Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Because I'm Entirely Having One of Those "I Want to Make A Post, But I Don't Want To Put A Lot of Effort Into It" Days

In no particular order, here are the top 5 absolute best X-Mas Specials/Movies:

Muppets' Christmas Carol
Because as far as I'm concerned, the real Charles Dickens is the blue furry guy with the rat as a sidekick. Not to mention the "Marley and Marley" song is as absolutely terrifying as the rest of the movie is heartwarming.

Muppets' Family Christmas.
I would give the Muppets all ten spots, if I could. But this one definitely deserves to be here. All the Muppets get together at Fuzzy's mom's place, and they're joined by the Sesame Street Muppets, and the Fraggles. There's a special appearance by Henson himself, and nothing, nothing comes close to the sheer joy of watching the Swedish chef trying to find a way to cook Big Bird for supper.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
"You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch" is the one song I will still be singing long after all real Christmas carols have been emptied from my mind. And not to brag, but my heart grows three sizes every ten years. Apparently, it's a serious medical condition.

Invader Zim's "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever"
Everyone's favorite space invader Zim gets the bright idea to build a special Santa suit to enslave humanity. Archnemesis Dib tries to expose him, but the suit has its own ideas... Hijinx, as always, ensue. For no particular reason, this episode is narrated in the far future by a cybernetic snowman telling it as a children's story to a group of minature alien monsters. And it probably says a lot about me that one of the funniest things I've ever seen comes from this episode: when one of the alien monsters points out a plothole, the snowman wordlessly picks him up and slides him under a couch. That's not just a good Christmas lesson. That's a lesson that can be applied all year round.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
I add this one because there's a good chance my mom will read this list. Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?
Truly, so much to teach us all about the holiday cheer.

And that's my five. But what about yours? Post any beloved favorites here, and they can be properly judged and/or ridiculed by the masses.

Later Days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

But how does using a frozen hotdog as a phallic comic prop make you FEEL?

Man, that's going to be another title that'll direct some really weird searches.

Anyway, I was at a party last night, and I had consumed a fair bit of alcohol. (It was the first time in a long time I'd drank heavily for two consecutive nights, since the night before that was my brothers' roommate's going-away party. And yet, the day after, in both cases: no hangover. Truly, I live a blessed life.) Often, when I'm drinking at a party, I get the urge to either work out math equations, or write down story ideas. This time, the muse that struck me belonged to the latter group. I hunted down a pen, and an available writing surface--a piece of discarded wrapping paper was the fist thing I found.

Sadly, looking at what I wrote in the light of day suggests that these inspirational works will not be among my best. The first thing written is "find a way to pun 'chronic' and 'chronicles.'" The second sounds like the voiceover for a movie trailer:

Every Doom has its Day.
Every Day has its Night.
Every Knight has its Fall.
Stories end.

Lucky for me, the important part at the moment is what happens after. A friend saw the writing (without being able to read it, and thus couldn't assess the quality of the writing) and commented, in a friendly manner, that observing people at parties must serve as good fodder for writing for me. I tried to deny this, since at the very least, it suggested a quality to what I had just written that even then I was pretty sure it did not have, but I think she's got a point. To paraphrase, I like to observe.

Don't get me wrong. Participating is great, and it's what all the cool kids are doing. I love a good conversation, and I'll take up any sort of endeavor that strikes me in the right way. But there's a part of me that really likes to take a step back, think about things, and reflect. (There's a connection between this and the post a few days ago about nocturnal walking, but I don't feel like teasing it out at the moment. Or bothering to link it. User unfriendly!) And a party's an ideal opportunity for this. People who are more honest than kind may suggest that this reflection comes from a lifetime of sitting by myself at parties in my formative years (and they'd be wrong. In my formative years, I stayed home. So there.), but I don't think it's a bad thing, not anymore. Like I said, I enjoy the interaction stuff. But there's a lot to be learned by thinking not just about what people are doing, but why.

I think I'll end this meandering with a quotation from Margaret Atwood, from her short story "Happy Endings," as to why it's important for a writer to spend time on the "why" as compared to the "whats:" and "wheres." This is Atwood, so it's slightly more cynical than it needs to be, but it gets the point across:

"You'll have to face it, the endings are the same however you slice it. Don't be deluded by any other endings, they're all fake, either deliberately fake, with malicious intent to deceive, or just motivated by excessive optimism if not by downright sentimentality.

"The only authentic ending is the one provided here:
John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.

"So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it's the hardest to do anything with.

"That's about all that can be said for plots, which anyway are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what.

Now try How and Why."

I love trying How and Why. Aren't they fun?

Later Days.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Review: Flatland

While this intent wasn't really made clear the last time around, I fully meant for Book Review to become a regular feature, every time I finished a, you know, book. But that hasn't happened, and my opinion of all literature read between November till now must go sadly unrecorded in the annals of history.

Luckily, that's not the case for Flatland.

Flatland. By Edwin A. Abbott. The edition I read was the second edition, published in1884--actually, an electronic facsimile of the second edition, published in 1884, but let's not split hairs--and it's generally considered one of the earlier predecessors of science fiction. The plot--well, it's not really a plot, for starters. More like a concept. The concept is that a 2-dimensional being--a square, as it turns out--becomes aware of his nature of a 2-D being and attempts to explain himself and his world to the 3-D people.

The first half of the book is a description of the 2-D society, and the second half tells of the square's encounters in Lineland, No Dimensions, and Space. The first half is focused on the culture that results from a flat world, and that's really my favorite type of sci-fi: one high concept, then a careful consideration of how that change influences people, on macro and micro levels.

But while Flatland fulfills the basic criteria of a modern sci-fi story, it's very much a work of its own era. It reads a lot like an H. G. Wells novel, if that's a style you're familiar with. But there's no real plot, per se, and no overarching story; it's just the square character reciting what happened to him, in increasing fervour. I'm not really familiar enough with 19th century literature to know how typical a protagonist the square is. All right, obviously, he's not very typical, since he's, you know, a square, but he's got a male-dominated, upper-class entitled sort of attitude to him, and I'm not sure how much of that attitude Abbott is including to reflect ourselves in Flatland, and how much he just thinks that's what people are like.

There's some interesting stuff with the intersect between mathematics and theology, and I'm wondering how deliberate the inclusion of the millenial stuff is. (The square receives his vision on year 2000, in their Flatland timeline.) I also liked that Abbott switches from narrative to dialogue when the square is confronted with a sphere; it emphasizes the way the square has lost all sense of agency. It's super short, and can easily be squeezed into a single afternoon. And while there's nothing revolutionary to it, as an earlier pioneering work of science fiction, Flatland is actually more interesting in terms of high concept than a lot of the stuff people like Wells and Stoker were putting out in the general time. So, if you've got an afternoon to kill and a mild taste for geometry, give it a try.

Later Days.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comic Book Wednesday: Fables' House of Cards

Ok, so it's not the most clever title ever. Here's the reviews.

Fables 79. By Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham. Fables has been on a role recently, and while this issue isn't quite as good as the last, it's still going strong. The big events this week are Charming's funeral and a sharp turn towards the worse for Fabletown at large. Oh, and the Mogli story continues. I added that as an afterthought, because the storyline still feels like an afterthought; each month, I feel like there isn't quite enough there. I would have preferred that Willingham just wrote a Mogli arc for a few months than just get the five pages or so. The Mister Dark and Beauty/Beast scenes forwarded both their plots slightly, but I'm ready for both to advance to something more. But the main stuff- the funeral is exactly appropriate, and is a testament to economical storytelling. And the big event IS a big event, and I definitely felt its impact. For that alone, this issue is a must-have for anyone following the series.

Avengers Initiative 19.
By Dan Slott & Christos N. Gage and Harvey Tolibao & Bong Dazo. Having lost the war, the Skrulls initiate their scorched earth policy, and in order to stop them, the remaining Initiative teams need to take down four of the six substations, across six different states. Remember a few weeks ago when Marvel ended a multi-month "epic" crossover with a very boring fight scene? This is the fight scene that SHOULD have been. The action sequence in this issue is so high-octane that it almost errs in the other direction. As always with AI, the huge cast is a bit of a drawback: yes, some characters die here, but there's not really that many who's deaths have any meaning, because they haven't had the facetime needed to, well, matter. But Crusader's story is wrapped up, and in a compelling manner, and it's a REALLY good action sequence. Read it, if nothing else than for what Secret Invasion 8 should have been.

Spider-Man Noir 1 of 4. By David Hine with Fabrice Sapolsky and Carmine Di Giandomencio. As far as I can tell, the Noir line is basically a switching act: Marvel takes out the "super-hero" part of their characters, and replaces it with a heap of dark, broody noir style. A few weeks ago, the first issue of X-Men Noir came out, and the twist was that Professor Charles Xavier decided that psychopaths were the next step in human evolution, and created a school for training them. Here, the main plot is that it's the 1930s, and Peter Parker is a young agitator taking a stand with the unions against the factories and the mob men, lead by the criminal, the Goblin. The entire thing is narrated through the photographer Ben Urich. Hine and Sapolsky capture well the spirit of anger that permeates the comic, anger that those in power allowed things to come to such a point, and Giandomencio does a great job of conveying this anger and bitterness in a young Peter Parker. Judging on this issue and the X-Men, the Noir line is, through reflection, at least, going to be an interesting commentary on what defines superheroes, and what, beyond their powers, make these characters what they are, and keeps them from the path that both series seem to be heading.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The stars were out too, which was nice.

I was out with some friends last night at a pub (definitely a pub, not a bar. The distinction is subtle, but significant.) and I walked home at around midnight afterwards. Putting aside the fact that I was walking in -30 weather--which is admittedly a lot to put aside--the walking itself was a welcome experience, just because it was such a familiar experience.

I've always enjoyed walking home by myself after a night at the bar. A part of it, I think, springs from fairly selfish motivations: after spending some time in the company of others, I want to immediately follow it with some "me" time. (Hence the reason that on such walks, I often stop by the local convenience store and purchase some entirely nonhealthy "me" foods.) There's also a safety valve issue: while it's not such a big issue anymore, I used to get a sensory overload when I was around a large group of people socially, and I needed some time to process by myself. But nowadays, the walk mainly gives me a chance to just dwell on the night, who I spent it with, and what they mean to me.

(Have I talked about the verb "dwell" in the past? I should have, because it's a favorite of mine. In the context, it means the same thing as thinking, but it also has connotations of home. I like that--the idea that your thoughts are a mental embodiment.)

Last night in particular, it was a mix of old and new. I don't do a lot of the night walk in Blank, so it had a heavy nostalgia flavor to it; this flavour was somewhat tempered since I was walking with my I-Pod, something that did NOT occur in the old days, since I didn't have an I-pod back then. But at least it made me feel less crazy for singing loudly in a public street at 12:00 am in the morning.

The best part of the walk (not the evening, which of course was the conversations with friends) was when I went past a house with a sign in the window that said "Have a Great Day!!". I deliberately chose my path so that I'd be going by the sign, and I had been really hoping it was still there. For more times than I can count, I've passed that sign late at night, still warm with the glow of the evening. And maybe it's because I'm usually a little drunk (ok, it's probably because I'm drunk) but it never fails to make me smile. It's just such a positive thing, a simple act of benevolence. It's a wish of good will to complete strangers, with no strings attached. And I think we all need that sometimes.

Cold Weather Running Aside: People get all kinds of excited when they see someone in a ski mask running quickly towards them.

Later Days.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Please excuse the emoticon. It won't happen again, I promise.

It reflects, however, that I have now officially entered the holiday spirit, since my paper on Bernard Mandeville is finished. (well, actually, it needs a round of editing, a spell-check, page numbers added, and a title, but why split hairs?) It was pretty much the only thing I had to do since coming back, and it was weighing pretty heavily on me. Luckily, it turned out to be one of those essays where I just sit down and the ideas flow out, into the keyboard, and onto the screen. I think I almost resent those more: if all the ideas are there, and I KNOW they're there, typing them out seems so redundant that it actually offends me to be forced to do it. I know that makes very little sense, but that's why they're called emotions instead of logical tenets.

I was also a little worried about length, since the paper was to be 15-20 pages, and there was a point when I would have been certain I would barely squeeze in at 14 1/2. Well, I'm standing at 20 now, and the addition of the title, name, and date may just push the whole thing over to 21. I like meeting the upper end of a page length requirement; it allows me to feel very accomplished.

But the main source of worriment on this essay was that I did rather terribly on my presentation. It was a general overview on how the satirists of the eighteenth century undermined the authority of the medical practitioners, and the professor flagalated me for:
-relying too heavily on material discussed in class
-relying too heavily on a single critic rather than my own ideas or actual primary texts
-summarizing rather than arguing
-choosing a topic that was too broad

All of which was fair enough, to be honest. So I scraped that direction entirely, and a new idea eventually came to me. (Honestly, these occasional brilliant lightning bolts of ideas that come out of nowhere are the best part of grad school, and basically the only things that suggest to me I'm in the right field.) New idea: an eighteenth century writer named Bernard Mandeville made basically a career out of saying that the English economy is propelled by the production of vice-filled goods. I wanted to show that he practiced what he preached, that through promoting his own written works, he promoted his own vice-filled commodity, the book, and set up terms for how that book should be consumed. And I do all this by a close-reading of his final, and often ignored book, A Letter to Dion, in which he defends his most famous work, The Fable of the Hive, from an attack a man named Dion made on it in Dion's book, Alciphron.

So, as an argument based on a close-reading of a little-known author's most obscure work that itself was a response to a response of his best work, I'm hoping that I've dealt with most of the complaints with my presentation. And I feel good that I've done that, and that I've written a good essay that stands on its own.

On the other hand, it's a course about satire and the city in the eighteenth century, and I've written a paper that is about neither a) satire, nor b) the city. So even though I've discussed the topic with the professor, if he/she wanted to get nasty about it, she/he could really ding me on that front.
But hey, at least I got the century right. That counts for something, right?

Later HoliDays.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Prodigal Son Returns Home...

Nothing drives home the "life-long student" status like calling a university campus "home." But honestly, when I made a brief sojourn to the University of Somewhere Else today, it felt like going home. Honestly, it's as much as a home to me as anywhere else. It's been almost a decade since I left Where Else, Blank is still too new, and I never stayed at any of my actual homes in Somewhere Else long enough to really make them feel like a "home." (Ok, the previous sentence makes absolutely no sense unless you know where Where Else, Blank, and Somewhere Else refer to. Oh, the price paid for anonymity.)

So anyway, the university campus gets a "home" designation. I went over to campus today to have lunch with some old English grad friends--which was great--and to take out some books via the national library agreement, which was less great, but also less of a hassle than I was fearing. I also took the opportunity to just walk around campus a bit, which was tres weird--like I was tourist looking at scenes of my past. I wrote about this more extensively in a short piece called "the Couple" ("Person of Consequence! You can't put in a plug for an unpublished work! " "Oh, can't I? That sounds like a challenge to me!" "No, I mean, there's no point... you know what? Never mind."), but it's amazing how much a person's life--by which I mean this Person's life-- can be influenced by the people they run into on a daily basis. I don't even mean friends and family; I mean just the people you see on a regular basis, and never talk to, never approach, and never really know at all. These people become a part of my personal context; just by being there, they contribute to my sense of familiarity. It's like a nice warm blanket of sameness.

Sadly, this being December, most of the actual students are busy studying, so they weren't around to contribute to my personal people-blanket. (Very selfish of them.) The people at the library provided enough scraps to make a few quilt patches, the students who were present provided the design, and, as always, my friends were the threads that bind the whole thing together. (Awwwww.)

Arts and crafts aside, it was fun to return to the alma mater, and I think that the books I found finally gave me a solid approach to my paper. But here's hoping that future ventures in the next week feature more of the friend side of the equation than the work side.

Later D--
Oooh! Almost forgot. No trip down nostalgia lane would be complete without a brisk trot through lunch at the campus restaurant. And however much anything else has changed, their student bargain-priced grilled cheese is EXACTLY how I remember. If the campus is a quilt, then that restaurant is definitely a... signature stitching form? A matching throw-pillow? A ketchup stain in the upper right corner that draws the eye?

...I think think this metaphor has gotten away from me.

Later Days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Comic Book Wednesday: Embrace More of the Same

Three short reviews this week, no explanation. Because that's just the way I role. And roll, too.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign. By Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. Osborne assembles his "Dark" Illumanati group, consisting of Loki, White Queen, Namor, Doctor Doom, and the Hood, and has a heart-to-heart with Swordsman. This oneshot is basically an "coming attractions" reel for the upcoming Dark Reign arc. As far as such things go, we've seen better; as divisive as DC's equivalent preview for the Infinite Crisis event was in killing off Ted Kord, at least something signficant occurred. Without going into too many spoilers, it felt like the issue wasn't setting up groundwork so much as telegraphing outcomings; we've already got a sense on who's going to be the character focal point of the group, who's preparing for a double-cross, and who's going to have a mental breakdown. The issue does what it intends to do, but it didn't really raise any interest for me in the Next Big Event.

Final Crisis 5. By Grant Morrison and Lots of Artists. If the series keeps improving like this, issue by issue, by the time we hit 7, it will be one of the greatest classics of Western literature.
This issue strikes a nice balance between the off-the-wall cool ideas that Morrison is known for (Rubik's cubes, anyone?) and the just-plain-cool, such as the Green Lantern trial at the start of the issue. As far as plot goes, I think the overall picture is that we're gearing up for the big final showdown; any finer details are, well, a bit muddled in the mix. On its own terms, the issue is fine, and based on what came before it, it's a step up. My only problem is with the overall picture: with only two issues to go, there are still a lot of disparate plot threads that just aren't close enough now to contribute to all contribute to the finale in any meaningful way. I may be wrong, but at the moment, it still seems like there are too many half-finished ideas floating in the air.

Wolverine: Flies to a Spider. By Gregg Hurwitz and Jerome Opena. Wolverine supplies the role as the Angel of Vengeance for a little girl caught in the crossfire of a gang war, killing the members of a local bike gang. Flies to a Spider is the latest in a long line of Wolverine one-shots, and I'd be worried about overexposing the character if that line hadn't been crossed decades ago. And while this is hardly the first or first hundredth time this has ever come up, but how exactly does a wanton vigilante murderer manage to put himself on the rosters of the biggest superhero groups in the Marvel world, and no one seems to mind? With the Punisher, at least he's an outlaw on the run, and law enforcement figures try half-heartedly to stop him every now and then. But Wolverine's got a registered address with the X-Men; you'd think someone would attempt to bring a warrant or two the next time they're in San Francisco.
But that's what I get for trying to apply logic to a world with flying men in tights. The issue itself isn't bad, although it's kind of forgettable. While it jumps through its hoops readily enough, the basic plot could have worked for any gruff, vigilante type. You basically could do the whole plot with the Punisher, just switching the claws for guns. And honestly, a bike gang? Versus an unstoppable, nigh indestructible killing machine? Not a lot of tension there. The action itself is well-orchastrated, and if that's your bag, I guess the one shot is ok. But for me, there's better out there.

But enough about me. Any dissenting opinions out there? Or sycophantic agreement? Or even disinterested bystanders? Comments, insults, and praises are welcome.

Later Days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Superfluity of Topics

One of the quotations that stuck with me from the autobiography portion of the blog class said that every act of telling is an act of telling is an act of omission. It's a notion that seems contrary to the spirit of the blog: if you have the option of saying anything, that seems to also imply that you can say everything. But of course, that's not the case. The first hurdle is the numerous social obligations that prevent one (ok, me) from totally disclosing some subjects. After all, there is a reason I'm a pseudononymous author. And beyond that, as any writer worth his or her salt knows, there is no absolute truth to an event, but every time you commit it to paper, (electronic ones and zeroes, whatever) you're privileging one interpretation above countless others. Since my last post, I've been through a fair bit. What to do I talk about? What's worth stating?
Should I talk about the car ride over to the airport?
The conversation on that car ride?
The four hour wait in the airport boarding area, in which I nearly friggin starved because the only place there selling food didn't accept debit?
The four-hour plane ride, in which I once again made the weighty decision on whether to choose Pepsi or Sprite for my complimentary drink?
The frustration towards the Samurai Sodoku puzzle I brought? The way it felt to look down from the window and feel the contrast between the lights from the stars and the lights from the ground? (Awesome, by the way; I never had a night time plane trip in clear skies by a window seat before.)
A review of the two novels I read on the plane, one featuring human/sheep hybrids, sentient computers, aliens with advanced olfactory sensors, and a religion founded on skepticism and another novel that was by John Barth? (Guess which one was easier to follow. Zing.)
The privilege I felt, at just being witness to a woman who stepped off the plane after a year spent abroad in New Zealand, coming into the arms of her family?
The relief I felt myself to be here?
The oddity of feeling that I was back, but slightly misplaced?
How I'm adapting? Whether or not I feel glad that my essay has finally swung the other way, that instead of having nothing prepared, I now have enough notes that they take up more space than the finished essay is supposed to? (Answer: I feel very glad. Glad enough to put off the actual writing another day or two.)
The precautions that should, nay, must, be taken for cold-weather jogging? (Very important.)
So many topics, so much yet so little space. And this doesn't even take into account a few things I left out entirely I suppose the nice thing about life is that these things sort themselves out, sooner or later.

Later Days.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Blog Colloquium

I spent all of today at the final event for Eng 794, the day-long colloquium. Basically, it was all twelve of us reading our final papers out loud. The individual papers were fine--and some, even some other than mine, were really good--but after number 10 or so, you just want to go home and not worry about what the self is any more.

My paper was on the expression of self in comic book blogs. I toyed with the idea of ending my presentation with a joke. Specifically, with this image:
It's probably best I didn't. But when will I ever get such a chance again?

A lot of people were saying they were glad to be done the course, myself included. A lot were also saying they had been really nervous about the presentation itself, which did not so include me. I kind of like presenting papers, to be honest. I love trotting out the oral skills and showing them off, even if calling them "skills" may be overstating them. I was the same way pretty much all through high school. It took me ten, fifteen minutes to work up the courage to strike up a conversation, but I'd perform in front of the entire school without thinking twice about it.

The presentation also marked the first time I used a powerpoint presentation. Given that I'm supposedly specializing in digital media, it seemed a wise course of action. I think that part went fine; I didn't have as many slides as other students, but quality over quantity, right? And while a picture may be worth a thousand words, a picture of the Punisher punching a polar bear is worth, like, six of those other pictures.

I found the bio blurbs the profs did before each session interesting; I've been in class with these students all year, and in some cases, this was the first chance I had to really hear their research interests and goals. A lot of the MAs are in it to make themselves more marketable. That still blows my mind: people come to U of Blank to get a marketable English degree. A marketable English degree. It... it just doesn't sound right. A healthy donut. A clean trash heap. A A smart rock. A marketable English degree.

I guess the last noteworthy thing about the colloquium is that I used it as an excuse to wear the full suit. Getting the whole thing to the university was a pain in the ass, especially on the bike, but it all held up remarkably well for spending the entire trip wadded into a ball in my bookbag. And honestly, I felt better wearing a suit. Cooler. More awesome. I totally get Barney Stenson now. (What, no How I Met Your Mother fans in the crowd?)
And how did the actual presentation go?
It was legend--wait for it--ary.

Later Days.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Comic Book Wednesday: It's Not My Fault It's A Day Late...

...blame American Turkey Day.

A super-quick follow-up to last week's review of Batman 681:
Batman 682. I have absolutely no idea what's going on.

And on to the reviews proper...

Secret Invasion 8. By Brian Michael Bendis & Leinel Francis Yu. The final issue of Secret Invasion opens with the Watcher looking on as the Skrulls unleash their secret attack: a bio-weapon implanted in the Wasp. Usually, I don't have any complaints against Yu's art, but in this case, neither the art nor the dialogue really conveys what's going on. It looks like Janet van Dyne has accidently become the agent for a weapon that makes people come down with a bad case of black circles. The rest of the issue is basically a launch pad for the new status quo, which is the real problem here: the Skrulls seem more like an afterthought than the main story. It probably would have been more narratively focused (and more honest) if Marvel had just added a few more pages to SI 7, wrapped it up there, and published this issue as an epilogue or coda, which it very clearly is. It all fits together, as long as you don't think about it too closely, but for an eight month story, it's a fizzle of an ending.

Fell: Feral City. By Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith. While I still regard Y the Last Man as far and away the best graphic novel series in my collection, Fell is probably the closest thing I have to a comic I'd described not only as literature, but as art. In fact, in a flagrant disregard for tradition and precedent, I'm going to start with my favorite part of the novel: the art. Generally, art is not a big selling point for me in a comic book series: I'm in it for the story, the dialogue, the script. For the most part, as long as the art isn't actually detrimental to the rest, I don't notice it.

I notice Fell's art. Take a look at this:
I really wish this image could do justice to Templeton's work. But to get the full experience, you really need to get your hands on the glossy paper. The exact lines and sketches are actually fairly simple--not quite minimalist, but lacking just enough detail so that you know it's an aethetic choice rather than, say, a bad artist. The brilliance is in the colouring though. Every panel is seeped in these incredible hues. Often, it seems like the characters themselves are giving off light--or failing to do so, in some cases. The end effect is an artistic marvel. Like if James Jean of the Fables covers decided to do whole books.

But enough amateur art critic. As pretty as Templeton's art is, it needs a story to ground it. In fact, I've read some of Templeton's other work, in which he illustrates more run-of-the-mill zombie stuff, and it's almost disappointing to have something so typical drawn so well. Like a waste of potential.

Thankfully, that's not the case here. Ellis is on his game, even if it's a different game than he usually plays. Each of the eight issues that make up volume one of Fell concern Rich Fell, a police detective transfered to Snowtown under inglorious, mysterious circumstances. And once in Snowtown, Fell begins to fall... presuming he started off from any height to begin with. As you'd imagine from the subtitle, Fell: Feral City is nearly as much about Snowtown as it is about Fell. Snowtown is a dark mirror image of a city: its people are controlled by superstition, hundreds of murders go unsolved each year, and everyone there seems to be going slowly--and not so slowly--insane. And that includes Fell. That's really the most fascinating part of the series--watching Fell slowly descend deeper and deeper into Snowtown, making one moral compromise after another. It's not exaggerating in the least to say that Snowtown is often a reflection of Fell's mind, growing darker and more warped along with him.
The little details are almost enjoyable as the big picture--like Fell's relationship with the bartender Mayko, and the comical insanity of Fell's fellow officers (Department secretary: "My husband left me. For the dog. That bitch. That pampered whore. With her fur and her pretty little nails. Aren't my nails pretty enough? Didn't I wear the suit for him? My throat is raw from the barking."). And the creepiness that is the Nixon Nun must be seen to be believed.
Ellis is big on promoting this series, although not always big at actually WRITING it: the issues are dirt cheap, but it's often a six month stretch between them. Issue ten will be out... some day, but for now, Feral City can be purchased for around $20 Canadian, which would be a good price even if the comics were crap. Instead, you'll be getting a fusion of art and story that fully showcases why the comic book is a worthy medium for the art of narration.
...And no, no one's paying me to sell Fell volumes.
Later Days.

My Brother Said I Should Do More Short Posts

I just realized that I've been mentally pronouncing "eponymous" as epi-nonymous my entire life. And I teach words for a living. Shocking.

That is all.

Later Days.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I came across this while researching...

What Nature wants (a phrase I much distrust)
Extends to Luxury, extends to Lust:
And if we count among the Needs of life
Another's Toil, why not another's Wife?
--Alexander Pope, "Epistle to Bathurst"

Turns out that the real threat to marriage isn't gay marriage, but that big screen HDTV. You heard it hear first, folks. Luxury is a gateway vice to adultery.

Later Days.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's really Mr. Mandeville's fault for being so devilishly inscrutible.

It's been a while since the last post. Things have been busy--well, nationally, things have been busy. Yay! Canadian Politics are interesting! And the NDP matter! And though the pros and cons of that are worthy of their own post, my own busyness prohibits it. I leave on Saturday for Someplace Else, and I've been desperately trying to wrap up everything at Blank first. (Hey, typing Blank is easier than typing __________. What a shock.)

My marking for students is almost done--I've got about 8 assignments left to mark, and 5 of those are because the student in question hasn't handed them in. I can't remember the last time I was so entertained by my students' final essays. For the most part, they're a pretty sharp bunch, especially for a first year course. (Either I'm getting easy in my old age, or it's because it's a first year course full of fourth year students wanting to cross off their English elective.) And the essays have had some really, really awesome secondary sources. One managed to use Mein Kampf to draw a connection between propaganda and the US in a way that wasn't entirely inflammatory. (Just partially inflammatory, which is what happens when you mention Hitler. Ever. And I can't wait to see the interesting key-word searches this post will create.) Another used Baldwin's PETA video. I checked that out personally. I was expecting a happy-go-lucky fun-loving Baldwin, ala 30 Rock. That is not what I got. Most disturbing thing ever. Finally, one student writing about school discipline used a 1953 film designed for 8 year olds. This lead to a three hour marathon in which Person and friend watched the entire gamut of 50s educational films, from the weenie roasts in "What To Do on a Date" to the bold truth in "The Trouble with Women." Surprisingly, the male-oriented "As Boys Grow" was very accurate. The female "As Girls Grow" was not--ladies, remember that to be safe, you should avoid washing your hair when you're having your period. That's how it works, right? Sadly, since the student was using a 1953 film without either irony or historical context, it didn't really work for a university level paper.
My work for the blog class is done too; I'm ready for the presentation on Friday, slideshow and all. The slideshow will be an academic first for me, so I'm hoping it works well. I'm comparing one comic book blog that involved detailed, personal introspection and another that involved the Punisher punching a polar bear in the face. Which will the audience prefer?
The only thing not going well is my 18th century paper. It's 15-20 pages, and I've finished... um, well, I wrote an outline. *Cough*. Since I've given up on finishing that one by Saturday, the question now is how to minimize the number of books I need to take home. So far, I've winnowed it down to a mere fifteen.
Yeah, maybe I should go work on that instead of typing this.

Later Days.