Anything to put off the paper I should be working on

8thdoctor
You are the eighth Doctor! Friendly and warm, you
are the most human of all the Doctors. Your
sense of style is a bit old-fashioned. You have
a bit of trouble figuring out exactly who you
are at first, but no worries. Eventually you'll
find your way.

Which Doctor (from Doctor Who) Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


So I'm the guy who only gets one official adventure? Thanks heaps, Quizilla. Could be worse, though. I could've come up Hartnell.




More about that vast wasteland

My brain is fried from working on my Accounting and Organizational Behavior projects, so I want to talk about something that requires little or no thought whatsoever: good ol' television.

I'm glad to see that The Amazing Race is back for another season. This is really "the little show that could." It's not often a show gets the chance to build up an audience slowly; usually it's instant hit or straight to cancellation. Unless, of course, you happen to be on CBS, which lets shows find niche audiences and then leaves 'em on for damn near forever (do you even know anyone who watches JAG?). So that's one huge factor in TAR's favor. Plus, there's the fact that it's actually a decent show... certainly the best thing to come out of the reality TV boom, and its a darn good game show to boot. And thanks to (mostly) word of mouth, more people have been discovering that with each successive run (Erin and I came on board with Season 2).

This season seems like it should be a pretty good one. This group of contestants seems like they'll bring the proper mix of competitiveness and high drama. No favorites yet, but I already enjoy making fun of the high-strung blue-haired dude and his doormat wife. There's a functional relationship right there. I think if the wife pushes the guy off the mountain, the producers may pony up an extra million dollars to give to her for doing humanity a favor. It was also very cool to see that the first episode took place in Iceland, where Erin and I spent a few days on the way back from Scotland at the end of our honeymoon. We found it hilarious that people kept getting lost, since there are few major roads outside of Reykjavik (seriously, stay on the 1 and you'll see almost the whole country). We also thought it was great that the pit stop was at the Blue Lagoon, but hoped that the contestants got to enjoy the spa there (the building that those people who overshot the pit stop went into), because that is one of the more excellent places on Earth. Anyplace where you can swim outdoors in November and be perfectly warm (and enjoy a drink alongside some German tourists while doing so) is alright in my book.

Elsewhere, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi debuted on the Cartoon Network this week. This is a cartoon (duh) starring the ridiculously cute Japanese pop combo Puffy AmiYumi. It won't be remembered as one of the great classics of American TV animation, but it's a pleasant enough way to spend a half hour. Like the band itself, the overwhelming charm, aforementioned ridiculous cuteness and catchy-as-hell songs will probably win you over in the end. The bullfighting segment was particularly funny. The show is probably best in small doses, though. Prolonged exposure to this much sweet cuteness may cause diabetes.

Over on Earth-Comics...

I looked at that Spider-Man: India book today. Now, I realize that as far as Marvel is concerned, Spidey's a brand, not a character. And in order to achieve their goal of becoming a worldwide media conglomerate, they wish to extend that brand into new areas. And yes, sometimes brand extension requires a few cosmetic changes to work in those new areas, like when Coke alters their name or logo in order to sell in the Asian marketplace. Honestly, I understand all that, even if I don't necessarily like it. However, I'm thinking that if you want to market a book about an Indian version of Spider-Man to Indian people, maybe you should make the characters actually look Indian? Seriously, all the characters looked pretty caucasian and more than a little manga-esque. If you skim the book quickly, the clothes and architecture are the only outward indications of this having anything to do with India.

Had to get that off my chest. Thanks for indulging me. Anyway, here's a quick rundown of what I actually did read for real this week. There may be a spoiler or two, so, you know SPOILER WARNING and all that:

Fantastic Four 520 - I said it before, and I'll say it again: Waid knows how to write this book. It's a great mix of action, humor, and even a few emotional moments (Sue and Ben's memories of Johnny - especially the Sue bit - were legitimately touching, I thought). He gets that the smaller, familal aspects of the FF are just as important as the grander "imaginaut" stuff, and that's what this book should be: the story of a family who just happen to have these amazingly huge scale science-fictiony adventures in the Negative Zone or the Blue Area of the Moon or whereever. Plus, Quasar shows up, and I'm enough of a geek to find that kinda cool.

Plastic Man 12 - I was kind of underwhelmed here. I liked Scott Morse's last fill-in issue with Woozy Winks on a date, but here everything seemed really forced and unfunny. Of course, following up the last few issues by Baker (and that date story) would be tough for anyone, but still, this just seemed rushed to me.

Micronauts 13-15 - Everyone says the book went downhill when Michael Golden left the art chores after issue 12, but so far, things are still fine from my perspective. Bill Mantlo's next storyline kicked off to a fine start (even if the dialogue is a little hokey; fun cameos by SHIELD and the FF, though), and you've got Howard Chaykin on the drawing board (though his style isn't as immediately recognizable, likely due to the Al Milgrom inks), so what's not to love? Hard to believe there was a time when Marvel put so much energy into making a book based on a toy license actually be good. I mean, jeez, even Rom had its moments of general good-a-tude.

Some thoughts about what I've been seeing on the TV of late

1. Pedro Martinez, you are THIS close to being dead to me.

2. Okay, so I'm already tired of hearing about this Monday Night Football/Desperate Housewives fiasco. But what I don't get is this: considering people are still up in arms over the Janet Jackson thing - which happened nearly a year ago, mind you - why did anyone at ABC or the NFL think that this wouldn't kick off yet another national hissyfit?

3. Alton Brown is a genius. On a recent episode of his Food Network show, Good Eats, he not only recants his earlier claims that all stuffing is evil, but proves that the ideal stuffing recipe is nothing more than a culinary version of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. An odd assertion, to be sure, but somehow, he manages to make the metaphor work. Catch a repeat of the episode (called "Stuff It") and see for yourselves.

4. Apparently, CBS fired the guy who decided to pre-empt the final 5 minutes of CSI: New York with the news of Yassar Arafat's death. Maybe that says something about our country, and how we ultimately value entertainment more than hard news, but honestly, I don't really care about that. Unless it's something really pressing, like war, alien invasion or the second coming of Christ, I think they can wait until the top of the hour. Especially when the top of the hour would be 11 p.m., and the freakin' news would be on anyway!

Yeah, maybe my priorities are out of whack, but you just don't cut out of a mystery-type show just in time for the big reveal (and then cut back during the closing credits!) without expecting a few heads to roll.

I'm... I mean... wow.


Posted by Hello

World, this is my child (so far). Kid, this is everyone.

(The baby would wave to y'all, I'm sure, if it had arms at this point)

Yup. That there little walnut looking thing will, by June 2005, end up as Madeline or Liam Doughty (God willing... please, God, please be willing). At this point, Erin is about 9 weeks along. We've known about the baby for about a month now, but today was the first OB/GYN appointment, and therefore the first sonogram (sadly, I had to work and couldn't go with her, but at least I get a picture). It hasn't seemed real to me yet... with no initial outward signs, it all seemed largely conceptual to me (Erin, on the other hand, has been very aware of the full reality, being either nauseous, "fall asleep in your spaghetti tired," or both, at any given moment). But this... wow, this is really real and happening. I think it's just starting to sink in.

I'm gonna be a daddy! :)

Linkin' Logs

Shame? What's that?

First off, I received linking goodness from David Welsh over at Precocious Curmudgeon the other day, which is greatly appreciated and gladly returned. It's always a good read and well worth your time. Plus, there's this picture of Iron Man with an afro. It makes me happy.

Imperius Rex! Someone found Atlantis! Maybe. Or not. But it's possible. Theoretically. In any event, Namor, Aquaman, Lori Lemaris and Mark Harris were all unavailable for comment.

Via Augie at Various and Sundry: the teaser trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. No actual footage, but the idea that this movie is FINALLY happening is enough to start the fanboy salivation. If only DNA had lived to see this, you know?

Meanwhile, on Earth-Comics, Tom Spurgeon talks about the particular retail frustrations of comic book stores over at The Comics Reporter. Particularly in regard to how some comic stores never feel the need to actually open on time (yes, Million Year Picnic in Providence, I'm looking at you).

More later, because my other news deserves an entry all its own.

Quite possibly the greatest year in the history of history itself.

I should've posted this yesterday on the actual date, but grad school stuff had me busy, so here goes:

One year (and one day) ago, I married the most amazing woman ever. It sounds sappy, but I can honestly say this has been the best year of my life. Happy anniversary, Erin. I love you!

And no, I didn't forget my actual anniversary date. Between accounting class, working on two class projects and dealing with various and sundry familial issues, I didn't have time to post. But we did acknowledge the event with a quick lunch date and will celebrate in style Friday night.

On a related note, one year (and zero days) ago today (at around this time, no less), we were boarding a plane for Scotland. Wow, I would much rather be doing that then researching a paper on the merging of corporate cultures. Bleh.

Believing is Seeing (or, Cushlamochree!)

I want to talk about something happy now, so I 'm going to talk about Barnaby.

Barnaby was a newspaper strip created by Crockett Johnson back in the 1940s. You may have encountered Johnson before, as he's the creator of the popular Harold and the Purple Crayon series. Those books are a lot of fun, and if you like those (or just like things that are good in general), you should also get a kick out of Barnaby.

The title character is a typical young American boy whose life changes one night when his fairy godfather, Mr. O'Malley, flies through the window. O'Malley is a short, squat little man with pink wings and a cigar that doubles for a magic wand, and he's a real W.C. Fields type of character. He professes to be an expert on nearly every subject imaginable (he isn't), claims to be quite a handy magician (though we never seem him do much more than a card trick), and will go to any lengths imaginable to avoid work of any kind, preferring to raid Barnaby's parent's icebox (and its seemingly never-ending supply of cold legs of lamb).

Barnaby, naturally, takes to his fairy godfather immediately. Misadventures ensue, much to the chagrin of Barnaby's parents, who don't understand their child's fascination with his unusual new imaginary friend (and at one point haul him off to a child psychologist).

But is Mr. O'Malley really imaginary? That's part of the strip's charm. The situations O'Malley gets Barnaby involved in are outlandish (invisible leprechauns, talking dogs, disastrous radio broadcasts and so forth), but Johnson never gives us any indication that this stuff isn't really going on. In fact, Barnaby is constantly trying to prove to everyone that his fairy godfather really does exist, but by the time the parents show up, O'Malley has wandered off, either in search of food or to a meeting of the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society that he had previously forgotten (kind of like whenever Big Bird would try to tell everyone about Mr. Snuffleupagus).

Barnaby's parents tell him that they don't believe in Mr. O'Malley because they never see him, and seeing is believing. O'Malley turns this around on Barnaby, saying "Believing is Seeing." And I think that's the heart of the whole strip. Whether or not Barnaby's adventures are really "real" isn't important. They're real enough to him (and to Jane, the little girl down the street who later gets caught up in the happenings) because he believes, they way all children can make their backyard adventures come to life. It's all a matter of perception.

I'm willing to bet this strip was a huge influence on Calvin and Hobbes. The big difference, though, is that we occasionally see the imaginary bits that make up Calvin's colossal adventures (Hobbes as a toy, cardboard boxes and plastic dinosaurs), and Johnson never really lifts that curtain here (Barnaby is also much more well-behaved).

There's a lot of other stuff to recommend here, too. The strip is very much a product of its time, as we see references to stuff like old time radio and the then-new fascination with child psychology, and though the war is never outright mentioned, it does serve as a backdrop. Storylines involve air raid drill blackouts and scrap metal drives, and Mr. O'Malley has a great monologue at one point outlining the troubles of taking his proposed ventriloquist act on the road at that particular point in time (blackouts prevent seeing your name in lights on Broadway, and a tour of Europe isn't such a great idea). It could be very chilling, seeing the effects of war on even the lives of children, but to Barnaby, it's all just part of life at the moment, in the background but never really all consuming. Chalk another one up to the Greatest Generation, I suppose, because I doubt we'd never accept anything so terrible with that much rationality.

So besides just being a great comic strip (and yet more proof that the funny pages used to be so much better than they are today), it's an interesting cultural artifact in its way.

And Johnson's art is really enjoyable. Nice, simple lines, clean layouts... very minimal, really. Enough to set the scene, but not much more (but it doesn't come off as lazy - we're not talking Ernie Bushmiller-era Nancy here). The style lies somewhere between Peanuts and a Saturday Evening Post cartoon. If you've ever read the Harold books, you know what I'm talking about.

There is a downside to all this, though, as collections are long out of print. It has been collected sporadically from the 40s all the way up to the 60s or 70s, so there are older copies are out there in the world. You just have to be willing to hunt for them. I found a copy of the first 40s collection published by Holt on eBay a few months back for around $10. It can be difficult to find sometimes, but it's well worth it, especially since this doesn't look to be coming back into print anytime soon. It's a travesty, really. Someone needs to bring this back to the light of day. It's the sort of thing Kitchen Sink would've been perfect for, I think. Surely Fantagraphics is making enough off of Complete Peanuts to fund a project like this, hm?

P.S.

In that last post, I sound pretty staunchly anti-Republican. That's not true... not really, anyway. I feel the same way about both parties - they both have some stances I identify with and some that I outright hate, and therefore neither really represents the way that I feel. Because, you know, I'm a rational being with a brain in my head, and sometimes I use it to actually think about things, rather than blindly follow party allegiance like some kind of diseased sheep.

Jeez, that didn't sound bitter at all, did it?

All that being said, though, if the Republicans had run John McCain 4 years ago, I would have voted differently then and now, and I think we'd all be looking at a much different America.

And if the Dems had run Wesley Clark this year, well, they still might've lost, but at least I'd have believed more strongly in the guy I voted for.

Electile Dysfunction: The Final Chapter

Yeah, I'm disappointed. Not terribly surprised, but disappointed. You see, the majority of Americans were, are and probably always will be scared of anything they consider different than themselves. Therefore, it's really not all that surprising that a campaign that played up to two of the biggest fears of the early 21st century (terrorism and - GASP! - gay marriage) ended up walking away the winner.

I think this proves just how out of touch the Democrat party is with most of the country.* The truck driver from Mississippi, the hog farmer from Oklahoma, the evangelical minister from Louisiana... they don't care about tax cuts and health care and budget deficits. They want to be protected from the suicide bombers, and the homos, and probably the homo suicide bombers, too. The Democrats tried to run on a platform of change. People, by and large, aren't interested in change. Change is different, and therefore bad. They're interested in the preservation of their way of life (even if in some cases its pretty hateful). The Republicans understood that and were able to capitalize on it.

Furthermore, I'm thinking the constant celebrity proselytizing didn't help matters for the Dems, either. When celebrities aren't on the screen, the stage or the playing field, most Americans (and I include myself in this group) really could care less about what they think. Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn are brilliant actors**, but people are sick to death of constantly hearing them preach about one subject or another. Fahrenheit 9/11 was a decent film, and it brought up some very good points, but Michael Moore himself is the biggest detriment to his own cause because he's such a raging, arrogant asshole. And unless you have the looks of a Leonardo DiCaprio or can hit as well as Barry Bonds (BALCO!) to back up that arrogance, no one is gonna tolerate you. And even if you do have the genetics or skills to back it up, you still better keep your opinions to yourself, because all you're good for is looking pretty or hitting baseballs, chumpy.

Okay, now I'm rambling. In the end, I guess I'm mostly bummed the guy I voted for didn't win. But that doesn't mean I'm going to capitulate or pack up and move to Canada or anything (though as Erin said, "Canada is lovely this time of year."). Ultimately, I have no choice but to do what I can on however small a level to work against the current "us vs. them" mentality currently so prevalent here in this country, even if it does make me a "bad American" (which someone actually called me once. Isn't that lovely?). It seems kind of hopeless, but I'm still naive and idealistic enough to think one person working on a grass roots level can actually accomplish something. I'm sure that'll be beaten out of me someday, so I should work with it while I still can.

I just feel sorry for anyone in this country who's gay. Or non-Christian. Or poor. Scientists will have it pretty rough, too. And teachers... librarians...

Oh, bother.


*I'd argue both parties are out of touch with reality, which is why I don't consider myself a member of either one, but hey, no one listens to me.

** Well, okay, Penn is more of a whiny, overwrought "emoter" than an actor, and he never should've beaten Bill Murray for the Oscar, but he's notable and vocal, so I had to include him. Begrudgingly.

Electile Dysfunction 2: Electric Boogaloo

I need to share this story. Can't believe I didn't earlier.

A local town council hopeful is a doctor, and his wife was standing outside the polling place trying to garner up last minute votes by handing out...

wait for it...

TONGUE DEPRESSORS. With "Dr. Schwaeger for E.G. Town Council" printed on the wrapper.

This is, officially, the oddest promotional item I have ever received for anything. Ever. Even more odd than the time at my college radio station when a record label sent us a box of Summer's Eve just for fun.

Needless to say, I voted for the guy. Points for originality, you know?

Electile Dysfunction

I wish I had come up with that term. As it is, I'll just have to be satisfied with stealing it.

So I went and voted today. I actually had to wait in line. I thought that was pretty cool.

Please vote today. It's really important. Vote for anyone you like, but be sure you're making an informed decision. We're talking about the future here, people.

Me? I voted for Brother Voodoo.

Okay, fine, not really. But part of me wishes I could have.

Anyway, here's hoping we actually have a result tomorrow. Or at least before Thanksgiving this time.