Friday, September 22, 2006

Countdown to Tokyo - D Minus 1

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts

I really like giving gifts to friends and relatives, particularly unexpected gifts and especially to the younger set. There is magic in a kid who has been giving a gift to open. Couple this with Japanese etiquette which, to my understanding, encourages one to take gifts when visiting a person’s home and this means I HAVE to go shopping! Shopping for a gift is a wonderfully horrible experience. There are so many decisions to make before you go shopping. What is the occasion? For whom is one shopping? Should I bother to shower before I shop? All very important decisions!

In this case I needed to purchase gifts for Nobuyuki and his wife and their four-year-old son. I tackled Nobuyuki and his wife first as I had far too many ideas on gifts for Ayumi. The one rule I set for myself was that the gift had to have something to do with Texas. Above and beyond the inordinate amount of pride I take in being Texan (I wish Texian was still considered proper), I like to give unique and meaningful gifts. Or, you know, booze.

In this case I resisted my urge to buy one of those stuffed armadillos drinking a Lone Star and decided the safe route would be to buy Nobuyuki and his wife a coffee-table book about Texas. This has the advantages of showing off the beauty of the land I love, being a fairly inoffensive gift, and allowing Nobuyuki’s wife, Akiko, to practice reading English. Apparently she is a HUGE Harry Potter fan and is planning on buying the next book when it is released in English rather than waiting for the Japanese translation. On the down side it is a rather innocuous gift and does not have the humor value of the drinking armadillo. (A gift which I did not succeed in convincing my mom to give to my new in-laws when we went to Korea in April. If they had asked about the significance of it, my plan was to tell them it was a primitive Texian god. I know, I am not a good person.) It just occurred to me that I should have inscribed the book! Damn! (Impotent Shaking Fist of Rage ™ GO!)

With the easy gift out of the way I had to wrap my head around shopping for a four-year-old Japanese boy. One would think with my penchant for LEGO, comics, etc. I would be the perfect person to shop for a kid, however I beg to differ. In this case the restrictions I placed on my shopping severely hampered my efforts. I knew from emails that Nobuyuki and I had exchanged that Ayumi likes Star Wars, dinosaurs, baseball, and stag beetles. There may have been more but I did not feel like digging through my email at this point and this list should be enough. Ideally I wanted to combine something he liked with something from Texas. One of my initial thoughts was to dig through my collection of fossils and give him something I had collected from my grandparent’s or uncle’s places. I discarded this idea due to his age. I then kicked around the idea of getting him some Astros memorabilia. Perhaps a jersey or something along those lines. I discarded this idea as difficult as best as I have no idea how big four-year-olds actually are. Finally it came to me. A stuffed armadillo! What four-year-old does not like stuffed animals?

My brilliant plan to get a stuffed armadillo ran in to many more snags than I thought possible for such a simple quest. Target? No stuffed armadillos here. Wal-Mart? Nada. Toys-R-Us? Nothing. Hell, even the three Texas stores I checked in around downtown were 100% stuffed armadillo free. The Texas stores! I finally found one at the Houston Humane Society store downtown with virtually no time left. This armadillo coupled with the UT hat will have to be a Texan enough gift.

We shall see.

Tags: Travel, Japan

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Countdown to Tokyo - D Minus 2

Desperately Seeking Kaiju

I am pretty sure my itinerary for my whirlwind tour of Tokyo is set, at least the time I will be spending with Nobuyuki, however I am still at loose ends for Monday. I am not 100% sure what time I have to check out of the hotel, however since my flight leaves at 6:10 on Monday I will need to be at Nartia no later than 3:10. I plan on actually getting there earlier since I am going to be storing my larger luggage at the airport itself and as I am not clear on how this whole luggage storage thing works I want to have plenty of time to screw things up and be stuck wandering around the airport for awhile. Since it takes just over an hour to get from the hotel to the airport I will need to leave the hotel at about 1:00. This has the added bonus of meaning that I will only have to deal with lunch rush traffic rather than rush hour traffic, which according to some sources can be pretty horrific on the Tokyo train system.

This means I am left with from whenever I wake up, which I am betting will be early, until 1:00 to get lunch and destroy as much of Tokyo as possible. The three things I would like to do on Monday are:

1. Visit the Sengaku-ji shrine (or here). I have mentioned this place before in my larger contemplation on what to do in Tokyo (here) thus I will not rehash why I want to visit it here however I have conflicting reports about when it opens. According to some sources the temple opens at 9:00 and some at 7:00. If it opens at 7:00 that would be perfect as I would be able to use the trains before rush hour, or at least at the beginning, and then spend some time taking photos in the neighborhood before the shrine opens. I imagine about an hour to ninety minutes is all I am going to need at this shrine as it is a very small one thus with the travel time of about 30 minutes I could be back at the hotel or elsewhere in the city by 9:00 to 9:30.

2. Visit Akihabara. Once Tokyo’s premiere electronics shopping district, this area has been slowly morphing into what is referred to as a geek ghetto. In addition to the electronic stores, manga and anime stores have become more and more prevalent over the years. In addition to the otaku-centric shopping, which I intend to check out if not participate in, Akihabara is (in)famous for being the spot where the cosplay restaurants came to the fore. The most famous version of the cosplay restaurants is the maid, or meido, cafĂ© in which the waitresses are all dressed as maids and refer to the customers as Master. While I have to admit there is a certain appeal to having a Japanese girl dressed in a maid’s outfit refer to me as master, I am more interested in visiting this as an experience as it is so far from anything I can experience here in the U.S. without paying through the nose and/or wandering in to vaguely illegal territory. Judging from the menus I have seen online (here, here, here, here, and here) they might be a good place to pick up lunch. After looking at some of the sites I have to admit that I am a little creeped out by the whole concept however since I have found one where the staff is fluent in English I am still going to check one out.

3. Get my picture taken with Godzilla. (“Ah! GOJIRA!”) Apparently there is a statue of Godzilla located outside the Toei Studios building. What trip to Japan would be complete without a little kaiju action? Not this boy’s! Located a block east of the entrance to Hibiya-koen, a park along the edges of the Ginza district. I am thinking that due to the geography that tracking down the feared and mighty Gojira might be a task to stick in between Sengaku-ji and Akihabara.

Tags: Travel, Japan

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Countdown to Tokyo - D minus 3

Rokko Oroshi

Right now the one thing I know I am going to be doing in Tokyo, besides riding trains and being taller than just about everyone else, is going to the Yomirui Giants (or here) versus the Hanshin Tigers (or here) baseball game at the Tokyo Dome (or here.) As Nobuyuki, my host for the short time I plan on being in Tokyo, grew up a Tigers fan I will be rooting for the Tigers and this means learning their fight song, "Rokko Oroshi".

If Mr. Baseball is an accurate depiction of Japanese baseball, or yakyu to use the Japanese term, culture I am in for a heck of a treat, even if we are going to be rooting for the visiting team. According to Nobuyuki (and who am I to doubt him?) singing "Rokko Oroshi" will be a very Japanese experience for me and one I am eagerly anticipating. Here are the words, first in Japanese:

Rokko oroshi ni sasso to
Soten kakeru nichirin no
Seishun no haki uruwashiku
Kagayaku wagana zo Hanshin Taigasu
O-o-o-o Hanshin Taigasu

Toshi hatsuratsu tatsu ya ima
Nekketsu sude ni teki o tsuku
Ju-o no iki takaraka ni
Muteki no warera zo Hanshin Taigasu
O-o-o-o Hanshin Taigasu

The official English version, which is not a direct translation, reads:

Dashing swiftly through the wind blowin’ from Rokko
Like the big sun soaring in the clear blue sky
Mighty spirit of the youth shows the victor’s grace
The name that shines in glory “Hanshin Tigers”
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers!
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times
Trained with every discipline here at Koshien
Crowned with constant victory glorious, matchless feat
Always proud, invincible “Hanshin Tigers”
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers!
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Now that I managed to track down the words I only had to find the music so I could get an idea of the tune in my head, otherwise I will come up with some bastard tune and no one wants that! It took some doing but you can hear a rendition of the tune here.

Now I am all ready for my first exciting yakyu experience which is only enhanced by the atmosphere surrounding the game, which by all reports is similar to the BoSox-Yankees games but even more fanatical!

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!


Check out what I found on YouTube! A crappy video of the song being sung!

Tags: Travel, Japan

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Countdown to Tokyo - D minus 4

The Mass-Transit Boogie

I have to admit to being more than a bit nervous about getting from Nartia airport to my hotel in Tokyo. Narita is located some distance from Tokyo proper and this coupled with the fact that taxis are already prohibitively expensive in Tokyo pretty much negates the suck-it-up-and-take-a-cab option. Since I am not even entertaining the thought of renting a car this leaves me stuck having to deal with mass transit which for the distance I need to travel, means trains, and lets face being born and, for the most part, raised in Texas has left me woefully unprepared to deal with mass-transit. While I have faith that public transport in Tokyo is top-notch, despite Nartia itself having been a bit of a chaotic mess, I am concerned about my ability to navigate the system particularly since the Tokyo rail system is actually made up of four or five different companies.

Then I found the Tokyo Transfer Guide website.

This website is, as a friend says, the bomb dot com. It allows you to enter your origin and destination and then returns a list of route options for you complete with travel times and fares. You can sort your results by the number of transfers you have to make, the travel time, or the amount of the fare.

There are times I really love the Japanese. Everything with this trip so far has seemed pretty user-friendly.

Tags: Travel, Japan

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fuzzy Navel Gazing

If I were to make a list of my biggest regrets as of right now I would have to say that not completing my college education would have to be on the top of the list. This is not something that has really bothered me until recently, however lately it has really been on my mind. In the past people would ask what my degree was in and it did not bother me to tell them I never completed my education. However recently when people have been asking me I have been asked and I have been embarrassed to admit that I do not have one.

I am sure that part of this comes from the crowd I am spending most of my time with. Several of my friends have completed post-graduate degrees (Scott, Lynn, and Cynthia spring to mind immediately) as do many of the people I am reporting to in the office (I work with lawyers) and it seems that a lot of the people I meet socially have a degree of some sort. Of course to my mind that is to be expected. In my experience growing up for someone to be in their 30s and not have a degree meant that they were a blue-collar worker and I think this is really the core of the issue for me.

My father got his B.A. and Masters from Yale. My mother got her degree from TCU. One uncle has an engineering degree from Yale and another uncle has a DDS from Baylor. My paternal grandfather had an architecture degree from Yale and my paternal grandmother was a teacher. It probably goes without saying but school received a lot of attention in my family. Growing up my expectation, and I felt my parent’s expectation, was that I would finish high school and then go through college. It was part of “The Plan,” which also involved me being married with children at this point in my life so we all see how well I stuck with that one.

Aside from the expectation which I held for myself I just see myself as a college professor. As much as I enjoy doing what I am doing right now and as much as I HATE speaking in front of groups of people, I can really see myself as a teacher of some sort, perhaps high school if not college.

Clearly the solution to this is for me to get my butt in to gear and get a degree and to this end I am planning on going by UH here in the near future to find out if I could conceivably complete a degree there in a reasonable amount of time. A bigger issue for me, as I write this piece, is how does getting a degree fit into what I want for the rest of my life. I could be very happy doing what I am doing now for the rest of my life. The litigation support field is fluid enough on both the technology side and the legal requirements side that I can continue to grow and be challenged professionally for the next thirty years. The real issue is what I want on a more personal level. I want to meet someone, fall in love, get married, and have kids and, not to put to fine a point on it, I want this to happen sooner rather than later. I would like to have at least kid #1 born within the next five years (which would put me at a crotchety 60 when they are 22). This means I need to get on the ball with the whole dating thing.

Ultimately since I am not going to leave my job at this point, I feel the choice is going to come down to whether I want to date or whether I want to go to school. I could be wrong but I just don’t see how I can work a full time job and complete what boils down to two-and-a-half years of school in three years while maintaining much of a social life. Let alone enough of a social life to meet someone and so on and so on. Particularly at the excruciatingly slow speed I tend to work when dating. This is a whole other issue.

You know what? I am reading this bit and just come to the conclusion that being a grown-up sucks. I want to pitch a fit and bitch about how it’s just not fair and blame my parents and all that crap but at the end of the fit nothing will have changed. I will still be 32 going on 13 and without a degree. There is at least one thing in there which I can change (and no I don’t mean by waiting until October when I get older either, you gits), the rest I will just have to have faith that it will work out when it is meant to work out.

Tags: FWJ

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Writing Hacks

God or the universe truly works in mysterious ways. The other day I posted about my writing slackitude (here) and then lo and behold look at what I stumble across during my daily dose of web-surfing; a column from Scott Berkun titled “Writing Hacks – Part 1: Starting.” In a word: Awesome. Some of the tricks I knew about already or have already come to through my own wandering through the creative process. At the very least it is always nice to have a little validation in your creative woes and this has the bonus of adding a couple of tricks to my repertoire*. I would summarize however I think you will be better served by reading it yourself. Have fun!

* For as often as I use French words which have been co-opted into English, I really dislike them. They roll of the tounge well and I really like how they can make someone sound more intelligent than they actually are, but man oh man does trying to spell them piss me off.

Tags: Words

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 9-13-06

Hey! Guess what? No commentary for you!

  • 52 #19
    • You know; those comic dudes.
  • Annihilation #2 (of 6)
    • Keith Giffen, Writer
    • Andrea Devito, Artist
  • Captain America #21
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • Steve Epting, Artist
  • DMZ #11
    • Brian Wood, Writer
    • Kristian Donaldson, Artist
  • Ex Machina #23
    • Brian K. Vaughn, Writer
    • Tony Harris, Penciller
    • Tom Fester, Inker
  • Fables #53
    • Bill Willingham, Writer
    • Mark Buckingham, Penciller
    • Steve Leialoha & Andrew Pepoy, Inkers
  • Green Arrow #66
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Scott McDaniel, Penciller
    • Andy Owens, Inker
  • Green Lantern #13
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Ivan Reis, Penciller
    • Oclair Albert, Inker
  • Green Lantern Corps #4
    • Dave Gibbons, Writer & Penciller
    • Michael Bair, Inker
  • JLA Classified #27
    • Howard Chaykin, Writer
    • Kilian Plunkett & Tom Nguyen, Artists
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #210
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Ariel Olivetti, Artist
  • Wolverine Origins #6
    • Daniel Way, Writer
    • Steve Dillon, Artist
Tags: Comics

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wrangling the Words

I have been a bad monkey. Since moving back to Houston I have not been working on my creative writing very much. In fact I have yet to produce any new poetry or fiction since getting here back in August of last year, and this is despite having a couple of opportunities open up for me on the screenwriting front. Of course there a bits and pieces of the beginnings of poems here and there amongst all the paper I generate, but I have not had the discipline to sit down and actually finish anything. To be honest I have not had the discipline to sit down and actually push anything beyond a couple of lines.

A while ago I was discussing this problem with a friend; a person I do not know terribly well, and wish I knew better, but ever since she found out I wrote she has been SUPER supportive of me. Her suggestion was that I did not have enough drama in my life and I can see where she is coming from. I am fairly satisfied with my life. Certainly there are some needs which are currently left unfulfilled, but overall I have a really good life. I have a good group of friends who challenge and stimulate me intellectually, I am getting to travel and see parts of the world which have fascinated me for years, I have a job where I am, not to be too immodest, establishing an excellent reputation with the people I work for, and I am intellectually challenged by my job. Above and beyond the occasional co-worker stress there is no major drama in my life and thus, in my friend’s reasoning, no real motivation to write poetry. Looking back at my more prolific writing periods in my life I suspect she is right, however that only serves as an excuse for a lack of discipline. Ultimately writing is a skill which, like any skill, must be practiced and even if I am not producing pieces worthy of being published I need to be producing to keep the old writing wheels oiled. On top of that I have some vague memory of someone saying that 99% of what you write is crap however you have to work through the crap before you can get to the 1% that is worthwhile.

This is just something that has been on my mind recently and with growing urgency. I have a couple of ideas for poems, particularly trying to capture a moment I experienced on Seoraksan in Korea, and so the other night I sat down and started to work out a couple of thoughts. I fiddled with the Korea poem for a bit before I moved on to a poem I have had in my head for some time. I wasn’t able to stick with that one and thus moved on to another, more recent inspiration. This one is about eyes, particularly a woman’s eyes, and I managed to get down about ten lines before I finally called it quits for the evening, thinking I would return to it the next night.

Then I am driving in to work the next morning when I Snow Patrol’s latest offering, “Chasing Cars” comes on the radio and one of their lyrics jumps out at me:

All that I am, All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes
They’re all I can see, I don’t know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never
Change for us at all

This is EXACTLY what I was working on saying, particularly the first two-and-a-half lines! Those gits! Fist of Impotent Fury™ Go!

At least they beat me to the punch rather than being like Ozzy and Russell who just steal my moves. Oh well, back to the ol’ Moleskine.

Tags: Words, FWJ

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Morning Wood

There was a period in my life where I thought being a radio disc jockey (that DJ for you whippersnappers out there.) I suspect part of this had to do with the fact that I was tragically uncool when I was younger and I was, unlike today, uncomfortable with my tragic unhipness and in my somewhat limited world view it seemed like being a DJ was about the coolest job to which I could aspire. I mean these people get to talk to rock stars and they only have to work like four hours a day and they get to play whatever music they want! How much cooler could your job be? Of course at some point the scales fell from my eyes and I discovered I was pretty much wrong on all counts and thanks to the likes of Psycho Robby I learned that DJs and their sidekicks are not particularly cooler than me. And that goes double now that I am in touch with my inner rock star. (He typed while listening to Les Miserables.)

I thought about this particular job aspiration this morning when writing an email to Scott. He, and many before him, get kicks out of titling emails “Morning Wood” a play on my last name, the time of day these emails are usually sent, and certain stiffness some men get right around wake-up time. These jokes don’t bother me at all, but I have been hearing them for so long that they are painfully unoriginal, particularly since one of my supervisors at UCS used to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in saying, “Morning, Wood!” as loudly as he could every morning when I came in to the office. My typical response was to point out that if that was the case then clearly his wife needed to take care of her job.

Back to the email. As I was writing the email it occurred to me that Morning Wood would be the PERFECT name for a morning show. Scott is convinced that when I combine this with the power of the Beavis, “Boing!” which would be the show’s sounder of choice, I could be personally responsible for the downfall of Western civilization. Move over al-Qaeda 'cause its time for Funky Wood Jam comin' straight atcha with Morning Wood!

Tags: FWJ, MyWorld

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Rules

From time to time on his show Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill Maher does a segment called New Rules. From the September 8th edition of the show:

New Rule: Police cars have too many lights.

The car on “Dragnet” had one light. On “Adam 12,” two lights. These days, police cars have blinking lights, rotating lights, strobe lights. “Car 54, Where Are You?” “Studio 54, where are you?!” I don’t know if I’m being arrested or invited to a rave! If the LAPD caught Rodney King today, they’d probably beat him with glow sticks.

The other new rules from the show were:

  • America must regain its scientific edge by designing and building a Space Shuttle that can fly in the rain.
  • Jennifer Lopez [or here] has to start comparing Jessica Biel’s [or here] ass to Hitler.
  • It’s not a freak accident when a stingray stings someone.
  • Women can’t get mad at men for not noticing their new handbag.
  • Bad presidents happen to good people.

You can view video of the show here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11 Plus Five

Everyone out there in the blogosphere seems to be getting into the spirit of things by posting pictures and memorials and the like about 9-11 and I figured I might as well jump on the bandwagon. I stumbled across this clip from Jon Stewart’s first show back after 9-11 some time ago while searching for new and inventive ways to avoid work.

This piece pretty much sums up how I felt in the aftermath of 9-11 and, to a certain extant, how I feel to this day.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gil Shaham

Last night a friend and I went to see the opening night performance for the Houston Symphony. The program for the night consisted of:
While I really enjoyed the Bugs Bunny music the best part of the performance, besides the lady who kept snoozing off on the other side of my date, was Gil Shaham’s performance of the solo violin in Sarasate’s Concert Fantasies on Carmen. His performance was incredible and sent chills down my spine. While searching for a recording of him performing the piece I found the following video of him performing the piece on YouTube:

While I feel his performance in Houston was superior to this one, this should give you some idea of what it was like.

On a side note I just noticed that the Houston Symphony Magazine which they give out at the performances has, in the performance notes section, suggested recordings for each piece they perform. For your ordering enjoyment I have included links below to the recommended CDs from the MusicaBona however if you live in the Houston area I would encourage you to go to Joel's Classical Shop rather than buying online.

Tags: Music

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Boxer-brief Experiment

Today is rainy.

James is hung over from drinking shenanigans last night.

This means James will spend the day in bed and you will get a minimal post on his intent to try out this whole boxer-brief concept on his date tonight. This experiment is driven more by his slackitude which prevented him from doing any laundry today coupled with the deficiency in Target’s stocking policies. It appears that much like Foleys, they too hate the fat man. Insert dramatic sigh here.

As a bonus he will refer to himself in teh third person for this post.

That is all.

Tags: FWJ, MyWorld

Friday, September 08, 2006

Arrested Development

When I visited my brother back in April he wouldn’t shut up about this show, Arrested Development, which he and his buddies had gotten in to in a major way. Of course I had heard all the hype over here about how critically acclaimed it was and the like however I am not a huge fan of the sitcom and therefore I never watched it when it was on the tube. Charlie kept hammering away at how funny it was and so on and so on so I finally, in a moment of bored with the other 700 movies I own despair, broke down and bought the first season on DVD.

And then spent the rest of the weekend absorbing all 22 of the first season episodes and let me tell you it was worth every minute I wasted that weekend. My problems with sitcoms usually break down in to one of two categories. Either there are no characters with which I connect (a la Sienfeld where I hated the lot of them and therefore had no interest in watching them be dicks) or the situations are so far removed from reality that I have trouble relating to them and therefore lose interest. Believe me I am aware how hypocritical that last one sounds coming from a scifi/fantasy fan, but I am nothing if not comfortable in most of my hypocrisies and although Arrested Development has some really far out scenarios, for some reason I was able to get over myself and enjoy them.

Beginning with the set-up for the series, Arrested Development is just, as Mr. TunaCan might say, not right. At his father’s retirement party Michael Bluth, played with sublime grace by Jason Bateman, learns that not only will he not be named president of his father’s development company but that his father is under investigation by the government for some nefarious goings-on. Michael decides to take his son, George-Michael, and head for the hills however he is stayed by a somewhat impassioned plea from his father to stay and save the family. Thus Michael sets out to herd his collection of screwball relatives, which includes his older brother Gob (pronounced Job with a long o) who is, to put it nicely, a struggling magician, his younger brother Buster, who is still attached to their mother in an alarming way, his sister Lindsay and her husband Tobias who are struggling to save their marriage and remain unemployed as long as possible, and his mother who is a functional alcoholic. On top of this he has to save the family business. Let the hilarity ensue.

I think the one thing that holds this series together for me is that despite the bizarre circumstances in which the family Bluth manages to find itself, the relationships between the characters ring true.

Let me put it to you this way. I enjoyed the first season so much that the weekend after I finished the first season I went and picked up the second season. Of course part of this might have to do with my desire to see more of Portia de Rossi. Can you say wicked hot smile? I knew you could.


Is it just me or do these two look like they could be brothers?

Tags: TV, Reviews

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 9-7-06

No commentary for you!

  • 52 #18
    • The usual crew of miscreants
  • Agents of Atlas #2 (of 6)
    • Jeff Parker, Writer
    • Leonard Kirk, Penciler
    • Kris Justice, Inker
  • The All-New Atom #3
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • John Byrne, Penciler
    • Trevor Scott, Inker
  • Battler Britton #3 (of 5)
    • Garth Ennis, Writer
    • Colin Wilson, Artist
  • The Creeper #2 (of 6)
    • Steve Niles, Writer
    • Justiniano, Penciller
    • Walden Wong, Inker
  • Detective Comics #823
    • Paul Dini, Writer
    • Joe Benitez, Penciller
    • Victor Llamas, Inker
  • Hero Squared #3
    • Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, Writers
    • Joe Abraham, Artist
  • Mystery in Space #1 (of 8)
    • Jim Starlin, Writer
    • Shane Davis, Penciller
    • Matt “Batt” Banning, Inker
  • Nightwing #124
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Robert Teranishi, Penciller
    • Wes Craig, Inker
  • OMAC #3 (of 8)
    • Bruce Jones, Writer
    • Renato Guedes, Artist
  • Outsiders #40
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Matthew Clark & Ron Randall, Pencillers
    • Art Thibert, Inker
  • Red Sonja #14
    • Michael Avon Oeming, Writer
    • Mel Rubi and Stephen Sadowski, Artists
  • Uncanny X-Men #478
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • Billy Tan, Penciller
    • Danny Miki with Allen Martinez, Inkers
  • X-Men: Phoenix – Warsong #1 (of 5)
    • Greg Pak, Writer
    • Tyler Kirkham, Penciller
    • Sal Regla, Inker

Tags: Comics

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Book Reivew - No god but God

No god but God
The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Reza Aslan
310 pages
Random House, 2005

I know this book has seen a lot of media play since its publication, but somehow it managed to stay off my radar until my friend Rob and I were discussing it at the gym. At that point I knew I needed to pick it up as I had a barely functioning knowledge of the history of Islam and it sounded like an excellent starting place. In this book Aslan slowly walks us through the development of Islam from pre-Islamic Arabia through the birth and eventual death of Mohammed, to the development of the modern fundamentalist movements like the Islamic Jihad. All of this is done in support of Aslan’s thesis that what were are seeing is an Islamic Reformation where, not unlike the Protestant Reformation, there is a struggle going on within Islam over the soul of the faith and like the Protestant Reformation this will be a bloody period in the history of Islam.

While I am not well-versed enough in the issues to pass judgment on Aslan’s assertions regarding an Islamic Reformation, the material he presents in the book certainly make a compelling argument. The one problem I see here, and this was actually pointed bout by Rob, is that while Aslan was born in Iran, his education is entirely western, at least according to his biographical information in the book, and from the tone of the beginning of the final chapter he was mostly raised in the United States. While this does nothing to diminish the value of his work, one could make the argument that he is lacking a certain perspective that someone who grew up in the region might have.

All in all this book was very enjoyable and while it was crammed full of information, names, and dates, it never feels like a history text. If you have any interest in this subject at all, and if you are a reasonable person in this day and age you should, then you need to go ahead and give this a read. If nothing else it serves as an excellent overview of the history of the faith and a good starting place for more in depth explorations.

Tags: Books, Reviews

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crapping Up the Language

Today Dave Campbell has a fantastic post about fannish jackassery titled “Fandamentalism.” Campbell defines fandumentalists as people, “who feel personally insulted or attacked when their favorite comics, cartoon, or whatever are changed or translated into another medium. They lack perspective and decorum and exhibit a sense of entitlement that borders on pathology. Many of them are dicks.” I did a Google search to see if anyone had used the word fandumentalist or fandamentalism in this context before and I found a couple of instances from Kung Fu Monkey. Every other instance I looked at was a misspelling of fundamentalism or fundamentalist. One was even making a joke about putting the fun in fandamentalism. I might have pulled a spit-take on that one.

As I was reading the paraphrasing of the email from j******* I kept thinking, “Jeeze. Don’t get your panties in a wad.” (I would like to point out that j******* is not me for those of you who know my other gmail address.) Then it occurred to me that j****** was probably a guy and therefore not wearing panties at all but rather his fanties, which are the particularly tight underpants worn by scifi fans which seem to make them prematurely crotchety and confrontational. Fanties are also exclusionary underoos which prevent you from being a fan of more than one thing. For instance if you are wearing your Trekkie fanties, you cannot do anything but look down on Star Wars and particularly those wearing Star Wars fanties. I think you guys get the gist.

Back to Campbell’s discussion of fan-dickery. He ends with what should almost be a clichĂ© defense for the geek set. At least, even when being completely unreasonable, we aren’t as bad as the sports fan who seem to feel the need to celebrate a championship with the traditional riot. Something which did not happen here in Houston when we managed to eek out two NBA championships back in the ‘90s.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

Usually I spend today making fun of the fact that we celebrate the American work ethic by taking a day off of work but this year I learned something. Instead of celebrating the American work ethic, Labor Day is actually a celebration of the accomplishments of the labor unions. In other countries this is celebrated on May 1st, or May Day. Now my friend Chris is convinced that we do not celebrate May Day because of its connection to the international labor movement, even though its origin is as a commemoration of the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago. I am not going to get in to a discussion of what the powers that be were thinking when they made their decision, all I know is that these days Labor Day is another in a long line of excuses for us as Americans to get out in the backyard and grill meat which is exactly what I did on Saturday.

Of course my weekend started long before Saturday. Well okay, maybe not long before Saturday, but certainly a bit before Saturday. This weekend Lynn, Scott’s sweety (I accidentally typed sweaty the first time and while true to a certain extant, I would rather not delve into that at the moment), had a couple of her friends from Ottawa down for the weekend. Ottawa, for you unwashed masses, is the national capitol of Canada and is located in the province of Ontario. (This means that it is north and east of Dallas.) Melissa and Scott W. are good people, not that I am surprised by that since Lynn is good people, but I just thought it needed to be said since they are Canadians and all.

Anyways, I have managed to wander off the point here. Where I was headed with this is that the eating started early for me on the weekend since Scott from Scotland once again inflicted grievous bodily harm on all of us with the several course meal he prepared Friday night. I should have known to eat a light lunch, but it slipped my mind and so I was not fully prepared to consume mass quantities. I can’t even remember everything he fed us. Lets just say that there was steak involved and I left at 2 AM and was not even sort of hungry until after 2 PM the next day. Scott from Scotland has this incredible ability to break people with food. And damn fine food, too.

So Friday dinner was excellent all around as Scott from Scotland provided excellent food and the company was excellent, despite their racial handicap. Then the plan on Saturday was to descend on the Casa del TunaCan for burgers and other assorted yummy bits. This got started around 2 PM and lasted until late in the evening. Scott from Scotland, Lynn, and the Canuckleheads were there along with Don, Alesha, Chris, Amanda, and of course Diana and the TunaKhan himself. Again there was entirely too much food with sausage, burgers, homemade fries, and a metric crap load of desserts. We ate and laughed and enjoyed one another’s company. So much so that there might be pictures of me dozing in one of Rob’s chairs after the meal. All in all another successful evening of being social and eating.

Then came Sunday. The day of rest. And day three of my three part eating extravaganza! And I wonder why I am, kindly put, pleasantly plump. Most of Sunday passed without incident. I went to Best Buy to spend some money (Arrested Development Season 2! COME ON!) and then spent the day cleaning and organizing some stuff in my room. And then I got a call from Scott. “Come round to Lynn’s at about 7:30 for steaks from the grill,” he says. Of course I said yes, silly rabbis! This meant more quality time with Lynn, Scott from Scotland, Melissa, and Scott W. It was another round of meat + meat + good company and conversation with bonus potatoes.

All in all it was a really good weekend. I ate a TON of food, none of which I paid for, got to hang out with good friends, none of which I paid for, and made some new ones, which I am sure I will end up paying for. And I still have Labor Day to complete my Herculean task.

(The airport code of Ottawa is YOW. That is just funny.)

The rest of my photos from this weekend, which were all shot on Saturday at the Casa del TunaCan, can be viewed here.

Tags: MyWorld, Photography

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Most Ancient and Honourable Shocker

Lately I have been wearing my ranty panties around here and it is high time that stop and we get back to the foundations of the Opiate which are my abilities to consume mass quantities of media and regurgitated a retarded amount of information gleaned from that consumption (but nothing useful, mind you) and an infantile sense of humor.

During my recent viewings of Rome, the HBO miniseries (which I discuss here and here) I noticed that the newsreader (played by Ian McNeice), or nuntiator for you lawyers out there, has a penchant for using a certain hand sign which should be familiar to long time readers of the Opiate. For instance here he is in the eighth episode "Caesarion" listing the nobles who fought against Caeser in Greece but have been accepted back into Rome's peace and are not to be harmed:

Of course connisuers of the hand gesture will recognize that he is using the southside configuration rather than the standard northside configuration. I guess that's just how they rolled back then.

Of course this was not the best part of the episode. The best part is that it introduced me to Lyndsey Marshal, playing Cleopatra, the latest member of the Future Ex-Wives Club. Here she is as Caeser presents their son, Caesarion to his troops:

Of course that isn't her real hair. She has super-short black hair in the series and a very fey look about her, which I dig for some reason.

Tags: DirtyMinds, TV

Saturday, September 02, 2006


So it turns out that I inadvertently tested the new no liquid through security at airports rules on my recent flight back from Colorado Springs (a trip which you can read about here with pictures.) As I was digging through my camera bag in search of my car keys I came across a small bottle of lens cleaner that I keep in one of the pockets on the bag; a bag which had gone through the xray machines and all before I boarded the plane. Now this made me chuckle particularly since as we were exiting the plane one of the ladies on the flight was complaining that they had made her get rid of her mascara. She came across as being a very unpleasant person and so I could not help but think that she deserved it.

“So James,” I can hear you lot thinking, “what is your point?”

It is this. I think the new security rules are ridiculous, particularly in light of the difficulties inherent in dealing with binary liquid explosives. They make a great threat in thrillers and action movies but the reality is a bit more complicated. Just think about it for a minute. If this was easy to do don’t you think they would have done it by now? We often make the mistake of thinking that terrorists are animals because of their incomprehensible behavior when in truth they are probably as smart and creative as anyone else you are likely to meet on the street.

Of course the government is caught in a trap of its own making. Since 9-11 we have allowed the government and the media to create and perpetuate an atmosphere of fear. This fear is a two-edged sword for the government. On the one hand it has allowed them to redefine the role of the executive and browbeat any dissent as being on the side of the terrorists however it has also obligated them to take actions in order to try and alleviate this fear. They know that a binary liquid explosive is going to be challenging to produce however the news stories generated by the British authorities shutting down a terrorist plot aimed at America appear to be worth a lot of capital and perhaps even a bounce in job approval. They are faced with a choice? Do we admit that this is a nigh-impossible scenario for all but the most accomplished and organized of terror groups to accomplish and thus downplay the importance of the recent British victories in the War on Terror? Or do we make a mountain out of a mole-hill and put a whole new collection of ridiculous regulations in place in an effort to allay the public’s fear all the while reminding them that they have something to fear? I think we know what path was chosen.

Now I am not saying that the BLE is impossible to pull off or that the network in the UK was not a credible threat, although I do find it interesting that there have been reports indicating the British authorities wanted to wait a bit longer before rolling up the network but that our government forced their hand, all I am saying is that the government chose to scare us rather than really protect us. Of course as I said this doesn’t matter to me, it just changes how I will be buying things in the duty-free stores in Korea as I imagine a bottle of scotch will be more challenging to inadvertently smuggle through security than the bottle of lens cleaner.
  • You can read about my other terrorist activities here.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 8-30-06

Guess what? NO COMMENTARY FOR YOU! That’s right, for the second week in a row I am going to be the commentary Nazi. I could blame many things for being over two weeks behind on my comics reading however this time I will boil it down to two words: Arrested Development. Now by this I do not mean my own lack of maturity but rather the superlative sitcom that has now been cancelled. COME ON!

Oh, here is what I bought this week:

  • 52 #17
    • The usual suspects
  • All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #8 (of 12)
    • Everyone else.
  • All-Star Superman #5
    • Grant Morrison, Writer
    • Frank Quitely, Penciller
    • Jamie Grant, Inker
  • Batman: Journey into Knight #11
    • Andrew Helfer, Writer
    • Tan Eng Huat, Artist
  • Battlestar Galactica #1
    • Greg Pak, Writer
    • Nigel Raynor, Artist
  • The Boys #2
    • Garth Ennis, Writer
    • Darick Robertson, Artist
  • JLA Classified #26
    • Howard Chaykin, Writer
    • Kilian Plunkett & Tom Nguyen, Artists
  • Justice #7
    • Jim Krueger and Alex Ross, Writers
    • Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross, Artists
  • Loveless #10
    • Brian Azzarello, Writer
    • Marcelo Frusin, Artist
  • Solo #12
    • Brendan McCarthy, Featured Artist
  • Supreman/Batman #29
    • Mark Verheiden, Writer
    • Ethan Van Sciver, Artist
  • Teen Titans #38
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Carlos Ferreira, Pencils
    • Art Thibert & Drew Geraci, Inkers
  • The Trials of Shazam! #1 (of 12)
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Howard Porter, Artist
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four #33
    • Mike Carey, Writer
    • Pasqual Ferry, Artist
  • Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2 (of 8)
    • Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers
    • Daniel Acuna, Artist
  • Ursa Minors! #2
    • Neil Kleid, Writer
    • Fernando Pinto, Artist

Here's the fake add from the back or Ursa Minors 2. Methinks it smells a bit like Ninja Burger to me, but it is still funny.

  • Usagi Yojimbo #96
    • Stan Sakai, Everything
  • X-Men #190
    • Mike Carey, Writer
    • Chris Bachalo, Penciller
    • A sextet of Marvel’s best inkers
  • X-Men: Fairy Tales #4 (of 4)
    • C.B. Cebulski, Writer
    • Kei Kobayashi, Artist

Tags: Comics