That illegal Rolla student (another foreigner this one from the Middle East) who faked a bomb is a perfect example. Everyone feels sorry for him and wants to help him, when what he really needs is a swift guilty verdict and a death row sentence. Too bad this didn’t happen in Texas where there is an execution express lane. We would have been rid of him already.

All we do when we let them come to our colleges and universities is to give them a quality education, which they can then take back to their home land and use against us in a terrorist plot. If they want to learn, let them learn in their own country and save us from having to be forced to talk in different languages.

Monday, April 16, 2007

T&A is Not the Way

Missouri State University students, Tyler Barnes and Andrew Garton, are running for student body president and vice president respectively. Their signs, chalk art and T-shirts were everywhere on campus today, as were the paraphernalia of their opponents. What set Tyler and Andrew apart, was their slogan: T&A all the way.

I hear tell that their slogan caused quite a stir among faculty and students. Gee, couldn’t see that coming. It’s no wonder. College students are known for immature and outrageous behavior. We are no longer limited to such demonstrations to the 19- to 23-year-old crowd. American watched as Don Imus told his last tale this past week and ended a long-standing shock jock radio show.

We Americans love our controversy. Come one come all to see the circus show freaks: the bearded lady, Jojo the dog-faced boy, and our poorly talented nitwits who choke up our airwaves with their fraternal antics.

Tyler Barnes and Andrew Garton, Don Imus and Howard Stern, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter all the right to say what they want. We should fight for them to be able to do so. That is, we should protect them from an overzealous government who pushes to contain what they believe is inappropriate speech. As for Imus losing his job, that is up to the listeners and advertisers. If we do not like what he says then we do not have to listen, nor do the advertisers have to sponsor him. It’s as simple as that.

It boggles my mind why anyone besides an intoxicated fraternity bunch would sport the T&A shirts. Why we put up with Jesse Jackson’s anti-semitism or Rush Limbaugh’s famous hate-filled “feminazi” labels or Ann Coulter’s gay-bashing is beyond me. For some reason, these characters have the ear of the media and the world of journalism beats down their doors to get their irrational input on serious issues that really matter. We should not boycott Don Imus as much as we should forget the Jacksons, Sharptons, Limbaughs and Coulters of the world. Their bigotry and hatred add little to real discourse.

Today, Oprah had an engaging dialogue about hate speech, spurred on by the Don Imus ordeal. The point was that this issue is bigger than Imus. He is merely a product of a larger problem. Hate speech has permeated our culture and is common place. We celebrate those who spew hate and bigotry. I do it too. My music library is full of all kinds of music, including hip hop and rap. Some of it is good and some is not suitable for children. Maybe it’s not really suitable for me either. Maybe I should not listen or purchase music that routinely refers to women as hos and bitches. I’ve already discounted Jackson, Sharpton, Limbaugh and Coulter. How much harder would it be to take it a little further?

Assuming that the government does not interfere, we are free to stop listening or to turn the television off. We don’t have to support any news program that always runs to Al Sharpton or Ann Coulter for a nasty little sound byte, but then where would we turn for our televised enternewsment (or is it newsertainment?)

For my part, I’m not so interested in supporting these nationally celebrated bigots. Yes, I call them bigots and I maintain that I am using the term fairly. Nor did I vote for Tyler Barnes and Andrew Garton. Their T-shirts lost them my vote. Strike one for my wife and daughter, mother and grandmother. I didn’t call for any heads to roll, but for people to simply vote for the other guys. The worst thing we can do to people like Jesse Jackson and Rush Limbaugh is to have them fade into obscurity, where there are no television cameras or radio microphones around. The airways would be better off without these hate jocks yammering about. Maybe the world would be a better place if we didn’t worship at the feet of musicians who degrade their women.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cinderella's Day Off

Today was my wife's birthday. Along with the typical fare of presents and dessert, we also gave Mom a day of rest (mostly). The daughter and I worked on the house, making it nice and clean for the old Mom. She did help a touch; she folded the laundry while she watched TV, but the rest was ours. We always do our part, but today was all about the Mom and about us carrying all the slack.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Manga Bible

I’ve often wished there was a graphic adaptation of Biblical stories. The only one I’ve ever seen was the story of Samson from a now defunct Christian publisher. It was a great story and even better art.

Now, the Manga Bible is on its way. That’s right, the conceptualist and illustrator known as Siku, is putting together the manga adaptation of the New Testament. The New Testament is available now in two different formats: Raw and Extreme. The Old Testament will be available later in 2007, with a full Bible also being released late in 2007.

The Raw version is a small-format edition with some extras. The Extreme edition is a deluxe, large-format version that costs $13.37 from The Extreme edition is the one for those who are really interested. It will sport Biblical texts using the New International translation.

I have no idea how good this is. I am tempted to purchase it and find out for myself. It was only a matter of time before someone did it. I find it interesting that it will be done first in a manga, but that is, after all, the major force in comics and animation right now.

The Manga Bible is intended for 11- to 18-year-olds and, according to the website, is suitable for all young people. In broad terms, it will offer an overview of the Gospels, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the book of the Apostles, the letter to the Corinthians and Revelations.

Click here to visit the publisher
Click here to read about the artist
Click here for sample art
Click here for an 8-week lesson plan for teachers and youth leaders
Click here to purchase from

Your Life in Comics

I love comics and I know some of my readers do also. Well, there is a program out there called Comic Life that allows you to take your own photos or illustrations and turn them into comics, complete with page layout templates, comic fonts, thought bubbles, captions, and the whole bit. It’s great.

In my Biology class, we have been running an experiment with mealworms and following the process of metamorphasis. It’s been fun and I’ve had three mealworms in a Petri dish at the house. So far, two of them have turned into Darkling Beetles. The project that was assigned to us was to write a children’s book based on the mealworm.

Just in time, my friend, Steve Ole Olson, emailed me about a program called Comic Life. He wondered if I had ever heard of it. Amazingly, I had not, but I checked it out and bought a copy. I went to work with my daughter’s modeling clay making mealworm eggs, a baby carriage, a mealworm, a mother Darkling Beetle and the like. Then I took out some white paper and began shooting them with my handy dandy little digital camera.

I wanted it to be in color, but the modeling clay was purple and pink. My instructor would not go for a purple Darkling Beetle. So I opted for black and white. Besides I had a tint to the color pictures because of the ecologically sound florescent lighting I use in my home.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with it. Comic Life allows you to export as a jpg, tiff, pdf, iWeb, and iPhoto. I just took my exports on CD to Kinkos and they printed me up an 8.5x11 inch pretty little comic book on glossy paper. Cost me all of $3 and change.

So here it is, my friends. FAT JACK’s first comic book. I can see real possibility with this. Comic Life comes free on new Macs. Currently, there is no Window’s version, but they are working toward that.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Big Trouble for MSU School of Social Work

You may remember the lawsuit of Emily Brooker, in which she alleged that the Missouri State University School of Social Work discriminated against her due to her religious beliefs. President Nietzel launched an investigation and a sad update was posted on the university website today.

The investigation is done and the report, in it’s entirety, is available by clicking the links below. The report found that the social work faculty are intolerant to differing opinions and often take those opinions personally.
"Many students and faculty stated a fear of voicing differing opinions from the instructor or colleague. This was particularly true regarding spiritual and religious matters however, students voiced fears about questioning faculty regarding assignments or expectations. In fact 'bullying' was used by both students and faculty to characterize specific faculty. It appears that faculty have no history of intellectual discussion/debate. Rather, differing opinions are taken personally and often result in inappropriate discourse."

This is a very disturbing fact. No department should try to force students into a particular belief system. The university is a place for discussion and debate. An intolerance to differing viewpoints should not be … tolerated. The report goes on to say that there is an “atmosphere where the (Social Work) Code of Ethics is used in order to coerce students into certain belief systems regarding social work practice and the social work profession”.

As to the instructors themselves, well this pretty much says it all: "Overall, the faculty are incredibly underproductive particularly in the areas of research, scholarship and service.” This can’t be good for the faculty and I’m sure that this will cause some huge changes. This is extremely embarrassing to the university and I’m glad that they are working to correct the problems. I have seen, first hand, some of the problems that the School of Social Work had when I supervised social work students in the field. They were serious.

Click here for the School of Social Work Site Visit Report.

Click here for the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression.
Click here for the announcement from the Office of the President.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

In Memorium of the Dirty Old Bastard

Old? As the hills.
Cranky? Yes.
Crochety? Good grief yes.
A pain in the ass of the great Venereal Disease of talk radio. Thankfully!
Missed? As surely as I am writing this.

For ye who have rocked a lot, we do salute you.