Wednesday, December 31, 2008

on white teeth.

Zadie Smith is well-recognized as a pretty amazing author. She's been through the grind of the press, and she's been fawned over by the moony-eyed critics. She also happens to write great product, which is probably why nobody (as far as my limited understanding of her has been) has really had anything terrible to say about the praise and the awards. (Notwithstanding the average review on Amazon.com, of course, but those are usually half and half anyway.) Zadie Smith's first novel, called White Teeth and published in 2000, has to be seen as at least semi-autobiographical, since she was born to a Jamaican mother and an older English father, but that might be about it. The similarities aside, the novel is an incredible experience.

It's a sprawling epic that covers quite a time span (if we're including Samad's great-grandfather, Pande, as one of the central characters, which I think we must) - approximately 100 years? The physical location varies just as much, even though we don't actually see a lot of the action in Bangladesh, we see a side of London, and are (of course) influenced by Jamaica. The characters are well-developed, especially Samad and Archie who are connected by a war they didn't really fight in, as well as their advice to one another, their similar wives (both younger, both fitting into the new model much more easily than either of their husbands) and, most fittingly, by their children, who seem almost doomed to carry on the sins of their fathers. Samad is blessed with twins, Magid and Millat, but sees them only as double the evidence of the damage that the assimilation to England is reaping upon his lineage. Archie, on the other hand, has one daughter, who is much more her mother's daughter than his, even down to her name: Irie Jones. (Fantastic name, by the way, especially with modern connotations. I wonder if that slang had made it over to England by 2000, or if it was around before then, or if the older people who read the book get it.) Magid gets sent away in a ridiculous move by his father, a decision that will ultimately cost him not the ultimate price of death, but perhaps an existence even worse than merely dying. Millat and Irie, on the other hand, continue to thrive in the London scene of the late 80's and early 90's that so many of my contemporaries were equally enamored with.

That scene is replete with the dangers of assimilation, from both ends: the Iqbals have a hard time seeing London affect their children in the way it does, but England, of course, has a hard time accepting the fact that people of other nationalities want to come to their blessed shores and do the work that many of the natives consider themselves too good for. It's a dangerous subject, and it calls to mind the rather-public battles that were fought in the Presidential election of 2004, when it seemed like America (or at least my home state, New Mexico, at the bare minimum) might implode if someone dared to say, "Ummm...Remember the Statue of Liberty?" There's a lot of commentary hidden in the folds within this text, not only about race, and how hard it is for people to fully accept, but also about how truly difficult it is for the people who are going through it. (And by "going through it," make no mistake, I'm talking about the singular experience of being a minority in a country where you are not fully accepted. This would have to be pretty much any country where minorities exist, since I'm unaware of any utopias in our current world, but that doesn't mean that it's not getting better. I'm all about progress, but I also think it's our duty to keep our eyes open and be realistic. And the reality is, it's still an unthinkable hardship [unthinkable only for people who have never experienced it, of course] to be a different shade than those who are in charge.) Despite all this, there's very little head-on discussion of the racism that is frequently alluded to, which makes me wonder if that's a British thing (not bringing up rude subjects) of if it's a Smith thing (not wanting to air her dirty laundry)?

The search for meaning, as always, is one of the central themes (of any good novel) and the place that religion occupies in that search is not neglected here. Archie has a not-complicated relationship with religion, mainly because he seems to ignore it at all times (very much occupying the role of straight man when it comes to he and Samad's discussions) but Samad has a fractured relationship at best. He's a Muslim, so he won't drink or masturbate, but he needs to have a drink with Archie, so he commits himself to not masturbating, but then he meets a woman that drives him insane, so he's given to infidelity and adultery, so he gives up drinking, but then his conscience gets to him and he ends the affair, which requires a stiff (no pun intended) drink, and so on and so forth. Like a real man in the real world, his relationship with his God is a complicated one. The people who are most interested in their faith do not easily down that path. Things are difficult, and they should be, and Samad Miah's relationship with his God, his wife and his sons proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

(As an aside here, the fact that neither of these women divorce either of their husbands affirms, to me at least, that both of the women are, in fact, much more serious about their faith than either of the men. The novel is not set in the era when divorce was so frowned upon that they couldn't have survived the semi-scandal. But they stay together for more than just the kids, too. The commitment they both show is rather admirable, but I do have to question people who refuse so mightily to get divorced. The entire novel might be an attempt to prove that, sometimes, divorce is the right answer: these people essentially destroy their children, not just their adolescent lives, but (possibly) the whole enchilada. Zadie's own parents got divorced, and this novel, as I already mentioned, is at least semi-autobiographical. I wonder if it was a conscious decision on her part to prove to her parents that they were right to take the path they did?)

Millat, on the other hand, has no complicated relationship with God, only with himself. He is constantly in search of who he really is, and this is spelled out explicitly in the text: he is only half of a person, always mirroring his twin, even when they're continents apart. He falls in with the drug-users, whatever music is popular at the time, and the religious crowd that looks at Malcolm X as an idol. However, it's in his own thoughts that we're finally privy to what he most wants to be: As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. This is a great statement, too, especially if you've ever experienced the sway that these modern fables have on such a particular subset of our population now. It's real and it's kind of scary.

Speaking of scary, the last note that I want to include is that this novel makes liberal use of the word terrorist. It's amazing, as a post-9/11 American, to see the ease with which the rest of the world dealt with this label long before most of us had ever even thought about it. Just another reminder that the world is much larger than we ever think, and, as White Teeth seems intent on teaching us, things are much more connected than we'd ever think to realize.

Bottom Line: Four and a Half Stars (out of Five).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

on seven pounds.

Winter Break has been very kind to me. I've gotten through three books thus far, watched a crapload of movies, and indulged in as much basketball as I could endure. (BTW, if I wasn't so hard on the Lakers train already, I would jump HARD on that Blazers bandwagon before it got all filled up. I'm only writing this now because I'm loving every minute of this Celtics/Blazers game.) But of the things that I've done, only one was a really unusual treat for myself: when I was in high school (and even more recently, to be honest) I used to go to the movie theater pretty often. I love movies, and I like going to see things when they're fresh, so that I'll be able to talk to people about them. However, recently, that's stopped. I don't know if it's my Netflix account, or the rising prices of the cinema, but I just don't go all that often anymore.

So when I got a chance to go see Seven Pounds, I was pretty excited. Let's just say that excitement didn't really get a chance to fully blossom. The movie was fine. Will Smith does a great job, he's really matured as an actor. (I mean, seriously? This is the same guy?! Almost unbelievable.) His role in I Am Legend really said great things to me, and this one continues down the serious path of The Pursuit of Happyness as well.

However, the movie really does give new meaning to the definition of cliche. I'd say that anyone who doesn't really get what's going to happen pretty much within the first ten minutes of the movie is operating at a second-grade level, but it'd be insulting to the second-graders. The movie borders on disgustingly predictable, but manages to entertain at the same time, so I guess I have to give it high marks for that. It'll make girls weep, which, I guess, is a good thing, if that's what you're looking for. Rosario Dawson isn't as godawful as she usually is, and Barry Pepper continues to play his bit parts pretty well, although I'm not sure that I've ever seen him really work hard to stretch himself beyond the friend who's a bit tortured. Woody Harrelson, however, really gets a chance to shine, and that afore-mentioned first scene is a truly powerful one, mainly for the composure that we see emanating from Harrelson's character.

I guess I'd say overall that, while I was appreciative of the secrecy they tried to cloak the movie in, drawing people in with the mystery, "Oh, what's the secret? Who are the names? What is he going to do?" as I've already said, that was fairly obvious within the first ten minutes. So maybe a little more forthrightness would have been appreciated in the advertisement so that we wouldn't have to approach this as a mystery of some kind but rather going to see Will Smith demonstrate a little more of that range that he's done so well with recently.

Bottom Line: Two and a Half Stars (out of Five).

Monday, December 29, 2008

on resolutions.

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great holiday season and I know it's not completely done yet, but I want to get back in the swing of things this week before work starts up again next week so that I won't be trying to breathe when I should just be hitting the ground running. I spent the morning of this day playing some basketball, and I just sat out in the sun with Zod for the last hour or so doing some reading, so now it's time to get back to work. Part of that work is pouring some more of me into this blog.

In general, I don't really do resolutions. I think they're kind of tacky and when I've promised myself in the past that I would do this or not do that, it's tended to happen with a lot of success in the first month, drop off kind of in February, and then be totally gone by March. So this year, I'm aiming for long-term goals and trying to be very specific about not only maintaining them, but measuring them as well, in an attempt to stick with what I want.

2008 was, in general, a really good year for me. IF 2007 was kind of marked by depression (the end of a relationship, some unhappiness at work, etc.) then 2008 was marked by the exact opposite of those circumstances: I felt really healthy this year, ran a whole bunch, maintained my relationships to a fairly successful degree, strengthened me role at work, and embraced my family even more. I want to continue down this path in 2009. With that in mind, here are my resolutions for 2009:

Run 1000 miles. This year I really wanted to run a marathon and I was on a pretty good track until I had some trouble with a night of drinking and tried to kill Brother One. That was good and bad, because it inspired a great period of sobriety, but it also de-railed my training for the marathon. I realized, however, that it wasn't the end of the world if I didn't run it this year, so I was able to breathe a little easier. In 2009, however, I fully expect to run my first marathon. More important to me, though, is the overall goal: running 1000 miles over the course of the year. To some people who are really hardcore runners, that might not sound like a lot, but for me, it's a great goal that makes me run on a regular basis, stay fit in general, and has mini-goals that I can measure each month, as well. These are all very good things for me.

Spend more time on this blog. While I don't really ever think of this as something that I could make a living from, I do think it's a really great tool to get me into the habit of writing something every single day. I enjoy having this place to make the notes that I do, even when they're not terribly significant, and even when/if not many other people are reading those thoughts. I'm of the mind that it's good for me to get these thoughts out, one way or another. So with that in mind, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to maintain a pace of posting something every single week day, even if some days that something is only a link or a picture. I should also be able to use the extra time that I have (whenever I can find it) to build up a surplus of articles that I'll be working on while not actively posting them.

Apply for more jobs. This is a rather big one. I've been happier and happier at my job, and it's not like I'm in a hurry to leave it. But I was taught to always keep my options open and be ready when opportunity comes knocking. With that in mind, I'm going to continue what was a great development for me this summer: I'm going to be sending out frequent applications, even if I might not be perfectly qualified for a job. I think there's nothing wrong with putting your name out there. I'm in a great position with my work where I believe my boss will be perfectly understanding about these sorts of things, and it'd be ridiculously foolish to fail to take advantage of those circumstances.

And last but not least, I'm not going to make it a resolution, so much, but rather, a goal: I'd like to follow through on my plan of living in a different city during the summer. I'm only going to be in these perfect circumstances for so long, so I might as well take advantage of them.

Resolutions: yay or nay?

Monday, December 22, 2008

on the world i envision.

I should have been able to speak out loud to my car's CPU on the way home to calculate the distance between my house and where I should have been for dinner, to decide if I wanted to run there.

Our walls in our homes should all be made of OLEDs and we should be able to change them to whatever we want at any time, either uploading images (personal or famous - pics from vacation or the Starry Night) over the ever-present Wi-Fi, or drawing on them, in whatever pattern we fancy at that time. This might require some sort of special glove, but that'd be OK. And, of course, all of the patterns we drew would be saved in the cloud so that if we ever felt like going back to something, it would be saved. We'd have to have some kind of advanced search algorithm, too, even beyond what Google does now, but a lot along the lines of where they're going - tagging pictures with identifiers, looking at speech inside videos, and recognizing patterns in drawings.

Utilizing the aforementioned Wi-Fi, pretty much everyone would podcast at all times from their cars. We'd broadcast the music we listened to, but we could tag things as more important; i.e. if I went through a traffic jam, I'd note it in my podcast, but not just in sequential order, I'd prioritize it. That way, everyone's GPS-aware iPods would be scanning the area ahead (where we're going) to look for any important notes from podcasters that I'd tagged in the past as worth listening to. This would, essentially, be crowdsourcing jobs that we rely on one (flawed) person (or, at a max rate, a few individuals) to do for us at this time. Of course, if companies want an in here to shove their shit in our faces, this would be a great place for them to listen in and see that we're repping certain record companies (or, even more likely, since they'll eventually [and not even that far away from now] disappear and be replaced by more focused groups, certain bands) and start mini-sponsorships. They could poke in and say (using Pandora as a base), "If you like this podcaster, you might like this other guy too." There's plenty of room for revenue-sharing in a scheme like that.

Going back to the OLEDs making up our construction materials, one of my frequent complaints about life today is that everything doesn't talk to everything. I write one of my friend's birthday's on my calendar, it should wirelessly sync with my phone, my car, my personal laptop, my work computer, etc. This only makes sense, but it's much harder to actually do, as opposed to talk about.

Of course, everything should be make out of OLEDs, thus bringing the digital world to our physical one. It literally pisses me off when I'm reading something in a magazine and I can't click the word to get the definition. I know this can be solved by reading the same story online, or buying a Kindle, but it should be that way automatically (by default?) in the 'real world' as well. The real issue here, obviously, is money: it would cost billions of dollars to do everything this way - companies figure why bother? My thinking is the exact opposite: it's going to be that way eventually, so wouldn't you want to be the first company spending all this money to be the first out the gate and satisfying the masses while the other guys play catch up?

I mentioned the cloud before and this is not something that's unique to me or my brain (I'm honestly not even sure any of those other things are, either, they're just things that I think about all the time) but it's obviously going to be huge. I mean, the cloud is the future. I kind of feel like I don't need to say as much about it since so many people are already up on it. But it requires so much more work in order to actually work, and in order to be useful in all the ways that people envision that it makes me wonder if it'll ever actually happen. Remember all the municipal Wi-Fi projects that haven't worked? Yeah, that'd be all of them. So how (and when) are we going to make this transition? A handful of technology-types putting their stuff up in the cloud doesn't mean that the majority of techno-illiterates are going to follow suit or think that it's a good idea.

Of course, all of this brings up my very real concern: Skynet takes control. I know that I bring this up often enough in real life that my friends know I'm serious about it, but I don't know if there's a way to convey how serious I am about these sorts of wild, outlandish theories over the Internet. I'm dead convinced that the machines actually will take over, largely as a result of all the things that I talk about above. So, my yearning for the future brings about the future I dread. How's that for a self-fulfilling prophecy? Jesus, someone page Dr. Freud.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

link of the day.

Brando just bookmarked this site for me that details where pickup games are happening in your local area, and I was all excited, especially when I got to the default home screen where there were thousands of little basketball hoop icons in a small area. Then I tried to search my hometown (which required registering, which is a drag, but no biggie) and found that there were none. Zero. Not a single hoop even registered. So I've put up three of the places I like to play and that I'm at the most often (in the summer, when it's not mind-numbingly cold) and I'd love if this became something that more people in the 505 used. It's convenient and seems to be a step in the right direction...right? Check out No Fouls to find out where and when people will be balling.

Friday, December 19, 2008

on it being "ruff" in jail.

OK. Well, at least this one's funny. But here's the thing that I just realized: I've been missing a HUGE opportunity here! The phone book is full of this insanity!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

on charlie bartlett.

Having had a chance to watch this movie (which Rocafella, perhaps incorrectly, dismissed, I think a bit quickly), I have to say that it really should be required watching for most teachers. Not because it's an amazing movie, not because it features great dialogue, and not because it's breaking down any kind of stereotypes; in fact, it indulges in all of the bad aspects of each of those three cardinal sins. It's not very great in any unique way, it really truly does feature some atrocious dialogue, and it's stereotypical in some of the most insulting ways. So why do I say that it should be required watching, and why am I sitting here talking about it?

Charlie Bartlett has a couple of great things going for it: First and foremost is Robert Downey Jr. who has always been one of my favorite actors, mainly because my mother loves him so much and convinced me to always give him another look when he ran into another one of his many problems that used to plague him so badly. But Downey really inhabits this role in a lot of ways. Let's get the obvious out of the way right away: yes, the character has problems with alcohol, and yes, we are reminded of Downey a lot in those scenes. However, it goes a lot deeper than that. Charlie Bartlett himself is constantly supposed to be seen as the smartest character in the movie, but there are a lot of times when Downey's character, as flawed as he truly is, can clearly be seen to be superior in a lot of ways.

This might only be my work-self speaking, but Downey's character is an ex-history teacher who's become a principal to his (and his daughter's) chagrin and he clearly struggles with the boundaries between his daughter at home and his daughter at work. The thing is...his character is basically what every good teacher should be (is?) and yet he's been put into the position (by the system, it's implied, but never shown) of having to toe the line. I'd kill to have students intelligently protest the presence of cameras in our schools but when it happens to him with his students at his school...he looks uncomfortable, to say the least. That's because the superintendent is seemingly always at his school, constantly holding the threat of firing him over his head. Downey's character ranges from the aforementioned clearly uncomfortable to the mentioned-but-not-seen suicidal. This is for a variety of reasons, but the worker in me can't help but see it as a reflection of one of the more subtler themes of the movie: we're turning our schools into prisons. And while it's not a great experience to be a prisoner, it's certainly not an amazing one to be a warden, either.

The other great thing about this movie is how Charlie Bartlett (the character) so clearly displays his malaise at almost all times. He's so so so uncomfortable with almost every circumstance that he finds himself in that he has to immediately change as many things about it so that the focus can be on him, where he thrives. The dreams that he has, the constant need to fix everyone else, the chameleon-like nature of fitting in everywhere and with everyone, these qualities all serve to vividly (if a bit obviously) illustrate the question that his girlfriend asks him, that serves as a refrain to so many teenage kids: who fixes you? When someone fits in everywhere, do they truly fit in anywhere?

While it stereotypes the suicidal kid, the drama department, the bully, the jock, and so so so many other timeless high school ideas (that have never actually been as true as they're portrayed here, except in the minds of people who have long-since graduated), there's a lot to appreciate in Charlie Bartlett.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

on snow days.

In celebration of my work taking the day off today, for fear of people committing mass homicide on the icy, icy roads [/sarcasm], I took this picture of one of the many mini-snowmen that (presumably) many people built. That will be the entirety of this blog entry. I hope y'all enjoyed your day at work as much as I enjoyed sitting around with friends, coffee and snow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

on the best of 2008.

No introduction necessary. This is it.

Music Released

Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
Beck - Modern Guilt
The Streets - Everything is Borrowed
Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
4. Nas - The N*gger Mixtape
3. Q-Tip - The Renaissance
2. Ryan Adams - Cardinology
1. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night

Albums that didn't quite make the cut, but I still enjoyed included, but are not limited to: the new Nine Inch Nails, Kanye's 808's, Girl Talk's Feed the Animals, TV on the Radio's Dear Science, Cold War Kids' Loyalty to Loyalty (it wasn't nearly as good as Robbers & Cowards), Bloc Party's Intimacy, Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours, and the new Guns 'N Roses.

Overall, I feel better about music this year, as compared to how I did last year. First of all, I feel like I listened to more music in general, better music in particular, and was exposed the way I wanted to be. I also feel like there was more better music released this year than there was last year (and maybe the last two combined?).

Films Seen

On the other hand, this list continues to suffer. While I feel like there are still, really, a ton of movies coming out that are of superior quality, I just honestly don't get to the cinema as often as I used to. And I really don't mind that. My Netflix queue benefits as a result, and I save some money because of the ridiculous prices at the theater. However, I do feel like my list kind of reads as a duh list. But that being said, here it is:

A History of Violence
Iron Man
The Dark Knight
There Will Be Blood

Probably in that order. Those were some seriously great films (with the exception of Iron Man, which was, in no way a film, but might have been the best comic book movie ever - it felt like a comic book put up on the screen). I'm looking forward to Watchmen to such a high degree that it scares me.

Books Read

Important note: Because of my lackadaisical reading, I don't put together lists of the 'Best of 2008' - instead, I put together lists of the best things I read this year. I very rarely read the great books that all the magazines, etc. talk about as being the best of the year, so this won't look like that. In years past, comic books, graphic novels, and young adult fiction have been in my list. This year, I really wasn't feeling any comic books in particular. But there's still a LOT of YA Fiction. In this order:

The Looking Glass Wars
Stargirl
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Little Brother
Looking for Alaska

I've written a lot about all of these books and I know it makes me look like a little kid in some respects, but I'm telling you right now that these books are for real. Every single one of them would make a great gift for anyone from age 13 to 50. They delve into great subjects and (for the most part) do so in a crazy responsible way, in a thought-provoking way, and give the individuals who choose to read them a lot to work with in the future.

That's the best of how I spent 2008. There was a LOT more, especially with books this year, which makes me happy, but that was the cream of the crop. Hope it'll give you some food for thought.

Friday, December 12, 2008

on "encouragement."

Ah yes. Nothing will stop me in my pursuing of the inappropriate use of quotation marks. Not even using them from a potentially hazardous source!

(Although, seriously, I do have doubts about using this. I hope it doesn't get me into trouble. But really, what is this person trying to say? That they'll do something...illicit? Awkward.)

Also, um... I think you mean i.e. not "re." Just, ya know...for what it's worth.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

link of the day.

Click through or watch the movie here, but ch-ch-ch-check it out!



This is a movie made by one of my great friends Mindy C as an assignment for one of her classes this semester. It's got a rockin' soundtrack, and has some great ideas. (Do I agree with everything in here? Nope! But that's part of what makes the Internet so much fun.) Also, it'll be great for me to have this here so that it'll serve as a constant reminder that when someone asks for my help, I shouldn't procrastinate.

Way to make such an awesome video despite your slacker friends, Mindy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

on building a new franchise in the nba.

Never before in my (admittedly young) life have I felt like there's been a wealth of beauty and awe (the antithesis of shock and awe?) in the sport that I love like there is now. If you were the GM of a new expansion team, and you were granted carte blanche by the Commissioner of the league, you could practically do no wrong. Granted, LeBron James seems to be the most right choice, but really, I'd have a hard time arguing against any of the following players:

Chris Paul.
Dwight Howard.
Deron Williams.
LeBron James.

I grew up worshiping at the table of the Forum Blue and Gold guys, and I'd always heard about the glories of some other guy in green, too, but I have to be honest and say that my early basketball life was dominated by 90's Jordan and the ensuing depression his departure caused. (See: all the players dubbed "the next Jordan.") Then I got spoiled with the threepeat earlier this decade and then it was famine years. Root for the Spurs and their boring-ass style? Never! No one out of the East seemed worth my while, much less the appalling Pistons, who dared defeat my oft-referenced Beatles team. Nasty Nash came along and saved Busket in general with his run and fun Suns, and then the Warriors shocked the world so that was fun, but I never had this mythical rivalry that I'd heard about - I never had the embarrassment of riches that I'd heard of from generations before.

Now I feel like I might be living through a new golden age.

Witness Chris Paul's statistical wizardry.

Witness Dwight Howard absolutely abusing all in his path.

Witness Deron Williams running through those who forget to mention his name.

And, perhaps most intimidatingly, witness the one whose marketing campaign coined the phrase - witness the man who might actually do the unthinkable: witness the man who not only might rival Jordan but craves the comparisons!

This is an insane time to be living through. And the thing is...we said this last year. When the West Playoff race was so close I know a lot of basketball heads who said this might be the best it's been in a long minute. And now...it might be even better! Welcome to the season.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

on john green.

I've written here about John Green before - his novel Looking for Alaska just might be at the top of my Best Things I've Read in 2008 when I inevitably start compiling that list very soon. However, he's written books since then and, although I've checked An Abundance of Katherines out from my school library, I have to confess that I haven't gotten around to reading it. (Still being consumed in my contest [which I'm pretty sure I'm the only one still competing in] to read The Three Musketeers, intermittently giving up on that and perusing Zaide Smith's debut novel White Teeth and, of course, taking a break in there for the teen-girl-love of Twilight probably wasn't the best idea if I really wanted to actually get some consistent reading done. But I digress.) However, since reading that book, I've made it a habit to read John's blog and watch his awesome videos and so I knew this video was coming up and I have to say that it was everything I ever hoped for. Here's to John and his braveness, all in the name of charity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

on tin man.

Re-workings have always been one of my favorite ideas, whether it's re-imagining the whole of the X-Men Universe in a giant What If or as simple as an alternate history. So when I see ads for things like Tin Man I usually get excited, even if that excitement wears off almost immediately and I end up not watching the damn thing, because the only thing I watch on TV is sports. (And Lost. God I love Lost.) Thankfully, that's at least half of the reason I maintain a Netflix subscription.

So the other day, I had the pleasure of watching the Tin Man mini-series that Sci-Fi put on. The first thing that should be noted is that it was a mini-series put on by a cable company and that cable company was not HBO. So the graphics were, admittedly, pretty crappy. The flying monkeys were literally remarked upon to look like bats, at best, and there were several times (most of the time?) where the use of a green screen was painfully obvious.

Tin Man re-tells the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and one of the best things about it is that it (perhaps subconsciously, perhaps not) incorporates some elements from some of the other versions that we've already gotten. (Another wise decision is that it leaves yet other versions well enough alone.) There's lots of interesting re-interpretations, especially with the advances in technology between the original publication date and this thing's arrival, most notably in regards to the Scarecrow and the role he plays overall. However, that being said, I wasn't really sure why they chose to alter some of the more significant things...most notably:

The wizard! What the hell is the deal with this guy? I mean, I know it's a re-visioning, but this is going a bit far, eh? The wizard almost certainly has to be a central character in the story, but in this version they've elected to relegate him to sideshow status. Which wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't for...

The father! Are you kidding me? First of all, this actor just did a terrible job. Straight up, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But I don't fault him entirely. It's not like he had a pot of gold to work with. The addition of this unnecessary character may stand as the single-worst decision in a movie full of them.

So, to start: the movie starts with several clever homages to the classic, but quickly descends into rather familiar territory; and I don't mean the Wizard of Oz territory, I mean generic fairy tale territory. What's the point in using a central text if you're going to throw away some of its most basic tenets? The introduction of DG into the O.Z. was an interesting change with the Munchkins, but after that, aside from the basic appearance of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the aforementioned Scarecrow, the similarities reach the untimely demise.

I like changing things. That's not what this is about. I just think this was a poor change overall. The basic storyline suffered from trying to do too much; instead of three episodes of an hour and a half each, why not just shoot for a 2-episode (three hour total) story? Surely there were things they could have cut.

Amongst my suggestions for those things: the weird sub-plot with her parents and the town. I get the point of it, and, actually, I liked that part of the series, but it could have been edited. The insistence on showing every single little detail of Azkadelia's transformation. Leave some parts to watcher imagination. It presumes that you think poorly of your audience if you don't trust them with some basic things. The unimaginative twist on the Seeker and the revelation about who he was. In fact, the whole Realm of the Unwanted sequence was uninspired in general.

Those would be a few great places to start.

Overall, it was a good idea. But like most good ideas, it needs some revision, some work, and, ironically, some re-thinking itself before it was released to the public.

Friday, December 5, 2008

on "happy" in galoshes.



Ah, thank you Scott Weiland, for making my job this week easy. You released an album called "Happy" in Galoshes. At least it makes sense in the stupid, ironic way that most people misuse quotations nowadays.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

link of the day.

Absolutely sick video from Jones on the NBA, entitled The Assassination of Michael Jordan by the Coward Kobe Bryant. It was perfect that I'd just seen the movie for the first time only a little while ago, because, man, watching that made me appreciate the film even more. Good stuff over there. Every time I see this site, it makes me wonder why I'm not reading it on a regular basis. So now I'm gonna have to. (Hat tip, of course, to True Hoop.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

on the albuquerque thunderbirds.

The Albuquerque Thunderbirds are my hometown's NBADL team. They're a lot of fun. They had a great first season. But since then...well, they've kind of suffered. (By the by, just as a sidenote, God, that Wiki page is so so so messy. I'm making a pledge to fix it up this weekend, if it's not already taken care of.)

I'd like to see the D-League be a bigger thing here in ABQ, especially given the polarizing nature of basketball in this state. And we keep on talking about building a new stadium either Downtown, or at the Fairgrounds, or somewhere, but all the talk that I see focuses on 12,000 vs. 15,000 seating capacity... The Thunderbirds had their best attendance ever at 4,000-something the other night for this season's opener. That's big time troubling. If we're going to invest so heavily in something like this (and don't get it twisted: I think we should), we've got to be able to sustain it, so that it doesn't...ya know...leave.

The Thunderbirds were helped along in their first season by semi-local star, Michael Cooper. However, since he's left, the team's floundered quite a bit. For various reasons, I think, as the D-League is wont to do. We do now have, though, a former Lobo playing for the team which should, theoretically at least, give the home team some sway in pulling in some more crowds.

I think one of the problems with the D-League, however, is that a lot of people just see it as so vastly inferior to the NBA. (Again, don't get me wrong. The WNBA faces the same stigma, and perhaps even more so, but that's a point for another time.) And, to a large degree, they're right. The NBADL isn't marketed to the extent that it could (or should, maybe, versus the WNBA?) be, and no matter how many press conferences the NBADL has with their top brass talking about how it's still the best way to get into the Association, the big news stories are still focused on the players who spurn the D-League versus the ones who are actually staying and playing in it. (I'm not even going to get into the LeBron 2010 stories that are dominating the League headlines right now.) Maybe David Stern needs to put a bug in some reporters' ears regarding the D-League. Maybe they're not paying attention.

What it all comes down to, though, is that there has to be a pretty fervent fan base. I used to think that Albuquerque was one of those places, but even with discounted tickets, and the season opener, they could only manager 4,000-something? That, to me, is disappointing. If we can't manage to pack that place to the brim, then perhaps we don't deserve a new stadium. I'd rather we focus on in-building or infrastructure or something else. Part of it has to do with talent. I'm ready to acknowledge that. But part of it has got to be there no matter what. I mean, Rocky Long was pretty pissed at our lack of support and just because he said it in a mean way doesn't mean that he's not right.

Monday, December 1, 2008

on black friday.

Black Friday's gotten a lot of press the last few years as the worst shopping day ever...or the best, depending on your point of view. Personally, speaking as someone who worked at the mall for a few years in my teenage life, I never found the day after Thanksgiving to be nearly as bad as the day after Christmas. Regardless, there's definitely room for the day to be talked about, not just as a hellacious shopping day, but also as the traditional start to the season of shopping, the beginning of the end of the year, and the first day (at least to me) where it's appropriate to start marketing Christmas. (Although, to be honest, in an ideal world, wouldn't we really never "market" Christmas? I mean, if you're a Christian, it's about the birth of your savior. How does buying a ton of presents help out with getting into Heaven?



Regardless, there's been some unfortunate news from this Black Friday and it's unquestionably sad, but I'm truly shocked that anyone is shocked. Isn't this kind of...old hat at this point? And I'm not trying to minimalize anyone's death, but... You know what they say.

I guess the real problem is, to me, that this ever happens in the first place. Maybe that's why I seem a little uncomfortable with expressing it as the apex of tragedy now. Because it's happened before, and because I see such strong problems with the whole idea, I'm having trouble seeing the tragedy in this particular example. (Does that even make sense?)



Here's the bottom line, to me: If we didn't have such a spend-spend-spend culture that was fixated on camping out the day of Thanksgiving, when people should be spending time with their family! so that they could get a good deal on something that they may or may not even really need (but they want it soooooo bad!) I think things would unquestionably be better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

on "lunch deal."

This may or may not be the restaurant used in In the Valley of Elah which was filmed here in town. But really, what are they saying? Like, this one doesn't make sense no matter how you look at it. Hah.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

on twilight.

Surprise, surprise, at my job as a teacher, I've been hearing about this book, Twilight, that all the little girls are loving on. But here's the thing: I read it and...it's not all that bad. It was predictable, it could have been a lot better in places, and, as with many young adults books' authors, Stephanie Meyer needs some serious work when it comes to dialogue.

But let me say this, before I get to the serious criticism: I don't care. I couldn't care less if Twilight was the worst book ever. I couldn't care less when someone thinks that a kids fantasy book is encouraging heathenism so I really don't have any nits to pick when it comes to the negative aspects of some of the typical young adult fiction genre. Twilight is a solid book that the kiddos love to read. And let me tell you what I mean when I say that they love to read it: I mean that this book has a waiting list of approximately 100 names in our library. Any book that can get kids that excited is good by me. I'm psyched any time kids are excited to read, and I'm especially excited that so many girls have told me, "This is literally the first book I've ever read." That's great.

So, on to the bad stuff.

Uh, the book really isn't that good. It's a novel read, but it doesn't really have anything original to it. It's the same old love story that's been told forever, and it's such an obvious cliche that, for someone who grew up with Interview with the Vampire, it's not a huge twist to have the love interest be a vampire instead of Montague vs. Capulet. It's the same old thing where the girl thinks that guy isn't bad (at least not for her) and that, maybe, she can change him. So that's problematic.

But more than that there's the whole issue of the conflict in the story. If we discount the basic love-story aspect (which I'm hoping you can tell that I did), the conflict doesn't arise in this book until the thing's dang near 4/5 of the way done. That's no way to properly run a plot! The conflicts that run through the book aren't true conflicts: Bella moves, she doesn't fit in, she's unhappy that the guys like her, her friends are unhappy with her because they like the guys. I mean, hell, that reads like a diary, not a story! And then, when we finally do get the conflict, it feels rushed, because Meyer's almost run out of room to run through the whole thing.

The dialogue is its own issue when it comes to this genre. I will say that, while I know that many kids think this way, I've never heard them actually speak this way. Falling in love after seeing nothing of a person (love at first sight?) might be a common cliche, but it's not actually so terribly common in real life. Not even in high school. Not even in middle school.

All this being said, I will not lie: the movie was great. I even thought it was better than the book, because it cut some of the extraneous stuff and put forth the story in a kind-of summarized version. For as much flack as the soundtrack got, I thought it fit well with the movie and will probably end up downloading it. (Things that I'm not ashamed to admit that I might probably should be?)

I'm gonna conclude this by again saying that any book that gets kids reading is A-OK with me. Also, despite my unhappiness with the original book, I'm psyched to read the next three because almost everyone that I've spoken with said that each and every one of them is better than the first, by different degrees.

Monday, November 24, 2008

on 808s and heartbreaks.

Stream Kanye's new album from his site while you're pondering whether you'll end up buying a whole album from him where he uses that Auto-Tune effect to its supremely annoying (and inevitable) end.

I've listened to the album three times already, twice in quick succession and then once more intermittently through out the day thus far and I have to say that it's not nearly as bad as I was fearing it'd be. The re-mastering of "Love Lockdown" really brought out better things. The Jeezy appearance on "Amazing" is a nice touch, but I would have liked to have seen some more typical Kanye guests... Where's Common? Lupe? Ya know... the rappers with a Benz and a backpack? That would have been nice.

"Robocop" will go down as one of the worst songs that Kanye will ever do.

The album overall is an interesting experiment and I don't mind that it exists, but it exists on such a different level that it's hard to think that the guy who made this 5 star classic is the same one here and now. Of course, the guys from It's The Real have already weighed in on this and I think there's some value to what they're saying; yes, experimentation is great and yes, creativity is amazing, and continuing to grow is important, but damn! I still lose my shit when this song comes on. Years from now, I won't feel that way about "The Coldest Winter" - know what I mean?

At its most base level, the album really is a failure. It works best when there's some rap happening, which is not often and never from Kanye. Jeezy's there (as mentioned above) and Weezy gets in on the action with "See You in My Nightmares" and both of those tracks stand out as highlights. But the thing is that Kanye seems to be pushing against that at every opportunity. He strikes me most of all as Andree 3000 four years or so ago, when Stacks claimed that he had no interest in rapping again. Which honestly means there's quite a bit of hope left in my tank for Mr. West but belies kind of bad things for the here and now. But the reason I say the album is a failure is not because of a personal preference for Kanye rapping versus singing, not because I dislike the Auto-Tune, and certainly not because of the artistic virtue of what's going on. I think all of those things are admirable. It's great to push boundaries, especially when they're your own. However, I stand by the claim that the album is a failure mainly because of the internal conflict that is so apparent through out the whole thing.

Kanye's claimed that this album is about a break up. That seems painfully obvious. When he concludes the album with the one song that he claims he's written (or chosen to release) about the death of his mother, and talks about how he'll never love again, I can't help but hear it as his need for penance. The break up is real. But it's not a girl that's truly causing Kanye to act out in this way. I think he's frustrated that he hasn't truly changed the game, changed the world. (And, much like dream interpretation this might be me overreaching my bounds. I mean, I'm not a psychologist, and I don't know Kanye on any level other than the music he's made.) But I think that Kanye's over-confidence has always shown us real things about him: he didn't just talk about being the best rapper, he really thought he was. And he thought the game was messed up. And he thought he could change it. And he thought, just by being himself, just by gracing us with his presence, by forcing his talent out into the world, that things would get better. 808s and Heartbreaks might be, ultimately, Kanye West's teenage rebellion after making the varsity team as a freshman but realizing that you can't actually change a team from the inside.

Moving on from Kanye, I do just want to say that this is going to be a great week for music in general and, hopefully, the blog. I hope you all got your free Dr. Pepper and I'm going to put up a review of the whole album sometime later this week. Also, I just got the soundtrack from "Dan in Real Life" which is primarily done by Sondre Lerche, and that's promising to shape up in a great way. But, I don't want to miss out on saying that Q-Tip's "The Renaissance" has been the soundtrack of my life for the last week or so and it's a fine piece of work. Expect lots more on music in the coming days and weeks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

on the seattle supersonics.

So let's chat for a while about the Seattle Supersonics. I think it should be painfully obvious for anyone who knows me (and thus who reads this blog) that I'll be following in The Sports Guy's footsteps and refusing to call them by their new official name. Boo. I really don't even have a soft spot for the Sonics, per se, (I mean, Gary Payton is one of my least favorite NBA players in the history of the Association!) but there's a lot more at play here.

I'm not going to get into all the stuff that was in play at this moment, mainly just because it's been so well-covered already in other places. The plight of the Sonics and their theft from Seattle is not what I'm here to discuss.

Instead, I want to ask a serious question:

Why are the Sonics so bad? Seriously, I mean...they're terrible.

It's not like they're an expansion team in their first year. That kind of suckage is totally explicable - and to be honest, expected. But that's not the case with these Sonics.

They have a kid that some people are fairly obsessed with - and for good reason! They have two ex-Bruins and they have Collison from Kansas! They're coached by P.J. Carlesimo! (Whom I feel bad for, by the way, through all of this. Imagine being up in Seattle and being forced to endure all of this...)

The '72-'73 Philadelpha 76er's went 9-73 which is the lowmark for a single season in the modern NBA. I'm truly curious as to whether these Sonics will fall lower than that. If they do, how will people in Seattle feel? Vindicated? Infuriated? It's just a terrible situation. It's a sad, sad day for the NBA to have this poor action diluting what is shaping up to be an otherwise stellar season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

on lacking balls.

I've already gone on and on about Joe Lieberman and what a Judas he is to the Democratic Party, so I won't go on at length about that again, but rather, I'll say that this is now the second time since commanding a significant majority of the vote and obtaining quite the political mandate that the Democrats have pussy-footed around the right solution just because they don't want to be thought of as rash. Don't be so silly! People elected you because they wanted you to clean up some of the old messes! If you don't do so, you won't be in power for very long. Keep that in mind.

When someone stabs you (whether it's in the back or in the front) it's not your job to still be their friend. I thought most of us learned that in middle school.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

on james bond.

James Bond kicks ass. I don't think there's ever been any denying this. However, I've never really been a James Bond fan. I don't know why, to be honest. Almost all the guys my age love James Bond. They love his movies, they love the shit out of Sean Connery's version of the character, and they love all the minutiae associated with the various side characters.

I, personally, loved the N64 version of the James Bond game but Brother One would always kick my ass. (But only because he would use Oddjob. That dude was too short! You could never shoot him! Unfair.)

However, even with that love, I never really cared about Bond.

My cousin whom I trust, however, told me that Casino Royale was the bomb. So I checked it out. And I thought it was pretty good. But, unfortunately, definitively, not the bomb. So...I don't really know how to explain it, but somehow...

I'm freakin' psyched for Quantum of Solace!

Check it before you wreck it:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

on cyfi.

A great product coming out combining two of my favorite things, biking and music, is called Cy-Fi and it's available now.

It's an interesting concept, and it's something that I think we're going to see a lot more of. The ubiquity of iPods in general, how prevalent they are in our society now really means that more and more, people will be looking at delivering music to people in more ways. There was this great report that I just read talking about how many cars are now coming with iPod hookups standard and I don't think that's really going to come as a surprise to anyone. But remember how fresh it was to make that transition from elevator muzak to the tunes that you actually knew being played in department stores to now being able to have a personal soundtrack of music you love bumping almost all the time. (We're going to look past the volume/deafness issues for now.)

When you combine that, though, with the Bluetooth technology that, honestly, is only now getting its feet wet in the new digital world that people are really starting to embrace, I think you're going to see some amazing things. It reminds me of a time that I've only read about, when people were really into this idea of playing with the ham radios in their basements and the excitement we all felt when we were kids and we first learned about the truckers' CB radio.

The easier it is for people to communicate with each other, I think, the more likely they are to do so. And an increase in communication can only be good, not just for individuals, but for our society in general.

By the way, Kanye's new song "Amazing" is pretty much that - it's got Young Jeezy with the rapping and Kanye doing his 808-Auto-Tune thing. The best thing I've heard from this album. I'm getting more and more psyched for it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

on thinking blue.

For just over four years I've had this little blue band. I never took it off. I wore it on my right wrist and, fortunately for my sense of balance, at the Green Day concert, I got a white One Campaign band to match.

However, it was always my intention to take this band off once I'd done my job Thinking Blue. And as it's now my understanding that I've done that job, I'm rewarding myself.

While researching for this one, I found out that there was, apparently, a little drama with the whole Think Blue campaign; when isn't there, right?

The whole point, however, is that dedicating a bit of time is almost always worth it.

When I worked for the DNC four years ago, I dedicated a lot of time. I worked for John Kerry even though he wasn't really the man I believed in - he was the better choice. That doesn't always have to be a bad thing. People like Ralph Nader have made their recent careers over telling us that it's wrong to make the choice of the lesser of two evils - but it doesn't have to be. We don't live in a world of absolutes. We don't always have to be perfect. We just have to be good enough.

Four years ago, my friends and I weren't. So when we suffered this loss, I went out and bought us all these bracelets so that we could have a reminder on our wrists of what we were working for over the last four years. Although I don't talk to all of the people that I bought bands for, I know that something good came of the fact that I did.

Now it's four years later. We've done good work for four years. There's more to come. Just because he made it doesn't mean he gets a free pass. Let's be vigilant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

on ulysses.

Wow.

I've never cared much for Franz Ferdinand, to be honest. I think they're just all right, they made some great pop music that I like to scream along to, but I didn't think of them in very rarefied light. They were just another foreign band, doing their part to rock out in a clever way.

However, this news about their new album, and particularly, a contest with the new single which is going to be called "Ulysses" (which is a bold thing to do, to title your single after the greatest book written) is convincing me that I might have to take another look at them.

Taken from the write-up at Prefix, "the band has made some remix stems of the track available on the popular Beatport website. The Beatport stems allow fans to remix the track before actually hearing what the finished version sounds like." The article continues to say that the winner of the contest will be awarded 500 Euros, and have their version of the song released.

What a great idea! This is part of that future-wave that we're currently trying to figure out how to ride, and I applaud all innovative moves like this one.

You can find the two stems here at Beatport. They're pretty basic, so the remixing will have to be semi-intense, but I can't imagine that we'd really want it any other way, right?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

on the heavenly virtues.

Faith, Hope and Love are the three Heavenly Virtues. There are different interpretations of which one's the 'most important' and what order they go in, in general.

However, herein lies my take:

Love is easy. Falling in love with someone is one of the easiest damn things in the whole world to do. I mean, seriously, we've talked here previously about how we can even fall in love with the 'wrong' person, about how we don't have control of it, etc. Love is easy. Sure, true love, where you find your soul mate and you stay happy with them forever is pretty rare, and even if it does happen, I'm not saying it's a walk in the park, I acknowledge that it takes work. But with all these things being said about it, I think it has to be clear that Love, while an amazing thing in and of itself, is the least of the Heavenly Virtues.

On the next hand, there's been a lot of talk recently about Hope. Hope is amazing. I'm not here to disparage any of these genuine emotions/feelings. Believe that. Hope can sustain a person. Hope can give someone who feels they have nothing something to live for. Hope can resuscitate a person. Hope is an incredible high. Hope can deliver promise.

However...hope is merely that. Hope. That means that you hope it'll happen. Hope, to me, implies a lack of trust. A lack of...faith.

Faith, on the other hand, is perfect in my eyes. This is a big part of why I still maintain a strict religious presence in my life. I think that Faith gives my life some element, some intangible, wherein there is less of a chance for someone to control me. Faith means that, while I value reason, and I think of myself as a reason-based creature, there are some things that I accept simply because I accept them. I accept them based on faith.

I have faith in humans. I think that we are good, by nature. I think that to think otherwise is foolish. There's so much evidence, some of which I might get into later. But the bottom line for me is that Faith is the tops when it comes to the Heavenly Virtues.

You can easily fall in love with an idea. Then you can hope that it'll work out. And all the while, you should be working to make it so. But at some point, you have to acknowledge that it might be out of your hands. You have to have faith that something good will happen if you've worked hard enough for it. It's not enough to love something, it's not enough to hope for it, some things require a deep faith.

Monday, November 3, 2008

on barack.

In general, I figure that not many people I don't know read this blog. I don't really go out of my way to advertise it, I'm not super-active in any online communities or anything like that, and I've not been linked to by any huge names. So when I say that tomorrow I'm going to be holding my breath until Barack Obama wins, I kind of figure that it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone here.

However, I have kind of gone out of my way to not directly get too into it, not to beat anyone over the head with my uber-liberal tendencies.

But.

That doesn't mean that it's not there. My whole life, for the last week, definitely, has been consumed by the chorus "Obama, Obama, Obama!" I've been furiously consuming political news for so long that it seems like I'm on the verge of burning out, but every time that happens, all I can think of is how excited I'm going to be tomorrow when the nation finally elects a President I can be proud of. Four years ago, as I was working with the DNC, I poured my heart into John Kerry's campaign, traveling around not only New Mexico, but even up to Colorado. I worked my ass off for that man, even though I didn't truly think he was a great candidate. But I was willing to do it because I thought he was the better choice. And when he lost, it was easily one of the top 5 most disappointing (worst?) moments of my life.

I'm now realizing that it had to happen that way so then so that it could happen this way now.

I could not be more excited.

2Pac said that we weren't ready for a black President and it really did seem that he was right. But the crazy thing is that it wasn't that long ago! Chris Rock's been jumping up and down, desperately trying to make everyone forget that he called Billy Clint the first black President. It's a huge thing in America, where racism is still rampant. The craziest thing about that is that there are still some people who believe that it's not a problem in modern-day society.

Now, however, Nas says it best. We are ready. We are the people we've been waiting for, we are the change we want to see in the world, etc. Every other cheesy cliche you can think of is true. We can do better. We deserve better. And tomorrow, we will get it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

on final crisis.

Well, Final Crisis 4 came out last week and words really can't do a good enough job of expressing how truly disappointed I am in the tale thus far. To be honest, I know I'm going to come across like more of a geek here than I ever have before, but comics matter a lot to me. It's a great source of storytelling, in my opinion, and this was supposed to be one of its finest hours. Unfortunately, it's increasingly looking like something that'll be swept under the rug as soon after its completion as humanly possible.

To start with, the schedule. I know there's this justification and that justification, but if we examine them for what they truly are, they're just excuses. Morrison has claimed that one of the reasons for the inconsistencies in issue one is that when he had started to write Final Crisis, Countdown and Death of the New Gods didn't even yet exist. (After I had this entry completely composed, I found the link that I'd wanted to use above. But I couldn't resist including this quote for people too lazy to click through: "Well, the way it worked out was that I started writing Final Crisis #1 in early 2006, around the same time as the 52 series was starting to come out, so Final Crisis was more a continuation of plot threads from Seven Soldiers and 52 than anything else. Final Crisis was partly-written and broken down into rough issue-by-issue plots before Countdown was even conceived, let alone written. And J.G. was already working on designs and early layouts by the time Countdown started. There wasn’t really much opportunity, or desire, to modify our content at that stage." Unbelievable.) Which means that, theoretically, Morrison's claiming that he's been writing this story for about a year and a half. JG Jones, then, has had just as long to pencil the thing. Now, the month-long break between issues 3 and 4 was always planned but then it got delayed. And we heard various reasons for that, but the latest thing that I'd heard was that Morrison was going back to tweak his scripts to reflect the inconsistencies mentioned above. That simply hasn't happened yet. I'm willing to grant that it might in future issues (I mean, we do have three left, which means I'll still be writing about this series almost a year from now, at the rate we're going now) but I'm not willing to bet that it will. And that's a poor sign from a writer whom we're supposed to trust to do great things. I'm not denying Grant Morrison's a fabulous writer! But just because an artist puts out some amazing opus early in his or her career doesn't mean that their later shit doesn't stink. Know what I mean? Grant Morrison's stellar output earlier in life doesn't mean he gets to write a shitty story now. There's no free passes given out.

Secondly, even if I'm willing to accept that that's just the way it is now, comics are late, and we'll put up with it, cuz we still buy them no matter how late and crappy they are, the fact still remains: it's a crappy story. The four issues that I've bought of Final Crisis, thus far, tell a poor story. I really don't even get the story they're trying to tell. Everything's disjointed, and not in that cool, badass, Jungian psychology type of way, but rather in the, "I've been reading comics for just under 20 years, I know tons of the geeky stuff, the hidden stuff, and this makes no sense!" type of way. (I know. That's a misuse of quotation marks. I didn't want to hyphenate all those words together.) Seriously, though, if you want to go beyond the subjective viewpoint that this is a crappy story, can we at least examine the objective truth behind this story and see that it's utterly and completely failed?

This was billed, first of all, as the final part of a trilogy of Crises. That trilogy started in Crisis on Infinite Earths which is a much-revered story in the geekdom, but might have its place re-examined if it keeps inspiring insipid tripe like this. The second part of the trilogy was Infinite Crisis which I thought was a cool comic book/action movie story, if a bit over-the-top and maybe a bastardization of some rather beloved characters. So, to start with, where's the multiverse in all this? All we've seen thus far is that Darkseid is falling through it. Um, that's cool.

Secondly, in this subset, this story was billed as "The Day Evil Won." I'm not feeling that evil's won. I mean, in Final Crisis I am. A little bit. I get it because of the subtle use of imagery like the police beating innocent people, and the hive-like crowd, and Wonder Woman being a bad guy. I get it. But...I thought the whole one-month break was the let the other books in the (cohesive) DC Universe catch up with Final Crisis and we'd see a vastly different universe, something where, ya know...evil had won? I don't see that in any of the books and I'm willing to take ten to one odds that I never will! Johns has a bunch of arcs planned out already in Superman (see the kick-ass Action Comics) as well as Green Lantern (see the amazing upcoming Rage of the Red Lanterns) and there's just no way those fit in with a world where evil has won. Morrison himself is busy deconstructing Batman in RIP and while some of these things may be tangentially related (at best) there's no way to reasonably accept that there will be any kind of lasting consequence to this story.

Which brings me to my final point. Marvel takes a lot of flack for doing endless summer crossover after endless summer crossover. And I agree with that point. And usually, they're not all that great. But you cannot argue with the fact that there are consequences to their stories. The universe actually does change. Maybe not in the way we want it to, but it changes. The stories have weight, because I know that after the stories are done, things will be different.

Final Crisis carries with it none of that weight. Almost all of the crossovers that came before for DC did. Zero Hour was good in my opinion, but even if you didn't subjectively like it, it told a whole story, there were definite repercussions to it. Same with Crisis on Infinite Crisis. Even Bloodlines, Armaggedon 2001, etc. That's the basic problem here. We as readers can see no effects of this mini-series that is supposed to be really important, put a rest to these Crises, and change everything forever, even now in the other books. And if we can't see that, how are we supposed to believe that anything will be different after it's over?

At this point, I'm already committed, plus I'm a comic-book-junkie, so I'll definitely be picking up issues five, six, and seven of Final Crisis. I'm fully aware that makes me something of a hypocrite, but I'm willing to take it for this one. But...I've even given up on Spider-Man. Nothing is immune. If Final Crisis doesn't blow my mind, I'm not wasting my money on the next rabbit DC tries to pull out of its hat.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

on "graphic organizers."



A return to form! Last week, I had the honor of going to an in-service for work and graphic organizers are a big deal to them. However, out of all the trees that we killed, and the hours we spent on concepts that we've learned at least nine times already, this one stood out. Maybe it was a bad graphic organizer, so they wanted to draw attention to it. Hah.



As a bonus, just to show that wasn't the only example. Nice job.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

on the streaming of chinese democracy.

Nope, not the whole album. (At least not yet.) But as of this point, we are apparently allowed to officially listen to the first single from the new Guns N' Roses album, titled "Chinese Democracy" - the same name as the album. While Kevin Cogill, the guy who leaked a lot of the album a while ago just pled not guilty in court, Guns N' Roses Axl Rose is now satisfied that the general public is ready for this long-awaited masterpiece. I got this link from Prefix and they have a pretty good reaction to the track - why'd it take so long when it sounds almost exactly like the Guns we were getting fourteen years ago? This is what took him so long to come up with? I will say that one of the songs I'm excited for according to the official track listing is "Madagascar" which I've heard from a leaked-from-the-Rock-in-Rio concert. That track, however, was leaked quite a while ago, so I'm hoping that there are enough similarities to let me still enjoy the song, but enough differences to justify this long-time-coming. There's a certain element here of disbelief: I've supported Guns N' Roses for a long time, even going so far as to buy a ticket for their aborted tour in 2002 and believing firmly that they'd actually make it. I should have known better. Now that the album actually appears to be on the way, I'm kind of exhibiting symptoms of shock: I still only half-believe it, and I'm more than a little angry. This is all we get? All this time, all this nonsense that everyone had to put up with from Axl? This is it? At least we're gonna get a free Dr. Pepper out of the deal. Anyway, listen for yourself and see what you think of the new Guns N' Roses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

on getting happy.

First of all, watch the video.



Secondly, I want that video to be playing the whole time you're reading this entry.

I've been feeling good lately. That's a good thing. Obviously. But the more and more that I've thought about it, the more it's made me realize how much in my life is finally going right. I feel like there's a couple remaining loose ends I have to tie up, but I'm really excited about the direction everything is taking for me.

Basketball season is starting soon and I couldn't possibly be more excited. I'm definitely going to invest in the League Pass this year, both because I can and because I want to. I had my first practice yesterday, and I was a little nervous to be honest. My expectations are pretty high for this year, both for my team that I'll be coaching and for the Lakers. I know I just talked about the redundancy of expectation, but sometimes we just can't help ourselves: I want what I want and I want it now.

Coaching is definitely one of my favorite parts of the job, but insofar as other aspects, I'm feeling quite ambivalent. I like the fact that the job allows me such leniency; I can coach, I have semi-flexible hours, I get to hang around kids who teach me something new every day, and, obviously, I get the summers off. However, I'm rapidly feeling like the four-year max-mark that I previously ascribed to myself was an extreme overshot. I readily acknowledge that I pretty much feel this way at the beginning of every school year, but it feels like the malaise this year has gone on longer than it has in the past. And if I'm not happy with my job, that probably means that I'm not doing a good job at it. I'd rather quit even in the middle of the year than finish out a term half-heartedly. Part of this, I think, has a lot to do with my not taking a job for the election. While I'm ecstatic about what I think will be the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election I also can't help but think of a time four years ago when I was doing work that I thoroughly enjoyed, thought I was good at, and felt like I was a good fit for. Putting that in stark contrast with my job now, I feel like I'm all right at it, that I enjoy it a lot, but that I'm not all that good of a fit for. So that's made it tough, but I also think it might get better once Election Day passes.

Using that as a transition out of negativity back into the good stuff, I have to say that I couldn't possibly be more psyched to have a President I don't have to be ashamed of for much longer! This election cycle has seemed a bit long, but that might only be because I'm a political junkie and I was scouring for this sort of news up to two years ago. I'm ready for it to be over now, though, and for things to be relatively calm for a while.

Last but not least, my friends and family. The birth of my new nephew has been a great thing. I got to watch Monday Night Football with Johnny last night and his special lady friend and Nameless were there and it felt just perfectly right. I love getting to spend so much time with people who (to be dreadfully honest) I didn't rightfully appreciate until too recently. Re-connecting with some of my older friends is the next thing I need to focus on. I want to re-up my relationships with people who, for one reason or another, have been...out of my life for a while. The important thing is that I'm still talking with them, that I'm able to call them and chat, or get together and things are still good. And I think I'm on a good path for that.

This song is a big part of my first step in doing so. Matt and Kim's "Daylight" seriously puts a grin on my face every single time I hear it. I love this song. I love how happy it makes me. And I love the meta-self-awareness that I feel when I listen to it, think about how happy I'm getting, and how much happier that makes me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

on disappointment.

Dinosaur Comics did guest week last week and I was most looking forward to Randall Munroe, of xkcd. It seems obvious that this was the be expected, since he was held off until Friday, AKA, the good spot. But his guest spot was the weakest of the five! I know, I know, there's good, clever things about the comic, but it didn't really hit me the way I was hoping for it to. I guess this proves the redundancy of expectation: look forward to something and it'll only disappoint you. On the other hand, if you go in with nothing, you'll almost always be pleasantly surprised. Which is how I found myself upon reading this random encounter with Mr. Munroe in a grocery store and the wonderful products that came of it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

on half marathon-ing!

I did it! (Link to come. Got the link up and now I'm disappointed. I found myself wondering during the race whether I'd come in the top 100, and now I find that I missed it by only 2 spots! Damn!) And in the process, I ran my 500th mile in this pair of shoes, with the Nike Plus program. It's been a long time coming and I've definitely had my share of slacking, but I'm proud to say that it's my goal for 2009 to run 1,000 miles. Twice the distance in half the time. Hooray.

I like to brag.

Friday, October 17, 2008

YES!

Yesterday morning, my newest nephew was born! He's unnamed as of this point, but he kicks ass as any baby that comes from Brother One obviously would/will.





Speaking of personal things, tomorrow I'll be running in the Duke City Marathon - but I won't be running the full thing, because of that...incident about a month ago, where my training got viciously derailed. I'll be running the half marathon, though, and I'll be kicking its ass. I've got time to run the full marathon in the future. A bunch of people will be gathered to see me cross the finish line and then we're going to get breakfast burritos to celebrate my dad's birthday. If you live in the ABQ and want to join, feel free.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

on controlling the experiment.

Stereogum reported yesterday on the In Rainbows semi-anniversary that the experiment was a success. I had kind of thought this was a given fact for a long time already, but they came out and said some other stuff that made me very unhappy. Firstly, they didn't release the exact figures of the downloads.

Why not? I'm sure they know them. What's the harm in releasing this information? Unless there's something to hide, I really didn't think that a band like Radiohead would be sitting on top of this sort of stuff.

However, I might be wrong in my estimation of Radiohead in the first place anyway. There's a direct quote in this piece where they say that they (both Radiohead and the marketing firm that ran this 'experiment'), "were watching the average price daily with a view to potentially withdrawing it any moment should it drop too low."

This is troubling to me on several levels.

First of all, what is too low? In whose opinions? And what of the people that were caught somewhere in the middle? Say a couple thousand people before me paid 'the right amount' but then prices started dropping off? I then go onto the site and want to pay something like ten bucks (which I'd hope is above their precious standard), but they've already decided to pull the plug, metaphorically? What then? Do I get my music? Do they get my money?

The most troubling part of it, though, is the thought of Radiohead giving up on this experiment. Or even having the gall to plan for the possibility of giving up on it. Remember all the press on In Rainbows? About how it was going to change the music business forever? Imagine about 12 hours of that coverage followed by an even larger stream of "I told you so"s from everyone in the music business who supposedly knew better. Did it ever occur to the guys in Radiohead that if that happened, they would be doing immeasurable harm, as opposed to the good that they wanted to? Did they acknowledge this possibility? Did they care?

Radiohead's lost some points in my book for this poor decision-making.