Saturday, April 28, 2007

One-Panel Suspension

This sequence in the recent Wonder Woman #7 has been discussed exhaustively on various comics blogs, but I think I added something pretty cool to the discussion, and it's a term I may use later for other things, so I figure, why not spread it around?

To set up: Wonder Woman has just rescued a gravely injured Tom Tresser (a.k.a. Nemesis), and is rushing to get him medical attention. Tom's her partner when she's posing as agent Diana Prince, of the Department of Metahuman Affairs, an agency that's trying to bring Wonder Woman into custory for... oh, that's really too complicated to go into right now. What's important is, having already met Tom as Prince, Diana now meets him as Wonder Woman. And, of course, that he's gravely injured. On with the show:

So, here we have Wonder Woman up and drop the injured guy she just risked her life to save. And readers cry "foul."

I have to say, I'm among them. It's a funny gag, I think -- particularly if you don't read the "What do I wear?" straight line as a setup for a joke (I read it as genuine nervousness that Tom had seen through her dual identity, and would describe her in her stylish Diana Prince spy-garb). But there's no way in Hades that she'd do that. He's hurt, for cryin' out loud.

So I simply didn't buy it. In my mind, it didn't happen. That panel was a depiction of a momentary impulse Diana had, of something she'd never do. Even though we're given absolutely no indication of that in the art.

I like fiction with fantasy sequences. I like the Teen Titans cartoon (and the comic based on it), with the little anime touches of people's heads exploding when they're angry or confused, or how they might physically shrink when embarassed. Scrubs has more elaborate fantasy sequences, usually signalled by J.D. tilting his head up and to the left and thinking "a two-headed doctor.... hmmm....", or something like that. Both of these series give pretty clear visual signals of where reality and fantasy diverge (although Scrubs will blur the line for effect).

Not so with the Wonder Woman sequence -- probably beacuse it's intended as a straight-up, objective depiction of events. But as I said, I can't buy that. So I'm unleashing a rarely-used super power of my own:

The willing suspension of belief.

Now, the willing suspension of disbelief has long been a staple of comics and other fantastic fiction -- maybe all fition, in one way or another. In a nutshell, it's encountering an on-its-face unbelievable element and rolling with it for the sake of the story. A guy can fly, just because he comes from a denser planet than Earth? Roll with it. The police commissioner doesn't know who Batman is, even though he could easily trace the lines of that Batphone to the cave under Wayne Manor? Roll with it. Anything to keep the story moving.

But the willing suspension of belief is altogether different. It's saying, in effect, this didn't happen, even though the authors tell me it did. It couldn't have happened, because it's so darn stupid.

Now, the suspension of belief should be used sparingly, at most. Too much of it, and whatever semblance of reality the authors manage to convey will tear and shred from the center out. But the odd moment or two, hand-waved as a fantasy sequence, may be just what the doctor ordered.

Don't believe me? That's your prerogative.

(Image via Ragnell)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Four Years

Kathy and I our celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary today.

Four years... that's the Spider anniversary, isn't it?


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Standing Up

Kevin's right.

Whining about Republicans doesn't make Obama or Clinton any more presidential. They should stand tall and fight back; doing so explicitly says why people should vote for them (instead of against the other guy), and the very fact of it demands respect. On the other hand, the message "He's not playing nice" carries the unmistakable odor of wimp. And who wants that?

UPDATE: This, from Edwards, is the smarter move. Still low on specifics, though.


On hold...

You know you’re speaking to customer service in another country when…

They read your ID number back to you, giving words to make sure the letters are correct –you know, A for Apple, D for Delta, etc.—and they use “L for Lemur?”

…still on hold…


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Droppin' It Like It's Hot

Another 2.6 pounds has found its way to somewhere beyond my vast circumference. Making it 20.6 pounds gone, total -- which means I hit my goal* before going to New Orleans one week early. Maybe Beer & Bratwurst Monday wasn't such a bad idea after all...


*My pre-vacation goal, that is. Plenty more to do when I get back.

The Nova Scotia Board of Tourism

Drinking doesn’t necessarily give me bad dreams…but sometimes it lets me wake up with bad notions. I got this idea soon after (during?) waking up this morning after a night of drinking strong beer with my friend Mike. The worst part is, I can’t convince myself it’s a truly bad idea.

It’s an idea for a Saturday Night Live sketch – a recurring one, in fact, called the Nova Scotia Board of Tourism. It stars a set of twin sisters as representatives of Nova Scotia in New York City, and they go about trying to raise Nova Scotia’s profile by horning in on whatever press conference is nearby. Some of their questions are about Nova Scotia (“What’s your stance on Lobster imports, Snoop Dogg?”) while most of the time they’re just trying to raise their own profile by asking what to them sound like hard-hitting questions:

Isn’t this just a case of connecting the dots, Congressman? Isn’t this just a simply matter of two times two equals five?”

“Um, two times two
doesn’t equal five.”

“Then what times two times two equals five? Tell me
that, congressman. And no fraction double-talk.”

Like I said, I’m not certain it’s a bad idea. But it’s hardly a slam-dunk good one.


Monday, April 23, 2007

The Worms Crawl In

Just a quick post to renew my call for that most pernicious of vermin: the earworm. I was given a few more entries in person this weekend (including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," and thanks VERY MUCH for that, yessiree!), but I wanted to prod y'all one last time to supply me with whatever tune starts jangling around in your head. Because of my upcoming vacation, I'm postponing the execution of this blog game until early May, but when that dread day comes, I want to be prepared.

So lay it on me, brothers and sisters.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wastin' Away Again

Despite a Saturday night full of drinks and appetizers, I managed to misplace 2.6 pounds this week. Down 18 so far. I want two more gone before I go to Jazzfest in a couple of weeks (and gain it all back, almost certainly).


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Lower 50 Percent Solution

Bill Maher has a really funny piece at Salon on Bush's problem with incompetence. Or maybe it's not his problem, but it's certainly ours.

(Click through the ad to see it for free.)

I Hung On To Mary's Stump...

Buy a few cartons of Lucky Strikes. Smoke 'em six at a time if you have to. You have till Friday.

(Thanx to JtB)


The other day, I realized I missed NPR.

Well, that's not quite it. I've can tune into an NPR station, WNYC out of New York, whenever I like. And I always hear about 20 minutes of Morning Edition on the way to work, which is usually discussing something both miserable and intractable. Arab-Israeli conflict, anyone? But what I was really missing were the shows I used to hear all the time: Fresh Air and Radio Times, both out of Philadelphia. Fresh Air is a national show, but it plays on NYC at a time that's doubly inconvenient -- not only am I generally not in my car at 8pm, but by that time NYC's FM station switches to classical music, and I have to go fishing around on the AM dial to hear it. Radio Times is a Philly-area call-in show, and as far as I know isn't on NYC or any other station besides WHYY.

No matter. Podcasts are more convenient anyway. So far I've just listened to a few Fresh Airs. I like the show because no matter the subject, Terry Gross always elicits an interesting conversation. I never used to be able to pick and choose, but since there's a podcast backlog, I've managed to listen to Richard Dawkins about his book The God Delusion, as well as a reporter who worked on the story of the changing chemical balance of the oceans, and actor Gabriel Byrne (who even briefly talked about one of my favorite movies, Miller's Crossing). In other words, I'm really enjoying it. (I'll be dipping my toe back into Radio Times tomorrow. I'm pickier about my subjects with that one. I don't really give a hoot about gardening, and even less about what people might call in to say about it. And I'm only slightly more interested in Don Imus, although here's a piece about racism, politics and that niche of talk radio that I found interesting enough to read to the end.)

At the end of Thursday's Fresh Air (which I heard today), the music critic reviews an album by British singer Amy Winehouse, Back To Black. I'd seen enough mentions of her in Entertainment Weekly to seek out one of her songs on YouTube the other day, and I liked it enough to play it a few times. Then I surfed away, thinking "If I ever hear that song again, I may have to buy that album." So today I hear some of it on Fresh Air, and my opinion hasn't changed. It's called "Rehab"; give it a listen and you might feel the same.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Domo Arigato, Sherlock.

In the "A word to the wise shouldn't be necessary at all" category, this week's Entertainment Weekly crowns "Mr. Roboto" as the Number 1 Worst Song to Listen to While Getting It On.

"Heavy Metal Poisoning" was not mentioned. It seems the couplet, "First we'll spank your big behind/Then we'll twist your little mind," is working for someone...


Friday, April 13, 2007

A Little Housecleaning

So, I messed around with my jumbled-up blogroll a little, dividing it into four sections, named after comic books. I know, you're shocked. They're pretty self-explanatory (or they wouldn't work as headers), but I thought I'd explicity say what each one was, just to have the most boring blog post ever.

So, we've got Archie's Pals & Gals, which are my friends' blogs and websites. (My gal--singular--doesn't blog, but some of my pals are gals, so I think it counts.) Next is Captain America, for the political blogs and sites I visit. After that, there's Comics Cavalcade, for -- you don't really need me to tell you, do you? And then there's Silver Surfer, for all the random Web stuff.

I'll be taking a closer looks at some defunct blogs on the blogroll soon, but in the cases of friends' blogs, at least, I won't be deleting them entirely. They'll just be moved to a new section: Tales From the Crypt. Because you never know when they'll come back, hungry for brains. (If you haven't updated in 3 months, to the Crypt you go!)


You Gotta Lift Up Every Stone

You know, as I watch the White House stonewall and prevaricate and, yes, stonewall about the emails requested to get to the bottom of the US Attorney scandal, it just looks worse and worse. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the Attorneys were fired because they weren’t willing to play ball on Karl Rove’s team and trump up some charges – I mean, “vigorously prosecute” – vote fraud in Democratic districts. And what’s worse, other US Attorneys, like Wisconsin’s Steven Biskupic, were all too willing to do just that to keep their jobs (more here). So what we wind up with is a compromised judicial system in the thrall of the party in power.

Not good. So bad, in fact, that the President and his crew are bending over backwards trying to cover it up, using the Republican National Committee emails for government work (to keep their dirtier dealings from being discovered), deleting emails that should have been preserved according to regulations, and then claiming executive privilege to shield them from the eyes of the representatives of the People.

They say it’s not the crime that nails politicians, but the cover-up. In this case, I think it’s both. And if Bush doesn’t stem the bleeding soon, this could very well proceed into impeachment territory. (The stomach-churning prospect of a President Cheney is keeping a lot of fingers off that trigger, I imagine.)

Attorney General Gonzales is going to testify about the firings next Tuesday, April 17. They say Bush is tremendously loyal to those he came up with, but I have to wonder: Is it possible that the only reason Gonzales hasn’t been given his walking papers yet is because it would be even worse for Bush to have him outside the tent, pissing in?


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sulu, Set a Course...

Jim the Bastard has an amusing photo of the Las Vegas Planet Hollywood casino during its construction. Go see.


A Legion of One

Christopher Bird thinks DC should hire him to write the Legion, and is posting at least one new reason why every day. There's no telling what his scripts would be like...but I have to admit I like his ideas.


Two For Two

Two umbrellas in two weeks. Collapsed, turned in on themselves, and stuffed into the same goddamn trashcan on my walk to work. Twice now, this has happened, in icy bucketfuls of rain. One of the umbrellas' handles twisted off in the wind as I rounded a corner. I couldn't even keep the skeleton together.

I sit here in my office, soaked from the waist down, fuming from the neck up.

This shit has got to stop.



We've lost another good one.

One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., passed away tonight, from complications resulting from a fall a couple of weeks ago.

I'm trying very hard to greet this news with "So it goes." Maybe in a little while.

But as it is, I'm reminded of something he wrote in Timequake. "We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is." It sounds corny, but whenever I've picked up one of his books, be it Timequake, Welcome to the Monkey House, Mother Night or Slaughterhouse-Five, I've always found something there to help me through this thing. His voice was gentle and ridiculous, often surprised, always amazed. I always got the sense that he loved everybody, even the sons of bitches he hated. He seemed to me a kindred spirit.

And now he's gone. Hi ho.

So it goes.



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Daily Grind

I saw (and dug) Grindhouse on opening night. Sharon (one of the folks I saw it with) has a good review of it here. As for me, I was crazy about every last bit of it. I think the Planet Terror segment was more fun, but that on the whole, Death Proof was probably a better movie. Death Proof has a grip on our heart, slowing the viewer's pulse down or speeding it up as it pleases; Planet Terror just grabs us by the balls. (Quite literally, in fact.)

And, of course, the phony trailers were great. Did you know Machete may actually exist next year? (Although the link doesn't say so, I've heard it's planned to go straight to video.) However we get more Danny Trejo is all right with me.

But my real reason for this post isn't just to say how cool I thought the movie was--it's to say how cool I think Cameron Stewart's drawings of characters from the movie are. Here's his illo of Dr. Dakota Block from Planet Terror:

You can find more at his blog. He's only got Cherry and Dakota up there now, but promises more will be along soon.



Gained a pound. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.

I probably shouldn't have eaten that bear.


Check Out Lee Iacocca!

From his new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?:

I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged…. Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn’t agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy.

"You can't call yourself a patriot if you're NOT outraged." Strong stuff.

The Carpetbagger has more here.


(Via Political Animal)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eggs in Two Baskets

First, an expose of P.Cotton posted on YouTube:

But then, Polite Dissent makes it all better with an Easter greeting from the 31st Century!

Happy Easter!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Conservation Of Matter Update

During the past week, 4.6 pounds found their way to somewhere else in the universe, rather than around my waist. I'm fine with that. 16 pounds so far! Somewhere, there's a bowling ball with my name on it.

Easter's coming up , though(5 Peeps for 3 points!), as well as a dinner in a French restaurant Kathy & I have wanted to go to for quite some time. So it's likely to be a tight one this time next week.

All that's immaterial, though -- what's really important is that you scroll down a few posts and leave the names of songs that tend to get stuck in your head in the comments. Or click here if you're lazy. "Miss Jackson," if you're nasty. (There's another one!)


Mmm...Is That New Blog I Smell?

A hearty welcome to Sharon's Food Blog, the latest thing cooked up by Sharon of The Center of NJ Life. She's the best cook I know, and proves it every single time we eat over their house. Even when we order's uncanny.

So heed her recipes, folks. There's a lot of yummy there.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Earworms Wanted

Have a song you just can’t get out of your head?

Have twenty?

This is an open call to list them here, in the comments section, for an upcoming project on this very blog. It’s sort of a blog game, like Blog Mad Libs of days gone by, but it’s mixed with just a touch of crackpot, totally subjective scientific inquiry. So lay ’em on me – the tunes that tintinabulate, thumping insistently like a telltale heart. “For the love of God, Montresor!” you might scream, were my name Montresor. “Wall me up in this cellar, just help me get ‘Brick House’ out of my head!”

So this is your mission: Give me your worst. The earworms you can’t ignore, the music that bounces around in your noggin until you start seriously consider trepanning to let the demons out. Think of it as an exorcism. You have to face your fears if you want to defeat them. Even though they’re mighty mighty.

Do it for science! What could go wrong?


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pardon the Mess

I'm tweaking the template a little bit. If it's anything like tidying up the house, it should be done about an hour before our next Mardi Gras party.

(And if someone can tell me how to get my Blog Archive to rest flush right, I'll write a dirty limerick about the person of their choice.)


Holy Shit! (I mean, "Great Krypton!")

I’ve been participating in a conversation on the Newsarama blog about the use of light profanity (ass, bitch, damn) in comics. I started out from the point that those words are barely profanity anymore*, since you can hear them on the tv and radio. Mostly I was just replying in short bursts, but then a gent named Palladin wrote a longer post, and I responded to one sentence in particular. Since I’m calmer and more rational than I sometimes am on message boards, I thought I’d produce it here.

I think we can find some points of agreement, Palladin, even though we’re coming at it from opposite ends.

You wrote:

Cussing is really just a way of either shocking or not having a broad enough vocabulary to use more of any language.

I pretty much fundamentally disagree with that, even give the caveats you add afterward. I don’t think the only function of cuss words are their shock value, or as a poor substitute for some more erudite phrasing. I think that sometimes, a swear is exactly the word a writer or speaker wants to use. Or, to quote Spencer Tracy’s character in Inherit the Wind:

“I don't swear for the hell of it. Language is a poor enough means of communication. We've got to use all the words we've got.”

That said, I think there’s a lot of cussing in comics that is just plain lazy. “Using all the words we’ve got” also means using a tamer word when it’s called for, as well. I remember an issue of Fantastic Four when Sue Storm mentioned an ass-kicking in some context. It might have been blanked out, it might not have – but either way, it seemed out of character.

In contrast, however, I don’t think replacing “Was she always this bitchy?” with “Was she always this catty?” [in a recent issue of Green Lantern] works. “Catty” is an old-fashioned word for “bitchy.” It’s what someone might say when they’re holding their tongue, and I don’t think it would be in character for Cowgirl in that context of an attack by Star Sapphire. (It might be, however, if she were meeting Hal’s mom (if she were still alive).

Context matters. I could see Superman saying something nearly “kicked his ass,” when talking to Batman or Lois—confidantes with whom he would hold nothing back. But when talking to Ma or Pa Kent, he’d probably say “kicked my butt.” And when speaking in front of a child, he’d phrase things differently altogether.

I want writers to think about what they write. Sometimes it seems like they don’t (even if they have – who can know for sure, really?). But the use or non-use of profanity is a symptom of that larger issue, in my opinion.
You can read the entire ongoing discussion here.


*The pedantic in me feels compelled to add that "ass" and "bitch" aren't profanity at all, but obscenity, and that "damn" is the only actual profanity on the list. But having said that, for the purposes of this discussion the two terms are pretty much interchangeable.

Easter Turkey with Graham Parker

For some reason, for the past two years I’ve found myself listening to Graham Parker’s “Almost Thanksgiving Day” as Easter approaches. The song curdles with middle-aged discontent – just the sort of thing to hear as fall starts giving way to winter. So why do I find it so compelling in springtime?

Full steam ahead, come what may
You get the world that you make, they say
Chop up the wood and bale hay
Now that it’s almost Thanksgiving Day

The kids come and go with their things
We sit and polish our wedding rings
They forecast snow on the way
Just in time for Thanksgiving Day

The song is permeated with a feeling of stasis, oppressive and inevitable. Nothing’s moving here but the kids… and the oncoming snow will only serve to muffle everything and slow it down even further.

Out on the street some fool crashed
Drinking port wine and sour mash
That’s one man who can say
“No thanks, Thanksgiving Day.”

Then again, here’s a guy who hasn’t stopped moving. And he’s throwing up in the street. There are things to be said for being a homebody.

I’m bone weary, I’m bone-tired
The wood-stove’s last spark just expired
Dawn’s about one hour away
And it’s almost Thanksgiving Day.

The song ends on an almost hopeful note. The long night is nearly over, but Parker’s energy is waning with the stove’s heat. It appeals to the insomniac in me. Thanksgiving Day doesn’t seem to be about thanks, as Parker sings it here – in this last verse, it speaks to me about renewal. “Thanks for getting me through this,” it seems to imply. “Let’s take a deep breath before starting over.”

So maybe there’s a reason I listen to it in spring after all.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Axis of EVOO?

Do people who buy extra virgin olive oil get put on the terrorist watch list?

No extra virgins for me, thanks. I'm happy with my share.