Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fest Minus 8 Hours

Seven and a half, actually. I'll spend a couple of them sleeping, a couple more driving, and then a good chunk of time hauling a ridiculous amount of camping gear out of my car. And then: Bliss.

So here's the incomparable Chris Smither, an amazing songwriter and guitarist, to keep you company while I'm gone. He's singling No Love Today... and ths weekend, he'll be singing at Fest.

"No Love Today" by Chris Smither from Tom Weber on Vimeo.

Wish you were here.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Walking with Superman

So there's this year-long storyline in Superman in which our hero decides to take a walk across the breadth of America. He doesn't explain his motivations for this, though it seems to be precipitated by a woman slapping his face because while he was in outer space, her husband died of cancer, which she believes he could have cured somehow. Superman was off in space at the time, trying to keep 10,000 other Kryptonians from conquering Earth (under which rule, presumably, her husband still would have died). But the details don't matter too much to me (though the notion that this is actually happening as a reaction to Superman witnessing his own people wiped out a second time is intriguing). In new writer J. Michael Straczynski's first story, Superman gets slapped, Superman goes walking. And -- I hoped -- we would get a year's worth of done-in-one stories where Superman would come into a city, identify and solve a problem, and then walk on. He's Shane, he's The Lone Ranger, he's Superman.

And these problems, I expected, wouldn't be entirely super-villain oriented. In walking on Earth, Superman would be encountering the recession, corporate greed, pollution, maybe the effects of global warming, who knows? It'd be a return of the Social Justice Superman from the Golden Age. The guy who kept landlords from raising their rents and evicting goodhearted people. The guy who puts the heat on corrupt senators. This guy (click to enlarge and read):

"You can announce that henceforth my mine will be the safest in the country"
 And to a certain extent, I was right. In the most recent issue, #702, Superman walks through Detroit. He encounters tons of people who are out of work, but he also meets up with some technologically advanced aliens living incognito in one of the city's neighborhoods. They fight, they talk, and Superman wonders whether to evict them from Earth or not. (They've fled a tyrannical government, and argue that their situation was no more tenable than an exploding planet.) Basically, he tells them they should be doing something for the community.

Later on, Superman brings them a guy who's sick and obviously dying, and they use their technology to heal him. And then Superman has an idea, and this happens (click to enlarge and read):

"It is expected that as many people as were fired during the automobile shutdowns will be rehired to handle the wave of equipment slated to be produced by these factories."
Immediately. Detroit's unemployment problems are solved!

Now, this is definitely over-simplifying real-world issues. I got to the point where the aliens set up a medical research firm and gave everyone jobs, and I thought "Oh, come on!" But then I realized something:

That's exactly how something like this would have been handled in the Golden Age. Find a problem, find a solution, and Outta Here! (I mean, look at how that Golden Age mine-safety story was wrapped up. In one panel!)

And while that isn't necessarily satisfying to today's readers (it wasn't initially satisfying to me), I think it's an interesting choice for JMS to make, particularly because it goes against the grain. And I have to consider -- do I really want five issues with pages devoted to the aliens putting this company together? There's something to be said for getting it done and capping it off with a happy (though facile) ending.

When this storyline started, my biggest hope for it was that it would give us done-in-one stories of the "Social Justice" Superman of the Golden Age. And in this issue, that's exactly what we got.

So now that I've seen it, I've got to decide... is that really what I wanted?

I'm not sure. It's still not entirely satisfying to me, but I have to admit it's something of a catharsis to see someone essentially punch unemployment in the face.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Pretty Little Devil

Climb, She-She, climb!
We’re on vacation, so I don’t have any photos to share right now. But I wanted to write a little about She-Devil, our ferret who we lost a couple days ago.

She was a pretty little sable ferret, who we called “the beautiful lady.” (Or climby-girl, because of her high-altitude exploits. Or slinky-girl, because of the way she'd positively ooze herself out of the ferret bed, like one of Dali's melted clocks.) We got her several years ago, along with Gus, Blink and the Dude, from neighbors of friends, who found them too much to handle. And they were a handful, to be sure.

I always had trouble telling Blink apart from She-Devil. They were both sables, but Blink was a little smaller and lighter than She, and had a different coloration on her nose. They were so similar, in fact, that after Blink passed away, I sometimes imagined that we’d gotten the IDs wrong, and thought that Blink was adjusting to her new life getting called She-Devil.

She-Devil and me
But no, She-Devil was all she-devil -- in causing trouble, at least, though not in temperament. She regularly climbed up the outside of her cage, King Kong style, and then would peer over the gate that sealed off the family room, and drop the two and a half feet into the kitchen when we weren’t looking. Then, she could explore. She loved to explore, walking around not only the first floor, but climbing the stairs to the second floor so she could sneak around the office and our bedroom as well.

In later years, she gradually lost her sight completely. This did not deter her in the least. She’d climb, look around the corner, and drop into the dark, trusting that the kitchen floor would catch her. The only concession to her blindness was that, when she would leave her cage, she would walk the perimeter of our family room to make sure everything was where she expected it to be.

The Fab Four, piled behind a speaker in early days
I always worried about She-Devil. Part of that was that she was the oldest of our ferrets, and I think part had to do with the way Blink passed away. Blink got really sick, really quickly. One night, we noticed she wasn’t well, and resolved to take her to the vet the next morning. When I woke up to check on her, she was already beyond any help. There was nothing we could do.

She-Devil somehow spared us that. There was no feeling of helplessness with her; we were on vacation, but even our niece, who was ferret sitting for us, says that she just walked into her room to check on them, and She-Devil didn’t move. No prolonged illness; she just stopped.

She-Devil and Gus
Or that’s what it seems like to us, from the outside. Earlier in the year, She-Devil had a growth on the side of her face. The doctor said it wasn’t any trouble unless it interfered with her eating, but he could remove it if we liked. We’d worried about invasive surgery, so we didn’t opt to remove it until it grew to be about the size of a raspberry – it was like she was growing a second head. A couple of months ago, we removed it, and then a few weeks ago her stitches fell out. She was growing fur back in the places on her neck the doctor had needed to shave for surgery. For the first time in months, she looked truly healthy.

And somehow, the whole episode let me finally let go of the worry I’d always harbored. She seemed happy and well at last, and that’s how I’ll remember her. A dedicated escape artist, and a clever, brave girl who would kiss me on the nose a little almost every day.

We’ll miss you, She-She.


UPDATE: As you can see, I've added some photos of She-Devil and her friends. Here are also a couple links to some of her greatest hits.