Friday, August 08, 2003

Someone hit the League today by doing a Google search for "Ryan Steans." What's the deal? Who is this person? And will they send me money?
There is a difference between Trade Paperbacks and Graphic Novels. Graphic Novels are usually released as self contained stories in a single volume. Trade Paperbacks are usually stories lifted from a running series, like Spider-Man issues 165-175 or something. The gray area is when you begin speaking about collections which contain a story which existed as, say, a six issue limited series. This can include either totally original characters, or it can include, say... Batman.

THe point is, Randy asked me to recommend some comics yesterday, and then last night, Jim asked me to recommend some comics. As I am short on time today, I will reprint here that which I sent Jim last night, because it's a quick guide for what you might wish to look for if you were to go to a book store or to a comic shop.

I'm going to just suggest Graphic Novels and self-contained limited series trade paperbacks. I don't want to just dump you into the world of regular Trade Paperbacks.

Dark Knight Returns is on the "must read" list, but be prepared for something.. different. I'm not sure you'll like all of it, but I think it's critical. We'll save Dark Knight Strikes Again for a later discussion.

Maus by Art Spiegelman is a must read. No, it is not really an allegory, because that's what you're going to think at first glance. It is not Animal Farm. This is a true story. It won the Pulitzer. It is used as a textbook. It's really, really good. Especially if you manage to get both volumes.

From Hell by Alan Moore is what the recent Jack the Ripper movie was based upon.
Torso by Brian Michael Bendis is a true crime tale following Eliot Ness as he moves to Cleveland and must sort out the identity of a Depression era serial killer.
Ronin by Frank Miller is a psychedelic sci-fi Samurai story which defies description.
Elektra: Assassin by Frank Miller will let you know why I was so angry with the Daredevil movie.
Moonshadow is a coming of age tale set amongst the cosmos
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore may make you wish to make like Guy Fawkes
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware is supposed to be great. I bought it a few weeks ago and haven't had time to read it yet.
Sandman: A Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman breaks the rules stated above, but is, nonetheless, an excellent comic. I think you can follow the story with little introduction

Essential Superhero books:
Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross will restore your faith in Superheroes
Batman: Year One - Frank Miller
Superman: Man of Steel - John Byrne (note- It appears the powers that be at DC comics are re-writing the history of Superman as dictated by Man of Steel in Superman: Birthright. More on this in the months to come. BTW, I love what they're doing)
Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
Ultimate Spider-Man by Bendis
for sheer weird factor, I like Jack Kirby's TPBs of New Gods and Mister Miracle. but it's an acquired taste

And if you're looking for a book without pictures, I would point you to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. It won the Pulitzer, I think.

But let me know if you're looking for something fun, or something "important", and maybe I can help. But if you were going to read one or two graphic novels, these would be the ones I would begin with. We can work backward from here.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

So I was talking to Randy, and he says, "You should get an optical mouse instead of a ball-roller." So I hopped up and stole one off of the desk of one of my student workers. I am now so futuristic, I'm not even here yet. Thanks, Randy.

And congratulations on the new job. You and Jim can be new job buddies, and that's something in this wintery economy.
THis article on Urban Legends in Iraq is interesting.

I just cleaned my mouse, and it works much, much better. You would not believe the crap which had built up in there.

Hurray for Gary Coleman, who has also tipped his hat to run for the Governorship of California.

No new news of obesity today, I am sorry to say, but I think I made my point. I will resume obesity reports as events warrant.

For those of you who might pick up a monthly comic, the new Batman/ Superman comic (or Superman/ Batman... there's no title, just an emblem) got off to a great start. The art is the best Ed McGuinness I've ever seen (and if you ask Jamie, I assure you she can confirm that I like Ed McG's Superman work), and the story seems fairly interesting. I know comic people criticize Superman and Batman as "same old, same old", but I still dig this stuff, especially when the quality is this good.

Anyway, Mel keeps doing this weird thing on our walks where he alternately accelerates and slows down and looks at me. I've been walking him for three years, and this is a new development. I asked him what the story is, but he just sped off. Today he was FOCUSED when we went on our walk and would not jump off the sidewalk in time and got tagged by a sprinkler. I think he blamed me, but I was trying to help him. The good news is, we are both in slightly better shape for our recent ritual of morning walkies, and I plan to extend our path in the next week or two.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Hey, kids. Quick Update. Jerry Springer has decided not to run for Senator from Ohio. I am sad to hear this. We need more folks in the Senate who are likely to conclude each session with a Final Thought. But on the plus side, with Jerry sticking to daytime TV, there will still be an outlet in American television where you know, weekday after weekday, you will be even more disappointed in humanity than by watching Hollywood Squares.

Arianna Huffington is running for Governor. I support this. She has very nice hair.

Thanks to Randy for the News tip!
Fat Discrimination

We're on Day 3 of an infinite number of days of Headline News returning to their favorite topic: obesity. The omnipresent spectre was discussed today in light of a Gallup Poll which determined whether folks felt they had been discriminated against because of their weight, and whether employers would be likely to discriminate against folks because of their girth. During the report, the weird, awkward Gallup guy pantomimed a gut and made sure to point out that more Americans are overweight (according to the AMA) than said felt they were overweight... he clearly felt ashamed of those Americans who did not admit they were overweight. It was very strange...

Stayed up too late watching The Rules of Attraction on cable. This movie probably isn't for everyone, but after endless cable reruns of Road Trip and American Pie 2, it was interesting to break from the mold and see a movie about quasi-sociopathic yet recognizable college kids. I know American Pie, et al, are always supposed to have "heart", but the cute and fuzzy bunny characters never appeal to me, and the stories always seem to downshift into sentimental glop about some randomly boring love interest when the beginnings of the movies always make it look like the characters are having much more fun NOT being in love. I'm not even sure I would say Rules of Attraction was a good movie, but it differed enough from the cute and fuzzy bunny formula that at times I knew that if I'd seen this in college, it would have made a boatload more sense to me than those movies mentioned above.

The other fun part of The Rules of Attraction was when, about forty minutes into the movie I suddenly put 2 and 2 together and realized the James VanDer Beek character was supposed to be Patrick Bateman's little brother from American Psycho. Suddenly everything became so very, very clear. (BTW, while the book of American Psycho is fairly disturbing and not for everyone, the movie version was pretty lame and ended up as a fairly tame slasher fliock... ). Anyway, realizing the connection also solidified the theme of adding "American" as part of your title to give it some sort of ubiquitous meaning and gave a different gravity to the end of the flick.

Am currently reading Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby. Check it out, comic geeks. This is some great, great stuff.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Turns out I was wrong on some details on the Castillo case. For an interview with the Director of the CBLDF, read here. For an interview with the actual guy who got arrested, read here.

Never let it be said I won't point out where I am wrong. Except on this whole "Groundhog Day" thing. 6 more weeks of winter, my ass...
The Magic Genies at who run the blogging service I utilize have now fixed my archives problem. If you'd liek to review my past posts, such as they are, you may now visit my little archives section. It's fast, it's free, it's fun and it may very well save your life.
Fat Kids in Crisis: A Nation Mourns

Headline News ran another story about childhood obesity. Today's topic was about stapling kids' stomachs to curb the fatness. THis was after they brought on two ugly teenagers to demonstrate how to properly wear a bicycle helmet.

Okay, look... this is the sort of thing I'm going to obsess about, so i just want to prepare everyone. I plan to now count the number of days in a row I have to hear about obesity on Headline News. We're on Day 2

And if your kid can't wear a helmet properly (and I know I've just doomed any future Steans progeny by saying this outloud), isn't there something called Natural Selection? If you're 15 and you're wearing your bike helmet, say... sideways... you're probably going to end up getting killed sooner or later doing something like chasing a shiny object into heavy traffic.

On the legal front, The Supreme Court refused to hear the Jesus Castillo case out of Dallas. Jesus sold a really nasty adult Japanese comic book to an undercover cop. The comic contained all kinds of stuff unfit for the pages of The League, but we think this is silly. Couple of things: the comic was in a marked off section clearly labeled "for adults only", and rumor had it that a rampaging PTA mom had threatened the shop because they would not sell her Pokemon cards wholesale. THis same woman then appeared at PTA meetings and began making a stink about the shop, and the idea is that she basically set them up. Also, the actual store was not the one which got in trouble, it was the hapless minimum wage clerk... poor guy. But, apparently, because of "community standards" rules, what the cop did was legal, as were all the proceedings. (Jim and I discussed this off-line. It's actually fairly interesting, You should ask him about the laws.)

The final argument prosecutors used basically defied considerable expert testimony, piles of evidence and sheer logic, but appealed emotionally to the selected jurists and their preconceived notions (leaving me to wonder how awful the Defense attorney really was). Basically she argued that comics are for kids (dismissing all evidence about sales, etc...), and that poor Jesus must be trying to corrupt kids. (BTW, no actual kids ever obtained illicit material from the store, but that wasn't the point). It's kind of a messed up story, and it has unleashed the usual anti-Texas sentiments upon the comic geek internet sites. I find this irritating, if nothing else.

I invite anyone drifting in from Jim's legal sites to review this decision and try to find out if the Castillo guy has to do anytime in the slammer.

I'm not sure Japanese tentacle porn is exactly what I think of when I dream of a free country, but something appears to be broken here. The legal action demonstrates how vulnerable any of us could be. The truth is, if this is the precedent, a cop could walk into any bookstore and start arresting the clerks. A cop could arrest librarians and convenience store owners. One wonders what this would mean for Internet Providers and importers. At any rate, it's kind of creepy. And they picked on the one guy who couldn't afford to fund himself for an attorney so the CBLDF ended up picking up the considerable tab. Point being, even if he HAD been exonerated, as well assume justice would prevail, he would still have ridiculous legal fees to worry about, and that's not something an attorney is going to just forget about, nor a court for fees.

Monday, August 04, 2003

CNN loves to talk about fat people. Seriously. They LOVE it. Every freaking morning on Headline News... but that kind of slowed down during the Iraq thingy as Dr. Gupta and company went to parts unknown.

But you can tell CNN is bored with world events again... this morning Headline News ran a lengthy "story" about how kids are getting fat. Curiously, Headline News suggested that the new solution is to get schools to teach kids how not to get fat. My favorite part is that CNN shows footage of fat kids' bodies while talking about how disgusting fat kids are, but they try to give anonymity by not showing the kid's face... THEN they show OTHER people to clearly contextualize and identify the kid and thus set the kid up for a lifetime of therapy. I know what a fat kid looks like, thanks. I don't need a visual and the guilt of knowing what psychic horrors CNN is building with each story about obesity.

Here's what your pudgy (but wise) Uncle Ry thinks: Maybe if you see your kid is playing videogames 5 hours a day while eating Cheese Doodles, the problem is not something a teacher is going to resolve, no matter how colorful her charts of the food pyramid. Kids already have to sit 8 hours a day in school. Recess and getting beat up is probably the only exercise they ARE getting. Instead of playing five hours of John Madden football, mayhaps the answer is to spend $15 on a real football and take away the Super Delicous Berry Toaster Treats and the Eat 'Em Ups. Maybe even send the kid outside? The outside, however, is a frightening place. I understand that every parent is concerned once outside, their precious angel will get abducted or turned onto drugs or that the sun will give their little swamp rat some skin cancer. Have we mutually agreed as a society that it's best just to let the kids widen as their pudgy little fingers squeeze out an afternoon of fun?

I throw stones, but, honestly, it was hot as hell growing up in Texas and we spent many afternoons camped inside, too. I'm just jealous that Atari sucked compared to the PS2. But really, as a kid my mom locked the door at 9:00am in the summer and we were only allowed in for lunch and for dinner. We were smelly little kids, so I don't blame her, and that is when "Uncle Steve" used to come visit, and the milkman and the air conditioner guy and... HEY! Waitaminnut....

Anyway, I like the fat kids of today. For every fat kid with low self-esteem playing videogames at home, that's one less kid I have to deal with when I'm trying to make my way through the grocery store. Or for every little brain-dead mongrel with a Game Boy at a public function, that's one less kid I have to pretend to be interested in. At least they're not rotting their brains with f**king comic books...
Maybe the 3 feet of reinforced concrete and the titanium shell was overkill...? Anyway, this is a few miles from my house (in the fastest growing city in the US, btw...)

One would expect that after the San Diego ComicCon, I would have more to add to TTSNB. But I think that the close ties to comic books have pretty much eliminated that problem at the SDCC. I'll have to wait for the New York TOy Fair to be truly disturbed, and that's not until winter.

I was talking with co-worker Rachel, and she mentioned how her three year old kid, Eddie, brought home a Michael Meyers doll. Apparently when you squeeze it, it plays the theme from Halloween. It's also armed with a pre-bloodied plastic knife. Yes, the doll was taken away. But, as I say, TTSNB.

In that mode, let's visit with this latest offering, and consider what this would do to your love life if you brought a girl home and THIS was on your shelf. That's 12" of toy enough to make any girl start looking for an alternate escape route. I am safely married and keep my toys to the Superhero genre, and I still think that this is doing nothing short of making the lovely Jamie fairly ashamed of me.
Had a little bit of weirdness at this site and over at Jim's site today. It appears that if one types in, one gets a bible site. My Type-o's caused me to panic. ANyway, the weirdness has passed.

Watched most of three movies today, as well as doing yardwork.

1) Actually watched about 80% of The Lion in Winter. Very good film. "This movie is depressing" was Jamie's review. And then she slept through the last 1/2 of the movie. Just sort of passed out in the recliner with her mouth hanging open. Excelelnt cast (with a young ANthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton). Looks like Picard is going to be in a version on TV sometime this year.

2) Watched all of Finding Nemo at the theater. Very cute movie about fish. I was desperate for Long John Silver's when we left. Settled for shrimp we picked up at the grocery. I think I liked Nemo, but like most kids movies, it kind of rolled off me. It didn't help that there were six kids behind us who were running a color commentary of the movie and how it related to them personally. Ah, I love children. So precious... anyway, I liked the trailer for The Incredibles.

3) Watched good chunk of Clash of the Titans on cable. Got very defensive when Jamie commented on the crappy FX. Not sure why I was so defensive. Must have thing for Harry Hamlin. Actually, I love Harryhausen's stuff. It's easy to trash, but have you ever tried to animate a mechanical owl? I'm sure it's difficult to see the return on investment.

Last night, faced with nothing else to do, we drank White Russians and watched Trading Spaces as this episode was taped somewhere in North Austin. I was all weepy and nostalgic as they showed the "Welcome to Austin" mural at the intersection of South 1st and Annie, which is about four blocks from my old house. I miss South Austin deeply. People, if you haven't been down that-a-way, you should go there. It's a good place and good people, but keep your eye on your car stereo. Go to La Reyna on S. 1st for lunch and go to Casa Garcias on SOuth Lamar for breakfast. It's good stuff, and I am grossly overweight in no small part becuase of their high quality and low prices. For dinner you ask? Guero's, of course.

I also miss Mariachi. Why the hell isn't there any Mariachi in Chandler? hmmm... Time to dust my trumpet and polish my boots...

But there was nothing like using that mural for directions, or the blue genie who used to sit atop the building... "Just go north down South 1st, and you're gonna see a Blue Genie... Yeah, you're not going to miss it, it's huge... yeah, go left there."

Mel misses having a great chainlink fence frontyard. He spent all day running back and forth barking at kids and folks with strollers. We had to introduce ourselves to our neighbors as "We live at Mel's house." Some folks came by and gave Mel treats over the fence. He was very popular. You know, nobody walks here in CHandler, AZ. I guess it's too hot. And Mel can't go in the front yard anyway...

Anyhoo, incentive to move back to South Austin, I suppose.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Over and Out

I wrapped things up over at Jim D's site. Things should be getting back to normal around here.