December 29, 2012

And a one...and a two...and a...




December 28, 2012

What's cooler than cool?

Sam Rockwell, that's what.







He definitely rocks the rock well.

December 27, 2012

Thoughts on series 9

I'll admit it. I'm sucked in.

The Lego group has beaten me. They've won. They've dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of Lego collectible minifigures.

I'd resisted until a year or so ago when Meijer had the series 5 figures for half price. I bought a bunch at random then went feeling through the bags to complete my collection...with a number of duplicates (anybody need a cavewoman or six?)


Luckily, I never saw series 6, but I did stumble upon series 7 and its outstanding Scottish highlander.


I didn't quite finish that one off via feel - still needing the ocean king.

Series 8 tempted me with the red cheerleader and Santa with his sack. I managed a nearly full set there, still lacking the fairie (her wings and scepter are supposedly easy to feel but befuddled me).


And now Lego has given us images of the series 9 minifigs with the very cool-looking chicken man, Dr Jeckl/Mr Hyde, and the roller derby queen.


Supposedly they started showing up in some stores before Christmas, but I checked a couple of local WalMarts and Meijers with no success.

Stupid completist mentality...now I want to go back and get all of the first four series, too...especially the clown, wrestler, the maraca man, baseballer, fisherman, gorilla suit guy, lawn gnome, hazmat team, mad scientist, lady liberty, and the leprechaun.

Plus they've already announced series 10 and series 11.

I'm gonna be buying these for a while now...sheesh...

December 25, 2012

A great man has left us...

Today Charles Durning let slip this mortal coil.

We are all the richer for his having been with us as long as he was.

He was a spectacular actor and an even greater man.

From his wikipedia bio...
Durning served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Drafted at age 21, he was first assigned as a rifleman with the 398th Infantry Regiment, and later served overseas with the 3rd Army Support troops and the 386th Anti-aircraft Artillery (AAA) Battalion. For his valor and the wounds he received during the war, Durning was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Heart medals. 
Durning participated in the Normandy Invasion of France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was among the first troops to land at Omaha Beach. In Episode S03E09 of the program Dinner for Five, which also included Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise and Charles Nelson Reilly, Reynolds spoke about Durning's service career for him, as Durning did not like to talk about it much. Reynolds revealed that Durning was in a group of gliders who overshot their landing zone and that he had to fight alone all the way back to the beach. Reynolds also stated that his own father was there fighting about 15 yards away and that Durning was probably the most decorated veteran (then) still alive from World War II. Some sources state that he was with the 1st Infantry Division at the time, but it is unclear if he served as a rifleman or as a member of one of the division's artillery battalions. 
Durning was wounded by a German “S” Mine on June 15, 1944 at Les Mare des Mares, France. He was transported to the 24th Evacuation Hospital. By June 17 he was back in England at the 217th General Hospital. Although severely wounded by shrapnel in the left and right thighs, the right hand, the frontal region of the head, and the anterior left chest wall, Durning recovered quickly and was determined to be fit for duty on December 6, 1944. He arrived back at the front in time to take part in the Battle of the Bulge, the German counter-offensive through the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and Luxembourg in December 1944. 
After being wounded again, this time in the chest, Durning was returned to the United States. He remained in Army hospitals to receive treatment for wounds until being discharged with the rank of Private First Class on January 30, 1946. 
He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of a Marine veteran in "Call of Silence," an episode of the television series NCIS, first broadcast November 23, 2004. Drawing on his first-hand knowledge of the lingering effects of battle-induced stress, Durning's character turns himself in to authorities, insisting that he must be prosecuted for having murdered his buddy during ferocious combat on Iwo Jima six decades earlier. The real truth of the incident only becomes known for certain when the guilt-stricken veteran goes through a cathartic reliving of the battlefield events. 
Durning was known for participating in various functions to honor American veterans. He was the chairman one year of the U.S. National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. He was an honored guest speaker at the National Memorial Day Concert for many years, televised by PBS every year on the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend. 
In April 2008 Durning received the National Order of the Legion of Honor from the French consul in Los Angeles, awarded to those who served with distinction in France. During the ceremony, Durning spoke about his wartime experiences.
I've offered Durning a tribute before, but many of the videos have left YouTube, so I thought I would update things.



A Classic



Enjoy today's fine Christmas special in its entirety: Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special.

December 24, 2012

2012 in review: Books

I actually read some books this year...like real, actual, written for adult, non-picture books.

Yeah, I probably read twenty times as many comic book collections (trade paperbacks, you know) as I did non-picture books this year.

What were the best of the books I read this past year?
  • Breakfast of Champions - I would put this as Vonnegut's second greatest work just a bit behind Slaughterhouse, but it's close. This is Vonnegut's darkest great work, one that saw a writer exploring his world. It's a tough read at times, but it's brilliant.
  • Cat's Cradle - Vonnegut's second great work and the one that is almost his most light-hearted. Yes, the world ends as a direct result of the characters' actions, but it ends entertainingly.
  • Dream Team - Fun to see the behind-the-scenes relationships and rivalries that never prevented the original Dream Team from becoming the greatest basketball team ever...also fun to see how much went into the creation of the team
  • Hunger Games - Gripping opener for what has become a massive literary hit trilogy...very much enjoyed learning about this post-apocalyptic world of the United States after an obviously disastrous civil war. Solid characters, though the romantic triangle would become troublesome after a while.
  • Just After Sunset - Stephen King's latest short story collection is hit or miss but with more hits than misses
  • Methland - This one's terrifying but not without hope as it looks at the history of crystal meth (and methamphetamines) in the United States, the effects of addiction on one Iowa town, and the lives of addicts. Thankfully the book is not without hope.
  • Mockingjay - The climactic Hunger Games book wrapped the story up fairly well and avoided the whiny crap of Katniss in book two.
  • Mother Night - Vonnegut's first great book...and the one that is sort of the least impossible...It's not happy, but it was his first great work.
  • Slaughterhouse Five - I've read this dozens of times now, and it held every bit of the impact for me on the newest reading. I'll still put it forth as Vonnegut's finest work.
  • Summerland - Read this one for one of the two two-person book clubs in which I took part this year. (Tough to judge which was more successful, but that's for another day.) It's an odd book in that it's clearly written for young people - probably pre-teens or earlier - but is large enough that it might not hold their attention long enough to get to the payoff. It also has some pacing issues, but in the end I again found myself in tears.

December 22, 2012

I probably should start shopping for Christmas sometime soon

Or not...maybe I'll just give donations to the Human Fund this year...




December 21, 2012

2012 in review: comic books


My reading of comic books is far from comprehensive. Because of that my list is nothing close to a 'best of 2012' but rather a 'best of what I read in 2012'.

  • I read almost exclusively what's in at the public library. That means I rarely get the newest but rather get things a few months old and in somewhat limited selection. Our library is spectacular, marvelous, and amazing, but there are always lots more comic on the 'to read' list than there are at the library.
  • I read way more DC/Marvel superhero comics than I read anything else. The ratio is probably ten to one or even higher. There are, I'm sure, tons of outstanding non-superhero graphic novels out there. I just don't check them out as much as I could.
  • I tend to re-read things that I very much enjoyed. Some of these things could make my 'best of' list every year. I'll try not to do that unless some part of the series was new to me this year.
So, without further ado...
  • GI Joe: Death of Cobra Commander - GI Joe and Cobra are huge organizations with seemingly hundreds of thousands of members making for a wildly rich cast of characters. This also means that things happen that aren't initially, obviously connected to the vast plot of Cobra Commander's eventual demise. Turns out that they're all connected and make for a marvelously rich storyline and a much more indepth Cobra motivation than we ever got from the cartoons.
  • Invincible - The seventh ultimate collection of Invincible was published this year, taking Mark, his father, and his younger brother away from Earth to fight the full-out Viltrumite War above the surface of Viltrium on behalf of the Coalition of Planets. It's more knock-down, drag-out, non-stop action. And time passes back on Earth while all this is happening. This is not a series where nothing happens. People die, others get depressed and fat, and Mark goes a bit off the rails by the end of this volume, throwing his lot in with a villain whom he had previously helped lock up.
  • Locke & Key - Clockwork - This one was actually new this year and the penultimate volume of the brilliant Locke & Key series. The tension is ratcheted up, and I am desperate to get my hands on the next volume. Joe Hill has this story wrapped as tightly as it's possible to do. Love it
  • Nextwave: Agents of HATE - There aren't enough funny superhero comic books around these days, but this twelve-issue maxi-series from Marvel hit the right tone with a weird combination of spy and anti-hero genres, good guys being hunted by the agency that they left behind. Good stuff
  • Powers - full series here...the newest volume (Gods) takes the horror of living in the Powers world up a notch with Gods upon Earth nearly destroying the Eastern seaboard. This might be taking the questions of what distinctions there are between gods and the series's titular powers to a ridiculous extreme. The again we also get some possibly HUGE changed to Walker's relationships with Calista and his alien bosses. This isn't the finest volume in the series, but Powers's weak link is a pretty great collection. Plus I re-read all the volumes leading up to Gods, and they're phenomenal - especially 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time.
  • Spider-Man Blue - The Loeb/Sale partnership struck again with this great volume. I complain often about comics treading the same landscape as most superhero origin stories have been told to death. This is, though, the one time when the same ground should be tread. The retelling of Spider-Man's first year - focusing on his time falling in love with Gwen Stacy - is spectacular. The framing device of Peter feeling titularly blue works marvelously well, and the artwork is stunning. Yeah, it's ten years old, but it was new to me this year.
  • Tale of Sand - Look, it's the only non-superhero comic on the list. Enjoy it while it's here. This is a completion of one of Jim Henson's final projects, and it's a gorgeous work. Yeah, it's a bit non-linear and experimental, but it's a bit weird. Certainly worth a look because it's pretty oustandingly attractive.  This one's for the art lovers out there.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man Prelude - Bendis pretty well knocked this entire hundred-sixty-issue run of Ultimate Spider-Man out of the park. He created a brilliant character who spent the fourteen or so years of his teenage years learning how to be the best hero and man that he could...and then he left us. Taken before his time...
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Fallout - I wrote that the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man was the lynchpin of the Ultimate world, and it makes sense that his death would be a traumatic event for so many different characters. The writers here do a marvelous job allowing the various heroes to grieve both publicly and privately. It's a moving collection.
  • Honorable mention - JL8 / Little League (it's a webcomic, but it's some of the best comic writing out there right now), Superman: The Black Ring (great Superman comic without Superman but with robot Lois Lane), Batman: Noel (my review was pretty crap, so I have no idea why I liked it so much, but it must've been pretty good, I guess), Blue Beetle (I read the full, pre-cancellation series this year and was pretty impressed with the slow growth of the first set of writers...and less so about the second set).

December 20, 2012

2012 in review: Movies

The best stuff I watched on the big screen (or at home) this year...

  • The Avengers - Wonderful payoff for three years of build-up from Marvel Studios. They've done everything - EVERYTHING - right so far. Here's to hoping that they can keep rolling.
  • Chronicle - The budget wasn't huge, but the performances were. The story arc is far from predictable, and the exploration of what would happen if weird super-power-origins happened to a maladjusted teenager. The entirety is surprising.
  • The Dark Knight Rises - Great capper to a great trilogy, easily the finest superhero trilogy we've gotten yet. Nolan attacked themes, and that granduer, that scale and scope and ambition combined with Nolan's spot-on world building absolutely kills this one.
  • The Descendants - Beautiful family drama with outstanding performances
  • The Diving Bell & the Butterfly - heart-breaking story of a man trapped with locked-in syndrome is perfectly acted...perfectly acted by Mathieu Amalric
  • Ides of March - This one feels almost dated after the ugliness of our year-long campaign. I'd like to see it again to see how it feels now.
  • Looper - There weren't many movies that left my jaw on the floor, but this one absolutely did that to me. Wonderful film with an ad campaign that didn't remotely give away the film. Thank you for that
  • Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson's best yet, and that's saying something.
  • Moneyball - Brad Pitt's moving up on the best actors of the generation list very quickly.
  • Skyfall - Anything that could rival Casino Royal must be a hell of a film. This one's the perfect Bond film.
  • Honorable mention: Crazy Stupid Love (refreshingly entertaining), Harold & Kumar Christmas (not as good as the first but with some great NPH action), Bad Teacher (bad role models but fun time), Friends with Benefits (wonderful leads but semi-predictable), The Secret of Kells (gorgeous), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (funny flick, great puppets), Hunger Games (good start to the trilogy), Cabin in the Woods (turned the horror genre upside down)
What's the best movie you saw this year?

December 19, 2012

The Weirdest of the 80s

How could you not want to watch a film as weird as this?



I own a copy on DVD, of course. The movie is an absolute piece of pure 80's trash.

There's the hero - a rock and roll, space cowboy, comic book hero, neurosurgeon  nuclear physicist, super spy who saves the world from Martians after coming back from the 8th dimension, playing a little guitar and tiny trumpet - played by Peter Weller (Robocop). There's the villain, Dr. Lizardo, played by John Lithgow in full scenery-chewing, crazy scientist mode. We also get Christopher Lloyd (Doc from Back to the Future), Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum walking around in a Riders in the Sky outfit, Dan Hedaya (Nick Tortelli from Cheers), and Clancy Brown (the Kurgen from Highlander).



December 17, 2012

Math Run

A number of students I work with should spend some time working through this game because their math sense for simple math is lacking.

I, on the other hand, think I'm just fine.

math trainer

(Source)

December 15, 2012

Let's make this kitty purr...





December 14, 2012

Gone...never to return...

On December 14, 1972 at 5:55pm EST we left the moon.


Harrison Schmidt and Eugene Cernan were the last two people to ever walk on the lunar surface, the eleventh and twelfth people ever to do so, spending twenty-two hours and three minutes and fifty-seven seconds outside their lunar lander exploring the moon's surface. Cernan, as mission commander, was the last man to return to the lunar lander, but...

[b]efore Cernan left the moon on the Apollo 17 mission he remembered his daughter in a special way. “I drove the Rover about a mile away from the LM and parked it carefully so the television camera could photograph our takeoff the next day. As I dismounted, I took a moment to kneel and with a single finger, scratched [my daughter] Tracy’s initials, ‘TDC,’ in the lunar dust, knowing those three letters would remain there undisturbed for more years than anyone could imagine.” (source)
Since Cernan and Schmidt left the moon, we have never returned. In three and a half years of missions, we landed Americans on the moon six times before the Apollo program was ended for budgetary concerns, and we have never...ever...not once...left Earth's gravitational pull.


We took the greatest accomplishment that we as a species had ever managed - delivering to another celestial body our best and brightest before returning them safely to Earth - and stopped doing it because it was pricey.


We saw the glory of the universe, took the first step to spreading ourselves beyond where we were born, and we pulled back, we closed the door and seem to be at least politically content to live in our box.

This is a tragedy.

Eugene Cernana's gesture is a beautiful tribute.


December 13, 2012

The cream and crimson!

Congratulations to the Indiana Hoosiers men's soccer team who won the NCAA D1 title this past Sunday.


That makes an even eight titles for Indiana, more than every team but St Louis U. The Billikens, however, haven't won since 1973 - when they won their tenth title in the first fifteen titles that the NCAA awarded.

December 12, 2012

December 11, 2012

Poorly Drawn Comics

Let me introduce you to Poorly Drawn Lines, a webcomic of occasional and severe weirdness.
I'm offering you a few of my clean favorites. Go for the stuff after the jump, because the one about the spider is brilliant.

December 8, 2012

Secret plan...revenge on my mind...
















December 7, 2012

Such a precocious pig

Thank you, Ann(i)e Coale for continuing to grace us with your gorgeous artwork...







December 6, 2012

A hot lunch

First there was Heater Meal - the meal that heats itself.



Those folks have now expanded to offer big soup/coffee/tea/hot chocolate kits and a dozen different entree or breakfast options. (You can learn more here. They're made a couple of miles from my school.)

Then there was the self-heating coffee can from Hillside Coffee...



And now there's Christmas Dinner in a Can from the Hot Can people (one of their many varieties, natch).


I've had the Heater Meals and the self-heating coffee, but I haven't had anything from Hot Can...yet.

Anybody wanna find me some?

Oh, and if you've been counting, yes, this is post #3000. Congrats to me...and to those of you who've been here since the beginning.

December 5, 2012

Death wish

I am terrified...Terrified...TERRIFIED...TERRIFIED...TERRIFIED...TERRIFIED of heights.

I can't even imagine trying to do what Alex Honnold does in this video...


(source)

...but I was amazed enough to go searching for more about this Honnold guy. I found a great article over on Outside magazine's website and a pretty good one on the NYTimes.

Man, my palms are sweating just watching those videos.


December 4, 2012

Two moving years

XKCD is spectacular. If you're not following along, you're missing out on the absolute best thing on the internet.

Yes, it's got its 'your mom' jokes and its pure geekiness and also stunning visual presentations of information, but it's also got heart-wrenching moments of emotion as raw and moving as anything else on the web - or anywhere.

This past Friday's comic was another example of that...


Background after the jump and partially thanks to Neatorama...

December 3, 2012

A dark day remembered

Part 2 of WKRP in Cincinnati's "In Concert" episode

In Concert Part 2 by giebergoldfarb

Part 1 of WKRP in Cincinnati's "In Concert" episode

In Concert Part 1 by giebergoldfarb

If you need to learn more about the events...

Things

Let's see what was worth the time I invested in it over these past few weeks...

Astonishing X-Men: Monstrous - I enjoyed the Whedon run for the first four collections of Astonishing, and I'd rank them among the best comics runs that Marvel has put out in a long, long while. Since Wheon left, however, the issues have been a fair bit more hit and miss - Exogenetic and Ghost Box being more miss than hit. Monstrous isn't exactly a full return to form, but it's at least a bit of fun. Armor - one of the best new character creations of the Whedon run - opens by pushing her powers to the limit, increasing the reach and size of her armor and turning it into an offensive rather than defensive force. When Armor is called back to Japan for a family funeral, the rest of the team mounts up and travels with her - an admittedly cliche move for a superteam. There a monster - from Monster Island, natch - forces Armor and the rest of the X-team to come together - as a family.

It's certainly not new ground being tread here, but it's a decent enough read.

Batman: Court of Owls - I wasn't exactly looking forward to the Court of Owls storyline as I've been a bit put off of Batman comics thanks to the horrifically messy storytelling of the Morrison era. Ever issue of Morrison's work has driven me absolutely nuts, and I was thrilled to find that this one was a Scott Snyder production instead.

This storyline comes directly out of Gates of Gotham, another in a long line of needless explorations of the history of Gotham as den of iniquity, cesspool, birthplace of murderers, and hopeful resurrection project of the Wayne family - and a few other wealthy families of the city.

Here we find a Bruce Wayne - in the new 52 - in the middle of an apparently deathless assassin's rash of murders, killing Gotham players of power who have dared to rise above the fray and try to help the city - including Wayne, himself. As we learn that Wayne spent his youth investigating the existence of an alleged Court of Owls who controlled Gotham from far behind the scenes only to find no reality to the most secret of organizations...until now. The Court eventually finds Batman guilty and traps him in a giant underground torture maze...because that's plausible, of course.

The massive conspiracy actually works here with Wayne and his newly buff Alfred relating numerous nursery rhymes of city-known legends of the Court. As with the X-Men, this is ground tread before - Batman nearly goes mad, saves himself at the last moment because of the secret steps that he's been taking but just not revealing to us, the villainry seems defeated but chooses instead to unleash hell on the city just as the volume comes to a close, but it's entertainingly tread this time.

I'll be back for the second volume.

Summerland - This was my second time through Michael Chabon's for-kids debut tale of baseball, multiple worlds, faeries, bigfoots, and lots more mythical, just sort of recognizable characters and creatures. The first time, though, was as an audio book. This time I actually took to the printed page.

We open on Clam Island in the Pacific Northwest, a tiny island where baseball is the game of the summer and which is only a thin jump across the World Tree to a mythical realm known as the Summerlands and inhabited by baseball-playing Ferrishers (only slightly modified faeries) . It seems that Coyote - the archetypal trickster - is trying to wither the World Tree and return the order that is the world - all four of its realms - into the disorder that is nothingness so that he can remake the world in his image.

The only thing standing in his way is Ethan Feld, Clam Island newcommer and horrible baseball player. If he is to save the worlds, however, he is going to have to learn to trust himself, control his pitcher, take a pitche, and love his father. Chabon crafts a wonderful and magical world out of lots of traditional mystical beasties - many of whom are just on the edges of the recognizable. Instead of the Tall Tales of American legend (Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill, John Henry - none of whom are ever called by name) we get the Big Liars, a team of baseball playing brilliance who Feld's squad beats by the slimmest of margins.

The tale alternately meanders and rushes by, echoing the pacing of a baseball game where one half inning may take nearly an hour and the next three innings roar past in the seeming blink of an eye. Along the way, the Feld gang picks up more and more team members and grows closer together with each step along the journey. And in the end there isn't any surprise in the conclusion as the hero does step up the save the day - just as all the signs have been saying would happen. The climax - and particularly the eventual post-climactic wrap-up - are wonderful and emotional after a long, wandering path to get there.

Chabon - as always - has created a richly filled world populated by characters who are just flawed enough to keep our interest. High quality stuff

Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls - This, on the other hand, is an awful piece of crap and must be entirely forgotten as a part of the Indiana Jones trilogy...yes, trilogy...

From the infamous refrigerator scene to the climax with the thirteen crystal skeletons coming together to nearly destroy the legacy of Harrison Ford's Dr Jones.

Horrible...horrible...horrible...I'm at least glad I didn't pay to see this dreck.

Justice League: Origin - As a child of the 80s and 90s, someone who came into adulthood reading the comic books of the grim and gritty post-Dark Knight era, I worshiped at the alter of Jim Lee.

I read Hush and his Superman-Batman series and loved his artwork...loved...in the past tense. Now I have come to find his drawings cluttered with needless lines and overly drawn figures. And, yay! The full New 52 is based on his designs. Blech...I look forward to a change to a clean art style somewhere along the way.

I'm okay with the whole retelling of the JL origins with the characters meeting each other for the first time and even with the mistaken fight that stereotypically ensues, but graphic novels are equally about the visuals as they are about the story. Here the story is a six or seven - okay but not spectacular - but the artwork is a three or four. If you like Jim Lee, enjoy this one. If you don't - as I don't, steer clear.

The Cabin in the Woods - Joss Whedon can do no wrong.

Here he turns his attention to the horror genre and writes the heck out of a horror flick..or at least something that sets up as a pretty standard horror flick. The set up is very standard with five college students taking a weekend vacation to the titular cabin in the woods, owned by one of the student's uncles. Once at the cabin, of course, the five awaken an undead family of cannibalistic zombies who hunt down the five archetypes in a standard progression - the whore, the athlete, the scholar, the fool, the virgin. The denouement, however, is far from standard and makes for a really interesting - if not quite as terrifying film.

Spoilers coming...

Whedon, however, doesn't leave the story as standard, instead showing us that beneath the cabin, there is planning afoot. Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, and Amy Acker are bureaucrats hard at work ensuring that the destruction at the cabin plays out according to long-planned rules and requirements for 'their' viewing pleasure. It isn't until far through the movie, though, that 'they' are revealed to be the eldritch gods kept at bay through the ritual and annual sacrifice of these five archetypes - as well as similar sacrifices made in Tokyo and Stockholm.

As the plans for the five here seemingly come to successful fruition - saving the planet and the entire human race, the underdwellers celebrate - only to be stopped when someone notices that the Fool didn't play his part and die. Instead, he brings the virgin into the underworld, throwing a through wrench into the plans. Their time in the underworld is actually far more interesting than their time above as we get to see the lengths to which the bureaucrats have to go to ensure our safety every year. As the thousands of kept horrors are released in the complex, I found myself wondering just for whom I should be rooting - the obvious choices were the manipulated and doomed college students, but if they succeed, our world ends.


Whedon has made a fabulous film - even though he didn't direct it.

Superman vs the Elite (DVD) - I've mentioned my love of Action Comics #775 before, and I'll stand by my statement that it's one of the best single-issue comics written in the past decade (slightly more than a decade now since it came out in 2001). This animated adaptation is successfully brings that issue to life, fleshing out the story a little to make a full, feature-length. The introduction of the Elite comes out a little differently, and the addition of Vera - a character who is barely mentioned in the single issue comic but was fleshed out later in the Elite series - makes for a handy deux ex machina allowing Lois to find out more about the Elite's background a little too easily. I also wasn't thrilled with the huge use of the Superman robots in the final scene, but all in all, this is a successful adaptation.

Nice job, DC.

Batman: Year One (DVD) - The Year One storyline may be Frank Miller's finest work, utterly redefining the first year of Batman's career and telling a tale that has been told to death with a wonderfully refreshing, reserved, and deft touch, something that most of the other Frank Miller high points (300, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City all of which are thoroughly without restraint). Miller's Batman is a rookie, struggling to find his way in a hard world where he leaves himself absolutely no margin for error. The artwork by David Mazzucchelli is gorgeous and subdued, a world in muted tones.

In this adaptation, the DC animators have stuck with the visual style and wonderful storyline of the comics, telling tales centered on the new-to-Gotham Jim Gordon and revealing the Batman largely through Gordon's eyes. We see that Gotham is a cesspool of corruption, greed, and organized crime, something that has come to be cannon but that Miller largely brought into the Batman world.

The voice work from Brian Cranston as Jim Gordon is absoutely top notch as he carries the film with his conflicted but deeply human commissioner-to-be.

Great animation, especially for those of us who already know the classic basis.

The Catwoman short feature on the disc, though, is horrible and only for those of you who want to stare at exaggeratedly busty and hippy heroines. Bad addition to a great disc...

Powers - I didn't realize that I was a volume behind on the the Powers reading. Turns out this volume came out in October and continued the storyline that was briefly revealed at the end of the last collection. A god has died, and it's up to Walker and his partner - under the watchful eye of newly-federal Deena Pilgrim - to find out who did it.

This exploration of the fine line between powers and gods - or powers who claim/believe to be gods wasn't as interesting to me as were some of the other arcs, and the destruction thrown at the East Coast in the arc's conclusion left me wondering just how awful a world this would be to live in - one in which much of Utah, the Gaza Strip, all of Iraq, the Vatican have all been destroyed in earlier issues - and how only 6000 people could die when a hundred-foot-tall wave strikes the East Coast.

Again, by the end of this issue, Walker and some of the other characters - including Calista - are MIA. There are also seeds for possible later problems - particularly Calista's hitch-hiking alien beastie - sown in this issue.

I'll be back for more, but I'm enjoying re-reading all the previous issues more than I did reading this one for the first time.

December 2, 2012

Update: Things I Didn't Know About Mount Everest

I'm fascinated by Mount Everest and our stupidly human desire to summit the deadly mountain.

Today, I came across this gem: "There are over 200 bodies on Mount Everest, and they're used as landmarks".


If you're curious, you can see more photos of some of the bodies on these posts.

December 1, 2012

I'm very sorry that I was rude.



November 30, 2012

Heck of a singer, eh?

Gots to love that Craig Ferguson on the Late, Late Show, eh?

November 29, 2012

Typographical Images

Thanks to Neatorama and Google Type, I have a few new images to post today. The site takes your phrase and searches the web for images of each letter, putting them together at random.

Here's what I got...









November 28, 2012

House Carpenter

I love the song "House Carpenter". It's an old folk song that apparently goes by many different names - "The Daemon Lover", "James Harris, "James Herries", and "The House Carpenter". I'm surprised at how few major, professional artists have recorded the song (at least that I can find on YouTube which has to be definitive, right?).

November 27, 2012

I wish me a merry Christmas

Each year - well, most years, anyway - we hold an Ugly Christmas Sweater Day at Princeton, and I'm getting tired of not having an awesome Christmas sweater for myself. All I have is a sad cardigan in Christmas colors but that has absolutely no Christmas design in the least. At some point I'm going to just break down and buy one of these awesome Christmas sweaters...

My eventual purchase probably won't come from Tipsy Elves because their selection seems to lean more toward the dirty jokes - Santa writing his name in the snow, reindeer mounting reindeer, Santa in black face - most of which I probably couldn't wear to school and still claim it to be professional.

Ultimate Ugly Christmas has some more passable options, particularly (as of the weekend writing) this snowman council sweater. I wish some of their 'sweaters' weren't really sweatshirts - like Be The Tree.

The Sweater Store also offers a decent selection of pullovers that fit the bill, but all of their sizing information seems to be for women, something that doesn't help me all that much.

Ebay, of course, has thousands of ugly Christmas sweaters, but they're thoroughly hit or miss with the titles being misleading, the sizes being wrong, the prices up for grabs. Four of the sweaters, though, did catch my eye.

Vintage Ugly Christmas Sweaters has a few drawbacks - it's Canadian, and their sweaters all lack sizing information - but does have a decent selection, especially in the vest category.

The Ugly Sweater Store does break things down by sizes, and I appreciate that. My three favorite sweaters there, though, have already been sold.

Weirdly, a label called LA Police Gear has a number of sweaters that they're marketing as being ugly Christmas sweaters, but theirs come with a weird little attitude - like this Milk Boarding sweater.


My current favorite sweater, though, comes from My Ugly Christmas Sweater where they have a section they call Vintage Reindeer sweaters where this outstanding option with an Eddie Bauer reindeer on front and back. It's even in my size. If only it weren't $125. That's a bit much for a once-a-year gag. Be careful, though, because this site has a number of sweaters that they have adapted by sewing on fringe, Santa faces, lights, and other non-traditional sweater accessories.




November 26, 2012

Conversation chains

Coach Sullivan sent me the following image of a sign that he found posted to a telephone pole in his neighborhood last week...


The phone number down there would connect you to Silver Creek High School just a bit north of where the Coach lives.

I forwarded the image onward to Calen who commented that, while she appreciated the old-school, subtle joke, she thought the well image would have been better replaced with something like this...


...because it better suggests "the level of curves they’d like for their well cleaner…because, after all, skin shrinks when it’s been removed from its original form."

While I agree that such a thought, I actually like the use of the simple, plain well graphic. It sells the sign as being more real because it seems like what somebody who actually needs a well cleaner would put on such a sign, but not one to be topped, I went searching for a better woman cleaner image. With the search terms "female cleaner", I got a whole lot of images and was amazed at how many different stock images of this woman there were...


I don't always understand the internet or the world of stock photography.