'Serfs 2: Electric Boogaloo?

Today I started reading Douglas Coupland's latest novel, JPod, and it's sort of a weird experience. The tech industry setting, the striving to be profound pop cultural diatribes, the dada-esque computer jargon-as-word-art... it's sort of like revisiting Microserfs a decade later, except so far, most of the characters seem kinda like dicks. Bizarroserfs, then? And it's not even like he's backtracking, really; it's almost as if he's doing his impression of someone doing a Douglas Coupland impression. In fact, he sort of calls himself on it in the very first lines of the book.

I wonder what led to this decision? Is it some sort of writing exercise, or was he maybe tired of all the morons like me who kept wondering aloud to anyone who would listen why his writing seemed to go downhill after Girlfriend in a Coma? Is this just a "All they want is Microserfs again? Here's yer goddam Microserfs!" sort of reaction?

This is either an astonishingly lazy or brilliantly meta move on Coupland's part, but this is the first novel he has written in a very long time that I actually want to finish, so I guess he wins either way.

And for my next trick...

Tonight I was able to read the tabs and bang out something that sounds sort of like the beginning to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd (if you use your imagination) on my guitar, and I also finally finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

I would like to announce to the world that - for one night only, anyway - I kind of rock.

Thank you.

The Beautiful People and Comics - I realize they shouldn't co-exist in the same post, but what're you gonna do?

A question: are European teenagers, on the whole, more attractive than their American counterparts, or is it just that they don't let the ugly ones travel off-continent? I ask because the college is currently hosting some sort of cultural exchange camp that lets kids from other countries acclimate themselves to American culture before they start the year as high school exchange students, and when they all come in to check their email, it looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue shoot in here.

I've been checking out some of the bits of "big news" coming out of Sandy Eggo, and either I'm getting older and don't care about this stuff as much as I used to, or else a lot of it really is underwhelming. A few things sounded kind of cool, though:
  • I love the idea of releasing the "lost" Stan Lee & Jack Kirby issue of Fantastic Four as a special project. Definitely worth checking out, I think; I just hope they don't try to color it in a way that makes it look "aged," like they did with the recent FF/Black Panther reprint.
  • I think doing New Frontier and The Judas Contract as animated movies is a brilliant step for DC and Warner Brothers to take, and I hope they're successful enough that we can see more adaptations like that down the line. Personally, I'd love to see animated versions of The Golden Age, or The Great Darkness Saga.
  • Frank Miller helming the film adaptation of The Spirit? I know a lot of people are panning the idea right out of the gate, but I don't know, I think it could work. If adapted similarly to Sin City - i.e., translating the unique visual flourishes of the original work to the big screen - it could actually be kind of cool. Just think of all the weird uses of color, the odd camera angles, the buildings-as-logos/narrative devices that could make their way into that. So long as Miller avoids doing stuff like "I'm the goddamn Spirit," and maybe trims the character of Ebony White altogether, it may just come together.
  • I'm psyched that Ramona Fradon, Jim Steranko, and Russ Manning all made it into the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame this year, but instead of Vaughn Bode, I think I would've preferred to see Robert Kanigher, Harold Gray, or Mart Nodell make it instead, especially Nodell... of all the comics people I've ever met (which isn't a lot, but still) he's one of the classiest and by far the nicest, and I'd like to see him make it while he's still alive to enjoy it. Admittedly my own biases may play a part here, though, as I'm not the biggest underground fan you'll ever meet.

The thing that floored me the most, though, was something that the folks at Comic-Con probably will praise but I interpret as actually being a negative thing: the possibility of 125,000+ attendees, and a floor so crowded on Saturday they stopped selling tickets and considered shutting folks out for awhile like what happened with New York and Wondercon (or did they actually do this?). See, every now and then I think I should make the Nerd Prom pilgrimage one of these years, but it's stories like this that discourage me from actually doing it (well, that and the money. Probably more because of the money, truthfully, but that's beside the point). I really hate big crowds, and having to push my way through them, and generally feeling lost among the people and the booths and such.

And on a related note, now that Comic-Con is almost in the history books, it occurs to me that my trip out to Wizard World Chicago is now incredibly imminent. Only two weeks away... jeez, that snuck up on me. And on their info page for the con, Wizard has posted the programming schedule and the floorplan. I'm only gonna be at the show on Friday, and there don't appear to be any events planned I'm particularly interested in, so that's one less thing to worry about (I don't typically bother with the panels at these things, anyway - I'm that rare beast who actually goes to cons to look for comics). But that floor plan... jeez, this show looks big. Certainly bigger than any I've ever been to. The last two big cons I attended (both Wizard shows, by coincidence), Philly '04 and last year's first & last Boston con, appear downright tiny compared to this, at least on paper anyway. Those feelings of fear and loathing re: crowds and pushing and hugeness I mentioned above may well play a part in this particular trip. Oh well, maybe this will be a good test to see whether or not I'd ever be able to even consider a trip to Sandy Eggo in the future. Regardless, I'm hoping Friday retains its feeling of being the "slow" day.

I'm also not looking forward to the flight, by the way, but that's something different altogether.

And despite how it sounds, I'm actually looking forward to this trip (comics, sightseeing, a Cubs game, hopefully a side trip to Superdawg... what's not to look forward to?). You should hear what I sound like when I don't want to go somewhere.


The ridiculous Triple H* weather we've been having the past few days finally broke today, due in large part to a thunder storm last night that had to be one of the most apocalyptic looking storms I've ever seen - downpours, lightning strikes every few seconds, wind gusts of up to 75 mph at one point, the whole nine yards. Oh yeah, that was a fun drive home from work. Anyway, I'm glad that I'm able to once again able to undertake as simple an action as wiggling my toes without breaking out into the sweats, but I think the damage has been done. The intense heat is gone, but the lethargy it induced remains. Can't seem to work up the energy or even the inclination to do a damn thing. This blog entry is probably the most active thing I've done all day long.

Don't know why I'm sharing this with you, but at least it makes me feel like I did something today. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Actually, that's not exactly true. I do know why I'm sharing this. I wanted to say how I'm already sick to death of people talking about Comicon in Sandy Eggo, but I figured just coming out and saying "Dear world, please shut the hell up about Comicon already" would sound pretty bitchy. So I figured prefacing it with something unrelated would be a little less harsh.

In the interest of fairness, though, when I start yammering on about going to Chicago in a few weeks, you can tell me to shut the hell up right back.

*That stands for Hazy, Hot, and Humid, by the way, not Hunter Hearst Helmsley

In space, no one can hear you sing... thankfully.

"The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," either the low point of Leonard Nimoy's career or its peak. You be the judge.

Spock keeps some cute company, though; I'll give him that.

In lieu of flowers, just send cash.

My obituary (found via Greg at Delenda Est Cathargo, who also includes a picture of a bikini-clad Yvonne Craig in the midst of this monster post, so he is clearly doing the Lord's work):

'What" will your obituary say?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Okay ramblers, let's get ramblin'.

If it hasn’t aired yet in your particular corner of the world, you really should check out “Tintin and I” on the PBS documentary series P.O.V. It’s a really excellent film about the life of Tintin creator Georges Remi, a.k.a. Herge, and how his experiences shaped the adventures of Belgium’s favorite boy reporter and his various hangers-on. The story is told largely through audio tapes from an interview Herge did with a writer in 1971 – a brief meeting for a magazine article turned into a soul-searching 4-day discussion and a book that the film takes its name from – and is interspersed with interviews, newsclips, and some interesting looks at the artwork itself. A lot of attention is paid to Tintin in Tibet, which was really interesting to me personally, as it’s one of the few Tintin albums I actually own, so I really want to re-read it now knowing what was going on behind the scenes. And then I think I need to seek out the rest of the series, because I’m super-interested now and realize how little of it I’ve actually read (most of my exposure to these stories comes from the Nelvana-produced animated series that aired on HBO and Nickelodeon 10 years or so ago).

Seek this film out and watch it. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the adventures of Tintin, it’s first-class documentary filmmaking, and compelling viewing throughout; so good I actually dug out a tape to save a copy, which is a rare occasion for me these days indeed, with this being the age of DVR and all.

Apparently, Juliana Hatfield’s side-project band, Some Girls (in which she plays alongside Heidi Gluck and fellow ex-Blake Baby Freda Love) have a new album out, “Crushing Love.” Why don’t I already own this? I must be slipping in my old age. Sorry, Juliana! I’ll correct this situation as soon as I can scrape together some CD cash.

I’m nothing if not a fiercely loyal fan. But in the interest of full disclosure, you know how everyone has that one, officially certified and agreed upon Fantasy Get Out of Marriage Free Card? Juliana Hatfield is mine. Though I’d make her eat some cheeseburgers first… the woman has been too skinny these past few years! Last time we saw her in concert, she looked like she’d pull a Sister Bertrille and blow away in a strong breeze.

Erin’s Fantasy Get Out of Marriage Free Card, by the way, is Jake Gyllenhaal. Though based on the way she talks lately, it may now be Peter Sarsgaard. Someone with excess “a’s” in their name, anyway.

This young couple (around 19 to 20ish) was sitting at the computers in the library for a few hours tonight, and they kept leaning in close to each other. Like, disturbingly close to each other. To the point where I couldn't tell if they were whispering or licking each other's ears. My work-study student had a better vantage point than I, and told me that yes, there may in fact have been some ear licking going on.

While I'm glad to see that foreplay has not died out among the young'uns, I'd really rather not have to see the floor show in public, kids. At least take it up to the stacks like everybody else does so the staff people (and the dozens of visiting scientists currently here for a conference) don't have to watch!

Comics! Woo! I’ve read some good stuff lately. Here are some brief thoughts:

Locas: The Maggie & Hopey Stories – Erin got me this for Father’s Day. My wife rules. So yeah, I’ve liked the bits of L&R stuff I’ve read through the years, but I always preferred Jaime Hernandez’s stories to those of Gilbert or Mario. And now I have all of Jaime’s Maggie & Hope stories from Volume 1 in one hefty tome, so I’m a happy boy. I’m still in the early, sci-fi influenced stuff right now, so the characters haven’t fully blossomed yet, but it’s still brilliant. Definitely fun to see genius in the making.

Carl Barks’ [sic] Greatest DuckTales Stories Volume 1 – Apostrophe misuse aside (It should be “Barks’s.” Grrrr…), this is a great collection, and long overdue (where was this back when DuckTales was still airing?!?). You could get away with calling this Barks’s Greatest Hits and be pretty accurate. If you want to learn more about this Carl Barks fellow your really geeky friends talk about, start here. Or if you ever watched DuckTales and want to reminisce, get this and see how much better the original stories were (to be fair, though, I liked DuckTales – a lot of Barks fans dump on it, but if not for the show, I’d have never discovered Barks’s work in the first place).

Detective Comics #821 – Written by Paul Dini, one of the creators of Batman: The Animated Series! So, you know, good and stuff. Batman solves a crime through some basic detective work, and then busts some heads, and it’s all relatively angst-free. That shouldn’t be revolutionary storytelling for a Batman book, but after the last few years, it really is, as well as being a welcome breath of fresh-air. And next month features the Riddler! Me am happy. Paul Dini, I am once again drinking the Kool-Aid. Thanks for bringing the real Batman back from the TeeVee and putting him into the funny books again.

Uncanny X-Men #475 – You know what? I didn’t hate it. In fact, I kind of liked it. Ed Brubaker includes enough details about what happened on X-books I didn’t read that I was able to catch up on events, but I didn’t feel buried by a Claremontian heap of excess exposition. The mix of top-level and lesser mutant characters is a unique and interesting one (He made Warpath seem cool, fer cryin’ out loud. Warpath!). And any plan that starts “First, you need to steal a spaceship.” automatically arouses my curiosity. I’m at least sticking around for part 2.

Action Philosophers Giant-Sized Thing – The one philosophy class I took in college was taught by this really soft-spoken, dull, elderly Scandinavian guy who kept yammering on about Plato’s idea of Philosopher Kings. Had he included Plato’s beginnings as a wrestler, the oddly fascist nature of said Philosopher King idea, or even had him talk in third-person Incredible Hulk dialogue, I might have actually stayed awake. This book is to philosophy what The Sandwalk Adventures is to biology – it’s Fun Comics, and if you’re not careful, you might just learn something before it’s done. Hey, hey, hey. I hope the creators are at Wizard World Chicago, because I must own a “Plato Smash!” t-shirt.

Shameless Shilling and the Promise of YouTube Fulfilled At Last.

Support Bill's trip to the Chicago comic con (and a Cubs game), and buy some stuff over on the eBay!
As always, bid early, often, and honestly!

Now, since you sat through that, I give you, as stated above, the Promise of YouTube Fulfilled At Last - the long-banned "Adoption" episode of You Can't Do That on Television, presented in three parts:

You Can't Do That On Television - Adoption Part 1

Adoption part 2

Adoption part 3

It's post-Moose, Alasdair, Lisa, and a lot of the classic cast members, but it's still funny stuff. Let's get this show on DVD already, people!

Long, rambly post.

So yeah, as if you couldn't tell from the last post, I'm back from my vacation and have returned, kicking and screaming all the way, to the working world. Bleh. I'm really quite angry at the Powerball people and their refusal to let me win. I plan on filing a formal complaint.

Anyway, we had a fun time. Rather than make the 5 hour trek to Bangor, Maine, directly and then go to see everyone else from there, we decided to take our trip in short hops in the hope that Liam would like it better and not wail bitterly for hours on end to the point where baby heroin (better known to the rest of the world as Laurie Berkner CDs) wouldn't calm him down. It didn't quite work out as well as we hoped, but at least by the time the crying started on any given leg, we were almost there, as opposed to having several hours left to drive. So we had that going for us, which was nice.

We spent the first few days with our friend Jill and her family lounging around at Sebago Lake, which is just outside Gorham, for those of you keeping track at home. Lots of swimming and relaxing, and when Liam took his naps, I even got some reading in. A great and very relaxing time, and by removing ourselves from the presence of computers and television and the like, our two days and change by the lake seemed easily twice as long. But in that good way. We also drove into the town of Naples, where I consumed just about the finest lobster roll I ever did eat (and I loves me some lobster, so that's saying something), and somewhere along the line, we also discovered Munchies. Munchies is sort of like Chex Mix, but with different varieties of Frito-Lay brand chips - Doritos, Cheetos, Rold Gold pretzels, etc. Snack food greatness, I daresay.

From there, we moved on to the Greater Jay-Farmington Metro Area, which as as swinging a spot as you're gonna find in Western Maine. This is, of course, a big fat lie, but a whole bunch of our friends live there, so it generally ends up being fun all the same. People gathered, ate some fine grilled foods, Liam kept chasing after a cat, and a bunch of us tried to remember the name of that show on NBC where Robert Mitchum played a homeless man who was adopted by a couple of orphan kids to pretend to be their grandfather (it ended up being "A Family for Joe;" thanks, Annie!). Then, the next day, we saw our friends' daughter in the Farmington 4th of July parade. She was supposed to be ringing bells, but she's about 19 months old, so all she really did was sit in her stroller and look adorable. Good times.

Then, onto Bangor, which is where I grew up and my parents still live. Bangor has never been a particularly fun place to visit, but my parents have a pool now, so that makes it a good place to be for a few days in the summer. We hung out, did some swimming, visited with the fam, and as I said in the prior post, yes, we did the Mentos/Diet Coke trick. Even if the 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke hadn't been on sale, it would've been money well spent, I say. My dad seemed unimpressed, though. I think he expected the bottle to actually explode or something. Which, yeah, would've been even cooler, but still.

We came home Friday night, and Saturday managed to get out to see Superman Returns, which was one of the worst movie-going experiences I've ever had. Erin and I were the first ones in the theater, and the next group of people, a bunch of loud 50-somethings, with a whole theater full of seats to choose from, sat directly next to us. They chattered through the whole movie. So did the people behind us, who also farted a couple of times. Loudly. Someone else brought a baby, who cried throughout most of the last 45 minutes. One guy's cell phone went off, but at least he had the courtesy to answer quickly and leave the theater to take the call, so he can live. Honestly, the only things missing were some teenagers with a laser pointer and, I don't know, maybe a knife fight. Hell is truly other people.

The movie itself, though, was okay. Some great scenes (the plane rescue!), and some decent performances, but it was just okay. I really think Parker Posey should've been playing Lois Lane, and Kate Bosworth should've been someplace else entirely. Yeah, she's cute, but so aren't a billion other people. Posey is cute, but she can also act, so she wins. Also, it bugged me that absolutely no one but Jimmy cared that Clark came back (I think by Superman 2, it was pretty firmly established that Clark had some friends at the paper, like, I dunno, Lois maybe? Sheesh.) And the whole subplot with the kid was just needless and stupid. That one's gonna be the elephant in the room come sequel time. Maybe they can forget that ever happened, kind of like how they forgot Superman 3 and 4. But it was decent enough afternoon entertainment, I guess. But next time, can I have a Superman movie that actually has some Superman stuff in it? Like Superman fights off an alien invasion, maybe a giant robot or two? I'm tired of him moping around and foiling what are essentially real estate schemes.

"What I Learned On My Summer Vacation In Maine" by Bill, age 30.

1. The boy really does not like car trips longer than 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours max. Not that I blame him.

2. Inflatable swimming toys have this thing now that prevents air from automatically escaping the second you stop blowing into the little valve, but it ends up making them really hard to inflate. Or deflate, for that matter.

3. I'm used to bites from black flies and mosquitoes. They're annoying, but that's about it. Deer fly bites, though? Those kind of hurt.

4. I could not find Humpty Dumpty brand ketchup-flavored potato chips anywhere I looked. It's a sad time for the state of Maine.

5. There's now a pawn shop in my hometown of Bangor called Needful Things. I hope Stephen King (a resident of Bangor, for those who don't know) gets a kickback off of that. Not that he needs it, but still.

6. Radio in Maine is just as bad as I remembered it. Unless you like country or adult comtemporary, you are largely S.O.L. if you stick with terrestial radio north of Portland (and even then, your only other choices are WCYY and the FNX affiliate).

7. The Fourth of July parade in Farmington is everything a local parade should be - local color, folks handing out candy, a few politicians shoring up some votes for the fall, a local band or two, and lots of cute kids and dogs. Best of all, it's short, so you''re not left baking in the sun all morning. Plus, free hot dogs and popcorn.

8. The boy really dislikes swimming in cold lakes. Again, can't say as I blame him. He didn't mind my parents pool as much, though, once he was given time to acclimate himself to the water. But for the most part, he prefers a nice, warm bath.

9. Thanks to my brother, I learned that the Mentos/Diet Coke trick is really cool in person, but doesn't work as well with a regular 12 ounce bottle as it does a 2 liter one.

10. My family owes us many, many visits now, because it's really difficult to make a 5 hour car trip with a toddler.