Thursday, June 21, 2007

Comics for the Week of June 20

Let's go from worst to best, okay? Okay.

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.

Good News for Cancer Patients

Nanospheres leave cancer no place to hide - tech - 21 June 2007 - New Scientist Tech

Sunday, June 17, 2007


test, originally uploaded by PaulBrianMcCoy.

This is a test of the new phone's blogging/photo capabilities.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Fan Club

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.


Who says cats are independent? Not if you cripple them emotionally while they're young, I say.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Best of the Week - June 15, 2007

Best Movie: Have I really not watched any movies this week? I guess not. Not enough hours in the day, and all that, eh? Either that or nothing I watched stuck in my memory long enough to write this up. Hmmmm.

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

Bones could allow data swaps via handshake

Bones could allow data swaps via handshake
"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."

Comics For the Week of June 13

As someone who has pretty much abandoned the DCU and openly declared an allegiance of sorts with the Marvel Universe, this week was a very good one. Since the Civil War began (before that really, but Civil War pulled it all together for me), the MU has been different from what a lot of fans have been wanting. It's darker and less fun. There are serious repercussions to actions and less escapist fantasy. And this week starts pulling in a lot of plot threads that have woven throughout the Marvel line of comics, making this the line of books I have the most vested interest in.

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

Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip

Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip
"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."

It's About Damn Time, Too

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

Mysterious signal hints at subsurface ocean on Titan

Mysterious signal hints at subsurface ocean on Titan
"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."

Bull on Parade?

So Rage's big event that was being counted down to on the mystery site? Tickets going on sale for a concert at Alpine Valley on August 24.

That's it.

If that's not the first date of a full-fledged tour, I'm gonna be sorely disappointed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Step Toward a Living, Learning Memory Chip

A Step Toward a Living, Learning Memory Chip: Scientific American
"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."

Pentagon Confirms It Sought To Build A 'Gay Bomb'

Gay Bomb
"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

Research deciphers 'déjà-vu' brain mechanics

Research deciphers 'déjà-vu' brain mechanics - MIT News Office
"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."

Best of the Week - June 8, 2007

Best Movie: Two words. El Topo. If you've seen El Topo, then you know what I'm talking about. If not, then here goes. This is a mystical western of-sorts. It's about spirituality and illumination and violence and destruction and love and fear. This film has only been available in the form of expensive European and Japanese imports for all my life, thanks to a feud between the writer/director/star, Alejandro Jodorowsky and the producer Allen Klein. However, they have made peace and now a remastered print of the film (along with Jodorowsky's other films, Fando y Lis and Holy Mountain) has been released on DVD in America for the first time.

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

Queens of the Stone Age - Sick Sick Sick

Comics for the Week of June 6, 2007

Since my comics round-up was threatening to overwhelm the rest of my Best of the Week postings, I thought I'd give it it's own entry this week. Wasn't that thoughtful of me? (Who the hell am I talking too, anyway?) It was a big week for comics, but the good news is, most of what I bought was pretty good. And a couple of books were excellent. Of course some were just so-so, with nothing being out-and-out bad. So here we go.

The So-So:

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 " 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.

The Excellent:

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.

I Give Up

Okay, that does it. No more tinkering.

That's pretty much as good as it's gonna get.

Oh well.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rage is Up to Something...


Is it wrong that I just got a little giddy?


Introducing the bold, new look of Infernal Desire Machines. Not too different really, and while these new blogger templates are easier to edit, they're a bit lacking in maneuverability. I'm not exactly happy with this thing yet, so more tinkering ahead!

Friday, June 01, 2007


Italians build biotech vagina - News in English - Italians build biotech vagina

The future is now!

Best of the Week - June 1, 2007 -- UPDATED

Best Movie: No movies this week. I only started watching one film (a Japanese film called The Red Spectacles, directed by Mamoru Oshii of Jin Roh fame), but to be quite honest, it was so bad I turned it off. Maybe it was really something special if one could give it the time, but I thought it was remarkably boring. I made it through the opening scene, which wasn't too bad for a low-budget, late eighties, action film, but after the credits rolled, the film turned into a sepia-toned exercise in trying my patience. One loooooong drawn out scene after the other triggered my "jump to the next chapter" impulse. I did find a fight scene later on that was so poorly choreographed and filmed that something my friends did on video in high school was as good.

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.