Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Back to catch-up on books.

  • Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac. I last read this in college and reread it for The Usual Suspects book club, but there hasn't been a lot of discussion about it. (Possibly we're all burnt out from the Faulkner.) (Checked out of the library.)
  • Silly Daddy by Joe Chiapetta. (Library.)
  • Runaways, vol. 2: Teenage Wasteland by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona & Takeshi Miyazawa. I quite enjoy Vaughan's series Y: The Last Man and decided it was time to start looking at his other work.
  • Dead Memory by Marc-Antoine Mathieu. (Library.)
  • Captain Marvel, vol. 4: Odyssey by Peter David, Aaron Lopresti, Pat Quinn, & Keith Giffen. I enjoyed this comic & would have liked to have seen where David would have gone with it, but apparently sales weren't good enough to continue publishing it (although they were good enough to collect the final storyline).
  • Mister Blank: Exhaustive Collection by Chris Hicks.
  • I Don't Love You!: The Best of Migraine Boy by Greg Fiering. (Library.)
  • Video Girl Ai, vol. 1: Preproduction by Masakazu Katsura. More manga. (Library.)
  • The Essential Starchild, Book 1 by James Owen.
  • The Remarkable Worlds of Professor Phineas B. Fuddle by Boaz Yakin & Erez Yakin. A rather fun steampunkish type adventure, but the art really didn't work for me. The pages are very busy, with lots of details, and the whole thing feels very flat. There's nothing that draws your eyes to what's important on the page, so you have to look around, figuring out what you should be paying attention to. In part I blame the colorist (Angus McKee), because there's no shading; it's all flat, and because pretty much all the colors are the same darkness. There isn't really anything to distinguish the foregrounds from the backgrounds, and it all blends together. This is odd, because McKee has done some wonderful color work in the past.
  • Batman: Broken City by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso. (Library.)
  • American Elf: James Kochalka's Collected Sketchbook Diaries. Every day, Kochalka draws a cartoon (usually 4 panels) about some aspect of his day. The book collects 5 years' worth of these cartoons. When I've read Kochalka's work in the past, it never really grabbed me (although I did like it enough to keep checking his books out of the library), but I really enjoyed this. Each individual cartoon isn't much, but the accumulation of them works very well. As you read, you slowly build up a sense of what Kochalka and his life are like. Very good. (Library.)

Still not caught up, but I'm getting there.
I guess I should talk a bit about how my first day at the canvassing job went.

I was very nervous about going door to door & talking to people. That feeling was compounded somewhat by my awareness of just how much older I am than the vast majority of the other people doing this job. The guy who trained me is only 19; I'm nearly twice his age.

So for the first part I watched him work, then I was supposed to do the talking while he watched. But not once did he let me finish the spiel. Every single time I talked to somebody while he was there, he stepped in & took over. This made me feel like I was doing a horrible job & that my first day would be my last. However, once I started working on my own & was able to actually talk to people (even if I was a little hesitant), I started gaining some more confidence. Talking to some people back at the office helped too. I think I'll get the hang of this.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention just how old the job makes me feel. I'm not the oldest person working there, but the vast majority of the other canvassers are quite young & full of fire & idealism. It makes me feel ancient.
It's been a while since I did posted the results of an online quiz.

The Moon Card
You are the Moon card. Entering the Moon we enter
the intuitive and psychic realms. This is the
stuff dreams are made on. And like dreams the
imagery we find here may inspire us or torment
us. Understanding the moon requires looking
within. Our own bodily rhythms are echoed in
this luminary that circles the earth every
month and reflects the sun in its progress.
Listening to those rhythms may produce visions
and lead you towards insight. The Moon is a
force that has legends attached to it. It
carries with it both romance and insanity.
Moonlight reveals itself as an illusion and it
is only those willing to work with the force of
dreams that are able to withstand this
reflective light. Image from: Stevee Postman.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Huh. I never would have picked The Moon for me.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Okay, now that I finally got that out of my system, time to catch up with what else I've been reading.

  • Maison Ikkoku, vol. 5 by Rumiko Takahashi.
  • Maison Ikkoku, vol. 6 by Rumiko Takahashi.
  • Astro Boy, vol. 23 by Osamu Tezuka. The final volume in this series collecting all the Astro Boy stories. (Checked out of the library.)
  • Supreme Power, vol. 1: Contact by J. Michael Straczynski & Gary Frank. The creator of Babylon 5 re-works Marvel Comics' version of the Justice League.
  • Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya, adapted by Max Allan Collins. A manga version of Batman. (Library.)
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 1 by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neil. I reread this because I finally got around to reading
  • Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Guide to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Jess Nevins. Nevins has annotated all the literary references in LoEG. My name appears in the aknowledgements (along with a couple hundred other peope) because I contributed to the annotations when Nevins was first compiling them & putting them up on the Web. (But the one thing I know I contributed to the Web list didn't make it into the book because it wasn't a literary reference, but a suggestion as to what was happening in a slightly confusing point in the book.) Reading this & rereading LoEG made me want to read volume 2, but I'm going to wait for Nevins' companion volume; it should be out next month.
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. The Usual Suspects Faulkner Seminar continues. (Library.)
  • Masters of Luck and Death by various. A sourcebook for the HeroQuest role-playing game.
  • The Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather by Ron Zimmerman and John Severin. I think it was a slow news day when Marvel Comics announced that they were reviving this character from the days when cowboy comics sold, but now he'd be gay, because it got a lot of attention. It sounded to me like a lame attempt to be relevant, but what none of the news stories mentioned was that the whole thing was going to be humorous. This isn't serious at all. There's a school-marm character named Laura Ingulls who is always talking about her Pa and growing up in a small house on the prairie. It's quite funny. Plus, it has art by John Severin, who I like a lot.
  • Exiles, vol. 5: Unnatural Instincts by Chuck Austen & Clayton Henry. Reading this, I learned that I was right to only buy the Exiles collections written by Judd Winick. (Library.)
  • Isaac the Pirate, vol. 1: To Exotic Lands by Christophe Blain. (Library.)
  • Jimmy Olsen Adventures, vol. 1 by Jack Kirby. As a friend said, this book "hurts my brain," but it does so in a good way. Kirby was a visionary, and (despite the efforts of many) nobody else has every captured the essence of his work. Plus, this volume has a story guest-starring Don Rickles! How can you go wrong? (Library.)
  • GURPS Mars by James L. Cambias. Four versions of Mars for role-playing games, from scientifically plausible to extremely pulpy.
  • Halo & Sprocket: Welcome to Humanity by Kerry Callen. (Library.)
  • Captain America: Cap Lives by Dave Gibbons & Lee Weeks. (Library.)
  • Wolverine: Snikt! by Tsutumu Nihei. A manga version of Wolverine. (Library.)
  • The Unspeakable Oath, no. 16/17 by various. Scenarios, resources, etc. for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game.
  • Trigun, vol. 1: Deep Space Planet Future Gun Action!! by Yasuhiro Mightow. I don't know whether the manga or the anime came first, but whichever did, the other is a pretty faithful adaptation of it. A science fiction western.
  • Who Let the Dogs In?: Incredible Political Animals I Have Known by Molly Ivins. A collection of essays by Ivins from throughout her career, but the emphasis is on her more recent work. (Library.)
  • Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel by Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudin, and Kyle Baker. Although this is supposed to be a graphic novel, there are many times it feels more like a heavily illustrated screen play. Anyway, the plot is about the city of East St. Louis seceeding from the US after the events of the 2000 election. (Library.)
  • Rosetta, A Comics Anthology, vol. 2 by various. (Library.)
  • The Complete D.R. & Quinch by Alan Moore & Alan Davis. Silliness.
  • Scary Godmother: Spooktacular Stories by Jill Thompson. This is a collection of several Scary Godmother one-shots. Lots of fun.
  • Smax by Alan Moore & Zander Cannon. This is a spin-off of Moore's Top Ten series, but what that does with superheroes, this does with fantasy tropes. The backgrounds are full of references to fairy tales, fantasy novels, etc.
  • Buzzboy, vol. 2: Monsters, Dreams & Milkshakes! by John Gallagher w/Rich Faber. (Library.)
  • Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown. More non-fiction comics. (Library.)
  • Dreadstar, vol. 3: Plan M by Jim Starlin.
  • Certified Cool by various. This is an anthology comic that didn't work for me.

Well, I'm still not caught up, but I made some progress. Out of time now. More later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Okay, so I'm finally going to get around to writing down why I didn't like Criminal Macabre (I'm not going to link to it at Amazon again; once was enough).

A while back, I read another book by Niles (scroll down to the entry on 30 Days of Night), and I didn't like that one either. I probably should have learned my lesson from that, but I figured that my dislike of the first book was just me being anal-retentive. Now that I've read more by him, I have concluded that he's a sloppy writer & needs an editor who will call him on it.

First I'll go into the nit-picky thing that bothered me about this book. At one point, it is revealed that a sample of bubonic plague has been stolen from a lab. People are understandably concerned about this, but one of the scientists from the lab tries to calm them down by explaining that this particular strain of the plague hasn't killed anybody since it wiped out a Romanian village sometime in the 14th century. And that's all they say. There isn't even an attempt to explain how they could possibly know that. It would have been simple to stick in some techno-babble excuse, but no. We're left to wonder if a group of medieval epidemiologists found the sample & stored it safely for nearly 700 years or what.

My other major complaint about the book is about how it is structured. It opens with the main character being interrogated by the police. What we see is his recount of the events leading up to his arrest. That's fine; it's a perfectly good (if maybe a little cliched) way of telling a story. The trouble is, after about 16 pages, Niles just drops the format. Until the end of the book (when we finally return to the police holding cell), there are occasional captions of the character explaining things, but there is no sense that he's talking to anybody in particular, much less a hostile cop who would have no reason to believe his story of vampires & ghouls.*

Niles drops the flashback format because he wants a scene where the main character isn't present. There are several of these, but there is never any mention of the main character figuring out or being told what happens in these scenes. So how does he know this stuff? I don't know if Niles just doesn't care or if he doesn't realize that there is a problem.

I like the ideas behind Niles' stories, but he gets careless with the details, and he needs somebody to call him on it when he does.

*Also, this book is a collection of a 5-issue comic series. So for people who bought the individual issues, there is a gap of months between when the story is set up and when it finally comes back around to the present day. And anybody who missed the first issue would have no idea of the situation until they reached the final issue. There should have been reminders that the whole thing was a flashback at the beginning and end of each issue.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Part of the reason I haven't been updating is because I've been depressed over my continuing lack of work. I can't seem to summon the energy to type up a boring list of books.

But now I've got a job! It's for a group dedicated to increasing voter awareness and registration. It doesn't pay very well, and I can't say I'm thrilled about the prospect of going door to door in the rain (it is autumn in western Oregon, after all), and I'd feel happier about it if I didn't get the sense that they're mostly looking for warm bodies. But it is a job.

I can't guarantee that'll mean I update this site more often, but hopefully it'll at least snap me out of my doldrums.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Hey, I'm updating twice in one week!.

Continuing with books read:
  • Never Ending Summer by Allison Cole. The story in this graphic novel isn't bad, per se, but it is something I don't have a whole lot of interest in (at least not unless it's told much better than it is here): an autobiographical story of a woman in her early 20's and her relationship problems. At least, I assume she & her friends are in their early 20's. If it weren't for the fact that they spend a lot of time in bars and there is no mention of fake I.D.s, I'd assume they were all in their late teens. The problem I have with this book is the artwork. I knew I was in trouble when I found the "cast of characters" page, and all 15 or so characters were blobby abstractions of people with very minor differences to distinguish between them. I suspect that Cole can't draw well enough to accurately portray her friends, so she goes for the abstract. To her and her friends, the tiny details that serve to distinguish the characters are probably sufficient for identification. But to the rest of the world, it's not enough. (Not that it matters, since the story is so entirely about Cole that there's no need to identify just who it is she's talking to.) (Checked out of the library.)
  • Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage by Grant Morrison & Richard Case. DC/Vertigo is finally starting to collect the rest of Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, and I couldn't be happier about that. So I re-read the first collection, since it's been years since I'd last read it. It's just as wonderfully strange as I remember. The opening story, about a fictional world that starts to invade reality, owes a lot to Jorge Luis Borges (specifically to his story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"), but it's so wonderfully strange that I don't care if it's derivative.
  • Transhuman Space: Deep Beyond by David Pulver. This is a source book for the Transhuman Space role-playing setting: near-future science fiction in which genetic engineering, nanotech, and developments in artificial intelligence have allowed people to start colonizing the solar system. This particular book is about people living in the asteroid belt & further out. Nicely done.
  • R.A. Salvatore's Demon Wars: Trial By Fire by Scott Ciencin & Ron Wagner. I've never read anything by Salvatore, so I don't know if this graphic novel does a good job of capturing the Demon Wars setting. (Library.)
  • Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith. I really disliked this, and I want to go into loving detail as to why, but I don't have the time right now, so that will have to come later. For now, just let me say that Niles really needs an editor. (Library.)
  • Club Zero-G by Douglas Rushkoff and Steph Dumois. This graphic novel was written by somebody who was highly influenced by Grant Morrison's comic book The Invisibles (although he seems to have missed at least one of the points of that series). Rebels in a totalitarian future use psychic powers to reach back to a guy in their past (i.e. now) in an effort to prevent their grim future from coming about. The guy does this by encouraging people to go to a rave club. Well, the club is actually a psychic construct found in people's dreams, but still. It's got a dumb, cliched ending and the whole thing suffers from an attitude that I've encountered elsewhere. There's a message of "We must fight the forces of conformity!", but at the same time there is the implication that the world would be great if only everybody were just like the author/viewpoint character. Whenever I've encountered this attitude, I get the impression that the person simply doesn't see the contradiction. (Library.)
  • WildC.A.T.s: Homecoming by Alan Moore, et al. A re-read to see if this comic is too insular to be understood by somebody who doesn't already know the characters. I don't think it is.
  • WildC.A.T.s: Gang War by Alan Moore, et al.
  • Spiral by Sakura Mizuki. This is a tangential story to The Ring. It's about the doctors inspecting the bodies of the people who have fallen victim to the cursed videotape.
  • Scars by Warren Ellis & Jacen Burrows. This is the scariest thing I've read by Ellis, and that's because it's done without any fantastic elements at all.
  • One Piece, vol. 4: The Black Cat Pirates by Eiichiro Oda. (Why is it that when I search for manga on Amazon, French & German translations come up before English ones?)
  • Love Hina, vol. 2 by Ken Akamatsu.

Still not caught up, but the library's closing. More next week.