Friday, September 30, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - October 5, 2005:

Conan The God In The Bowl And Other Stories Hc (The second collection of the terrific Busiek/Nord Conan)
Fog Tp (A standalone story that tells a tale of an earlier "invasion of the Fog" from the one being told in the new movie. Writing by Scott "Devil's Footprints" Allie, takes place in post Civil War San Francisco)
Mary Jane Vol 2 Homecoming Digest Tp (The second Mary Jane series, defying low sales, gets a digest collection, and that makes me happy)

Aeon Flux #1 (The art on this one looked pretty nice, and I'm always up for a good action/sci-fi comic)
Amazing Fantasy #13 (This series is selling really poorly, a shame since Marvel is introducing some interesting new characters in its pages. I believe this one is the first of "Vegas," a new hero based in Texas. Yeah, it seems counter-intuitive to me too... but still interesting!)
Conan & The Demons Of Khitai #1 (Still wary of writer Akira Yoshida, whose Marvel work has been disappointing, but curious to see a King Conan tale after becoming a fan of Dark Horse's version of the barbarian)
Fantastic Four Iron Man Big In Japan #1 (Looks like fun, with quirky artwork by Seth Fisher and a story by Zeb Wells, who I think, along with Dan Slott, is writing what I want to see out of Marvel's characters)
Fell #2 (Really enjoyed the first issue of this one, looking forward to more)
Gotham Central #36 (The latest, possibly concluding, chapter in the murdered "Robins" story)
Grounded #3 (I'm enjoying this tale of a normal kid at a school full of superheroes. Great artwork)
Marvel Monsters Devil Dinosaur (I've only read a few preview pages in the back of some of Marvel's titles, but there's great talent on these Marvel Monsters specials, and they look like a lot of fun)
Quitter Hc (Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel... been waiting to read this one since it was announced, and the pages I saw in San Diego looked fantastic)
Showcase Presents Metamorpho Vol 1 Tp (DC's Showcase line is beautifully designed, and this is the first of their weirder, off-the-beaten path collections. Me, I'm hoping for collections of stuff like Viking Prince and Warlord)
Spellgame #1 (Dan Mishkin's new story of magic in Las Vegas)
True Porn 2 (Really enjoyed the first volume of this anthology, looking forward to reading the second)
True Story Swear To God #15 (The latest chapter in Tom Beland's story of adjusting to life in Puerto Rico)
Usagi Yojimbo #87 (The latest chapter in the "Mother of the Mountains" story, which has been great so far)
V For Vendetta New Edition Hc (I have Watchmen already, so the Absolute Watchmen HC out this week would be kind of silly, but I don't actually own V For Vendetta, so this might be a good time to finally add it to the collection)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Am Weak - Part Two:
HBO is not the only thing I have been wanting but holding off on for quite some time. In fact, there are probably a number of such things. One of them, I gave in and bought last week.

See, I had an interest in the PSP even when the rumors started. I've only ever had a Gameboy (first generation) in terms of portable consoles, but I enjoyed it when I had it, even if I've never really sought out another one. I don't travel all that much, so I don't really *need* a portable game console, but I wanted one. Especially when I started hearing about and seeing the PSP.

Still, the "don't really need it" factor was winning out. I managed to resist when one of my customers brought his in and showed off how cool the games looked and how sharp the screen was for movies, despite being so small. However, a combination of a bit of money (earmarked for a new laptop that I decided I didn't need) and my friend Tess buying one and showing it off finally broke my will. I'll tell you what the last straw was: She had Burnout: Legends, which is more or less a port of Burnout 3 (one of my absolute favorite PS/2 games) onto the PSP. That was it, and I went and bought one.

Haven't had the chance to use it much yet, but I still love it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Just in case he's reading my blog:
I was much amused (in a pissed-off sort of way) to read a letter from confessed "anti-homosexuality" conservative Aaron Gore of Middleton, Rhode Island in the latest Young Avengers. Usually folks try to dance around it, saying "I'm not anti-gay, I just don't want it in my comics," but Gore has the... well, let's go ahead and call it balls to come out and admit that he's a bigot, even if he doesn't see anything particularly wrong with it.

What amuses me is that Gore has blinkered himself by saying that "it is not as if Heinberg has made a plain show of support for the lifestyle in the book" and that Gore could view it as a flaw in the characters, rather than a support for the homosexual "lifestyle."

Which amuses me because Heinberg *is* gay, so I suspect that he might come down on the "pro" side of things. And Gore is just doing his best tap-dance to convince himself that he can read the book because it's not saying gays are OK in any way.

I love Young Avengers, but I'm finding the letter column to be as thought-provoking and entertaining as the rest of the book. I especially have to give credit to Heinberg for running letters from the "other side," as it were, without just ridiculing him (he's a better man than I am, clearly), but I was particularly moved by the story of a gay man who helped his nephew recover from an attempted suicide with the help of Young Avengers issues.

Long story short: Read Young Avengers. Not just because it's great, but because it's doing something important in the world of superhero comics.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Metti-Publisher Round 2:
I got *slightly* less of a butt-kicking in round two, but I'm still a big 'ol loser when it comes to fantasy publishing. I was up to #226 from #235, and Augie was still one slot below me, although Nate passed me by and wound up at #219. I'm third in my league, behind Jason James (Ranked #2 across the entire game) and Steve Rolston.

I'm not sure I'm really into this style of fantasy publishing. It's too much based on the numbers, and so if you just nab, say Brian Michael Bendis and Geoff Johns in the early going, since they've got numerous top books, you can pretty much mop the floor with your opponents. I mean, my second round team had the artist on the #1 book, and I was #226, because I didn't have one of the big two or three writers who handle multiple books.

Not saying there's anything wrong with the Metti-Publisher, just not sure it's a game that's for me. I do too much obsessing over the Diamond Top 300 anyway.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hurricane Season - The Aftermath:
The hurricane weather in Austin included perfectly sunny skies and a mild increase in wind. So... not so much a problem. This was a pretty good indicator, though, of how badly Hurricane Katrina scared everyone. Everyone now knows that with the current government, if there's a natural disaster... you're on your own.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - September 28, 2005:

Let me just say, this looks like a phenomenal week, especially if you're a fan of small press stuff (Peng, Polly, Long Hot Summer) or OEL manga (Dramacon, I Luv Halloween, Steady Beat)

Action Philosophers #1 2nd Printing (This was a fun surprise, the story of actual philosophers with a tongue-in-cheek narration style, akin to Jay Hosler's work)
Daredevil #77 (Two issues in, and the final story of Bendis and Maleev shows signs of bringing me back onboard the book to come back and pick up the hardcovers I've missed. Good stuff)
Jack Cross #2 (A weaker second issue, but still has its moments, including a great chase/gunfight scene)
New Warriors #4 (Continues to be funny and beautifully illustrated, one of Marvel's best books)
Runaways Vol 4 True Believers Digest (Still hoping for a hardcover ala volume one, but I think I'll pick up the digest just in case, because by the time this story ended, Runaways was back to being one of my favorite books again)
Silent Dragon #3 (Nice art, plenty of action, utterly confusing story. Pretty disappointing, actually)

Action Philosophers Self Help For Ugly Loosers (See above re: Action Philosophers. This one should be fun, and worth a read)
Bprd The Black Flame #2 (Haven't read the first one yet, but the previous BPRD miniseries by this creative team was great)
Dramacon Vol 1 (One of the much-hyped OEL manga from Tokyopop, this one by Svetlana... I'll check it out)
Faceless Terry Sharp Story Gn (A spy story from some of the creators of The Black Forest, definitely worth a look)
I Luv Halloween Vol 1 (Keith Giffen's OEL manga which looks bizarre and fun)
Invincible #26 (Can't wait to see the cliffhanger from #25 resolved. Another of my favorite series)
Long Hot Summer Gn (Looking forward to seeing how this tale of mod/scooter romance comes out as well)
Losers #28 (I'm a couple issues behind on The Losers, but still greatly enjoying the book)
Night Mary #2 (First issue of this one was good, had a bit of a Dreamscape/Nightmask quality, for those of you into obscure references)
Peng One Shot (Kickball from the creator of Sharknife... which I really need to get one of these days)
Polly & The Pirates #1 (All ages pirate adventure from the creator of Courtney Crumrin)
Previews Vol Xv #10 (Down the Line coming next week)
Pvp #19 (Another issue of Scott Kurtz making with the ha-ha)
Steady Beat Vol 1 (One of the super-hyped OEL manga, this one has a terrific looking art style and is by an Austin local, so I'll definitely be checking it out)
Young Avengers #7 (Good to see another issue of this already... now we can see if the story gets underway or if it's more setup)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Season:
So I'm a little bit freaked out. Turns out that there's a Hurricane headed near Austin.

As with Katrina, I'm late to the ballgame on this one. I only really started hearing about it (and worrying about it) in the last couple of days. My wife went out last night to go grocery shopping and stock us up on water (we've got enough canned goods to eat if the power goes out) and the store was out. So was Wal-Mart. Let me say that again:

Wal-Mart was out of water.

I didn't know Wal-Mart ever ran out of anything.

At any rate, I think folks are panicking a little too hard, and the dire predictions of Mark Carroll (a customer at my comics shop, incidentally) to Warren Ellis sound more than a little bit reactionary to me, but I am a bit worried. At the moment, though, I'm still planning on going to work on Saturday (in the rain, etc.) unless it's a lot worse than I'm guessing it really will be and planning on going to the manager meeting on Sunday. I don't think survivalists, cannibals and rabid dogs will be roaming rain-soaked streets later in the weekend. I think mostly folks are panicking because they saw tangible evidence with Katrina that being prepared is necessary, since the federal government will do dick-all to help on any sort of timely basis.

With any luck, I'll still be blogging, working on reviews and doing other such mundane tasks throughout the weekend, thinking about how everyone was over-reacting. But I'll sure as hell be glad when this weekend and the doomsaying that's preceding it is over, because it's giving me minor fits.
The New Fall Season - Tuesday & Wednesday:
The three of you who read this blog may have noticed that it's not so much daily of late. But it's still a damn sight more frequent than it used to be.

My Name is Earl: If this is the best new comedy of the season, than the season is definitely going to be a touch on the boring side. Not that this is a bad show. In fact, I'll definitely keep watching it. Jason Lee is terrific... the rest of the cast are as well, but Lee steals the show. There were several laugh-out-loud moments for me, most especially Earl's assumption that Carson Daly invented karma. It's just... it seems a bit conventional, especially when compared to the few sitcoms I really enjoy, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development and Scrubs.

The Office: I know some people hate this American remake on general principles, but I started watching because I like Steve Carell and kept watching because I like the rest of the cast. It's not a great show, but it's a solidly-executed comedy, and definitely the best adaptation of a BBC show attempted by American TV. Not that this is saying too much, given that the competition includes Men Behaving Badly and the reportedly godawful American version of Coupling, which I quite liked in its original BBC form.

Bones: Haven't watched the second episode yet, which should indicate where it falls on my "must see TV" list (hint: It ain't at the top), but the chemistry between Boreanaz (who I really liked in this role, much to my surprise) and Deschanel (who I really like, although if it were her sister Zooey in the role, I'd probably be glued to the TV every Tuesday) is good, the procedural elements solid enough and the writing basically good enough. No competition from other shows in the timeslot, plus free time enough for me to watch it, means I'll keep up, at least for a little while.

Lost: I was not one of those disappointed by the end of season one last year. I loved this show from start to finish, and wasn't really surprised or pissed off that we didn't see what was at the bottom of the hatch on the finale. Especially given that the way what *is* at the bottom was revealed in the opening minutes of this episode, giving me a "huh. That's pretty cool" reaction and leaving plenty of mysteries still to come even while serving up answers. I really missed having Sawyer on the island, and I'm afraid that I still don't care all that much about Shannon, but otherwise the show is humming along nicely. Very solid opener, and I'm back in the "what's gonna happen next?" mode with this show. Which is gonna suck next week, when Veronica Mars takes over it's timeslot in my Tivo. Thank goodness for friends with DVR and a Lost addiction so that I can catch up every Friday.

Invasion: Was really curious to see this, and then stupidly forgot to set the Tivo for it. So I guess I'll catch it when the rerun of the pilot hits a week from Saturday.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The New Fall Season - Monday:
Though Fox already started, and HBO got an early jump with Rome, this week is really when the Fall season starts to kick in. I'll be posting my thoughts on the new and returning shows that I'm watching as the whim strikes me.

Arrested Development: The show does not miss a step in returning for its third season, and it wouldn't surprise me if the third season is better than the second, which was better than the first. The show always makes me laugh out loud, and I'm shocked by how they flirt with broadcast standards, provide smart comedy that rewards continuity-followers but doesn't exclude casual viewers and always seems to get the best out of the guest stars. Easily the best show on television right now, as far as I'm concerned.

Kitchen Confidential: With AD as a lead-in, it's only natural that Kitchen Confidential couldn't be as good. The mixed reviews for the pilot were earned, as there are some definite story hiccups and a contrived ending, but... the cast is exceptionally likable, some of the writing is very sharp, and I definitely got some laughs. I'll keep watching this and hope to catch How I Met Your Mother in reruns. Kind of funny that both Kitchen Confidential and How I Met Your Mother boast castmembers from Buffy, Freaks & Geeks and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. OK, it's funny to me.

Prison Break: We're in the fourth week of Prison Break, and I'm interested enough to keep watching but not really all that involved in it. There's a lot of contrivance going on, along the lines of 24, but the payoff isn't quite as strong in terms of making me want to come back, at least not yet. It's very much in the "I'll watch it because it's worth my time, but if there was competition in the timeslot it'd be gone" category for me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Brief Addendum:
I take it back. The best evidence of failed evolution is the group of people who decided that Everybody Loves Raymond is funnier than Arrested Development.

I mean, I knew the Emmys were full of shit, but that pretty much sums it all up right there.
The Daily Show & Evolution:
So I've just finished watching the week of shows in which The Daily Show looks at the debate between "intelligent design" and evolution, and while I realized that this was actually going on, I must say I'm a bit stunned. Seriously, we're still talking about this? Isn't it the 21st century? I've gotten over that we don't have our flying cars, but you're telling me there are still some people, possibly a majority, who DON'T BELIEVE IN FUCKING EVOLUTION?

You know, I get it... the whole faith thing. I do. Believe what you want to believe. Believe that evolution is a process guided by God, that's OK. Believe that God baked you up in the kitchen in Heaven with sugar and spice and everything nice, and that he put cows on the Earth so you could have a juicy T-Bone when you're hungry. But don't teach that unless you've got some scientific evidence and theory to back it up. Is evolution right? I dunno. Nobody does. Kind of the point of the scientific method. But it's a reasonable theory that's been tested.

Really, the best argument for evolution... is the people who don't believe in it! Clearly, some of us still have a ways to go in terms of developing higher cognitive function.

Some may find that insulting, I understand. I just... I don't get it. To me, you're basically pitting a theory in which we've got disease, congenital defects, infant deaths and a random but inevitable end programmed into our bodies as part of the flaws of an immensely complex natural order versus "Here's a nice bearded man who built an ocelet!" Sure, one is simpler... but as anyone who actually lives in the real world knows, life ain't simple. Why should the evolution of life be any different?
My Weekend:
Working weekend this time out. Worked Friday 9-5, worked Saturday 3-10, working tomorrow 9-oh, probably about 1 doing ordering for the month of November. 9 am, I hear you ask, so why are you up posting on your blog at 2 am? Or maybe you aren't. I dunno.

At any rate, the weekend proper is pretty well shot, although I'll at least have the afternoon and evening to spend with Suzanne and Katy. I've been a tad blocked on the writing lately, so I'm holding off on reviews until Thursday, hoping that I'll be able to give the two Xeric books in my review pile the attention they're due. (I've read them both, and liked them both, but that's hardly enough to say if I'm going to give them a decent review). So Sunday is a free day for me, aside from the morning work schedule... which really amounts to little more than taking some of my sleep time, since I tend to get up after noon on days off anyway.

Monday, though... Monday is when Burnout Revenge arrives at my house. And oh, what a glorious time that will be. I can see the cars smashing into one another at breakneck speeds, causing massive explosions of fire and metal, already.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - September 21:
Birds Of Prey #86 (Interesting issue that sets up the "Birds of Prey" name officially, sets up their new base of operations and features art from Bruce Timm and David Lopez)
Bprd The Dead Tp (Terrific second arc of the BPRD series with gorgeous Guy Davis art and the introduction of the new zombie leader of the BPRD unit)
Hulk Visionaries Peter David Vol 2 Tp (I'd almost consider not buying this, since it's mostly the issues that I have in the old Hulk: Ground Zero TPB, but I'm enough of a format whore to want the entire Peter David Visionaries. At any rate, some of the dialogue and staging can be a bit hokey, but this is more of the beginning of a classic and maybe definitive run on The Hulk)
Seven Soldiers Mister Miracle #1 (Has its moments, and really nice Pasqual Ferry artwork, but the art switch-up for the last three issues and the strange disconnect I get from New Gods being revamped in Morrison-speak make this, to my mind, the weakest of the Seven Soldiers launches thus far)
Sleeper Vol 4 The Long Way Home Tp (The grand (and dark) finale of Brubaker and Phillip's undercover supervillain masterpiece. Glad to have the whole thing collected in trades)

Black Forest Vol 2 Castle Of Shadows Gn (The first Black Forest was great, a nice mixture of WWI period setting, Universal monsters and a pulp feel. Looking forward to reading the new one)
Girls #5 (After the revelation at the end of issue #4, I'm dying to see more of this off-beat horror book)
Godland #3 (One of my favorite new books, a nice mixture of Kirby-esque adventure and Casey's sensibilities)
Goon #14 (More Goon is always good)
Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1 (The chaotic nature of Rann/Thanagar War makes me wary of this one, but my enjoyment of the Green Lantern series by Johns has me curious to read it at any rate)
Janes World #21 (More of Paige Braddock's delightful lesbian romance/humor comic strip collected)
Runaways #8 (Part one of this story was great, and I'm looking forward to part two, which promises more revelations about Karolina's alien "friend" and more Miyazawa artwork)
Stray Bullets #39 (Another dose of Lapham's "white trash pulp fiction" is always welcome)
Temporary A Dirt Nap #4 (Damon Hurd and Rick Smith tell another tale of their multiple personality temp Envy St. Claire)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Miss Summer:
I don't mean the one that's ending now, I mean the summers from about 20 years back when summer meant summer vacation. I look at the vast piles of stuff I need to read, ranging from ever-increasing piles of comp comics to role-playing game books I bought over a year ago to novels I bought over two or three years ago and realize that I'm just never gonna get caught up.

I miss summers, when I didn't have any real adult responsibilities (aside from maybe a part-time job), and I could just sit down and read when I felt like it. I mean, it's not like I have no time now, but usually that time comes when I'm sort of not in that reading headspace, and I'd rather watch some TV or play some videogames or try to dig through my variety of RSS feeds and emails.

Truthfully, it's not my paid work that is interfering with my free time so much as my unpaid work for The Fourth Rail. I'd love to take a little time off, but taking time off means that comics aren't getting reviewed, and the pile of stuff I want to review will keep increasing, and that's just a vicious cycle. With any luck, I can get the comp pile under control again before Christmas, and then maybe take a nice couple weeks to a month off in December or January before diving back in again.

Yeah, I miss Christmas Break too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

So there's a story in the Austin-American Statesman:
The local paper has a story about a drag show getting quietly threatened by the Round Rock Mayor. (That's my take on it, btw, if you're going to talk about it elsewhere, be sure and read the story so you have the whole story). Basically, the implications of homosexuality worry Nyle Maxwell, the Round Rock mayor, who told the business owner (a coffee shop owner who has also hosted Christian band shows) "Sarah, you've got to look out after your business. You've hit a lot of people's radar screens" and "A single event like this will not affect the viability of business downtown or the overall environment or the family-first environment. We have too many strong, conservative values, and this is a single event. There may or not be more. That's up to how Sarah conducts her business."

He closes up with "This is not Sixth Street, Austin, Texas; this is Round Rock, and it's a world of difference."

You know what, Mayor Maxwell? You're right. There is a difference. The comic book store I work at is located in Round Rock... but when someone asks who isn't specifically asking for directions, I tell them it's in Austin. You know why? Because Austin to me symbolizes freedom of expression, strong human rights values and creativity, and Round Rock symbolizes bigoted "Christian" sleazebags like yourself. You don't like drag shows? Don't fucking attend them and don't call out the fire marshal to come look for code violations and then make veiled threats about the business owner not fitting in with your morals.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Something Important:
Rich Johnston's Lying in the Gutters is always must-reading (it's probably my favorite comic-book column, and one that I will drop everything else to read whenever it goes live), but this week's lead story is especially alarming.

While everyone is dancing around about how great it is that the bookstore market is picking up on comics and manga is booming, Diamond is teaming up with reader apathy and retailer difficulty and publisher talent-raiding to help stomp out the flames of the small press. There's so much great work out there that's being read by about 1% of the comics reading audience, and the decision to enforce a sharper sales cutoff on an already-struggling group seems to be an acknowledgement by what is essentially the monopoly of getting comics to the average reader that up-and-coming creators and a healthy small press is irrelevant to their view of the medium.

Diamond gets a lot of unfair flak in doing what is a tremendously difficult job. But they also get a lot of completely fair flak about favoring the larger publishers, and this is a particularly good example of this kind of thing.
Upcoming on Fourth Rail:
Just a quick post to let readers know what's coming up from me on Fourth Rail for the rest of this month. I think I've decided that this will be a "theme" month for Snap Judgments. Of course, I sort of already blew that by going non-themed in the first week, but oh, well. At any rate, this week will be a mini-comics review piece, with possibly a couple graphic novels and *maybe* (outside chance) Snapshot reviews as well.

Then, over the course of the next two-three weeks, I'll hit a handful of themed reviews I've been thinking about:

*Conan piece (Looking at Dark Horse's first Conan TPB, the last five self-contained story issues of Conan, three of the recent Chronicles of Conan trades (5-7) and the first issue of Dynamite Entertainment's Red Sonja, which is definitely trying to evoke a Conan feel)

*Xeric piece (A little mini-column about the Xeric Grant and why it's a cool thing, as well as reviews of 2005 award winners recently sent to me like Thread #1 and Blackmane, as well as reviews of past winners that I happen to have on hand.

*Active Images (A link to past reviews of Richard Starkings's Active Image Gold line, as well as reviews of the slate of new releases from San Diego, including Ballast, Solstice, The Fly Chronicles, Gunpowder Girl & Outlaw Squaw and more)

*Complete Series (I have in my head to do a complete miniseries review of Children of the Grave #1-4 and a review of the past 3-4 issues of Johnny Raygun at some point)

Most likely, somewhere in this time there will be a release week that makes me want to review some more of the recent release stuff, and I'll do at least Snapshots on some of these weeks as well. But that's a pretty good indication of the reviews I'll probably be doing over the next month or so.
Podcasting - Help!:
Dave and I did the first sound test for the podcast, and... it did not go well. Truthfully, I didn't expect it was going to be that easy. Basically, I was hoping to be able to get it all done with Audacity and a $10 mic that I bought at Circuit City. But the mic has noise reduction and needs to be right next to the podcaster, and Dave and I were hoping for more of a back and forth thing, and Audacity seems to only accept one input.

So... anyone out there got any advice? I'm hoping to stay under $100 in terms of investment, and ideally less than $20-30 would be great. My next thought is to get a headphone USB set for one of us so that we each have our own mic, but then I need a software program that accepts two mic inputs simultanteously. I have no idea where to go here, and while I'm sure I'll be Google searching, the sheer amount of information out there means it may take me a while to get into it.

So if anybody out there is doing a multi-person podcast and not using professional recording equipment or something similar and can tell me what they're using and where to procure it, I would be very appreciative and certain to give you a shout-out in the first podcast at the very least.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Recent TV:
Well, last night I finally watched the first couple episodes of Rome, and I have to say, I like it. It's not as strong as Deadwood, but it is comparable, evoking a period well but having a modern sensibility and lacing the story with plenty of sex and bad language to make it palatable to a more casual audience. I'm particularly interested in the political machinations, and I love the raucous version of the Roman senate. In addition, Titus Pollus is a *great* character, and I really like the actor who plays him so far.

Even better, while watching the promos that ran after the show, I discovered that Curb Your Enthusiasm's new season and Ricky Gervais's new show Extras both premiere in two weeks. If they conflict with Family Guy's time slot, that might be the last time I watch Family Guy for a while.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Recent TV:
What the hell, it's been a while since I've talked much about TV (except for about getting HBO). So, some thoughts on what I've been watching lately while waiting for the Fall season to start...

Rescue Me Season Two: There was a point about midway through where I realized I hated most of the main characters, but I can't deny that overall, Season Two of Rescue Me was better than the first, which I generally liked. The circumstances of the stories and some of the character arcs are hilariously over-the-top, and I'm starting to get worn down by the variety and depth of tragedy that gets put upon Tommy Gavin's character, but I can't deny that when I watch an episode, I pretty much immediately want to watch the next one to see what happens next. Of course, I've been waiting about three weeks between viewings, so I can do just that, which is an indication that it's not as much of a "must see" for me as a lot of the other shows I watch. Not as strong as The Job (the first collaboration between Leary & Tolan) or The Shield (F/X's other big drama), but very watchable.

Battlestar Galactica Season Two: This remains one of those pleasant surprises. I never thought a revamp of a cheesy '70s sci-fi show would result in some of the best starfaring science-fiction ever on TV (just behind Firefly in my estimation, and miles better than Babylon 5, which was at one time a favorite of mine in this category). Great cast, imaginative plotting and some really good plot twists have made this season very entertaining. I also really love that the executive producer is doing podcast commentaries on almost every episode, which are some of the best audio commentaries I've ever heard (and I've listened to quite a few). Must-watch TV if you're even remotely a sci-fi fan.

Weeds Season One: Took me a couple episodes to warm up to it, but I've gotten to that "must watch now" mode with Weeds as well. Some of the characters are beyond unlikable into outright despicable (Elizabeth Perkins' character in particular), but even her character has a sympathetic twist at the end of episode four, and Mary Louise Parker is amazing. She's definitely in the top five list of sexy women on TV, and not sexy just because she's hot but because she's so damn smart, funny and charismatic. Oh, and Kevin Nealon is hilarious in his supporting role. Fun stuff with some thought-provoking elements and a quirky tone, not unlike Showtime's Dead Like Me (which they cancelled, boo).

Entourage Season Two: I liked the first season when I rented the DVDs. I *loved* the second season so much that I bought the first season on DVD and ordered HBO largely on the strength of Entourage. Funny, great characters, nice use of cameos and there were some interesting plot twists this season as well. I can't wait for season three, and it's a ways off, given that season two just ended last week.

I've just started on Deadwood Season Two, and I like what I see (again, a step up from an already-impressive season one, which is a trend I like) and I haven't watched Rome yet, but it's on my "to do" list. Of course, I also just got Lost on DVD and can't wait to catch up on the extras and commentaries on that one.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - September 14:

Action Comics #831 (The fight between Black Adam and Superman is good, but the Bizarro/Zoom race, a take-off on the classic Superman/Flash pairings of the past, is pure gold in Simone's hands)
Desolation Jones #3 (A bizarre collection of Ellis's fascination with violence, technology and porn, but somehow it works. JH Williams's gorgeous art probably helps)
Fables #41 (Quite possibly the best issue of the series ever, a great wrap-up to the excellent "Homelands" story)

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #2 (The first issue was disappointing to say the least, and may have killed my interest in the series entirely, unless the second issue is just miles better)
Ferro City #2 ("Robot noir," a nice blend of sci-fi and detective pulp with beautiful graytoned art)
Full Moon Fever GN (Werewolves... on the moon! Sounds like fun from AIT/Planet Lar)
Gravity #4 (Tied with New Warriors for my favorite Marvel miniseries currently running)
Thor Blood Oath #1 (Not a huge Thor fan, but I'll give this a look if only for Scott Kolins's artwork)
Hunger #4 (The unusual zombie in the bayou comic continues. I do wonder how the disaster in New Orleans is going to affect this comic, if at all)
Of Bitter Souls #2 (Same with this one, which made great use of the New Orleans setting in its first issue. Good superhero/mystical blend with art by Norm Breyfogle, a favorite artist of mine from the '90s)
PS238 Vol 2 TPB (I haven't read all of the issues in this collection of Aaron Williams's superhero elementary school comic, but every issue I've read has been good)
Punisher Max Vol 1 HC (Haven't read all the issues in this, either, but what I have read of the Punisher Max series, I've liked. I might pick this up, if only because I'm not getting anything else this week)
Stronghold #1 (New Phil Hester-penned series! That's all I need to know, and anyone who has read Deep Sleeper or The Coffin knows why)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Bitch A Lot:
...about all the stuff I love that doesn't sell, so it seems only fair to point out when something I love *does*, too. Maybe all these folks jazzed for the bookstore market and what it means for indies are not being pollyanna (as I had begun to suspect) but are actually onto something. Because Tricked, the long-awaited (and worth the wait) follow-up to Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson, has sold 10,000 copies.

Aw hell yeah. This also gets me thinking... maybe working comics retail is the wrong place for me, and I need to start looking into working at an honest-to-God bookseller where the indy-minded folks seem to mostly be shopping these days. Except that starting at the bottom at yet another retail job, especially one that is largely focused on "not comics," seems like a suicide-inducing endeavor.
Right the fuck on:
Found this linked off of Peter David's blog. Be warned, Bush supporters (surely there can't be any of those reading my blog, right?), it's extremely critical of Bush's behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

And despite my unease that the left might take this situation and misuse it as a political football, this is pretty much *exactly* how I feel. I don't really care to point fingers and say "why couldn't you have done this and that?" because that's the job of a government committee (one that will probably never be appointed or will be widely ignored like the 9/11 Commission), but I really would like to know just how anyone remotely human can act the way that Bush (G.W. and Barbara both) could in the wake of this disaster.

The nagging reality that if something like this happened to me and my family, the government as it stands would do *nothing* to help us and then have the balls to make light of the situation is just about as fucked-up a thought as I like to entertain right now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I Am Weak:
No, this has nothing to do with my having missed posting yesterday. That would be "I am forgetful," as it was 3 AM and I was in bed when I realized "Oh yeah, I was gonna post something to the blog!" But all you guys missed were my thoughts on the correlation between indy movie guys going big budget (as discussed in this week's Entertainment Weekly) and the same phenomenon in comics... I'll probably cover it later.

No, today's post is about why I now have HBO. See, I've been wanting HBO for a while, since some of my favorite shows are Entourage, Deadwood and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But I only watch these shows on DVD. I have so much stuff to watch on the Tivo, though, and plenty of other options via Netflix and my own not-small DVD library, that I always managed to talk myself out of spending the extra money for HBO. With Entourage Season Two concluded and Deadwood Season Two concluded and Rome just barely tickling my interest, I figured I was safe for a while.

So, when I got a postcard from my cable company informing me that I could get HBO for half-price for 6 months... I resisted. Oh, sure, I kept the card for two days and even looked up the prices, but I managed to resist. I figured I was safe. Then I got one of those phone calls today from the cable company, the ones that make it sound like you're all set up and you just need to say OK? Same offer, HBO for half price, and while I usually turn down telemarketing flat on general principles, I couldn't resist another lure and I said yes.

So now I have HBO. Or I will in two days. And I told my wife it'd probably be something I'd keep for the 6 month half-price deal and then get rid of. I mean, all my shows are in reruns, right? So it'll be nice, but I'll realize I don't want it. Then I realized... about 6 months or so is probably about when the new seasons of Entourage, Deadwood, Curb, hell, maybe even more Ali G show will start. And so I am doomed, and will probably have HBO for some time now.

It's not TV... it's $12 more a month for cable. But only $6 a month for the next six months.

Monday, September 05, 2005

A glimpse of a bright side:
It's 3:30 AM, I'm exhausted and I can't sleep. That's not unusual in the past few days. It's not that I'm obsessed with the New Orleans situation - tonight I distracted myself with a viewing of Harold & Kumar, the Dawn of the Dead remake and the last three episodes of Rescue Me - it's that it's never far from my mind.

There's really nothing that can make me feel better about the bureaucratic clusterfuck hindering those who want to help in New Orleans. Or the bizarre, unreal "Thunderdome" style stories coming out of New Orleans, which are shocking because it's the kind of thing I never thought I'd hear about in America in my lifetime. But in looking at (full disclosure time: I was looking for something to indicate how low Bush's approval rating is right now, to cheer me up so I can get to bed) I found a story that gave me a little bit of cheer.

The French Quarter is still standing. It seems stupid, I know, to focus on trivialities like this when the cost in human lives and property damage is so high, but seeing the sentence "Cafe du Monde, the home of sugar-dusted beignets -- puffy, rectangular doughnuts -- is still there" brought a few tears of joy to my eyes. See, Cafe Du Monde was a place I visited every time I was in New Orleans, it was a focal point for the city I remembered, and if it's still there, if the Quarter is relatively dry, then I can believe (as I haven't in the past few days) that New Orleans will rise again. It'll have scars, it'll be damaged by the events of the Hurricane and after, but it will exist again, and it won't have lost all of its history to an attack by nature most likely fueled by those who refused to believe that environmental damage was anything but a liberal fable.

New Orleans will be back. It will be changed, it has been hurt, but it hasn't been destroyed. And you can bet your ass that I'll be making a return trip to the city.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

That actually took longer than I expected:
Warren Ellis noted that a conservative Christian group is suggesting that New Orleans was "punished by God" for its "public celebration of sin." Story HERE.

The balls it takes for anyone to get up and start *blaming* some group for bringing the Hurricane down on themselves aside, this is why I have no use for organized religion these days. If you are religious, you owe everyone an apology for scumfucks like these. There needs to be an organized religious group that gets out there and denounces these idiots every time they say something like this or, say, "let's assassinate the leader of Venezuela" or "Dear God, please kill off a judge for us" (Btw, God's apparently listening, Rehnquist died today). Because right now, I have no use for religion whatsoever, except of course for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

More on Podcasts:
I'm trying not to keep writing so much and dwelling on Katrina and New Orleans unless I can come up with something helpful. While I love seeing The Bush Administration take a beating for their failures, I feel like some folks are taking this opportunity to take political potshots beyond the scope of just calling the administration out for their legitimate failures, and that's really no better than the name-calling and bullshit that goes on regularly on the right wing, so I want no part in it. I'm pissed at Bush and cronies for pissing away so many lives and so much money on Iraq that we have less money and manpower to help out quickly and efficiently in New Orleans, but some folks are sounding like conspiracy theorists, that the rich are deliberately trying to kill the poor left behind in New Orleans with a program of incompetence and apathy. Maybe I'm just being naive, but my philosophy tend to be not to ascribe to evil motives that are more likely just human stupidity and incompetence. I've seen a lot of those two things, but true evil is something you don't see as often.

Well, that's a lot of text on New Orleans for a post that's not about New Orleans. At any rate, what I was going to say before I derailed myself with my attempted disclaimer was that I continue to explore what's out there in podcasts. I feel like I've barely dipped my toe in the waters, but I'll keep looking. So far what I'm really enjoying are the Battlestar Galactica podcasts from Ronald D. Moore (and David Eick, of late), the Ebert/Roeper review podcasts (even though I often disagree with both of them), I Read Comics (Lene Taylor's excellent and esoteric comics podcast) and Neil Gorman's Comicology (no relation to the short-lived but excellent magazine.) I tried Comicsgeekspeak, but the damn thing is like an hour and a half long, and I just don't have the patience for it. About 30 minutes is as long as I want to listen to a given podcast, it seems.

I'm sure there are good podcasts out there that I'm missing, but I'll keep exploring them until I find more that I like. Honestly, there's only so much time I have to listen to them, whether in the car or at my computer, so I don't need a lot of them. But there's some great work being done in the... medium? Is podcasting a medium? Or a delivery system for the audio medium?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - September 7:
Ex Machina Vol 2 Tag Tp (The second arc of Ex Machina finally collected in trade. Hooray!)
Fell #1 (I've only seen the black and white version, but this Ellis/Templesmith collaboration is actually pretty fun, especially for those who liked Transmetropolitan)
Gotham Central #35 (Digging the "who killed Robins" story, although I suspect I'll like it even more when I can read it all at once)
Y The Last Man #37 (Jumping-on point that promises to spend some time in Australia and maybe finally reunite Yorick and Beth. Great as always)

Bad Ideas TPB (Missed this the first go-round, but now that I've become a big fan of Crosland's art, I need to check it out)
Bakers #1 (More Bakers is always a good thing, as Kyle Baker's cartoons about his family are always fun)
Chronicles Of Conan Vol 8 Tower Of Blood & Other Stories Tp (Wow, am I behind on these. I think the last one I read was volume four)
Dracula Vs King Arthur #2 (Curious to see what direction this goes in, as I enjoyed the first issue)
Ghost Rider #1 (I'll give this a look, if only because Ennis is usually entertaining and Crain's art looks nice)
Pvp #18 (Not much new to say about PVP except that it's always funny)
Rex Mundi #14 (New artist Jim DiBartolo (the one who did my Captain Boomerang sketch) starts on this issue)
Sea Of Red #4 (I keep hoping this'll take on more of the tone of issue one and less of the "Hollywood vampire" story in the last two. Either way, art is terrific)
Serenity #3 (Looking forward to seeing the end of this story, and glad to realize that the release of the movie is less than a month away)
Seven Soldiers Guardian #4 (Another Seven Soldiers mini concludes, and I go back to the long wait for more Cameron Stewart art)
Sgt Rocks Combat Tales Vol 1 Tp (Digest sized full color reprint of Sgt. Rock tales, definitely worth a look, especially in a somewhat anemic week like this one)
Smoke And Mirrors #1 (New superhero title from Speakeasy, looked intriguing in the solicits)
Vaistron #1 (New sci-fi book from Slave Labor. Looked and read great in the short preview I saw on their website)
Villains United #5 (The only Infinite Crisis tie-in book I'm actually enjoying. Hell, it's one of about a half-dozen DC Universe titles I'm enjoying)

Noble Causes #13 (This is the start of a "new season" for Noble Causes)
Runes Of Ragnan #1 (Viking fantasy story with nice looking art)
Shocking Gun Tales #1 (Anthology that looked pretty solid when I skimmed it, need to give it a read)
Vampirella Revelations #0 (Not much of a Vampirella fan, but there are some interesting names attached and they sent me a review copy, so I'll at least give it a look)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Note to Self - Check out War of the Worlds:
I keep forgetting that Dark Horse is serializing a webcomic adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds by the amazing team of Scarlet Traces (a post-WoTW story), Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. This is my reminder to check it out, as well as a pointer to fans who might also be interested.
Comics Stuff - Monthly Update for September:
This is the first monthly update to the left column of the blog, listing my Current Favorite Monthly Titles, which is my counterpart to Current Favorite TV series, as well as my five favorite first issues of the month and my ten favorite graphic novel reads of the month.

I was going to try a new feature where I'd do a monthly brief rundown of my thoughts on the top 10 in the Diamond 300, but then I realized that in July, I had actually read only one of the Top 10 books (All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #1, which I found to be exceedingly mediocre) and at best skim-read the rest. So it was actually even more depressing than I thought it would be. Seriously, you had to go at least to 11 before you found a title I liked (Villains United #4) and all the way to #49 to find one I loved (Serenity #1), and #65 to find one on my top 10 monthly titles list (Seven Soldiers: Guardian). I have decided to go ahead and put the ranking of my Top Ten Favorite Monthly Books of the moment as they ranked on the July sales charts. Why would I do something so obviously ego-stomping? Hey, it keeps me humble. Relatively speaking. Also, there is that faint hope that some people will realize that even with the buzz, some of these books are still struggling, and maybe they'll throw some of those fat Infinite Crisis/House of M dollars the way of these smaller books.

A couple things of note in how I organize these things, for those who care. These listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. I've narrowed it down to five or ten, beyond that is further narrowing of which one I liked best than I want to do on a monthly basis, at least right now. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published. And thirdly, I was pretty strict on the monthly series, in that it has to be a series that is solicited and actually printed monthly (for the most part, at least), and it has to be either ongoing or a long ongoing (at least 30 issues, which means Seven Soldiers just barely qualifies) instead of a limited series. This is why, for example, Banana Sundays (limited series), True Story Swear to God (bimonthly) and New Warriors (limited series) didn't make the list. In each case, I've provided a link for the listing, usually to one of my reviews (for further info on my opinion), but in the case of the monthly books and books I haven't reviewed, I've provided links to official publisher or creator sites or the best source of info I could find relatively easily.

Finally, the updates are for the month of August... September just barely started. So all my favorites will be anywhere from a week to a full month old, but these are meant to be sort of "standing" preferences anyway.
More New Orleans - this time with profanity!:
Truthfully, I feel just remarkably fucking stupid posting about anything but Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans right now. I hate to be so crass as to draw the comparison, but I think I'm actually more shell-shocked by this than I was by 9/11. When 9/11 hit, there was anger to aim at the terrorists who had perpetrated the act, but with Katrina, all I've got is sadness and disbelief and bewilderment.

I can be angry at the idiots who made the now infamous "finding/looting" distinction between black and white people trying to survive in New Orleans (Update: My wife informs me that this isn't a cut-and-dried racism thing as many are assuming... apparently, the "found" food was in fact floating on by down the river, so there is an actual distinction... it really was found! Just unfortunate that the photos chosen were white people who found floating food and black (or perhaps Hispanic, as I'm now hearing) people taking food out of a grocery store, which could be called looting, even if it's completely understandable in context). I can be angry at the fuckholes who would carjack a fucking rescue vehicle or take potshots at a rescue helicopter with their guns. I can be angry at our government for taking federal preparation money that could have alleviated the situation a little and putting it towards our sinkhole of cash and human lives in Iraq, or for the President's reprehensible conduct in not doing more for the people still in the area... But it's not the same, and I'm mostly just left with this nonspecific depression and sadness that comes and goes and leaves me in a rotten fucking mood pretty much continually.

But... I can't. I just can't focus only on what's going on there, because it's not healthy for me and it's not doing any good for anyone there or anyone who has gotten out. I donated what I could afford to the Red Cross, I'll do more if I can figure out what, and I'm trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy because it just doesn't do me any good to focus entirely on something so completely out of my control.

And so... I continue to post non-Katrina/New Orleans thoughts on the blog. I continue to try and work on comic reviews. Move along... the next post is about comics.