Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What Hath They Wrought?

Once again, from the depths of the internet, comes another upwelling of humor which I felt must be shared.

Our lead off batter is Hulk’s Diary that is on the Internet. That’s right, gentle readers, the big green ball of mad (no, I’m not talking about you Mr. Bana) has his own blog wherein he offers nutritional advice (here and here), opines on Hulk merchandise (here), and loves cats (here). Of course the Hulk does all this while referring to himself in the third person, which is how EVERYONE likes their Hulk.

Meanwhile Overheard in the Office is on deck. I don’t really know how to hype this particular site. It is a BRILLIANT mob blog where users can post snippets they have overheard in the office, thus the name. It contains such gems as:
Receptionist: What are the new shirts made out?
Clerk: They're 100% cotton.
Receptionist: Cotton? That's the stuff that grows on sheep, right?
Clerk: No, cotton comes from rabbits. That's why they're called cottontails.

Or this one, which is so funny because it is true:
IT Guy: The last 15-20 minutes of my life have been wasted because you are a moron.
Employee #1: There's a double standard around here.
Employee #2: What do you mean?
Employee #1: We all compete at an Olympic level while she competes in the Special Olympics and gets paid more.

Definitely go check this place out.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Juan Sebastian de Elcano

In April of 2005 the Juan Sebastian de Elcano docked near the 21st Street Pier on Glaveston Island for a few days and I took a Saturday and drove down to the island to check out the ship. I have always loved the sea and sailing ships and there are times where I feel like chucking it all away and becoming a sailor. The J.S. de Elcano is a school ship in the Spanish Navy, that is to say, a ship used to train officers in the Spanish Navy. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see and photograph this ship. You can see most of my pictures in the JS Elcano (04/05) album on my Webshots page. This does not include any of the slides I shot since I have yet to get them scanned and uploaded.

Since I do not have the negative for this photograph handy I cannot provied the technical details for the film, however it was shot with my Vivitar 220SL using a 28mm lens.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Birthday Wishes for Connie

(Created here)

I realize its not quite as cool or fun as an actual birthday card, but come on, how many people get warning labels with something that looks like a planet getting destroyed for their birthday? Seriously.


In order to nerd it up a little, I poked around Wikipedia and found the following events took place on your birthday:
The following people were born on your birthday:
And the following people shuffled loose this mortal coil on your birthday:

I stole this content from here, however you can also check out the On this Day in Canada link, the NY Times On this Day link, and the BBC on this Day link for more fun.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 1-25-06

JLA Classified #16
Gail Simone, Writer
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Penciller
Klaus Janson, Inker

Gail Simone is one of the current crop of writers whom I will follow from book to book, without a care for the characters involved as her run in Birds of Prey has been some of the most consistently good material coming out of DC for a while. However I am not very good at keeping track of what she is working on, therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see her name on the cover of this issue. In this issue Simone continues to trend of this book actually being more interesting that the parent title and brings her own peculiar sense of humor to the table. “My God…he’s full of Starro!” Brilliant.

Spider-Man and the Black Cat #6 (of 6)
Kevin Smith, Writer
Terry & Rachel Dodson, Pencils & Inks

A lot has been said/written about the lag between the beginning of this series (the first three issues were published in 2002) and the end so I will not waste your time delving into the subject. Now, keep in mind that Kevin Smith is perhaps my favorite writer and the man responsible for getting me back in to comics, so when I say, “Kev, seriously, WTF?” A story about rape? I understand the social relevance of the issue, and in light of some of the recent discussion around the comics world, eerily timely. I do not object to the lesson we are meant to learn from this story, but the last two issues felt like a lecture not a story. At least Terry and Rachel Dodson provided pretty pictures for the lecture.

Usagi Yojimbo #90
Stan Sakai, Writer & Artist

I can not remember who said it (either Beaucoup Kevin or Chris) but they hit the nail on the head when they said that if there were any justice in the world this book would be selling 100,000 copies an issue. From issue to issue Stan consistently delivers well-crafted stories accompanied by beautiful black and white line art. This issue begins a new story-arc, “The Ghost in the Well,” where Usagi encounters a ghostly assassin in the Geishu castle where trade negotiations are taking place. I am eager to see where the story goes in the next issue. This issue would serve as a good place for those of you who are not currently reading UY to jump on to the title. If you would prefer to read an entire story, pick up the Usagi Yojimbo Book 12 – Grasscutter trade paperback from Dark Horse. This complies the story that many consider the definitive UY story.

The New Avengers #15
Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
Frank Cho, Art
The second New Avengers issue to be drawn by Frank Cho wanders back in to familiar territory for Bendis as the majority of the issue is spent chatting about things and leading up to the New Avengers revealing themselves to the public. The story is framed by entries from Carol Danvers’ (a.k.a. Ms. Marvel a.k.a. Warbird) blog, which I really feel is an irritating way to have a character present exposition or editorialize on the action. Although I felt this was the biggest misstep in the issue, it certainly was not the only one. During a discussion with Captain America, Danvers talks about how she felt like a real hero during the House of M. Three out of the four times Danvers says House of M it is marked through with a red line (a formatting trick I have been trying to figure out on the Opiate). I am not certain what the red strikethough means, but it seems to indicate that the text was meant to be replaced. Oh well, editorial errors not withstanding, I can go back to not buying this series now.

Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom #1 (of 4)
Peter David and Luke Lieberman, Writers
Will Conrad, Art

I do not really have too much to say about the book itself. Let’s be honest, you do not read Red Sonja in search of deep social commentary. She’s a hot red-head in armor bikini who could kick this fanboy’s a$$ any day of the week. If I’m lucky. The reason I want to discuss this book (aside from the fact that it gives me a chance to post the Gabrielle Del’Otto cover) is so I can rant about what Dynamite Entertainment (the publisher) is doing with the Red Sonja franchise.

In the past two weeks three Red Sonja books have been released. The first was the fourth issue of the perennially late regular series, the second is the book we are now not discussing, and the third is Sonja Goes East, a one-shot. I do not understand how, in a time where many in the industry are worried about declining sales and a shrinking market, companies can justify putting out multiple books which could be, and should be, part of one series. Both Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom and Sonja Goes East could easily be story arcs in the main Red Sonja series but Dynamite chose to publish them as separate series, therefore flooding an already small market. In addition to this Dynamite has also seen fit to publish between three and six covers for each issue of the regular series and between two and five covers for each issue of these side series. That is potentially eighteen issues of Red Sonja comic that cam out in the last two weeks, one of which is an extra spiffy Fiery Red Foil cover.

Imagine, if you will, you are a hardcore collector, but you have to do it on a limited budget. You are also having to do this in the era of Infinite Crisis where there are multiple tie-in issues each week that you may or may not already be picking up as part of an ongoing series. Now you are having to pick and choose what you want to do. Do you complete your collection of Red Sonja? Do you read all of the Infintie Crisis issues so you can catch all of the story? (Yes, I am still PISSED at DC about that whole OMAC Project/Wonder Woman thing.) Ultimately you have to drop a couple of other titles to feed the beast, or perhaps you will grow tired of Dynamite’s game and drop the Red Sonja titles from your pull list. As I have seen in some fellow collectors it tends to follow that exact pattern. They will drop regular titles for a month or two to make up for the extra Red Sonja issues, however after about five months they end up dropping the interloper series and return to their regularly scheduled pull list. This means that Dynamite is getting immediate returns at the cost of long-term sales.

These marketing ploys by Dynamite are starting to look like the marketing ploys used by companies during the boom the comics market saw in the 90s. Does anyone else remember Lady Death Black Velvet covers? Then the bottom fell out of the comics market. How much of this is due to the dot com bust is up to debate, but I am sure that consumer fatigue had something to do with the bust. With all of their variant covers and multiple series, Dynamite is contributing to the exact kind of consumer fatigue that factored into the 90s bust, but without the robust speculation and comic investor market to absorb the eventual contraction in the market.

The rest:
  • B.P.R.D. – The Black Flame #6 (of 6)
    • Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, Writers
    • Guy Davis, Art
  • Batman #649
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Eric Battle, Penciller
    • Rodney Ramos, Inker
  • Batman – Journey into Knight #6 (of 12, I think)
    • Andrew Helfer, Writer
    • Tan Eng Huat, Art
  • Catwoman #51
    • Will Pfeifer, Writer
    • Pete (Not My Dad) Woods, Art
  • Daredevil #81/461
    • Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
    • Alex Maleev, Art
  • Defenders #5 (of 5)
    • Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire
  • Exiles #76
    • Tony Bedard, Writer
    • Jim Calafiore, Penciller
    • Mark McKenna, Inker
  • Green Lantern Corps Recharge #4 (of 5)
    • Dave Gibbons & Geoff Johns, Writers
    • Patrick Cleason, Penciller
    • Prentis Rollins & Christian Alamy, Inkers
  • The Pulse #13
    • Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
    • Michael Gaydos, Art
  • Red Sonja – Sonja Goes East (One-shot)
    • Ron Marz, Writer
    • Joe Ng, Art
  • Robin #146
    • Bill Willingham and Bill Williams, Writers
    • Scott McDaniel, Penciller
    • Andy Owens, Inker
  • Wolverine #38
    • Daniel Way, Writer
    • Javier Saltares, Breakdowns
    • Mark Texeira, Finishes
  • X-Men #181
    • Peter Milligan, Writer
    • Roger Cruz, Penciller
    • Victor Olazaba with Don Hillsman III, Inkers
  • X-Men – Deadly Genesis #3 (of 6)
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • Trevor Hirsine, Layouts
    • Scott Hanna & Nelson, Finishes

Friday, January 27, 2006

That Wacky Internet

I stumbled across celebrities eating dot com whilst I was searching for online comics worthy of inclusion on the Opiate (I didn’t find any on this particular pilgrimage.) I don’t have the words to express the sublime car-wreck-esque beauty of celebrities eating dot com. As the name suggest, it is a collection of pictures of celebrities eating. Some of the pictures are a bit suggestive, such as this picture of Jessica Biel (she wants me), others are disgusting, like this picture of Keanu (WARNING! You’ll regret it if you click on that picture), and others are clearly staged, like this picture of Drew Barrymore (she wants me) with the lollipop.

It was refreshing to see that:
  1. Many celebrities, particularly younger celebs, have no f@&%ing clue how to dress themselves.
  2. Even famous people look like frackin’ idiots when they are taking a bite. I can’t tell you how many pictures my friends have taken where I have my mouth open and I look like some strange species of half-man half-largemouth-bass.
This site is so Airwolf that it inspired me to create a new collection of links here on the Opiate. I call it WWW, which stands for The Wacky and Weird Web. As I happen upon sites which I find fascinatingly weird and worthy of sharing, I will add them to this collection. I hope you guys enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Comic Strips

I have, as some of you may have noticed, added a new collection of links to the right side of the blog under the title Comics. This is a collection of comic strips I read on a regular basis and I finally got around to adding the links to the blog. They are:

Alien Loves Predator
In this comic an Alien and a Predator share a small flat somewhere in New York City (I assume on Manhattan, but I could be off) and have to deal with the unique experience of living in New York. Oh yeah, occasionally Jesus Christ shows up.

Diary of a Crazed Mimbanite
I wrote an entire post about my discovery of the Diary of a Crazed Mimbanite, both here and on Something I Saw, so I really don’t have anything else to say about this except, “Joy!”

I discovered this comic thanks to Tami who initially pointed me to Ursula Vernon’s blog. Urusla’s artwork intrigued me and I eventually tracked down her website, Metal & Magic, and from there I finally found this comic. Digger tells the tale of Digger the Wombat as he wanders through the world. So far I have only been reading this strip for a week (three days worth) and so I am not sure what is actually going on, but I really like Ursula’s art, and her blog is damn funny, so I am going to stick around for a while.

Dinosaur Comics
It’s a comic. With dinosaurs. A T-Rex and Utahraptor. The only thing that could make it cooler is if they were ninjas. Or maybe pirates. ARRRRRR! What else do I need to say?

Get Fuzzy
This comic shares the misadventures of Rob, his pet dog Satchel, and Bucky the cat. To be honest I am not sure what to say about this except, “Mmmmmonkeys.”

Founded in 1997, Goats is one of the oldest web comics, however I have only recently discovered it through the good offices of my friend Mr. TunaCan. The comic is more plot-driven than most of the other comics on this list, however they still include everything that a growing boy needs to read about. After all, this is the birthplace of the Pirate Monkey Robot and Staropramen the Cold War Supervillain (here, here, and here).

Liberty Meadows
I have previously, in brief, mentioned my love of Frank Cho’s artwork on the Opiate. Liberty Meadows is his weekly comic strip in which he shares the adventures of the loveable misfits (how very cliché of me) at the Liberty Meadows Animal Sanctuary.

Although I cannot figure out whether Frank is producing new material for the strip or not (I recognize some of the recent strips), I still enjoy this strip for both Cho’s sense of humor and his art. There is a cleanliness to his line work that makes his art a real pleasure to look at.

Self-described as, “poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines,” this site may be one of the most brilliant things I have seen in years. We have all suffered from spam (spam spam spam) filling our inbox and choking out legitimate emails like they were delicate flowers. As the war between the distributors of spam (spam spam spam) and the spam (lovely spam!) blockers heated up, the subject lines of the spam (wonderful spam!) emails have gotten progressively stranger. The person behind this site has embraced the spam (spam spam spam) and uses these bizarre subject lines as inspiration for some darn funny comics. My current favorite is, “It’s time to Refill armadillo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

De-Lurking Week

Well, once again I come to things a little late. So late in fact I will be skipping de-lurking week this year, seeing as how I managed to completely miss it. Don’t let that stop you, though, feel free to give me a shout-out if you happen to catch this post.

After clicking through a couple of links I thought this might be an interesting experiment of tracking the De-Lurking Week posts across the blogosphere. I am fascinated by how information propagates across the internet and this is a prime chance to run something down.

Here is my path to the source of Inter/National De-Lurking Week:

  1. I got this from Friday, January 13th post on Beaucoupkevin.com
  2. He links to Scipio’s De-Lurking Week post at The Absorbascon and Ragnell’s Reveal Thyself! post at The Written Word of Ragnell the Foul, Hermit Queen of the Night Shift.
  3. Scipio did not link to anything, so that branch is dead, however Ragnell linked to both Clare’s Hellllloooo?? Post at Ink and Incapability and the Hello Out There post over at Paper Napkin.
  4. Clare links to One Bright Star (1B*) Reignited, who discusses National De-Lurking Week here, and to Paper Napkin, thus bringing us full circle.
  5. Bright Star (B*) links to Liz’s Comment! Comment! Comment! post at MysteryMommy and the Paper Napkin post.
  6. Liz then links back to the post at Paper Napkin, which leads me to conclude that this was something stirred up by the good folks at Paper Napkin.

Now the Google search to see what I can find.

I think it is pretty clear that Paper Napkin is the most popular site dealing with De-Lurking Week, and I suspect they started this particular meme. I wonder how long it would take to track down all 160,000 results for the above searches and render them into a graphic demonstrating how the meme actually propagated itself.

Other encounters with De-Lurking Week:

As I was getting caught up with my blog reading I found a post discussing De-Lurking Week on A Perfectly Cromulent Blog. Unfortunately Pete does not link to where he read about de-lurking week, so I cannot run down the path there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Found the Emperor's Underpants!

As I was wandering the vast wilds of the world wide web-footed friend, I stumbled across a reference to the Incredulous Cross-Sections section of Al MacDonald’s website. I learned so much from them. For example, who knew that the TIE Bomber had 76 trombones in it’s big parade? Not this fanboy. This, of course, led to some more exploratory clicking, made extra special easy since he was kind enough to include links to the rest of his site on the left side of the page. The This Week and DCM Archive are where the true fun begins. I have selected a few of my favorites and linked them here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (And here. What? It was a late addition.)

I am sure some of you a leery of clicking on the links; wondering what sort of idiocy I am trying to get you involved in? Well rest assured my friend, while I will never understand how you were able to avoid clicking on all those juicy links (mmmmm, links) above, I would not try to bilk you into clicking on something untoward. Okay, that’s totally a lie, but in this case it is true. What I am trying to get you to embrace today is the good god its geeky fun of the Diary of a Crazed Mimbanite. Yeah, I don’t know what a Mimbanite is either, but this diary? It is beautiful, man. It brought a tear to my eye. Comic strips that have a little fun with Star Wars. Seriously, go check it out.

Monday, January 23, 2006


As I have said before (here), I really like taking pictures of kids. They make great subjects because they either ignore the camera, or when they mug for the camera it is with an enviable lack of self-consciousness which means they do not have the deer-in-headlights look a lot of adults get when they see a camera aimed in their direction.

This picture, of my cousin’s younger son Tiernan, was taken the same weekend as last week’s picture post. My grandfather had passed away and we were all gathered for his funeral. Somehow I managed to get stuck wandering around the property with Tiernan. I say get stuck, but I don’t mean it in a negative way, we just happened to end up hanging out. When I got my camera out he immediately started posing. I got a couple of good shots of him, but this is far and away the best one.

This was shot with my Vivitar 220SL with a 135mm lens on FUJICOLOR 800 film.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 1-18-06

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #1 (of 6)
Joe Kubert, Everything

War Comics = Good.
Joe Kubert = Good.
Ergo a war comic done by Joe Kubert must be better than good. Excellent perhaps? How about too awesome for mere words to express.

As I have only recently become interested in the history of comics, I have to admit that my exposure to Joe Kubert’s work has been limited. In fact the only two pieces of Kubert’s work I am familiar with are the sublime Yossel April 19, 1943 and Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & a Hard Place hard covers that came out a couple of years ago. Both of them were artistically outstanding works, which is really not surprising considering Joe Kubert’s status as one of the grand masters of sequential art. This being the case I knew I was going to pick up this miniseries back when I first heard about it. Not only is this another chance to see a master ply his trade, but it happens to involve WWII. What could be better?

This book. Quite simply this issue surpassed my almost unreasonably high hopes with Kubert’s artwork, which he penciled, inked, and colored. From the first moment when I saw the dog peering out of the rubble (I am a sucker for cute animals) until the final panel, I was sucked into the world Kubert has created for us. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in the medium. Oh yeah, and kudos to DC for placing all the ads in the back of the book, therefore not breaking up the flow of Kubert’s artwork. Bravo, sirs, bravo.

All-Star Superman #2
Grant Morrison, Writer
Frank Quitely, Penciller
Jamie Grant, Digital Inks & Colors

Ready for a confession? I really did not like the first issue of this series. Primarily because I do not like the way Frank Quitely draws faces. I do not know how to tell you what I do not like about it, and since I seem to be one of the two people on this planet who have a problem with his art, this is the last I will say on it. The second reason I did not like the first issue in this series is that there are times where I just do not understand Grant Morrison’s writing. An excellent example of this is The Filth. I dutifully read each issue but I did not understand what was going on. Thinking that this may have been due to the time gap between the receipt of each story segment, I went back through and reread the series once I had all the issues. I still did not get it. (Plus I had to shower right after I finished reading the series as I felt some of the wrongness present in the book might have accidentally gotten one me.) I felt like there was something missing from the first issue, or rather that I was missing something.

Therefore I do not know why I picked up the second issue. With sixteen other books to buy its not like it was a light week AND I still have some unread books from last week, however I am very glad that I did. As I read this issue I began to understand what Morrison was trying to do. I needed to strip away all my adult sensibilities and wallow in the innocent glory of a pure superhero tale.

A key made from material from a neutron star that weighs half-a-million tons (that’s 1,000,000,000 pounds)? A creature that eats stars? A cosmic anvil where one can forge stars? A Lois Lane panty shot?

All totally ridiculous ideas that I would have embraced without question when I was eight. Well, all except for that last one, which had me wondering whether Morrison and Quitely are taking a piss at Miller and Lee’s Vicki Vale shot from the premier issue of All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, taking inspiration from it, or trying to one up them. Regardless, this issue won me over and if you give it a chance, will do the same for you.

Conan #24
Kurt Busiek, Writer
Cary Nord, Artist

The first thing I noticed about this book, the thing that made it really jump out and grab me, was Cary Nord’s artwork. Throughout the preview issue Nord’s artwork, even more than Busiek’s writing, conveyed the savage nature of the world which Conan inhabits. This is not to say that Busiek’s writing was not up to his usual superlative standard, but something about Nord’s art just clicked with this character in a way that few other comics do.

Now we come to the 24th issue which follows the formula for almost any good Conan story. There are some attractive women, something to be stolen, some complication, and a daring escape. Despite this the story still feels fresh thanks to the team of Busiek and Nord. I feel that their work on this title will come to be as highly regarded as the work done on the title by Barry Windsor-Smith.

The rest:
  • Batgirl #72
    • Andersen Gabrych, Writer
    • Francisco Rodriguez de la Fuents, Penciller
    • Jesse Delperdang & Rodney Ramos, Inkers
  • Birds of Prey #90
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Paulo Siqueria & Adam Dekraker, Pencillers
    • Robin Riggs, Inker
  • Ex Machina #17
    • Brian K. Vaughn, Writer
    • Tony Harris, Penciller
    • Tom Feister, Inker
  • Gotham Knights #73
    • A.J. Lieberman, Writer
    • Diego Olmos, Penciller
    • Bit, Inker (I'm glad Bit finally got a part.)
  • Green Lantern #7
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Carlos Pacheco, Penciller
    • Jesus Merino, Inker
  • Infinite Crisis #4 (of 8)
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Phil Jimenez, George Perez & Ivan Reis, Pencillers
    • Andy Lanning, Lary Stucker, George Perez, Marc Campos, Oclair Albert, Jimmy Palmiotti & Drew Geraci, in Holy Crap Batman, that’s a lot of inkers!
  • JSA Classified #7
    • Jen Van Meter, Writer
    • Patrick Olliffe, Penciller
    • Drew Geraci, Inker
  • Nightwing #116
    • Devin Grayson, Writer
    • Wellington Alves & Marcos Marz, Pencillers
    • Eddie Wagner & Rodney Ramos, Inkers
  • Red Sonja #4
    • Michael Avon Oeming with Mike Carey, Writers
    • Mel Rubi, Art
  • Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles #5 (of 5)
    • Tommy Yune, Story
    • Jason and John Waltrip, Script
    • Jason and John Waltrip & Omar Dougan, Art
  • Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #3 (of 4)
    • Grant Morrison, Writer
    • Freddie Williams II, Art
  • Spider-Woman: Origin #2 (of 5)
    • Brian Michael Bendis & Brian Reed, Writers
    • Jonathan Luna, Art
  • Uncanny X-Men #468
    • Chris Claremont & Chris Bachalo

Saturday, January 21, 2006

BOOK REVIEW - A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin
1128 pages
Bantam Spectra, 2003

As a good friend once said, “Ho. Le. Mo. Lee. No, I’m no talking about my Vietnamese friend.” One-thousand one-hundred and twenty-eight pages. Make that more pages down in the epic Song of Ice and Fire which George R.R. Martin began in A Game of Thrones and continued in A Clash of Kings. No matter how you slice it that’s a whole lot of reading. A Storm of Swords continues the chronicle of what is being called the War of the Five Kings, a rather messy war of succession set on the island of Westeros. In order to avoid spoiling the plot for anyone who takes up the challenge of reading these books, I will not share any more of the plot. Besides, any attempt to convey the events in this book would require so much background information in order to make sense, attempting to convey plot details would be just plain foolishness.

This book did not rouse in me passionate feelings one way or the other. I liked the book, but I feel no driving need to write extensively about it, so I apologize if this book review is bereft of much book review. I feel more compelled to write about the structure of the book rather than its contents.

Instead of concentrating on one or two main characters, Martin has decided to tell the tale through the eyes of no less than ten main characters. It may be more, this count was just a quick list off the top of my head. While Martin succeeds where many who use this device fail, that is, his transitions from character to character are generally smooth and logical, the main drawback of using so many characters still exists. This is the fact that there are so many different voices that the reader has to hear, it can get very confusing, particularly when you add in the cast of hundreds of supporting characters who wend their way through the story. Fortunately the book includes an appendix which lists all the characters and weighs in at just over forty pages long. For some reason this brings to mind the character charts that came out in the newspapers when Twin Peaks was being broadcast. Gah, that showed my age.

This complexity leads to my main problem with the series. I am over three thousand pages into this epic and, while the cast of characters is slowly shrinking, there is no end in sight. Tolkien told his tale in 1216 pages. Tolstoy in 1408. I am starting to get the feeling that Martin may have lost control of this story and that his readers are in for a task of Jordanian proportions (to coin a phrase) if they want to get the whole story. Adding to this fear is the fact that there was a five year gap between the publication of A Storm of Swords and the next book in the series, A Feast for Crows. That’s a long time.

Now, having said all those negative things about the structure of the story, it is important to keep in mind that Martin has created a world which engrosses me and characters I care about. Characters I want to see triumph over the obstacles placed in their way. I have no doubt that this series is destined to endure to become one of the classics of fantasy literature, and thus A Feast for Crows is next up, with the preview, “…with new viewpoints…”

Damn you Martin.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


About once a week something comes to my attention that makes me inordinately happy. Usually this involves either monkeys or stupidity. This weeks warm fuzzies come from the unveiling of Monkeywire, the self-described, “#1 source for news about monkeys and apes.” There is only one word for this. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It might even be shock and awesome!

Monkeywire is an email list on which the members share news stories which feature monkeys. Mmmmmmonkeys. I cannot articulate the gloriousness of finding a single source for my monkey news.

You can join the group by clicking here or view the group's archives by clicking here.

Al Gore Suggests Bush See a Proctologist

I love foreign news services. Particularly their headlines. Check out this gem from News24.com:

It is mighty neighborly of Al Gore to remind G-Dub to get his prostate checked. After all, the most powerful man in the free world is 59 years old and should have been having his little annual probing for the past nineteen years or so.

What’s that? You don’t think that is what Al was talking about? Are you insane?

No, of course I didn’t actually read the article. That’s just un-American. I read the headline and jump to conclusions. I mean, seriously, if I needed to know what was actually in the article it would be on Fox News.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Reading Comics

Over at Brill Building, Ian shares the story of how he got back in to comics and then asks why, for those of us who had read comics and then got out of the scene, we came back. Initially I was going to post this in his comics, and I will probably link this there, but I realized it was going to be too long of a story to share via comments. I was not really allowed to read superhero comics growing up, G.I. Joe and Robotech were acceptable, but for some reason I was not allowed to read the superhero rags. This means most comics were a forbidden fruit for me. Fortunately I had a friend whose brother had a sick amount of comics and I was able to read stuff from his collection. There was also a local convenience store within bike-riding distance that was fairly well stocked with the titles I read (Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Factor). I would go down there and blow some of my allowance on the books and smuggle them back into the house. (Now that I think about it, what was wrong with my upbringing where I had to hide my porn and comics in the same place? Oh well.)

At this time Colossus, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and Cypher were my favorite X-characters at this point in my life. Then came the Mutant Massacre storyline. Suddenly Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler were seriously injured and out of the books. I remember thinking that Nightcrawler was dead and that Colossus was sure to die. I was so upset about this turn of events that I stopped reading comics.

I didn’t really feel them missing as I had started to get into anime and manga in a serious way, so what little money I had been spending on comics moved over to occasional purchases of the Appleseed manga being released by Eclipse (I think) with occasional bits of other manga as I stumbled across them. This slowly petered out as there was not a good local source for manga and about this time I really discovered the wider world of science fiction and fantasy literature. This is not to say I was not reading before this point, but rather I refocused and expanded beyond Anne McCaffery, Lord of the Rings, and the Star Trek novels.

The Second Age
My first return to comics was a result of the desire to fit in with some of the guys I was working with at the time. This took place in 1994, right after the DC Zero Hour crossover event, and since DC was doing Zero Month, this was the perfect time to hop back on the comics band-wagon. I believe I started with Batman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Shadow of the Bat, Catwoman, Detective Comics, and Robin. I was not interested in anything that Marvel was producing at the time, which was a switch from my younger days when I would not touch a DC book with a ten-foot pole. I was enjoying these titles, and through discussions with my coworkers I discovered Valiant and Image. A couple of my favorite titles from this period were Eternal Warrior, Geomancer, H.A.R.D. Corps, Harbinger, Ninjak, and Shadowman from Valiant, and many of the Wildstorm titles from Image. Eventually Valiant did their Birthquake event and then was sold to Acclaim which was the death-knell of the books that I particularly loved. Image and DC kept on keeping on and I collected for a year or two before I moved out of the house and comics became a luxury I could no longer afford. Thus comics passed from my life once more.

Again, I padded my separation from comics by engrossing myself in other hobbies, some geek and some not so geek. I started playing more RPGs. I started playing hockey in one of the local leagues. I reconnected with one of my college friends and became his semi-permanent third-wheel. We started training with another friend with the intent of rejoining the SCA, in which we participated in college.

The Third Age
I was still going to the comic shop, because as we all know, it is very rare that you can find a good gaming store that is not also a comic shop and I would occasionally take a spin through the comics section to see if anything appealed to me. Then one day it happened. I stumbled across and issue of the Spider-Man manga, and while I was no longer in my it-was-made-in-Japan-and-ergo-better phase, the manga style still appealed to me, so I thought I would take a chance on the book. I was entertained enough by the book to start picking up issues here and there. Then the DarkMinds series from Dreamwave caught my eye.

It snowballed from there. It took a couple of more years before I took the final step to addiction and established a pull list at my then local comic shop, which at the time was BCS Books and Comics. If you are ever in College Station and have a geek-need, check them out. They’re good people. Anyways, that is how I ended up where I am today.