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And thanks to one of my favorite writers, I now know why Cracked has been dull lately [27 May 2015|08:57pm]
I once loved Cracked. I loved Cracked so much I wanted to write for it. I joined the writer circle, compared it to a standup comedy club amateur night and pitched about a dozen articles. Tried to clean up other articles. It felt like I was really going places. Oh sure, there were points where I felt like I was among people who were not quite getting it (like my point that when converting to Judaism you need an opinion about Israel - pro or con and it fucking drives you up the wall - and I keep getting feedback from editors going "well I know Jews and most of them don't care about Israel") but I got one article published and I was very proud of it. I tried to get other articles published but eventually the day job took me away from it and I lost the enthusiasm.

In between that time and now, I was losing my faith in Cracked. The articles stopped being fun. John Cheese's addiction articles dwindled and then just went away (apparently he decided to do more back-end stuff). Christina's articles about being Chinese American disappeared (she had a kid and stopped writing so much). The favorite writers were disappearing. The replacements were fairly uninteresting.

And then my favorite writer sold an article to Cracked. And it wasn't him. I mean it was him. I even noticed a lot of the same interests that he has been writing about for years. But the jokes were Cracked jokes. The whacky pictures were Cracked whacky pictures. The combination of "isn't this the craziest" and idiot chest beating proliferated throughout.

This reminded me of the fact that in my article, one of the entries just through out everything I wrote and was written by someone else. I didn't mind it so much even thought that was the entry I was sweating over, probably because I wasn't happy with what I wrote. But still, I wasn't reading my words. I was reading the Cracked Brand humor.

For myself, I don't necessarily care. I got my $50 and I sold about 20 books that week. But for a writer that I really like, I find that the imposition of Cracked humor is a bit unforgivable. Beyond that one irritation, it made me realize that every Cracked article sounds the same because the Cracked editors intend for every Cracked article to sound exactly the same. Oh sure, they kind of dropped the "Teddy Roosevelt is manly" jokes (which are just shitty rehashes of the Chuck Norris jokes that will not fucking die), but the damn site just can't seem to post an article that doesn't sound exactly like every other article.
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Books read in 2015 # 40 & 41 - myths and legends related to cool 90s pop culture [21 May 2015|01:17pm]
40.The Legend of the White Snake by Zhao Qingge(translated by Paul White) - I was going to title this entry "Fuck you Buddhists!" but I had to finish the book below and bring it to the library and I so love tying books together. So instead I am going with the fact that I am reading both of these books because cool artwork that came out in the 90s. In this case, that means that movie Green Snake which stars Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong as two snakes who become human and have to deal with a lot of bullshit including crazy Taoists and one Buddhist monk (played by an actor who seemed to get Jet Li's parts when he was done with them) who is really really against snakes turning into humans.

Like damn, that dude was totally sanctimonious. And the movie gives him some motivations. He thinks he's the hero. He's having impure thoughts. He cannot conceive and demon snake women being anything but out to eat people. Mostly this movie was a showcase for Maggie Cheung to be awesome.

Many years later, I read another version of the story called "Bewitched" by a 18th or 17th century Japanese writer that is told from the perspective of the human that White Snake falls in love with. The point is that he's a child and he's hurting his family by getting involved with demon snake women. I start writing a story that modernizes it and changes details (which is fun to translate) and then I get to a point where I want to read teh myth in the original form.

This book is not the myth in the original form. In fact, this book is a Communist anti-feudal version of the myth. The writer outright states that he sees the Buddhist monk as a villain - and an outright villain instead of the conflicted monk portrayed in the movie. Every scene that monk is in is just brutal as the monk is sanctimonious and utterly without shame.

However, I did get what I wanted which was a love story between a demon snake woman and a weak man (who is much more honorable in this book than in other versions of the story where he runs off at the first sign of trouble, usually choosing to join the Buddhists). And unlike other versions, this one gets a mostly happy ending as White Snake is banished but not killed and comes back after 10 years. Hopefully the monk that the heavenly host that fights his battles have fucked off by then.

And here's the trailer for Green Snake -

(a side note before I move on - even though I snidely stated that the actor in Green Snake gets Jet Li's roles, I remembered that Jet Li starred in his version of this myth. I think it was called Legend of the White Snake Woman - something like that. Anyhow that's really boring. The only thing I remember is that Jet Li plays the Buddhist monk in the chill hippie way that Westerners perceive Buddhists. Like he finally gets that White Snake is all human and really sweet and he goes "Oh cool. Well have a nice life" and fucks off. My memory is spotty. It was a boring movie).

41. Sandman Mystery Theater: The Black Hawk & The Return of the Scarlet Witch by Matt Wagner, etc. - I think we all knew that Sandman was a game changer when it first came out. I may not like everything Neil Gaiman does but there's no denying how much he pushed comics into new directions. The funny thing is that for 80s comics, Alan Moore and Frank Miller usually get the glory and there are plenty of underground comic book writers who should get more attention (like the Hernandez writers) but Gaiman wrote a mainstream (for mature audiences) comic that said "fuck this superhero crap" in a friendly British accent of course and inspired DC at least to put out more comics that were interesting and fun and did their own thing.

This is a comic that is directly inspired by a scene in the first issue of Sandman. Gaiman needed to note the other Sandmans in the DC universe and while the silver age version would get his own story in Doll House (and then echo throughout the series), the golden age version was a one-off aside concerning what was happening when Morpheus was in a glass bubble. Since Wesley Dodd was already established in only took a tweaking to stick him into the new Sandman mythology. He feels anxious and he goes out to fight crime.

So when Sandman got big there were spinoffs. And the spinoffs were huge - The Dreaming, Lucifer, Death - there was even a bullshit manga comic with Death having to clean up after Seasons of Mists which was cloyingly cute.

Sandman Mystery Theater is not the most well known spinoff nor is it really much of a spinoff since Wesley Dodd was already an established DC property and for the most part this constitutes a reboot with DC writers telling his story without the trappings of 30s comics. Now they can draw upon decades of detective fiction and crime fiction. Hell, his girlfriend even gets a copy of The Big Sleep in one scene.

So our earnest detective, his gas mask and his secret mixture of sleep agent and truth serum roams New York trying to solve mysteries. Or mostly just getting into trouble. And the pre-war paranoia is all out in force and it's - mixed.

I didn't like the art. Some of the writing feels labored - particularly in the second story with the Irish gangsters who keep cracking wise as they are assaulting vendors and blowing up buildings. The Black Hawk story was a bit anticlimatic since the main notion is that the character who becomes Black Hawk is in the U.S. attempting to shore up support for Poland before WWII starts and getting framed for murder. Since he's Black Hawk, we know that he's not going to end up in jail and the conclusion turns out to be a fraud based solution. The second story is a little more interesting but there's a strong sense of danger - especially when a printing press man is lowered into the machinery and his arms are cut off - and a feeling like the NYPD is more akin to keystone cops - since a dude's arms got cut off. It should be hard to hide that. And again, it was a case about money and influence with one mafia guy trying to seem like he wasn't screwing the other mafia guy - but again, he's getting people's arms cut off.

So it's a cool comic but I have to pay library fines for it.
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Books read in 2015 # 37-39 - Homeless and out of sorts [10 May 2015|07:26pm]
37.Act of God by Jill Ciment - This book opens with the kind of people that I normally don't like - Brooklyn gentrifiers complaining about their place. You have twin sisters who find a mushroom and kill it with bleach and an actress who lives upstairs and owns the building and doesn't know that a Russian is living in her guest room. Then the mushrooms turn out to be toxic and everyone is pushed out into hotels and friends' couches. The back cover blurb claimed that it is a screwball comedy but since most of the humor comes from characters getting on their feet only to have their momentary respite ruined by more glowing mushrooms, I am thinking that 'screwball" was not the best term. Regardless, I have been having a problem with books and movies that were cool until they snapped into place and got very boring. The cool diving book turned out to be about a chump getting played by a woman who wanted to kill her boyfriend. Dr. No reveals his evil plan. Unfriended is scary until the main killer is revealed. At very least this book does not give up and turn easy. Even if the plot seems to have gone to the most logical place it's still a surprise throughout.

38.A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo, Kris & Vincent Bailly - One of the strange paradoxes is the fact that many Holocaust memoirs are written by the lucky ones. And it's very hard to think of people who lost their relatives and friends to the fucking Germans as lucky ones but by virtue of living they are lucky. In this case, we have two brothers trying to hide in Vichy France and worried about their parents and cousins. The main story is more important than entertaining but the true beauty comes from the artwork where every panel is like an impressionist painting.

39.Batman The Dark Knight Vol. 4: Clay by Gregg Hurwitz and Alex Maleev - There are three stories in this volume and they do sort of fit in with the theme of the other two books (I’m not just trying to make an excuse to putting three books in the same entry). In the first story, Clayface is out of jail and trying to kill people. The “how do we get Clayface back into a cell” story is secondary to Clayface whining about how he wanted to be an actor damnit and why is everyone screwing with him. The next vignette is one of those wordless comics that artists love so well. This time it’s about immigrants who end up being exploited in a sweatshop that is either owned by The Penguin or the rival billionaire. Anyhow, happy ending – Batman saves them and then they are given jobs at Wayne Enterprises because there’s a belief that you can be a billionaire and not exploit people. The last story is about a new Man Bat – the father of the original Man Bat – with all the Oedipal implications since there’s a lot of “Bruce Wayne should have been my son, not a wimp like you” verbiage coming out of Daddy Man Bat. Anyhow, this has a silly ending where Batman injects himself with the Man Bat cure in anticipation that Man Bat was totally going eat him but not so much that he wouldn’t be fine the next day.
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Books read in 2015 # 36 - Chumps Get Played [07 May 2015|01:11am]
36. Decompression by Juli Zeh - I think that the theme for this week is "I really liked it until it decided to be what it was all along." In other words, I have read 2 books and saw one movie where there was a lot of mystery and tension until about 2/3rds of the way in and then the plot coalesced into what you were probably expecting all along and then there was a sense of "ok, let's just get on with it." The movie was Unfriended and the other book was Dr. No as reviewed in the previous entry.

In Decompression, the tension of truth and varying stories ramps up steadily throughout until towards the end when you realize that one of the characters is lying and treating the other one like a chump. While there's nothing wrong with this kind of noir book, it just feels like a letdown since James Cain already did it so much better. But until then there's a great deal of fun in trying to figure out which character is crazy and which characters actually have reason to fear for their lives.

The main character Sven is a diving instructor from Germany who wanted to get away from the competitive lawyer job in Germany. So he took off to an island and taught scuba diving. His new clients are an actress and a writer caught up in a mutually hateful relationship. The narrative switches between Sven's story and the actress's diary as the events unfold in mutual attraction and ambiguous events. Soon the diary and the narrative outright contradict each other and there is an undercurrent of violence.

And then the book coalesces into a book about one character manipulating another character in an elaborate plot that is not going to end well. Or actually there is a variation on that ending that I quite liked. But regardless, this book is much more fun before you know what's going on (and the person who wrote the back cover blurb for the American edition should be fired).
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Books read in 2015 # 35 - James Bond fights a giant squid (and that's not the stupidest part) [30 Apr 2015|02:32pm]
35. Dr. No by Ian Fleming - I was anticipating writing this review. In fact, I was thinking of using my twitter account for live-tweeting it since the stupid material keeps coming and I didn't think I could put it all in one review. When James Bond sees Honeychile (?) for the first time and the perspective narrative says that her "behind was almost and firm and rounded as a boy's", it just seemed like a shame that that bit of British school boy buggery would be just part of one review.

But then I got bored. The last 50 pages just killed me. It's a 192 page book and a fourth of it is devoted to James Bond escaping the "brilliant trap" and killing Dr. No. Oh sure, the tedious "James Bond opens up the vent and crawls through the burning metal and then fights Tarantulas" tedium ends with Bond fighting a giant squid and then dropping guano on Dr. No but this does not justify the repeated use of the term "Chinese Negros" (in the first chapter they are called "chigros" but not even Fleming could sustain that neologism).

It's actually appropriate that the point where the story locked into place and got to the standard Bond tropes (supervillain, escaping and winning) that the book got boring. Since Ian Fleming wrote his books, Bond went from being a couple of movies to being a cottage industry and as such we end up expecting the "before I kill you Mr. Bond, I'm going to tell you my secret plan and then leave so you can escape and stop me" scene. At least two of the last Daniel Craig movies fucked around with this aspect and even if Skyfall ended with Home Alone traps, it was still better than the same old bullshit.

But let's get to the ridiculous shit -
1. first chapter has the previous spy getting killed by "chigros" and then his spy assistant gets killed because tension.
2. M is really bad at his job. Two of his agents disappear and he figures "oh well, guess they are fucking on a beach. Better gives James a vacation."
3. James gets a new gun to replace his Beretta, which is "a woman's gun" - the scene plays like porn. Seriously I think that Bond is going to fuck his gun.
4. There's a giant centipede. Apparently it's poison and can kill. Maybe.
5. Honeychile was created to be a fuckbunny, but why does she have to be called Honeychile?
6. The black guy dies - no he really dies - like he gets totally flame thrower massacred.
7. Dr. No has two iron claws for hands.
8. Dr. No has very efficient secretaries who somehow think that Bond and Honeychile are guests (Ok, this part is actually funny by design - as opposed to unintentionally funny).
9. When Dr. No gives his life story, he is an Asian gangster who got a lot of money from his dealings but was then tortured and mutilated. So he added height and got more plastic surgery.
10. Dr. No's reason for killing everyone who ventures to his island is because the Audubon Society wants to build a bird sanctuary/hotel on his little island because exotic birds.
11. Sure, there's some stupid plan about missiles and controlling them, but Dr. No seems to be more inclined to be pissed at the damn kids who won't get off his yard.
12. Honeychile wants to go to New York and become a call girl. This is her highest ambition.

Ok. That's pretty much it. I have other James Bond books. I may read them. This was really fucking stupid. Although it does serve as an example of outright racist writers being more fun than writers who think that they are progressive but are really just as racist, sexist, etc. as their parents. At least Ian Fleming's "Chinese Negros" do stuff and act like henchmen and have dreams (like killing that British fucker) as opposed to Will Shetterly telling us that one of the characters is "Oriental" and then having that "Oriental" guy just hanging out doing nothing.
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Books read in 2015 # 30-34 - Superman vs. Batgirl vs. Lonely Israelis vs. WTF!!!!! vs. Spiderman [28 Apr 2015|01:51pm]
30. Superman vol 4: Psi War by Scott Lobdell & Mike Johnson - At the risk of sounding myopic, it appears that comics are going through a bit of a Renaissance. Granted, one of the problems of comics is the fact that they have to his the reboot in various ways but I must reluctantly agree with the notion that no one wants to read about Spiderman trying to buy baby formula and teach his kids how to ride bikes (well I would find that just fine). Unlike the 80s where there was a great deal of "last adventures" for superheroes (Superman also got a retirement story by Alan Moore - I think a few years before Dark Knight Returns) the new era is about artificially hitting the re-set button so writers can work with continuity and against continuity. In other words, The New 52 (for all its faults) is a pretty cool way of freeing up comic book writers while still shackling them with the conventions.

So this comic - Clark Kent is a blogger - I feel like I have to take back what I just said. Although it actually moves along pretty well and it gives us a bunch of characters who are not altogether phased by Superman since Superman doesn't really have mind control powers (apparently super-hypnotism is no longer with us). There are some nice character driven moments. In this version Clark Kent is in Lois Lane's friendzone (I am so so sorry for using that term) and trying to find work with independent news services. People are resentful. The Psycho Pirate makes an appearance which very well could be his first appearance since Crisis on Infinite Earths (the quintessential Let's Hit the Re-Set Button comic book story). It actually falls apart in places and there's a little bit too much of "who? Who is this guy? Why should we care?" going on, but it's still better than the Superman that was foisted upon the reading public in the 80s.

31. Batgirl Vol 4: Wanted by Gail Simone & Fernando Pasarin - Even though the cover is Jim Gordan holding a gun at Batgirl as she is about to reveal that she is his daughter, the majority of this comic is the Ventriloquist who is just as crazy as ever and engaging in the kind of bloodshed that you expect out of the ventriloquist (since after all the dummy was repeatedly hacked into pieces on the television show in order to insert ultra-violence in a show meant for kids). This is a much cooler Batgirl than usual who is no longer crippled for life and suffers from some extreme PTSD. She is also on the verge of retirement and even has to convince her father that she killed her brother from necessity. There are also dates and material about sexual harassment and enough characterization to fill years of the old comics.

32. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan - As a background to this comic, Joe Sacco interviews the author and she talks about how the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is something that is not necessarily talked about in Israel, which seems counter-intuitive, but it's always there just below the surface and actually that makes sense since Israel has been around for 67 years and you still get stuck talking to zealots on either side who throw around phrases like "Putin was right" and "we have to get rid of THEM" and "THEY are trained from youth to hate us" - the irony of that last argument is always lost on the person making it. In this case, the terrorist attack is the catalyst for a story about a woman who tracks down a cab driver in order to tell him that his father might have been killed in a suicide bombing. Like with all terrorist attacks, everything was cleaned up and everyone went along with their business (a very strange fact that finds its way into pro-Israel propaganda speeches), but the woman is certain that the father is the John Doe. The book winds around to the relationship that builds between a woman who wants to think that her ex-boyfriend (she was dating the father) is dead rather than he just stopped calling (so the jerk move of just not calling - it's even worse in Israel) and the man's son who wants as little to do with his father as possible. Toward the end it's trying to sell you on a love affair between these two - even as the idea that the guy would be squicked out by the fact that he's fucking his dad's rejected girlfriend is depicted as jerk behavior on his part - but that's weird.

So ultimately the theme of the book is that Israelis are weird. And jerks.

33.Through the Woods by Emily Carroll - this collection of short stories is one of the best illustrated works I've seen in comic books. Since it's one writer/artist combination the need to keep everything in panels is not there and the art and words can bleed off of each other and between pages. The title is taken from most fairy tales where the trip through the woods is always a sign of danger with wolves and robbers and Cthulu monsters waiting to devour innocents. The creepiest story of the bunch is "The Nesting Place" where a cavern in the woods is the place where creeping things take over people and wait to be born. The twist of that story is that these creeping things that pose as humans can be afraid of urbanization more than humans can be afraid of them. The other stories tend towards the gothic and the isolated. The first story is particularly effective as three girls wait for their father to return home even as a mysterious man keeps visiting them and taking them away.

34. Ultimate Spiderman: the Ultimate Collection Book 5 by Brian Michael Bendis - Again we have a version of Spiderman that is young and has his life ahead of him. Gwen Stacy is alive but so is Norman Osborne. Doctor Octopus is the most dangerous villain in this volume since he's quite happy to use his arms to kill people. Actually there is a lot of Red Shirt death in this volume - usually with them getting a few lines before they go. This volume has two stories - the Sinister Six where Nick Fury is now completely Samuel Jackson and everyone seems to know that Peter Parker is Spiderman - and the meta-fiction bit about Sam Raimi filming a Spiderman movie. Both have some fairly groan-inducing moments. I am not sure I really like Norman Osborne literally becoming a goblin for example or the fact that five villains from Spiderman (Electro, Sandman, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Kraven) can really get together to destroy everything and pose a threat, but Osborne acting like the abusive father to Peter Parker was quite scary - especially when he threatens to kill Aunt May and everyone else in order to get Parker to behave. The movie story is more fluffy with the main tension being Gwen Stacy finding out that Parker is Spiderman and insisting that Spiderman killed her dad. It's a nice call back to the 70s Spiderman, but I wonder if Ultimate Spiderman is trying to set up some kind of Archie comics triangle with Gwen, Mary Jane and Parker all hanging out in his room as 'just friends'. But I do appreciate Mary Jane's abusive home life being a major part of her character. She was always the more interesting girlfriend (if you don't count Black Cat).
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Books read in 2015 # 28 & 29 - History Lessons [24 Apr 2015|04:40pm]
28. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward: A Graphic Novel by Lovecraft and I.N.J. Culbard - So what do we do with H.P. Lovecraft? Do we hate him? Feel sorry for him? Avoid him or just use him for our new fantasies while dropping his virulent racism in the ditch? This book gives us a standard Lovecraft story with all the tropes that makes Lovecraft so fun - you got the historical secrets, the talk of good blood (kind of racist but let's allow it) and the feeling that at any moment the world could be swallowed up by chaos (which is probably the best encapsulation of the Sad Puppy argument that can be divorced from VD).

So is it good? Well, it's Lovecraft. In his fiction, he makes his white guy fears so metaphorical that you can ignore their first intent and just allow the tropes to guide you. Most of the comic I spent wondering what could be added to it in a graphic novel that couldn't just be done by reading the story. There were scared looks in people's eyes and the fact that Charles Dexter Ward has been replaced by his weird ancestor gets some points, but mostly it's just a lot of running around and a waste of art.

29.The Later Roman Empire(AD 354-378) by Ammianus Marcellinus - I do love that title because you know that the author did not come up with it. Only Commies are ballsy enough to refer to things as if they are going to die out ("late capitalism" my ass). Still, this was the last time that there was a pretty cool emperor in charge and he might have turned things around (as fractured as Rome was becoming) if only he didn't try to fight the Persians all the time. I admit that I wanted to read this book because of Mimesis and the chapter on how this was a time period when literature and history got cruel and gossippy. Ammianus was the prime example of cynical gossip.

Sadly, he only gets to that point during the reigns of Valens and Valentinian when everyone is getting put to death under charges of witchcraft and other fun excuses. Two thirds of the book is about the triumphant takeover of Rome by Julian who was the last pagan emperor (but he kept that a secret until he was in charge) and then Julian's death. There are points where Ammianus switches to eye-witness accounts as in "this is what we were doing when we were trying to kill the Persians" but for the most part he is depicting an empire that cannot seem to stave off rebellions and is too concerned with internal conflict to build on itself. Or offer anything to the subjugated peoples.

Of course, it does give a lie to that old saw of "just look at the Roman Empire and how they collapsed" which might not be a thing anymore. I heard it at a Shabbos meal when Yosef Werbin (I think that's his name) dared to give a "dvar Torah" that just praised the New York courts for not allowing gay marriage (it was a while back) and used the fall of Rome as an example. I also heard it when we were supposed to interview our grandparents in 7th grade. But really, Rome fell AFTER they allowed the fucking Christians with their ideals of purity and morality to take over. It was fully of bisexual orgies when it was at its height.

I don't know if I can recommend Ammianus to general readers. Certainly he's not nearly as funny or as gossippy as Seutonius. He's definitely better than Procopius who was the Alex Jones of Roman history. It's interesting enough but it doesn't really kick in untiol the rampant corruption.
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other annoyances and little victories [20 Apr 2015|11:03pm]
About a month ago, I finally got sick of a writer that I knew from LJ and friended on FB. There were various reasons for this writer to get on my nerves. There was the sanctimony coupled with ignorance, the bullying and the exploding with anger whenever this person was not worshiped. The first argument was over bronies. The last two arguments were over the 57morons (and how dangerous it would be to try them for treason or the Logan Act - that was my take on it) and the executive of Nestle talking about putting a price on water (which this writer basically said "Bond Villain" and did not delve into why the executive of Nestle would argue for this).

Anyhow I realized that this writer was a blithering idiot. Takes me longer when it's someone on "my side" of an argument. I also was trolling by the end of it - especially when it came to 50 Shades of Grey - I don't like 50 Shades of Grey but I will defend it if it means annoying other people.

Ok, so I lost my faith in this writer's ability to hold a discussion without acting like a fucking child and then I started acting like a fucking child. So I'm not innocent here.

The thing is that I wanted to write a full report on everything about this petty bullshit and name names. But I didn't. Yet. I don't know. I did post something - actually a gloriously bad review of the writer that accuses the writer of #racefail (remember racefail - it was all the rage at one point) but I did not write up the full fight.

And every day that I don't write it, I feel like I'm winning a little victory against myself. Granted, I'm conceding to some defeat with this entry but I am not being 100% petty bitch - only 40-60% petty.

But that's better than most days.
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Books read in 2015 # 27 - Manifest Destiny for Martians [20 Apr 2015|09:11pm]
27. Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles adapted by Dennis Calero - When I was in middle school, I did not really "get" the point of this book. There were some great stories and I wondered why the Martians just disappeared after the first "act" as it were (I might be misremembering this but are there three sections of the book? Colonialism, Settlement and Oops Earth is nuking itself so let's all go home?) and I did not get that it was about how not only was America founded on the deaths of millions but how that affected the way that we see ourselves in both extreme and subtle ways. I also didn't get the end of the last story where the father promises his family that they can see Martians and then has them look in a reflection and says that they are seeing the Martians. I thought that the planet Mars had turned them into the Martians that we were seeing in the early chapters.

This comic book adaptation does not have all of the stories. It's only 151 pages and it has to cut a few stories. I understand that Usher II was going to be considered an extra since it seemed like a story more related to Fahrenheit 451 than Mars. The story where there were only a few people left and a man finds the last woman in miles and she wants to get married and he runs off - there might be value to that story but it sounds more like a 50s joke about women just want to get married and men are afraid of commitment. I suspect that if I read that story again, there will be a joke about how the woman wants to go shopping.

By picking the stories that go into this collection, the theme of the book becomes even more clear since almost every story highlights the earthling relationship to Martians. It has all the stories of the settlements, including the one where all the astronauts come to a town filled with all their loved ones and only toward the end realize that it's a trap and the one where the astronauts find that all the Martians are dead and only one seems to care about it. In both cases, it feels like the American relationship to the natives - first there were evil and scary and dangerous and then once most of them were dead, we made a great deal out of how sad we were that they were killed - and even ignored the continuing existence of real Indians in favor of fantasy Indians per our hippie romantic fantasies of a lost beautiful earth culture.

There is even one story that I forgot from the book where a Martian shows up and he can basically be whatever the people looking at him want him to be. Major metaphorical imposition happens until finally he is destroyed by the collective desires of the settlement and the original couple decides that they don't want any Martians. There's also the ghost Martian story where there is a suggestion that even though it appears that the Martian is from a long dead culture and the earth settler is from the present, the Martian could also be from the future since nothing really lasts. And this is the point where we note that insight we got from Cracked about how most of the apocalyptic obsessions of Americans are about the ways that we basically benefited from a huge-ass apocalypse when we got here (but we sure killed a bunch of Indians on purpose to make up for the killing that we did with smallpox).

By the end we get the racist astronaut being ceded half of Mars by the few remaining Martians only to find out that his property is probably useless since Earth is nuking itself and a story about everyone going home. And finally there is the picnic where all the earth settlers go to see that they are truly the Martians. And for better or worse, they are the Martians.

The art is also pretty good.
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Dealing with the annoying habits of friends [20 Apr 2015|08:38pm]
I have one friend who is pretentious. I probably have a lot of friends who are pretentious. The fact that I am full of pretensions and pseudo-intellectual dead ends. I get dismissive of stuff and I go on babbling tirades. So there is a great deal of bullshit that one needs to deal with in order to have friends. We can grouse about our friends but there is a point where we need to accept the annoying shit that our friends do in order to give them latitude to accept the annoying shit that we do.

But sometimes one needs to vent. Also sometimes one needs to stay the fuck away from a friend for a few weeks in order to escape the constant bullshit.

I have a friend who loves to derail conversations. He's been doing it for a long time and sometimes he's actually smart. Certainly my old roommate was impressed with him. The problem is that he does it ALL THE TIME. It's not like he's actually listening to the conversation and chiming in. No, he talks about some bullshit theory or a completely different topic without even acknowledging that he's changing the subject. You could be talking about Shakespeare and he will suddenly interrupt by saying that he finally saw The Interview. You could be talking about NWA and the new movie and BEFORE YOU FINISH YOUR SENTENCE he jumps in to talk about Cake - which was a one-joke band at best.

Worse, is the way that he talks in pseudo-intellectual speak as if the three marxist and pomo critics he read are truly the only ones to talk about. And it gets even worse when he pounds out his pet theory which is "this show was good but in the second season it got repetitive" but with much more condescension. And it's not like he cares about the show so much as he cares about sounding superior to the show or the movie. There's always a tone to the voice that declares himself the master of all pop culture even when the words convey the fact that he does not know what he's talking about. Most of the time he's not even enthusiastic about the work, just happy to be able to pontificate on some dull little marxist theory.

Also, he completely misses the fucking point of Mad Men. Seriously, only a fucking idiot would miss that the show is about feminism.

Apparently he also used to do this in the last few years of his English degree. He would derail class discussion to talk about rabbis especially if the book being discussed had nothing to do with Judaism (like Grapes of Wrath). And then he would get frustrated when the teacher cut him off and assumed the teacher was against him.

Now these are aspects of the personality that one must deal with. What makes him unbearable is the fact that he goes through these times when he's VERY sensitive about his bullshit blather. So when he goes into one of his "I have a pet theory that you heard a billion times before but I'm going to interrupt your conversation to impose it whether you want to hear it or not" tirades, the choice is between two very bad options.

1. Actually let him speak which means that he thinks that he can keep doing this shit and encourage him to keep interrupting ad infinitum, or

2. Interrupt him. Stop him from fucking derailing the conversation. Only instead of actually fucking getting the hint, you got to hear him bitch and whine about how he is being interrupted.

This last Shabbos, he was in full bitch mode. It wasn't bad enough that he wasn't doing his regular bullshit, but he was freaking out every fucking chance he got. Hell, he even went into his AWFUL rendition of Richard II's monologue in the prison - the one where he thought that "dramatic" pauses and screaming was a great substitute for acting. And then refused to to get that NO ONE FUCKING WANTS TO HEAR IT because at the rate he was doing that monologue it would have been at least a half hour until he was done. And then he freaked out in the middle of the meal because of his insistence on talking about Cake when the subject was NWA and then at the end of the meal he also freaked out at the host who said that his last Facebook quote was nonsense and that lasted for 15 minutes.

When we walked away from the meal, he was actually surprised that I didn't want to walk with him.

But yeah, I need to get away from that drama. It would be nice if he ever fucking listened to people or got enough humility and insight to know that he is not an expert on everything (and seriously, the man wants to go to graduate school but what the fuck is he going to do with that? He would make a shit teacher).

It's not that he's not a friend but holy fuck, is it asking too much to dial it back and at least get that his pontification is 90% repetitive bullshit?

Maybe it's the mirror image problem. Maybe I just know that I'm full of shit and that I can be pseudo-intellectual and snobbish and impatient with people who just don't get it. But knowing WHY I find someone obnoxious does not make that person any less obnoxious.
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Books read in 2015 # 26 - I hate zombies [16 Apr 2015|06:49pm]
26. Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francaville - I think I was expecting something witty out of this. I definitely wasn't expecting to be so bored with another rehash of the standard zombie narrative which goes
1. Someone gets bit
2. Someone shows up at a party and bites a bunch of other people, making them zombies
3. A few survivors rush to the nearest safe house and try to weather the storm.
4. The safe house is not so safe, mostly because one of the assholes forgot to tell everyone that she was bit
5. Everyone has to run away.
This is tedious enough when The Walking Dead does it on an annual basis but making the characters Archie characters is just fascinating in the "who signed off on this bullshit" way.

The artwork isn't even standard Archie. Yes, I know that artists don't have to stick to a particular style, but the Archie style is as iconic as the Tales from the Crypt style. To 86 it in favor of a standard Marvel style is stupid. There's one bit where Archie is killing his zombie father that has little panels covering one big picture of Archie swinging an axe but that is still not Archie.

More to the point, the story is stupid. Reggie kills Jughead's dog with his car. Jughead is sad and goes to Sabrina, the teenage witch, who feels sorry for Jughead and resurrects the dog. Only the dog is a zombie and bites Jughead. Meanwhile Sabrina's ghost aunts take her away so she is unable to fix anything. Jughead feels sick and lets all the other tedious soap operas to play out (Betty and Veronica are BFF's but they are still fighting over Archie. Archie can't make a choice. Moose is dumb and Reggie is a jerk. And this is not fresh in the least bit).

Then Jughead shows up as a zombie and well you get the rest.

Making Archie characters into zombies could have been a novelty, but it's not. They are not recognizable Archie characters (except for following the same stupid plots from before most of us were born) and they don't do anything special.

I have finally found an Archie permutation more tedious than those Xian Archie comics from the 60s and 70s.
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Richard Brittain did NOT travel hundreds of miles for the sole purpose of assaulting a reviewer [16 Apr 2015|12:39pm]
Brief recap for everyone who forgot - Richard Brittain, minor British celebrity (he won some quiz show) writes a blog post talking about how he was stalking his former crush. It's long and creepy and ends up with him traveling all the way to Scotland (he's based in London) to ask her to agree to be kidnapped for publicity sake. This story goes viral, especially with Jezebel highlighting it as an example of male privilege and rape culture, and makes it to the New York tabloids.

A few days after this story goes viral, Paige Rolland - a woman that wrote a troll review of Brittain's self-published fantasy novel complete with Buzzfeed gifs - claims that Richard Brittain has ALSO traveled up to Scotland with the sole purpose of assaulting her with a wine bottle. The writer of the original Jezebel article that made Brittain famous immediately takes her statement at face value and writes Paige Rolland's press release without checking for independent confirmation. And in order to cover up this lack of journalistic standards parrots the claim of Paige Rolland that states that there is a general gag order on British newspapers when it comes to crime reporting.

According to Paige Rolland, Americans just don't UNDERSTAND that British newspapers are not allowed to report on crimes before they go to trial. It's even harder to understand this rule when a google search of Scotland assault comes up with dozens of stories written by Scottish newspapers about assault charges that are awaiting trial (for example -

But that does not stop a bunch of trolls from sniffing blood and forming the mob. So they write hate comments on the Jezebel story and they write even more scathing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. And they all completely believe this story 100% even though it makes no sense. They even buy the bullshit excuse that Paige Rolland cooked up in order to explain away the fact that there is no independent confirmation. Of course, Paige Rolland claimed that the trial can be up to a year after the alleged assault and that the "gag order" is imposed until then.

Of course, even if the "gag order" is true, it does not stop non-UK newspapers from reporting on it, calling some police, getting enough confirmation to go with the story. The New York Daily News was reporting on the story when it was just a creepy blog post and there is no way they wouldn't file a follow-up report if the alleged bottle assault had any chance of being true.

The main reason why I am so concerned with this story is not because I am just sexist as ginmar (who is currently being accused of assaulting someone with a knife on Goodreads) alleges. If there was any confirmation that the story was true, I would be just as horrified at it. No, the reason why it bothers me is because I actually believed this bullshit story. For a couple days, I was very much in the "holy fuck, Richard Brittain is not only a stalker but a violent writer who can't take a bad review" camp (seriously, who likes bad reviews - granted the first one way back when I was published in an antho called "Under the Rose" was a novelty since the reviewer called me out by name and called my story "self-satisfied" - but after that, fuck no. Especially when it comes to Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre which people fucking hate - like really fucking hate - and my only excuse is that it was the first book I edited and I was learning). And yes, a man who is capable of admitting that he is stalking an old crush is also capable of assault. I was shocked and horrified at the ways that culture allows for this kind of behavior. And hell, who hasn't been threatened by Nick Pacione (who is harmless to everyone but himself but it took us years to get that)

Then I looked for independent sources. And I kept looking. I read Brittain's blog which is as self-involved as a blog can be and not very well written and found that the guy was actually pretty ashamed of himself for the original stalking post. Instead of an angry guy who was barely trying to hide the fact that he was a stalker at war with the world, I found a mentally ill man who realized only recently that he was mentally ill. He understood that he had been sold on the whole "stalk your love until she goes for you" bill of goods but it was still his fault that he believed it. He talked about his schizophrenia and his inability to connect with people and the ways that the negative feedback for the stalking post was a wake-up call.

That doesn't mean that he's innocent of this other assault (people avoid talking about charges against them all the time and even when the charges are major and confirmed by other sources, people are not going to admit to them. Example - Alan Dershowitz and most of his clients - that fucker defended a lot of rapists and women killers using the victim blaming tactics) but it does mean that he's not providing much in the way of admission. And the only independent source that MIGHT be Brittain (provided by ginmar who is apparently married to the accusation almost as much as I am certain of the falsity thereof) is a story about an assault in a grocery store without details that happened around the time that Paige Rolland alleged that it happened - but weeks before she went and claimed that she was the victim and that Brittain was the perp.

So I am bothered by the fact that I fell for obvious bullshit and I am still annoyed that it was very manipulative. Granted, I can respect Paige Rolland for concocting this bullshit to get publicity for her badly written reviews and short stories but her claim that independent confirmation won't come until there is a trial and that we should all wait until October 2015 since that's how slow justice goes - it's way too blatant a lie to take seriously.

Also not happy with the group bullying and the people who think that they are on a righteous crusade because they pick the "right targets" for their venom. Had enough of that bullshit with Requires Hate. Then again, if Brittain was guilty or if there was any credible evidence that he was guilty I would be much less eager to defend him or castigate Paige Rolland who is hoping that people forget this story by the end of 2015 so that she doesn't have to come up with a "miscarriage of justice and still a gag order" excuse to keep dining out on it.

Hell, I would even join the collective mob against him. I certainly have no shame about calling out psychopaths and assholes who ACTUALLY commit heinous acts. You won't see me pulling an "innocent until proven guilty" argument in the case of Cosby or Alan Dershowitz. But in those cases there is credible evidence based on past behavior. Even when there was one woman accusing Bill Cosby of rape, there were news reports and trial dates and indictments. As a society, we collectively chose to ignore them because we didn't want to ruin the image we had of Cosby as a genial father figure. And in the case of Brittain, the Goodreads reviewers choose to ignore the LACK of evidence (independent confirmation, police reports, etc.) because they do not want to ruin their simple narrative of the crazy writer and the innocent victim who only wrote a bad review.
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Books Read in 2015 # 25 - Dream of a Perfect World [14 Apr 2015|03:13am]
25.Living My Life (part 2) by Emma Goldman - When I first decided to venture into the Orthodox community, I arrived late to shul and was invited to a lunch with the local mashgiach, his wife and a very quiet baal tshuva who seemed even more uncomfortable than me. None of the conversations were landing and everything seemed to lapse into silence. Perhaps because of this polite and uninspiring scene, the mashgiach host decided it was time to declare that the Moshiach was coming - and sooner than the year 6000 - but soon, very soon. He rambled on about that and the quiet baal tshuva seemed interested. I couldn't say exactly why I was uncomfortable with this conversation at the time. Later I would sum it up in terms of how much I thought that I had left that particular end-of-the-world meshuggas in Christianity and how if I wanted to worship a dead Jew, I could have stayed a Lutheran.

However, upon sober and honest reflection, I have to say that I am uncomfortable with any movement which claims that it will bring about a perfect world. A religious view of G-d creating a perfect world in a way that makes everyone happy is something that I can sort of accept because it is one of the main tenets of Judaism. So we believe in happy endings. That's not so bad. But then when those details start emerging, there are going to be people who don't agree with the outcome and what are you going to do about them? Proclaim Jesus the Messiah and Jews spend centuries dying for his sins. Proclaim a golden age of the French Revolution and kill so many people that the rest of the world uses your revolution as an excuse to maintain the monarchy. If there is an outsider who cannot get with the program, the adherents seek to dismiss, isolate and kill the outsider. When you want to convince yourself that you achieved utopia, you cannot abide unbelievers.

In the first part of Emma Goldman's autobiography, she was fighting the good fight on behalf of anarchists, laborers and political dissidents. She was blamed for McKinley's assassination and practiced free love with a series of dysfunctional boyfriends. In this volume, the U.S. becomes a much less friendly place for anarchists and U.S.S.R. proves untenable. In many ways, Woodrow Wilson's idealism in terms of nationalism is laudable but the way he went about it involved anti-sedition laws and espionage laws where the definition of espionage was so broad that a group of young Jewish anarchists were arrested for throwing flyers off of roofs, flyers which urged people to resist the draft. One died in prison and the rest were sentenced to at least 15 years in jail. The Wilson administration was so heavy handed and unpopular that the Senate destroyed all chances of America joining the League of Nations and the next administration took an isolationist approach which was called the "Good Neighbor Policy" (as opposed to Wilson's nosy old biddy who won't stop calling the cops policy).

Then Emma Goldman's fortunes change and she comes face-to-face with idealists that she agrees with. Before she came to the Soviet Union, she could imagine it to be the perfect worker's paradise. She could assume that American capitalist was destroying everything and that only Communism could run a more perfect government. She could even dismiss critics of the Soviet Union as traitors. She certainly railed against the son of her friend when he served as a witness against radicals who actually bombed a newspaper office (she never seemed to care much about the people that could have been killed).

Yet, the Soviet Union kept betraying her from the moment when John Reed sounded blood thirsty in his assessment of what needed to be done (in the movie Reds, Goldman is attacking and Reed is on the defensive. In the book Reed is happily oblivious to the horror she feels at his statements). She meets Lenin and he says that freedom of speech is a bourgeois luxury. Anarchists are jailed. Formerly enemy generals are brought into the fold in order to fight against a former comrade general who got too concerned about feeding his men. The Kronstadt massacre is what ultimately destroys Goldman's faith in the good intentions of the Communists. And this massacre was planned and implemented by Trotsky so fuck all you Commie Rat Bastards who think that you can call yourselves Trotskyites as if that will expunge your guilt for endorsing such a terrible plan.

What makes matters even worse is that even as Goldman loses her faith in Communist Russia, she is inundated with former comrades like Bill Haywood who founded IWW who are eager to embrace Russia and dismiss all objections. They repudiate her criticisms and declare her to be a traitor and even when she leaves Russia she is still running in leftist circles that do not want to hear criticism against Russia.

Sadly, the book ends in 1932. Since she spent the 30s involved in the Spanish civil war, I wonder if her perspective on the Communists in Spain gibed with George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. Although I imagine her less patient since by the 1930s, the Communists' tactics were much more well known. Hell, the Nazis rose to power because of anti-Communist sentiment (there were many more reasons but when the voters have a choice of zealots, they tend to either stay away or vote against what they are most afraid of.)
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Books read in 2015 # 24 - Gender Issues [09 Apr 2015|05:32pm]
24. Tomboy by Liz Prince - One of the most enduring memes all over FB is the "what are appropriate toys for girls and what are appropriate toys for boys?" followed by the response "Are they sex toys? If they aren't sex toys then whatever the hell they want to play with." This seems to be a purposeful attempt to get over the gender roles that we grew up with. Like maybe we won't mess up our kids in the same way that we were messed up.

Reading Liz Prince's memoir (it's a graphic novel - the art is serviceable - I didn't like it at first because it was full of all those bendy arms and little perspective and dots for eyes - but it actually grew on me) brings up a lot of the gender expectations that have been part of my life for years. It's an interesting thing to realize that gender is constructed and many of the things that I've assumed to be just being masculine are about privilege. Not that this is particularly new, but it's always good to be just a little embarrassed with past attempts at trying to be "manly" by being a moron.

Anyhow Liz Prince is a cisgendered straight woman who grew up feeling more masculine than feminine - as constructed as those designations might be - and went through many of the problems of being mistaken for a boy, but also in the last bit realizing that she had internalized a lot of sexism in regards to what women and men were supposed to be. Boys can be "just one of the guys" and that kind of privilege gives them a great deal of latitude.

It's hard to do an objective review of this book since Liz Prince is giving a very personal memoir of her young life as a girl who liked to be a tomboy (and found girls who claimed to be tomboys but cried when their dresses were ruined to be suspect) and it brings up more issues of gender, but anyhow, this is a book that manages to be educational without being didactic. It's full of the heartbreak and dumb mistakes of youth and manages to not be condescending towards itself. It's funny without being cruel and overall it's a wonderful story by a promising talent.
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just a few things [08 Apr 2015|10:57am]
The chicken was rubber but covered in a jelly like substance that was supposed to be a sauce, just thin enough to not be jello.

The potatoes were white and just barely crossing the line between raw and edible.

There was no wine, only the same sugary grape juice that has been a substitute for wine since Jews came to America.

The maror was in short supply. They didn't serve horse radish. They just let us take it off the plate. And the horse radish was very tame.

The rabbi meant well, but no one should apologize for the "pour out your wrath" line.

There was a kid kicking me for most of the meal.

On the other hand, I was sitting next to a nice old lesbian couple and we all got what the turkey baster was used for (why they handed it to us, we don't know - it was the participation part of the evening).

All in all, definitely not the best seder I've attended (the worst was still when I was invited to the same seder as my friend Jeff who was having another breakdown and blamed me for his problems - so that one had bland food and a guy who wouldn't shut up about what an asshole I was - I swear I didn't deserve it that time. Also, I shouldn't joke about Jeff since he had a hard life and killed himself).
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Books Read in 2015 # 23 - BALZAC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [06 Apr 2015|10:37pm]
23. Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac - According to the afterwords on this book, this was the book where Balzac said "let's connect my books" and turned a generic young man character into the Eugene de Rastignac that had been in another book as a cynical bastard who gives evil advice. By this one action, he turned a book about a father who is way too indulgent of his two daughters (giving them funds to bail out their lovers, etc.) into a prequel of his previous book and many other books of that nature. He also introduced Vautrin, the gay Mephistopheles who shows up in later books attempting to manipulate even more people.

Actually, in my reading of Balzac, I read Life of a Courtesan first which is where Vautrin truly shines. That's a book where no one can get close to Vautrin and even when it looks like Vautrin might have to pay for his crimes, he manages to pull a neat trick and get out of it. By the end of the book, he becomes the chief of police (which is apparently based on a real person who was also the basis for Javert in Les Miserables) and the next book I read (Cousin Bette), he's got an important minor part as the agent that helps a character find a poisoner for one of the women that Cousin Bette is trying to use to destroy the family. By the time I read this book, I had more affection for the old devil and the fact that he gets caught in this book makes him all the more amusing. Knowing that this book is a prequel to both the stories of de Rastignac and Vautrin makes it all the more entertaining, even if the purposeful irony can be cute in the hands of a different writer.

Anyhow, I am one of those people who cannot recommend Balzac enough and I have a habit of wanting to read the lesser work before the greater stuff, but this is one of his great ones so now I just have to read the rest of his work.
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Books Read in 2015 # 20-22 - Superman vs. Batman vs. The Crypt Keeper [06 Apr 2015|02:10am]
20. Superman: The Power Within by Roger Stern & Willam Messner Loebs & Curt Swan - There's a popular conception that cannot be completely blamed on Frank Miller that states that Batman is cool but Superman is rather lame. This was not always the case. In the 60s, Batman was cheeseball gimmicks and Superman was always having an identity crisis and dealing with ghosts or the dozen permutations of Kryptonite. By the 80s, Batman got steadily darker as a comic while Superman just faded into a representaton of America and all that smug bullshit wrought by Reaganomics.

This comic is the quintessential shitty Superman story. There are actually two stories - one that was done as a weekly comic with the same two page spread over 50-60 weeks of dreadful plodding plot about a cult that worships Superman and a second cult that thinks he is a demon. Yet they are all too dumb to figure out that Clark Kent is writing "trust this guy" in heat vision on walls in order to gain their trust. The panels are divided into the same divisions and the art is all deadly flat. By the end of the story, Apokalips shows up and not even he can make things interesting. Apparently he gave all the Superman cultists super powers because - well just because.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the next story which was done in 22-page issues is about an Arab kid (whose dad is talking about the Shah) who gets superpowers from a magic belt and everything thinking that he is a terrorist. Why is it that clueless liberals are more odioius than outright racists? I could read a ton of Frank Miller's or Robert Howard's redneck bullshit before getting sick of it, but a story that is supposed to state that Arabs are just like you and me is queasy and creepy. Call it the Aaron Sorkin effect. The Arab characters are drawn like white people but with gray color as if they are reviving the old Hulk. And that's it. I shouldn't complain that they just look like gray-skinned WASPs since the alternative is to make them look like bad Nazi cartoons of hook-nosed Jews.

I was going to end this by saying that I hoped that Roger Stern stopped stinking up comics after this, but I looked him up and he wrote the Death of Superman story. Which makes sense since Stern had rendered Superman so boring and so inane that the only way for anyont to read him again was to kill him. And still he was pretty dull (although that Max Landis vidoe is great).

21. Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City by Peter Milligan and various artists - So this is as 90s as you can get with Batman. Riddler of all characters turns out to be a murderer. There was actually a Secret Origins story where Riddler is being interviewed and crying about how everyone is so grim these days and he doesn't really have a place anymoere because he's the last of the goofy villains with a gimmick. So he's killing people in this one as part of a plot to get Batman to meet up with a weird demon bat god that was summoned by a secret society. It's actually dumber than it sounds.

Anyhow, Peter Milligan is one of those writers that impressed the hell out of me when I was younger and now I just feel sad. He's actualy not as fallen in estimation as Frank Miller or Warren Ellis, but that's only because Shade The Changing Man was only halfway a cool book and I could see him losing interest as it continued on its road. Like the Superman comic above, there is a hamfisted attempt to be socially relevant but this one is not quite as irritating - it's about a Jewish guy who makes a golem and then feels guilty for not saving his friend during WWII. When Superman and BAtman are at their best, I still like Superman better - but in the hokey monthly grind - Batman tends to win out.

22. Tales from the Crypt: The EC Archives, vol. 5 - This series owes a great deal to Frederic Wertham. Without the alarmist bullshit of Wertham and the Kefauver committee, these comics would have faded. The art is beautiful and the stories are often bloody and violent, but msot of the time the storytelling is hackneyed. At least 80% of the stories in this collection begin with a scene and then go into exposition before coming back to the scene and the shocking conclusion (holy shit everyone in the town is a werewolf!!!!) and even when they don't get into that doldrum there is still an emphasis on the shocking plot as opposed to the characters. So a guy will be henpecked by his wife and her live-in parents to always push himself. So obvioiusly he is going to kill them all with an axe. Then there's the man who exchanges body parts with a young dude only to be beaten by that young dude to the woman he wanted, because she just wanted to marry rich after all. These tropes are not just sexist; they are also pretty lazy. Still, the artwork is cool.
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Books read in 2015 # 18 & 19 - Chick Lit? [06 Apr 2015|01:35am]
18. Aunt Dimity: Detective by Nancy Atherton - I was using this book as a launchpad to write about how women mystery writers - especially women mystery writers who write "cozy" mysteries - get much less respect than male mystery writers since they are writing about a world that is ordered and only needs a little sleuthing to restore order to the universe. Only LJ keeps refreshing and losing my writing, so I am going to make this fast. This book is fun. It's a fun book about a woman who loves her small town life and solves mysteries with the help of her dead aunt who speaks to her through a book where she writes out helpful ideas (and shows her exasperation by cross the "t"'s in a very annoyed manner. There's a dead woman and a lot of townspeople who have secrets that really don't come out to much, but the dead woman certainly made everyone seem much worse than they actually were.

While I do love the "masculine" mysteries (the marketing of these things is hard to ignore) I definitely wish I knew more about "cozy" mysteries because sometimes you don't want a nihilistic sense of dread with your mystery novel.

19. Bride's Story, vol 5 by Kaori Mori - I feel like I really should know more about the background of this story. In fact, I almost feel like confessing that at one point in my life used the word "exotic" to describe Asian women. I lived in Minnesota - still that's not an excuse. Anyhow this is a Japanese manga about a wedding in the 19th century, somewhere in Central Asia. I think that he tribespeople might be Turks but they could be several different tribes. Anyhow, it reminds me of Jewish weddings, but more of what I heard about Sephardic weddings - with plenty of food, fasting brides and grooms and this is all arranged so that the wedding participants barely knkow each other and as soon as the wedding is over, the brides are taller than their grooms because they are all like 14. Then there's a story about one of the women trying to save a hawk and then having to kill the hawk because it can't fly rihgt and no hawk should be a pet. I would love to see more by this artist but I really need to learn more about Central Asia (especially the -stans) in order to get more oriented.
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Books read in 2015 # 17 - Holy Fuck Westeros Dragons are fierce (also many other stories) [02 Apr 2015|11:41pm]
17. Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois - Of course, I bought this collection for the SOIAF prequel. It was the big selling point and there's nothing wrong with that since eventually I was going to read the rest of the collection. Hell, I was fortunate enough to get catvalente to let me reprint her Gilgamesh story for She Nailed a Stake Through His Head and that's my most profitable book.

So by the time I read the whole book, it would be the third time I read "The Princess and the Queen, or The Blacks and the Greens." The first time was when I bought the book and immediately read it. The second time, I read the story of Prince Daemon in the Rogues anthology and that story served as a prequel to this story because it set the groundwork for why all the characters were so eager not to let the other characters get on the throne.

I love this story. It's possibly the best thing related to Song of Ice & Fire and it's almost sad that Dance of the Dragons was already taken for the title of the fifth book. The tale takes place about two centuries before Game of Thrones (I think) and it's definitely before the major kings that keep getting referenced including Baelor the Blessed. There are so many reversals and betrayals in the story that it pretty much needs the historical textbook tone to keep it going. It begins with a king dying and his wife conspiring to go against his inheritance wishes by putting her son on the throne instead of his daughter. Martin gives a broad perspective of the double dealing and strategies but also the intimate moments where a small detail means the difference between life and death. I'm almost sad to report that I found the story in Rogues subpar by comparison since Prince Daemon is really a bastard in this one.

Most of the other stories are great. I didn't skip many of them - and usually I skipped the stories by the authors that I didn't like in the first place (Diana Gabaldon for example) and this was the first time I actually read Brandon Sanderson, so now I see why everyone seems to like him.

Particularly like the editors' choice of including all genres so you have a crime story next to a fantasy story next to a horror tale. Particularly liked Pat Cadigan's story of the two sisters who are dealing with their mom in the nursing home and the Lev Grossman story that may be an extension of his Magicians series.
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Books read in 2015 # 16 - Brian Wood again [01 Apr 2015|04:04pm]
16. The Massive vol. 4: Sahara by Brian Wood & Garry Brown - There is a point where you have read too much of one author. You learn the tricks. You see the weaknesses and you start to wonder why you are still going. The Massive feels like a Brian Wood book in many ways to the point where I was wondering why I didn't just re-read DMZ or even that first book where he was hating on Giuliani. The double dealing was in place. The protagonists isolated by their reluctant consciences were in place and there was also the feeling that while everyone was in some form of conspiracy, no one quite knew what was going on. You also had the impossibly wise and heroic woman who is in sharp contrast to the male hero's cynicism and cowardice. There's also the pointed jabs at modern politics like the obvious Blackwater reference.

This being a segment of an ongoing series, it's a little hard to say how much I would like the book if I knew the rest of the story and if I actually liked the rest of the story. As I said, there are a lot of Brian Wood tricks that I don't really care for as much as I once did.

In isolation, the first half of this book was a tedious spy story where the two most prominent members of the private Blackwater type army are being chased around the globe. They end up in the same place. They talk about a woman named Mary who looks 25 but seems much older in everyone's memories.

The second part is more interesting because it's a self-contained story with Mary leading a convoy of water suppliers through the desert with Saudi Arabia again being the main place for all the money. It's got a bit of a snide First World perspective on Third World problems where all the men are villains and one immortal woman is charged with protecting everyone from pirates and the businessmen who are going to sell them into slavery. But it's got enough characterization and plotting to get over the attitude implicit in the narrative.
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