Thursday, August 31, 2006

Collaborator Cha-Cha

So on Tuesday I learned something remarkable about myself. During his speech to a convention of the American Legion in Salt Lake City on Teusday, the Bush League Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said:

Any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of a free society to persevere.

He then goes on in the speech to compare those of us who might have some niggling questions about whether we were lied into the war (we were) and whether we have a plan for actual victory in Iraq (we don’t) or the mis-named* War on Terror (nope, not one there either) to the countries which sought to appease Hitler in the months leading to World War II.

So far the best, and to be honest, only response I have seen is Keith Olbermann’s response from yesterday in which he eviscerates the parallel Rumsfeld sought to draw however Rumsfeld does have a point. America, as a nation, needs to act with a sense of history. It took under 200 years for us to forget that we are, or rather were, a revolutionary country where the people, led by a core of intelligentsia, rose up against our imperial overlords and cast off their bonds, determined to seek our own way in the world. Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that just over 200 years later our colonial governor, nee Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was chased out of his own country and replaced with a populist theocratic republic? In the end the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was hijacked by the Ayatollah for his own purposes and assisted in the rise of radical Islamic fascisim rather than serving as an example of the vox populi.

The stated purpose of the Iraq invasion, as I understood it, was that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and he was working on closing out the trifecta with his nuclear program which he was cleverly hiding from everyone; including himself, as it turns out. In addition to this reason there were some mighty unsubtle hints that Saddam was in bed with al-Qaeda and assisted in financing, if not planning, the 9-11 attacks. I think it is fair to say that both of these reasons have for the most part been torn to shreds. Of course we knew about the chemical and biological WMDs because we had the receipts from where we sold them to Saddam back in the ‘80s for his war against Iran, not that any viable WMDs have been found. In addition to this the administration has not been able to provide any incontrovertible evidence that Saddam still had a nuclear program. That’s right, as it turns out there wasn’t even yellow cake at Saddam’s birthday because of that damn Plame girl! Oh wait, they weren’t even trying to buy some since Saddam is a fan of the flan. (Happy birthday Saddam! Here’s some goo.) (That last parenthetical was not a prison joke of any kind. I would not stoop to that level.) As for raison d’etre the second I believe the GB All-Stars have backed off the “Saddam paid for/was involved in the 9-11 attacks” position and retreated to the “but he supported terrorism” position with the occasional shot of “if we had allowed him to gain a nuclear weapon he would have sold it to terrorists” for good measure. Of course that last little bit is suspect since he had a significantly smaller nuclear program than one Paul Stephens, but we’ll let that one slide since the third reason we invaded Iraq is the one I really want to riff on.

The third reason we invaded Iraq is to promote democracy and democratic reform in the region. Of course we might come off as being a bit hypocritical as we also support most of the other governments in the region which include a couple of kingdoms (Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) and a fistful of constitutional monarchies, which generally end up being better defined as oligarchies, and some emirates. And then there is the whole Palestinian Authority mess where we, in concert with Israel, essentially told the Palestinians to re-elect our boy or we would take our toys (read the aid that is supporting their faux-government) and go home. So what did they do? Rather than re-elect a criminally corrupt and negligent regime led by a cabal of former terrorists they chose a government led by a group of terrorists promising important changes. In response to this democratic decision by the Palestinians we, true to our word for once, packed it up and went home rather than seeking to work with the new, though distasteful to our refined sense of….oh Hell, I am not going to even try to be funny any more, I am sick of us being all about democracy unless that means you are going to elect someone we don’t like in which case we will overthrow them and put a dictator in their place.

Sorry for getting so ranty on this one, I just don’t like being compared to the collection of jackasses which signed the Munich Agreement in 1938. What I really wanted to point out is that, as I said, Rumsfeld was right in that we need to act with a sense of history, but he was very wrong about what part of history to which he was referring. Like Keith Olbermann, I would like to end with the following quote from Edward R. Murrow:

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.

* Bush recently tried to rechristen it the Struggle Against Ideological Extremists Who Do Not Believe In Free Societies Who Happen to Use Terror as a Weapon to Try and Shake the Conscience of the Free World. I have a whole PILE of thoughts on this one, however voting for a Democrat this election cycle might be considered as striking a first blow in this particular struggle.

(So I just wanted to point out that I think al-Qaeda would be pretty low on Saddam’s list of recipients for the bomb. I am betting that he would keep the sucker just like North Korea’s Deer Reader Kim Jong-il. I mean look how well it has worked out for him. He launches missile after missile in “tests” intended to show he matters, sells missile technology to anyone who can reach the window (Iran), and is suspected of engaging in international drug trafficking and what do we (the international community) do? Nothing except support his regime by providing fairly obscene amounts of food (China alone donated 530,840 tonnes of food to North Korea in 2005 and this was less than 50% of the food aid received by the country) and other aid as it continues on its merry way of not really mattering to anyone. Except the guy has a NUCLEAR WEAPON. It seems that quickest route to not being bothered by the U.S. is to get a nuclear weapon and then just sit on it because if you actually use it, or give it to someone to use, then you’ll be in big trouble. And lets face it, for all of his faults Saddam is not tragically stupid.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dorks of War!

This makes me inordinately happy! I finally have a scientific way to determine how much vicious mocking I can heap on other members of the geek community.

Of course this comes up in a response to an article in the Toronto Star discussing how anime fans are looked down upon by other members of comics fandom. I always think geeks hating on other geeks is, to put it lightly, a bit funny. Here we are generally talking about people who have managed to be ostracized from the “in crowd” through out their lives and now that they have an in crowd of their own they are ostracizing people. Does it really matter that you like Star Wars or Star Trek or Firefly? Sure there are jackasses in all levels of fandom, from the Pokemonkeys to the, lets face it, fat and stinky comics d00d, and while they might be worthy of derision from outside the community, don’t you think we should all try to get along within our own subculture? Except for furries and slash fic writers. Those kids are deserving of all derision sent their way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Manga Review - Mobile Suit Gundam: Ecole du Ciel

Mobile Suit Gundam: Ecole du Ciel
Written & Illustrated by Haruhiko Mikimoto
Gundam Series created by Hajime Yatate & Yoshiyuki Tomino
Mechanic Design by Yashinori Sayama
Produced by OUTASIGHT
Published in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Ecole du Ciel, which is French for School of the Sky, is the story of Asuna, a below-average student who initially struggles through her Mobile Suit training at the eponymous training facility. The story is set in the Universal Century (UC), or original, Gundam time-line and begins in UC 0085. This places the story firmly between the events detailed in the 1991 OAV Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, set in UC 0083, and the 1985 television series Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which begins in UC0087.

Ecole du Ciel will be familiar to long time Gundam fans as many of the elements which have served the series so well since its first appearance in 1979 are present. First there is the main character, Asuna Elmarit, who is the very definition of outsider. In addition be being an under-achiever in her training, her father was a professor at Zeon’s National Defense Academy. For those of you who don’t know the Gundam universe, the Principality of Zeon were the ultra-nationalist aggressors during the One Year War and are generally considered the bad guys during this period in the Gundam UC timeline. This means that Asuna is seen as a foreigner and enemy by many of her classmates, one of whom she likes.

In true Gundam tradition the story places the character relationships against a landscape of political machinations with a mysterious group driving the training at the school in their search to increase Earth’s development of newtypes for a coming conflict which they seem to think is inevitable.

Overall I really enjoyed the first volume of this series. Of course they would have had to go out of their way to make this bad as far as I am concerned as it combines two of my largest loves from my early days of anime fandom; namely Gundam and Mikimoto drawings. Honestly I have been a fan of Mikimoto since before I knew there were these people called character designer’s or that the Macross saga in Robotech was based on this Japanese show called Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The man draws some pretty pictures and keeps it up in this book. I particularly like how he occasionally drops a page or panel in where he has decided to be less demanding with his line work, giving the page the feel of a pastel or watercolor. I absolutely love those pages even if they can be a little shocking. And then he gets to draw some Mobile Suits, including every Feddie’s favorite whipping boy, the Zaku II.

As for the story I found it to be a typical Gundam story which, while they have become somewhat formulaic, I still find enjoyable. In fact so much so that I am going to try and pick up the rest of this series, I am just hoping that TokyoPop does not decide to make this an online exclusive series. If you like character driven manga or anime with giant robot action, then this is a manga for you.

(For those of you who want to see more Gundam, I suggest this site, which is a compilation of screen-shots from the various anime series.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Purple Mountains Majesty

Well, after waking up at a deliciously early 3:15 Mountain time this morning I am a bit worn out from the lightning-quick trip Nikki and I took to Colorado Springs this weekend. We flew out of Houston Friday night after work and returned via the 6:!5 out of Colorado Springs.

The first order of business on Saturday was wait for a break in the weather. During the previous week I had been watching the forecasts with growing dismay as they went from sunny skies with a 10% chance of rain at the nine days out mark to thunderstorms with a 40% chance of rain on Thursday. Fortunately we caught a break in the storms from about 9:30 or 10:00 until after 3:00 on Saturday so we made our escape from the hotel and hit the Garden of the Gods. We wandered, hiked, and drove through the park for the better part of five hours while admiring the red sandstone formations. I think it goes without saying that I took a TON of pictures, however this one, of the formation known as “Kissing Camels” is one of my favorites.

After the Garden of the Gods we spent some time in the trading post (read souvenir shop) in the park where I fulfilled my need for a shot glass and purchased the base for a project which I hope to be launching sometime in the near future. After that it was time to find some lunch, which ended up being Ruby Tuesday, and then back to the hotel room as the weather was taking a turn for the worse and we were both in need of some chillaxin’.

Since the weather was still overcast and kind of rainy after our nap, we decided to head to the Cave of the Winds before dinner. On the way out to Cave of the Winds we saw a bit of a rainbow peeking through the clouds and I don’t care what anyone says, rainbows are cool regardless of what they symbolize. Cave of the Winds was okay for a cave. I suppose I am spoiled in that the one cave I have been to that sticks out in my mind is Carlsbad Caverns, which seems to be the granddaddy of all the caves in the southwest. My adventures in cave photography did not turn out as well as I had hoped, however one or two came out pretty good, including this one, which is a nursery for baby stalactites. I have one which has better color to it, as well as some cave bacon, however there is an annoying wire mesh in the foreground that kind of ruins it. I really learned two things about cave photography on this tour. The first is that you shouldn’t really try it on a commercial tour as they tend to move too fast and you’re having to share a rather cramped space with a bunch of people who are always in the way. Second is that to get some of the spectacular results I have seen on some websites (here, here, and here) I am going to need a bit more practice, and perhaps a slightly better lighting rig. Sadly we made it through the cave without any manbearpig or Al Gore sightings, however they have a lantern tour which I will have to go on should I ever return to the area. Just you, your tourmates, and lanterns. That should be good for my claustrophobia.

And after a visit to the souvenir shop so I could sate my lust for a shot glass, Nikki and I went to Billy’s Pizza Buffet, which was pretty tasty. After that it was back to the hotel and to bed for the two of us. We were some worn out tourtistas.

Speaking of the hotel, we stayed at the Antlers Hilton, which is located in downtown Colorado Springs and has AWESOME vistas available through your window, should you get a room on the correct side of the hotel, which, as you can see from the photo below, we did.

Unlike Saturday’s mess of rain and general nast, Sunday morning was incredibly beautiful and Sunday we had a schedule to keep. We had reservations on the 9:20 Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway train to the top of Pike’s Peak and we still had to figure out where the depot actually was AND find some breakfast along the way. Fortunately we were able to do both, eating at Uncle Sam’s Pancake House in Manitou Springs and making it to the depot in plenty of time to wait in line. The ride up was very beautiful and although we did not see any big-horn sheep or deer or mountain lions, we did see a couple of yellow-bellied marmots, which filled our rodent quota for the day. On the train trip up and back we sat across from and chatted with an elderly couple from Florida who were some, as Nikki might say, travellin’ fools. Sadly not too many of my pictures from the train ride came out as I forgot to pan. ARGH! Fortunately several from the peak, which is 14,110 feet up in the air, came out just fine, including this one of Nikki throwing a snowball at me. It is easy to see how the view from the top of this mountain would have inspired the lyrics for “America the Beautiful.”

After the adventure to the top of the mountain, during which I would like to point out I did not once have a panic attack due to my fear of heights and nor was I affected by the altitude except for when I tried to stand up to fast and almost took a header in the train, we headed into Manitou Springs for a bite to eat and some more shopping. Lunch was at A Common Ground Café, which had the stench of hippie all over it coupled with the distinct aroma of rennie. The sandwich we had, called the Deli Rose I believe, was an interesting take on a turkey sandwich, consisting of turkey, mozzarella, tomato, and a mixture of catsup and hot sauce. The jury is still out on whether the sandwich was actually good or just edible. Manitou Springs itself had that conflicted feel of a sleepy community of artists which has been overrun by tourists and thus caters to them. I think it goes without saying that it was VERY pretty and I would move there in an instant. In a odd coincidence we parked across the street from the James House. The original proprietor was a Welshman named James James whose fiancée, in a very odd twist of serendipity, was named Catherine Wood. Erie stuff and we weren’t even in Pennsylvania.

Sunday afternoon was then dedicated to completing the final stop on our journey, a visit to Seven Falls. Seven Falls touts itself as being the “grandest mile of scenery in Colorado,” and while I have not seen too much of the state, after having been to Seven Falls I imagine this might be a bit of hyperbole. Of course this is where my fear of heights and general exhaustion took over, so I may not have seen some of the “grandest” scenery to be had at the falls; the 224 steps to the top of the falls? That was a bit too much for me at this point in the day. The falls themselves were pretty enough, although I do not like how close to the base of the falls the proprietors have chosen to develop. The trip to Seven Falls did give me an opportunity to spend a lot of time photographing a chipmunk or two. There was a chubby one and a skinny one who moved WAY too fast. The next time I go to Seven Falls I am going to go there first so I am not already tired from other activities and I am going to go in the morning so the sun will be in a better position for photography. And maybe I’ll get a sherpa to carry my stuff for me, too, while I am at it.

That was pretty much it for the trip. Since we had to be at the airport by 4:15 in the morning we had dinner, went back to the hotel, and packed it in for the night.

All in all I had a great time in Colorado Springs and would like to go back for some more exploring. I completely forgot about the Florissant Fossil Beds park, Cripple Creek, and of course the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo! I think there is plenty more to do in the area, so who knows, another trip may be in order.

All of my photos from the trip can be viewed here once I get them uploaded.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Homework - Part the Second

I am going out of town for the weekend so I will leave you with a talk by Grant Morrison, founder of what Mr. TunaCan calls the "Grant Morrison I take FAR mroe interesting drugs than you and then write comics," school of writing. His topics for the evening include alien abduction, magic, and individualism. In the past I have mentioned that I often do not understand Morrison's work. This sheds some light on the man's thinking and is just some fascinating stuff.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Homework - Part the First

So while I was watching Rome for the second time I noticed that one of the characters, Titus Pullo, uses the word garrae twice. Both times it appears to be an explitive of some kind. I did not recognize the word, in fact the first time he said it I thought he said, "Go on" however when I consulted the subtitles I found I was wrong. Since the majority of the cast is British I thought it might be one of their quaint curse words, however Scott assures me he does not recognize the word, and if there's a bad word in the King's English, that boy would know it. Then I searched my meager memory of Latin as well as consulted a few dictionaries and I was unable to find the word. Anyone out there have any idea as to what it means? Is it even a real word or is it something the writers made up, like frack in Battlestar Galactica?

Tags: TV, MyWord, Words

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 8-23-06

No commentary for you this week. I am spending the weekend in Colorado Springs and won’t have time for you and your funny books this week. Look for picture posts next week!

  • 52 #16
    • Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
    • Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
    • Joe Bennett, Penciller
    • Ruy Jose, Inker
  • Astonishing X-Men #16
    • Joss Whedon, Writer
    • John Cassady, Artist
  • Batman #656
    • Grant Morrison, Writer
    • Andy Kubert, Penciller
    • Jesse Delperdang, Inker
  • Batman and the Mad Monk #1 (of 6)
    • Matt Wagner, Writer and Artist
  • Birds of Prey #97
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Paulo Sequeira, Penciller
    • Robin Riggs, Inker
  • Blue Beetle #6
    • Keith Giffen & John Rogers, Writers
    • Cynthia Martin & Kevin West, Pencillers
    • Phil Moy & Jack Purcell, Inkers
  • Checkmate #5
    • Greg Rucka, Writer
    • Jesus Saiz, Penciller
    • Fernando Blanco, Inker
  • Daredevil #88
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • David Aja, Artist
  • DMZ #5
    • Brian Wood, Writer
    • Riccardo Burchelli, Artist
  • Eternals #3 (of 6)
    • Neil Gaiman, Writer
    • John Romita Jr., Penciller
    • Danny Miki with Tom Palmer, Inkers
  • Exiles #85
    • Tony Bedard, Writer
    • Paul Pelletier, Penciller
    • Rick Magyar, Inker
  • The Flash, The Fastest Man Alive #3
    • Danny Bilson & Paul Demeo, Writers
    • Karl Kerschl, Penciller
    • Serge Lapointe, Inker
  • Hawkgirl #55
    • Walter Simonson, Writer
    • Howard Chaykin, Artist
  • Heroes for Hire #1
    • Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers
    • Billy Tucci & Tom Palmer, Artists
  • Jack of Fables #2
    • Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham, Writer
    • Tony Akins, Penciller
    • Andrew Pepoy, Inker
  • JSA Classified #16
    • Steve Englehart, Writer
    • Tom Derenick, Penciller
    • Doug Hazlewood, Inker
  • Justice League of America #1
    • Brad Meltzer, Writer
    • Ed Benes, Penciller
    • Sandra Hope, Inker
  • Red Sonja #13
    • Michael Avon Oeming, Writer
    • Mel Rubi and Stephen Sadowski, Artists
  • Supermarket #4
    • Brian Wood, Writer
    • Kristian, Artist
  • The Ultimates Annual #2
    • Charlie Huston, Writer
    • Mike Deodato, Jr. & Ryan Sook, Pencillers
    • Joe Pimentel, Wade von Grawbadger, and Scott Koblish, Inkers
  • Wolverine #45
    • Marc Guggenheim, Writer
    • Humberto Ramos, Penciller
    • Carlos Cuevas, Inker
  • Wonder Woman #2
    • Allan Heinberg, Writer
    • Terry Dodson, Penciller
    • Rachel Dodson, Inker

Tags: Comics

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vampire's Suck

So this quiz result was amusing enough to share:

You scored as Blade. Thats right you are the booty kicking you cross me and I will stomp a mudhole in your butt type. Sexy and a great fighter with mad fighting skills





Deacon Frost
















Whose your Vampire personality? (images)
created with

Lets just say that, "Sexy and a great fighter with mad fighting skills," does not immediately spring to mind when I think about myself. Now I have delivered the wrath of the Lord our God upon one or two boys while playing hockey and if there is a pay phone handy I can be downright Crowe-ian in the amount of whup-ass I can deliver (read about it here.)

Tags: FWJ, Quizzes

Monday, August 21, 2006

My Junk and Name Tags

So just in time for my first anniversary at my new job, which is tomorrow, the string connecting my name tag to the clip broke! Grrrr. So I went and got one of the new-fangled name tag clips which actually has a belt-loop hook rather than just a little clip on the back. It is pretty and silvery and everything. There is just one problem with it; the name tag ends up hanging WAY too low and due to the location of the first belt-loop on most pants this puts the name tag dangling down the front of my leg and so every time I take a step the name tag swings back and forth. AND HITS ME IN THE BUSINESS! Now I have to wear my name tag on my hip which puts it in much greater danger of getting broken as I wedge my wide load into a standard sized chair. The bonus is now I have to draw my name tag like some goofy gunfighter so I spent the day whistling the bit from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly in my head.

Tags: FJW, MyWorld

Sunday, August 20, 2006


So on Saturday I bought the first season of Rome on DVD and by tonight I had watched all twelve episodes and let me just say, wow! I managed to catch the first two episodes while rooming with Matt but then I sort of lost track of the show and ended up, as I am doing more and more often these days, decided to wait for the DVD release to actually watch the show. I wonder if this is ever going to become the dominant paradigm in entertainment? I am aware of a vocal minority in sci fi fandom, or what I like to call the Harlan Ellison Memorial Ghetto Fandom, which claims the direct to DVD market is a viable market for television shows, but I do not know how much leverage this school of thought has elsewhere in the entertainment community. As a brief aside, in this not so brief aside, is there anything in sci fi fandom which is not vocal?

Okay, back to the point which is Rome rocked my socks off! In the interest of full disclosure you should all know I took two years of Latin in high school and I was VERY good at it. I think there must be a genetic predisposition for linguistics in my familiy. Beyond my general fascination with language and my ability to bend and twist the English language to within an inch of its life, my brother speaks Korean, my dad spoke Russian, and my mom beats the pants off of all of us at Scrabble. Gah! Another side-track. It should come as no surprise that I have had a heck of a time concentrating on things today. The point you need to take away from this is that I took Latin in high school and competed at a fairly high level in the JCL meets in history and mythology so this show is right up my alley and could have ended up being a HUGE disappointment.

These twelve episodes cover the eight years from Caesar’s victory over Vercingetorix at Alesia in 52 B.C. to Caesar’s murder in the forum in 44 B.C. That is a lot of history to cram into less than twelve hours of television. Hmm, that makes Rome sound a bit dry and lecture-y and believe you me, it is anything but. This version of Rome owes less to the sword and sandal epics of yesteryear than it does to Carnival, that’s a Brazilian Mardi Gras for you plebes, as designed by Machiavelli. This Rome is bawdy, bloody, and brilliant, with heavy emphasis on the bloody. There are some cringe-worthy scenes in here that could give Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart a run for its money. This coupled with the amount of nookie going on has caused a bit of an uproar over the series however I wasn’t really bothered by it. Of course we all know me so, as they say, your mileage may vary. (I did wonder how they got anything done with as much…oh yeah, slaves, never mind.)

As for the historical aspect of things I feel the producers and writers did a very good job of balancing history with the needs of the story. The one major departure from history is the placement of Julia’s death in 52 B.C. rather than 54 B.C. Julia was Caesar’s daughter from his first marriage, and only legitimate child, and Pompey’s wife. This coupled with the absence of Crassus, who was the third of the triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, from the series makes it appear as though Pompey went from being Caesar’s friend to his enemy the moment Julia died. In the series Caesar even comments to Mark Antony that Julia’s death was the moment when Pompey turned against him. By 56 B.C. the Triumvirate was already starting to fray under the weight of Caesar’s growing popularity and the fact that they had accomplished the initial goals of getting land for Pompey’s veterans and whatever it was that Crassus’ clients wanted. There was no reason for the three men to remain allied. Then with Julia’s death and 54 B.C. and Crassus’ death in 53 B.C. coupled with Caesar’s ever increasing popularity and Pompey’s own political naiveté served to push Pompey to ally himself with the Optimates. It seems Pompey’s conversion to the Optimate cause was complete by 52 B.C. when he rebuffed Caesar’s offer of his grandniece Octavia’s hand in marriage and instead married Cornelia Metella, the daughter of one of Caesar’s greatest enemies in the Senate. After that Pompey pursued a legislative agenda which made it clear he was gunning for Caesar. While the causal effect the show imbues Julia’s death with may be historically correct to an extent, there are other events which pushed Pompey into his decision. I understand why the timeline was compressed and the situation simplified.

The other historical change that has elicited some discussion is the use of Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus. While both these names appear in Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic Wars) there is no other information about them therefore all of their actions through the series are fabrications. Of course since these are the two characters which provide the point of view for the average citizen of Rome, they are the characters which provide the relatable point of view for the viewers. These necessary roles are ably filled by Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo) and Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus) and there are times where these two almost steal the show and turn it into Lethal Weapon Episode One. Stevenson’s outspoken, hard-drinking legionnaire provides a perfect foil to McKidd’s laconic straight-man and both of their performances are enjoyable and hit all the marks they need to hit.

To be honest I enjoyed all of the performances in this series however Ciaran Hinds as Caesar, James Purefoy as Mark Antony, and Max Pirkis as Octavian really stood out. After watching the first few episodes I had to run and consult IMDB on both Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy. I knew I had previously seen James Purefoy in something but it took the internet to remind me that he played Prince Edward in A Knight’s Tale, which, in my opinion, is a grossly underrated movie. In this outing Purefoy brings a level frat-boy hedonism to the role of Mark Antony which is generally missing, particularly from performances of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. By turns his Antony is a soldier’s soldier, plain-spoken and straight-forward, and a shrewd politician able to navigate the alleys of power with uncanny ease and Purefoy manages to deliver a performance in which these characteristics do not seem to contradict one another. His Antony also has a boyish charm about him which made me like him despite some of his rather uncouth behavior.

In contrast to this is Ciaran Hinds’ Caesar. Whereas Antony is boisterous, Caesar is almost taciturn and even when Hinds’ expresses an emotion it is done in a brief moment and if you blink you’ll miss it. Like Purefoy, I was convinced I had seen Hinds before and I was 100% certain it had been in a Star Trek role. I don’t think I could have been more wrong; I would have seen him in Munich and The Phantom of the Opera but no Star Trek. (And that’s too bad, too. I think he would make an awesome Vulcan or Romulan.)

Then there is Octavian as played by Max Pirkis. For me Octavian is the most interesting character in the bunch as he is the one who ultimately emerges from this period of civil war and becomes the Emperor of Rome and here we are seeing his first steps into the political arena. I suspect my interest in the character had less to do with Pirkis’ performance than it did how the character was written, however Octavian comes off as a bit of a prodigy in the series and that sort of character can be hard to imbue with humanity, a task I feel Pirkis excelled at.

I think by now you get the point. I really enjoyed this show and highly recommend it with one caveat: Remember that for as much as we like to think the Romans were like us, much of their history, this bit included, exists before the rise of Christianity and Judeo-Christian morality as the standard behavior for western civilization so they will do thing we find shocking and abhorrent without so much as batting an eyelash.

Tags: TV, Reviews

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 8-16-06

The Boys #1
Garth Ennis, Writer
Darick Robertson, Artist

The comics blogosphere, or whatever you kids are calling it these days, seems to be pretty evenly split between the “I read this when it was Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe” camp and the “its Garth Ennis doing what Garth Ennis does and I like it” camp. I fall firmly into the second category. Every once in a while there is a base misogynist part of me that needs a little love and Garth Ennis tends to deliver the right kind of love. I have to be honest with you though, when I first read the solicts for this book I thought to myself, “Wow, I really liked this book back when it was called Stormwatch: Team Achilles,” and decided not to read the book. Then I read some one’s rave review of the book and decided that I could spend the $2.99 on the book or buy half a Guinness. I decided to do both with the same $2.99. What can I say, I am nothing if not a patriot.

Claws #1 (of 3)
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, Writers
Joe Linser, Artist

DAMN YOU JOE LINSER! I finally swear off series being written by the not-so-dynamic duo of Palmiotti and Gray and then you have to come along and give them pretty pictures to deface with their words. And then their words actually didn’t suck. In fact, I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I enjoyed this book and will be reading the rest of the series. Of course this is the first time I can remember reading a series where Palmiotti and Gray got to be funny and they’re pretty good at it.

Deadman #1
Bruce Jones, Writer
John Watkiss, Artist

I really enjoyed the short-lived Deadman series put out by DC in 2002. I am not certain what it is about the character that I like so much and that I find interesting, but I do, so it was certain that I would give this book a spin when it came out. Of course I forgot that it being a Vertigo book meant more than just a Marvel Knights-esque interpretation of the character. To be honest I am not certain I am going to enjoy Bruce’s stab at this character. Jones seems to have, what we call in the business, issues which he likes to work out while bringing the readers along for the ride. We shall see what happens here, but I am not too optimistic about this series.

Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel: Crisis with Infinite Critters
“Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lycanthropy on a Big Wheel”
Ken Lillie-Paetz, Writer
Chris Moreno, Artist

“Crisis with Infinite Critters”
Ken Lillie-Paetz, Writer
Chris Moreno, Artist

“Greased Lightning”
Paul Benjamin, Writer
Chris Moreno, Artist

“Money vs. Lemur”
Ken Lillie-Paetz, Writer
Chris Moreno, Artist

“In Space No One Can Hear a Squeaky Wheel”
Dan Wickline, Writer
Mark Dos Santos, Artist

“Moreno in a Wagon vs. Lillie-Paetz on a Big Wheel”
Ken Lillie-Paetz, Writer
Fernando Granea, Penciller
Steve Sprayson, Inker

I heard about this work of genius a while back and tried to make you all aware of its existence (here). It was all I could hope for in something as high-concept as this. I don’t have the words. Let us just bask in the glory of the following statement:

“Are you retarded? I am the goddamn Lemur.”

Rex Mundi #1
Arvid Nelson, Writer
Juan Ferreyra, Artist

I missed the first couple of issues of this book when it was being published independently and thus decided to steer clear of it, even though it is right up my alley. When I heard the book was moving to Dark Horse and was going to “relaunch” with a new #1 I figured this was my chance to jump on to the book. I was more wrong than right. I am not certain where the last issue of Volume 1 left off, however this book really picks up in the middle of the story so I was a little lost until I read “The Story so Far…” page at the back of the issue. Since this is a new #1 I feel the creators should have spent at least a page or two catching the readers up on what has transpired before they picked up the comic. Of course since this contains just about every single thing I look for in historical or speculative fiction I am going to continue to read the series and try to pick up the trades. Or maybe single issues. Who knows.

The rest:
  • 52 #15
    • Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
    • Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
    • Shawn Moll, Penciller
    • Tom Nguyen, Inker
  • Catwoman #58
    • Will Pfeifer, Writer
    • David Lopez, Penciller
    • Alvaro Lopez, Inker
  • Conan #31
    • Mike Mignola, Writer
    • Cary Nord, Artist
  • Green Lantern Corps #3
    • Dave Gibbons, Writer
    • Patrick Gleason, Penciller
    • Prentis Rollins, Mick Gray, and Wayne Faucher, Inkers
  • Ion #5 (of 12)
    • Ron Marz, Writer
    • Tom Grindberg & Greg Tocchini, Pencillers
    • Jay Leisten, Inker
  • Manhunter #25
    • Marc Andreyko, Writer
    • Javier Pina, Layouts
    • Fernando Blanco, Finishes
  • Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7
    • Warren Ellis, Writer
    • Stuart Immonen, Artist
  • Nightwing #123
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Robert Teranishi, Penciller
    • Wes Craig, Inker
  • Robin #153
    • Adam Beechen, Writer
    • Freddie E. Williams II, Artist
  • Shadowpact #4
    • Bill Willingham, Writer
    • Steve Scott, Penciller
    • Wayne Faucher, Inker
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four #32
    • Mark Millar, Writer
    • Greg Land, Penciller
    • Matt Ryan, Inker
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #2
    • Mike Carey, Writer
    • Stuart Immonen, Penciller
    • Frazer Irving, Art & Color, Mole Man Sequences
    • Wade von Grawbadger, Inker

Tags: Comics

Friday, August 18, 2006


Over the last few months Wizards of the Coast have been running the following ads in many of the comics I read promoting a website, which can be viewed here, encouraging the MMORPG crowd to explore the world of Dungeons and Dragons. The ads crack me up every time because, lets be honest, they're true.

Tags: MyWorld

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Book Review - Vertical Run

Vertical Run
Joseph R. Garber
302 pages
Bantam, 1995

Welcome to the second of two book reviews in a series. I like to think of these book reviews as the, “Yes I am finally returning your books, Scott,” series, the first of which you can read here.

The book opens with a two page idyll which ends on a somewhat down note as David Elliot is headed to serve in Vietnam. Then we plunge into the meat of David Elliot’s tale. David Elliot is a successful businessman living the perfect New York life during the midst of the dot-com boom. He is married, although there is a certain feeling of resignation in his marriage, with a son who is away at college. He wakes up at the butt-crack of dawn most days to jog to the office where he is a vice president of a successful company. He arrives at the office and takes his morning shower and enjoys his coffee for a few moments before he is interrupted by his boss; who is holding a gun. Thus five pages into the first chapter David Elliot’s world has come crashing down around his ears and he must rely on training from thirty some odd years in the past to survive.

Everything about this novel was enjoyable except the penultimate event which puts David Elliot’s life in danger. In order to keep from spoiling the eventual reveal I will have to speak in generalities here, however it strikes me that Garber’s reason for putting his protagonist in danger is very topical to the zeitgeist of the 1990s. In addition to this I have a problem when the action of the book/movie/whatever is driven by complete idiocy. Rather than approach David Elliot and deal with him as an intelligent person the “villains” just attack him. This is as irritating as the superheroes must fight before they can team up to fight the villains device so often used in comics. If David Elliot is an intelligent man then the author needs to treat him as one.

Having said all that it was an enjoyable read. Technically Garber turned in a superior effort however because of the problems I had with the set dressing for the novel I am not sure how well I can recommend this one.

Tags: Books, Reviews

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

So Is That Ginger or Mary Ann?

I scanned the image below from page 32 of the August issue of Envy magazine. The article in question was written about the Art Car guys here in Houston, one of whom is a casual acquaintance of mine.

Does anyone see something wrong with the article title? I didn't at first glance and then my officemate pointed out the HUGE spelling error.

To add a little insult to injury they even managed to misspell my acquaintance's name and then in an extra tasty ironic twist the article on page 34 is titled, and I am 100% serious about this, Houston Blunders. Feast your eyes:

This kind of stuff makes me happy. Is that wrong?

Tags: MyWorld

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Damn You Webshots!

(Imagine me shaking my Ineffectual Fist of Rage™ while saying that.)

So in my post about my not quite 24 hours in Birmingham I mentioned that some of the pictures in my Webshots galleries are not going to be properly oriented. After a few different variations on de/reinstalling the Webshots Desktop software I finally broke down and started searching the Webshots help pages for an answer. I found nothing and thus was forced to send an email to their support department to which I received the following reply:

There is currently a bug in the software that is not allowing rotating images. Our engineers are working on a fix for this. We apologize for the inconvenience.

WTF? Seriously do you think you’re Microsoft or something? The ability to rotate images seems like a pretty frickin’ important thing to me. Above and beyond that, though, is the fact that I could not find a notice anywhere on the site that indicated this was a known fault they are working to correct.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hooray for Boobies!

Earlier today a freind was perusing Overheard at the Office when he found the following:

And I Wrote It in the Funbag Programming Language

Engineer #1: What the hell were you thinking when you wrote this code?
Engineer #2: Boobs.
Engineer #1: Huh?!
Engineer #2: Truthfully, it's likely I was thinking about boobs.

Columbia, Maryland

Which he promptly sent to me with the note, "This made me think of you." In honor of today being Monday, things being written while thinking about boobs, and because I can't come up with anything else to write tonight I would like to share the following song with you:

Tubular Boobular Joy from the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Outlaw" featuring the talents of Jack "He Craps Bigger Than Me" Palance and some breasts. You can listen to it here when the link is working.

Tags: FWJ, MyWorld

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 8-09-06

53 #14
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
Dale Eaglesham, Penciller
Art Thibert, Inker

So I continue to enjoy the grand experiment named 52. Some issues are better than others, and I am not a huge fan of how they ended the Ralph Dibny storyline, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. There is just one thing I want to say about this issue, and I know it is picking nits, but jumpin’ Jiminy Cricket! Take a look at panel eight from the first page:

Take note of the office which issued Montoya’s passport. The U. S. Embassy located in Gotham City which, in turn, is located in the United States. I find it interesting that the United States government feels the need to have an embassy in Gotham City. Maybe it is a left-over from the No-Man’s Land event, but somehow I doubt it.

The Black Coat: A Call to Arms #4 (of 4)
Adam Cogan, Writer
Francesco Francavilla, Artist

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and speculative historical fiction however I find myself enjoying the high-concept of most of the comics which fall into these genres more than I enjoy the comic itself. This book is an excellent example of this which I think I would have pitched as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meet Batman in Colonial America. Perfect! We have some classic literature in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a modern cultural touchstone in Batman, and an under-explored milieu in the Colonial America. Somewhere between the concept for this book and the execution of this book the waters got a little muddied. I admit that I missed the first issue of this series which might help, but to be honest this series never really clicked for me. I cannot tell you exactly why but just that there was something missing story-wise. In addition to this I am not a huge fan of Francavilla’s art. I enjoy the black and white presentation of the book, and think this enhances the mood of the book, however I think Francavilla used too much black in an attempt to convey the darkness of the book.

Green Arrow #65
Judd Winick, Writer
Scott McDaniel, Penciller
Andy Owens, Inker

First let me say that I would pay good money to see a liberal talking head blow up like Jenny Parks does on page 10 of this comic. Too often they allow conservatives to muddy the conversation with tangential issues when it often comes down to a simple truth. Okay, enough politics, on with the not so review-y review! Green Arrow is one of the superior OYL books, in my humble opinion. I may have complained a little about it before, but I think Winick has got a handle on Ollie’s character and I am eager to see what happens next. On top of that I especially liked this panel:

The student and mentor. I don’t know why but I really like it.

Martian Manhunter #1 (of 8)
A.J. Lieberman, Writer
Al Barrionuevo, Penciller
Bit, Inker

Bit –

Please change your name. Whenever I have to type your name in for Inker I end up reversing your name and the Inker. Thank you.

-- James

Now that we have that little bit of business out of the way let us delve into the cliché with covers which DC has decided to refer to as Martian Manhunter #1. Now I enjoy a good tale in which the government are the bad guys, however it seems like Lieberman has taken it upon himself to cram every single aspect of this genre into this book. We have the everything the main character thought was true is wrong thing going on with the appearance of other Martians. We have the shadowy agency which is out of control bit taken care of (see page 7). To top it off we have the agent who has been programmed to respond to a code phrase. All we need is a hot, preferably leather-clad, love interest and we’d be reading Mission Impossible 4: Xenu is Your Friend! Above and beyond that I think Lieberman actually does a damn fine job of writing the big MM himself, so I may stick around for a couple of issues to see where things lead.

The rest:
  • Annihilation #1 (of 6)
    • Keith Giffen, Writer
    • Andrea Divito, Artist
  • Annihilation: Nova Corps Files
    • A bunch of people whom I am too lazy to list.
  • Conan and the Songs of the Dead #2
    • Joe R. Lansdale, Writer
    • Timothy Truman, Artist
  • Fables #52
    • Bill Willingham, Writer
    • Mark Buckingham, Penciller
    • Steve Leialoha, Inker
  • JSA Classified #15
    • Steve Englehart, Writer
    • Tom Derenick, Penciller
    • Mark Farmer, Inker
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #209
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Ariel Olivetti, Artist
  • Secret Six #3 (of 6)
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Brad Walker, Penciller
    • Jimmy Palmiotti, Inker
  • Squadron Supreme #6
    • J. Michael Straczynski, Writer
    • Juan Barranco, Penciller
    • Vincent Cifuentes, Inker
  • Wolverine Origins #5
    • Daniel Way, Writer
    • Steve Dillon, Artist
Tags: Comics

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Saturday, August 12th

Today was a good day. I just want to mention that because I come off as being very bitchy and whiney on here and I wanted you people to know that I am not always crying like a little girl with a skinned knee. Last night was pretty good, too, now that I think about it. I was at work until about 7pm. Not because I was actually working, but because I was printing out a Shadowrun sourcebook PDF and things were moving S-L-O-W-L-Y. After work I met Scott over at Downing Street for some cigars and beers and lo and behold Rob and Diana were there. Soon we were joined by Lynn, who from that night onward shall be known as Lynn the Destroyer of Glasses, and Toe-Pick Mike, whom I have not seen in some time. We were a little rowdy at Downing as I regaled the group with tales of my adventures with Drunk Girl and then Lynn and I planned our inevitable affair. (What can I say? Few women can resist the unadulterated machismo that is James.)

After Downing Street we all trekked to Katz’s for dinner where I wowed the audiences with my ability to consume far too much pastrami while making Toe-Pick Mike feel better about himself. How did I do that, you ask? By demonstrating that I can, in fact, be a bigger @sshole than him. Or at least talk a good game. Of course my mad skills did not serve me well as by the end of the meal Lynn had already dumped me from our as yet to have happened affair. I must admit that this was a new record for me. Usually it takes them at least one date to figure out that I am completely unsuitable as a companion (or gay, or a wuss, or more interested in eating half of the city) but she had it nailed in the space of an evening. C’est la vie.

Then I went home and passed out. Apparently I had a few more drinks than I thought, but not enough to be hung over this morning.

Today I drove out to College Station to go to Margaret’s graduation party. I went early enough in the day so Nikki and I could grab some lunch (Double Dave’s buffet, mmmm) and ice cream (Maggie Moo’s, mmmm) and I could do some manual labor for her. After that I swung by Lytle’s, one of the comic/game stores in town, found a couple of books I was looking for and chatted with Josephina, the proprietor, for a while. We primarily talked about Civil War and the fact that I am not reading it because House of M left such a bad taste in my mouth AND since Millar is doing it I knew it was going to be over the top political. I enjoy Millar’s work but sometimes he needs to be more artful in making his points rather than beating his readers over the head with it. After that I swung by BCS Books and Comics, which is where I had my pull list when I was in town, to chat with James. Talking with James is a bit of an experience as he comes from the, “verbally abuse the customer and they will love you for it and come back,” school of retail so it generally takes some time to get down to brass tacks with him. I managed to convince him to sell me a couple of the DC Archive books at half-price, so now there is more Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace in my to be read pile. I was also surprised to find a copy of Mouse Guard on the shelves at BCS. I figured they would not have this book at all, however James said it was selling a few copies each issue because he was pushing it.

After all the comic-y goodness of BCS I swung by Kroger for some beer (Pilsner Urquell was the beer for the night) and headed to Cran’s for the party. Cran was Margaret’s landlord during the brief time we (Margaret and I) were dating. He is a really nice guy, one of those people that seems to be friends with everyone he meets, even if he is just meeting them for the very first time, and cooks a heck of a brisket. The party was cool and very low key. I got to see a couple of people I have not seen in some time and I got to eat some pretty tasty meat. There is really not too much other to say about the night. I drove home and wrote this thinking about what a pleasant day I had.

Tags: FWJ, MyWorld

Friday, August 11, 2006

Book Review - Ghoul

Michael Slade
386 pgs.
W. H. Allen, 1987

Thus begins the first in a series of book reviews which I must complete soon so Scott will stop bothering me about his books. I admit I have had them for some time, however I gave him fair warning that if he loaned me a book (let alone books) it would go in to my to read stack, which generally hovers around 30 of the buggers, and might not get read for some time. Now he is hounding me about his books. HOUNDING ME! (I was shaking my fist in the air during that last bit.) So fine Scott, just for you I finally got around to reading the two you lent me and now, now I get to review them. So let’s do that, shall we?

Ghoul is a hard book to summarize without delving too far into the plots and how they all eventually resolve. In the beginning there are a series of murders in London which has Detective Chief Superintendent Hilary Rand baffled. Then the bombings start. Meanwhile in Vancouver, Zinc Chandler, Mountie, detective, and all that is man, is working a drug sting that goes very wrong. This sets him on a mission of vengeance. On top of all this we have Deborah Lane, a mousey school teacher in Rhode Island who keeps getting very creepy phone calls, and then her cat passes away.

Ghoul is not a book I would have picked up on my own and, to be perfectly honest, a book that I put down a couple of times in discomfort. There are times when the author is describing what the murders are doing to their victims that got to me. By this I mean that there were a couple of sequences that had me putting the book down and walking away from it for a bit. I will cop to having a weak stomach but man, some of this stuff was brutal. Aside from that my only major problem with the book was the twist at the end. It made me want to find Slade, who is actually a collection of people, and kick his collective butt into the next week. A couple of other nits I would like to pick are that one of the characters is named Zinc Chandler and he is a cop. Every time I read this name I imagined it splashed across the front of some ‘40s pulp magazine, “Zinc Chandler Finds the Killer from the Mists!” Of course there would be some beauty in a barely there dress cowering at his feet as he gives the menacing shadow his trademark stare. Sorry, got a little off track there. The other complaint I have goes more to the format of the story. The story is set in London, Vancouver, and Rhode Island and this world-spanning dimension did not really add anything to the story. For me it felt like I was reading a poorly executed Tom Clancy novel for most of it until something clicked in my head and I figured out what was going on. I am sorry to be so vague, but I do not want to give away any of the twists in the plot.

In the things I loved about this book column were the references to Lovecraft’s work. I really enjoy Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and any book that can turn in a believable thriller based around the Mythos is okay by me. On top of that I found this book almost compulsively readable and even though I walked away from it a couple of times, I would pick it back up again fairly quickly so I could find out what happened next. If you are a fan of the horror genre or macabre crime then I suggest you check this out, but be warned, there is some rough stuff between those covers.

Tags: Reviews, Books

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ah! Birmingham!

Ah Birmingham, you plucky little city, you. Birthplace of everyone’s favorite food, the hamburger. What’s that my trusty fact-checking sidekick? The hamburger was not invented in Birmingham? Well it should have been ‘cause Lord knows Birmingham needs to be known for more than just being the place where four little girls got blown up by some neo-Nazi KKK fuck-o’s. Now why am I singing the praises of Birmingham? Well, because at the beginning of the week I got to spend almost 24 hours wallowing in all of its urbane beauty. My company dispatched me to Birmingham to lay some knowledge on some personnel there and the trip would have been nice except the people I had to travel with really irritated me. I am sure part of this was due to my lack of sleep, coming directly after my recent involvement in the Adventures of Drunk Girl, which you can read here. Beyond my short-temperedness, there were three things about my traveling companions that bugged me.

The first was the incessant complaining about the hotel we were staying in. We were quartered in the Tutwiler, which is now owned by Wyndam. The Tutwiler was built in the 1920s and according to the website was restored in 2000. The place had an air of elegant decay about it. The moment you walked in to the building you could tell she was the Grand Dame of a bygone era and stepping into the marble floored elevators with their mirror and hardwood walls drove home the point. Monday night I popped open the windows to my room and sat out on the balcony just contemplating, and it was an excellent place for contemplation as the public library was right across the street. I could close my eyes and feel the memories in the old building. She was not meant for the business traveler with their computers and cellphones and hectic pace. She was a place for a more genteel pace. In her heyday there would be the Saturday afternoon crowd who would while away the afternoon on the porch drinking Mint Juleps. Then Saturday evening would come and everyone would get all gussied up, have a nice dinner, and then dance. I will admit that the hotel could have been in better shape, particularly in light of the fact that it had been renovated in 2000, however I slept well and enjoyed spending a night with the relic of a bygone era, so I had no complaints.

The second thing that they did to annoy me was be indecisive. Since there were no eateries located near the hotel, which I think is on the north side of town (North side represent!), we decided to go to the Five Points area, which is on the south side of town, to grab some grub. Before we left the hotel one of my compatriots, who we shall refer to a Dover (which is actually funny if you know his real first name), got a list of places to try in the Five Points area. When we got there Dover had no idea where any of the places were so we ended up wandering around for about 30 minutes. Throughout this whole time I was suggesting places we were walking by, like the sushi place (Dover: I don’t do foreign food,) and the pizza place (Other Person: No pizza tonight,) and Subway. Nothing appealed to their refined palates. Finally I put my foot down and informed them that we would just go into the Five Points Grill and get dinner. Once we were seated there was another twenty minutes of mulling over the menu before they decided whether we would actually stay there or not. I was going to stay regardless of their decision because at this point I had transformed from mild-mannered data ninja James to surly, ready to kill indecisive co-workers James. Plus I was HONGRY! And I don’t mean normal hungry either, I was hungry, hungry Hippos, hungry. Now, it sounds like I am being extra special whiney, however there are two rules to dealing with James when he is hungry and tired:

1. If you are going to poo-poo a suggestion you better make one of your own. I don’t want to play the game where I list everything and you say no to everything. I really don’t care where we eat. I can find something I like on almost any menu.
2. Take action. After we wandered and ended up back at our starting point we stood there and discussed what we wanted to eat for like ten minutes. Of course this discussion was moot because we didn’t know where anything was! We could have kept walking around, trying to find something, but no, we just stood there.

As it turns out the Five Points Grill was set up to cater to my dining needs. They had beer, many dishes featuring meat, and the scenery was nice (and for those of you who might harbor some foolish delusions about what I mean by scenery, I mean that there were several young women who were easy on the eyes). I had my favorite pizza, which is any pizza with meat, meat, meat, meat, cheese, and sauce as toppings, and a pint of the Sweet Georgia Brown Ale. The pizza was great however the Sweet Georgia Brown Ale had a taste somewhere between foul and butt, but with a nice honey twist to it. In the end dinner was good, despite a disappointing ale.

The third thing bothering me on this trip was Dover. That guy is just an idiot. He thinks he has something funny to say about everything and unlike me he is just not funny. While we were in the cab from the airport he kept calling the hotel the Rotweiller, which had our cabbie confused. (Oh, and if you are wondering it appears the cabbie from the Indian subcontinent cliché exists in the deep south as well.) I can’t remember what else he said throughout the evening and the next day, but basically he was very insulting about the city. Now this may sound hypocritical to those of you who have read the first paragraph of this post, however while I am being insulting about the city, I at least have the good sense to do it while I am not in the city itself and, more to the point, I hope to redeem my snide comments later in the post. I guess what it boils down to is that Dover behaves like a five year old without any of the social breaks that even a five year old has and, for all my immaturity, this bugs me. There are times where you just need to shut up.

Now that I am done being whiney about the trip I want to say that Birmingham is actually a very beautiful city. The downtown streets were lined with trees and there was a massive park across the street from the hotel. Had I been in town longer there are a couple of things I would have liked to check out, such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Sloss Furnaces, and the Southern Museum of Flight. While this is not a city that cries out for me to return, like Colorado Springs or Seoul, I could see myself spending a month or so writing my great American novel here, taking afternoons off to enjoy a mint julep or two.

Oh yeah, I took some pictures which you can view here, however since Webshots is being a git they are not going to be properly oriented.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yuppie Guppies

I saw these in the Birmingham airport and thought you should know about them. The name; it makes me laugh. Initially I thought they were Alabama's answer to the Swedish Fish, however once I finally gave in and ate them I came to find out they were more like greasy gummi fish.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Drunk Girl 2 - Electric Boogaloo

I have vague memories of a bit in an episode of The Simpsons where Bart touches something and then gets shocked or something like that. Then he touches the item again, and thus gets shocked again and so on and so on. (I know, because of my bad memory my point is already starting to fall apart and I am barely two sentences in!) As long as the end results are more comical than tragic we love to laugh at this inability to learn from past mistakes, particularly when it is demonstrated by one of our friends. Well my friends, prepare for a chuckle or two as I share with you my harrowing tale of last Sunday night and boy is it a doozy.

I have blogged about Drunk Girl before (here) but since I am writing this at the office I cannot track down what I might have called her in the post therefore we will just refer to her as Drunk Girl, the nom de guerre by which I identify her at work.

Drunk Girl – Episode I ended with Drunk Girl having walked out of the Kelvin Arms after giving me a stern verbal spanking about being a buzz kill and how being out with me was like being out with her grandpa. Fun and exciting stuff which lead me to dub Drunk Girl a F-ing Psycho on the internet and think I was done with her. I could not have been more wrong. A week and some change later after what henceforth shall be known as the Kelvin Krash, I got a call from Drunk Girl which began with the phrase, “I must have behaved badly since you haven’t called me.” I quietly thought to myself, “Hell yeah you did you f-ing psycho,” but since I am a boy and Drunk Girl is acceptably cute I said something to the effect of, “Well, badly isn’t the word I would use.” (In fact this took place the Sunday after APCB Beerfest 3 at which I finally met the paragon of the Houston blogging community and Dolcefino-bane, Pete.) Since I was just waking up from a night of beer-fueled debauchery (read sitting around and drinking with friends) I told Drunk Girl I would call her later when I was feeling somewhat closer to human. To make a long story short we ended up hanging out at Rudz for several hours while having lunch and one or two rounds of the booze. After which we swung by the grocery store and then I had some car trouble. I eventually got her home and got the car to the shop. It wasn’t a completely wretched experience, in fact it was a fairly pleasant and low-key afternoon.

We began talking a bit more regularly after that, about two or three times a week. I would try to get her to go out and do something normal, like go ice skating or catch a movie, however due to her schedule she doesn’t really have much time for anything besides work and the booze. Then she told me she was getting into an AA program and attending meetings. I thought this was awesome news and tried not to be snarky about how long it would stick in the back of my head. I should have given into the snark as it took her just over a week to skydive off the wagon. She spent one weekend visiting her parents in Austin and their neighbors had a party which, as most parties since your last birthday at Chuck-E-Cheese, involved a bit of the booze. For Drunk Girl this meant enough booze to pass out on one of the couches and then spend most of Sunday sleeping it off.

That was two Sunday’s ago. We talked during the week but since I was headed to Austin for the weekend we decided not to make any firm plans but if I got back in to Houston in time we would go and get dinner. The weekend pretty much went to plan, which was to spend the majority of the weekend playing Shadowrun in a geek celebration of Kyle’s birthday. Some of you may remember Kyle, father of Noah the self-proclaimed Cutest Baby in the World™, from the epic I wrote about his wedding (here). We’ll skip all that since there is a write-up of the entire weekend in the works and fast-forward to Sunday morning. (Fast-forward he says with no detectable irony while typing the second page of set-up for the story.) Drunk Girl called me Sunday morning and appeared to be somewhat eager to discuss our plans. Since we were not done with the adventure I told her I was not certain what time I would be back in town and that I would call her around 6pm so we could decide what we want to do. Then she called me around 4pm. Since we were in the process of packing the car to head home I told her I thought she should go eat and maybe we could get together later.

Then she called about 30 minutes after that wondering why I hadn’t called her yet. We had almost the exact same conversation with the one minor exception of me explaining to her that we had, in fact, just gone over all this. This should have been my signal to bail from the evening right there. I should have waited an acceptable amount of time and then called her back and told her that something had come up and I was not going to be able to get into town until WAY late.

About 30 minutes later my phone rang again. It was Drunk Girl. She wanted to know where to hang out while she was waiting for me. I told her to go to Downing Street, which didn’t work for her, so I suggested Rudz as she had mentioned liking it. This lead to a discussion that I never quite got a hold of but ended in her being pissed because I was giving “retarded” directions. I will admit to giving retarded directions since I know how to get to Rudz but can’t really give directions there and I could not get Drunk Girl to tell me where she was. She decided to go somewhere else and hung up the phone. We stopped in College Station (I went to CS to car pool with Abe, Rob, and Chris) and I hopped in my car, gassed it up, and headed to Houston.

During the 90 minute drive from College Station to Houston Drunk Girl called me five or so times. At one point we talked, got off the phone, and before I could even put it down she was calling again. This time she was straight forward and just asked if I was trying to avoid her. Of course I told her I wasn’t because, well, I wasn’t trying to avoid her. We agreed to meet at Taco Milagro (that’s where the Devil lives) and then go out for some dinner.

I finally made it to Houston, dropped my stuff off at the house, and headed over to Taco Milagro around 9:30. She had met up with someone there at the bar and they were chatting when I came in. She introduced us, although I have completely forgotten his name, and we sat and watched the end of the Raiders-Eagles game. She claimed to no longer be hungry so I suggested we hit Downing Street for another round or two before calling it a night. This is where things really started to go wrong. She didn’t want to go to Downing Street because it is, in her words, a poser bar. Everyone who goes in there is just a poser. When I jokingly protested that while it might be true for many of the people in there, and it is, it was certainly not true for me. Of course I was wrong and I am actually a poser and Drunk Girl had no compunction about informing me of my poserness. That was the first salvo of the evening.

Once we were actually in Downing and I had beer and cigar in hand and settled at one of the tables she launched the next broadside of the evening. We were chatting about nothing in particular and then out of the blue she says, “Mister and you with the comments lately.” Of course she is referring to the infantile joy I get out of the double-entendre however I had not upped the ante on them recently, I guess she was just sober enough to remember them now. (Baa-Zing!) “I am not your girl. I’m nobody’s girl,” she said, stumbling into a diatribe about how I was making these comments to her to tell her I was sexually interested in her and she made it plain that she was not interested in me in that way. While this was a little disappointing, hell, who am I kidding, it is still a little disappointing, c’est la vie and all that. Then she veers into crazy land saying things like, “Have you ever even had sex? I mean and didn’t have to pay for it,” and, “Are you sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree?” and, “Sometimes you just have to go out there and get the sex,” and, “You’re one of those guys that tries to hook up with everyone you meet.” The insanity was coming so fast I didn’t even have time to react to the you’re still a virgin accusation before I was being called gay. She ended this salvo with, “You’re basically just a pussy. You sit around and wait for someone to fall in love with the big pussy, which is you.” To a certain extant she is right. I have WAY misread situations before and therefore I am a little slow on the uptake when a woman is expressing interest in me, as some of you well know. At this point I almost asked if she was pissed at me because I had not tried to actually hook it up with her yet, however as I am not one to get into screaming matches in public, let alone places I am known and would like to return to, I let it go.

Once that was done she decided we needed to go and sit with the bartenders from Taco Milagro. Now I pretty much hate just walking up to someone I don’t know in a bar and invading their space. When I am in a bar with my friends I really want to be left the hell alone unless you happen to know me or one of my friends. I do not go to bars to have strange drunk girls cutting in on my after work relaxation time. She got all pissed at me because I was hesitant to go over there, however I let myself be brow beat into it. We were there for maybe ten minutes before they bailed and there I was, stuck with Drunk Girl alone.

Now she decided she was really hungry again and that we needed to get some food right then. I was pretty much tired of her crap and told her, in no uncertain terms that I wanted to finish my cigar and finish my beer. After that was done I was going to reassess my desire for another beer. Quite frankly I was not that hungry anymore and I just wanted her to go the hell away. While she was in the bathroom I ordered myself another Guinness and when she got back she was pissed. This time she lit into me about pushing her around and basically being a jerk. She had the waitress bring us some nuts which she sat there and ate, telling me I could not have any since I was not hungry (I did not want any, anyways) and then she started to lecture me on how bad nuts are for you. At some point she decided the thing to do was to chew the nuts up into a paste and then spit them out onto her napkin. Apparently if you get enough booze into someone they start acting like a three year old. I had enough of this and told her that if she was hungry we could go get some food after I finished my beer. I then proceeded to down my fresh pint of Guinness in one pull. (When push comes to shove I can pack the Guinness down like nobodies business.) This elicited some comment from her along the lines of, “Do you think that’s hot?” Of course I don’t you dumb blonde, but like hell I am going to waste that nectar of life we mortals call Guinness.

On the way to the car it became apparent that she was far too drunk to drive. She could barely walk straight even with my assistance. So I ended up driving us to La Tapatia. On the way over there she was asking what we were doing and I was never able to get it clear on whether she meant what we were going to do or if she was being drunkstential.

You know what? I am starting to get tired of telling this tale so I am going to rush through the end of the evening.

She decided she wanted a margarita and I jokingly suggested that wasn’t she wasn’t allowed to have one. That might have been the wrong idea as the next thing she said was, “So you can go out and eat half the city and I can’t have one drink?” Great. Now she’s calling me fat. The meal was pretty miserable and ended with her trying to get me to walk out on the tab. Now that is a classy move. There has only been one time in my life where I wanted to walk out on the tab and I was convinced that it was a dick move.

Once we were back in the car and headed to my house to call it a night she passed out and drooled all over my arm. Then she was a pain to get out of the car, but at least she did not lean the seat back this time. The night ended with her passed out in my bed. Again.

Monday morning came extra special early as she had to be at work at 7:00. This means we had to wake up around 5:30 to get her to her car and give her time to get ready for work. Once we were in the car and headed back to where we had left her ride she asked if she had done something to piss me off. At first I told her no but after thinking about it for a minute I decided I was tired of being nice to her. I told her that she had really pissed me off last night and when she asked I told her that she had been bitchy to me all night and called me gay, fat, and a pussy. She gave me the sullen five-year-old sorry and then nothing else was said until we got to her car at which point she said thanks and took off.

I haven’t heard from her since and I don’t think I will ever hear from her again but if I do I am split between just not answering the phone or answering the phone and letting her have both barrels. I don’t need this kind of crap in my life.

Oh yeah, in the comments on my last post about Drunk Girl (who I just noticed I outed in my first post as Becky; oh well, I am not going to go back and change this now) Diana followed up my Minnie Driver quote with, “Don’t rush to judgment until all the facts are in.” Well D, I think all the facts are in and what we have here is a:

Thanks Minnie. I love you.

Tags: FWJ, Dating