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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

on really being real.

What could combine Fall Out Boy with Groundhog Day, backed by a hip-hop soundtrack and come out smelling like roses? Why It's The Real! of course! Seriously, these guys make me laugh so damn hard with every single video, and their latest one's got shades of philosophy and existentialism, along with disses on jury duty and Carson Daly, mentions of Jay-Z and Joe Budden; what else could you want for a cold-ass October day? Check their site, put it on your blogroll and find out some way to support them, because they deserve it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

link of the day.

Google's philanthropy knows no bounds. The deadline for Project 10 to the 100 is October 20, which is a week from yesterday. Hurry up and get those gears running so that you, too, can be funded by Google in your pursuit of a better world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

on endorsements, kind of.

I try not to make a big deal out of the fact that I like celebrity endorsements. I try not to make a big deal because it feels like most other people don't. For some reason, people tend to get snitty when talking about Presidential (or even local) elections and the fact that there are people speaking out for either side. I hear comments a lot like, "Why does he/she think that they can tell me who to vote for?" These comments usually baffle me, usually because the person in question is not, in fact, telling anyone who to vote for, but rather, sharing an opinion, which is, ya know, something we kind of look up to, here in the USA. So when people get that way about Eddie Vedder talking shit about President Bush but somehow miss the part where it gets censored out by the corporate sponsor! well, I tend to lose my rationale a little bit.

So, now there comes a time when there's an African-American candidate for President. And so, according to this, there are obviously a lot of African-Americans who want to do what they can to help this man get elected. For a variety of reasons. Most notably, I think, they're appreciative of the struggle that African-Americans have gone though in this country and it's extremely rewarding for them to be able to see such a tangible symbol of the progress that we, as a society, have made. Of course, there are some shout-outs that seem like they might do more harm than good. But those worries have been perfectly elucidated elsewhere, so I'm not really gonna get into them.

This FreeDarko post talks a lot about the possible good things and potential bad things associated with having a basketball President. I think it's a shame that we have to think about the bad things connected to associating with a culture that's known so through and through as black, but I think it's worth noting that even the cover to this week's TIME magazine implicitly acknowledges that racism is still biting America in the ass. It may be uncomfortable to recognize these facts, but the harsh reality of the matter is that is what they are: facts.

So when I can see a well-written blog post on the official NBA blog site describing the excitement of witnessing an Obama speech it really makes me happy. Tyson Chandler's a great guy, from what I read about him off-court, and there's no doubt that he's a hustler on the court. To be able to feel the energy coming off his writing, where he talks about the feel of the crowd, the different ages, genders, and races that Obama's speech pulls in...these are good things. And I don't get why so many people have so much against "celebrity endorsements" that they couldn't see this for what it is: someone who's excited about a candidate sharing their views. He has a larger platform, so a few more people pay attention. When did that become a bad thing?

link of the day.

Go read xkcd, because he's so damn smart it makes me sick.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

on the balloon fiesta.

Tomorrow, we have the day off from work for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It's basically an excuse day, because if we didn't give them the day off, most of the parents of the kiddos (especially at our school) would take them anyway. (Sidenote story: one of the boys in my class, his family actually owns a balloon! I don't know for a fact how expensive that habit/hobby is, but I'm willing to bet that it's pretty.) So we get the day off, and so do the kiddos, and everyone wins, because the Balloon Fiesta, to be honest, is pretty rad.

Brother One went a few days ago and got one of the rad, official posters for the Fiesta this year and I'm thinking that I might want to copy his style and get one for myself. As I become an adult, I'm increasingly finding that it's all about framed art. The days of unframed Pink Floyd posters were great and I had a lot of fun, but this stuff kicks ass.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

on sarah palin.

I know that I'm usually late to a lot of parties, just like I am to this one, but I really do figure that I'm not breaking any news with this blog. I just want a chance to get my own take put out there.

So...with regard to Sarah Palin. I don't feel any need to sugarcoat my words: she's 100% unfit for the task chosen for her. I don' think there's a lot of disputing this. John McCain himself said so...if not in so many words. Her interviews with Katie Couric were an unmitigated disaster that pretty much everyone acknowledged and no one tried to hide. (Well, except CBS, who didn't even show some parts of it...they were that bad.) She criticizes Obama for earmarks, even though "Alaska under Palin's leadership has asked Washington for 10 times more money per citizen for pet projects - the true definition of a maverick. There's frequent worries about her possibly treasonous link to a group that wants to secede from the USA and her scandals from back home keep reaching out to bite her in the ass no matter how hard she runs away from them.

So yeah, I don't think there's a lot more to add. Other than this: It's past October 7th. If you're not registered to vote or you're not going to vote or you're going to vote for John McCain...seriously...I don't think we can be friends any more. Here's to hoping that I'll still have all my friends tomorrow. :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

on three day suspensions.

There are many different, disparate threads running in here, so have some patience until the end.

Via CNN, I saw this story about 30 students getting suspended in one day for wearing hoodies. They changed the dress code so that hoodies are banned. In Ohio. Where it gets cold. Like, really cold. So, while we could stand here and argue the merits or changing the dress code to a a standard dress idea, like Capshaw had and as I understand the idea at Akron North High was to encapsulate, I've already started that a while ago and this is not that place where I'll do it again.

So, here we have article one on what gets a three day suspension.

Article two comes a little closer to home (literally) where a student has been suspended from Harrison Middle School for not tucking in her shirt. I remember learning when I started at my school that they required the kids to tuck in their shirts the year before I got there and thinking to myself, at that time, "Wow. This is what they're focusing on." It's sad for me to see that there are still places that think this is a battle worth fighting. It's also worth noting that, to date, 18 students have been suspended from this school (for three days apiece) for this infraction.

Transitioning...

When I thought a student of mine had come to class stoned last year, I held a grudge against her that still gets brought up when we talk. She saw how disappointed I was, and it strengthened our relationship. She knew that it was a sign that I truly cared about her, not just some bullshit teacher-talk that says, "I say I don't want you to do drugs, but if you do, I won't mind. Or notice."

Why do I bring this up?

I recently had a student come to class so messed up that they (it's time to play the pronoun game again! I'm not sure of how much I really should be talking about this, so it'll remain gender-neutral for now) passed out, first in the bathroom, then on the floor, but not before vomiting extensively. This all occurred over the space of about thirty minutes, scaring the security officer of the school so badly that the school called an ambulance. They subsequently carted the kid away to the hospital and I got told that the kid was kept overnight, and that they were worried the kid has alcohol poisoning. (I'm not sure if it turned out they did?) The period that this kid is in was (obviously) completely ruined because many of the kids were perfectly aware of what was going on and I was kinda sorta busy trying to maintain the innocence of those who didn't, while also trying to keep up some faux-semblance of order in a classroom.

The punishment for this student for disrupting my class, breaking the law, and generally making me feel like an asshole for having this happen?

3 days out of school suspension. The same as the other juvenile vigilantes in the above cases. Yep.

This is exactly the reason why our public school system is failing. (And I'm of the firm belief that it is.) We're fighting all the wrong battles. There are seriously brilliant teachers wasting away in the public school system (and don't get it twisted, I'm not talking about myself), drowning under the mountains of paperwork they have to fill out, hollowed out by the endless meetings, etc. Their good ideas and fighting against the system only get them so far. It's frustrating for me to see this extreme double standard and the effects that it has upon our schools and, to be honest, our culture as a whole. Let's fix it.

As a bonus ending note, I'd like to add that this experience came but a couple days after we had our state-mandated training on what constitutes an inappropriate relationship with students. I'm fairly certain that by asking this student who just went through this, "Is everything's all right at home?" I'm violating those rules.

Friday, October 3, 2008

on the evolution of the english language.

If words are like people, does that make novels like towns? And classic novels like the biggest and best cities of the world?

I love my job because it lets me play with the English language. I'd love even more if I got paid to write on a higher level, but that's something I can only bring about myself, and something that I'll obviously be working toward (and on) for my entire life.

But one of the coolest aspects of the job is that I get to share some of the more interesting aspects of the English language. It evolves, it changes. We, as adults know this. But we have to remember that there was a time when we didn't know this. Slang is one of my favorite things to talk about with my smarter students. But the simple fact is that this is not a new development: English has always been an extremely mutable form of expression.

And now, it turns out, that some words are on the endangered species list from Collins. Go help save some words. Pick out your fave and get it saved so that future generations can read it someday, get curious about it, and look it up, and find out that the whole course of action described came this close to not happening.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

on rickrolling.

By now, almost everyone on the planet knows about Rickrolling. Rickrolling is a proud point in the history of Internet trickery but I was proud to say that I'd never been rickrolled. (Mainly, probably, because I don't troll a lot of message boards and I don't do much chatting anymore.)

Then the debates happened. So, while watching the debates with some fellow teachers, we were discussing the SNL skit with Palin and Clinton. And I noticed this other one that was extra long. So I was psyched to see some of the extras! But it turned out to be my first rickrolling experience. Hooray for me.

So why report on an already-ancient Internet prank? Because I can't help but be reminded by this whole thing of a trick we used to play at GU that was happening at many other colleges around the country at the same time, presumably. Seriously, we used to chat it up and disguise those links (remember the code-changer that seemed like such a huge deal [for those of us who didn't at that time know HTML] that was included in that beloved-hack DeadAIM?) at least five times in a half an hour! And everyone always had their speakers on full blast, so you'd just hear this bumping from some random guy's dorm room and it made (and still makes) me laugh so much! (In researching for this entry, I must have clicked through to the page and let it play at least twenty times. I'm a sucker, what can I say?) The need to get revenge on someone who'd gotten you often rose to an unfathomable level.

I love the way that things go in cycles. I'm firmly convinced that one of the reasons the remix culture gets so much "new" play every few years is because people forget about it. I mean, seriously, think about how much Moby ruled the world for a while. It's insane.

Be ready for the inevitable rise-again of gangsta rap.