Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Wanted to post my latest book review, which I've already sent along to the Joe Bob Briggs folks.

I really didn't know if I'd care for this book, but ended up really enjoying it. Reads like a great novelization of an action movie, which it could easily be adapted into. Even keeping the terrorists as Iranians, would work right into the possible future plans of this administration and their neo-con advisors.

Oh, I've already conceded the next election to Bush. I can't see any of the current Democratic candidates being able to equal either financial clout of the Repubs, nor able to counter the hours of negative campaigning by both Bush himself and fan club over on Fox, etc. The next five years will be even uglier than the past three, but unfortunately I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. By 2008 I wouldn't be surprised if elections are simply cancelled (for our own good, of course) and the whole sham of democracy completely done away with.

Yeah, I'm not in a good mood, why do you ask?

Hate something or someone for the religion of your choice and get back to me next week.
It's been one of those weeks where between work and family events I just haven't had time to post. Earlier this week I had planned on talking about getting a new car (a 2003 Saturn Vue), comments on the Republican Medicare plan (now pushed through and still not able to do anything for anybody for several years, even then not doing much for those who really need it, but doing great things for insurance and drug companies) and the continuing Michael Jackson hoopla. It seems his defense team is doing it's best to make things ugly, both for the family of the alleged victim and for anyone who might think about coming forward with further accusations. Not that MJ is necessarily innocent, but by God we'll ruin anybody who says otherwise. Hard to believe there weren't more candle-light vigils for Jacko.

Poor Donna has been diagnosed with shingles and is not a happy camper. I remember my mother suffering from the same things years ago and so I can sympathize with my wife. Unfortunately, not only does it put a damper on our plans for the Thanksgiving weekend, but I really hate to see her in such pain.

Don't know if I'll have a chance to post later, even though I just completed a new review for Joe Bob's site. If not I want to wish everyone a very, Happy Thanksgiving (however you celebrate or don't) and an enjoyable weekend. The University if closed down as of this afternoon, so I'll be back next Monday to give you a rundown on what's been going on. Be well!

Friday, November 21, 2003

I suppose it's not a great surprise that with everything going on in the world today that the major news story on last night's new shows (and this morning, as well) was the arrest of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges. So far, I've seen Robert Shapiro and Johnny Cochrane from OJ's 'Dream Team' way in, naturally on Jocko's side. Brother Jermane appears to be the family's spokeperson, as he has been in just about every incident in which his younger brother is involved. I expect the usual suspects (lead by Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross) to look for their minute in the spotlight on one or more of the entertainment 'magazine shows', talking about how much Jackson has done for sick and needy children.

Look, I don't know if MJ is guilty of anything but bad judgement, but if you are someone in the spotlight who has been accused of this type of thing before (whether charges were brought or not) you'd think that you would have sense enough not to place yourself in a position (and no, I'm not even going there with that) where any hint of wrong doing could be brought against you. This is a man in major need of an 'intervention'! His friends (real friends and not hangers on) and family have to sit him down and say, "Michael, a 45 year old man can't have sleepovers with young children! And what the Hell do you need a "secret room" with a trapdoor entrance for?"

Finally, is this creepy or what? (WARNING: Be prepared to be startled!) I mean, are they really sure about the that the sections on RACE and SEX are properly filled in?

Have a good weekend if I don't feel an urge to post again later.
I've just added a link to the Center for American Progress over on the side. They have been doing a great job of covering the current debate on Medicare and presription drugs in Congress, and how AARP (of which I'm a member) is trying to convince their membership to blindly accept the GOP bill. The organization's (AARP, that is) argument is basically that even if this bill isn't 'perfect' we should urge our Senators and Representatives to pass it and we can fix it later. B***S***, as far as I'm concerned.

The Center also has a daily newletter that covers other "progressive" causes and issues which may be on interest to folks who read this blog. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Just finished reading an interview with Gore Vidal (which Mark Evanier linked to a week or so ago) and was intrigued enough to check out his comments re: Benjamin Franklin. I think both Vidal and Franklin are correct in feeling that despotism is what we have at the current time. Franklin predicted it over 200 years ago and Vidal points to it today.

Jefferson was probably right that we should hold a Constitutional Convention ever few years and start from scratch. The rich have already taken just about everything they can, so we might as well hand them everything else, sit back and wait to be taken away.

Here's a link to Franklin's speech. If nothing else, it demonstrates once again that the old guy knew his fellow Americans all too well.
It's too easy to make jokes, even on about a subject like child molestation, when Michael Jackson is involved. The folks over at Court TV have been on top of this thing, which I suppose isn't a surprise. If nothing else it will be interesting to see how CBS reacts this time (as in the Reagan TV-movie situation), since Jackson has a special scheduled on the network next week.

I'll also be surprised if Jackson is actually arrested, despite the warrent. It would certainly be easy for him to cut and run, doing a Roman Polanski, but I don't think he chance it, since he still believes that he's fine and it's the rest of us who have a problem.
Didn't want to appear totally negative about DC comics so I wanted to briefly note the latest issue of JSA (#54) which not only features a nice "Norman Rockwell" inspired cover by Carlos Pacheco and Jésus Meriño, but a very nice Thanksgiving themed story as well. The JLA drops by JSA headquarters to celebrate the holidays and loosen up a bit.

Written by Geoff Johns the story is a twist on those typical tales where super-hero events (weddings, funerals, reunions) are rudely interrupted by the 'surprise' appearance of some villain. The art by Don Kramer and Keith Champagne isn't outstanding, but the team is able to make each of the dozen or more characters into individuals. They also are able to convey the differing emotions of the heroes, not restricting them to grinding their teeth or screaming in rage.

Johns brings us up to date on some continuing plot lines, and still allows time for some bits of humor along the way. I really liked how he used Batman in this issue, since it was a nice change of pace from how the Dark Knight is being portrayed over in his own books. The last page, featuring Batman and Mr. Terrific is perfect. Hey, you actually get to glimpse the man behind the mask, if you know what I mean.

This time I mean it when I say, "Thanks, DC!"
Cartman would probably call me a "tree-hugging hippie", but I was a little bothered by the storyline in last night's NAVY:NCIS. Don't want to give any major plot points away, but I was disturbed by the way that environmental protestors were portrayed. Not only was the villain in the piece revealed to be a enviro-terrorist, but the show seemed to smear those folks who have serious questions about the use of certain type of radar, which may interfere with the communication and lives of whales.

At one point the show's lead, Mark Harmon, suggests to a guard at the camp gate that he shoot a group of protestors outside the base. Boy, I certainly got a chuckle out of that!

I've mentioned that I generally like this show, and personally have always liked Harmon as an actor, but it does bother me and I think sends a bad message. Then again the show is produced by Donald P. Bellisario, whose FIRST TUESDAY, was supposed to be CBS' answer to the 'leftist' WEST WING.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Believe it or not, I’m actually going to talk about comics today! Yeah, I know it says fanboy up there at the top of the blog and everything, but I have to admit that they aren’t the main focus of my life at this point. I still read and enjoy them, but I find it difficult to work up enthusiasm enough to actually review much of what I’m reading.

There are several books, which I love and look forward to each month (or each issue, in some cases since they aren’t monthly titles), but I don’t think you want to hear me raving about the same ones all the time.

Mark Crilley’s AKIKO is among the Top Five books for an ‘all ages’ audience, currently being produced. Only the most jaded of comic book geeks would not find themselves enjoying this title and it is one of those books that I’d always feel safe recommending to non-comics fans. The current issue (#51) may not be the perfect place to start, since so much of it requires some knowledge of past events and stories, however there are enough jokes and surprises even for those only minimally familiar with the series. If you’re not already reading AKIKO you really should at least give it a chance when you spot it at the comics shop.

Ditto Stan Sakai’s USAGI YOJIMBO, although the swordplay may deter some parents from handing this to the youngest child. Still considering what most kids are subjected to on any given day on the WB or FOX Kids, I don’t think that the battles and almost bloodless fighting will traumatize anyone. Depending on how any particular issue strikes me AKIKO and UY move up and down in my Top Five, though usually one of them is my #1 book for that week.

The Batman Family of books have been, IMHO, been going downhill the last few months. Seems as though some of the writers are treading water until the next Big Event or crossover. I’ve already dropped BATGIRL, NIGHTWING, GOTHAM KNIGHTS & BIRDS OF PREY from my shopping list. To be honest, only ROBIN continues to interest me with its current storyline involving a possible ‘traitor’ within the Bat family. The current issue of BATMAN (#620) is the first part of an arc written by Brian Azzarello with art by Eduardo Risso, best known for the collaboration on 100 BULLETS. Frankly, what works so well in that book doesn’t work equally well (again IMHO) in a Batman title, especially in the character’s main book. Maybe I’m getting old and stodgy, but I don’t think that a parent would really be thrilled to open this book and find Bat’s trading innuendo with a nearly naked woman. I also don’t like MY Batman using a tied up bad guy as a punching bag. I don’t know if I’m even willing to give the next issue a try, since it’s a six-issue arc and I don’t see the mood of the book changing. Time to save another few bucks per month. Thanks, DC!

I’m a bit unhappy with the end of the “Water bearer” arc over in AQUAMAN. With issue #12, Rick Veitch finishes up a year of mostly solid issues, but quickly wraps up (with death in one case, possibly two but it's really unclear) some threads, which had begun in the first few issues. Basically it ends with Arthur saying, in effect, “Hey, I’m all better now and later for you bitch.”

I had actually come to like the characters of Sweeney and McCaffrey and feel badly that Veitch treats them in such a cavalier fashion. I suppose he felt that he had to allow the new creative team a free hand in continuing the story, but allowing one to die and blowing off the other in such a fashion really makes Arthur look pretty bad in my book. I really don’t know at this point if I’m going to bother picking up later issues. Frankly, I can’t say that I care all that much about the fate of Atlantis. Thanks again, DC!

Monday, November 17, 2003

Not much to report about this past weekend, so I'll just mention a couple of TV shows that have caught my interest lately.

I know I’ve mentioned this show before, but after seeing another episode last night, involving a case of ‘gay bashing,’ I wanted to plug it again. While CSI and CSI: Miami remain my personal faves, COLD CASE is really beginning to click with me. I enjoy the idea of Detective Lilly Rush (played by Kathryn Morris) being given the job of looking at murder cases, which have never been solved or where new evidence appears which may change the original conclusion. Rush is the only woman in the Philadelphia homicide bureau, which brings its own problems, naturally. (Hey, it is network television, so you have to have your typical “old boys” who resent Rush, plus the younger guys all hitting on her. Despite this Morris brings some intelligence to the character, but also a sensitivity that other female detectives on the small screen seem to lack.)

One of the nice little touches on the show, as I think I mentioned weeks ago when the show premiered, is that we see the characters as they are today as well as how they were at the time of the original crime. While a little short on the usual car chases and action that most ‘cop shows’ use to fill the time, COLD CASE actually allows characters to drive the plot, allowing the viewer to sympathize with both the victim and occasionally the murderer as well.

If you get ANIMAL PLANET on your cable system, Donna and I both recommend KING OF THE JUNGLE. Despite not being a fan of 'reality shows' like SURVIVOR and the like, we've really taken to this twist on the concept. Twelve individuals, all with backgrounds in working with animals (veterinarians, zoo keepers, animal handlers, etc.) compete in a series of challengers. They range from the physical (climbing trees, navigating rope bridges) to actually working with animals of different sorts. Some just involve identifying a creature and then having a minute of air time to explain the animal to viewers, while others force the contestants to 'capture' specimens. Just like all the other shows of this type each week one contestant is judged 'off' the show and has to leave the encampment. Eventually the finalist will be given their own show on ANIMAL PLANET. Certainly not original, but lots of fun for folks who enjoy Wild Kingdom, Croc Hunter and other things like that.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

I'd been debating it for the last week or so, but decided that since I had the day off yesterday I'd take in a movie. While there are several out there that I have an interest in catching I settled on MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS. Despite the mixed reviews of fans and critics, and my own disappointment in the second film I still had enough interest in actually seeing the final installment up on the big screen. Besides it was only a $6.00 matinee, so I wasn't going to be out all that much.

Anyway, my initial reaction even halfway through the movie was that this was way better than the second film, which really took itself way too seriously. It dragged endlessly at points with long, dull scenes,where characters took turns talking about the meaning of life and the differences between men & machines. While there were a few such scenes in REVOLUTIONS they were few and certainly offset by the most incredible action sequences I've ever seen.

As at least one reviewer I've read has correctly said, if/when the next Superman movie is made the filmmakers will be hard pressed to create a scene anywhere near as exciting at the ultimate battle between Agent Smith and Neo. Hugo Weaving, as the all but indestructible former agent of the machines, steal each and every scene in which he appears. His Smith is one of the scariest screen villians that you've ever seen. Weaving doesn't neet makeup to convey the evil within, just his looks and mannerism send chills up your spine. Smith is such a classic screen villian, that it makes you forget that Weaving also brought to life Elrond in the three LORD OF THE RINGS films. THe two characters could not be further apart in terms of compassion and heroism, but both are equally vivid roles for this actor.

Keanu Reeves is THERE, if you know what I mean. At this point I can't think of another actor who would have been right in the role of the hacker turned savior, but unlike Weaving the only reason Reeves stands out is when the camera focuses on him. Only in a few scenes, and this thanks to camera angles and lighting, does Reeves have a presense beyond the characters around him.

Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss are good in solid supporting roles. Frankly, it is Fishburne's Morpheus who gives the triology any real passion, except in those scenes where Weaving totally dominates. Moss, on the other hand, is only good in the action scenes where Trinity takes over, sadly the actress almost disappears into the background when she's not dressed in leather and kicking ass.

While I haven't seen the third TERMINATOR film, the scenes of the machine dominated future never had the feel of total subjugation that you see when Neo and Trinity finally come upon the 'machine city'. It is completely alien and inhuman in the way it looks, the complete domination of anything human or natural is marvelously portrayed in those scenes.

Sadly, the film ends (and the Wachowski's say it IS the end) leaving as many questions unanswered as there were in the beginning. What did happen to Morpheus? What became of the Merovingian and the Trainman, among others? Are they still 'out there', or did they suffer the fate of Agent Smith?

Did I enjoy the movie? Yes, I did. Very much so, but I wasn't satisfied and left the theatre wondering just what had happened and if I'd ultimately been suckered into spending more $20 and close to eight hours over the past few years watching a lot of flash with no substance.

Among the half dozen trailers I sat through I saw three that caught my interest. The new, longer trailer for RETURN OF THE KING gets me even more psyched for the final installment in Peter Jackson's brilliant realization of THE LORD OF THE RINGS triology. We all know how this film is going to end, at least I assume that everyone watching the movies has read the books by this point (or at least had somebody tell them the story), so the surprises will be in how the filmmakers and actors bring to life the world we have come to know. Again, it is amazing to see Gollum and realize that this poor, sad creation is nothing more then pixels in a computer. I'm really looking forward to this film and the only drawback is that on the day it opens I'll have to be here at the university since we'll be updating out entire computer system. Believe me, my original intention was to call in sick that day. :-(

THE PUNISHER actually looks like it might be a good film and will certainly make the original Dolph Lundgren feature fade from memory, even more than it has. I doubt that most folks will even know that there was a previous incarnation. No doubt, prioir to the premier of this new version the Lundgren film will start reappearing on cable. John Travolta once again plays the bad guy in a movie, with Thomas Jane in the lead.

Caught the trailer for TROY on ET the other night, and felt it works even better on the large screen. While not a huge Brad Pitt fan, I'm looking forward to seeing the classic (in all senses of the word) story of Hellen, Achielles and Paris brought to life. Sadly, Ray Harryhausen doesn't appear involved so I don't know if the Greek gods will be making an appearance.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Interesting article in yesterday's Washington Post (with apologies for having to sign in) about billionaire George Soros donating millions of his own wealth to various anti-Bush organizations. Far be it for me to say anything nice about wealthy folks, but it is nice to see somebody with money not tossing it into the Republican trough.

Had a few medical procedures performed on me yesterday and seem to have come through okay. I'm awaiting the results of a biopsy on some polyps discovered, but the doctor tells me she doesn't believe them to be cancerous. They did discover that I may be developing an ulcer and diverticulitis, so I'll add that to my gluten alleges and see what's left to eat. :-(

Friday, November 07, 2003

Found it interesting to read in an article yesterday (which unfortunately I didn't note at the time, so can't link to it) which mentioned something that I had not noticed. Ever since the Prez announced that 'major conflict' in Iraq was over, G.W. has not attended a single funeral or memorial service for the men and women being killed while overseas. Now I'd naturally, be among the first to say he was playing politics if he was attending each and every one, and frankly I wouldn't expect him to. However, it is almost as if the Administration is trying to distance itself from the actual hardships our troops are undergoing, while trying to take credit for any successes (limited as they may be).

I'm sure we'll see Bush going to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, come Veteran's Day and no doubt he'll have to make some mention of those who have lost their lives in HIS 'war on terror.' If he had any backbone he would stand up and read off a list of every single soldier, sailor and marine who has been killed in action since the invasion first took place. Maybe he and Dick "I was busy doing other things and that's why I didn't go to Vietnam" Cheney could take turns reading the names and publically expressing their sadness to the families of those in uniform who will not return.

Later this morning I will be taking part in a ceremony here at UNH, honoring those members of the faculty, staff and student body who have served in the Armed Forces. I realize that these types of events will be taking place around the nation in the next several days, but I think that here and in those (unlike the one in Washington) people will be sincere in what they say.
Just a quick heads up for any librarians or information specialists who may be reading. The current issue of Computers in Libraries has several articles on Blogging. The link will bring you to their main article, which tells why libraries may want to consider setting up a blog both for internal and patron use.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Today's issue of the Slate, has an interesting article by Timothy Noah on The Reagans the mini-series which CBS cravenly pulled because of Republican protests. I had to laugh when I read of that the network was placing it on Showtime, because some execs felt that 'upon viewing' the program they felt it wasn't 'balanced.' Man, you have to love that! Since when have bio-pics, especially those done by the major networks ever had any glimmer of balance?

Also, just read earlier today Mark Evanier's column (link over to the left) on the death penalty and Gary Leon Ridgway, in particular. Seems that this serial killer of at least 48 women was able to cut a deal with prosecutors, preventing him from getting the death penalty for his crimes.

Personally, if you had asked me, even ten years ago how I felt about capital punishment I would have automatically said that it was wrong in all cases. I must admit that in recent years I've begun to wonder if this really is a position I can stand behind. Mark's column, and his comments, pretty closely reflect my own at this point. The use of the ultimate penalty in this country is horribly unfair, both racist and classist in the extreme. Compare the stats in any stats on the number of poor, black men and rich, white men serving on 'death row.' Pretty damn sobering.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Found an interesting article over in the online edition of the Washington Post (sorry, but you have to register for this)about a Canadian citizen who was picked up by American authorities. Apparently he was deported to Syria, where he had been born, then held and tortured for months before he was finally released.

Anybody else like me, find that just about everyone they voted for yesterday ended up on the losing end? Hell, I even voted Republican in some cases, simply because the Democratic Mayor here is pretty shady and his fellow Dems seem fine with that. I look forward to the possible investigation that state Attorney General is rumored to be considering, as I'm sure if/when Hiz Honor gets indicted my fellow West Haveners will all deny voting for the guy to begin with. :-(

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I guess like most folks (at least on this side of the Atlantic) I "discovered" Alan Moore back when he began doing SWAMP THING for DC and basically created a new type of comic, which would develop into what is now known as the Vertigo style. Other writers have followed him, mostly British, Irish, etc. and now a few American writers seem to be able to do truly 'adult' comics (in all senses of the word). Over the years we have followed Moore as he went from one amazing project to another, seemingly able to work his magic in just about any comic genre.

It's funny perhaps that in his work for his ABC comics, Moore has created characters that capture a style that Moore would seem ill-suited to work with. TOM STRONG would seem the very anti-thesis of an Alan Moore character, yet he has created this wholesome throwback and has made him one of the most interesting characters in comics. Moore's PROMETHIA has taken the Wonder Woman idea and made it into something never before seen in 'mainstream' comics. With TOP TEN Moore brought us a NYPD BLUE, with super-heroes and made us care about an odd group of very different characters.

In the current SMAX mini-series, Moore takes the title character (one of the officers from TOP TEN) and his partner, Robyn (known as Toy Box in TT, for her use of an array of tiny robots she carries with her) back to his homeworld. Moore uses theses two to poke some serious fun at just about every 'fairytale' cliche you could ask for. Just about every panel has been filled by Moore (very ably assisted by penciller Zander Cannon and inker Andrew Currie) with jabs at almost every fantasy creation you could name. Even as familiar as I am with some of the characters and references, I'm sure that I'm also missing dozens of others. Moore did the same thing in TOP TEN, where hundreds of well-known comics characters made cameos in panel after panel.

Amazingly, even with all this Moore is able to make both Smax and Robyn, people who we actually like. We discover that behind Smax' rough exterior there really is a very, sensitive and caring guy who can't seem to shake his destiny despite his best efforts.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I really wonder I ever try to plan anything in advance. This past weekend is proof of nothing else, than that you should remain flexible.

We received a phone message Friday afternoon, telling us that the last piece of our livingroom set (namely the coffee table) would be delivered between "11:27am and 2:27pm" on Saturday. Putting aside the odd timespan, it meant that even if they delivered the item early on we couldn't be on the road to Brooklyn until around noon at the earliest. Since we planned on leaving early Sunday, to avoid the some of the problems caused by the marathon it really didn't pay to travel. We'll try again, next week.

Things do not look good for the ground forces in Iraq, despite the spin on things given by the Administration. Sadly, we are stuck in a horrible situation, which was created by poor planning and ego, but it is the average soldier and marine who must face the consequences.

I know, nothing deep or earth-shattering, but it is only Monday after all.