July 30, 2008

The saga of the television

February 2009...that's like...what...three or four years away, right?

I remember when the first "digital tv is coming" ads showed up, and I remember thinking that I had like two years before I had to deal with that thing...though I would have to deal because The Girl and I live in a cable-less world with a tv that (shockingly) isn't flat panel or anything. We bought it for the first Dinner & a Movie (a tale for another day, that gathering) which must be about five years ago now, so it's also clearly not digital-ready.

After a perusal of Consumer Reports's ratings and overview, we headed to Buy More with our soon-to-expire $40 government coupon. It took a couple of tries to get the Insignia model that we wanted and hooked things up on the home front and hit autoconfigure.

Previously, we got a decent selection of channels (5 NBC, 9 CBS, 12 ABC, 16 PBS, 19 FOX, 22 NBC, 45 FOX, 48 PBS, 54 PBS, 64 kinda-WB) all with varying levels of fuzziness. We've got a smaller pair of plug-in rabbit ears that helped make things clear enough...I generally watched tennis by gauging the reactions and movements of the players rather than by watching the ball. Things were kinda fuzzy.

But they got much clearer with the digital converter plugged in. And we got a few stations we hadn't gotten before. Second versions of 5 & 9 - both weather-only versions showed up as did a second 12 WB and another 48 PBS. But we lost 16, 19, 45, and 54. That's two PBS's gone, man, and the entirety of FOX.

So we broke down.

We called Time-Warner.

And we asked 'em how much it would cost to add cable in The Homestead. We already get our interwebs through them (7.0 mbps, who knew?) for $46.95 (rates went up by $2 this month). The Girl took the first try with customer service and - after a whole lot of questions - got told that standard cable (with like seventy stations or something - including ESPN) would move us up to $82 per month, but if we went with basic cable (like twenty-six stations - including all our missing PBS and a few more) it would only cost us either $33 or $41 a month.

Wait, we already pay $47 a month for the inernets only. If we add services - admittedly, the crappiest of services that they offer and a service that most people I know would laugh at but a service none the less - we'll pay less?

That didn't sound right.

So I called back and tried again. I asked roughly the same questions but of a different customer service operator.
Basic cable plus our 7.0 mbps intertubes connection...yes...

No, not standard cable - we don't want to watch more tv.

Seriously, only twenty-six channels. Right.

$55.08 per month with tax included? (It's within the $15 extra dollars per month limit that The Girl and I had informally set.)

Ok...installation's a one-time $20 fee? Ok...

But you'll give us a six-month introductory rate of $40.08 combined?

Okay...lemme talk to The Girl, and we might be calling back. Thanks.
Two calls, two very different answers.

So we headed down to their store in the mall. Might as well talk to somebody in person.

He opened with the "well, all prices are on this sheet now...standardized...nothing we can do to offer deals anymore" shtick to start things off. After we answered the "seriously, we mean basic not standard" bit, we got the same $55.08 price tage but without the installation fee and without the lower first six months pricing.

We explained that we'd gotten different prices online, and he stuck to his guns - $55.08 monthly, no intro offer, waive the installation fee.

Homeward we went to call back and take the $40.08 intro offer.

But when I called, I couldn't find that offer anymore. Instead, I got the $33.08 price locked in for the next two years.
You're sure?

For basic cable - twenty-some-odd channels - with the same 7.0 mbps interwebs that we already have?

That's less than we're already paying per month?

Locked in for two years?

You're sure?

For more services, we'll be paying less?

Can we get your name, please, because this sounds too good.

Really, depends on which department we get connected to as to which offer we get, huh? That's weird.

Really, $33.08 per month - about $20 installation, ok - you promise this price, right?

Ok, we'll take it.

Can't install until August? Not a problem...
And that's how we left the world of the cableless households.

Or at least how we will be leaving it.

Stay tuned for my report on having to yell at Time Warner when we get charged $55.08 per month somehow.

This'll be better than the time that $200+ of magic payments (that we certainly hadn't made) showed up to our account and I got told "I guess you got lucky, don't worry about it" by one of their customer service reps.

Is it any wonder that businesses like cable tv, airlines, cell service providers, and car dealerships are so totally untrusted when they seem to offer a bizillion different pricing schemes depending on a bizillion options and salespeople?

You can see the option we've chosen on the right.

July 29, 2008

A little help with blogger

I am embarrassed at the site of my blog. I've got this horrifically ugly title box up there that I've been promising myself that I'd swap out the header for something a little more photographic. It's been three years now, and I haven't done anything about the header yet, so I'm thinking it's about time.

In hunting for info on how to swap out the header - I figure if Achilles3 could manage it, I should be able to - I stumbled across this blog that offers video tips on improving your blog. They offer up regular YouTube versions of all their tutorials on their blog or higher-res versions for a small fee, but you can check the high-res versions for free over at YouTube if you're willing to do a little clicking.

July 28, 2008

I now understand my dad a lot better

So, about two weeks ago, The Girl and I went out to our favorite local restaurant 'cause it was getting late on a weeknight, and we were in need of sustinance. On the way out of the place, a student of mine this past year - we'll just call him Mephen Meyfried, 'cause I don't want to put him all out there without asking his permission - popped out of the restaurant because he'd seen me and wanted to say hi.

After I said goodbye to Mephen, The Girl and I headed across the parking lot to UDF for a sweet bite for dessert (BOGO scoops of peach ice cream, gotta love summer). Once we got up near the store, I heard a young black man in a T-top holler out "Hey, you. Come here."

Not a thrilling and, admittedly reassuring thing to hear as I wander around the whitebread suburbs, but he followed it up with "weren't you my son's teacher?"

That's what I heard, anyway. Turns out he said "weren't you my science teacher?"

From there I'm a lot more comfortable even though I had to admit to him that I didn't remember who he was, but once he threw out that he was Renaldo Judkins, I remembered him from MtHHS. Renaldo then moved to PHS about the same year that I did, so he's one of the very few students who knows me from both schools. Renaldo told me that he's got a daughter, that he lives a few minutes away from me, and that he's doing well. He's part way through his associate's degree from Cincy State - which I hope he finishes up - and made sure to tell The Girl that I was far and away his favorite science teacher.

Now Mephen I remember well, having just had him in my first bell class this past year and hanging out with him often during my plan bell as he 'worked' on the Odin's Word website, but I haven't thought of Renaldo in years. The quick conversation with him - I'm sure it wasn't even five minutes - absolutely made my day. To think that I made enough difference to Renaldo that he wanted to make sure to tell me that he was doing well, that he was working toward his degree - in electrical repair, that I was his favorite science teacher ever means that somehow I made a connection with him. It's an amazing feeling.

And it reminds of me a third story in this same vein...

I promise, last story for today.

I was playing tennis at Western Raquet Club and headed that way in the trusty, ol' Jeep Cherokee - an '87, reliable, my first car - when something went wrong. I was on the interstate, about half a mile to my exit and pretty much coasted down the ramp and across the street into a BP station. I called the club and told them I wasn't coming and then AAA to get a tow. The tow truck took me to the car repair place - around 8pm, certainl after they closed. The drivers dropped me off - pre cell phone in my world - at the closed repair shop and headed off to their next run.

I knew The Girl wasn't getting off work for another hour or two, and I was a solid and daunting seven-mile walk from home. So I walked the four or so blocks to a White Castle and used their pay phone to call The Girl and arrange a pick up. I needed somewhere to wait, so I planned to walk another half mile to the UDF and kill the rest of my time until she could pick me up. It wasn't exactly a thrilling neighborhood nor, however, was it anything that had me particularly scared to walk through.

When I hung up the phone, however, I got the same sort of Renaldo Judkins yell, "Hey, Mr Dusch!".

Turns out another of my Mount Health students was coincidently in the parking lot with me. He asked what I was doing - clearly out of my element and a bit unsteady in myself. I explained the car problem, the walk coming up, and The Girl's eventual pick-up. He offered me a ride - in his white Cadillac with the red, crushed velvet interior (not just the seats, pretty much the whole interior) and the thumping base - down to the UDF and talked to me about what he was doing since he left MtHHS, telling me where all the students from the class that we had together had gone, and just reminding me of how much I love being able to make some kind of connection, to come together for 180 days with my students, to be able to maybe sneak in a few science lessons along the way.

He dropped me off at the UDF and headed on his way. I've never seen him again and have - I hate to say - entirely forgotten his name at this point.

I remember when I first started teaching - at THSVHS and then at MtHHS - I avoided seeing my students outside of school, in the grocery store, at the gas station, in the park. I wasn't comfortable being the teacher instead of their contemporary without the safety and authority of the classroom. It took me a few years before I wanted to see them out in the 'real world', but now I find myself looking around all over the place hoping to see them, wanting to say hi and to connect again.

It's been amazing to get to know so many amazing people and to be even a small part of their lives - or bigger in some cases. (Thanks, especially, for the letter that one of you wrote to me this year.)

I know now why my dad never seemed to mind talking to his students when we ran into them seemingly everwhere in The Hometown when I was growing up.

July 27, 2008

Back when the future was futuristic

There just isn't a musical instrument cooler than the theremin...

An opening lesson on the parts of the theremin...worth watching before you try the others so you understand what the hell is happening...

"Theremin Killed the Radio Star"...

How to build your own lame theremin (with some history)...admittedly, from a kit...

Rockin' "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley on theremin...

"Don't Worry, Be Happy"...

"Claire de Lune"...

Because You Asked for It...

even cats can play...

an entire theremin orchestra...

"Love me Tender"...

"Ava Maria"...

July 25, 2008

Especially neatorama

Outstanding stuff - as always from Neatorama of late. Check it regularly...

For example, where else would you find... And that's just the best stuff of the past week...so consistently awesome...

July 24, 2008

The holy brick grail

Holy frickin' crap...

Gizmodo took a tour of the Lego factory and got to take a tour through - and video of - Lego's secret vault containing every Lego set ever made in its original box with packages unopened and in near-perfect minut condition.

It's like somebody told me that angels had come down from upon high and offered to give us a tour of heaven.

The photo, by the way, is Gizmodo's photo of the very first Lego set that I owned.

And - as an addition - I stumbled upon this microscale Lego blog while searching for photos of the town set - 6390 - shown.

July 23, 2008

Time to kill some time

Today's game falls into the classic easy to learn, hard to master category of games.

Poiser is a simple game of stacking cubes. You drop the cubes from whatever height you want and have to stack them past a line to get points. The more cubes, the more points.

It's amazingly fun and maddeningly addictive.

Enjoy, Joey...Craig...anyone else who is, like me, easily sucked in...

July 22, 2008

Continuing the media excursions

More quick hitters of what I've seen and read of late...

The Stark Truth - Pretty straight forward baseball writing from Jayson Stark of ESPN on who the most over- and underrated players at each position are.

Also, pretty repetitive after a while.

In case you were curious, Nolan Ryan is the most overrated right-handed starter of all-time.

I'm okay with that choice and with most of the choices, but I still couldn't bring myself to do more than just skim the rest of the book. I'm thinking that this would be a book to read in bits and pieces.

The Great Darkness Saga - This is supposedly the greatest of the Legion of Superheroes stories, but I just didn't get it. Much of the arc is given to the return/rebirth of our mysterious villain, and I'm thinking that the impact of the eventual revelation might've been a little more powerful if they hadn't put the well-known (to DC comics readers, anyway) face of the big bad guy hugely on the front page of the book.

Kinda killed the surprise for me.

Don't get me wrong, the villain is the mack daddy of DC villains and all, but I knew who he was going to be from the moment I picked up the book.

And the way that the heroes eventually won didn't make any sense to me as somehow Highfather was reborn and aged from birth to oldhood in like a couple of days and then saved the universe and all.

If this is the best of the Legion of Superheroes, then it's probably a good thing that they rebooted the series.

New Avengers: SEntry - I dug the story introducing the Sentry to the New Avengers. Nice artwork, good story, really entertaining insight into the characters as they come together into a team.

Even the conceit of Sentry having erased everybody memory of him - and subconsciously creating a villain for himself - worked for me, and the use of Emma Frost to come in and fix that worked, too.

My only qualm with the trade is that for $14.99 - which, of course, I didn't pay because I'm a frequenter of the awesomest 'bary in the world - you only got four issues plus a bunch of "data files" on semi-minor Avenger villains.

Good story but not nearly enough for a full trade paperback. I understand that it was a story arc with a definitive open and close, but Marvel has to give up more than just those four issues.

Emma Frost: Higher Learning - Marvel has started publishing a series of original comics in Manga-sized volumes aimed at bringing in younger readers who might not consider picking up full-sized graphic novels. The first of these that I saw was Mary Jane, tales of MJ in high school mostly sans Spidey. Cute read, probably a good opener for tween and early teen girls - a touch or two of manga to bring in more readers as well.

The second of these that I saw was Runaways, which was originally published in full-sized comics and then reprinted in the smaller sizes. Runaways is outstanding and a must-read for any comic fan.

The third series in this format - third to me, anyway - is Emma Frost, and this one feels like the slightest of the three. It lasted only eighteen issues before being cancelled and focused on the time between Frost's high school years and introduction to the X-Men universe.

In this collection, Frost is introduced as a loner child of priviledge, insulted and unappreciated by her father, part of a family whose only parallels would have been the Carringtons of Dynaasty with each blackmailing and plotting against each other in an effort either to curry favor with or rebel against their patriarch.

The run of introductory issues is full of betrayals, transgressions, and conniving and felt like a true product of the excess-is-everything eighties.

It's a fluff read, fitting as an origin tale for a character who would go on to find herself as the White Queen, but it's not one that left me with any desire to read further in the series.

H-E-R-O: Powers and Abilities - This one, on the other hand, left me with a huge desire to read further on with the series, though no other collections have been put to print, so it looks like I'll be out of luck.

In the 60's, DC had a series called Dial H for Hero in which a teenaged Robby Reed (eventual influence for the cool Dial B for Blog) would become a different hero every month, supposedly taking his powers and costume design from suggestions sent in by series readers. It was a decent bit of golden-age fun, and DC revived it in the 80's for a few issues.

In 2003, then, DC gave the title a third try - the first issues of which are collected in this tome - and took it in a different direction, handing the dial to a different person every issue (or few issues) and seeing what a "normal" person would do if suddenly handed the somewhat-limited super powers for a time.

--- warning: here there be spoilers ---

One character tries to be heroic but finds himself lacking the the training or willpower to keep it up forever. A second becomes obsessed with heroism leading to the dissolution of his marriage and loss of his day job. The third, the preteen daughter of the obsessed man, finds herself using the dial to impress and make friends though that, of course, eventually goes wrong, as well.

--- spoilers done ---

These issues were very well written and showed a darker side of the heroic powers that so most view as a solution to all their ills. I know that the series was cancelled after twenty-two issues, and I could see that if the dark tone established in this collection were to have continued without balance, it could have become a tough series to stick with, but these early issues are outstanding. I can see why Geoff Johns put a money-back guarantee on the first issue, and his introduction to the collection is well done.

I wish DC would collect the rest of the run, though I'm guessing this trade didn't sell all that well as it has only two brief appearances by Superman to work for its advertising, and the story doesn't seem to have a recurring character with whom readers could connect and follow.

A shame, really.

Borat - I finally got around to seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's performance/mockumentary of Borat.

I will say that I was glad I didn't pay to see it. It's not that the movie - clocking in at eighty minutes total - didn't have funny moments; it did. But there's a part of me that has trouble watching someone secretly film and mock people all around the country, so I'm a little disappointed - though not surprised - to hear that Cohen is making another movie in a different persona.

It's a funny flick in a number of moments, but I'm not happy to say that I laughed a decent number of times. I feel kinda trashy.

I do, however, get more of these jokes now.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Pan's Labyrinth surprised me because the previews suggested that much of the film would be spent in the fantasy realm, and the film turned out to be 90% not fantasy.

Guillermo flips that on its head here as a solid 90%+ of this film is all about the fantasy and the creatures, and it's a gorgeous world that he's created for Hellboy and his crew. Visually, the film is a solid nine out of ten. The story is a little more straight forward an less impressive - probably a seven on the same scale. Put 'em together, and it's a nice little tune that you can certainly dance to. I gave it an 80 on Criticker - much better than I rated the first Hellboy, but my memory has been kind to the first one.

del Toro's reliance on actual creature creation rather than CGi pays off in spades as his films looks remarkably better than nearl anything that's being CGI'ed in the theaters today. The tooth faries (ferocious li'l buggers), the troll market, especially the angel of death, the new Krauss character, and so many other creatures make an amazing sight, and the story is a massive step forward from the first film, bringing Hellboy and Liz's relationship to the fore as the driving force in the characters' world.

It's not perfect, particularly as the actual storyline - elf prince steals artifact to awaken the titular Golden Army and wage war on the human world - felt almost like a MacGuffin even though much of the movie spends time on the plot. The plot vascilates between between the relationship and the impending inter-world war, and that weakens both plots a bit.

But it's still pretty good on the whole, and the actors have really come into their own in the roles - particularly Selma Blair's Liz and Doug Jones' Abe Sapien (even more his now without David Hyde Pierce's voice casting). It's a strong ensemble and one that I'll look forward to seeing in volume III of the story whenever it comes around.

Silverstein Around the World - I knew Shel Silverstein had worked for Playboy as one of his first jobs out of the military, but I just sort of assumed he'd done ribald cartoons for the magazine. I had no idea that he'd been a sort of travel reporter for them.

This book collects his travellogue dispatches from around the world - Spain, Japan, Russia, Scandanavia, Mexico, Greenwich Village, Haight-Ashbury, even a nudist colony - nearly all of which were a dozen comics plus a half dozen photos of Shel "with the natives". The comics typically contained Silverstein as a character in them, something that he was intially reluctant to include but which he was convinced - by Hef, himself - was a good idea. The inclusion of the cartoonist into the cartoon really allows Silverstein to connect with his audience, bringing a sense of everyman into the cartoons.

In addition to the cartoons and images of Silverstein as he enters the bullfighting ring, chats up the attractive natives, and climbs mountains, we're also treated to the original text that accompanied the dispatches, gorgeously worded period pieces in their own rights. Take, for example, this introduction which accompanied Silverstein's cartoons from Italy:
our boy capishes and finds it delicious

The lambent land of Italy is the home of mandolins and macaroni, olive oil and opera, gorgonzola and gondolas. Without it, there would be no Venetian glass, Florentine leather, Neapolitan ice cream or Roman fever. We of America are especially indebted to it: Christoforo Colombo discovers us and AmerigoVespucci lent us his name. We have a town called Italy; three called Rome; five each called Naples, Venice and Verona, and we also have an airfield named La Guardia. our language is studded with snappy words on lend-lease from Italy:
tempo, fiasco, piano, umbrella, stucco, fresco, ditto, volcano, casino, bordello, incognito, quota, soda, stanza, vista, vendetta, manifesto, motto and mah-rone!. And what do we call that leaning-tower-type thing in which the forgoeing string of words is printed? Italic. The Boot meets The Beard this month as the fine Italian hand of Shel Silverstein - PLAYBOY's ambulating americano - sketches sunny Italy.
Silverstein's insights - supprisingly few of which are of the off-color nature considering the medium in which they were to be printed - are impressively insightful and show even further that Silverstein truly was deserving of the title of Renaissance man.
The phrase "Renaissance man" tends to get overused these days, but apply it to Shel Silverstein and it practically begins to seem inadequate. Not only has he produced with seeming ease country music hits and popular songs, but he's been equally successful at turning his hand to poetry, short stories, plays, and children's books. Moreover, his whimsically hip fables, beloved by readers of all ages, have made him a stalwart of bestseller lists. A Light in the Attic, most remarkably, showed the kind of staying power on the New York Times chart—two years, to be precise—that most of the biggest names (John Grisham, Stephen King, and Michael Crichton) have never equaled for their own blockbusters.
Plus he was a stud...

The Rejection Collection - I dig The New Yorker, and I'll readily admit that when The Girl had a subscription back in college, I would grab it and flip right through the entire magazine reading the cartoons before even looking at the article headlines. This book, then is right up my alley, showing up fifty or so of the chosen cartoonists' favorite cartoons that they'd submitted for publication but that were rejected for one reason or another - often because they'd've offended somebody along the way.

The quality here is every bit as high as those that made it into the magazine, and the questionaires that each 'toonist completes regarding their own work are every bit as funny as the cartoons themselves.

Click on the link in the title of this section to see some of the cartoons in a YouTube video.

The Hulk: The End - I'd been dying to get my hands on a copy of Future Imperfect for a while now - probably since Dave reviewed it a while back. It's a two-issue alternate future in which the Hulk has gotten even stronger (probably not WWHulk strong, but stronger) and has his full intellect, changing his name to Maestro and becoming about as brutal and calculating as you can imagine the Hulk to ever be.

The End combines Future Imperfect with a single-issue The End part of a look at the possible final adventures of various Marvel heroes. In this one, Banner wanders the Earth trying to die but never quite being able to, the Hulk always coming in at the last moment to prevent his own destruction. It's one of the most well-written Hulk tales that I've read and is a marvelous counterpoint to Future Imperfect.

Though the collection only has three issues to it and comes in at a $20 hardcover edition, so I'm thinking that it's not one to go out and purchase, but it's totally one to steal for a few minutes from Barnes & Noble like I did.

A always, I'm down to quick reviews of the final few because this is already too long...
  • Fables: The Good Prince - volume ten in the series and possibly the best...amazing tale of Flycatcher/Ambrose establishing a kingdom of Haven in the Homeland...this series continues to get better and better, easily one of the best things being written in comics today...if you aren't reading this, you're a fool...
  • JSA: Thy Kingdome Come - It's becoming really interesting as much of Kingdome Come is being folded into the "regular" DC universe...this volume feels like so much prelude and the KC Supes shows up and we start to see that some for of Gog has been killing folks...nowhere near a conclusion yet, though...not in this volume...I'm not a regular JSA guy, but how frickin' easy is it to become a regular in this group?...people seem to join the group every issue...kinda annoying to have such a huge cast as most of them get ignored for much of every issue...
  • Batman: The Resurraction of Ra's Al Ghul - meh...kinda figured he'd be back...too muchcharacter shifting back and forth for me...I like my characters to be somewhat consistent, but here Tim Drake gives up everything he believes in, nearly kills Nightwing, and the reverses courses again twice in an issue...and the other characters do the same...blech

July 21, 2008

Two trailers

Just saw Gonzo yesterday up at the Neon (great theater, great refreshments, great neighborhood, new favorite), and they had two trailers before the movie that I thought I'd point out.

There's the French spy comedy OSS 117 and the documentary about Indiana teens American Teen. The poster for the latter has an awesome Breakfast Club reference.

Speaking of which, I feel awful for saying this, but I found the JC Penny's Breakfast Club commercial cute. I know it's hack filmmaking and just trading on memories, but I liked it. Sorry...

The hype was wrong

The movie was actually better than the hype suggested that it might have been.

I'm a bit stumped on trying to write any sort of literary critique of the film, so I'm just going to go with a series of thoughts here...if it's hidden, it's got a spoiler in it...highlight at your own risk...
  • It's too long. There were three or four times when I found myself wondering how long I'd been in the theater, and the perfect movie (Hero, so far) isn't going to have those moments.
  • Ledger is terrifying, creepy, horrific. His shambling, hunch shouldered departure from the hospital, cross-dressed in a nurses's uniform was every bit as brain-burning as was his bit about being a mad dog chasing cars, not knowing what to do with them if he caught one. The wordless image of him with his head out of the police car, reveling in the mayhem that he created is chilling.
  • I was initially disappointed that the Joker was given a sympathetic backstory (the dad who drank bit) but then realized, as Ledger broke into a different explanation of the origin of his scars, that giving a sympathetic backstory and then making it an obvious lie left the character even less sympathetic than no backstory at all. I heard a review describing the Joker like the shark in Jaws - you don't care where it came from or why it does what it does, you just want to enjoy the mayhem. And that's appropriate.
  • I'm amazed at the quality of casting that Nolan has come up with - Bale, Oldham, Freeman, Ledger, Caine, Gyllenhaal, Eckhart - even the too-heavily-eye-makeuped mayor who played Batmanuel on "The Tick".
  • The exploration of "does the world need Superman" in the last Superman flick seemed stupid and forced. The exploration of the same issue here worked for me.
  • A line in the Salon review says There's no dramatic arc in "The Dark Knight" -- only a series of speed bumps. I saw some truth there as it would be hard for me to find the truly biggest, climactic scene in this film. There were a number of big scenes but many of them seemed equally big to me.
  • I'm glad - like Katydid is - that Dawes is gone. The occasional romantic entanglements in the comics were few and far between, and the continual pairing of Batmen in the previous series (Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger) didn't work for me. Hopefully we'll get a flick without a love interest for the Bat.
  • I have no clue who should be the villain in the next film or if there should even be a next film. The ending of this one - Batman as the hero they need, taking the lumps so hope can live - seems almost too perfect to come back to. If they do bring in another villain next time (and I hope they don't keep expanding by making it three villains again), then I'm thinking that Talia, Deadshot (in a new costume), or Black Mask might work. I really don't want anybody showing up with superpowers (no Clayface), with a horrific/comic deformity (no Penguin), an laughable jokes (no Riddler), semi-supernatural powers (no Man-Bat), and by the same token, I would've said that the Joker would've been much too cartoonish for the grim & gritty Gotham of Christopher Nolan...which would've been wrong.
  • I was impressed that almost none of this storyline came from the comics. There weren't nods and in-jokes for the fanboys (and fangirls) in the audience. Some assistance DA wasn't renamed Bob Kane, and there wasn't a Sprang Drive-Thru for us to pass by in the chase scene.
  • The S-Laughter is the Best Medicine line on the truck was brilliant.
  • The sight of a man in a big black costume still looks silly to me at times.
  • The fake batmen aspect, real people picking up and 'helping' the vigilante was well done.
  • Bale's Batman voice seems really creepy and odd to me. I don't know that I think it's a good choice, almost as though he's screaming a whisper. Doesn't seem all that threatening to me. Ledger's voice shifts, however, were impressive. His use of the full register - high, low, growling, impish - made for a character seemingly even more random than his actions alone could have created.
  • I still see Bale's lisp from time to time, though less in this film than in the previous Batman flick.
  • In one of the reviews, they mentioned the two people in the warehouses thing and said that Batman went to save Dent because he was the true hero of Gotham. Am I correct in thinking that Batman actually went to save Rachel Dawes but that the Joker had lied about who was in which location?
  • So, how much of the Joker's actions were we supposed to believe were planned out? The Girl said she thought the creation of Two-Face (via Dent's scarring and living) was planned by the Joker because he knew Batman would try to save Dawes (though the Joker sent him to the wrong address). She argues that the Joker mentions that Dent was the key, that at the end, the Joker says that he knew he couldn't defeat Batman alone and had to create Dent's alter-ego to finally break Batman. My thoughts are that the Joker set things into motion hoping human nature would go one way but being fully flexible and willing to go with whichever choice was made, to use the chaos from either choice (aboard the bombed boats, in the two warehouses, wherever) to his advantage.
  • I dug the film. I easily moves into the realm of the best super hero flicks yet made.
Your thoughts?


July 20, 2008

And this makes thirty videos from them

And the final week of Queen...

"Crazy Little Thing Called Love"

"Play the Game"

"Seven Seas of Rhye"

"Tie Your Mother Down"

"Keep Yourself Alive"

"It's a Hard Life"


And the one you've been waiting for "Bohemian Rhapsody"

"Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy"

...and Freddie's final public appearance...

Like the opposite of horrible

You've got about fifteen hours to catch the three episodes (about thirteen minutes in length each) of Neil Patrick Harris's horribility on Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog.

It's all part of Joss Whedon's master plan to throw the series out for a week and rock Show Friendlieness in the process. The epic will be available on DVD after that and for download via iTunes for now.

If you're quick, however, you can watch all three episodes for free.

Sing on with all the evilness of Dr. Horrible.

July 18, 2008

Now that's entertrainment

This is the big weekend.

The Entertrainment Junction opens up just a few minutes from my house.

I know some folks might call a 25,000 square-foot G-scale train layout - with ninetry working trains (that's 1200 train cars, folks)- a bit geeky, and they'd be correct. As their website writes...
90 large, G-scale trains are running everywhere, immersing visitors in a 25,000 square-foot environment. More than two miles of track take visitors on a panoramic journey through three distinct epochs in U.S. history, from the earliest days of steam-engine railroading up through today’s modern diesel locomotives. The layout includes railroading’s Early Period (1830s through the Civil War to late 1890s), the Middle Period (1900 to 1950s) and the Modern Period (1960s to the present).

Train tracks are bustling all around the visitor -- below, at eye level and some even 11’ in the air. There are carefully hand-crafted cities, towns, saw mills and factories, forests, bridges, mountains, valleys, plateaus, intricate trestles, tunnels, trolley cars, and fast-traveling subway trains.

A cascading 11’ waterfall provides a dramatic backdrop for the entire area; water flows through canals and rivers into a large lake. All trains are large G-scale trains, 1/24th the size of the real thing. Each train car – and there are over 1,200 of them! – is about the size of a loaf of bread.
Oh, it's totally geeky, and while I'll admit that it doesn't quite align with my geekness, I'm all for endorsing somebody (or a group of somebodies) who are willing to so overtly embrace their geekness.

And especially if they're willing to put that geekness out for all the see and mock/ignore.

So, for the next month or so, they're offering $9.95 admission (instead of their $12.95 for adults).

Anybody else up for a visit?

Just something that excites me

Caught a print interview with Alan Moore yesterday over at ew.com, and he mentioned a bit about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol III, and I certainly don't see anything to be disappointed about.

July 17, 2008

Share and share alike

So, I was over on WineMeDineMeCinci as I am often wont to be, and I noticed that they had a little button at the bottom of each post (the green one I've got beside this post) with the words share this.

Being the sharing dork that I am, I clicked on the button (clicking on the words works just as well, of course) and sent a recipe the The Girl because I'm thinking she just might enjoy The Best Summer Drink Ever. It's kind of up her alley.

Lo and behold, I got a pop-up within the page window that gave me options of sharing via various social networking sites (digg, stumbleupon, technorati, and lots more), emailing the post, or posting it directly to my blog.

What marvelous wonders these mortals do design.

I wanted it on my blog.

So I - after emailing the recipe - clicked through to the ShareThis website and signed up. You may have noticed the little green button having recplaced (earlier this week) the little envelope symbol that used to let you email any of my posts.

From there I clicked around on the ShareThis site to see what else they offer. Apparently - as I learned from a Cincinnati Enquirer article - they're a Cincinnati company - huzzah!

My only concern, and it's a minor one for now, is this line in the story:
So far, ShareThis has been offering its services for free, but Schigel said the potential for revenue is tremendous and likens the company to the launch of Google in the late 1990s.
If the service does move to requiring advertising or payment, its services will likely leave this blog, but until then, have a blast with it folks, and I hope it makes your life a little bit easier.

Oh, and the stars thing is gone from the bottom of each post. I thought it just too jumbled and junked up down there, and not a whole lot of people seemed to be using it. If you really liked the option of rating each post, give a holler, and I'll think about bringing it back. Otherwise, shine on, you crazy diamonds...

July 16, 2008

Eight-frickin' page spread

The Ultimate Marvel universe is so much cooler than the main (Earth-616) Marvel Universe.

In Ultimates 2: Grand Theft America, the world (Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, France - though each with diplomatic deniability) sees the US's super soldier program (Nick Fury's baby and a major plot tie throughout all the Ultimate books) and increasing willingness to enact premptive strikes against other nations as a threat to each of their soverignties, coming up with a super team of their own and pretty much wiping out SHIELD, the Ultimates, and the US government in about half an hour - before, of course, the American good guys fight back to save the day.

And there, about halfway through the last issue, I came upon it.

An eight-page, fold out spread of the final battle.

Asgardian gods...giant wolves...super soldiers...the Hulk...trolls...goblins...Captain America...Loki...against the backdrop of the US capitol building...

My coutry 'tis of thee, sweet land of comic goodness...

This, my friends, is why comics were made.

Sure, we can quibble that the series was delayed and delayed and delayed until many folks who read the first couple of issues gave up on it, but I'm reading all of it in trade paperback form, and that was all there for me to devour in one giant gulp.

And gulp it I did.



And I can't wait for Ultimatum.

July 15, 2008

Like the end of It, but better

So, I bought a bike.

It's a Raleigh Detour 3.0, and it set me back somewhere in the range of three bills - Ben Franklin bills, doncha know. I had to get one. The Girl got hers - a 4.0 from last year's models so she didn't pay much more than I did - and I wasn't going to let her have all the fun.

And by fun I mean burning in the front of the leg just above the knee when I peddle my pudgy backside up and down the hills that I hadn't entirely noticed all around my neighborhood.

But, she's got a new job that's within biking distance of our house - 1.1 miles straight there but more likely 1.8 miles via the subdivision backroutes that'll keep her off the busy and frighteningly narrow busy street near us - so she's got to get into shape. That was she doesn't look like a soppy wet dog when she shows up to work. Won't do to have the new librarian all stinky before the morning bell rings, now will it?

And that means I'm slowly working myself into some semblance of shape, as well.

Good luck to me, folks.

And by fun, I also mean the feeling of the wind whipping past your face as you cruise down some of those big hills. Which is, admittedly, kinda awesome.

I don't think I'd been on a bike in like a dozen years, but I do dig it, man.

Good luck, Senator McCain

I understand that Obama was speaking to an audience that is much more inclined to support him, but after Obama gave this speech to the NAACP in Cincinnati, I wish him luck...

July 14, 2008

Bad Bobby Glover

I teach with that guy.

Admittedly, not closely as he and I are in different departments and don't share a lot of the same students, but he's a teacher at good ol' PHS.

I remember when, during Bobby's first year with us, the school newspaper did a pretty standard "get to know the new teacher" feature and showed a picture of Bobby with his current band Funk Allegience (who are sorely lacking any web presence) and mentioned that he had a gold record as a recording artist. I'll admit that my initial response to the gold record comment was to throw the flag (it's a brown flag, and it's got the same name as a card game, in case you were wondering) and just assume that the new guy was selling himself up a little bit for the kids.

But I did my research first, and found Bad Bobby Glover, an album released in 1984 and produced by Roger Troutman.

Roger Troutman?

That name sounded familiar - born in Hamilton, OH; member of Parliment - so I did a little digging and found that Bobby Glover was a member of Zapp and later a back-up singer for Dayton. Depending on the source I read, Bobby either was a founding member of Zapp or joined pretty early, but either way, he appeared on their first album which made it to #2 on the Billboard Top 100.

Bobby continued with Zapp for a few more albums, and I'll admit that I don't know whether he continued with them until the muder-suicide of Roger and Larry Troutman. I really should sit down and talk with Bobby about all of this sometime this coming school year.

What I do know is that his solo album gets pretty good reviews wherever I can find mention of it on the web - here, here with 40-60 second samples, here - and that it's available for purchase at a number of rare vinyl sellers including Gemm and even unofficially on cd if you're willing to pay $65 for the cd/lp combo.

You can also go the YouTube route and check out (in audio only, sadly) "It's My Turn", "What Kind of Lady", "Your Spell", and "So Mean" from his album.

In searching for those, I also came across a few Zapp videos that make me wonder whether Bobby is in any of them, as well. Possible things to check for later - live in Cincy, in DC #1, in DC #2, in DC #3, in DC #4. But that's for another day.

I did also find one site that offers the full album in downloadable form. I just have to figure out how to uncompress the rar-formatted packet. From there, I, like Bad Bobby Glover, will be golden.

I like the turn of phrase in that last paragraph well enough that I'm not going to get rid of it, but I used a trial version of WinRar 3.71 to open up the packet and, while there's a little problem with inconsistent volume from track to track, the tracks all appear to be complete and clearly transferred to digital medium. Thanks to whoever this blogger is.

July 13, 2008

The middle of three

More Queen...

"The Miracle"

"I'm Going Slightly Mad"

"We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions"

"I Want to Break Free"

"These Are the Days of Our Lives"

vocal improvisation


"Killer Queen"

"Fat Bottom Girls"

"Another One Bites the Dust"

July 12, 2008

Summer's halfways over, folks...believe it...

Halfway through the summer, here are some things that I've noticed thus far...

Today's freaky combination of letters

Seeqpod today offers up a huge list of tasty nuggets from Sufjan Stevens. The songs range from long-titled instrumentals through interesting takes on Christmas tunes, litrugical ballads and drastically different covers, songs about states and lots of works with esoteric references.

I've put the songs in alphabetical order because his work has been so vastly different song by song, album by album. Put this one on random and let it blast.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

July 11, 2008

Buy the ticket, take the ride...mahalo

Thanks to YesButNoButYes for pointing out that there's a new documentary on Hunter S Thompson out in the theaters now: Gonzo: the life and work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

The flick hasn't made its way to Cincy just yet - the Esquire on 7/25, in case you were wondering - and I'm going to be out of town when it does appear. On the likely chance that it won't be around for more than the first week of release, it looks like I'll be driving up to the Neon in Dayton to make sure to see it in the theater.

But I'm not really here to post about the documentary...

I'm here to post about the good Doctor, himself...Raoul Duke...Hunter...

I picked up Hunter sometime when I was in college, first picking up The Great Shark Hunt, the first volume in his Gonzo Papers series, a collection of Thompson's articles from various sources. The shocking mixture of brutally honest reportage, psychadelically impossible situations, and brilliant phrasing grabbed me from the get go, particularly "The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat", "Strange Rumblings in Aztlan", and "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" - the last of which is available in full here.

I devoured Shark Hunt quickly and headed straight into Hells Angels, Hunter's first-published book, the non-fiction novel. Angels is Hunter's most straight-forward book, a phenomenal and incisive exploration of the San Bernadino and Oakland chapters of the Angels including their massive and terrifying-to-the-communities funeral for their leader Sonny Barger and Hunter's eventual beating at the hands of the Angels when he finally publishes the first of his articles that lead to the book.

From there it was onward to the Fear and Loathings - Las Vegas (easily his most well-known work) and the Campaign Trail '72 his brilliant reportage - both truthful and somewhat fictional (the lines certainly blur in both of these books) - was one of the first pieces of political writing that grabbed me enough to read cover to cover, something I've done at least twice with each of most of Hunter's full-length books.

I've been through others of Hunter's books - Better than Sex, Songs of the Doomed, Generation of Swine, Curse of Lono - and they are clearly the works of a man who was bit by bit becoming a victim of his own persona, periodically able to rise above the miasma that he had created for himself. People have reported that Hunter often felt driven to be more and more excessive with each event; to take the drugs, the craziness, the Gonzo to new levels with each article; and only rarely did those attempts result in writing even approaching the level of his earliest works, and we were/are the poorer for that, but as we learned from Blade Runner, the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very brightly, [Hunter].

Somehow, Hunter just wasn't a man meant for this world.

He moved through Louisville's society but found himself resisting the easy path, telling of a time when he and some friends robbed a convenience store across from their apartment on three consecutive nights, thinking that a fourth night would have been pushing their luck. From there, Thompson headed into the Air Force where he writes that he was a pretty miserable airman, unwilling or unable to fit into the strict heirarchy that is required in the military.

From there Thompson headed to New York - fired by Time for insubordination, then San Juan and California...
Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bull****, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
...and onward through South America (for an outstanding run of articles that make up part three of Shark Hunt) and then to his final home of the next forty or so years in and just outside of Aspen, Colorado.

In Aspen Hunter found himself at odds with the establishment - imagine that, huh - and unsuccessfully running for sheriff on the Freak Power campaign, pledging the...
  • ...legalization of drugs on a recreational basis (although profiteering dealers would be prosecuted harshly.) Thompson did make a concession on the drugs issue - he promised that if elected, he would not eat mescaline whilst on duty.
  • ...tearing up of parking lots and sidewalks for more grassy areas.
  • ...demolishing of any buildings that would block the view of the mountains.
  • ...renaming of Aspen "Fat City" to scare off the rich investors that Thompson felt were ruining the city.
  • ...firing of the majority of the conservative county officials and bureaucrats.
Thompson lost the election only because the Democratic and Republican candidates met and agreed to pool their support and resources to defeat him.

It was there in Aspen that Thompson set up his armed compound outside the city limits, shooting his guns into the hillside...
I made several attempts to make myself clear: Just a neighbor come to call and ask the doctor's advice about gobbling some LSD in my shack just down the hill from his house. I did, after all, have weapons. And I liked to shoot them—especially at night, when the great blue flame would leap out, along with all that noise...and, yes, the bullets, too. We couldn't ignore that. Big balls of lead/alloy flying around the valley at speeds up to 3700 feet per second.

But I always fired into the nearest hill or, failing that, into blackness. I meant no harm; I just liked the explosions. And I was careful never to kill more than I could eat.
Thompson came eventually to hold court at that home, drinking, using drugs, changing wives, fathering children, being abusive, writing from time to time, and letting at least two actors - Bill Murray and Johnny Depp - both of whom portrayed the good doctor on screen.

Thompson killed himself in 2005, and we lost an amazingly talented writer and a deeply flawed man.

During my senior year in college, my mom got tickets to see Hunter speak in Louisville. I declined the invitation; partially because I had heard legendary tales of hig public appearances involving drunkenness and abuse toward the crowd, partially because I knew enough about Hunter - from a biography that I read that year - to know that I didn't want to celebrate the man over the writing, and partially because I have never quite bought into the cult of personality that often surrounds authors.

I don't want to shake hands with Chuck Palahniuk no matter how many of his books I enjoy. I don't want to chat with Stephen King even though his books have brought me so much joy. I don't want to thank Andrew Greig because of The Electric Brae.

And I certainly didn't want to meet Hunter S Thompson and possibly sully my love of his work by seeing that he's less than magical as a human being.

But I do want to reread The Great Shark Hunt again, and I will be seeing Gonzo next week when it comes out.

Do yourself a favor and give some of Thompson's early work a try...

July 10, 2008


But it's a subpoena...

You don't get to say no to a subpoena...

To quote:
[a subpoena] is an order from a court for a person to appear at a trial under punishment for failure to appear

Mixing it up - mostly for GRace

The Girl and I wandered over to the Cox Road area to check out Mix It Up, a cereal cafe that opened up this week.

Seriously, cereal cafe...

They've got like twenty types of cereal on the wall in these big dispensers, and a bowl of cereal is $3.95 - two types of cereal plus two mix-ins. The mix-ins are stuff like fruit, apple pie topping, marshmallows, oreo crumbles, and loads more. Or you can go up a buck to add in a third type of cereal and another mix-in.

They also offer sandwiches - on a bagel, a waffle, or a pannini - and yogurt mixed in with the fruit and cereal.

That's it.

Pretty much a breakfast kinda place - even though they're open from morning through evening, but I do know a certain student aide of mine this past year who would be totally down with the whole cereal for dinner thing.

We ended up going elsewhere to get a pizza, but I am intrigued and may just revisit the place one of these mornings.

Sadly, they don't have a web presence just yet, but they just opened up this week, so give 'em some time.

July 9, 2008

The not-so-brief and honestly-not-terrifically-recent

Ok, we're going a few weeks back for the media I've been perusing. As it's been the summer, there's been a WHOLE LOT of media to peruse, so I'm going to be quick about everything...

Life as We Knew It - read this one at Indian Garden while in the Canyon. Had a few hours to kill, and The Girl had brought it along as a YA read, so I buzzed through it in the afternoon.

Great read, emotional rollercoaster (just have something in my eye, I swear), really gripping story. One I'd recommend to anybody.

Plus it's a quick read, too.

Basics of the story - comet hits the Earth and moves the moon into a closer orbit (sure, the science up to there is a bit far-fetched, but it's the only science that truly requires suspension of disbelief) causing all sorts of disasterous results. We focus on a teenage girl writing a diary and trying to deal with the catastrophies that change the entire world.

Great use of the main character's diary as our way into her thoughts. It's only in the very last episode of the tale that the author forgoes the diary as the story-telling device.

Outstanding book...highly recommended...

Middlesex - The Girl and I had fifty-some hours in the car on the way to and from the Canyon, so we loaded up with three - tried for five, but the uploads didn't work on the other two - audio books for the trip.

This finest of the ones we managed to hear was easily this one.

Middlesex is an outstanding novel, telling the tale of Calliope Stephanides and how he came into being. Calliope opens the tale with the very forethright explanation the he was born as a girl but came to become a man during his teenaged years. He then immediately heads into his familial past to tell the tale of how his genetic anomaly came to be, examining the complex relationship between his grandparents, both carriers of the recessive trait that wouldn't come to full fruition for three generations but that was already a part of their Greek village's heritage and lore.

From there, Cal - as he comes to be known - follows the twists and turns - marvelously exploring how each of us is as much a product of chance as of genetics - of his family through the burning of Smyrna, the growth of the auto industry of Detroit, the founding of the Nation of Islam, bootlegging during prohibition, the creation and eventual downfall of an immigrant fortune, and the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies.

In the process, Eugenides has crafted the great American novel as completely as I have ever seen, wrapping the tale of one family through an amazing breadth of America's spirit and identity - racial, historical, spiritual, economic - allowing us to understand so very much more than how one young girl found that she had a crocus somewhere between what the girls and the boys each had.

--- spoiler warning - Lakes, highlight the below passage to read ---

The tale drifted a bit for me during the Nation of Islam portion, feeling a bit forced - especially with the revelation of the true identity of the speech-maker, but the rest of the book is near perfect.

--- spoiler over, c'mon back ---

WW Hulk: Front Line - I'm all down with the parts of World War Hulk that I've read yet, and this is no change.

The six-issue tie-in series tells the story of people - two reports and a police officer, primarily - who are on the ground in NYC as the Hulk destroys a fair portion of their city. The artwork is fittingly more realistic, more gritty than was that of the main line, and the tales much smaller, showing how these people would be affected by the destruction going on around them.

Great addition to the main tale.

Signs - Ok, it's a movie from M Night Shyamalan so it's got a big twist somewhere toward the end, right?

--- spoiler alert all over the place ---


Nothing coming here.

The thing that you think is going to happen just sort of happens while the main character - Mel Gibson's preacher man - gets his faith back because things work out in the end.


Of course, I knew about the aliens and the water before the movie even started, so I guess there wasn't much for him to tell me.

--- spoiler's done ---

Sure, the filmmaking well done, and it's pretty and all, but it's frickin' boring.


Joker's Last Laugh - blech...neat cover, crappy story...

artwork is inconsistent (lots of different artists throughout)...

the story is stupid...

the plot holes are massive...

the collection is to be avoided...

Coraline - Neil Gaiman's Coraline has been adapted into a graphic novel by P Craig Russell (of Kent, OH and of "Sandman: Ramadan").

Take a look at one of the pages here.

A more-nearly-perfect match of author and artist could likely not be made as Russell has worked with Gaiman in illustrating a number of the writer's tales. Here Russell takes the words of the Coraline novella and illustrates them in a wash of pale colors and providing a horrifically scary image of the Other Mother, the villian of the tale.

I originally listened to Coraline as read by Gaiman, and the images in my head certainly don't match those that Russell has conjured and put to paper, but that doesn't make the adaptation any less impressive.

Coraline is one of the modern classics of young adult fiction, and this edition is a great addition to its lore.

X-Men: Die by the Sword - further proof that I should never try to read anything regarding the X-Men unless I know in advance that it's about a small enough part of the group that I understand them.

I read it. There were other universes. Some guy in a zoot suit that kept changing colors and patterns was apparently the bad guy.

Characters I though I knew turned out to be ones I didn't know.

I have no clue what happened.

Nor do I care.

Justice League International - I hadn't realized just how many issues this series took to find its tone and footing, but in reading the introduction to the most recent collection, I saw that the authors and artists had no clue that they'd be helming the most successful DC comic of the time and that they didn't think they'd last more than a couple of issues because of the bwah-ha-ha tone that they were taking.

It's a fun read, but it makes me want to read the next volume even more.

Luckily DC has collected these issues three times now.

C'mon, folks...

The Kite Runner - I didn't want to see this film and ended up getting it only because it was a flexplay "rental", and I'm all down with dropping $5 to find out how the chemistry works. (Still working on that last part, though it appears to work nearly perfectly.)

The movie was well made, and again, I clearly had something in my eye - especially during the parts where the main character sends his friend away and then later realizes that the friend has passed away.

Tear-jerker...bit of a let-down in the final real as the confrontation and sneaking out of Afghanistan seemed to be too quick for the film's pacing, but the whole thing worked for the most part for me.

Must've been tough to be one of the child actors, however. Sheesh...

Let's go quickly from here because I'm getting bored with typing this...no links from here onward...
  • Superman - Infinite City - neat, digitally drawn artwork...really fun visual style...pedestrian storyline with weirdo science problems throughout...pick it up and flip through...
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union - didn't at all go where I thought it was going to go...turned out to be a much larger scope of the tale than the smallish, village noir that I thought it was going to be...preferred Summerland, but this was pretty good...kinda wish I would've read it rather than listened, however, as there were lots of words I didn't know and still have no clue of how to pronounce
  • Younder Mountain String Band: Mountain Tracks 5 - ok, two links because I'd already found 'em...least favorite of the series...good music, well played, just kinda boring...
  • Wanted - oh, my dear lord...horrible...found myself laughing twice during big fight scenes or dramatic moments when I clearly was meant to be on the edge of my seat...physics be damned...plot be damned...it's all about the slo-mo...
  • The Wire - we're five episodes in, and I'm hooked...the first couple of episodes were a bit slow, but they were setting things up...good stuff...
  • Life Sucks - Clerks but with vampires...in modern LA...entertaining graphic novel...funny stuff with poignant moments mixed in...nice modern take on vampires living in the real world...
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn - The Real Deal, GH vol 2 - nice cd...too many songs I didn't know, however...great "Life by the Drop", "Voodoo Chile", and "Shake for Me"...too reverential take on "Pipeline"...it's more SRV than I want...one cd of GH is enough for me...
  • Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II - boring...a few highlights like "Ordinary People", but I think I've moved on from Neil for the most part...his last half dozen albums have been way too much alike...