Wednesday, May 31, 2006

His Geek-Fu is Strong

Occasionally my friends have teased me about my continuing love for Legos. As a child Legos were one of my favorite toys. I loved how versatile they were and I could play with them for hours in my imaginary worlds. From time to time I still get out the old Legos and build something and when it was announced that they were releasing Star Wars Lego sets? Lets just say that they cut into my disposable income for a bit.

Anyways I eventually found out that there is this whole Lego sub-culture out there with LUGs (Lego User Groups), software packages, websites, even a whole separate versions of eBay dedicated purely to Lego sets and pieces. Out of these sites and groups I have seen some very impressive pieces, including models of most of the ‘Mechs from BattleTech, several pieces of mecha from various anime shows, and a VERY impressive model of the Friedrich der Grosse. Then I saw this bad boy:

As I said, his geek-fu is strong and this? This makes me feel much better about my Lego habit. Check out the rest of his gallery here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Painted Bunting

My mom is crazy about birds. Seriously nuts over them and thus she has turned the area surrounding her house into a paradise for birds. There are bird feeders galore and a bird bath, and even several birdhouses (in my soul). These birdhouses are specifically designed to attract bluebirds, which hold a special place in my mom’s heart. All of her work has paid off. The place is lousy with birds, and we’re not just talking grackles and crows. You cannot sit through a meal in the dining room without being treated to a procession of chickadees, bluebirds, cardinals, and other miscellaneous birds cycling through the feeder and bath right outside the window. However over the past few years one visitor has stood out in my mind; the Painted Bunting. With its bold coloring, the male Painted Bunting is widely considered one of the most beautiful birds in America. I have tried to get some pictures of this particular visitor without too much success until this weekend. Although the lighting angle was less than optimal, leading to some pretty bad shadows, I am somewhat pleased with the following results.

I have nothing funny to say about this picture. Look at those colors!

Gettin' his drink on.

Here he is gargling.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Book Review - The Two Koreas

The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History
Don Oberdorfer
521 pages
Basic Books, 1997, Revised 2001

Continuing my trek through Korean history I chose to follow up to Hastings’ The Korean War with Don Oberdorfer’s The Two Koreas for two reasons. First the pool of books I had to choose from was rather small, but more importantly I felt a contemporary history would do more to educate me on the current state of Korea. I am fascinated by ancient and medieval history, and I am sure I will eventually track down a good book about these subjects, however the modern Korean outlook on the world has been more defined by their experiences since World War II than their previous history.

Oberdorfer begins his book at the beginning of the 1970’s when relations between the two Koreas went through a momentary thaw. Then slowly through the book, which feels exhaustive at times, he traces the ups and downs of diplomacy between the two Koreas paying special attention to the influence foreign powers had on the politics in the peninsula. He points out that Korea is the only place in the world where the interests of the Soviet Union/Russia, China, and the United States directly intersect, which made Korea one of the most dangerous flash-points during the Cold War.

An excellent example of how tense things were lies in the incident on August 18, 1976 where two U.S. Army officers were beaten to death by North Korean guards as they sought to trim a tree in the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom. The intial response to this provocation by Kissinger, then secretary of state, was,”…they beat two Americans to death and must pay the price,” and, “North Korean blood must be spilled.” Fortunately the final decision was made to launch Operation Paul Bunyan in which a group of U.S. Army engineers, reinforced by ROK soldiers, would return to the JSA and cut down the tree. All the while American and ROK forces were moving to war footing with a carrier group moving into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) and both long and short range bombers in the air on “exercises.” This very well may have been the closest we were to war since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I know this is going end up being a rather short review, however I found this book very, very readable. Oberdorfer was able to make even the most boring minutiae of political maneuvering eminently readable and I feel like I am walking away from this book having absorbed a lot of information. My one complaint is that this book was that since this book was revised in October of 2001 the dynamic on the Korean peninsula has changed drastically. Where in the late ‘90s the North Korean regime seemed to be willing to work towards rapprochement with South Korea and the international community, the pst four years have seen a significant down-turn in relations with the regime. We went from talking back to posturing and Korea is once more one of the most dangerous flash-points in the world.

I would like to end with Oberdorfer’s inscription in the book which reads:
For the people of the two Koreas
May the be one again, and soon.

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 5-24-06

Checkmate #2
Greg Rucka, Writer
Jesus Saiz, Artist

Greg Rucka writes some tasty spy action. I am a huge fan of Queen & Country (both the comics and the novels) and while I found his OMAC miniseries disappointing, I suspect this really had more to do with editorial mandate rather than his writing ability. So far this series has started out with a bang. In the first issue alone we got to see the Checkmate team lay the smack down on some evil minions and then get shut down by the UN. Now Checkmate has five days to figure out how to convince the Chinese to not veto them into non-existence for the second time. By convince I mean blackmail, and that means more juicy super-powered spy action in the next issue. Despite some similarities between this and Queen & Country, this series has definitely made the pull list for the foreseeable future.

Daredevil #85
Ed Brubaker, Writer
Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano, Artists

It should be clear by now that I think Brubaker is one of the best writers working in comics today. He is consistently turning in interesting stories which celebrate the character’s history without being so mired in continuity as to be inaccessible. This issue continues his chronicling of Matt Murdock’s tenure in the big house. There were several things I really liked about this issue. The first is how Brubaker writes Frank Castle. Based on the few pages I have seen from Brubaker featuring Frank coupled with Brubaker’s two Sleeper series, I would LOVE to see a Punisher series penned by Brubaker. The second is I like how Brubaker has Urich talk back to Jameson. “Well, that mustache isn’t doing you any favors.” Brilliant! Finally I like how Brubaker is only letting us peel back the layers at the same pace as Murdock, but then he adds a little teaser at the end of each issue. So many writers end up hinting at the pay-off to their arc early on in the story. They kind of want the reader to understand in the first issue that Big Things are happening. When authors do this it bugs me since we end up waiting for the characters to catch up with what we know. It really sucks a lot of fun out of the story. Brubaker manages to avoid falling into this trap, even when he is telling a story with multiple view points.

Hawkgirl #52
Walter Simonson, Writer
Howard Chaykin, Artist

The more I read of this Simonson/Chaykin run, the more I think they may have allowed themselves to get too distracted by the set-up for their story. It is clear they have spent the last three issues building towards something, and while that something is not entirely clear, I suspect the first pay-off will be a resolution of the financial issues currently embroiling the Stonechat Museum. However it became clear in this issue that the financial pressure being brought to bear is merely an attempt to get some items from the museum’s collection. Once these items have been acquired, the real fun will begin. While I am enjoying the psychological games Simonson is playing with Kendra, I am ready to get to the meat of this story. I really am beginning to wonder how many more issues we are going to have to go through before they get there. Oh yeah, one last thing. If financial problems are going to be a driving point in the story, don’t have Bruce Wayne put in an appearance at the museum’s fundraiser.

Shadowpact #1
Bill Willingham, Writer & Artist
So far I have enjoyed everything I have read from Willingham. Fables is my favorite Vertigo series and while there were issues with the Day of Vengeance miniseries, much of that originated with editorial mandate rather than the actual writing. It was a safe bet that I would enjoy this series. If the first issue is any indication, this series is going to have all the fun of the good arcs in Fables with bonus drinkin’ monkey action. Actually that last part isn’t true, for some reason Detective Chimp has decided to get off the juice. (I find a certain amount of crunchy goodness in this in light of this article.) I have read a couple of reviews around the web that took Willingham to task for lazy artwork in the scenes where members of Shadowpact do not put in appearances. I don’t really see a difference between the art work, however I admit that artwork is one of the last things I notice about a comic unless it is atrociously bad. Regardless of the supposed issues with the art, I really enjoyed this issue and the series has been added to the pull list.

Squadron Supreme #3
J. Michael Straczynski, Writer
Gary Frank, Penciller
Jonathan Sibal, Inker

Since I have yet to track down the original series in trade, I am still able to enjoy this series on its own merits. Well, relatively own merits. I feel it suffers a bit in comparison to Straczynski’s original super-beings in the real world series Rising Stars. I think my biggest complaint about this series is how some of the team members are, quite frankly, dicks. For those of us familiar with the short-lived Crusade television series and Batman, Emil’s character and behavior seems a bit familiar. Beyond this rather minor point this series continues to be enjoyable and Gray Frank is bustin’ out some pretty pictures for us to look at. I did stumble across something that will get Ragnell spun up (and rightfully so) should she ever find it. Recently she discussed the use of rape in female character’s origin stories and expressing her views on what has become a typical ploy in comic stories. Then Straczynski gives us this sequence (click to enlarge):

I am not as sensitive to the sexual politics in comics as Ragnell, however I think her point bears repeating. Lets all agree to stop using rape as a crutch when creating female characters. It is, if nothing else, an easy out for the creator, and it arguably has the effect of cheapening the act itself.

Wolverine #42
Marc Guggenheim, Writer
Humberto Ramos, Penciller
Carlos Cuevas, Inker

I had two thoughts the first time I saw the cover for this issue. The first one was, “Oh crap, a Civil War tie-in.” I think the trade dress for the Civil War books is really irritating, of course I am sure some of this is an off-shoot of my general bad attitude about Civil War after last year’s House of Suck mega-super-cross-over. The second was, “Oh crap, it’s art from that dude that did Crimson.” I never got on the Crimson band-wagon because there is something about Ramos’ art that bugs me. I can’t put my finger on it, but there it is. I was not particularly looking forward to reading this issue. I was very pleasantly surprised. While I was expecting the involvement of the Civil War storyline to be an interruption, Guggenheim actually uses the event as a launching pad for a classic Wolverine story. I am looking forward to the next issue or so where Wolverine gets the opportunity to avenge something.

The rest:
  • 52 Week 3
    • Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
    • Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
    • Joe Bennett, Penciller
    • Ruy Jose, Inker
  • Annihilation: Ronan #2 (of 4)
    • Simon Furman, Writer
    • Jorge Lucas, Artist
  • Batman #653
    • James Robinson, Writer
    • Don Kramer, Penciller
    • Wayne Faucher, Inker
  • Birds of Prey #94
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Paulo Siqueria, Penciller
    • Robin Riggs, Inker
  • Blue Beetle #3
    • Keith Giffen & John Rogers, Writers
    • Cynthia Martin, Penciller
    • Phil Moy, Inker
  • The Black Coat: A Call to Arms #2 (of 4)
    • Adam Cogan, Writer
    • Francesco Francavilla, Artist
  • Catwoman #55
    • Will Pfeifer, Writer
    • David Lopez, Penciller
    • Alvaro Lopez, Inker
  • Conan: Book of Thoth #3
    • Kurt Busiek & Len Wein, Writers
    • Kelley Jones, Artist
  • Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven #4 (of 6)
    • Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers
    • Dan Jurgens & Jimmy Palmiotti, Artists
  • Exiles #81
    • Tony Bedard, Writer
    • J. Calafiore, Penciller
    • Mark McKenna, Inker
  • Green Lantern #11
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Ivan Reis, Penciller
    • Oclair Albert, Inker
  • JSA Classified #12
    • Stuart Moore, Writer
    • Paul Gulacy, Penciller
    • Jimmy Palmiotti, Inker
  • Loveless #7
    • Brian Azzarello, Writer
    • Danijel Zezejl, Artist
  • Nextwave #5
    • Warren Ellis, Writer
    • Stuart Immonen, Penciller
    • Wade von Grawbadger, Inker
  • Powers #18
    • Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
    • Mike Avon Oeming, Artist
  • Teen Titans #36
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Tony S. Daniel, Penciller
    • Kevin Conrad, Andy Lanning & Norm Rapmund, Inkers

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Evolution of Safety

As I was walking through the basement lobby at work today I noticed one of those stupid signs that only school teachers and corporate America feel the need to inflict on us. I did not pay too much attention to the picture on the poster, however the tag line from the poster, “There is always time for safety!” made me chuckle. I immediately thought of the scene in Evolution where Professor Harry Phineas Block (played by Orlando Jones) yells, “There’s always time for lubricant!” This, coupled with a generally slow afternoon, led to this:

Words to live by, in my book.

Clerks II Trailers

Those of you that know me are probably aware of my love for all things Kevin Smith. Those of you who don’t know me now know I love all things Kevin Smith. Without further ado I would like to present two trailers for Clerks II:

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Search Results 5-24-06

So I was reviewing the traffic on the ol’ Opiate today and I noticed that someone from AOL read my stuff for 12 minutes and change this morning. Naturally I was curious to see what they read and what lead them to the Opiate. In this case the person went to Google and searched for devil worship in Wimberley, TX and the Opiate was the second site listed out of 225. You can view the results of the search here. Is it wrong that this makes me happy?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 5-17-06

52 Week 2
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
Joe Bennett, Penciller
Jack Jadson, Inker

This issue cemented what bothers me about the concept of this series. Since 52 is filling in a gap, the results of which we have already seen, there are going to be very few surprises coming out of this book. Just to pick one of the cover blurbs for instance, Sue Dibny could not have been resurrected by the events of Infinite Crisis otherwise we should know about it from one or more of the OYL books. The only suspense involved in these books is in answering the questions of how we get from point A to point B (interestingly enough I initially typed pint A to pint B which says to me it is time for more beer.) This sort of suspense generally leaves me cold as we are waiting for the characters to catch up with the audience. Having said that I have faith in the abilities of Messrs. Johns, Morrison, Rucka, and Waid to provide the reader with more than just a road map from point A to point B (or pint to pint, depending on your proclivities) therefore I am going to continue to read this book. Renee Montoya emerged from the criminally under-read Gotham Central as one of my favorite characters and I will continue reading for her story-line alone.

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4
Frank Miller, Wrtier
Jim Lee, Penciller
Scott Williams, Inker

Some of the early criticism of the All-Star books was that by coming out of the gate with such luminary creative teams as Frank Miller/Jim Lee and Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely DC was setting a precedent they would prove unable to follow up. Now we are four issues into ASBaRtBW and three issues into ASS I can think of a way DC can improve these books; release new issues on at least a semi-monthly basis. I like both of these books quite a bit and think they are some of the best work coming out of the majors right now, however, as I have mentioned before, they are competing with a bunch of books that I read on a regular basis. I am also reading most of these books on a more regular basis than I am the All-Star books. This means it takes me about half the issue before I remember where we last left our heroes. It is kind of annoying. Beyond that I am really loving this series, although some of Robin’s dialogue is a bit, lets just say it is kind of lame.

Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit #2
Howard Chaykin & David Tischman, Writers
David Hahn, Artist

Part of me wishes I could live in a world where people can drop, “…but we both knew it wasn’t meant to be like Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering Heights,” followed by, “…even when she was sucking someone else’s cock, or taking heavy traffic up her ass, or pulling a train…” without any sense of irony what so ever. On the other hand Howard Chaykin’s worlds scare the crap out of me because people like that inhabit his head. I skipped the first Bite Club series as it struck me as being more vampire pap, however I heard several good things about the series and I am slowly developing an appreciation for Howard Chaykin. So far this is reading like a decent police procedural with the vampire element being a facet of the story rather than actually driving the story. As much as I do not like Frank Quitely’s faces, I kind of wish he was doing the interior art rather than Hahn, whose style comes off as a bit too stylized for the subject matter.

Jack Staff #10
Paul Grist, Writer/Artist

This is another book I picked up because of the comicsblogoweb, specifically because of The ISB. After I first read the book I put it down wondering what the hell Sims was on about. Yes the bits with Morlan “You can call me Al” the Mystic were funny, but I really did not get what was going on in this book. There seem to be about five stories going on all at once and their relationship with each other was tenuous at best. Then today I read Johanna’s posts about the Soldiers and Everything Used to be Black and White trades from the series and everything started to make a little more sense. I think I am going to have to check out these trades before I can actually pass judgment on the series, however I am certainly interested enough to add them to the ever-growing stack of trades I think I have to read.

Moon Knight #2
Charlie Huston, Writer
David Finch, Penciller
Danny Miki, Inker

The first thing I thought when I read this book was, “Good God that was gory.” Much like the second issue of Wolverine Origins I think this book could have done with a warning on the cover as some of the violence, for example the cutting off of the villain’s face, might have been a bit much. That objection aside I really enjoyed this issue. Finch draws some mighty pretty pictures and Huston delivers a script that, in lesser hands, would have come off as heavy handed however here it is pitch-perfect with what the character is going through. If this sort of quality keeps up, Moon Knight might very well become one of my favorite Marvel books (after Captain America, of course.)

Talent #1
Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski, Writers
Paul Azaceta, Artist

Initially I was going to take a pass on this book. Part of this disinterest was some of the pre-release hype which described the book as being something like Lost. It is one of my pet peeves when people try to sell their book/movie/whatever on the it’s Lost meets Survivor meets Star Trek pitch. (Incidentally selling something as “For the fans of Lost,” or “If you like Lost you’ll LOVE Talent,” is only slightly more acceptable.) While the pragmatic part of my brain understands this is the easiest way to sell an idea, I also believe that if you have to resort to this sort of sloganeering, then perhaps your story needs a little work. I am not sure which blog convinced me to pick this book up, however I am glad I did. This first issue did everything right. It introduced us to the major elements of the story as well as got the somewhat clich├ęd fugitive hunted by the government and/or some vast conspiracy involving someone called “Your Grace.” My gut reaction is that this is going to be a fun book and therefore it has been added to the pull list.

Wolverine Origins #2
Daniel Way, Writer
Steve Dillon, Artist

Holy marketing Batman! We’ve got another Wovlerine book on the shelves. Of course I am going to complain about this and then buy it anyways. Such is the life of a geek. First thing I would like to say is that this issue, much like this month’s issue of Moon Knight, probably should have had the MAX label on it, or at least a warning. There were some fairly gruesome scenes in this book and as comics are ostensibly for kids, they should be warned off when things are going to be as graphic as they were in this book. Overall I am enjoying this series and I am interested to see where Way is going to take us in the months ahead. Interested enough to continue to check out the series even though I hate the way Dillion draws faces. I can’t put my finger on what I don’t like about them but, yeech.

Oh yeah, I got the variant edition, biyatches!

X-Men #186
Peter Milligan, Writer
Salvador Larroca, Artist

Finally The Blood of Apocalypse story arc comes to a close. I was not very aware of Apocalypse when he made his debut on the Marvel U back in 1986 and I was not reading X-books when he was making his big splash in the “The Age of Apocalypse” and “The Twelve” story-lines. And despite my friend Steven giving me most of the books from “The Age of Apocalypse” event, I have yet to get around to reading them, therefore I only know about Apocalypse through the character’s discussions of him and vague, half-remembered discussions with Steven about the AoA books. While I understand Apocalypse’s motives throughout this story, he just kind of bugged me as a super-villain. Throughout this story I kept waiting for him to do something really freakin’ cool and super-villain-y, and all he does is threaten the Earth and then get his butt whupped by the X-Men with a bit of help from the new and anime-inspired Sentinels and the Avengers who matter. All in all it was a somewhat disappointing ending to a somewhat disappointing story.

X-Men: Fairy Tales #1 (of 4)
C.B. Cebulski, Writer
Sana Takeda, Artist

Japanese folk-tales retold using the X-Men as characters? How could I not pick this book up, particularly once I saw the art. Let me rave about the art for a moment before we delve into the book. Takeda’s art, which I believe is painted, fits the dream-like quality that the Fairy Tales title implies and is uniquely suited to Cebulski’s tale. In this first issue we get Cebulski’s retelling of Momotaro (literally Peach Taro or more colloquially Peahc Boy) a classic children’s tale (which you can read here) that is apparently well known outside of Japan. In this tale an old couple with no children find a giant peach which, when they attempt to eat it, they find a baby inside whom they then take as their own and name, appropriately enough, Momotaro. For the purposes of this tale Momotaro is Cyclops. He then encounters a monk (Professor X) who is being pursued by three villains, who I assume are Juggernaut, Mystique, and Pyro, though I could be wrong. After Momotaro saves the Monk he undertakes a mission to save the Emperor’s daughter who has been kidnapped by oni, or demons. On this mission he is joined by the blue monkey Aoi (the Beast), the pheasant Tenshi (Angel), and the white dog Kori (Iceman). Finally they confront the oni who prove to be stand-ins for Magneto, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. Of course since this is a fairy tale there are obstacles to overcome before they even get to the oni, so I have not given everything away here. I really enjoyed this book and I am perhaps more anxious to see the next issue of this series than I am any other X-Men series out right now.

The rest:
  • Annihilation : Nova #2 (of 4)
    • Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Writers
    • Kev Walker, Penciller
    • Rick Magyar, Inker
  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #42
    • Kurt Busiek, Writer
    • Butch Guice, Artist
  • Batman Year 100 #4 (of 4)
    • Paul Pope, Writre & Artist
  • Captain America #18
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • Steve Epting, Art
  • Conan #28
    • Kurt Busiek, Writer
    • Eric Powell, Artist
  • DMZ #7
    • Brian Wood, Writer
    • Riccardo Burchielli, Artist
  • Green Arrow #62
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Scott McDaniel, Penciller
    • Andy Owens, Inker
  • Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe #1 (of 3)
    • Rich Margopoulos & Richard Corben, Writers
    • Richard Corben, Artist
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #205
    • Justin Gray, Writer
    • Steven Cummings, Artist
  • Man-Bat #2 (of 5)
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Mike Huddleston, Artist
  • Manhunter #22
    • Marc Andreyko, Writer
    • Javier Pina, Layouts
    • Fernando Blanco, Finishes
  • Marvel Legacy: 1970’s Handbook
    • A whole bunch of people.
  • Red Sonja/Claw #3 (of 4)
    • John Layman, Writer
    • Andy Smith, Artist
  • Robin #150
    • Adam Beechen, Writer
    • Freddie E. Williams II, Artist
  • Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #5 (of 6)
    • Joe Kubert, Writer & Artist
  • Superman/Batman #25
    • Jeph Loeb, Writer
    • Ed McGuinness, Penciller
    • Dexter Vines, Inker order:
  • Doctor Mid-Nite #1, 2, and 3
    • Matt Wagner, Writer
    • John K. Snyder III, Artist
  • Mouse Guard #1
    • David Petersen, Writer & Artist

My next stupid project that will never get done:
  • Manhunter #’s 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Why I Am a Bad Person

Last Friday I went to see Mission: Impossible 3 which introduced me to my new Eurasian crush, and latest member of the Future Ex-Wives Club, Maggie Q. Rawr. When I go to the theater I generally subscribe to the fat man seating arrangement (which is an empty seat on either side of me unless it is a date) as not only am I a bit portly but I have fairly broad shoulders and cannot sit straight in a normal movie theater seat without my shoulders invading the territory on either side of me. (What can I say, I believe in Manifest Destiny like any good American.) Therefore it bothers me when people choose to sit next to me when there are plenty of empty seats in the theater and since there were plenty of empty seats in the theater, the guys who sat right next to me and I sort of got off on the wrong foot. Then these guys talked throughout the trailers. While a lot of people do this, it bugs me. I consider the trailers an integral part of the movie-going experience but I understand I am one of the few that feel this way and so I will let the talking through the trailers slide. Then these fuck nuts (it’s French) proceed to talk throughout the movie. While I will accept, and make, the occasional aside in a movie, I am generally not tolerant of talking during a movie. I believe I showed great restraint when I leaned over and said, “Come on, be quiet,” to FN1, who was sitting on my right. Things got quite for about five minutes and then he leaned over to me and said something like, “You could be more polite.” I COULD BE MORE POLITE?!?!?!? Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?! Here this jackass is talking through the entire film and he has the balls to tell me to be more polite? Fortunately for him there was no payphone close at hand and that there was a family with kids sitting behind us. I really wanted to go off on this guy. I had an F-bomb on deck when I took a couple of deep breaths and sat back in my chair.

I spent the rest of the movie way pissed off (they resumed talking) and, here is where I find I am a bad person, thinking that he needed to pack his foreign ass up and go back to whatever –stan he was from. I don’t know why my mind went there, and it kind of bothers me that I went racial.

Another example from this past weekend. I was at the world’s blandest Mexican restaurant enjoying a post-graduation celebratory meal with my friend Meaghan and her family. After the meal we were discussing my first visit to the restaurant at which we heard the same song five or six times. It was a Tejano song and my dislike for Tejano music has been well documented. This was a very, very special kind of Hell. In order to explain how traumatic I found the experience the following scene played out at the table:

Me: It took years off my life.

A beat as those around the table as people absorb what I just said. Nikki shoots me a look that says, “Uh-huh.” (I get this look from Nikki fairly often because, lets face it, reality and I have a tenuous relationship.)

Me: That’s what Tejano music does to white people.

See! There I go being racial again. Oh well. I am not a good person, but then most of you kids knew that already.

Friday, May 19, 2006

An Open Letter to God RE: Pat Robertson

Dear Lord,

There are times I doubt the power of prayer. For example I am still waiting for the VW van full of easy cheerleaders I prayed for after reading my first Penthouse letters column. Additionally Catherine Zeta Jones, Scarlett Johansson, and Kiera Knightly have yet to see the error of their ways and accept the fact that they cannot live another day without the Funkywoodjam in their lives. [That might be the dirtiest sentence I have ever typed here.] Finally I have yet to find the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish under the Christmas tree. Now I realize that all of these requests are somewhat selfish, except for Catherine Zeta Jones who seriously needs to be saved from rather poor decision making, however my latest request is not just for me and the sake of my sanity, but for you as well.

Please Lord, do something to shut Pat Robertson up. Even though this will distress my mother and grandmother to no end, something needs to be done about this character. Quite frankly, and I don’t know if anyone else is going to have the stones to tell you this, he is making you look bad. Now I am not talking bad as in you’re the cool kid in school who is saddled with a childhood friend who is the unredeemable nerd but rather bad in a holy shit if God rolls with this crowd I am out bad.

Pat’s latest escapade, detailed here, is his claim that you told him, if he heard correctly, “…the coasts of America will be lashed by storms.” When I first heard this I thought that Pat was threatening us with a good old dose of God’s wrath. Now if I remember my lessons from Sunday school properly you were, back in the day, all about the wrath and tossed storms about like the bastard son of Zeus and Thor on a week-long meth bender, I’m sure you remember the whole Noah and the Ark thing. However since the BC/AD split you have been a bit more mellow on the punishment front. After all, the purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice was to wash away the stain of our sins in your eyes. Therefore I am going to operate under the assumption that, if Pat heard you correctly, you’re serving up a warning.

Pat then goes in to fund raising mode telling people that, “And so when you contribute $20 a month to The 700 Club, you are saying, “I care about people. I care about my neighbors, I care about my friends, I care about those who are suffering.” Of course I am a bit of a cynic when I hear this sort of appeal for funds. It harkens back to the good old days of 1987 when Oral Roberts, if he heard you correctly, had to raise eight million dollars or you were going to take him home. Of course we won’t even get on the subject of these guys not being able to hear you correctly but I am thinking that if you want to be understood, they would hear you loud and clear. This sort of fear mongering appeal for funds really bothers me.

Of course I am going to skip the majority of my thoughts on the “if I heard correctly” qualifier Pat throws out there. I only want to say that I suspect if you wanted someone to hear you clearly then they would get the point. I don’t imagine you’re a mumbler.

Look God, you need to get this joker out of here. Every time he opens his mouth he comes off as awkward as I am when I try talking to girls, which is to say pathetically so. Beyond being awkward, he either really puts his foot in his mouth (please see here, here, here, and here for his thoughts on Chavez and subsequent wriggling) or makes you sound like a bit of a dick (here on Ariel Sharon and here on Katrina.)

Just something to think about. And God, if you have the time on that Aston Martin thing, that would be keen.

Sincerely yours,

James Wood

No, not that James, the other one who has a career and no ‘s’ on the end of the last name.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My New Internet Man-Crush

Matt pointed me to this site with an email titled, “This sounds like something you would do.” Specifically Matt was pointing to the May 10, 2006 blog entry titled, “Athens, Greece - No Dancing at the Parthenon” which begins with the soon to be immortal line, “So I finally got arrested for dancing.” Incidentally Matt owes my company a keyboard, crappy monitor, and an IBM ThinkCentre desktop PC as these all fell victim to the geyser of Coke the blog entry caused. On the other hand my sinuses were in desperate need of a caffeinated cleaning.

After reading the trials and travails of Matt as he is arrested for getting’ jiggy wit’ it, as we say in the hood, in Athens I had to read more about his adventures. He chronicles it all on his site, including handy maps showing all of his stops and linking to the blog entries where appropriate. Definitely check out the site but I want to leave you with this little pearl from the May 3, 2006 entry:
…I’ll be okay if it [the new dancing video] makes people say: “Hey, maybe things aren’t so bad. We haven’t destroyed the planet yet and there’s still a lot of beauty amongst the awfulness, so maybe I’ll go become a part of it.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 5-10-06

52 Week 1
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
Joe Bennett, Penciller
Ruy Jose, Inker

So here we are, the first issue is finally out and some of the speculation can end. The general reaction from the comiblogosphere seems to be split between “wait and see” and “what the frack?” I have to admit that some of the points brought up by other bloggers has colored my feelings on this book. Ralph Dibny seems to have taken a step backwards in his handling of Sue’s death (as detailed in Identity Crisis) and the Renee Montoya storyline would only be familiar to the readers of Gotham Central. This book would have been well served with a blurb introducing each character and where they had been during IC. Overall I enjoyed the book and I am really glad that it is a weekly, otherwise I would loose track of all the different storylines over the book’s run.

Cthulhu Tales #1
“The Beach”
Michael Alan Nelson, Writer
Andrew Ritchie, Artist
“Love’s Craft”
Johanna Stokes, Writer
Filip Gablim & Ella Heroux, Artists
“Witch Hunter”
Andrew Cosby, Writer
Lee Carter, Artist
“Quality Time”
John Rodgers, Writer
Andy Khun, Artist
“Cthulhu Calls”
Casey Grey, Writer
Mark Badger, Artist
“The Oddly Amorous Phineas Flynn and the Troublesome Trouble He Got Himself In”
Keith Giffen, Writer
Ben Roman, Artist

You can keep your Kings and Benchleys as far as I am concerned. No one does horror better than H.P. Lovecraft so when I saw there was going to be a comic featuring an anthology of Cthulhu tales you better believe I was going to get it as soon as I could. Ranging from the horrific to sublimely hilarious this anthology delivered everything I could want from a group of Cthulhu stories, including not one, but two stories told in rhyming verse. Now that is a meal which would sate even an elder god. I seriously hope there has been enough interest in this series for Boom! Studios to continue publishing the series.

Fables #49
Bill Willingham, Writer
Mark Buckingham, Penciller
Steve Leialoha, Inker

I like this book to a truly stupid degree. So much so that I am not going to complain when they spin off a series and tell the tales of Jack in the Mundy world. This issue features the conclusion of Mowgli’s quest for Bigby as well as an unusually up-beat ending for this book. I really love the concept of our stories and legends having a life of their own. I really enjoyed this idea in The Never Ending Story as a kid and now that I am older I am thoroughly enjoying a more adult version. This is one of those comic series that I can unreservedly recommend to anyone who might have even a passing interest in the art form.

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #6 (of 6)
Ed Brubaker, Writer
Trevor Hairsine, Layouts
Scott Hanna, Finishes

This final issue really saved the series for me and has me looking forward to Brubaker’s stint on the X-Men. My one problem, and this is a big problem, is the whole, “I wiped your mind,” thing. In a post Identity Crisis world this particular story twist feels a bit overused and so it comes off as a bit of a let down when it is the big reveal. Even this issue was not enough to gut the entire story for me and I really like Scott’s reaction to this particular reveal.

The Rest:

  • Albion #5 (of 6)
    • Alan Moore, Plot
    • Leah Moore & John Reppion, Script
    • Shane Oakley, Penciller
    • George Freeman & Peter Guzman, Inkers
  • Annihilation: Super-Skrull #2 (of 4)
    • Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Writer
    • Greg Titus, Artist
  • Batman: Secrets #3 (of 5)
    • Sam Keith, Writer/Artist
  • Crisis Aftermath : The Battle for Bludhaven #3 (of 6)
    • Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers
    • Dan Jurgens & Jimmy Palmiotti, Artists
  • Ex Machina #20
    • Brian K. Vaughn, Writer
    • Tony Harris, Penciller
    • Tom Feister, Inker
  • Nightwing #120
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Paco Diaz, Penciller
    • Bit and Nathan Massengill, Inkers
  • Uncanny X-Men #473
    • Tony Bedard & Chris Claremont, Writers
    • Roger Cruz, Penciller
    • Victor Olazaba, Inker Order:
  • Checkmate #1
    • Greg Rucka, Writer
    • Jesus Saiz, Artist
      • For some reason this was not in my pull file and I was unable to find this book around town the week it came out.
  • Infinite Crisis Special: Villains United #1
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Dale Eaglesham, Penciller
    • Art Thibert with Drew Geraci, Inkers
      • Another one that was missing from my pull file and the shops around town.
  • Robin #149
    • Adam Beechen, Writer
    • Freddie Williams II, Artist
      • Yet again a book that was MIA.
  • Serenity #2 (Joe Chen cover)
    • Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews, Writers
    • Will Conrad, Artist
      • Ah yes, finally I get the one cover I was missing. And Kaylee is my favorite character!
  • The Shadow #1, 2, 3, and 4 (of 4)
    • Howard Chaykin, Writer and Artist
      • I didn’t know about this series until Matt discussed it over at Highway 62. As I have really enjoyed what little Chaykin I have read and I think the Shadow is a pretty cool character, I picked up the whole series so I can give it a whirl. After I read it I will do a special Four Color Commentary post discussing the series.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Weekend in Wimberley

Over the 7th, 8th, and 9th Nikki and I took a long weekend and visited the sleepy little burg of Wimberley for one of our mini-vacations. I am not sure where the idea to go to Wimberley came from, or to be more correct I don’t remember though I do remember Nikki telling me why she wanted to go to Wimberley. I am fairly laid back when it comes to these vacations as the most important thing I get from them is a quiet (sometimes) weekend with Nikki.

Nikki kickin' it in Wimberley.

Wimberley is this small, artsy town on the banks of the Blanco River near the edge of the Texas Hill Country and like all small, artsy towns in the Texas Hill Country the town is lousy with bed and breakfasts just waiting for the citified hordes to descend on them for weekend getaways to the “country.” Being located approximately 20 miles from Austin calls into question Wimberley’s classification as country (at least in my mind), however due to the geography and Austin’s tendency to expand on a north-south axis, the 20 miles from Austin to Wimberley are not quite as suburban sprawlish as, oh lets say I-45 is to north of Conroe (50+ miles outside of Houston.)


All in all we had a really good weekend. We drove out from College Station Friday morning and would have gotten their faster had I simply paid attention to the directions I wrote for myself rather than freaking out when 71 crossed 290 and hopping on 290. Oh well, one of these days I will learn. On second thought I wouldn’t bet on that. As a somewhat funny aside, in the weeks leading up to the trip my office mate kept bugging me about where Wimberley was. I didn’t really know and would answer with fairly vague descriptions like, “In Texas,” or, “near Austin,” when I felt like being helpful. While I was coming up with driving directions I found we had to turn off of 290 in Dripping Springs. This name was very familiar to me however I could not remember why I knew the name. It bothered me a little, but not so much that I did any research on the issue to figure out why I recognized Dripping Springs. As we were pulling into Dripping Springs I finally realized why I recognized the name. Dripping Springs is where the annual Tex-i-fied version of Burning Man, called Burning Flipside (or just Flipside) is held every Memorial Day weekend. I kind of felt like an ass since I have been going for the past two years and hearing my friends talk about it for about five years before that. Oh well, sometimes I am not too bright.

Some awesome junk art.

Anyways, we arrived before our posh accommodations were available, so we stopped at the tourist center and Nikki selected a couple of things for us to check out. We then parked and walked around the town a little. Basically the town is centered around several little groups of shops. Most of the shops carry the kind of stuff your rich friends parent’s would use to decorate one or more rooms in their house in order to appear more Texan, however hidden in there were a couple of cool little art galleries, a shop that had something on the order of 300 pairs of cowboy boots, and a store for the kitchen fetishist (I’m looking at you, Scott.) We wandered aimlessly and then headed over to the Country Sun B & B Cottages which was to serve as our base of operations for the weekend.

Our "cottage".

Somewhat predictably the Country Sun was not quite as nice as expected, but what did we want for $100 a night? Sleeping there Friday night was a fairly rough affair as the mattress was hard as a rock. What I had failed to notice was that the bed was equipped with some bizarre Select Comfort mattress and therefore adjustable. Nikki discovered the controls for the mattress sometime the next day and therefore Saturday night was a bit more bearable. Besides the snafu with the mattresses and the fact that there was no soap in our bathroom, the place was serviceable as a place to stay and, as we discovered on Saturday, the pool was a God send. I think it might be fun to get together with several other couples and take the place over for the weekend. They had a Bocce ball court, horseshoes, and a BBQ pit, all of which could be put to good use with the proper amount of friends and beer.

The Bed of Doom.

After we got settled at the B&B it was time for a nap before heading back into town for a spot of dinner at the Burger Barn (I love that one of Nikki’s favorite foods is hamburgers) and then shopping for some essentials (soap and Dr. Pepper).

Saturday we started the morning with the somewhat disappointing breakfast supplied by the B&B and then headed out to the Bella Vista Ranch, home of the First Texas Olive Oil Company. Founded in the late ‘90s, Bella Vista Ranch is based on a traditional Italian family farm where olives are the primary crop. This crop is then supplemented with several other fruits and vegetables, in this case primarily blackberries. Once these are ripe they have a weekend or two where you can come out and harvest your own blackberries. Whatever is left after the unwashed masses descend upon the ranch are then used to make a blackberry wine, which I really want to try and may necessitate a return engagement.

Olive larvae.

A visit to the Bella Vista Ranch begins with a tour of the orchard and production facility (they have a cool Italian word for it which I have since forgotten). If you’re lucky you will be given the tour by Jack Dougherty who will drop a little bit of knowledge on you. Okay, that’s a lie, he’ll drop more knowledge about olives and the history of olive husbandry (I think that’s the word and it sounds better than orcharding) in Texas than my mortal mind was ready to absorb. The most interesting thing I learned throughout the tour is that while the Texas hill country has a climate and soil similar to the prime olive growing regions around the Mediterranean however several attempts to establish olive orchards in Texas had failed leading to Texas A&M (who was leading the charge) to declare Texas unfit for growing olives. The reason they gave, which I cannot remember, did not make a lot of sense and so Mr. Dougherty decided to give it a whirl. He discovered that the issues TAMU had seen with growing olives in Texas came from two factors. First Texas does not have a very cold winter which allows the olive tree a year-round growing season. Second when Texas goes through a Blue Norther, the temperatures drop significantly more than they do in other olive growing regions. Since we have warm winters here and the olive trees continue to grow throughout the year, they are very vulnerable to the sudden drop in temperature that accompanies a blue norther. The Bella Vista Ranch has suffered through one of these blue norther’s, which lead to the loss of a considerable number of their trees.

The orchard.

At the end of the tour/oh-my-god-I-learned-too-much session, you get to sample some of the fruits of their labors. This includes their olive oil (I bought a bottle), wines (I bought a bottle), balsamic vinegars, and jams (I bought some). One final interesting fact for you kids, did you know that olive oil contains capsaicin, the molecule that gives jalapenos and other peppers their burn?

A flowering tree in Wimberley.

After the Bella Vista Ranch we headed in to town to grab some lunch and do some more wandering/shopping. We had lunch at Inoz, which had an okay chicken fried steak, awesome nachos, and marginally bad service. We then shopped a bit more and I picked up a cookbook, A Cowboy in the Kitchen by Grady Spears and Robb Walsh, at Kiss the Cook. Sometime this weekend I intend to give the Cream of Jalapeno soup recipe a try and I will try to remember to let you guys know how that goes.

Trees along the creek behind Inoz.

To close out the afternoon we drove over to Jade Gardens and the Central Texas Bonsai Exhibit. Being something of a japanophile I have been interested in bonsai for some time however this was my first opportunity to take a look at an extensive collection of the wee trees. After looking at all the trees, and they have a ton of them, I am even more mystified than I was before hand. I went ahead and picked up a book so I can get my learn on with the intent of returning to Jade Gardens to take a class or two and start my own collection of bonsai. The Japanese Maple and Cypress are a two of my favorites.

A grove of Japanese Maples.

Nik and I then returned to our base of operations to relax and dip our toes in the swimming pool. The water was so nice and cool and the sun was just hot enough to quickly turn this dipping into swimming. It was glorious. Glorious. Then it was time for a nap before a dinner of Subway sammiches. I likes me some Subway.

Sunday came far too soon and we finished up the weekend with a bit more shopping, including the purchase of a Mother’s Day gift for my mom. All of my pictures from the weekend can be found in this gallery on my Webshots account.

More junk art. Isn't he cute?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The True Number of the Beast

A friend who is familiar with my interest in religion sent me the following article:
Revelation! 666 is not the number of the beast (it’s a devilish 616)

A newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament indicates that, as far as the Antichrist goes, theologians, scholars, heavy metal groups, and television evangelists have got the wrong number. Instead of 666, it’s actually the far less ominous 616.
Lets go ahead and hold the presses right there. When I read the last sentence I collapsed in a fit of giggling. I enjoy how the author describes 616 as being less ominous than 666 and later in the article he refers to 616 being less memorable than 666. Now I wonder why the author might find 666 ominous and memorable? The repetition of the number 6 makes it easier to remember than a random collection of any three numbers, such as 826, however it is not particularly more memorable than 888 or 333 for example. (Upon reflection I find it less memorable than 888, which has a very nice symmetry and thus is easy to remember because it is a simple pattern and has aesthetic appeal.) As for how ominous (would it be ominousness or ominosity?) 666 is when divorced from any other meaning, I would think 999 is a far more ominous number. Look at those nines all looming over you like a threesome of bullies ready to beat you up and take your milk money. He’s a bastard, that nine, particularly in packs. Of course 666 may be memorable and ominous because for the past two millennia or so we have been under the impression that 666 was one of the signs of the Antichrist.

Okay, enough snark. Let us return to the article:
Professor David Parker, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham, thinks that 616, although less memorable than 666, is the original. He said: “This is an example of gematria, where numbers are based on the numberical values of letters in people’s names. Early Christians would use numbers to hide the identity of people who they were attacking: 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula.”
While a bit short I found this article interesting. This is despite my long-held belief that the concept of a Number of the Beast was a bit ridiculous. Do you really think the Antichrist is going to show up with 666 emblazoned on his forehead as a warning sign?

When I was younger my mother settled at one church, I want to say the Abundant Life Assembly of God, where we spent a large amount of time learning about the End Times. My personal favorite was the speaker who told us the Number of the Beast was secretly encoded in EVERY SINGLE BARCODE applied to products. Every UPC barcode begins with two thin lines, has two thin lines in the middle, and ends with two thin lines. For verification I just looked at every item around my desk with a UPC barcode, a total of twenty-five different items, and they each follow this pattern. According to this guy, whose name I wish I could remember, these two thin lines represent the number 6 therefore every UPC has a 6 at the beginning, a 6 in the middle, and a 6 at the end. The ominous and memorable 666. His implied, but never stated point, was that if you buy something you are engaging in a bit of Devil worship. I think it goes without saying that I am a bit skeptical about this whole theory. But enough sidebars. Back to the article Jeeves!

Operating under the assumption that is actually code for Caligula, what does this do for the rest of the Book of Revelations? It has been a long time since I read Revelations and I am aware of the fluidity of Biblical time lines, however I always understood the coming of the Beast as being an immediate precursor to the rest of the fun detailed in Revelations. Caligula ruled in Rome from 37 to 41 AD just missing the whole Jesus show by a couple of years but putting him smack dab in the middle of the post-game. This is a very interesting position for one who would, according to the author of Revelations, play an important part in the end times. This reinforces the teachings I have heard where it is posited that the Disciples and other early Christians believed the end times would come in their life times. This also makes me wonder if Revelations is more a commentary on the politics of the time than an actual prophetic vision. The problem with this theory is that it is hard to nail down when the books of the Bible were actually composed. Just a few thoughts this article engendered that I thought I would share.

An interesting post-script to this post is how much I learned through the writing of the post. For example did you know that the Antichrist is only mentioned five times in the Bible and that at no time is he mentioned explicitly as the Antichrist in Revelations? Also I was under the impression that Caligula ruled for much later and longer than he actually did. That he was a contemporary of Jesus was an interesting twist to the story. I also learned that Nero may not have been all bad and that most of the historical records we have about him were written by opponents.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Korea Pictures

Guess what I finally got done? That’s right boys and squirrels, I finally got all 1000+ pictures I took in Korea sorted and uploaded to my Webshots account. In order to make surfing them easy for everyone, myself included, I have broken them down in to fourteen different albums. Below is a listing of all fourteen albums and a brief description of what they contain. Remember that these are the unedited photographs and I am still working on getting them properly oriented in the albums. Have fun!

1. Korea 1 – Wedding
Pictures of Charlie’s wedding and around the Dragon Hill Lodge.

2. Korea 2 – Insadong
A few pictures from a street in the Insadong district of Seoul.

3. Korea 3 – Korea House
Pictures from the Korea House.

4. Korea 4 – Seoul at Night
A couple of pictures taken in Seoul at night demonstrating the need for a tripod when doing long exposures.

5. Korea 5 – The Road to Sokcho
Pictures taken on our trip from Seoul to Sokcho. For the most part these were taken at a scenic overlook however it includes pictures of the Sponge Bob Taxi and some pictures shot from the road.

6. Korea 6 – Sokcho
This album currently includes a TON of pictures that should be in The Road to Sokcho album, but I have been lazy about cleaning it up. Maybe I will get that done tonight. Anyway, these are pictures from Sokcho, primarily of the market where we ate dinner, however there are a couple of around town scenes.

7. Korea 7 – Hawjinpo
These are pictures from the hotel we stayed at in Hwajinpo, which was really cool because we had to sleep on the floor and we were only a few hundred feet from the ocean. I slept with my door open so I could hear the ocean. Oh yeah, and heated floors kick all buttocks.

8. Korea 8 – The DMZ
Who thought I would ever have the chance to display the shocker to the North Koreans? Not this white boy, that is for certain. In all seriousness this was a very surreal experience which I will write more about later. And I ate ppondaegi here.

9. Korea 9 – The Road to Seoraksan
The trip from the DMZ to Seoraksan National Park took us back through Sokcho and through some interesting parts of the country.

10. Korea 10 – Seoraksan
I think Charlie referred to Seoraksan National Park as the Yosimite of South Korea. Having never been to Yosimite it is not a comparison I am qualified to judge, however I can say that Seoraksan had some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen. Also where else are you going to be able to hear a Buddhist monk chanting prayers as you climb to the top of a mountatin? If the DMZ showed the tragedy of Korea then Seoraksan showed the beauty.

11. Korea 11 – The Road to Seoul
Traveling from Seoraksan to Seoul was another beautiful trip.

12. Korea 12 – Gyeongbokgung
This is the main palace located in Seoul. Charlie’s cynical point about it was that none of the buildings in the palace were original as it had been completely razed by the Japanese. Regardless it was an awe inspiring place to visit and I want to go back to get some better pictures as I managed to mess up my horizon in several of these shots.

13. Korea 13 – The War Memorial
Pictures from the Korean War Memorial Museum. I did not take many pictures inside the museum as it is a memorial, however outside they have a rather large display of armored vehicles and aircraft from the Korean War as well as some impressive and heart-rending statuary.

14. Korea 14 – Seoul
Just some shots from around Seoul. Some during the day but most of them once again displaying the need for a tripod when shooting in low light. C’est la vie.

There is still more to come as I sort through the pictures and make a master set of pictures I think worthy of sharing, however I have no idea when that is going to happen. Also I will be writing more about my experiences over the next couple of months as I find time and inspiration. You can also probably expect one or two reviews of books regarding the history of Korea as I am fascinated by what little I learned while I was there and I am hungry to learn more. Till then I will leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the trip, cherry blossoms against the mountains in Seoraksan.

Ppondaegi - The Cornnuts of the East

My initial brush with this dish occurred here in the States. I saw a picture of it in one of my LonelyPlanet guidebooks and thought to myself, “Sweet Monkey Jesus! There is no way on God’s green Earth I am going to try that.” In the end, fair reader, I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

I finally saw my first “live” ppondaegi while walking back to the car in Sokcho. May and her mother decided we all needed after dinner coffee and the booth they selected happened to also be selling ppondaegi. I glanced in the pot and I have to admit I was tempted for a second or two, but it looked like there was some serious nast going on in there. The water in which the larva is boiling turns black, making the whole operation seem a little suspect to my not quite as open as I would like to think mind. In addition to the visuals ppondaegi has a very distinct earthy smell that, while not unpleasant, some people find off-putting. I went ahead and drank my coffee and avoided the ppondaegi for the evening.

The next day we traveled to the Reunification Observatory to take a peak into the DMZ. It is here, on the borders of the Axis of Evil, that I slipped and tried ppondaegi. May is crazy about the stuff and finally broke down and bought a cup as we were preparing to leave the Observatory and head to Seoraksan National Park. May offered me the ppondaegi and after some teasing from Charlie I went ahead and popped one, just one, of the little buggers into my mouth. Like the smell, the taste was earthy and not unpleasant. It was actually kind of bland and, my curiosity sated, I did not feel the need to buy a cup of my own. I washed the ppondaegi down with a gulp of Coke and it was at this point I began to fear I had done a terrible thing. Even after a good swishing with Coke, the flavor of the ppondaegi was still with me.

As we drove backs towards Sokcho and Seoraksan I made the horrifying discovery that ppondaegi is the Cornnuts of the East. In addition to a distinctive and powerful smell that tells everyone within two blocks that there is ppondaegi to be had, you can taste it every time you burp. For the next two days. Regardless of what you consume in the interim, the flavor stays with you.

Now I would not discourage anyone from trying the ppondaegi, however I would like all of my readers to have fair warning before they jump in to the whole scene.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Linking Updates Are Fun

Here is a small handful of links for your reading pleasure:

This site is my brother’s friend’s blog. Corey is serving time as an English teacher in Japan after getting his degree in physics. Oh yeah, apparently Corey is having a power struggle with WordPress so you never know what you’re going to get when you hit his site.

Matt introduced me to Barry Eisler’s writing two years ago and since then he (Barry) has reacquainted me with the thriller genre. If you have any interest in this genre then I cannot recommend his John Rain novels enough. In addition to being an excellent author Barry is a nice guy whom I have had the honor of meeting on his last two book tours.

Barry also has a blog, titled “The Heart of the Matter,” where he shares his thoughts on politics and goes after people who are crapping up the language. Lord I hope he doesn’t read this place as my English is TERRIBLE and chock full of the bad habits he rails against.

3. Murder by the Book
I found out about Murder by the Book because this is the local store where Barry Eisler does his annual book signings. Murder by the Book is the sort of bookstore that is being supplanted by the massive chains, which I will admit to patronizing more often than I should. They have a fairly narrow focus, selling mysteries, thrillers, and associated genres, which means I will not do a lot of my book shopping there. However when I do, I can count on the staff being knowledgeable about the books they are selling, which is a rarity at the usual chain stores. If you want a mystery book or just to go in to a cool bookstore then Murder by the Book is for you.

4. I am trying to add a feed from my Webshots galleries to the bottom of this page. We shall see if it works. It looked terrible across the bottom so I went ahead and put it right under my profile and contact info.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 5-3-06

Well this weekend was wildly crappier and wildly more successful than I thought it could be. You can read about some of my misadventures on Friday night here. I managed to catch a vicious headache and spend most of Saturday and Sunday passing in and out of consciousness as the last bits of the Asian Bird Flu worked its way through my thoroughly exhausted body. Of course this means I missed my dinner party on Saturday and managed to talk to exactly two humans on Sunday, one a roommate and one the drive thru lady at Taco Bell. This also means that, in my moments of lucidity, I was able to get completely caught up on the rather large pile of comics I needed to read, including all of this week’s offerings. I can tell you’re thrilled.

Annihilation : Silver Surfer #2 (of 4)
Keith Giffen, Writer
Renato Arlem, Artist

More Annihilation goodness. I am enjoying all of the Annihilation series even though I am not certain where they are headed. Okay, that’s not true, I am pretty sure all of these series are leading up to yet another ongoing Silver Surfer or Nova series. Lets face it, if nothing else Earth is going to have to survive the Annihilation Wave unmolested otherwise it would interrupt the Civil War we have been hearing about for months on end. Now that Galactus has shown his pretty planet consuming face I am interested to see what is going to happen between him and Annihilus. Oh yeah, and why are the bug-girls surrounding Annihilus’ throne nubile in a very mammalian way? And why is Annihilus’ throne room a direct rip off of the Emperor’s throne room from Return of the Jedi? I appreciate the occasional visual geek in-joke but a wholesale rip off that lasts four pages is a bit much.

Batman : Journey into Knight #9
Andrew Helfer, Writer
Tan Eng Huat, Artist

Ah, a young and chatty Batman who is not a dick. Sounds like a one year later story except that it has been going on for about nine months now. I like this series but I am stuck wondering why this had to be its own series rather than a year long run in Legends of the Dark Knight? This series is also starting to feel like it is dragging on a bit long. When I saw issue nine was coming out this past week I had to check my list to make sure I had not gotten it before. I am ready for this series to be over.

Fury: Peacemaker #4 (of 6)
Garth Ennis, Writer
Darick Robertson, Penciller
Jimmy Palmiotti, Inker

Mmmm. Nazi’s. Nick Fury. Secret plots. What’s not to love in this series? Having said that this issue really feels like a place-holder rather than doing anything to advance the main plot of the series, which is nebulous to me at best. Initially I thought this series was supposed to be Fury’s introduction to war behind the lines, however this took up all of two issues before we moved a couple of years ahead. I am certain issues 5 and 6 of this series will feature some more scenery and Nazi chewing by Fury and this will, in the end, be a fun ride.

Supergirl #6
Greg Rucka, Writer
Ed Benes, Penciller
Norm Rapmund, Inker

I am not certain why this issue popped up in my pull box, but since it is one of the OYL titles and I happen to be a fan of most of Rucka’s work I thought I would take it for a spin. I was really underwhelmed by this issue although I always like a girl drawn by Ed Benes. According to some in the comics blogosphere (I hate that word) this story is an off-shoot of the Godfall storyline done a year or so ago by the Aspen crew however I barely remember the storyline and thus this really had very little meaning to me. I don’t think I am going to bother continuing this storyline. Oh yeah, I got the variant cover biyatches.

Team Zero #6 (of 6)
Chuck Dixon, Writer
Doug Mahnke, Penciller
Drew Geraci, Sandra Hope, and Doug Mahnke, Inkers

I have two things to say about this issue. First off, suck it traitor boy, you got WAY better than you deserved, but those are the fortunes of war. Second, in reference to the final panel of the comic, oh snap! Although I have to admit showing the Americans and British at odds during WWII kind of rubs me the wrong way.

Teen Titans #35
Geoff Johns, Writer
Tony S. Daniel, Penciller
Kevin Conrad, Inker

I thought the whole point of OYL was to de-dickify the DCU. Then we get this, from one of the masterminds of the de-dickification, Cyborg saying, “…You’ll help us bring the rest of them back. Gar. Raven. Bart. Mia. The REAL Titans.” This really seems to be out of touch with who Cyborg is. He reformed the Titans in order to provide a place for young heroes to stretch their wings and then he is being a prick about what young heroes he takes in. I think Robin has the right of this and Devil Boy and Ravager have a place in the Titans and I hope Cyborg will come around. Also I hope 52 offers some info on how Bart can still be one of the Titans as we learned in the finale of Infinite Crisis the Speed Force is no more.

X-Men: The End Book 3 – Men & X-Men #5
Chris Claremont, Writer
Sean Chen, Artist

Sweet Jebus when will it end?! I honestly have no idea what is really going on in this series but I do know, or rather suspect, something it will all be over in one more issue and my comics OCD can relax and return to our regularly scheduled X-Men. About the only thing that keeps me somewhat interested in this series is to see if Kitty Pryde wins the election or not. Se is, after all, my first comics crush.

The rest:
  • B.P.R.D. – The Universal Machine #2
    • Mike Mignola and Jon Arcudi, Writers
    • Guy Davis, Artist
  • Detective Comics #819
    • James Robinson, Writer
    • Leonard Kirk, Layouts
    • Andy Clarke & Wayne Faucher, Finishes
  • Exiles #80
    • Tony Bedard, Writer
    • Paul Pelletier, Penciller
    • Rick Magyar, Inker
  • Infinite Crisis #7 (of 7)
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • A metric ass load of artists on pencils, layouts, inks, and finishes.
  • JSA #85
    • Paul Levitz, Writer
    • Rags Morales, Luke Ross & Dave Meikis, Artists
  • Outsiders #36
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Matthew Clark, Penciller
    • Art Thibert, Inker

This post is brought to you a day later than intended by Jennifer Garner and her blue latex dress from the first season of Alias.

Hello Nurse!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My New Hero

Today I intended to write about Cinco de Mayo. (Guess what? I did and you can read it here.) Of course that was until I heard the Democracy Now story about Ray McGovern’s questioning of Donald Rumsfeld at an event in Atlanta on Thursday. You can watch video from MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann here thanks to onegoodmove. Also you can read the rush transcript and get more from the Democracy now website here.

Wow. I know all of my conservative friends and readers will blow this off, and I am almost certain that the conservative noise machine (please read Bill O’Reilly) will dig up something about Ray McGovern that will be used to make it appear as though he had an agenda, however I just want to bask in the moment of someone asking tough questions of the G-Dub All-Stars and I thought it important that I share with you kids.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

There is a pervasive misconception here is the States that Cinco de Mayo is analogous to our Fourth of July celebrations. For some reason we seem to think that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain, however this celebration takes place on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo in fact commemorates the defeat of a French expeditionary force which had landed at Veracruz (familiar to students of military history as the site of America’s first major amphibious landing whose participants included both Robert E. Lee and George Meade.)

Mexico owed money to France and when Mexico stopped making its loan payments, the French government used this as a pretext to invade Mexico and attempt to install Napoleon’s relative, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as Emperor of Mexico. An outnumbered group of Mexican patriots under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin (I wonder if he is of any relation to Juan Seguin, a Tejano who fought on the Texian side during the Texas Revolution?) defeated the French and preserved Mexico’s independence for another two years.

I have been in several arguments with people I would usually consider intelligent about the origins of Cinco de Mayo and it has always baffled me as to why these otherwise reasonable people would turn into complete jackasses over a holiday. Then it occurred to me; they can’t wrap their head around someone having a “We Kicked the Crap Out of the French” day. Almost everybody, including the French, have beat the French at one time or another, and those who have yet to serve France with a whuppin’ suffer more from lack of opportunity than anything else. Whenever I make this point some smartarse always asks, “What about Napoleon?” To which I often respond, “Shut up Rob you’re killing my not very funny and ridiculously easy ad hominem attack on France (or what I like to think of as my Bill O’Reilly Moment, BORM for short).” However I now have a better answer to that little speed bump. What happened to Napoleon? He met his Waterloo, as the kids say. Or, to put it in small terms Rob would understand, he lost. Badly.

Of course I do not mean to actually belittle the achievements of General Zaragoza and his band of plucky patriots. Merry Cinco de Mayo!