Thursday, March 31, 2005


Not sure what to expect from the Christian Bale movie coming up. It's supposed to be a lot of backstory about how Bruce Wayne became Batman, which is material covered by Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One," but the previews don't look anything like BYO.

Batman should be an enjoyable character to read about, but he himself is not "tons of fun" -- the essential failure of the Adam West TV show and the two post-Keaton "Batman" movies, "Batman Forever" and "Batman and Robin." Batman is supposed to be a man on the edge of justice and sanity, not a comic buffoon like Adam West's Batman. (The better stories I've read don't include the buffoonish freakshow foes like the Mad Hatter, or Solomon Grundy, and weren't written by Jeph Loeb.)

Michael Keaton's Batman comes closest to the iconic figure in DC Comics, but even he fell a little short, in his use of guns and the way he opened up to Vicki Vale. Not his fault, admittedly -- that's just Hollywood in action. I have to say, though, the character was dead-on when Alfred brought Vale into the Batcave. Wayne's reaction was spot-on when he essentially said, "I don't have time for this right now. I have work to do."

must-read graphic novels

It goes without saying that anyone who is interested in reading graphic novels should read Neil Gaiman's groundbreaking and seminal work, "The Sandman," published by DC Comics on its Vertigo imprint. They also should read the related works, including two trade paperbacks about Death, one about Destiny, and a collection called "Endless Nights," all by Neil Gaiman, save for "Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold." I can't recall who wrote that one, but it had a haunting, funereal beauty about the lives of those who become entangled with a man marked out by Destiny for horror.

Other graphic novels worth reading, in no particular order:

1. "Strangers in Paradise," by Terry Moore. (This is a series of about 17 collections so far). The series follows the lives of two women, Katchoo and Francine, and one man, David Qin. It gets melodramatic and soap operaish at times, and there are other times Moore has lost track of continuity and what he's doing, but the writing is nonetheless excellent.

2. "Batman: Year One," by Frank Miller. On no account should you read "Batman: DK2." It *really* sucked.

3. "Daredevil: Born Again," by Frank Miller. The Kingpin discovers Daredevil's secret identity and proceeds to destroy him.

4. "V for Vendetta," by Alan Moore. Set in an England under fascist rule, this graphic novel shows the rise of the human spirit and longing for freedom, embodied in the anarchist V.

5. "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," by Alan Moore (two volumes, barely related to the movie). The British government begins assembling a team of people known to us from 19th-century Victorian literature, including Mina Murray, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Edward Hyde and the Invisible Man. The series is worth reading just for the sly references Moore sneaks in to other literary works. Volume one establishes the team; volume two takes place during H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds."

6. "1602," by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman transplants the classic Kirby-Lee characters for Marvel Comics from 20th-century America to Elizabethan England. Despite the large ensemble cast, this is a story not to be missed if you're familiar with the Marvel icons.

7. Marvel Legends Thor 1 & 2, by Walt Simonson. the start of a fantastic and defining run on Thor back in the 1980s, this actually includes the start of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods. Absolutely incredible stuff.

8. "Amazing Spider Man: Coming Home," "Revelations" and "Until the Stars Turn COld," by J, Michael Straczynski, of "Babylon 5" fame. Unbelievable. The guy reinvented Spider-man in the first set, and set Webhead's entire world on its head in the second one.

9. "Rising Stars," by Joe Straczynski. A realistic look at the superheroes, used as a metaphor for lots of stuff, including limited natural resources.

10. "Kingdom Come," by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Set in Superman's post-retirement days, this comic brings Superman and the rest of the Justice League out of retirement to battle a phalanx of brutal antiheroes who have taken their place in the years since they left. It closely follows the book of Revelation.

11. "Marvels," by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. The history of the Marvel Universe, from WWII up through the death of Gwen Stacey, told from the point of view of a news photographer who is not Peter Parker.

12. "Astro City," by Kurt Busiek. This is at least three volumes long. It deals with a superhero universe built with elements of DC and Marvel so that Busiek can explore those heroes by proxy. It deals with things like what would a superhero do if his time were his own, how a superhero has to balance his family responsibilities with his obligations as a hero, what makes someone a hero, and so on. Also good stuff.

13. "Midnight Nation," by Joe Straczynski. An L.A. cop loses his soul and has one year to get it back. A great parable about our nation's coldness to those in need.

14. "Black Orchid," by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Gaiman picked a relatively unknown superheroine -- heck, I never even heard of her before I read that volume -- and did some interesting stuff with her. It's definitely not a superhero story, which is always nice in comic books, and it starts to lay some foundations for Gaiman's theology of the plant kingdom, which he was going to develop more in "Swamp Thing" if he ever wrote that comic, which he didn't.

15. "Ronin," also by Frank Miller. That's the story about a reincarnated Ronin (a samurai, who by failing his master, allowed him to die) going toe-to-toe with a demon in a futuristic New York. Sort of. But not exactly. Not at all, really, but I can't say why not without giving away important parts of the plot.

And if anyone is overfamiliar with the superhero genre and wants to read a brilliant sendup, I recommend the "Quantum and Woody" series published by the now-defunct Acclaim Comics.

I skimmed a collection of Frank Miller's "Sin City" a while ago, and found it unengaging, but that's me personally. I don't care for film noir and gangster movies, which is what Miller was imitating, although I do enjoy Miller's older material immensely.

Also, I forgot to mention Jeff Smith's "Bone" series. It starts out as a kid-friendly humor comic, and although it retains its kid-friendliness and a strong humor vein, "Bone" definitely attains the air of high fantasy. Highly recommended.

And then there's "Cerebus." I bought the first volume of that on a recommendation, but found it so unimpressive that I've never bothered to pick up any of the later volumes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

easter follies

We had what was, all things considered, a decent Easter weekend.

Around noon Saturday, we took the girls to an Easter egg hunt at the university. (On a random aside, I've been going on a hunt for easter eggs myself on Disk 2 of "The Incredibles" and have been pleased with what I've found -- about seven of them so far, including sock puppet version of the movie.) There was some confusion about how we were supposed to sign in, and the girls missed -- just -- the hunt intended for the little kids. Frustrating, to say the least, because they would have been able to compete better in that one.

After that, they took part in the hunt that was meant for all the kids and that, sadly, was a rout. Evangeline managed to get six eggs, and Rachel got three. How're a 5- and 2-year-old supposed to compete with 40 other kids, some of whom are practically teens? It was crushing to see as their father, particularly when the hunt was over and hordes of kids are counting "20! 21! 22!" as they rack up their gains. Evangeline was in tears, because she really wanted to gather more.

There were some frustrating things, like the adult who took the egg I was trying to point out to Evangeline, but there were some bright spots too. Another parent saw Evangeline walking to an egg up in a tree and handed it to her, and when Evangeline was feeling inconsolable after the hunt, I could see a boy her age struggling with whether he should share some of his prizes. (He decided not to, but it was nice to see him feeling badly for her.)

Luckily, the organizers had planned for such a contigency, and had packages of consolation eggs stashed away for children who had gathered fewer than 10 eggs, so Evangeline ended up cheering up considerably. Fortunately, it was after I had managed to convince her that the important thing was that she had had fun looking for them.

Afterward, we dyed eggs and Evangeline was in heaven.

And in what must surely count as some form of sacrilege, Natasha and I took some deviled Easter eggs to a potluck dinner that night.

Easter, though, was a blast.

A few years ago I started to lament that the whole of our family traditions concerning Easter involved food: We eat ham, mashed potatoes, green beans mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped with french onions, and biscuits. And that's just pregnant with meaning, isn't it? Well, I started the ball rolling and we've been adding some meaningful traditions.

First, there's the eggs. We take a runny egg and hard boil it. What does this signify? The transformation of our lives when we commit ourselves to following Christ. Next we put the egg in the dye and change its color. So it is when we immerse ourselves in Christ -- gradually we change and take on his likeness.

Then there's the Easter basket. It's hidden, and we look for it. It's a parable about the kingdom of God and our search for Christ. We search high and low, and we find him, it's a cause for celebration.

Natasha and I took the Easter meal and added some stuff at the beginning that we borrowed from the Passover seder Jews celebrate each year. That is, we're using some of the same elements, but we're reinterpreting them. The horseradish becomes the bitterness of our sins; the apple is the comfort that God provides for us in taking away the full measure of the cost our sin carries. We dip the parsley into salt water to symbolize the tears of this life and the new life that we have been promised.

We would have had wine, to symbolize joy and the Holy Spirit, but alas! I forgot the wine until Sunday, when all the liquor stores were closed. (But we're getting better. This year we had more of the elements than we did last year.) Dinner includes some Scripture readings about Good Friday and Easter Sunday and if we had had the wine, we would have celebrated Communion.

I even had planned to have an extra glass of wine on the table, although, since we believe Elijah already came to prepare the way for the Messiah, I had Evangeline open the door to invite Christ into our home, not just in the immediate sense, but also for the Second Coming. Next year, of course, who wouldn't want to celebate Easter Sunday in the Kingdom of God?

So I was feeling pretty good about it. Things were a little disorganized and we had to reheat the mashed potatoes, but we used two longstanding Easter traditions (the basket and the eggs) to relate spiritual truths to our children, and we turned our Easter dinner from simply another large meal into what hopefully will be a long-lasting family tradition that will teach our children the foundation of our faith.

And today, Easter Monday, the girls watched "Jesus Christ Superstar," which is to date my preferred Passion play.

confronting tyranny

Pacifism has a moral strength to it that having bigger guns or a more dedicated military outfit lacks.

Nelson Mandela and the other giants of South Africa were able to overcome Apartheid and systemic discrimination; Mahatma Gandhi was able to defeat the British Empire, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the others were able to triumph over white America because they stood their ground and allowed themselves to be beaten, not once but repeatedly. Their calm, self-sacrificing moral sanity threw the insanity of their oppressors into stark relief, and brought the issue to the point that their own, oft-ignored voices finally were heard.

I think it was Romania back in the early 1990s that showed a determined and wholly unarmed populace was able to overthrow a despotic communist government with all the guns.

You say it doesn't work with Hitlers or Stalins or Arafats or Mao Tse-Tungs. I say, in the end, it's the only thing that does work.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Raoul usually get played as a nancy-boy, which makes him a pretty dull contrast to Erik, who is a compelling, complex and ultimately tragic figure. True, he's a psycho who garroted Buquet and Luigi, and who was more than willing to blow up Paris if Christine wouldn't choose him, but -- especially if you've read Leroux's book -- you can't help but feel sorry for the poor bugger. And Lloyd Webber's musical makes him a compelling, mesmerizing figure. All Raoul does is react, and he's always playing catch-up. Erik not only exists in Christine's world, he exists for her.

Raoul could be a better rival to Erik, but I've never seen him portrayed that way. The closest was in the Claude Rains movie, but even there, he was a rival with a baritone in the opera, not with Erik, whose role was stripped down

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

value of life

The issue I've yet to see advocates of keeping Terri Schiavo on her feeding tube address is this: Terri reportedly said, before she was in a coma, that she did not want to be kept in a permanent vegetative state.

I've heard many people talk as though Michael Schiavo is doing everything he can in an insane bid to kill her. What if he is telling the truth? Maybe he isn't trying to snuff her, to have her executed, or to whatever other phrase you want to use. Maybe he is really trying to respect her wishes? True, that might not match what someone else would have wanted her to decide, but it doesn't mean they aren't her wishes.

Focusing on the issue at hand: Is a life spent in a permanent vegetative state still worth living? Does her life still retain the intrinsic value of all human life?

Monday, March 21, 2005

terri schiavo

I'm continuing to avoid offering extensive commentary on this issue myself, but a friend shared this article from ABC News, which I am now passing on.

According to this poll, most Americans believe Congress is getting involved in the debate for political purposes, rather than on the principles of the sanctity of human life. A majority also support the decision to remove the feeding tube. Not surprisingly, many Americans have been discussing end-of-life issues with their loved ones, and talking about when they want life support pulled.

What's bothered me about this debate is what's bothered me about the abortion debate, namely the villification of those involved. I've no idea what is going or has gone through Michael Schiavo's head -- nor, I would wager, does anyone else who has sounded off and called him everything from a murderer to a Hitler-wannabe.

His claim, which no one has been able to substantiate or to disprove, is that Terri had once told him that she did not want to be left in a vegetative state. And since the medical conclusion of doctors familiar with the case is that she is in a vegetative state, and appearances of responsivenesss are merely wishful thinking on the part of her parents and pro-life supporters, it would appear that what he is doing is honoring her wishes (again, if what he is saying is true).

I've been sorely disappointed by the polemic being tossed about around this case. If the issue is that Terri's life is sacrosanct and she should be kept alive for that reason, I think the advocates of such an action would be better off to zip their lips about what they think of her husband, and base their arguments solely on the value of Terri Schiavo's life qua human life.

More light, with less heat and noise, is what we need.

Friday, March 18, 2005

btk killer a christian?

"[Dennis Rader] is not a Christian. never was. He was flying under a false flag all the time, getting his jollies on how bad he was on the inside and yet how he fooled everybody."

Although my natural tendency is to agree with this assessment, there are a few things that make me reluctant.

First is that the judgment that a killer -- even a serial killer -- can't "really" be a Christian is something that I think places limits on the redemption Christ offers. Are we suggesting that someone with a pathological drive to kill is incapable of receiving Christ? That doesn't square with the notion of God's free offer of grace, the belief that no one is so far fallen that he can't come home.

Is the suggestion that a person who kills repeatedly cannot really have the Holy Spirit in them? I have to admit that troubles me to (to put it mildly) but it suggests a gradation of sin that I don't think is biblical. In terms of effect, murder -- particularly something as gruesome as the BTK killer is known for -- is far more destructive socially than a "lesser sin" like adultery -- but isn't sin sin? Paul says that if we break the least part of the Law, we are guilty of breaking it all. Does the fact that I struggle with -- and often fall into -- a sin of a less destructive nature, make me somehow more acceptable to God than a serial killer who is also a professing Christian? Is my sin better than his? Or am I also likewise not really a Christian, flying under a false flag all the time, and getting my jollies about how bad I am on the inside while I fool everybody?

To be honest, I don't want the BTK killer to be a Christian, but I think that's mostly born of a sense of wounded pride. I want to believe that Christians are a better class of people than that, that while we might minister to a serial killer and show Christ's love to him, that no one who is really following Christ will be capable of something as horrifying as what Rader has been accused of.

What I want is irrelevant, though. The truth is that if we believe the gospel, we must regard ourselves as murderers too. Why? First and most obviously, because our sin murdered Christ. Secondly, we have the testimony of Christ himself, that if we hate someone, then in the eyes of God, we already have committed murder.

I don't want the BTK killer to be a Christian. But in some mystical way, I think I need him to be.

I know a teen who for a few years was the poster child for reactive attachment disorder. He had no bond to anyone, and had no conscience. His adoptive family used to wonder how long it would be until he ended up in jail after committing some horrific crime. For this boy, for whatever reason, concepts like "right" and "wrong" didn't apply. Whatever he did, was justified.

Now this boy was a Christian; he had committed himself to following Christ, attended church with his parents and the whole nine yards. He was young enough, and his parents were dedicated enough that they were able to get him the treatment he needed to awaken his conscience and give him some sort of moral compass. The last time I saw him, I was amazed at how well adjusted he had become.

But suppose he hadn't had that breakthrough, and had gone on to commit some horror? I'd agree that he's still accountable for his crimes and should not be let off scot free because of his mental illness -- but I would have to say that I honestly would have no idea what his eternal state would be.

And that's all I'm saying with the BTK killer. We have no idea what is going on in his head, nor do we know what is going on in his soul. And while I would be slow to extend the right hand of fellowship to a serial killer, I'm also reluctant to say he has no part of Christ.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

'their eyes were watching god'

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is a novel about self-discovery. It follows the life of a black woman named Janie in the South during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It begins when she's about 13 or 14 and awakening to the birds and bees, and is pushed into a marriage with a much older man. A few years later, she runs off with a fast-talking and up-and-rising type named Jody Starkes (?) who sets himself up as mayor of a small town, and ultimately she decides that she's no better off there either.

A good chunk of the book is about her last relationship, with a fellow named Tea Cake. It's an easy relationship with romance, fun and being free to be herself, but it ends badly for reasons connecting to the title. ("Their eyes were watching God" is a line from the novel, describing a waterspout that destroys everything when it hits the place where Janie and Tea Cake are living. Including them, ultimately.)

I'm probably off in the details, and can't attest much to the major themes of the book. I read it back in college, about 14 years ago, and although I've had the urge from time to time to go back and reread it, I never have.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

hits and misses

So many things I haven't been online to share:

[+] Back on Feb. 16, E and I went to New York for a modeling go-see. It was a pretty straightforward, if uneventful trip. We showed up, E read me a chapter of "The Courage of Sarah Noble" and then we went to get her picture taken. The photographer asked me if I would mind if she took my picture too. I figured, what the heck, and filled out the paperwork. Flash, click, we're done. Time to get back on the train and go home, stopping only for overpriced pizza at Penn Station New York. (E ate like a little lady, without even asking me to cut the pizza.)

Well, that Friday I got a call-back for an actual shoot on Tuesday, for Hewlett-Packard. Yes, I got a call-back, not my daughter. Not the cute little 5-year-old, but the hairy man nearing middle age. I joked with my wife and some friends that they figured, "Hey -- this guy looks like the sort of geek who uses our product, let's get him!", but it turns out the actual idea for the shoot was a family get-together, with a sort of "See how bright our printers make your treasured memories turn out" feel.

The actual shoot wasn't too bad, although it did take about six or seven hours. I tried on about five sets of clothes, including some that I was only too thankful not to be seen in by anyone who knew me. (The yellow pants were the worst.) I ended up wearing a light green shirt and a pair of tan Tommy Hilfiger pants. You won't be able to tell from the ad when it runs, but the stylist ripped the back seat out of the pants so they would fit -- an impromptu if expensive way to make alterations. So for most of the shoot, I was walking around with pants that had more rear ventilation than hospital gown. They gave me the shirt when it was over, and offered to let me take the pants home, but I declined. I'll never own a pair of Tommy Hilfiger's, needlessly expensive as they are, but it makes an amusing tale to share how I wore them one afternoon.

Total payment for the shoot is $800, less the 15 percent that goes to agent Lauren Green and the other 10 percent that goes to Elen's Kids. I think we're about breaking even now.

[+] We finally had some decent snow this week. On Tuesday the girls and I spent about an hour outside playing in the snow. We built a giant snowman in the front yard, along with two small snowgirls, and rode around on the sled in the back yard for about 20 minutes. The girls even got back on when they fell off, without complaint. (I guess I ran too fast.) And for the grand finale, before we went back inside, we had a massive snowball fight. Even R was into it, and was picking up clumps of snow to throw at me. One of the funniest moments was when I hit the front door a good two feet above their heads. E laughed at my bad aim, then gave a start when bits of the snowball fell onto her head. She thought it was pretty amusing.

[-] I really hate insomnia. I fell asleep tonight lying in bed with E, woke up just before midnight, did my business and got into bed, where I managed to go back to sleep. About 40 minutes later, my wife came in and unintentionally woke me up. At this point she reminded me I hadn't walked the dog, so I got dressed, went downstairs and trudged around in the cold with Sandy for 15 or 20 minutes so she could do her business. I got back into bed and found myself getting more and more awake. It's now 4:39 a.m., and I'm wide awake. Saturday is going to be hell.

[+/-] Mixed experience on homeschool this week. I had insomnia Tuesday night, and ended up getting about three hours' sleep. We had rented the BBC "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" from Blockbuster since E and her mother have been reading through "The Chronicles of Narnia" the last few weeks, and E wanted to watch it. I put it on, intending to watch only for a little, and fell asleep. (The movie is bad enough I might have done that even had I been less tired.) I woke up at one point, said I was going to turn it off in five minutes, and fell asleep again. And that was pretty much all we accomplished that day.

On the other hand, E has finished reading "The Courage of Sarah Noble," a true Colonial-era chapter book, all by herself. Today I started her on the first book in "The Magic Tree House" series, she still remembers the names and values of coins, and we created our own weather vane to put in the back yard.

To make history more accessible, we must continue to read true stories about America's past. To make science more accessible, we must do more hands-on projects to pique E's curiosity. To make school less onerous to E, we must do arts and crafts on a more regular basis. Today we made two sets of bunny ears -- one for her, and one for R -- after reading "The Tortoise and the Hare." It is the first real craft we have done in a while. I must plan these better.

I also must make more of an effort to include R, who too often is shunted to one side while E and I do school activities. I also need to be more flexible in how I do things, and insist less that E do things the way I had envisioned them. While she does need to follow directions, not everything should be a battle of wills. I never realized what an exacting control freak I could be until I started teaching her -- and I hate it when she asks me, "Daddy, can we please do it my way for a change?" because she's right -- I keep insisting on my way all the time, even on times when there's no big loss in doing it another way.

Got a good suggestion on writing. I will try it this next week. Having some problems with the math drills -- she knows the idea, but doesn't have the addition table memorized. Must content myself with her knowing how to get the answer, and let the memorization come to her in due time. She did it with reading, and she'll do it with numbers too, I have no doubt.

[-] No writing done on big projects. I'm a rotten collaborator on the webcomic and the novel, as my two partners will attest.

disney princesses

Like many other girls their ages here in the United States, Evangeline and Rachel are just nuts about Disney Princesses. They love to watch the movies, play with the dolls, dress up, and role play -- all of which wouldn't be so bad if the Disney Princesses weren't so vacuous.

Sometime last year, I took advantage of my older daughter's big Cinderella kick, and asked her if she'd like to hear another version of the story, from Germany. When she agreed, I pulled out my beloved copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and introduced her to Ashenputel, the girl whose stepsisters actually cut off parts of their feet to get into shoe.

In the months since then, we've been making a point of hitting up our library for other-cultural versions of the Princesses and various other fairy tale characters. With Cinderella alone, Evangeline has been exposed to fairy tales from Mexico, Ireland, Cambodia, the Phillipines, Germany, Swaziland, England, France, West Virginia, Haiti and Los Angeles. In the process, she's been developing comparative-literature skills-- on her own, she recognized that the bull in an Irish Cinderella story played the same part as the fairy godmother -- and she's been learning world geography. Every time we read a fairy tale, we find the country of origin on our world map, and place a sticker of that country's flag on the map.

So instead of butting heads with the vapidness of Disney, I've managed to turn it into something valuable. Now if I could only find something educational to do with Elmo...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

building writing skills

I've been homeschooling my daughter, 5, for about four months now, despite a few bumps and hurdles after leaving my job to be a stay-at-home dad. We're doing very well with reading, with math and science, art and the other subjects, but I'm stuck on one: writing.

Evangeline knows all her letters, as a result of attending a local preschool last year and the year before. When I assumed the homeschooling duties, we worked our way through the letters again just to brush up and make sure everything was going the right way.

Well, here we are, about three months after we finished handwriting exercises, and I'm stumped for what to do to get her writing on a regular basis so that she can develop those skills as well as she's developed her other academic abilities.

Evangeline enjoys writing stories -- but by writing stories, I mean she enjoys having her old man write everything as she dictates, which does nothing to build her handwriting skills or ability to put thoughts to paper herself.

Can anyone make any suggestions? Like her father, Evangeline is opposed to rote work, and also like her father, she can be a challenge to motivate to do something she doesn't want to do.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

social security

Here's an idea I came across for Social Security reform. Instead of Social Security, how about a $2,000 government investment for each child from birth to 18? A former secretary of the treasury believes such a practice would leave each person in possession of $1,013,326 at retirement age.

No idea on the specifics, obviously, since the article didn't enumerate them. My thought would be that the money would not be vested until beneficiary turned 18, and would not be accessible until retirement. I would expect that in the event of death, the money and interest would return to the government, or however Social Security benefits are handled now.

I thought it an intriguing idea -- as the article claims a number of policymakers do -- but I doubt anything will happen with it. Opposition to this is likely to be high among the Republicans on Capitol Hill, and as one commentator noted in the article, it leaves little incentive for the individual to prepare a 401(k) or retirement IRA. There's also the problem of this program not being able to kick in until 30 or 40 years after Social Security goes insolvent.

Still, it was thought provoking enough that I remarked to my wife how wonderful it would be if we had the disposable income to start putting away money for the girls' retirements each year; alas, we have trouble enough getting the money to put away toward our own retirements and the girls' college educations.