Sunday, December 30, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Saturday, September 01, 2007
"According to her letters, Mother Teresa died with her doubts. She had even stopped praying, she once said."
Friday, August 31, 2007
Their first experiment was published in 1989. To test the hypothesis that recognition of mortality evokes "worldview defense"--their term for the range of emotions, from intolerance to religi- osity to a preference for law and order, that they believe thoughts of death can trigger--they assembled 22 Tucson municipal court judges. They told the judges they wanted to test the relationship between personality traits and bail decisions, but, for one group, they inserted in the middle of the personality questionnaire two exercises meant to evoke awareness of their mortality. One asked the judges to "briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you"; the other required them to "jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you physically as you die and once you are physically dead." They then asked the judges to set bail in the hypothetical case of a prostitute whom the prosecutor claimed was a flight risk. The judges who did the mortality exercises set an average bail of $455. The control group that did not do the exercises set it at an average of $50. The psychologists knew they were onto something.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I’ve seen Clutch live twice before last night; both times in Charleston in a little club, jam-packed with sweaty people, all enjoying the hell out of the show, but nothing really memorable has happened at either show. Last night’s performance in
Before going in, one bum, sitting awkwardly against a tree between the line to get into the club and the street asked everyone who passed by for change. No big deal. Nothing odd about that at all, really. Then another bum got in line and began chatting up the guys a few people back from us. The most memorable lines:
“You know what the worst thing about waking up today was?”
“Um, no?” replied the hesitant, but curious and slightly amused music geek.
“Waking up in jail.” Accompanied by a long exhalation of fetid breath.
“Um, yeah. That sucks,” replied the now edging away from the bum and no longer slightly amused music geek.
Once inside, things were pretty cool. The place was huge, the drinks weren’t too terribly expensive (for a concert night), and the band souvenirs were moderately priced (20 bucks for a t-shirt is much better than the 40 bucks Tool wanted a few weeks ago). I ran into a former student, and current friend (although I haven’t heard from him in probably a year). We chatted about comics for a bit and then my girlfriend and I got some drinks and went to check out the first opening band.
Backyard Tire Fire was their name, and at first they seemed pretty cool. However, after a song or two it became obvious that they really weren’t that cool. It was southern flavored “blues-rock” from central
Anyway, once they were finished, girlfriend and I went back into the bar portion of the club where it was cooler, with good air flow and lots of room. That was when we saw the cute midget girl. Although to be honest, we’d seen her earlier, but it had just been a glimpse as she made her way through the crowd past us. I thought that surely someone hadn’t brought their kid with them, but you could get in if you were under 18 if your parents took you, so you never know.
But it wasn’t a child; it was a cute midget girl with a lot of tattoos. She seemed cool and was hanging around with some friends, so I continued to watch the fans wander back in forth around us. There was a predominantly overweight, bearded, and ponytailed contingent that made up the majority of Clutch fans (from my experience, anyway). Since I’m also bearded, ponytailed, and working on a nice gut, I felt at home and considered getting a group together to discuss hair care and how to keep our ponytails from tangling. Because I was amusing myself with thoughts of asking guys what conditioners they used, I missed the cute, tattooed midget wrapping herself around a guy’s leg and humping it to great comedic effect.
But I did see a guy with the tiny, birth-defect arm, so I didn’t miss out on all the cool stuff between acts.
The second act, we didn’t even go back in to watch, since it was really hot in there and we could hear them just fine from where we were. They are called Year Long Disaster and I saw them open for Clutch last year in
Then it was time for Clutch. We grabbed another couple of beers and situated ourselves near the soundboard, where we figured there wouldn’t be much traffic, but we were so wrong as to defy belief. People bumped their ways by us through the whole show, which was really annoying at first, but then I decided to just try to change my attitude and enjoy it as part of what makes a Clutch show a Clutch show (if that makes any sense). It was kind of communal in that way, as even though people were squeezing past us, the vast majority of them were polite, excusing themselves with at most a pat on the shoulder to let you know they were passing. (There were a couple of people who just kind of charged though, but they were pretty large and you could see them coming and get out of their way – until they came back from behind us, anyway.) However, I must admit, I was glad the preppie, fratboy guy in front of me (with his sunglasses up on top of his head, no less), kept his distance.
Simply put, Clutch kicked ass. It was the best show I’ve seen them put on. The set list was like a greatest hits compilation, and they played “Shogun Named Marcus”, “El Jefe Speaks”, “Animal Farm”, "The House That Peterbilt", “Easy Breeze”, “Hoodoo Operator”, “Rats”, “Burning Beard”, "(In the Wake of) The Swollen Goat", "Red Horse Rainbow", "Gravel Road", “You Can’t Stop Progress/Power Player”, “The Devil & Me”, “Child of the City”, “Black Umbrella”, and “Electric Worry/One Eyed Dollar” (I’m probably missing others, too). It was during “Electric Worry” that the show went from being just a great show to one that would burn itself into my memory for, I’m sure, years to come.
As the song was getting going, I felt a hand on my back. This was nothing unusual, as I’d mentioned, except for that fact that it lingered for a moment. Then it touched my ponytail. Thinking “what the hell?” to myself, I looked around to see no one there. Then I looked down (and no, it wasn’t the midget), and saw a thin girl with a lot of long blond hair, bent double. She then straightened up, flinging her hair up and around in pure stripper mode. She was drunker than anyone I’d seen drunk in a looooong time and dancing like she was ready to mount whoever got in her way. It was the kind of drunk where she was probably going to wake up the next morning in a bathtub wondering why she was covered in semen.
She used my arm as a stripper pole a couple of times, much to the amusement of a guy who looked just like Matt Pinfield. He had the biggest grin I’d ever seen. This was probably his best show ever, too. When I wasn’t interested in dancing with her, she shifted around to “Matt”, thrashing him with her hair before spinning around and rubbing her ass against him. Without question, it was now his best show ever.
I tried to enjoy the show, but kept stealing glances to see what was going on next. After a few moments with “Matt”, she moved around to give some attention to a tall, lean, music-nerd looking guy. He seemed friendly and reminded me of a guy I went to school with and haven’t heard from in years. He also got the butt-rub, lapdance routine, and seemed not to know what to do. It was kind of funny, and Matt was laughing mightily.
The next time I glanced around, she had fixed her eyes on someone behind me, and slowly slid her shirt up to reveal her titties. Mine are bigger. Most of the guys at the show had bigger boobs, to be honest, but beggars can’t be choosers, and all that. My girlfriend missed the titties, which I think makes up for me missing the midget girl leg-humping. I tried to get a little more distance between us then, because usually once the titties come out, vomiting is sure to follow.
The next time I glanced around, she was gone. “Matt Pinfield” and Music-Nerd were laughing together and “Matt” did a disturbing reenactment of the ass rub lapdance moves on Music-Nerd. He also seemed disturbed. But “Matt” kept laughing. It was, of course, the best show he’d ever seen. Turns out, according to Music-Nerd, drunk girl had bent over to do another of her dazzling hair flips and bashed her skull against the metal railing (where “Matt” and MN were leaning). She looked like she was going to pass out and stumbled off through the crowd, probably to go throw up somewhere.
Then, on the other side of the room, I saw a light. There was a guy standing on the bar holding a bottle with flames leaping out. My first thought was “Molotov cocktail! Oh shit!”, but then he started motioning like he was about to do something amazing. And then he breathed fire out over the heads of the crowd (most of whom, I’m sure, had no idea he was there or about to spew flames over their ponytails). He followed the first burst of flame with another quick blast and then jumped back down behind the bar. I’m pretty sure that the entire bottle was engulfed in flames at that point, but there were no shrieking “I’m on fire” noises from the bar, so I guess he was ok. My girlfriend missed this too, not being able to interpret my “Look over there! Fire!!” gestures.
Also, at some point earlier, a woman who was somewhere between 50 and 60, along with her mom, passed us from the depths of the crowd. They were both dressed as if they were going to the mall on Sunday afternoon. I don’t know if the heat just got the old lady, or if she’d been kicked or landed on by a crowd surfer. Regardless, the younger old woman helped her out and then moments later was back cutting through the crowd to get back into the throng.
The show ended with Clutch coming out for an encore and playing “Big News I & II” (!!!) with an extended jam in the middle. After bobbing around in the sea of bodies for almost two hours, we were drenched in sweat (most of it not our own) as if we’d been dipped in actual waters. Oddly enough, none of the people around us were especially smelly, with most of them actually smelling of perfume or soap! Amazing! It really was the best show I’ve ever been to. Not only was the band in prime form, playing most of my favorite songs from their entire catalog, but the overall experience was one I’ll never forget. Our ears were so cottony and ringy after the show we could barely hear a different bum ask for change as we left around 12:30. And all for only 20 bucks per ticket.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
TOKYO -- Action icon Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba announced his retirement from action thesping under his Japanese stage name at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, citing his age, 68, and physical decline. He also said that he intends to teach at his alma mater, Nippon Sport Science University, and launch his own acting school in Japan.
July 17, 2007 -- IT was fight night at an L.A. comedy club last week when Jon Lovitz roughed up Andy Dick over the murder of their "Saturday Night Live" colleague, Phil Hartman.
Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, who witnessed the assault, said, "Jon picked Andy up by the head and smashed him into the bar four or five times, and blood started pouring out of his nose." Lovitz told Page Six, "All the comedians are glad I did it because this guy is a [bleep]hole."
Saturday, July 14, 2007
It started about midnight on June 16 when a group of friends was finishing a dinner of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp on the back patio of a District of Columbia home. That's when a hooded man slid through an open gate and pointed a handgun at the head of a 14-year-old girl.
"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he said, according to D.C. police and witnesses.
Everyone froze, including the girl's parents. Then one guest spoke.
"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, told the man. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"
The intruder had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupery and said, "Damn, that's good wine."
The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, told the intruder to take the whole glass, and Rowan offered him the whole bottle.
The robber, with his hood down, took another sip and a bite of Camembert cheese. He put the gun in his sweatpants.
The story then turns even more bizarre.
"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said before apologizing. "Can I get a hug?"
Rowan, who works at her children's school and lives in Falls Church, Va., stood up and wrapped her arms around the armed man. The four other guests followed.
"Can we have a group hug?" the man asked. The five adults complied.
The man walked away a few moments later with the crystal wine glass in hand. Nothing was stolen, and no one was hurt.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
1. Countdown 45: Worst of the week (that I purchased, anyway). No mention of Mary Marvel. No mention of the Rogues (who, apparently, had a big day over in Flash, making Piper's and Trickster's conversation a couple of weeks ago about their respective motivations fairly tragic). And the Jimmy Olson storyline just spins its wheels, with no advancement at all.
This week's issue is focused on establishing the character of Forerunner and she's not all that. Holly gets a page and Karate Kid gets two, and neither really amount to much (although at least Holly's has a pretty obvious mystery guest). Oh, and in the very last panel of the story, there's another mystery character who's interested in Forerunner. I wish I was.
The art is serviceable, but very weak overall, especially with faces and expressions. Those scenes with Donna Troy grabbing a machine gun were not very good at all. And I have no idea what she's deflecting with her bracelets. This was, overall, another big letdown issue. Not quite as bad as the second issue, but nearly so.
2. Ex Machina 29: I can't decide if this title is just getting dull or if I'm just getting tired of it. Nothing much ever seems to happen, or at least nothing that happens ever seems to lead to anything. And it takes its sweet time getting there, at that. Essentially, this whole "Power Down" arc has been so the mystery character (from the future? an alternate timeline? who knows?) can tell Hundred that something bad is coming. As much as I like this book overall, it's on the verge of being dropped.
3. From here on out it's all good, though. Iron Man 19 crosses over with World War Hulk and gets a guest writer, Christos Gage, in the bargain. While a lot of the book is looking at the events in WWH from Iron Man's perspective, there's a bit more going on, as well. The characterizations are sharp and believable, making me wish this quality of writing had been going on during Civil War. Butch Guice's art is solid and dynamic as always, and is given a very distinctive punch with the coloring of Dean White. I don't know if it's painted or computer effects, but I like it. It gives the book a very distinct and classy look.
I'm really looking forward to more of this story.
4. Next comes The Incredible Hulk 107. Again, there's some rehash of WWH 1, but only a little, as it tends to leak in from the edges of the scenes we're reading here. I've only read Hulk consistently two times in my life. Back when Bruce Jones was writing (before he dragged the story on for too long and began mischaracterizing characters with no explanation -- Crusher Creel, I'm looking at you!), and now, since Greg Pak has been writing. This is good, violent, compelling, and dramatic work. It only gets better with the art of Gary Frank thrown into the mix.
Story-wise, the main focus is on the supporting cast (with Hercules getting the best moments and the best lines -- I'd pay for a Pak written Hercules series, for sure) as sides are chosen. The question is, though, does Hulk need or even want anybody else's help in this situation? Good stuff.
5. Captain America 27 keeps chugging forward as The Winter Soldier (Bucky to you old-schoolers out there), keeps chugging forward with his plan to respect Cap's memory by killing Tony Stark (Iron Man). There doesn't seem to be a lot happening, for some reason, when actually quite a bit of storytelling and character work is going on. Sharon takes the gun from her mouth and puts on her (very Emma Peel) work clothes, Falcon doesn't do much but enable her, and we find out that Bucky had a fling with Black Widow when she was in training and he was a brainwashed Russian killing machine. Interesting narrative threads keep getting developed, as they do every month in this title, and I'm in no hurry for Steve Rogers to be resurrected.
The art was much more consistent this issue, and I can't tell when Epting and Perkins switch anymore. Maybe my eye just isn't that good or maybe they're starting to morph into each other. I don't know. Either way, it was good and very clearly and dramatically told the story.
6. Best of the week, this week, however, is the launch of another mini-event. Annihilation - Conquest: Prologue, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Mike Perkins, is firing on all cylinders right out of the gate. By staying focused on two main storylines, the story gets a major thrust and serves as almost perfect motivation to pick up the three minis (and crossover into Nova) that spin out of this event -- not to mention the actual Annihilation - Conquest mini that follows those.
I wasn't sure if they'd be able to really establish a threat big enough to warrant another Annihilation event, but I must say, the set-up here is a good one. The Kree are good and fucked. By setting up a barrier to Kree space and dealing with the characters trapped inside during the invasion, we get a nice contrast to the constantly expanding threat of the first series. Of course, invasion is a bit inaccurate. Like the title says, this is a conquest. It's short and sweet, and a bit predictable as a plot point, but well executed in the narrative. The bio-mechanical nature of the Big Bad makes for some very creepy visuals and each of the characters has a very nice set-up to lead in to their respective minis.
I'm just curious to see how they incorporate Rocket Raccoon and the Micronauts' Bug.
Overall, this was good large-scale sci-fi action adventure and hopefully will continue to pay off in the months to come.
In other comics reading news, this week I picked up trades 1 and 2 of The Goon, both of which were very entertaining, if kind of light on content. Like the Hellboy comics, there was a lot of good action, clever characters and situations, and very entertaining humor. But it didn't leave much of an impact on me, just like the Hellboy comics. Maybe I'm just not invested in the characters enough. It was good on just about every level, especially visually, as Eric Powell has a fantastic eye and realization of his ideas.
I also read Ian Edginton's and D'Isreli's new sequel to Scarlet Traces (which I loved!!): Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. This also serves as a sequel to their ST prequel, an adaptation of War of the Worlds (upon which the Scarlet Traces books are based). While this story is nicely realized and well written, something feels a bit off about it. It's as if the limitations inherent in the narrative world, effect the pacing of the story itself, if that makes any sense. The England of the last story and this one, is an England that has used the Martian tech to become the dominant world power and to engage the Martians by bring the war to Mars.
There are a lot of good ideas tossed into this story. The paranoia and government clampdown on civil liberties effectively mirrors our contemporary situation and the characters are all well done (and a hero from the previous story makes a welcome return), but there's a lot that doesn't work very well for me. The casual beating to death of the gay newspaper publisher (who saved our returning hero from a life of alcoholic homelessness) was a bit of a shock. He was a good character who seemed to just get tossed aside when his plot purpose was resolved.
The main character's transport to, arrival on, and subsequent discovery on Mars were all handled rather quickly (which may have more to do with the original publication format and schedule). The resolution, with the removal of the corrupt, totalitarian government and the new golden age of England beginning, also seemed like more of an afterthought than real plot developments. I was also a bit disturbed by the revelation (in the actual plot of the story) of the fact that the evil Prim Minister and his hateful, condescending ally turn out to be entirely justified in their war on Mars. They were only doing what was necessary to preserve England and, by extension, Earth. Luckily the Martians obliterated them, giving them their just rewards after they saved Earth with their evil schemes. Of course, the new England is a brighter, more enlightened place, after the war.
I don't really know what to make of that. I'm all for muddying the morality waters in the telling of tales, but I'm not sure about the revelation that the Evil bad guys of the previous story were actually doing the right thing all along. Just a little too vigorously, maybe?
Anyway, it's not as good a read as the previous installments, but still a nice chapter in the ongoing reinterpretation of H.G. Wells' original story. There were a few interesting moments regarding the original inhabitants of Mars, with Edger Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury visual nods. Unfortunately, they are only mentioned in passing. Just like most of the actual story here.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
It is approximately 3:40 in the morning and I'm sitting up tinkering with my new phone, reading a super cool book, and getting things ready to burn to DVD. Anne is asleep.
ALL FOUR CATS ARE WITH ME IN MY TINY, CRAMPED OFFICE, SLEEPING WITHIN FOUR FEET OF ME.
Who says cats are independent? Not if you cripple them emotionally while they're young, I say.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Best TV: I've been catching up on a lot of older tv lately, as there's pretty much nothing on the tube. That said, of the shows that actually premiered this week, I checked out Studio 60 and the new HBO series by the creator of Deadwood, John From Cincinnati. Studio 60 isn't bad. In fact, it's pretty good, especially given the fact that they seem to know that they weren't renewed, and now are going to really mess with all of the characters. John From Cincinnati was very interesting, what with all the levitating and the raising birds from the dead and whatnot. I'm intrigued and will keep watching.
As for old tv on DVD, this week I watched the first season of Big Train (6 episodes) and really enjoyed it. It was good and funny, without being too mean-spirited. It was no Jam, which had nearly the exact same cast (minus Simon Pegg), though. It was good comedy that anyone could enjoy. Unlike Jam, which was mean and twisted and apparently only I, among my friends, love. Oh well. You can't have everything.
But best of the week goes to Doctor Who, yet again. You know, I thought the last two weeks were the best the show has been able to produce. But this week was a very good one as well, definiitely keeping up the energy as we head into the home stretch of the season. Not only was it really good without actually having the Doctor in the episode (for the most part), but those weeping angel statues were creepy as hell. Good, old school Doctor Who monsters to make the kiddies hide and have nightmares.
And next week Derek Jacobi is the guest star! I get giddy just thinking about it.
Best Book: By default, this category is topped by Charles Stross' Accelerando, since that's the only thing I've read this week. But it was good. I must admit, however, that I was a little disappointed with the ending. Again, as with Vinge's Rainbows End, I kind of felt that the end was less about drawing things to a conclusion than it was about laying groundwork for future stories in this world.
That said, it was an excellent piece of work, creating a future world that was believable and accessible, and was at the same time fresh, new, and exciting. It makes me wonder just what Stross is capable of if he sets his mind to it. Were the adventures of the characters who went exploring just not the story he wanted to tell at this time, or was he unable to come up with something even more imaginative than what he already had laid out? That wouldn't be a crime, really, since this was fantastic in the level of technological (and legal) speculative detail. I look forward to reading more by this author, and hopefully, more about these characters.
I've started a new book this week that is a lot of fun, but I'll wait until next time to talk about it.
Best Music: Checked out the new White Stripes CD and think I'll probably buy it. I don't think I like it as much as their previous work, but it's still damn good.
Also checked out Timbaland's new one and didn't like it so much. No real criticisms other than it's just not my speed.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
"The researchers suggest applications such as a vibrator in a wrist receiver/transmitter that could tell an implant placed near a bone to release a drug dose, with the implant then sending back data from its sensors. Similarly, tooth clacks or finger clicks could be interpreted by a receiver to activate, say, functions in a phone.
For Liebschner, the great benefit is security. "All data transfer is contained inside the human body, and it can only be retrieved through direct physical contact," he says. People could even swap information between devices via a firm handshake, Zhong suggests."
I'll start the week off with the books that have the least to do with the MU overall. Spoilers ahoy!
Blade #10: Another solid issue of a comic already slated to get the axe. It's really too bad that this book didn't get the readers it needed to keep it going, as this is one of the best presentations of the character to ever be put on the page. I worried initially that inserting Blade fully into the Marvel Universe would hurt the character and limit the stories, since I've really enjoyed the character in the films (the first Blade film is a fantastic action film, and no matter what people say, the second film (directed by Guillermo del Toro) has a lot of good stuff going on and proves to be my favorite when watching it again -- but the less said about Blade Trinity, the better. I will say this, though: what a steaming turd that film was. The Blade TV series was very good (after a weak 2 hour pilot, it began really kicking up the action, intrigue, and overall depth of character -- it is a sin that it was canceled.). But I was wrong. This is good stuff and the parallel narratives of Blade as a youth and Blade today work really well. Chaykin's art is superb (aside from the occasional glitch here and there) and the story overall is engrossing and well played. Especially considering that each issue is pretty much a done-in-one story. There are threads that carry on throughout each issue, building toward the whole "Blade is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy" story (which, while sounding cliche, is nicely done here).
This issue is a little quiet as we gear up for the series finale in a couple of months. Issue 12 is the end, so only 2 more to go.
Punisher: War Journal #8: I'll give Matt Fraction this. Even though I still don't know what to think about the "Frank as Captain America" visuals that are part of this storyline, I'm still on board with the story. And this is the first of those "Being a Marvel Fan is Starting to Pay Off" elements I was mentioning earlier.
Captain America is dead. He was gunned down on his way to court after surrendering to the authorities. He had been leading a rebellion of superheroes who felt that they didn't need to register themselves with the government to do their jobs. The American government and the American people felt otherwise, and after seeing the damage the physical fight was doing to his country, Cap surrendered, to make his stand in the court of law. But then the Red Skull killed him.
During the Civil War, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, returned to the mainstream Marvel Universe, showing up in time to save Spider-man's life and join the anti-registration heroes. Cap wasn't sure about letting Frank in, since Frank is a bat-shit insane killer, but he said okay. And then Frank killed some badguys and Cap went apeshit, beating Frank down. You see, Frank wouldn't fight back against Cap. His respect for Cap was so great that he took his beating and went on his way. The idea was posed that Frank was just a contemporary version of Captain America in a way, with Cap being the World War Two super soldier, and Frank being the result of Vietnam. It's an interesting idea and writer Matt Fraction has been playing with it.
This issue continues the adventures of Frank vs. American Neo-Nazis led by the new Hate Monger (and old Cap villain), and we see the creation of the combo Punisher/Captain America costume that Frank came up with. It's still a horrible image, packed with over-the-top symbols and lots and lots of guns and knives, but I feel a little better knowing that this, in the context of the story, is Frank's idea of a superhero suit that pays tribute to Captain America. It's kind of funny like that, actually.
The story itself is nicely organized and moves along at a good pace. The artwork is beautiful, as always. And there's something interesting going on here with Frank. So far, we haven't really seen him do anything. It's all been a big build-up as we jump back and forth between Frank (in "disguise") joining up with the Neo-Nazis, and being tied to a post in his "Captain America" costume and being tortured before his planned murder. But in a way, nothing has really happened involving Frank.
It's good, but it's probably going to read better all at once, instead of in the monthly format. Oh well.
Sub Mariner #1: This is the first of a six issue mini-series and I'm not sure about the art, but the story, I like. Although I must admit, it was the two-page spread of a devastated Atlantis and then the full page shot of a skeleton in Namor's clothing chained to the throne, that really made me want to give this book a shot.
So far, so good. I'll give the next issue a try, too, and see if it can maintain the energy that this first issue created. It also ties in with the current state of the MU, in that Namor has a number of (12, actually) sleeper cells of Atlantean agents living in the US. During the Civil War, Tony Stark orchestrated an attack on a group of Atlanteans (?), provoking a very tense time between the nations in order to help garner public support for the idea of a registered army of superheroes ready to stand up to just that kind of threat. Stark has been taken to task for being a little bit evil for doing this, but I don't remember anyone asking why that Atlantean group was stockpiling weapons. Maybe I've just forgotten the reasoning for that. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Namor's cousin was killed in the event that triggered the Civil War.
Anyway, there's been a major attack on American soil, and it looks a lot like the Stamford blast (that set off the Civil War). But this time, there's evidence that Atlanteans were directly involved (a mystery 13th cell). Stark confronts Namor (and there's the added tension, if you're a Marvel zombie, of the fact that these two guys have been part of a secret cabal working behind the scenes in the MU for (in-narrative) years), and Namor swears to find out what's going on.
It's well paced and I like it. The art, while calling to mind Barry Windsor-Smith at times, isn't as tight as I'd prefer. There are a lot of long noses and small eyes, but there's also a lot of nice line-work by the artist, Phil Briones, so I wont pass judgment yet. It's pretty good so far. That goes for the book overall, too.
Nova #3: This is getting really good. So long as you're not looking for escapist superhero action to make you feel better about the world you live in. In this issue, Nova (Richard Ryder) makes his choice. He's returned home after surviving and WINNING a war in space that makes the recent events in the MU look like childish bickering (which, in a way, it has been), and he's no longer the happy-go-lucky Spider-man clone the character was originally intended to be. He's a war veteran and the last survivor of the entire Nova Corps (a galactic police force similar to the Green Lanterns of the DCU). Not only that, but he's got the entire history and knowledge of the Corps in his head as a sentient (sort of) AI that could very well burn out his brain. He's been running back and forth across the galaxy, responding to distress calls and is back on Earth for a rest. He missed the whole Civil War (thanks to his own "real" war) and now has to deal with the aftermath.
You see, he used to be on the team of superheroes, the New Warriors, who were at the core of the trigger event that started the Civil War. His teammates (including Namor's cousin, Namorita) had become reality tv "stars" and it was in the process of filming their show (where they travel around capturing super villains) that they stumbled across some baddies who were a little too much for them. One of whom, a guy named Nitro, who could blow shit up real good (and is now in an Atlantean prison and seen in Sub Mariner #1 --see what I mean about the threads?), blew up, killing hundreds of people and most of the New Warriors, too.
The only other survivor (besides Nitro) was Nova's teammate Speedball (another happy-go-lucky sort before all of this began), who has now assumed a new identity: Penance. His costume is designed to hurt him with lots of internal spikes, which also trigger his power. Needless to say, he's a bit of a nutter now, and thinks that he's somehow atoning for the deaths in Stamford. He's also now part of a team of villains, hired by the US Government to hunt down non-registered heroes (Thunderbolts, written by Warren Ellis, and lots and lots of dark fun).
And did I mention the fact that Nova's parents are losing their shit after not knowing that he'd been off fighting a war in space and assuming that he was dead? They've also been a bit traumatized by the whole Stamford incident, since Nova had been a part of that team.
Anyway, the final shot of Nova looking down on the Earth before heading off take part in the next minor event in the MU, Annihilation 2 (a new cosmic threat is developing), is gorgeous. These last couple of issues have been focused on clearing up his ties to the recent events in the MU and setting him up for less "cluttered" narratives. He's off to confront trouble in space, and if the new Annihilation mini-series is half as good as the first one, there should be a few good months ahead for this comic.
New Avengers #31: Okay, now here's the biggie of the week. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the issue as a whole. It's pretty much the same, quality-wise, as the last few issues, with interesting and energetic art (that's a little hard to follow at times), and a story that is so-so (since we've already been dealing with Elektra and The Hand in a previous storyline and now we've been dealing with them again for months). All in all, a fairly average book. Until the end, that is.
You see, the New Avengers are on the run from the American government. They refused to register and so are the "underground" version of The Avengers. Stark is running the "official" Avengers over in The Mighty Avengers series, and it's a big, action-packed slam-bang powerhouse of a comic. Really, with giant monsters and everything. The New Avengers are more covert and are now supposed to be about dealing with more subversive threats (???). This means that plot threads that have been dangling for almost 3 years now are about to start being addressed. And they're pretty big ones, at that.
The Hand (ninjas, baby, ninjas!) are apparently connected with a corrupt branch of SHIELD (Tony Stark/Iron Man is now the head of SHIELD, after the Civil War, partially in order to investigate the corruption, but also in order to head the superhero army he's been building), and now comes the new revelation at the end of this issue. The Elektra that's been running the Hand appears to have been a Skrull.
There's a Skrull conspiracy a play and it involves SHIELD and the Japanese criminal underworld. It has recently been retconned that the Skrulls have been planning some sort of revenge for years (since the end of the Kree/Skrull war, when the Illuminati (the behind the scenes guys mentioned earlier, Stark, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange, Namor, Black Bolt, and Professor X) paid a threatening visit to the Skrulls in the first issue of Avengers: Illuminati). This was orchestrated by writer Brian Michael Bendis, who also writes New and Mighty Avengers and was instrumental in the formation of the plot of Civil War.
It should also be noted that the Kree homeworld was where the most distress signals were from at the end of this month's Nova, discussed above, and at the end of the first Annihilation series their Empire was pretty much fucked. What role have the Skrulls played in the Civil War, if any? My own thoughts are that they've not had much, if any, hand in it, but have been using the paranoia and hero-on-hero action to hide their actions. But what are they up to? I'm very interested in seeing where this leads and finding out how it effects the rest of the MU.
World War Hulk #1: Remember the Illuminati I mentioned earlier? Another of their big ideas was to find a planet far away from ours, with abundant food sources and good weather, and then trick the Hulk into a ship that they could then launch, getting him off the Earth for good, thereby making the world a better, safer place. You see, part of the re-envisioning of the MU that happened with the start of the Civil War, was the idea that sometimes there is collateral damage when superheroes are tearing down buildings and blowing up lots of this while fighting villains. The Hulk, in particular, has been responsible for the deaths of innocents.
Now this is a retcon that many fans don't like. It seriously damages the escapist quality of the MU, since, if innocent people die accidentally it makes the thrill of reading about the exploits of massive property damage inducing battles against evil a guilt-ridden experience. It's somehow okay for whole city blocks to be destroyed as long as no people get hurt in the narrative. That way we can have our cake (massive violent destruction) and eat it, too (no repercussions). Things have changed.
Hulk, although he as in possession of Banner's mind (for the most part) lately and was actually helping out SHIELD when he was betrayed by the Illuminati, has been deemed a threat too dangerous to allow to run free. You never know when something's going to happen (like a stray gamma bomb) that will set him off and he's going to destroy a lot of property and possibly (now) kill some people accidentally.
So the ship he was in went off-course (of course) and he ended up on the wrong planet. A planet that wasn't a paradise, but instead was ruled by a power hungry dictator, and Hulk was captured and made to take part in gladiatorial games. Of course, being the Hulk, he kicked everyone's ass and ended up a folk hero and possible prophecy fulfiller. He led a rebellion, won the planet's freedom, the love of a bad-ass woman who was going to breed with him, and was made king of the planet.
Then something happened with the ship he arrived in, the warp coil was damaged, and it exploded, killing millions of people, including the Hulk's wife and unborn child. Now the Hulk has decided that the ones who sent him into space are the ones responsible for the explosion. Now he's back, with a giant space ship, and is ready to kick everybody's ass.
And that's what this comic is, in a nutshell (okay, that could have been shorter). Greg Pak is writing it and doesn't miss a beat from his previous Hulk adventures (Planet Hulk, it's called, by the way). John Romita Jr. is on board for the art and does an excellent job, not only with the character moments, but also with the set-piece action sequences. This comic, the first in a 5 part series, with a number of cross-overs and accompanying minis, doesn't try to elaborate a meaningful political metaphor or do anything too intellectual. Hulk is here to chew bubblegum and kick some ass. And he's all out of bubblegum.
Heh, I love that line.
Anyway, this is good, very satisfying stuff. Anyone who's been waiting for Stark to get his comeuppance for the whole Civil War thing, should enjoy this. Black Bolt and Iron Man both get their asses handed to them this issue, and that's half of the Illuminati who sent him off into space, right there.
Countdown #46: And now, the only DC title purchased this week. But at least it was a good one. This series is six issues old now, and if it were a monthly I'd have dropped it a long time ago. However, it's a weekly and I'm glad I hung on. This is, without a doubt, the best issue so far. There is advancement both in character and in the overall storyline. Another Fourth World character bites the dust, to the intriguing words, "So begins the end." Holly, from last week, crosses paths with Jimmy. Jason Todd and Donna Troy encounter the Monitors' newest weapon, a character called Forerunner. And even though I know nothing at all about her, she's pretty cool. And the Rogues storyline fully embraces its inner Tarantino, letting the characters reveal themselves in dialogue instead of action (although there's some action to be had). Looks like their big plan gets underway next issue, for those readers complaining that nothing is happening with them.
Best of all, though is the Mary Marvel storyline. She confronts her first challenge as a re-powered hero, and it's a good one. Think Demon in a dead baby suit. He hurls piles of fetuses at her, for fuck's sake. That alone would put this book at the top of the pile this week.
I can see how, if I gave a shit about the rest of the DCU this title could become something of an addiction, since it gives glimpses into lots of other happenings in DC titles at the moment. However, it isn't necessary to read those other books to follow what's going on here (thank goodness). If Countdown can maintain the level of quality that this issue reached, this could be something special.
And did I mention the art? Praise Jesus! Jesus Saiz does a very good job on pencils, with a lot of very nicely structured scenes and a nice touch on the details of facial expressions and backgrounds. And hey, the Monitors have different haircuts and facial hair! Jimmy Palmiotti, on inks, does a pretty good job, but loses some of the detail here and there, making some panels look a little awkward, especially where eyes are concerned. But it's not enough to really complain about.
The back-up feature continues to move along, providing a nice breakdown of the history of the DC multiverse that was destroyed with the Crisis on Infinite Earths oh so many years ago. Would it be so hard to put in some reference footnotes telling the reader where these old adventures took place, or at least where they can be read in trade paperback format?
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
"The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.
Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension."
Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s: The Man in the High Castle / The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Ubik
Library of America has released this collection, and I am glad. It's another step toward respectability and moving science fiction from its literary ghetto.
It probably doesn't really mean anything, but it's nice, just the same.
Monday, June 11, 2007
"Titan's crust is thought to be made largely of water ice, kept rock hard by the prevailing surface temperature of -178° Celsius. But theoretical models of the moon's interior suggest that ammonia-rich water deep beneath the surface could stay liquid, perhaps forming a global ocean."
If that's not the first date of a full-fledged tour, I'm gonna be sorely disappointed.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
"The results, Ben-Jacob says, set the stage for the creation of a neuromemory chip that could be paired with computer hardware to create cyborglike machines capable of such tasks as detecting dangerous toxins in the air, allowing the blind to see or helping someone who is paralyzed regain some if not all muscle use."
"A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting."
Friday, June 08, 2007
"Tonegawa, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a frequent world traveler, described his own occasional experience of finding the airport in a new city uncannily familiar. This occurs, he said, because of the similarity of the modules--gates, chairs, ticket counters--that comprise airports worldwide. It is only by seeking out unique cues that the specific airport can be identified, he said. "In this study, we have revealed that learning in the dentate gyrus is crucial in rapidly recognizing and amplifying the small differences that make each place unique," Tonegawa said."
The print is exquisite. I've seen the European import version and this tops it for clarity and vividness of color (the skies are pure blue and the blood is a shocking red). And there are no annoying fuzzed-out boxes covering the exposed genitalia like in the Japanese import. It's quite simply a gorgeous film, filled with image after image that I wish I could lay claim to as my own. The film is one continuous series of symbols and metaphors for the spiritual quest for transcendence. Everyone should see this, especially if one has a love of the more experimental westerns to come out of Italy in the mid to late sixties. This isn't Italian, but it really does take the tropes to come from those films (I'm thinking Django, and Django Kill -- If It Lives, Shoot!, especially) to a whole new level. It's brilliant and beautiful. If you like this, you should also try out some of his comics (Jodorowsky has written a number of fantastic comics, many of which are available in English translations. My personal favorites are Metabarons, Son of the Gun, and White Lama). They cover a wide variety of genres but all have a distinctly Jodorowsky-an exploration of spirituality, mysticism, and violence.
Best TV: Death Note continues to be excellent. I've finished the first season (which apparently corresponds to the first 6 volumes of the 12 volume manga series) and it ended with a pretty extreme shift to the status quo of the series. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but I wasn't expecting it to end the way it did, that's for sure. That's a plus in my book, so good on 'em. The first few episodes of season 2 have been interesting, again, taking the series in a different direction from where it started, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I miss Ryuk, though. He hasn't been seen since a few episode before season 1 wrapped, and I worry about the big lug. Hopefully I'll get to watch the next 7 episodes over the next week or so.
Anyway, this week's Doctor Who ("Family of Blood" - the second part to last week's outstanding "Human Nature") was unquestionably the best thing on the tube (or the "tubes" as I have to download it to watch). I'm not too proud to say that even without alcoholic enhancement, this episode brought a tear to my eye. It was that good. Great character work continued this week, and what the Doctor did to the baddies was brilliantly personalized and devastating. The Doctor is a bad-ass, no question about it.
Best Book: Notice the change in category? That's because I shifted the comics talk to its own entry this week. I haven't done a lot of reading outside of comics this time around, but I'm now about to begin the third and final part of Charles Stross' Accelerando. It's still holding up to be as good as I said it was last week (although the latest section I read wasn't as absorbing as what's come before. This could be the story itself, or the fact that I've been reading it in 5 and 10 minute installments during my breaks at work. Hmmmm. Probably the latter.), but there's still a ways to go. Hopefully I'll have it finished by next week.
Best Music: I'm giving three things a listen this week. The new Queens of the Stone Age CD Era Vulgaris, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, and Klaxons' Myth of the Near Future.
My impressions so far: QOTSA - not bad, but nothing really stands out as more than superficially interesting, although I dig the single "Sick Sick Sick" for some reason. It's more experimental than the rest of the album, maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. Something about the overall project just doesn't click with me. Just like their last CD. I really want to like this, and the band as a whole, but in the end, I'm just kind of indifferent to them. Don't dislike them, but they just don't make any impression at all on me.
Amy Winehouse -- What fucking year is it? Heh heh. Sorry about that. That was Mike Patton's response during a video interview at Lallapalooza last year when he suddenly heard Wolfmother playing. Still makes me laugh. But seriously, what fucking year is it? For retro cool it scores full marks. For embracing pure hedonism the CD also scores highly. But in the end it just seems like a novelty act. It reminds me most of The Squirrel Nut Zippers. I loved them when I first heard them, but after a while the experience of listening to them just became an empty one. I still enjoy them if a song shows up randomly on my MP3 player, but I've reached a point in my listening tastes where if I want to listen to retro music, it's easy enough to track down original work instead of contemporary bands copping classic styles. That said, this isn't bad. I just don't ever imagine being in the mood to listen to it. Maybe some songs will end up in a mix.
Klaxons -- I know, I mentioned them last week, but I'm still listening to them and really enjoying it. Although I will admit that they're not for everyone. They may be a little too light for some people, but to me, the light poppy elements are usually offset with a noisy undercurrent and lyrical references to subjects as varied as William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pyncheon. That and it just makes me happy listening to them. There are a few moments where I'm also reminded of the peak moments of Prince Charming-era Adam and the Ants. Yes, I have a weakness for that kind of stuff right alongside my fondness for classic metal, classic punk, and almost anything off of the Ipecac label. Go figure.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Dark Tower plods along, but is very very nice to look at. If I gave a crap about the Stephen King books, this might be more interesting. If it wasn't for Jae Lee's art, I'd never have picked this up. 2 more issues to go.
Marvel Zombies Vs. Army of Darkness is cute (in a zombie holocaust, everybody's rotting away and eating anyone they can get their claws on kind of way). One more issue to go.
Iron Man had been pretty good, but this latest chapter wraps up most of the current storylines, but is a bit too much flash and not enough substance. There's a major death (although major may be an overstatement - the character was supposed to be important to Stark but it hasn't really been explored much), a major betrayal, a major villain reveal (sort of), lots of gore and death, and yet it all made virtually no impression on me. Maybe I need to read it again. But did Stark really say "I...am...Iron Man!" to himself? It was spaced just like that and all I could think of was Ozzy. Not cool. It's usually better than this.
Ed Brubaker's Uncanny X-Men was also okay, but nothing to get excited about. Storm's guesting here (in addition to in Black Panther and Fantastic Four) and the Morlocks are back and they've got a prophecy their trying to fulfill. I love Brubaker on just about everything else he's writing, but X-Men is the weak link.
The Pretty Good:
The Punisher 48 continues Garth Ennis' uber-consistent work for yet another issue. There's not another title on the shelves that is as good month in and month out. And it rarely, if ever, misses a release date. The man is professional, if nothing. The penultimate issue in the "Widowmaker" storyline barely has Frank in it at all. What we do get are the Widows freaking out and the Sam Jackson looking cop, Detective Budiansky, figuring them out. Good stuff.
The Avengers: Intiative 3 does some good character work and has fantastic art by Stefano Caselli. I like the book and am curious about where it's heading, but I really don't have any connection to the characters at all. There's a large cast and none of them get a lot of face time. This month it's Komodo (a girl who stole Dr. Curt Conners' Lizard formula -- just go with it) who is in the spotlight. She gets drafted for real fieldwork, taking on Spider-man and (surprise) having her lizardy backside handed to her. The real interesting thing, though, is the reintroduction of the Spider-Armor last seen during the Marvel Civil War. This time there's a handful of people wearing it, making a pretty formidable squad of unregistered-hero-hunters. Neat.
Similarly, DC's Countdown 47 does its workman-like best to keep a number of plates spinning. We don't spend much time with any of the storylines, and if, like me, you're not a DC fanboy, there's a good bit of the book that you just have to ride out. The Mary Marvel storyline actually seems to have the most going for it at the moment, as she and Black Adam have a face off. Sort of. Jimmy Olson's storyline gets next to nothing, aside from a bad dream and Jimmy wondering out loud about what's happening to him. Join the club, James. The Rogues' storyline gets a nod as Piper and Trickster swap motivations. And gay jokes. Well, not really gay jokes, but gay euphemisms. It was a nice, real, moment.
Buffy Season 8 continues to kick demonic ass. Issue 4 wraps the first storyline and sets up some very interesting things to come. Lots of slayer action, threatened violence to Willow, and ominous military intrigue. I will admit, though, that I was a little disappointed that there were no serious repercussions to Willow's torture session. It seemed to be pretty serious, but then was just played off as no biggie. Go figure. Solid all around though, and I'm really looking forward to more.
I got a copy of Gutsville this week, after forgetting to order it for last week. This is a very odd book. Odd, but fascinating. After spending the entire issue with these Puritanical characters who have lived in the guts of a great sea-beastie for over 150 years, the final page surprise was shocking and intriguing. Frazier Irving's art is fantastic. Moody, detailed, and distinctive. I liked his work on Klarion, The Witch Boy during Grant Morrison's 7 Soldiers project, but this is much better, even. This has really captured my interest. I like.
Warren Ellis has written the first chapter to a new mini for Avatar Comics, called Black Summer. In this story, a super hero decides the President of the US is guilty of any number of things, most specifically starting an illegal war, so he kills him. Violently. Bloodily. He also kills the Vice President and a number of their advisers. Then he walks out in front of the White House Press Corps who are waiting for a Presidential address, and tells them to get ready for new elections. Juan Jose Ryp is on art chores and the vivid realism and hyper-detail-work combines extremely effectively with the ballsy writing to make this one powerful and addictive read. I am giddy with anticipation for the next issue, already.
Finally, Dark Horse has released the first (of 11) volume of MPD Psycho. If you've seen the television miniseries directed by Takashi Miike, then you know what to expect. If you haven't, then prepare for something different. I thought the tv show was confusing, and it's the same here. However, careful reading will be rewarded, as we are introduced to a very interesting, and disturbing, murder mystery. There's a lot of graphic violence and just plain messed up stuff. Lots of nudity and fetish gear, as well as dismembered ladies and women with flowers growing out of their exposed brains. Our hero, the MPD (Multiple Personality Detective) of the title, has at least 3 personalities that we know of. A soft-spoken police detective, a psycho killer, and a cool, controlled profiler. My only complaint is that it's 3 months until the next issue. At this rate, it'll be three years before the story is completed. That hurts.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
The future is now!
Best TV: TV, on the other hand, had a couple of hot spots for me this week. Although they weren't for shows currently running on any cable network that I have access to. Trailer Park Boys is back, baby! After the last two seasons and the feature film, I was afraid that they'd lost their edge. Hell, My Name is Earl has captured more of the old TPB spirit lately than the actual show had. But season 7 is a return to form.
The first five episodes find Ricky unable to sell his dope at a decent price thanks to the dirt weed being sold at the mall; Julian is desperate for money before his trailer gets repossessed; Ray's hobby is drinking; Bubbles' new hobby is model trains; Randy is a pothead; Mr. Lahey is back on the force and allied with the boys; Lucy is pregnant and working for J-Rock; Cory and Trevor are out of the picture, locked up in a mental hospital after being driven into nervous breakdowns by Ricky; Phil Collins (not that one) has moved into the trailer park to start a "Dirty Burger" restaurant; Phil's son is missing after being recruited by Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles for a 3 day recon job into Maine. It's kicking all kinds of ass. Even the guest appearance by Skid Row's Sebastian Bach (as himself) was cool, and I can't stand that guy.
The season finishes up in 2 weeks (I think), so I'll get caught up on the rest then.
The other TV highlight has been Japan's Death Note anime series. I've just started watching the first season and it's excellent. I enjoyed the first film (haven't seen the second yet), and the first 8 episodes of the series cover the same amount of storyline, but with the additional time the format allows, expands on it in a much more effective way. I'm going to have to catch up on reading the manga now, too.
Best Reading Material: I finished Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End earlier this week. It was pretty good up until the end. The technology was very cool and I wanted every piece of it. Vinge's vision of a fully tagged environment and wearable computers providing a constant virtual access to information was believably realized and the characters were all interesting and well written. The climax was pretty exciting and a good tying together of the narrative threads throughout the earlier parts of the book, but then it just lost me. There seemed to be no repercussions to anything that took place, and no real resolution beyond a general sense of "everything's okay now". I'm still not sure who or what Rabbit was, but that could just be me.
In the end, I felt that things were being set up more for a sequel than as a satisfying conclusion.
I'm almost finished with Charles Stross' Accelerando and HOLY CRAP is it good! One of the ways that I tend to evaluate works is by comparing what's on the page to what I could possibly do on my own (with decent research). In that sense, Rainbows End was good, but nothing was too far beyond my comprehension and it was pretty easy to follow (except for where answers just weren't given). Accelerando is outside of my abilities. I have to think hard to follow certain conceptual lines and that's just fucking great! The last time this happened was in parts of Iain M. Bank's Culture series (particularly Excession -- good book -- read it!). I can't wait to finish it and read some more Stross.
I've read his Bob Howard stories (The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue) and they were excellent, especially if one likes Ian Fleming and H.P. Lovecraft. However, they were pretty grounded in spy/cthulhu tropes and fairly easy to follow (although sometimes the math or the IT stuff was a little foreign to me). Accelerando is pretty much straight science fiction, following a family as the Singularity approaches. It was originally a series of short stories, so each chapter is essentially a self contained story, and as such there is some repeating of information as characters are reintroduced, but it's not a very big distraction. Good stuff.
On the comics front, there wasn't much out this week. Countdown remains barely interesting, but holding on, even with some horrible dialog this week. Daredevil was still good, but nothing mind-blowing. New Avengers: Illuminati was okay, but again, pretty average overall. Barracuda was good and offensive, as usual. What can you say about an issue entitled "And a Warm Place to Shit"?
The highlights this week were the return of The Boys and Shaolin Cowboy. The Boys hasn't lost a step, despite having to switch publishers. What DC couldn't handle becomes Dynamite's gain. This issue (#7) starts a new storyline, in which a Batman variant named The Tek-Knight has a problem. As he puts it on the very first page: "Doctor -- I can't stop fucking things..."
However, it's not treated as just a running gag. Garth Ennis treats it pretty seriously, exploring the psychological damage Tek-Knight's uncontrollable urges are doing to him. Meanwhile, The Boys themselves get on the case of finding a friend's missing son, who may have ties to Tek-Knight's former teen sidekick. I highly recommend this series. If one is not easily offended, that is.
Shaolin Cowboy, published by the Wachowski Brothers and written and illustrated by Geofrey Darrow is another slice of highly detailed heaven. I'm not even going to try to describe it. Oh hell, why not? It's beautiful, it's ugly, it's immense, it's intimate, it's got it all. And there's an army of naked zombies heading for our hero on the final pages. Granted, new issues are few and far between, but every issue is worth the wait. And back issues are all available at the Burlyman website.
Best Music: No new music this week. Although as I write this I'm listening to Myths of the Near Future by Klaxons. I know nothing about them, except that I just saw a video by them and had to give the cd a listen. It's interesting, but I'm going to have to listen to it a couple of more times before I form a decision. It's interesting, though. I'll give it that. And fun.
UPDATE - How the hell could I have forgotten this week's Doctor Who? It was maybe the best episode of the relaunch. Part one of two and adapted (by the author) from a Doctor Who novel. Great character work, with the two-part format giving them time to really establish the scenario and provide a nice slow build-up of tension to the episode cliffhanger. It made me wish that every episode was at least a two-parter (and written by someone who knows what they're doing -- not whoever wrote that "Daleks in Manhattan" story - ugh).
I only hope part two lives up to the first half. Then in the next few weeks, Derek Jacobi and the return of Captain Jack! Not the pirate, the bisexual galactic con-artist turned hero and immortal defender of earth as it heads into the 21st century over in Torchwood.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Best TV: Without a doubt, it was the Lost Season finale. Heroes ended nicely, but was a bit anti-climactic (although I loved the final shot!!). But Lost --- hoo boy! Lots of good stuff from start to finish. Can't wait to see where they go from here, if I can remember anything about the show by next year.
Best Reading Material: DC's Countdown yanked its neck out of the noose this week with a pretty tight issue. There were a few poorly executed moments, but all-in-all it was a solid issue. I'll keep getting it. Captain America returned with the first new issue since the assassination and was pretty darn good, if a bit disjointed. Newuniversal was about the same: good but disjointed. It'll probably read much better in one sitting than it does in the monthlies.
Best comic of the week, though, goes to Ed Brubaker's Criminal #6. It's the start of a new story with a whole new cast, and in one issue has set up a very interesting revenge story (and I'm a sucker for revenge stories -- see above).
Best Music: Nothing new this week. What can I say? I'm poor. I did listen to Marilyn Manson's new one and can honestly say that it is the first time a Manson cd has let me down. I don't even want to listen to it again. It's deleted.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
"Although the parent star is much cooler than the Sun, the planet orbits 13 times closer to the star than Mercury's orbit around the Sun. That means the surface must be a blazing hot 300° C or more, keeping water in its atmosphere in vapour form.
But the high pressures in the planet's interior would compress the water so much that it would stay solid even at hundreds of degrees Celsius – the expected temperatures inside the planet. There are a variety of exotic 'hot ice' states possible in such conditions, with names like 'Ice VII' and 'Ice X'."
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Tomahawk opened for them the last time they were here and kicked all kinds of ass. Melt Banana would be the next best thing this time.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Best Movie: Well, I didn't make it out to the theater this week, and I'm really looking forward to 28 Weeks Later. But since I haven't seen it yet, it doesn't make the list. The week started off strong with a viewing of The Giant Spider Invasion and multiple flashbacks to my original childhood viewing of the film. Nostalgia almost makes this the best of the week, but not quite.
Saw The Fountain Tuesday night, and though the girlfriend did not care for it, I was very impressed. Solid acting from Wolverine and the girl from The Mummy. Very nice visual sense that more than makes up for that dreadful piece of crap (that everyone else seems to love) Requiem for a Dream. Ugh.
I don't know why reviewers found this film to be confusing. Of course reviewers are usually barely literate, much less able to follow a non-linear narrative. Anyway, it was pretty good, I thought, and was definitely the best movie I saw all week.
Best TV: Heroes didn't make the cut. It wasn't bad, and the fist-through-the-head bit was pretty nicely done, but the big payoff is going to be next week's finale.
Lost came close, but I generally don't care for the Charlie-centric episodes and this was one of them. Nice twists and turns, but not quite up to last week's excitement. Season finale for this one is next week too!
No, for me the best of the week was The Office season finale. It really had everything: comedy, drama, romance, horror, and something else, I'm sure. Dwight Schrute, co-manager of a bed and breakfast in Hell was inspired. As was the exchange rate between Schrute Bucks and Stanley nickels.
After next week there'll be no new American tv that I know of (or that I'm interested in), although I think NBC is going to burn off the Studio 60 episodes they have banked. After that, who knows?
Last week's Doctor Who almost made the top of the list this week for some reason. It just clicked with me, but the previews for the rest of the season look incredible. Captain Jack returns and Derek Jacobi plays a role!!! I expect it will be what I talk about most in this spot in the weeks to come, along with catching up on episodes of the new season of Trailer Park Boys.
Best Reading Material: I read the first 2 volumes of the manga, Dragon Head, but wasn't too impressed. I don't know if I'll get any more. Maybe if they're on sale. The weekly comics were pretty weak, with nothing really making much impression. DC's Countdown was horrible. It gets two more shots before I cut it loose. Morrison's Batman was extremely forgettable, as was the story finale in Uncanny X-Men (Brubaker's only weak spot) and the series finale of The Ultimates. Ex Machina lurches along making virtually no impact at all, but it's still well done. Mighty Avengers was entertaining, but it would be nice for the story to really get moving.
Best of the week was Warren Ellis' Blackgas 2 #2. Zombie horror and extraordinarily bleak ending. No one is safe, that's for sure.
Best Music: No new music this week, but I've been listening to old Bowie, Clutch (of course) and Tool. Tool's coming in concert in July. Or at least they say they are. We'll see if they actually show up this time. I don't know who's opening for them. Isis opened for them in the fall leg of the tour and that would have been nice. I don't think we'll get that lucky.