Saturday, August 25, 2007

Away Again

This time for about a week, although I may have a chance to blog some on location. Rest assured, I'm having a good time.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Mike Sterling relates a tale of revenge and the jungle.


Scattershot Fest Notes

The music was incredible.

This was the best fest for music in years. Some fests are about the camping for me. But in this one, musician after musician wowed me, from bluesmen like Toby Walker (what an incredible afternoon set) and Pat Wictor to singer-songwriters like Diana Jones and Jack Williams. Bands ranged from modern acts like Son Volt to the incredible Texas swing of the Quebe Sisters Band. And the headliners – Doc Watson. Mavis Staples. You can’t go wrong with that kind of talent.

One of my favorite acts was Jonathan Edwards. No, not the presidential candidate, and not the guy who talks to dead folks, either. This is the Jonathan Edwards who wrote the song “Sunshine,” as in “Sunshine go away today/I don’t feel much like laughin’”—a song which, up until he sang it, seemed to me to have always existed, independent of its creator, whoever he was. It’s a good song, but I never expected to go nuts for it. But Edwards was firing on all cylinders, playing “Sunshine,” along with his funny “Shanty” and heartfelt “One Day Closer,” rounding out his set with John Prine’s “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian” and the Beatles’ “She Loves You.”

What can I tell you about “She Loves You”? It’s not a song I’d ever paid much attention to, but Edwards made it sparkle. He sings it with anguish and heartbreak, not wearing his pain on his sleeve like a lesser singer, but still finding ways to make it apparent. You can tell that the singer loves the girl he’s singing about, and he’s telling his friend not to take that love for granted. It’s bad enough she doesn’t love him – to have his friend throw her love away would be too much to bear. It was a revelation.

After his concert, he was signing CDs for people. The guy in front of me told him he’d seen him in Newport in ’75; another guy remembered a concert from the ‘80s. When it was my turn in line, I asked him to sign my CD, and said, “I’ve been a really big fan for almost an hour now.” It was funny (the whole band cracked up, and said they’d put it on the website; we’ll see), but it was also true. I had no idea who he was an hour before. Now I’d happy plunk down dough to see him again.

At camp, the Dunces were in good form (after years of camping without a Krewe name, we settled on Confederacy of Dunces a few years ago. We painted a poorly spelled banner and everything). Camp had plenty of food, beer, and other alcoholic delights, and better yet, we were camped right in front of our old friends Nick, Brian and Joyce – and their patron saint, Don Julio, of whom we all partook via shot glasses.

Fellow Dunce Greg volunteered for the first time this year, setting up, running, and breaking down lights and electrics for the main stage and the festival at large. Sadly, his duties took him away from us for a significant chunk of Fest, but it seemed like he met a ton of folks. I think Fest is a sort of family reunion for volunteers more than anybody – you can’t help but meet tons of people – and as good a feeling Fest gives the rest of us, I bet that’s even better. Of course, it’s mitigated a bit by working your tail off – in Greg’s case, quite a bit.

As for the rest of us, Kathy, Jay and I had a grand old time in our camp and wandering around visiting others. One night we set out a chair in front of camp. We put a beer on the chair, and I stood in the lane offering the beer to whoever’d sit down and tell us a good story. One taker told us about the time he cut off the tip of his finger in shop class – but no one believed him because he pretended to do the same thing the year before. Another guy started a stampede by riding his bicycle out west. His imitation of the stampeding cattle was worth the beer alone.

At another point, I had some freshly cooked burgers to get rid of, since it was becoming obvious Greg wouldn’t be able to make it to dinner. I just asked out into the road, “What do you want on your cheeseburger?”

My first answer was one word: “Vegan.”

“Sooo…. Not even the cheese, then?”

No matter – soon the burgers were accepted by a couple of hungry guys, and we cleaned the grill and went back to the show.

Sunday’s concert was almost entirely wet. We caught an early showcase (when it was still dry) with John Flynn, Rick Palieri, Jack Williams and Liz Longley. Flynn got cheers with a Monkees parody about Bush: “Then I stole the race/now I’m the Decider.” It ain’t Shakespeare, but he knows his audience.

Soon, the rain was coming down, off and on at first, then constant. But covered up in ponchos and an umbrella, we caught great sets by Vance Gilbert, Baka Beyond, a gypsy band whose name escapes me (Les Yeux Noirs -- and I should add that Kathy enjoyed their hunkiness as much as I liked the hip-shaking ladies of Baka), and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Soon after that, we decided to chuck it all and head back to camp.

It rained all night, but somehow people were still out and about. Deep into the night, I could hear a heavy rain pounding on our tent, but outside, near where the campfire was, there were people banging on some sort of drum, shouting “Won’t sleep! Don’t Stop!” or something like that. I began to think of them as amphibians – evil frogmen with drums hell-bent on keeping me awake.

In the morning I saw they’d moved a canopy near the fire so they could keep me awake in relative comfort. Evil frogmen, my ass.

That’s all for now. It was a hell of a Fest. Always is.


*I don't have any photos of my own this year -- the hammock photo is by Lisa Schaffer from the 2004 Fest that I found at the festival website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I'm back from a fantastic Fest. The most comfortable fest ever, if you discount the 24 hours of rain.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One Last Post

Before I get to the serious business of packing, here are three videos from Fests past -- all stuff I was around for, at that. First up is David Olney singing "God-Shaped Hole" at the 2004 fest.

Next is Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams singing Bob Dylan's "Gates of Eden" two years ago.

And finally, a reminder from last year: Stake Your Tents Down.

Good fest, everybody.


Winding Up Before the Unwind

I'm just over 18 hours away from The Happiest Place on Earth.
If you don't hear from me until Monday or Tuesday, just know it's because I'm either stressing out about our equipment or camp prep, or finally, blessedly, and completely relaxing. Music. Drink. Friends. Camping. Staying Up Til Dawn.

Fest is almost here.


DC's Top 50: Long Time Comin'

So what’s with the long posts, Rob?

My laptop lock got lost in the move, and there’s no place to secure my laptop at night. I’m hoping to get a new one soon. The again, I figured we’d have a Democratic President by now, so I’m not exactly Karnak. Anyway, until that day, I’ll have my laptop on the train.

Today, I figure I’ll take a whack at finishing up a long-forgotten meme: The Top 50 Characters in the DC Universe. I was counting up, since everyone knows number one is Space Cabby.

Join us, won’t you, as we take a step back to yesterblog. You can see the first forty here, simply by clicking this link and scrolling down. And now, without further ado (like you’d want further ado – there’s been over a year of ado already, right? Oh—is THIS ado? You don’t say… I guess I’ll clam up then.)

This is me, clamming up. Onward, heroes!

41. The Shining Knight (Sir Justin): In a sense, he’s DC’s Captain America. Except instead of coming from World War II to fight in our time, he came from Arthurian times to fight in World War II. And riding a flying horse never hurts.

42. Deadman: Boston Brand, circus aerialist, shot to death in his first appearance. From there, his ghost haunts the world, righting wrongs and searching for the man who killed him, identifiable only by the hook that replaced his hand. Essentially, The Fugitive brought to comics, with a supernatural twist. Add in a great costume design by Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams’ hyperrealistic art, and it has all the hallmarks of a minor franchise. It’d make a fun movie, actually – besides the actor who plays Deadman’s spectral form, pretty much everyone else in the cast would have a chance to play Deadman, too, as he leaped into and out of their bodies, possessing them.

43. Elongated Man: Poor Ralph Dibny. I don’t think he was dead when I started this list, although he was certainly marked for it. But grief-stricken over his wife Sue’s death the year before, Ralph nevertheless channeled his loss into solving one last crime, and imprisoning the devil himself. It cost him his life, but there was an upside to that; he and Sue are reunited, solving supernatural mysteries as ghost detectives. Stretching was the least of his abilities.

44. Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. A long-haired kid in cutoff shorts, running through a world of talking animals. Yeah, it was kind of a ripoff of Planet of the Apes. That didn’t stop it from being much more fun. Let’s see Charlton Heston ride a giant grasshopper through a department store. Kamandi had a never-say-die spirit, and a never-stop-moving plot. He’s the Huck Finn of the apocalypse.

45. Pied Piper: To my knowledge, DC’s first gay character in its mainstream hero books. (The issue where he comes out to Wally was terrific.) Even better, a reformed villain who stayed reformed (at least, until recently, sort of. Oh, I don’t even know anymore). He’s a major player in Countdown, but Ill be interested in seeing him come back to a book I actually buy one of these days.

46. Ambush Bug: He knows he’s in a comic book. And he thinks the comic sucks. That’s one thing. Plus he put a baby doll in a costume and adopted him as “Cheeks, the Toy Wonder.” His primary nemeses include a giant koala, a nefarious sock, and Darkseid. He’s the Bugs Bunny of the DCU, and he’s sorely needed.

47. Green Lantern (Guy Gardner): The one Green Lantern – hell, one of the only heroes, period – who shows that not all good guys are nice guys. And not all jerks are creeps. When he was reintroduced to the DCU around the time of the first Crisis, he served pretty much as a foil for Hal Jordan. But in Jordan’s absence (whether in the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League or in the DCU at large in the decade Jordan spent as Parallax) he thrived, showing much more nuance than he had previously. He’s still funny, but no longer the comic relief he once was. It was a long road, but somewhere along the line, Guy became one of the most respected members of the Green Lantern Corps.

48. Zatanna: It’s not just the fishnets and magician’s outfit (really!). By mindwiping several supervillains and even her colleague Batman in the JLA, she’s become one of the most morally conflicted characters in the DCU. A recent reconciliation with Batman was a welcome step, but I doubt her earlier actions will ever leave her conscience. Like Superman, she’s so powerful that she can be defined by what she chooses not to do from now on.

49. Emerald Empress: This Legion villain was sexy before I knew what sexy was. But beyond that, she’s in charge of (or in the thrall of) an ancient, tremendously powerful artifact that even she doesn’t know the origin of. I liked her incarnation as the Empress in the 90s even better – it showed how deadly she was even before she acquired (or was acquired by) the Emerald Eye of Ekron. Frankly, I like her because she’s a big threat, and has a ton of story potential. And she’s teamed up with four other villains as badass as she is.

50. Paul Gambi: Tailor to the super-villains. Introduced in a Silver Age Flash comic as a tribute to a faithful reader (Paul Gambiccini was his name, I think) Gambi showed up a few more times in the decades since. Someone’s gotta find that blue and white boomerang pattern, make a suit and hat out of it, and then take another look and think, “Know what this needs? A silk scarf.” Paul Gambi is that guy, and the DCU would be a poorer place without him, and all the other people behind the scenes who make the craziness happen. (He's also the guy responsible for the horrible getup Piper is wearing, above.)

That’s it! One less thing on the loose ends list!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Terror at Ten M.P.H.

I love roller coasters. The climb, the drop, the speed – the undercuts and the loops, even the oddball cartoon characters telling you how tall you have to be (the heightist bastards!) to enjoy this essential human right, first codified in the Magna Carta, I believe.

They’re exhilarating. They’re a rush. But they’ve lost the capacity to truly terrify me.

You see, I just took my first drive in a borrowed truck today. Through some accident of fate, a misalignment of the stars to a degree not seen since Lawrence Olivier did a guest-stint on Mama’s Family, Toyota has seen fit to loan me a Tundra, which I may alternately refer to as the Big Ass Truck.

Now, I drive a Chevy Cavalier. Kathy drives a Saturn. So we don’t even have much opportunity to ride in vehicles so tall, let alone drive them.

So for my first trip? I took it to the train station. I had to get to work, you see.

Now, my train station is a popular train station in New Jersey, drawing tons of commuters onto Amtrak and NJ Transit every day. There’s just not enough land available to park all those cars next to each other, so the station did what any station would do in those circumstances: They stack the cars on top of each other, via a parking garage.

Now, I knew height would be an issue. So for the past few days, I’ve looked for Tundras and similar pickups in the garage, and I’ve seen them. So I figured I’d be fine.

Still, when confronted with a sign telling me to the inch what the clearance is, I had to make a quick estimation in my head (I couldn’t find the clearance in the materials I was given). Coming up short (a good thing), I drove on in. But then, on the first turn, a second sign greeted me. Six-eleven, I think – more than a foot lower than my first estimate.

My knees were knocking, but experience had already showed me that the truck would fit, right? Right. Drive. Put your foot down on the pedal. Press the gas.

And slowly, I did. And the truck fit, probably with six inches to spare.* But even knowing it was fitting, and was very unlikely to stop fitting any time soon, I crept up the ramp, at 5 mph, then zooming up to 10 and maybe even 15. No one was behind me, although I was worried I’d miss the train I’d thought I’d left myself more than enough time to catch.

And every single support of the ceiling above me, spaced about five feet apart, looked like it would take my head off. Not the cab roof -- my head. So not only am I driving, I’m ducking as I go. I didn’t want to be found headless in a borrowed truck. The paperwork would be overwhelming.

Finally, upon finding no parking spaces down below, I emerged into the clear blue sky, and a nearly-empty roof deck. I parked the truck, looked at how far it was sticking out, parked it again, and then ran down to catch my train.

My neck and shoulders are cramped and knotted, but at least I’ll remember where I parked.


*Actually, about 5 and a half.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Over the Wall

Kathy & I caught a late Saturday show of Stardust, the movie based on Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess’s illustrated novel. (Not quite comics, it was prose paired with Vess’s gorgeous artwork.) The movie is entertaining, but never quite enthralling. There are plenty of fun scenes, and some great characters populating the fantasy world of Stormhold, but it never completely clicked with me.

It’s not that I’m comparing it with the original, either; it’s been so long since I read the book that I only really remembered the premise: Boy sees falling star in the distance, promises girl he wants to impress that he’ll cross the Wall into a magical dimension and bring it back for her, but when he finds the star, she’s a woman – and his Twue Wuv, in the Princess Bride vernacular.

With its tenor of whimsical fantasy, Stardust can't escape comparison to The Princess Bride. In some cases, it almost seems to measure up. One plot, involving seven fratricidal brothers spending their afterlife in a purgatorial peanut gallery as they watch their surviving siblings vie for control of the kingdom, is brimming with wicked fun. There are also some nice bits involving the leads, Tristan and Yvaine (Charlie Cox and Claire Daines), although they never quite have the screwball chemistry I was hoping they’d have. Ricky Gervais makes the most of a small part with his trademark patter, and Michelle Pfeiffer revels in her role as a witch in search of eternal youth (and not coincidentally, eternal looking-like-Michelle-Pfeifferdom).

There are other parts that don’t quite work, even on their own terms. Robert DeNiro’s swishy sky pirate is fun, but incredibly overplayed. The best part of his performance is actually not his performance at all – it’s that of his first mate, clued in to his closeted captain’s inner life, always ready with a sharp glance or an eye-roll when DeNiro forgets to be properly fierce in front of his crew.

On the whole – well, it doesn’t seem whole at all. It seems like a collection of bits, sometimes exciting, sometimes amusing, but never actually working together as a fully coherent movie. The movie is all icing and no cake – or rather, all the frosting filigrees of flowers and happy birthday messages, with barely enough icing to hold that together. Which is a shame, because Neil Gaiman can make a hell of a cake, and he never skimps on icing just the same.

Still, it's been too long since I read the book, and I can’t say that the movie’s failings are because it didn’t pay enough attention to Gaiman’s original, or because it took it too literally, losing the spirit along the way somehow. (Or, frankly, I may just be remembering the book as better than it was.) Be that as it may, Stardust is so eager to please that, somehow, it fails to delight. On the Muggle side of the Wall, that’s often the best we get – but we deserve better from magic.


Victor Von Giuliani

Beaucoup Kevin puts the words of America's Mayor in their proper context.



Word came down that the lockers will be taken out tonight. Curses!


Can't Blog...Moving

We're moving the magazine from the 10th floor to the 9th today. We've brought a bunch of file cabinets and lockers and whatnot down with us, now that the move has mostly been accomplished. We're looting Ten like an Iraqi museum. (I want me a stereo and some ceramics from the cradle of civilization!)


Mike Wieringo Passes Away

Horrible, horrible news. A fantastic artist, who should have been with us for decades to come.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chris in the Kitchen

In a recent interview on The Daily Show, Christopher Walken talked about his love of cooking. (I'm sure it wasn't the first time, but it was the one I caught.) On this home video he uploaded, he shows us how to make Chicken with Pears.

A man of many talents.


Friday, August 10, 2007

On the (Rubber) Mat!

It's Friday, and you KNOW what that means: Friday Night Fights!

Bahlactus hasn't even rung the bell yet, and already the Mighty Atom is sucker-punching Eel O'Brien! (He must've taken dirty-fighting lessons from Jean Loring!)

This punch dedicated to a fondly-remembered ferret: SPROINNNGG!


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Happy Blog-Birthday!

Happy blogiversary to Jessica Hagy, who's been doing her very funny blog, Indexed, for a year now.

(A handful of funny recent examples.)


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

"Hi, I'm Carapace McBride.

"After a long day of walking sideways on the sandy beaches of Greece, the underside of my shell scuffs and scratches, leaving it unsightly and uncomfortable. That's why I use Scuttlebutt."

Scuttlebutt. For scratches, rashes, scuffs and scrapes. Now in Regular scented and Old Bay.


Good-bye, Mary Jane, Though We Never Knew You At All

In the wake of Marvel's hints that the Peter Parker/Mary Jane marriage will be ended/retconned/cosmically annulled, Andy Khouri at Comics Should Be Good! has posted a satirical poll: How Would You Prefer Mary Jane To Die? He forgot one option, however:

Clubbed to death with a statue, like the original Nite-Owl in Watchmen.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


I just realized I didn't provide a weight update last week. Not entirely surprising, since I was up 2.2 pounds, and wasn't exactly thrilled about it. But what will the scales read tomorrow?

Time will tell, I suppose.


Give a man gin, give a man cards. Give him an inch, he takes a yard.

Rob just challenged folks to describe their current pop-culture universe. He did it in one long post; I’ll do it in a series of posts I’ll never get around to finishing. His approach is better, but, as Thurston Howell III was known to exclaim, “Say, Lovee…”

I’ll start with music. I’ve been listening to the new White Stripes album, Icky Thump–especially “Effect & Cause,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” and “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn.” I probably haven’t even heard the whole album more than once; my mp3 player doesn’t hold a lot of music, and I like some variety, so I rarely put more than a few songs by any artist at one time. It’s not a bad system – it gives me a foothold into new albums by making a couple of the songs “singles,” no matter what the radio is playing.

I’m also still really enjoying Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, although I realize that makes me some horrible yuppie stereotype. But anyone who opens a song singing “What kind of fuckery is this?” certainly know show to get my attention, and more than that, Winehouse manages to keep it.

I’ve been slowly working my way through Tom Waits’ Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards three disc-set. It’s a daunting collection of new music, but my personal singles strategy is has served me well throughout the year, making favorites of “Lucinda,” “Fannin Street,” and “Fish in the Jailhouse,” about an improbable prison escape based on what they’re serving in the cafeteria: “The bars areiron, the walls are stone/ All I need me is an old fishbone.” Everyone's MacGuyver in the jug.

Also, I’m enjoying two Anders Osborne albums: Living Room and Ash Wednesday Blues. I used to have a legal bootleg of one of his concerts in Philly (Osborne allows taping, or did at the time), with a great performance of a song called “Trippin’in Montana.” Somewhere along the line, I mistakenly recorded over a secondor two of the song; why I didn’t pull those little tabs out of the cassette, I’ll never know. But now that I’ve gotten hold of the studio recording, I’m listening to the song like mad – once or twice a day, it seems. It’s not quite as driven as the live performance, which was propelled by a relentless tuba backbeat, but it has the same Waco-apocalyptic feel to it. Here’s a couple verses to give you an idea:

He was trippin’ in Montana
On a cold, dark path
He was looking for salvation
And a hot clean bath
He left a bloody situation,
But he was not to blame
Like that run-in with the agent
Who promised gold and instant fame

He had a way to look important
That fooled everyone around
Like how he held his shoulders
And always stood his ground
They used to say he looked like Jesus
And that really frightened him
Changed his face in Amarillo
Just to clear his name from sin

A fugitive cult leader. All I need is a fishbone shiv and I’m set.

Of course, in two weeks I’m going to Fest, which is an annual meteor crashing into my music landscape. By August 25, I’ll be listening to a lot of new stuff.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Unusually Refreshing

The Shield is generally not considered a very funny show.

In my estimation, it’s one of the best cop shows ever – brutal and unflinching, with the charismatic Michael Chiklis at the center of it as detective Vic Mackey. He’s so tough as Mackey that were he to fight Chicklis’s Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four movies, I’d put the money on the cop. Mackey always seems to find a way to win that puts him in an even worse position than before.

But the show doesn’t get much credit for being funny. Nonetheless, humor is a great way to release the tension before building it again, and the show occasionally has a laugh-out-loud moment, like this one in which shady cop Shane Vendrell has brought a Russian prostitute in for questioning. She and her hooker flatmates had been robbed a few weeks before, and Shane has pulled her away from work to find out who. This being The Shield, he’s going to release her as soon as he gets her to ID the perps. And that’s when we get the following exchange:

HOOKER: Is this going to take long? I have an appointment with a big tipper who’s into golden showers, and I have to start drinking iced tea to get it how he likes.

SHANE: I’ll bring you the mug shot book. And a Snapple.
Best product placement ever.


Light Up the Night

I don't link to him nearly as much as I should, but I got an email from my friend John Welsh last week about a new project he's working on. He's documenting fire artists -- from the looks of it, dancers, twirlers, fire-eaters and such. He shot these in a warehouse in the Philadelphia area; the building was completely black except for the light of the fire. John was constantly adjusting his shutter speed and, I'm sure, doing a lot of other photographer-type things at ridiculously high speed to get these shots.

Here they are; you'll dig 'em. Because if Beavis and Butthead have taught us anything (and they have), it's that fire is cool (heh heh, yeah).


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Welcome Back

Gabe Kaplan's new book sounds like fun. He fills us in on what he's been up to in the L.A. Times.

(via Mark Evanier)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Something's wrong with my scanner, so I'm still stuck poaching images off the web until I can figure out what's what. (This one comes from Head Injury Theater.) But when you can stumble upon Superman cleaning He-Man's clock, well...what's not to like?

Honestly, I might loathe He-Man even more than the Transformers.*

As always with Friday Night Fights, Bahlactus rings that bell like he's playin' guitar. Or something like that.

*Note: The People's Republic of Robsylvania does not and has never acknowledged the Thundercats as a legitimate cartoon.

Credit Where It's Due

Spent an enjoyable commute listening to the Big Monkey Comics Podcast the other day. It's a fun time, sounding as much like a bunch of friends sitting around, jawing about comics as possible. But one thing bugged me about their discussion of Black Canary, and since the same misconception comes up nearly every time her history is brought up, I thought I'd take a moment to make the point. (I didn't realize that moment would be 1:30 in the morning, but so be it.)

(To my family: Yes, he's geeking out again. Scroll down, nuthin' to see here...)

As much as she's done with the character, Gail Simone isn't the one who changed her from a supporting character to Green Arrow into a successful headliner; Chuck Dixon did that. (Yes, she also had a solo series in 1993 written by Sarah Byam. I haven't read it, so I don't know how good it was, but I doubt it was successful, or else it would have lasted longer than 12 issues.) Dixon originated the Birds of Prey concept and nursed it from a series of miniseries into the series that's still around today (rare for a concept launched in the 90s). His work shouldn't be ignored, and it seems like people who say that she went from being a damsel in distress in Green Arrow (a description that sells her earlier appearances short) to the capable solo operative she works as in Birds of Prey are giving Simone all the credit for the change. In numerous interviews about the title (like this one), Simone gives Dixon (and original editor Jordan Gorfinkle) props for the book's strong foundation, and Canary's strength is an essential ingredient in that. But perhaps because of Simone's deserved popularity, Dixon often gets sold short.

The early years of Birds of Prey had some fantastic stories, always exciting and action-packed, and featuring some gorgeous art by Greg Land (yes, Greg Land), Butch Guice and Gary Frank (who drew this image). I missed a lot of Simone's run (Ed Benes' art drove me away), and plan to pick it up in trades. But if you've missed Dixon's run, you should definitely check it out. It's a really nice blend of superheroics and espionage, and well worth reading.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What Makes Me Happy?

That'll do it.


Recent Reads

I finished reading two books today. The first is Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, detailing their journeys to see various forms of wildlife before it becomes extinct. It's a somber subject, but the book is full of humor. (It also is very episodic; I was able to put it down for a month or two, knwoing that when I picked it back up again they'd be off to a new place, on a different journey.)

The China chapter might be the funniest of the lot -- their sudden (and completely innocent) need for a condom, combined with the language and cultural hurdles of where and how to buy them, makes for great reading. But the final chapter, about the bird populations of Mauritius, was to me the most poignant. The constant state of emergency, in which a fruitbat population of 200 is considered thriving was heartbreaking, but the idea that such a difference can be made by such a small group of people is exhilarating. For example, there were only a handful of pink pigeons in the late 80s, when Adams and Carwardine visited. Now, Birdlife International estimates there are 359-395 on the island. That's progress.

The other book I've read is The Aviary, by Jamie Tanner. Calling it a graphic novel is a misnomer -- it's actually a collection of short stories in comics form. Brief and absurdist, they give the impression of Victorian woodcuts or 18th-century newspaper cartoons, but the form makes the subject matter even more unsettling. Amputee comedians, zombie travel-show hosts, monkey-faced pornographers, and a striking bird doll that blinks with strange import all populate this book, to say nothing of its other luminous, weird delights. It's masterful in its restraint, seemingly implying less than you infer, even though what's on the page are some of the most outlandish ideas ever put to paper. Even reading it seems like a kinky act.

Needless to say, it's highly recommended.